Roberta Tower
Copyright 2001

Chapter 26
Waiting in the Wings

As Lady Isabeau walked back into the room Drake looked up and greeted her, "Lady Isabeau, that was swift."

She hesitated in the door a moment and then replied. "We need to resolve this soon because she can continue to heal here physically but this is not the right place for her mentally and there is definitely some serious damage that needs to be repaired. And I don't know how to do it. As good as these monks are on the physical level they are not doing anything to take care of the rest. Going to petition the king is good timing so I can find out what he thinks I should do because unfortunately, as far as I know, Fiona is the healer of the family and I'm not exactly sure who's up after that." She finally ran down and stopped.

It seemed that we had lucked out. Bleys would be overjoyed to hear that his sister was out of the way, even if only temporarily. Even though there were things I wanted to discuss with Fiona, I was relieved that I would not have to confront my Aunt just yet. I glanced over at Mandor to see how he was taking the news. There was a look of genuine concern on his face.

"I know some people." Came so softly from him that if there had been any sound in the room, we would have missed it.

"Let me talk to Random first. Thank you for the offer, I just do not know whether Fiona would appreciate the offer." Lady Isabeau was brusque.

"I can guarantee she wouldn't." Mandor said sadly.

"It may very well come down to that because I am very concerned. But I need to try to deal with this through the Amber channels first."

"If there is none among your family who can aid and if King Random is unwilling to send her outside of the family?" Drake questioned.

"Random will basically have no choice, he's not the one controlling where she is. I am going to ask his advice. That does not mean he gets to dictate the course of action. We need to head to Amber to petition the king, have you talked to Mandor about the implications of this?"

I thought I knew my dear Uncle's reaction if he knew that Fiona was vulnerable and I didn't think that Isabeau would appreciate it. I was also enjoying the looks exchanged between Mandor and Drake at Isabeau's statement. She had essentially said that as a member of the Royal family of Amber that she didn't need to follow the orders of the King. This was obviously a novel concept to the Chaosians in the room.

"I would like to speak to Mandor alone for a moment." Drake looked at Mandor.

This presented a difficulty for me. I had determined that I would not stand in the presence of Drake or Vox and allow them to know how injured I was. I also did not like being ordered out of the room. When I didn't move immediately, Drake raised an eyebrow in my direction.

I raised an eyebrow in return as I used a Trump memory to move to my father's estate in Amber.

I stood a moment in the entry hall getting my legs back under me. My back throbbed with pain and my legs had gone partially numb from perching on the edge of Mandor's cot. I scanned the area to make sure that I was alone. I wanted no surprises from servants, family or Chaosian hit squads. I took off the duster that I had borrowed from my father and draped it over a chair. I meant to leave it as a message to my father.

Opening my Trump pouch I looked through the available options for fast time shadows. It had been too long since I had heard from Keladrian. It shouldn't have taken him this long to get Gerard to Dorad and return. There were several things that could have happened. Since they were in Dorad and he was with Gerard, I ruled out most of them and decided that Keladrian had gone off on his own again to do something heroic.

I activated a Trump sketch and stepped off the teleport pad. A melodious voice announced from someplace in the room. "May we call medical aid?"

I thought a moment and decided that I really didn't have time and I would heal. I didn't believe there were any broken bones or internal bleeding, just massive contusions.

"I don't think that will be necessary." I informed the room.

"Please state your decision." The room insisted.

"No." I offered emphatically.

I looked around. The room was actually quite small; only about 30-foot square but there was some sort of holographic imaging at work that provided an illusion of more space. The side of the room opened to the outdoors between two ionic columns and the semi-circular patio was overhung with ivy and other vines. A path of flagstones led out into a formal garden with marble benches and Grecian urns. Pigeons flew serenely overhead as I took out my Trump of Random and tried to contact him again.

He should know that he was going to be having visitors. He might be interested in having advanced knowledge about what was going on before Drake and Isabeau with Vox in tow appeared before him.

Unfortunately Random was still not taking calls. It was too bad that I didn't have a way to Trump Vialle.

I moved to sit on one of the marble benches and pulled out all the Trump from the pilfered deck. I was interested in what everyone was doing. I separated out the Trump of people and concentrated on them to see if I could pick up any Trump chatter.

Bleys' Trump was active so I listened in.

"He's on his way." Bleys said. I was only getting one end of the communication and Bleys wasn't doing much talking. There was a long pause. I searched through the Trump to see whom he was talking with, but none of the Trump was active.

"No, I didn't get that, again." Bleys spoke and again there was a long pause. Either he was speaking with someone that I didn't have a Trump of, or that person had learned how to mask their Trump talking. A useful skill that I was determined to learn.

"Nope, just him." Bleys conversation seemed to be over. I was sure that he had been referring to Keladrian. That confirmed my suspicion that Keladrian had gone off on his own again and I was pretty sure where he was headed. He obviously thought that he could take on both Bleys and Caine and defend Corwin's Pattern on his own.

I was also sure that it was Caine that Bleys was talking to. If anyone could mask their Trump talk it would be Caine. And the worst part of it was, there was no way in hell that he was going to share that information with anyone.

I picked up another conversation. Aunt Flora was nattering at Aunt Llewella. Something about the décor in her room. It seemed that Aunt Flora was spending time with her sister in Rebma. They were saying nothing of importance that I could determine. If they were speaking code I didn't have the guidebook.

The other active Trump was for Benedict. His channel was open and I could tell that there was some sort of communication going on but no words could be picked up. I puzzled over this for a moment and then remembered something that my father had tried to interest me in at one point. Non-verbal battle communication. Ideal for delivering silent communication to troops. I hadn't seen myself commanding any troops so didn't see a need to learn anything further. Without activating the Trump further and alerting Benedict to the fact that I was listening in, I would not be able to get a visual. It didn't matter anyway; I wouldn't understand the language he was speaking.

But my perusal of the Trump had given me several things to think about. My primary objective at this point was to get to Corwin's Pattern before Keladrian, if possible.

I picked up several land Trumps and began Trump spanning. I thought that maybe I could stumble on the shadow of Corwin's Pattern. After wasting valuable time with 5 or 6 failed attempts, I gave up.

There had to be another way, I just needed to think creatively. And then I had a wild idea. I should have thought of this sooner. I put all the Trump away and took out pen and paper and began sketching. It took half an hour to create a Trump sketch of Keladrian's amulet. I was positive that it was one of a kind.

As soon as I finished the sketch I reached through and pulled myself to the amulet. I couldn't get to Corwin's Pattern but I could get to Keladrian.

I impacted with a rapidly moving object as I came through to the other shadow. I reached out and tried to grab onto something because it became apparent immediately that I was falling through the air. Whatever I had run into had evaded my reach and I found myself falling. I maneuvered around into a classic skydiving glide position. I couldn't see the ground below, which was a good thing. But it was also difficult to look around the sky above me. The armor I was wearing as well as the pain in my back was hindering my movement. Also moving my head around tended to de-stabilize the glide. I reached out with my mind.

"Keladrian?" There was no answer. I had plenty of time and I could always Trump out of here. I had several Trump for hospitals. Which I would need when I impacted the ground at this velocity in the next shadow. Note to self - when Trumping to Keladrian, make sure I have some aerial equipment.

I felt him scan me psychically and then he flew up and hovered besides me.

"Zhelan." It was hard to tell in his dragon form, but I think he was smirking.

"Keladrian." I returned calmly.

"You should not be here."

"I picked up a conversation between Bleys and Caine. They know you're coming." I tried to look over at him but had to adjust my glide position.

"That would be expected." He answered.

I certainly wouldn't call it bravery, more like bravado. He had to be out of his mind to go against both of my Uncles. We had been very lucky in our encounters to this point. But nothing that should give him this amount of overconfidence. I wondered what his plan was.

"What are you planning on doing when you get there?" I challenged him. "By the way could we do something besides fall here?"

"It's quite refreshing. One direction is as good as another." He taunted. "First I would assure myself that you are you. No offense."

"You keep saying that. You said something earlier about my father pretending to be me in Dorad."

"Not pretending. Each being is unique, Zhelan. There is a difference in experience perhaps, growth. Your father seems much like you would become to be given sufficient time. But in essence still the same. And therefore hard to tell the difference." He paused a moment and then fired off a question to me. "Where did I last see you?"

"In Shangra La with Gerard and Mandor." I answered somewhat confused. Confused not by the question but by the fact that he had read the same thing about my relationship to my father that I had only recently discovered myself. This was not something I wanted to discuss while falling through the air.

"And where were you sitting?" he asked.

"On . . ." I had started to say that I was sitting at Mandor's bedside, but then remembered that I had not been sitting when we last met. "When I brought you through on the Trump, I was not sitting." I corrected.

"Very well." And he moved underneath me so that I landed on his back. We abruptly shifted to another shadow.

"You will have to trust me in this. I do have plans."

"And I have information from Mandor about what he and Fiona did to the Pattern." I countered.

"Which is?" He seemed irritated.

"They did not erase the Pattern, it was just covered up."

"That is merely confirmation of what I felt."

"If it is disturbed, it would be bad." I added.

"Again, I would say that is as we feared." He discounted the information that I had provided.

"So what do you plan to do yourself against Caine and Bleys?" I challenged.

"Prevent them from disturbing." He stated.

"How?" I refused to be brushed off so easily.

"That would not be advised." He chuckled. "Zhelan, one of the strongest advantages I have is that none know what I intend. Mostly because they know not what I can do. You'll have to trust me. It is not that I don't trust you, but sure I am that another sojourn to a shadow where we could remove sorcerous bugs would be good if we had time to do it."

"To attempt anything of this nature on your own, without assistance, is sheer folly." I tried to reason with him. We had worked well as a team and I did not want to be left out. Dammit I wanted to be there to finish this.

"Perhaps but it is necessary."

I thought back on our discussions when we had met again after the Merlin incident and shot my final arrow. "And so, this is your version of teamwork?"

I had hit my mark. He did not come back with a retort immediately.

"True." He paused. "But you do not fly well, Zhelan. No offense, but the lack of wings may have something to do with it."

"I have other abilities that might be of use." I countered.

"Agreed, but for what I am planning, my mobility will be important."

"A distraction might also be helpful." I was pretty sure that neither Caine nor my father would attempt to kill me outright. Attack and disable, render unconscious, take out of the way; yes, but kill, I didn't think so. If they had something visible to focus on, it might give Keladrian's plan a better chance of success.

"Very well." He conceded. "Activate your ring."

"Alright." I removed my gauntlet and activated the ring. It was the worst feeling in the world to be suddenly trapped within my own mind. I was used to viewing the world on many different levels and to have one of the major sources of my perception of the world removed was stifling.

We flew in silence while I contemplated broaching what I knew would be a very sensitive subject with Keladrian.

"There is another issue that we need to discuss."

"What issue?" he inquired.

"I do not believe that we have spoken with anyone at this point, who if they had the information, has given us accurate information regarding the emergence. I am unsure as to the whether this emergence should be allowed or not, but do you trust leaving that decision in the hands of the Courts?" I was concerned that it was Drake and Isabeau who we left to handle the emergence. I did not trust them to be impartial in their considerations on the question of whether to support or oppose it.

"The decision is not in their hands. The only decision in their hands is whether they oppose it or not and that answer we already know. As far as others and their opposition, again I am unsure how we can influence that." Keladrian did not seem concerned with the whole issue of the emergence. He was obviously focused on this goal with Corwin's Pattern.

"Can you get hold of Thenaroth?" If we could get some confirmation that the emergence was being taken care of by a source that was more disposed towards Amber, I would feel better about ignoring it for other objectives.

"A dangerous name that is." Was all the response I received.

"However, he should know whether your Avatar supports the emergence or not. He is the incarnation of your people." I pushed.

"I'm sure he does."

"Do you believe that he supports the emergence?"

"No, I do not know the position that he will take. However we do not need to know that. And pursuing that information . . . " He paused searching for words. "It would be much more hazardous than the course I had planned to take solo which you object so strenuously to."

"What? To find out what Thenaroth's position is?" I wanted to draw out more information from him about his home. Every bit helped me gain more insight into his life before we met in shadow.

"In truth, I would expect him to tell me. But he does not exist in a vacuum. There are others, and there are factions. And much like Chaos my people are not all of one mind."

"That can be said of each of our families." I thought about the last few years and the fight over the throne of Amber.

"And in their own way, some of my people, take their efforts to protect all of us to the extreme."

"The reason why I am asking, is that I feel that Corwin's Pattern has an impact on the battle at the Abyss with the emergent. Mandor said that Corwin's Pattern was being tapped by the emergent. Using the power of the Pattern could have been speeding up the process. If it is of benefit that the emergence should go forward, perhaps we should free that power source for its use. If we are not in support of it then we need to protect the Pattern from being disturbed. That's why it's important to know, where we stand."

"Yet in freeing it we would be back where we started with all of the shadows being affected." He made a valid point that I had overlooked.

"There is that also." I agreed.

"And perhaps in its current form it still provides that power."

"I despise operating within a knowledge vacuum." It was so frustrating trying to determine what was the right thing to do. It would be so simple to just go back to slumming through shadow and not worry about the fate of the universe. But I wanted to follow through and finish this. Why, I couldn't say. It wasn't usual for me. I never finished projects. As soon as they became boring or difficult, I abandoned them and moved on. Maybe I was growing up.

"Agreed." Keladrian chuckled.

"I needed to speak with someone who I felt I could trust their opinion and you left me with Mandor and Drake." I teased.

"I would have gladly taken you with me if you had not gotten kicked out of Dorad. Which I trust was a good lesson." He taunted back.

"Suffice to say that it was." I cut him off.

We moved through shadow in silence for some time and then he said. "I hear what you are saying, yet those of my people who have the knowledge and should rightfully be acting must make that decision for themselves. The weight that I would bring to that discussion now is negligible and perhaps counterproductive seeing how much I have done that they would object to. As things come to a head, even those with their heads buried deep in their warmest caverns will become aware of it. And at that time I will trust Thenaroth will point them in the direction they need to go. For my part I would that Corwin's Pattern be there for them to make a decision for they will be able to unmask it or unmake it as required. That I can guarantee."

"Alright. As long as we are fully aware of the ramifications of our actions. Something I'm not used to doing, but I am trying to learn."

"We're never aware of all of the ramifications." We both laughed.

It felt good to have a companion to talk to. One of these days maybe even confide in. If we lived through the next encounter with Corwin's Pattern.

"I am going to attempt to scrape off, as it were, any sorcerous marks they may have left on us." Keladrian said after a time.

This didn't sound good. We quickly moved to another shadow and suddenly I felt like I was being nibbled on by thousands of moray eels. It was not a pleasant sensation. It was inimical in a consumptive sort of way. It felt like I was being eaten alive and the sensation kept getting worse. I didn't help that I was already injured from the retrieval of Greyswandir.

I don't know how long we were there but I started losing consciousness from the pain. And then the pain stopped. We had moved to another shadow.

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Chapter 27
Braising Caine

As we left the shadow I felt my belt separate and fall away from me. I managed to grab the gun that I had taken from my father's room in Amber, but the sword and crossbow were lost. The grab for the gun made my head spin and I think I must have faded out. The next thing that I was vaguely aware of was that I was on hard ground and it was very cold. It was too painful to move and too difficult to open my eyes. I drifted out of consciousness again.

I came to a bit and felt cold hard ground below me still. But a source of warmth was relaxing the muscles on the side away from the ground. I felt a change in elevation, which sent pain shooting through the bruises on my back, and then I blacked out again.

The next awareness was of a softer surface below me, and warmth. I could hear movement nearby and assumed it was Keladrian. I lay and listened to the sound. The pain in my body had eased somewhat but my back still ached. I felt that I should be moving but it was so much easier to just lie here. I tried to open my eyes. It took a supreme effort of will to crack them open. I finally managed to push myself up to one elbow but it was too much effort and I lay back down.

If I showed too much weakness, Keladrian would leave me behind and I did not want that. I forced myself to sit up and breathed deeply with the effort. The pain sent a gray haze over my vision momentarily.

"Good morning." Keladrian said cheerfully from across the room. My eyes focused on him in his gargoyle form standing in the middle of some sort of adobe structure. The furnishings were nice in an early primitive style.

"How long has it been?" I was concerned about the length of time I had been unconscious.

"Time is relative." He teased. Then assured me that it had not been long.

"I'm ready to go." I lied. Now if only I could get my body to cooperate.

"Are you hungry? Do you wish sustenance before we move on?" I silently thanked him for the delay, though we could ill afford to stop for long to cater to my weak state.

"That would be good." I agreed.

Keladrian left and I determined to move from the bed where I was sitting to a chair at the only table in the room. It wasn't a graceful journey but I made it before he returned. I've always healed fairly quickly, but rest and fuel were needed to aid the process.

Keladrian returned with food and I ate steadily for about 20 to 30 minutes. I slowly regained my strength and felt that I could probably stand without falling over. The abraded skin from our recent trip through shadow had ceased bothering me. The back, however, was still a constant reminder of the folly of trying to dodge rail guns.

"Are you feeling ready?" Keladrian asked as I slowed my intake of food.

"Oh yes." I replied brightly, putting on my best smile.

"So what do you feel the likelihood is that your father will be at Corwin's Pattern?" he seemed to be making conversation to stall. He must think that I wasn't quite ready to continue.

"I could do a Trump scrye to try to get that information. I'm pretty sure that he and Caine will have to use Corwin's blood as soon as possible." I had no clue who was where. We didn't have time for Trump scrying, but I didn't know any other way to find out that kind of information.

"Then we'd best get there." He still didn't move. Almost like he was waiting for me to move first.

"We don't know if Caine is still invisible." I said, stalling a while longer. I was trying to give the order to my body to stand, so I willingly took a few more seconds.

"That could be a problem."

"How long will it take to get there from here?" I had an idea that was forming. Then I realized how silly my question was. "There again, I know, time, time, relativity. But I think I might be able to get directly to Caine with a Trump sketch, the way I got to you."

"If you did that could you tell where he is located without necessarily going to him?" The idea seemed to intrigue Keladrian.

"I can tell what is around the object and if I recognized the location, then yes."

"If we have to use it quickly, then I think our best bet is just to go." He started to stand.

"To where?" I asked him.

"To the Pattern." He stood and the color on his body rippled and started shifting to gray.

"Some day you'll have to teach me how to shape shift. As much as we seem to be in the air, I don't enjoy falling." I started to stand as well.

"Flying is just controlled falling." He laughed then added, "Do you think both Caine and your father will show up? Do you think it likely or only one?"

"I don't know, the conversation that I overheard really didn't . . ." I tried to remember the exact wording that I had overheard. "They knew that you were coming. Which means that Caine was already there. And if they were both there, there would have been no need for a Trump call."

"Then why would he just not bring your father through?" Keladrian looked puzzled. He had enough experience now with Trump to raise the question.

"I don't know." I stopped to think about it. Why hadn't my father just gone through to Caine unless he was on his way somewhere else, or was waiting for something else to happen? "Why they were waiting for you, I don't know. What could my father have picked up from you when you were with him in Dorad that would make him want to wait for you?"

"We are beings of power, my people. And I would presume that he would want to know more. But as for something that I have or possess? I don't think so." He shook his head perplexed. "Perhaps it is a simple matter of revenge."

Father never did things for simple reasons, so I immediately discounted the revenge angle. No there had to be a more devious reason that lack of knowledge was not allowing me to perceive. "So what is your plan when we get there?"

"To remove them from the Pattern before they damage it." He said simply.

"And how will you do that, by spinning them out and away?" We were both standing but had not made a move to leave.

"I think that they will not know how to defend against it." He agreed.

"Where will you spin them to? The shadow that we were trapped in originally?" I remembered the shadow with the giant scorpions and the wrecked fort on the shore. Keladrian had told the group that he rescued us with conjuration. I was sure that the conjuration had just disguised his Spin. Neither my father nor Caine should be able to leave unless they had abilities other than Pattern and Trump and conjuration. We didn't know whether the shadow was proof against sorcery or not.

"Not initially."

"Not initially, but someplace similar?" Did Keladrian have another similar shadow in mind?

"Perhaps that would be a good destination for Caine. But for your father I have other plans." When he said that I was immediately concerned. I still loved my father and didn't want Keladrian to hurt him. Nor did I want my father forced to hurt Keladrian.

"I feel that he and I must come to some accommodations. And his understanding, shall we say, that he needs to accept me and us as we are, without becoming too curious." He continued.

"And Us?" I was stunned. Did I just hear him right? He wanted my father to accept US!! Be still my beating heart.

"Whatever it is that we have undertaken here. His curiosity about my people is not healthy. We are very secretive and in fact it may be that your and my days are numbered for the information that has already become known. But we will have to deal with that when the time comes. Although I would dissuade your father from any rash actions that would most assuredly precipitate that event." Keladrian calmly discussed our future. But he said we.

"Well, time is not standing still. We need to move." I didn't want to say anything that would break the moment, but we did have to get moving.

"So the question is, is it best to arrive via my means, or if we are sure that Caine is the one waiting there, via your Trump sketch." He hesitated still. I thought that he had already decided what we were going to do. Suddenly he was asking my opinion. This was just getting better.

"It will take a half hour to do the Trump sketch and there is no guarantee that he has the item with him. However, I've never seen Caine without them." I was thinking of a set of three pearl handled throwing daggers set with emeralds. I had never seen Caine without them at any time.

"And when you draw this item, instead of going to it, you bring it to you?" Keladrian asked for clarification.

"I can't do that. When I draw an object, I have to go to it." I explained.

"But it would seem that it would put him in our reach." His eyes lit up and I could see the wheels turning. There was something about the way we clicked together. My abilities and powers combined with his, and then our ideas played off each other. I had done more exciting things in the last few weeks than in all my five hundred years.

"Oh, yes. Just like I ran into you when you were flying." I smiled at the memory.

"And even if I can't see it, if I am touching it, I can move it. Then perhaps we should try that." He sat down at the table. I looked at him a moment then sat down as well. I removed my gauntlets, took out paper and pencil and began to sketch.

I could tell Keladrian was concentrating on something while I sketched. I had turned off the ring that blanked my psychic power. It was difficult to gather the power that I needed to Trump sketch with the ring turned on. I hoped that Keladrian still had his on so that Bleys would not know we were together.

"Will he sense this?" Keladrian asked as I finished my sketch.

I looked up from the table and rubbed my eyes. "Not until it happens."

We stood up and Keladrian moved to stand behind me. He placed his hand on my shoulder. I twisted the ring to activate the psychic barrier and then activated the sketch.

The Trump sketch distorted open like the iris of a camera. I had seen this distortion pattern once before when I had contacted Corwin from the primal plane of his shadow to the first reflection. This would not be a fun trip through. If anything the distortion pattern appeared worse than before. But at the end I could see Caine's daggers. I could also see Caine, which meant he was no longer invisible. He was standing next to the tree at Corwin's Pattern, which was half uprooted.

I looked back over my shoulder at Keladrian. "Are you ready for this? It's not going to be fun."

"I cannot bring him through." Keladrian said looking down into the sketch over my shoulder. It hit me then that Keladrian could do his Spin thing with line of sight. He had tried to bring Caine through to us by looking through the Trump sketch. I realized that the distortion that was happening through the Trump was probably stopping him. File that information away for future reference. It might come in handy.

"We'll have to go to him then. You'll be ready to pull him out when we get there?" I said as I reached through the sketch to pull us through to Caine's daggers.

Keladrian replied in the affirmative as the journey started. It was worse than before. It felt like I was being smeared backwards. A red haze formed in front of my eyes. I fought to remain conscious and continue Trumping. I dropped to one knee on the other side. That probably saved me from being blown off my feet. We were suddenly assailed by gale force winds. Twigs, leaves and dust battered me and my hair whipped across my face. It was difficult to see as the wind abraded my eyes, drying the tears faster than they could form. The wind tugged at my armor, rattling it against itself. The roar of the wind was thunderous and I could hear nothing else.

It seemed to take forever for Keladrian to activate his Spin and take us away from this place. Whatever was happening here was not good. But it was too difficult to breathe let alone look around. With the ring on, I was mentally blind to my surroundings as well.

We finally left and then I wished we hadn't. As bad as the trip in had been this was far worse. I was getting used to Spin but it still wasn't my favorite method of travel. This was Spin interpreted by a Sadist. I felt like the ball in a pinball machine, but was quite sure that smears of blood and flesh were left behind on each of the bumpers. I don't know when the ride was over because I wasn't awake for the end.

I woke up face down on the ground and coughed out a mouthful of dirt and drool. So elegant. I must look a mess. I didn't want anyone to see me like this. I desperately needed a bath. My body was one bruise from head to foot and moving quickly was beyond question. I tried to turn my head to look around and a groan escaped my lips. I finally managed to roll to one side and saw Caine lying beside me hog-tied. His eyes were open but he didn't seem to be very coherent.

"Another perfectly executed plan." Keladrian was standing nearby and his voice sounded a little ragged also.

"Anything that we can walk away from, I guess." I managed to gasp out. I just lay there for a while. When I spoke again my voice was steadier. "That was particularly horrible."

"I would have to agree." Keladrian was still in his gargoyle form with the storm gray coloring.

"I thought getting there was bad." I took a deep breath. Everything hurt. My eyelashes even hurt. "What happened? Obviously whatever Mandor and Fiona did is not working, or making it worse."

"I don't think that what they've done has been tampered with. But the shadow itself, some barrier . . ." Keladrian was looking for some way to describe what he had experienced.

"Another force?" I asked, remembering what I had been told about the Emergence tapping into the Pattern. Could that entity still be trying to get to the Pattern?

"Perhaps. I don't know. Perhaps we should ask somebody who was there." He indicated my uncle trussed up on the ground beside me.

Caine didn't appear to be up to answer questions. "Well, there's one way to find out." I deactivated the ring and felt the world open up around me. I reached out and placed my hand on my uncle's arm and stepped into his mind.

Caine's thoughts were jumbled and discordant. It was obvious that he had taken a psychic hit of some kind. He knew that he was Caine and there was an overriding thought that he was in trouble and needed to pull himself together quickly. I took full advantage of the moment. I dug deeper into his mind. I knew Caine had been there when I had my heart to heart with my father. I wanted to know what he knew about me.

Caine tended to rank people and I saw that I had moved up several levels from potential hostage to potential pawn. Other information filed with that was, can be manipulated through boyfriend and investigate boyfriend further. There were things that I wanted to alter in Caine's perceptions. His mind was intractable and incredulous. It was hard to manipulate and change and I could see places where others had tried. Caine had reduced some of his basic mental thoughts to the status of involuntary. For example getting Caine to betray Amber would be the same as to ask him to stop breathing.

I focused on the facts in his mind that I was a Trump artist and that he needed to look into Keladrian's background. I think I managed to downgrade Keladrian in his interest and from knowing that I was a Trump artist I was only able to get Caine to move to 'Zhelan has a power that I need to check out'. But I would take what I could get. Only seconds had passed but I was almost as mentally exhausted as physically after my efforts to ameliorate the damaging information in Caine's mind.

I returned to the matter of Corwin's blood and Pattern. It appeared that Caine had Corwin's blood in a bag at his side. He hadn't used it yet; he had been waiting for Bleys. Caine seemed to think there was some special ritual involved.

I pulled out of Caine's mind and turned to look at Keladrian still standing above us. It took a moment to focus past the exhaustion and pain. "All right. Bleys was supposed to meet him there. He doesn't know where Bleys is and he doesn't know what hit him. Something hit him though. He has taken a strong psychic blow and his thoughts are scrambled. He doesn't know who did it. He didn't get Corwin's blood on the Pattern, it's still here with him." I paused for a breath.

"It may not be a 'who did it' it may be a 'what'." Keladrian paused to think. "He was concentrating when we arrived, very strongly on something. Can you find out what he was trying to do?"

I nodded and went back into Caine's mind. I coaxed Caine's mind back to the actions he was taking when he entered into Corwin's shadow.

The memory was close to the surface. With the Pattern muffled the shadow was breaking up. He was using his Pattern knowledge to try to hold the shadow together. It intrigued me the extent of Pattern knowledge that Caine possessed and I followed that line of thought back. I found the information about the Pattern in his mind quite clearly. There was nothing that I could gain about the sense of the journey on the Pattern itself, but at the end of the trip Caine had gained the mastery of shadow. I could see that when Caine entered a shadow he had control over it, the shadow did what he wished. This was a much stronger mastery of shadow than I had noted in any of my other relatives.

As insightful as this was into the mental thought processes of my Uncle, it did not help us with the current problem at hand. I disengaged and told Keladrian, "He was trying to hold the shadow together."

"The shadow was coming apart?" he asked for clarification.

"Yes." I rested my head on my arm a moment as we thought over the implications of that.

"That does not sound good."

"Ya think!" I exclaimed. "If Mandor said that disturbing the Pattern was bad, what do you think about the whole shadow coming apart? Do you think that would disturb it?" I finished sarcastically, not really annoyed at Keladrian but at circumstances in general. "What happens when the whole thing sucks down a big hole, does it take the rest of the universe with it?'

"A good question." Keladrian took my hysterics in stride.

"I wish we had some good answers." I let my frustration pour into the tone of my words.

"That's usually how we seem to be." He agreed. "Many questions, few answers."

"I hate stumbling around in the dark this way." I ran my hand through my hair and was appalled at the twigs, debris and tangles I encountered. "Do you have enough answers, can we leave Caine here and move on?"

"I guess so. There's plenty of sharp objects around here. He can free himself, do you think?" he gestured to the other side of Caine's body. I propped myself up on my elbow to see the stack of weapons he was pointing to. I recognized the daggers that had led us to Caine and realized that the formidable stack of weapons had probably all come off of my Uncle. Where the hell had he hidden all of those?

I nodded my agreement. "But I am not sure that this will be the dead end for him that it was for us." I remembered Caine's shadow mastery and realized that he could change this shadow as well. Maybe not quickly, but it would not stop him forever. "Because when he steps into a shadow, it's his shadow."

"Will it take him some time?"

"It will take him some time." I agreed. "The only other thing I can think of is to take him to the dungeons of Amber. However it appears he knows the dungeons too damn well. They held Corwin for four years until someone else helped him out." I shook my head not knowing whether that would be better or not. At least Caine couldn't move to shadow from within Amber. The thought of actually trying to get to my feet and take action was too overwhelming right now.

"I think affairs will be happening fast enough that this will be sufficient."

"I a . . " I started to tell him about what else I had seen and done in Caine's mind, then thought better of it. Who knew how aware Caine was of his surroundings at this time. "Let's go before we discuss anything else. I did some work while I was in his mind."

"Very well." He reached down and took the bag with Corwin's blood from my Uncle.

"Can we spin out to someplace where we can rest, get some food to eat. And a bath." I could feel tracks of dirt down my face and knew how matted my hair was.

"I'm not sure we have time. With the shadow disintegrating I would see it from the outside. The plain with the red army, I think we should go there." He disagreed.

"Well, we can try." I held out my hand to have him help me to my feet. I knew I couldn't make it on my own at this point. "Ok."

As he pulled me up to stand beside him I said. "We better not run into anyone I know."

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Chapter 28
Meetings at the Maelstrom

Just before Keladrian started his spin a sudden feeling of impending doom thrust itself into my fogged brain.

"Wait." I gasped as I squeezed his hand.

Keladrian halted and looked down at me. "What?"

"I need to think, I can't do it here. Can we go someplace else, not there." I'm not sure how coherent that sounded so I tried again. "I need to think this through, there is something wrong."

Keladrian nodded.

"Minimum requirements, a sink and a brush." I added knowing that he might take us to some uninhabited barren shadow. If I was going to get thinking time, I wanted to at least wash my face and brush the debris from my hair.

The spin this time was smoother and only the usual disconcerting.

Then we arrived in the bazaar. Just what I wanted, to be seen in public. At least there shouldn't be anyone I know here. I tried to push my hair into better order without much success.

"Can we go someplace less public?" I pleaded.

"There is an inn I know here." Keladrian said as he started off through the crowds.

We entered a building and were greeted by a four foot high toadish looking man with pointed ears. "A room for the missus, this way." He said immediately when he saw us. We followed him as he bounced down a hallway. The doorways between areas were a little short for Keladrian who had to duck to pass, but the rooms beyond were tall enough not to bother him.

We followed the greeter to a room covered with very nice tile work in browns and green with a few dark wood accents. As I looked around the facilities Keladrian ordered food.

"For you and the mammal?" The greeter asked and then left after getting confirmation from Keladrian.

As soon as the greeter left I turned to Keladrian. "Something my father said in his conversation with Caine over the Trump and then something I picked up from Caine, and something that happened before. It was all just rolling around in my mind. You said that the plain with the red army, when we left there you said it didn't exist. If it doesn't exist, would it be difficult to get back there? What would happen if we tried? Ok, that is point one. Point two. When you went to Dorad, I kind of got scraped off on the outside. Ok what happens if we don't make it there and the worst thing is that we get scraped off, wouldn't that put us where my father is trying to get to Corwin's Pattern? We could get dumped into his lap." I took a breath but didn't wait for any answers to my questions. While I had the mental focus I wanted to get out all of this information that was circling in my mind. We could make sense of it when I was through. "What I think was happening, my father was trying to get through to Caine. He said in his Trump call that the call was breaking up. I think that Caine was unable to pull him through the Trump because of the distortion or because he was too busy holding the shadow together to attempt to pull him through."

"Caine was holding the shadow together?" Keladrian finally interrupted me.

"Yes. That was what he was concentrating on when we interrupted him. So, he was waiting for my father to arrive because he didn't know he could just dump the blood on the Pattern. The other thing is we don't want to take that blood anywhere near Corwin's Pattern." I indicated the water bag that Keladrian had taken from Caine. "So I don't think we should have just gone straight there holding the blood. We should get rid of it somewhere." I took a breath and looked around the room. The environment was warm and moist with tiled pools and lots of plants. I hadn't spotted any towels or washcloths yet but there was some piles of sand near one of the pools.

I headed to the pool with the sand and splashed the water on my face to clean off the accumulated dirt while Keladrian digested the mountain of information I had just spewed forth. The water was the perfect temperature and I regretted not having the time for a bath. I was sure that I was becoming a bit rank inside this armor.

Then I thought, I should have taken Caine's Trump away from him. He could eventually work his way out of the shadow trap, but with the Trump he had, it would make it easier for him to do that. Damn, why didn't I think of the Trump before. Besides it would have been interesting to see what he had in the way of Trump. Oh, well, too late now.

Keladrian had started talking and I almost missed what he said. "Perhaps that would explain the nature of our last Spin. It was most difficult getting out from that place."

"That's an understatement." I tried to keep my voice calm. Maybe the Spin hadn't been as bad for him. Me, I was face down unconscious in the dirt. If that was merely difficult I didn't want to experience catastrophic.

"As for Spinning to a place that no longer exists it would most likely mean that we would just not Spin. I must be able to reach that destination for it to work." Keladrian explained. This didn't reassure me in the least. But he knew his abilities better than I.

"My other thought was that I know one person who is as close as you can get to Corwin's Pattern." I thought of my father trying to reach Caine. I was pretty sure that he wouldn't have given up yet.

"That means that we rapidly are running out of time and options. The question is, is it disrupting or destroying more shadows as it grows." Keladrian put into words what had been nagging at me.

"You wanted to get close enough to look, I'm not sure that where you are trying to go will get us there." I had been looking around the room for a comb or brush as we were talking, but hadn't found one as yet. I tried pulling my fingers through my hair, but it was too matted.

"That may be remedied." Keladrian watched as I wandered around the room. "I do not know what else we can try and I am concerned to leave Corwin's Pattern unattended . . . it seems . . . " he paused.

"Well, you want to get close, I know how to get us close." I was interrupted by a knock on the door.

Keladrian opened the door and room service had arrived with the food. There were two servings of raw meat that was spiced and arranged nicely on the plates. The other two servings were of something that looked like prime rib, green beans and mashed potatoes. The food smelled wonderful.

"We will also require towels and a comb for the mammal." Keladrian told our server.

"Our oversight, forgive me. I humbly beg your pardon." The poor creature was visibly upset.

"No problem." I tried to console him. "The food looks wonderful." I said as I approached the table where the food had been placed.

He bowed himself out and there was loud hissing in the corridor outside our room. I hope no one lost their position or life over this minor lack of service. But it seemed pretty important to our hosts.

"My father, when he is out, usually has Helioventar with him." I began when there was another knock on the door.

Keladrian opened the door and a different server entered carrying a large box covered with a towel. The server placed the container on the bench and removed the top. Inside there was a comb and a brush as well as toothbrush, toothpaste, make-up, slippers, sewing kit and some tools I wasn't sure exactly the purpose for.

Keladrian thanked our server and escorted her out while I picked up the brush and continued talking while restoring some sort of order to my tangled tresses. "So, if you want to get close to the pattern and take care of the other loose end at the same time . . . "

"The other loose end?" Keladrian interrupted.

"Yes, I though you wanted to . . ." I began, then stopped when I was sure that Keladrian understood my meaning.

"How curious was your Uncle Caine?" he asked.

"Not as much now as he was." I smiled.

"It's not good to be curious about my people." He seemed to hint that warning to me as well as my uncle.

"Well, he wasn't so much about 'your people' as just you."

"And where would that lead him?" he concluded.

"Well, he's not as curious as he was." I restated.

"That is much the intent I wish to do for your father, the question is . . ." Keladrian paused.

"I'm not capable of doing that to my father. Not when he's fully conscious." There was no way that I could win any kind of mental conflict with my father.

"And neither am I." Keladrian paused. "However." He seemed to be trying to find the right words to say. What did he have planned for my father? "There is persuasion and then there is persuasion. Suffice to say that if we meet your father I believe I can persuade him."

"He's stronger than you are." I reminded him.

"I know that, I have felt his weapons."

"So if you're thinking about beating it out of him, that's not going to work." I laughed. "You can always talk to my father, whether he actually listens or not I haven't found out yet."

I was stuffing bits of food in my mouth while brushing my hair. It really needed a good wash but brushing would have to do.

"The question I have is whether or not the Pattern is destroying more and growing and if it must be destroyed, and how to do that without creating a cataclysmic event." Keladrian said after finishing a mouthful of raw meat.

"I'm not sure that my father's method is what's going to work." I indicated the bag of blood.

"Neither am I." He agreed.

"He based that information on not having ever seen the Pattern. And you said something about a barrier." I remembered the Spin out.

"It could also be a naturally occurring barrier. The Power of the Pattern itself." Keladrian continued eating, then added. "But returning is the only way we can confirm, one way or the other, what to do next."

"So how do you suggest we do that?" I asked.

"We can work our way there fairly quickly, or if you feel it may be of benefit, we can try to contact your father." He suggested.

"Well that would get us there almost immediately, or him here." I thought about the last time I had contacted my father in Tor.

"If he answers." Keladrian suggested that he might not respond.

"O believe me, if I were to Trump him right now, he'd answer. So, we can try to contact my father or we can try to get near to Corwin's Pattern to see what is going on." I stated our options.

We ate in silence awhile. I couldn't tell what Keladrian was thinking. I was trying not to think about several things. How would my father greet me the next time we met? What did Keladrian really have in mind for my father and was it something that I could allow him to do? Could I physically stand up to too much more?

"At this point, we do not need to be distracted by conflict with your father." I looked up as Keladrian spoke. That would relieve two of my problems.

"I have a feeling that if we try to get near Corwin's Pattern, we are going to run into him. So the question really is, do you want to run into him on our terms or his?" I disagreed that we could get near Corwin's Pattern without running into Bleys.

"Our terms I would think. However, there is no guarantee that if we go our own way that it will be our terms over his." Keladrian made the point that I had been thinking.

"So, now that we have thought through this, what are we going to do?" I challenged him.

"What is your preference? Do you think he would be willing to talk?" Keladrian countered.

"My father is always willing to talk. It's what he does best." I laughed.

"Will he have any knowledge of what is happening at the Pattern?"

"That I don't know. But he would certainly have viewed it from outside, close at hand."

Keladrian paused. "I don't know. I am unsure as to what is the best way. You know your father better than me. Contact him or we'll go separately. You make the call." He put the decision back on me.

"I'm not exactly unbiased in this." I didn't want to run to father to solve all problems. "Part of me wants to contact him to sort of find out his reaction is to what we have been doing. But I don't know that is necessarily a good reason for contacting him or basing a decision on. But you did say that time was important." I hedged. I didn't want to make this decision. I hoped that Keladrian would make it for us.

"Contact him." He decided.

I took out my Trump of Bleys and concentrated a moment. He answered right away, as I knew he would, but he seemed surprised at the call. He was very distracted and busy and I got a sensation of howling wind. He was in some kind of storm but I could get no good sense of background.

"Bring us through." I told him.

He did not speak but held out his hand.

Keladrian dropped the blood before we stepped through. We stepped into the event horizon of a maelstrom. Bleys had the Pattern fully up and in force but he was backing up slowly as reality was dropping off in front of him.

"Get Fiona." Bleys gasped out.

"Fiona's unconscious." I informed him.

"Random." Was all he could spare the concentration for.

I took out my Trump of Random.

"I know of only one place able to help with this." Keladrian told my father as he looked at the raging hole that used to be Corwin's Pattern and the shadows surrounding it.

"Get it." Bleys said tersely.

"I will try." Keladrian turned to me. "You know where I go and I know not their response. Do what you can." And he Spun out. I was busy trying to contact Random and didn't have the opportunity to say goodbye. I didn't think his people would let him return. Whatever it took, I would help him get free if needed.

"Zhelan get out of here." Bleys snapped at me.

"No." I defied him. I was still trying to contact Random and I was not going to leave my father to be consumed by this phenomenon. I still needed answers to some questions.

I suddenly made connection with Random. He was being majestic. He was on the throne at Amber.

"Zhelan?" Random inquired.

"Bleys says he needs help. Corwin's Pattern is sucking the universe into it." I moved to where he could see the maelstrom behind me.

"Umm. Not good. How long can you hold?" he asked.

"Until we're swept away with the rest of the universe." I tried to make light of our situation.

"Thirty seconds, I'll call." And he cut the connection.

Bleys backed up another step.

I barely had time to wonder how Random was going to contact me. I didn't know he had a Trump of me. I wondered where he had gotten one when I received a Trump call. It was Random.

"Pull me through Zhelan." He commanded and I obliged. He was still looking official regal but had left the crown behind. The Jewel of Judgment hung around his neck and it was red and glowing. This was the first time that I had seen it this close. It was intimidating. It blazed with the power of the Pattern.

"It's ok, Zhelan, get out of here." He ordered as he surveyed his surroundings and reality falling off in front of us.

"Do you need Bleys with you?" I asked.

"Bleys and I will handle this." He assured me.

My father spared a moment of attention for me. "Zhelan, go." It was an order that I couldn't really refuse. There was nothing that I could do here. I used my Trump memory of my father's estate in Amber and left.

I arrived at our estate in Amber and the calm of the surroundings were in stark contrast to the storm I had just left. Where I had been was better suited to my thoughts and emotions than where I was now.

I thought about two of the most important men in my life nobly battling to save shadow. I didn't think they could do it by themselves. Would Keladrian arrive with help from his people? I doubted it. Keladrian might not come back at all. I couldn't rescue Caine. That shadow would not allow me to leave. I would be trapped there with a very pissed off Uncle. I ticked off the list of relatives and realized I had no resources to call on. Mandor was with Fiona and not in good shape, and he was a Logrus user. Not a good mix when Bleys and Random were using Pattern. I took out my pilfered Trumps and flipped through them. I stopped at Drake's Trump. He might know other sources of power from the Courts that weren't Logrus based. I activated the Trump. It seemed colder than usual.

The image of Drake changed to reflect current reality. He was sitting down and looked a little haggard. I quelled my sudden feeling of satisfaction and concentrated on making contact.

When I knew that I had his attention I asked, "How are things going on your end?"

He paused for a moment as if carefully choosing his words. He finally settled on "Unsettling."

"Is Isabeau with you?" I was concerned about the presence of my cousin. She seemed more than a little irritated with me the last I saw her in Shangra La. I didn't want her influencing this conversation.

"No." Drake told me. He paused for a moment as if trying to decide whether to say more. "She was seeking Keladrian." He finally revealed.

"Well, she could be in some trouble if she did that right now." I laughed nervously. That might be the answer to the dilemma of my cousin.

"Is he in danger?" Drake quietly inquired.

"Hard to say." I didn't know what Keladrian's people would do to a wayward son. He hadn't managed to procure their help for his friend Derrick. But I didn't think that he was in immediate danger.

"Are you in danger?" Drake must be wondering why I had contacted him.

"Not currently." I thought about who might be listening to this conversation and how much I wished to reveal.

"Are things unsettling elsewhere?" Drake's tone became more insistent. He obviously was in the middle of something and was perturbed about being disturbed for something trifling.

"Oh, yes." I agreed and made up my mind to explain the situation. "I just left the remains of the area around Corwin's Pattern."

"The fix did not hold?" he prompted.

"Nothing wrong with the fix." I didn't know that. It had been a little hard to tell with reality being sucked down into a void. "It's just something else like a black hole sucking in the rest of the universe back there. It's eating up reality at a growing rate." I paused for effect.

"Something is drawing in the Pattern?" Drake didn't seem like he understood what I was saying.

"Yes." I agreed.

"Do you know of other places that this is happening?" he asked.

"Not personally, no." One was bad enough. I couldn't imagine there would need to be more than one to threaten all of existence. "One is enough. Is it happening elsewhere?" I suddenly connected his condition and was afraid that Corwin's Pattern Storm was not a singular phenomenon.

"I believe it might be. I believe the Abyss may be breaking through into places of power. You might look to Amber or other key areas." He stated.

"You think that places of power like the Pattern and the Logrus are drawing the Abyss to it?" Amber seemed fine. If there was something similar happening here, I think I would have noticed. I dismissed Drake's theory. Something had happened there. Either it wasn't the same thing that was happening at Corwin's Pattern or they had overcome it in some way. If they had a method for combating it, Random needed to know.

"So, how goes the war between Amber and Chaos?" The fact that Random had been on the throne of Amber when I called him was a positive sign. How did Chaos view it?

"There is none." He said.

"No war?" I thought either he or I had missed something.

"Certain factions, rogue factions, opposing the Imperium may intend harm for Amber. However a truce has been reached between your King and the Emperor." He explained.

"Well, I hope they have everything signed before Random buys it." I told him. If the treaties weren't signed we could be facing war on top of all of reality being sucked down a really big hole.

"Your King Random has been speaking with representatives from Chaos and there is peace between the Emperor and Amber." He began in the usual stoic diplomatic tone. He hadn't understood my hint. Too subtle I guess. He stopped talking suddenly and grew more animated. "Your King's in danger?"

"He's with my father trying to hold off Corwin's Pattern from eating the universe." I tossed off. Then grew more serious. "I have no idea what is happening and I dare not disturb them to find out."

"Do you know how to get there directly?" he asked showing more animation than previously.

"Yes. I can get there directly but it will take me half an hour." I told him.

He paused briefly and I could see he had reached some decision. I didn't pry. "Call me when you are finished."

"All right." I disconnected from the Trump contact and sorted through the Trump sketches I had made while Keladrian did conjuring. Was that less than two days ago? I shook my head in disbelief. So much had happened. I found the Trump sketch I wanted. A fast time shadow. I needed as much time compression as I could get. Bleys and Random didn't have much time. I Trumped through and immediately pulled forth paper and pen and began my sketch of Helioventar.

Most fast-time shadows aren't great tourist attractions and the condition of this one was no different. The time differential here was very fast compared to Amber and I found that after awhile my skin started crawling and I began to feel anxious and jumpy. I put everything out of my mind and concentrated on the sketch. Random and my father's life hung on this sketch. Ok, so that was a little melodramatic but it helped me concentrate.

I finished the sketch and pulled out Drake's Trump. I wanted out of here as quick as possible. I activated his Trump and he answered right away.

"Are you ready?" I asked him.

"Bring us through." He answered. I wondered who he was bringing with him. I couldn't see anyone through the Trump, which meant they were standing either in front of him or off to the side.

"Us?" I raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, I brought help." Drake responded.

I held out my hand and brought Drake through. A woman came with him. She was a short wiry woman dressed in gray. Her presence was much larger than her stature. She had a very large sword strapped to her back.

"War Leader Lintrel, may I present the Duchess Zhelan." Drake provided the formal introductions. I had no idea where in the Courts the War Leader Lintrel ranked, but she seemed to carry herself as if she were Empress. "Duchess Zhelan, War Leader Lintrel, head of Hendrake . . ."

He started to elaborate on the introduction and I cut him off. "We don't have time for that. Are we going now?"

I activated the Trump sketch of my father's sword and reached through it. As I started to pull myself through I turned to Drake. "Hang on to me."

We stepped through onto the flat featureless plain on the edge of the maelstrom. Random and my father were still concentrating on their task and looked much as I had left them.

"I brought help." I yelled over the noise of the storm.

Lintrel walked up behind my father and Random. I had a moment of trepidation. If she meant them harm, this would be the perfect time. She looked briefly down at the gaping chasm then said, "Drop back five feet and then hold for thirty seconds."

She moved back about 10 feet from the edge and brought up her power. I barely recognized it as Edgefall. She wielded it with a surgeon's skill. Cold and precise. There was a moment's hesitation and then the universe was sliced apart as the maelstrom dropped away.

"Catch them." She said.

Drake grabbed Random and I held onto my father to keep them from following the destruction down into the chasm. Random and Bleys were quite surprised when the universe dropped out from under their feet, but they recovered quickly.

"Bloody hell." Random exclaimed as he fell back on his butt.

"Your majesty, if you could re-knit that please." Lintrel said quite calmly.

Bleys took a deep breath and said quietly. "Thank you dear."

Random focused on the Jewel and began his work.

Lintrel said, "If that will be all." And left abruptly.

I turned to Drake and said, "Well, maybe you can thank her for us later."

"I will extend your thanks to her later. She is not one of many words." He smiled.

"I guess. But action is what counts at this point." I replied.

Very slowly the ground began to weave shut over the place that Corwin's Pattern had dissolved the shadow. Bleys seemed tired by his efforts but I could tell his dignity would not allow him to sit in front of Drake and myself. I moved to his side and we leaned against each other in companionable silence. I was proud of my father and I enjoyed this moment of serenity.

Random eventually finished and stood up somewhat shaken. "I think I've got it, but we really should have Fi look at this soon." He said rather shakily. Then turned to Drake. "Who was that?"

"Aid from the Courts." Drake replied smugly. Then, "That was War Leader Lintrel of House Hendrake." He further explained. "Duchess Zhelan was kind enough to bring word of your need of aid." Drake nodded towards me.

"That was very gracious of Duchess Zhelan." Random nodded towards me as well. It felt odd having Random use my title. "Thank you."

I took advantage of the moment. "Uncle, we need to talk soon."

Random seemed unsettled by my request. He nodded to me, "Duchess." Then to Drake, "Prince Drake."

"Duchess?! Random don't go getting all official on me now." I protested.

He smiled, "All right, you bring the beer. But I've got to get back to work."

"Thank you for showing up and taking time out of your schedule." I teased.

"The orchestra is merely tuning up. I believe the symphony has yet to begin." Drake hinted to Random.

"I have to get back. Do you want to talk there?" Random invited Drake.

"As you wish." Drake nodded.

"You are with me." Random snapped at Bleys. Random took out a Trump and Bleys and Drake followed him through. I stayed behind. There was unfinished business here.

If Keladrian were capable of returning it would be to here. I would wait for him to arrive. If he didn't show up within a reasonable time frame, I was prepared to go after him. But I felt that I would need rest before I started on that course of action. Right now I was numb. I was tired and sore and felt emotionally let down after the dash to fix Corwin's Pattern had been completed. That brought up the thought of Corwin. How badly would he be pissed that his Pattern was no more. Was his fixation on it unnatural and now that it was gone would he move on to other pursuits? Corwin had come back from his missing years different. He wasn't quite the Uncle that I remembered. He was a little more human. Except for the Corwin that had been at the Pattern. I stood on the empty plain enjoying the peace and quiet for a time. Then the featureless plain was interrupted by the arrival of an immense blue dragon that reached probably 60 or 70 feet in length. A much smaller blue dragon with bronze accents followed it. I recognized the smaller dragon. I wouldn't have to rescue Keladrian after all.

The large blue dragon sat down on his haunches nearby and seemed to be investigating the area that Random had just knit together. I didn't move; I tried not to think. This was one of the bogeymen that Keladrian had repeatedly warned me about. By his size I guessed him to be much older than Keladrian. By his presence, I pegged him at least an Oberon if not more.

He finally looked in my direction and said. "Edgefall?"

"Edgefall and Jewel of Judgment to patch it up. Was it a good patch?" I thought my voice sounded very calm and conversational. "Random wasn't sure." I added when the mention of the Jewel seemed to catch the dragon's interest.

"He'll need training." The dragon rumbled out.

"Yeah, well, he's new at it." I shrugged my shoulders. There was something incongruous about having this conversation with a large blue dragon. But it seemed to be going okay. I was at last meeting another of Keladrian's people and I hadn't been attacked yet.

"I can fix this." He seemed to be talking to himself now.

I replied anyway. "Great."

The dragon turned its gaze to me again. "You're excused." And then his attention was on to more important things.

Keladrian spoke for the first time. "Thank you." He said to the large blue dragon.

I turned to him and smiled. "Shall we go?" We just might get out of here as long as big blue was concentrating on other things. I felt almost like a child getting away with lifting candy from a store without paying.

"You have a companion." The dragon spoke without looking at either of us. I was afraid that he meant me and that he was taking umbrage with the fact that Keladrian and I were together.

"You have a companion in danger. Nmimnis is not fond of her." He continued.

"Who might that be?" Keladrian asked. I was relieved that it didn't seem to be me that he was referring to.

"Child of Dworkin, red hair, rude." He could only be describing Isabeau.

"How did she come to be . . ." Keladrian started.

"I would like to know that myself." The dragon interrupted and fixed his stare on Keladrian.

"It was in the letters." Keladrian answered.

The dragon then fixed his gaze on me. This was not a good sign. "As soon as I am done with this . . ." He didn't finish that threat. Then said. "Remove your companion quickly."

"Very well." Keladrian nodded his compliance.

"Shall we go rescue Isabeau?" I tried to appear cheerful.

Keladrian spun us out of there. We went to someplace equally bland but sans dragon.

"How are we going to get to her? Shall I do a Trump sketch?" I asked him when we were away from his elder.

"Perhaps we can use the Trump I have of her." He told me. I had forgotten that he had a Trump of my cousin. I turned away quickly. If I didn't know myself better I would say that I was feeling jealous. Damn Keladrian anyway. Why did I let my emotions get so out of control around him?

He had continued talking, "I believe it would be best if we could contact her and bring her through before Nmimnis is aware. However if that does not work. Can you draw a sketch of a place that you have seen through a Trump?" he asked.

I turned back to him. "Not usually. I would have to get enough of a feel for the essence of a place and that usually doesn't come through a Trump." I thought of something else. "You said something about getting a visual of a person through the Trump that you could grab them with your spin. You said something about that when we were going after Caine."

"Not from where she is." He admitted. Isabeau was in Keladrian's home shadow? How had she managed that? She certainly wasn't my first choice of Ambassador of Goodwill for Amber. And most certainly not when it came to such xenophobes, as Keladrian's people seemed to be. "She has to able to reach for me and be willing to come through on her own."

"That could be problematic." I mused thinking of how obstinate Isabeau could be. Just like her mother.

"Very well. Observe so that you may cover the drawing if it does not go well." Keladrian was learning some of the finer points of Trump contact. "Because we cannot get to where she will be otherwise."

I nodded my agreement as Keladrian concentrated on Isabeau's Trump. I placed my hand on his arm and watched the card of Isabeau's. I did not recognize the artist and was sure that I was seeing her style. I committed it to memory. I would recognize any Trumps of hers if I saw another one.

We reached Isabeau and Keladrian quickly told her, "Isabeau come through now."

It seemed far too simple. She acquiesced immediately. "Ok." And she reached out and took Keladrian's hand. She must have been in danger to comply so quickly. When she came through, she was not alone. I recognized the Mandor that had been in Shangra La with Fiona, but there was a second Mandor next to him. This one was also dressed in black but in a sort of country walking attire.

There was something definitely not right with them. They were vacant looking.

"What happened to Mandor?" I exclaimed.

"I was trying to shadow walk towards Keladrian when he just disappeared." Isabeau began, "So we stopped in a nice little country inn to get something to eat when Mandor said, 'do you worry about your companions health.' And I said something to the effect that yes, I would like him to be healthy. And he said 'check please' and he became this dummy." She gestured at the Mandor in the walking attire. "I thought this might be one of those time stoppages, you know because he stopped in midair and the whole shadow disappeared and we were in this totally yucky Chaosian shadow instead of this nice place where we had been. And I touched him thinking I could bring him out of the time stoppage and it didn't work and he's just the way you see him. So I went to the other one to see if he was ok because he was taking care of mom and there were these big friggin' dragons looming over mom. And they weren't very friendly. Then you came." She finally ran down.

I had barely followed this interesting narrative. I vaguely remembered rambling on like that at times. I hope I hadn't been as equally moronic looking when I had done it. I knew that Mandor knew Keladrian's people. He had been the one to mention the name Thenaroth. I was almost positive that was the dragon I had met at Corwin's Pattern. The other dragon must have been Nmimnis.

"How did you go to the other one?" Keladrian asked. He was obviously following up on the matter that seemed to concern Thenaroth. I had decided to call the big blue dragon Thenaroth rather than just saying 'that big blue dragon'. I could find out later from Keladrian if it was him or not.

"I had him bring me through."

"But you said he's not . . ." and Keladrian indicated the vacant Mandor.

"I know Mandor well enough to convince him to bring me through."

"And you say he was with your mother."

"Yeah, he had taken my mom someplace to get her healed. And I was concerned that since he was trying to make her safe that if he got stupid like this one did, who's keeping her safe?"

"Is she still there?" I asked my cousin who seemed to be talking to anyone right now, which seemed to include me.

"Yes, I was unable to extricate her from the dragon thing that seemed to want to swat me." Isabeau was still fairly agitated by recent events.

I put my hand to my face to hide a smile.

"That would be a good thing." Keladrian also seemed somewhat amused by the situation though it was difficult to tell in his dragon aspect.

"They must think well of Mandor to take Fiona on his request." I mused.

"She's ok with the dragon's?" Isabeau asked us.

"It is not the place that you or I would have chosen to take care of her." Keladrian admitted. "She is not known for her bedside manners but her abilities are second to none."

"Well she didn't seem to like me much. I guess I won't be getting visiting hours until she is healed." Isabeau sighed.

"Drake hinted at problems elsewhere in shadow or at the Courts." I turned the conversation away from Nmimnis and the dragons. The less said about them, the better. "He left with Random."

"Well, if Mandor here is any example of problems, then we've got some problems going on. I'd like to try to find the real Mandor, but I will have to do some research." Isabeau seemed calmer now and more coherent.

I walked up to the Mandor that I had known in Shangra La and touched him. He was mentally vacant except for a series of compliancy commands. Almost like an automaton. There was no sense of Logrus about him.

"There was something that Mandor was trying to explain to me about himself and how they were all connected as one. What one saw and heard, the other did. It seems to me that that connection is missing or severed." I said.

"I'm worried about Mandor. I don't know if it is only these guys that have been affected or if something severed the connection . . ." Isabeau moved over to where I was examining the Shangra La Mandor.

"There is no Logrus here. If something is blocking the Logrus, if that is what the problem in Chaos that Drake was referring to, that could be pretty major." I mused out loud.

"What can block an entire power?" Isabeau asked.

"The Emergent." I offered.

"Another power." Keladrian said.

"Something's blocking all the Logrus?" Isabeau seemed incredulous.

"I don't know, the best we can do here is speculate." I turned away. I didn't like seeing Mandor this way.

"You said that Drake left with Random?" Keladrian asked.

I nodded.

"I'm not taking the Mandor's to Amber." Isabeau declared.

"Where would you like to take them? Leaving them out here in shadow is not a good idea." I asked her.

"It's nice to see your estimation of my brains has gone down in the intervening period, Zhelan. Duh." She snapped back at me. I could almost hear Keladrian think 'and it was going so well.' "I'm thinking about taking them to Tor for the Igor's to watch over."

"You place much faith in Tor." Keladrian moved in to smooth things over.

"No place is safe right now. I'm sorry we have an Avatar arising from the Abyss. It sounds to me like anywhere you could be would be affected. But if I put them in Tor, they are Chaos ward. If Mandor is anywhere near there he may be able to get to them. I'd rather do that than drag them all the way to Amber where any connection they may still have with Mandor may be getting even further stretched by taking them so far away from them." Isabeau was steamed. It seemed that she was gaining some feelings for this strange man that was her father.

"Your rational is as good as any other, I just wish to point out the nuances of the conflict." Keladrian tried to be soothing.

"I realize that Tor could be the next real estate taken over by Miss flying. I don't know what the hell is going on, I've just been walking around trying to find people." Isabeau calmed down slightly. She must be as frustrated by her inability to affect her surroundings as I had felt recently. Funny, it didn't endear her to me the way sympathizing with Drake had done. I was staying out of this. I had no desire to go back to Tor. I had no happy memories there.

"Courses of action. Is the dreadful doodle taken care of?" Isabeau asked.

"Oh yes." I confirmed

Isabeau heaved a sigh of relief. "Thank god."

Isabeau continued to tick off our options. "The dreadful doodle is dealt with, the war is at a cease fire. The only thing left on the plate is the Avatar. So how do we stuff here back in the Abyss?"

"Or should we, that is . . ." I stopped and looked at Keladrian. "Did you have a chance to ask . . ." I didn't send him a mental message, as I knew that Isabeau was strong enough that she might pick up on it. But Keladrian and I had been through enough together that he should know what I was referring to by now.

"No." He shook his head. "He was not . . ."

"Concerned about it?" I asked.

"No, inclined to talk." Keladrian finished.

"I'm surprised he let you go, and us." I smiled.

"There will be ramifications I'm sure." He smiled back.

"Well, I should let Random know we have somebody cleaning up after him." I said as I looked away from Keladrian's eyes.

"No. Just let it happen." Keladrian shook his head. "The less they know . . ."

"Well, just so they don't send somebody there to take care of it." I explained.

"That would not be a problem for anyone he could send there to take care of it." We had been ignoring Isabeau during this exchange and she seemed to be oblivious to what we were talking about. We had become used to being just the two of us, and we would have to be more careful around her.

"Drake, Random and Bleys went back to wherever they went to together." I changed the subject.

"Do you wish to take the Mandor's somewhere before we try to contact them, or do you wish to ask Drake's permission?" Keladrian turned to Isabeau.

"Oh, well I guess that would be diplomatic. I've been dropping in at Tor without him around, but . . . I should give him a call." Isabeau seemed chagrined as she pulled out a Trump of Drake.

I found it interesting to see who had given whom a Trump. I had a Trump of Drake but I had drawn it myself. The one Isabeau had wasn't in her style. Which meant that Drake must have given it to her. She had given a Trump of herself to Keladrian, as had I. I had not given a Trump of myself to Drake. Had Isabeau? Of course Keladrian had no Trumps drawn of him. Just a couple of Trump sketches that were no longer useful. I glanced at him again to assure myself that he was still Trump free.

I wondered if he was going to stay in his dragon form. I kind of liked the coloration. It was a mix of my favorite color blue with my father's favorite metal bronze. I pulled my eyes away from him. I would have to be more careful in what I said to Keladrian now that we were with Isabeau. And I certainly couldn't allow a lapse in decorum like what had happened in Shangra La. At least the Mandor who had witnessed that was not able to tell anyone about it at the moment.

We waited while Isabeau concentrated on the Trump.

Back to Top

Chapter 29

I realized that I had been staring off into space unfocused. Isabeau had finished her Trump call with Drake and it appeared that we were waiting for him to call back. I turned to Keladrian and noticed that he had switched to his human form. "I do have a couple of concerns."

He smiled down at me and replied. "Only a couple."

"Well, you know, it's a start."

"Before we go into that." He interrupted me and turned to Isabeau. "Lady Isabeau. The place your mother is, is safe for her, it is not safe for you."

"I kinda figured that out." I noticed that there was no sarcasm in her tone when she replied to Keladrian. "The black one was really glaring at me and not friendly." She hesitated a moment then continued changing the subject. "I need to figure out a way to contact Prime Mandor and get these to him." She indicated the two versions of Mandor that were standing unanimated near her.

"That would probably be a wise idea." Keladrian responded.

I wasn't so sure about that. I remembered what my father had told me about the use of Logrus making you crazy. If 'Prime Mandor', as Isabeau had called him, were powering his duplicates through shadow with Logrus, that was continual use of great amounts of the stuff. What would that mean about his sanity? And if the Mandor's weren't functioning, did that mean that Mandor Prime was incapacitated, or even dead? Or maybe there was some barrier severing their connection to him. If Mandor Prime was all right but his connection to his limbs had been severed, what would he be like shut off, deprived of his senses to the outer world? I wouldn't want to meet up with Mandor Prime right now.

"And I suspect that you have some ability to go back to where your mother is?" Keladrian continued with his earlier line of questioning.

"No, Mandor pulled me through." Isabeau replied until Keladrian fixed her with a knowing stare. "Oh! Oh, well. . " She stammered a moment then continued. "Believe me, the reception I got I won't be traveling back there anytime soon. Unlike Zhelan, I am not the world traveler, 'Oh look, I've been there before, let's go back again.' That was not pleasant and I have other concerns right now." I ignored her dig.

"That is good. Do not exercise that ability. I would fear greatly for the consequences if you were to do so. That time you had the element of surprise, the next time I doubt there will be much desire for restraint." Keladrian emphasized.

"I understand." She seemed genuine in her agreement. "Why would I go back to a place where they have absolutely no amenities?" I smiled at this and realized that Keladrian must come by his love of uncluttered shadows naturally.

Keladrian seemed satisfied and turned back to me. "Well, as for other concerns. While the most pressing seems to be the Emergence, you have . . .?"

"While we are waiting for Drake to call back there is an item that we left in shadow that I don't think is a good idea to just leave laying around." I didn't wish to let Isabeau know that we had a bag of Corwin's blood. Hopefully Keladrian would know what I was talking about without too much elaboration. After all we had left a great many things behind in shadow recently, my Uncle Caine to name one.

"I know we've dropped a lot of equipment but I don't think there was anything . . ." Keladrian began confused.

"Back at the Inn at the Bazaar." I hinted. "I would prefer not to have that just laying around in shadow."

"No!" He picked up on my meaning. "We should pick that up." He agreed.

"Considering the nature of that place it might fetch . . . " I began.

"A good price." Keladrian finished for me. "However the nature of the Inn is that it should be waiting for me. Very well, let's go." He turned to Isabeau. "Lady Isabeau would you care to accompany us? I assume you do not yet have a plan as to where you wish to take the Mandors?"

"Yes, I do have a plan about where I want to take the Mandors. I am waiting for Drake to contact me." Isabeau stated firmly.

"Drake can contact you anywhere." I interjected.

"Lady Zhelan is correct we must address this . . ." Keladrian began before Isabeau interrupted him.

"Whatever. If you want your key chain, let's go." She gestured her indication to continue with a flick of her wrist.

"Very well." Keladrian stated as he spun us to the bazaar. I could tell that Isabeau was impressed with her surroundings. We arrived in the Inn and Keladrian asked Isabeau if she would care for a repast. The same greeter as before met us and we were led to a private dining room.

We entered a very nice room with a low table surrounded by several pools and waterfalls. There were no chairs or cushions. I sank down on the floor next to the table. The floor was comfortable enough. Keladrian took our greeter aside, presumable to ask about the property that we had left.

Isabeau seated herself between the Mandors across the table from me. The food arrived almost as soon as we were seated. I could not arouse any interest in eating. Which is not usual for me.

I watched Isabeau try to get one of the Mandors to eat. There was not enough higher brain function for them to chew and swallow on their own. Isabeau was trying to mentally manipulate the Mandor that I had left in Shangra La. I watched in morbid fascination as she proceeded. She was not very adept at this. It takes some skill to physically manipulate someone. I know, I have done it on more than one occasion. I tried to remember back to my first attempt but it was too much effort to do more than sit there.

I hadn't even realized that Keladrian had come and sat down at the table until there was a knock on the door and he stood to open it. There was a very brawny and scarred amphibian at the door. Keladrian and the entity exchanged some conversation and Keladrian returned with the bag of Corwin's blood. He sat down at the table and placed the strap of the bag over his shoulder. I did not protest.

Isabeau's attempts to feed Mandor were interrupted by a Trump call. She finished what she was doing before accepting the call and shortly afterwards Drake stepped into the room.
He had obviously been through an ordeal of some type but carried himself well. He glanced around the room taking in the scene. I sat there in my scuffed armor, the side of my face abraded and my hair an absolute wreck. No amount of combing had repaired the damage it had suffered in the last few hours. Keladrian's armor was looking as bad as mine but he himself seemed all right. Isabeau was wearing a heavy floor length coat and there was some sort of pink oatmeal looking substance on the hem and she had sand ground into several places. The Mandor wearing the walking clothes was sitting at the table staring blankly forward and the Mandor in the black Asian style pajamas was also staring blankly forward but he had food smeared across his face, and on his hands and clothes.

Drake raised an eyebrow at the condition of the Mandors and Isabeau explained. "There seems to have been some sort of problem with the connection."

"Their power source has been cut off." I said quietly.
Isabeau glared at me and continued. "Mandor doesn't seem to be able to animate these guys right now, so I am keeping them healthy."

"That's wise." Was all Drake said as he folded his legs under him and sat on the floor at the table. "So Mandor has had a bit of a set back." It was a statement. "But the doodle seems under control."

"The doodle's been addressed." Keladrian agreed.

"So long ago and yet so recently when we left Amber our goal seems to have been achieved." Drake stated.

"The objective that King Random set us on, yes, that has been achieved." Isabeau agreed. "The dreadful doodle has been addressed."

Drake turned to me with a glass of wine in his hand. "Have some of this wine, you're looking a bit . . ." He didn't finish before Keladrian interrupted him.

"Zhelan, who else would have my Trump?" I quickly scanned him and found the trace of a Trump attachment to him. I could only think of a few people who could have made the Trump. I could discount Fiona and Bleys. My father would have done one but he was in Amber and would not have had the time. Fiona was with Keladrian's people and unconscious. I knew that it was neither Isabeau nor I. Was Caine a Trump artist? I knew Merlin was a Trump artist and then there were other Chaosians. If it was someone from Chaos, this could not be a good call. I shook my head.

"Can you identify the caller if you are in contact with me?" he asked.

"No, because I am not the one getting the call. However I can help you break free if it needs to be." There was no question in my mind but that he had to take this call. We had to know who had completed his Trump.

"The fastest way to break the contact if you do not wish to show your hand, is to activate my medallion." He indicated the pendant on his chest.

"I will still need to be in contact with you to know whether I need to." I started to reach my hand out to him and he stood up and moved around to sit next to me. I leaned up against him and placed my hand on the amulet. Then he accepted the call.

It was Merlin. "Keladrian. You have a companion at large?"

"I have several companions, I am unsure which you refer to."

"A kinsman."


"I have been contacted by two of my kinsmen regarding your kinsman."

"Has he left where he was?"

"I did not choose at this time to join my kinsmen in their actions, so I was not informed. But you did move against a Prince of Amber on my behalf, so now I warn you that your kinsman is in danger."

"Thank you. I will not forget."

And the contact was broken. So much for the Emergence.

"Did you wish to punish Balek and his cronies?" Keladrian turned to Drake.

"That would be a pleasure." Drake bared his teeth in a feral smile.

"Then we shall go now." Keladrian stood and I pulled myself up beside him.

"Do you have a Trump of the Igor's?" Isabeau asked Drake as she looked at the entities on either side of her.

"No." Drake responded thinking.

"I have a Trump of Tor." I blurted out. Drake glanced sideways at me as he pulled out a tube.

"I have this." He indicated the tube. He and Isabeau obviously knew what it was. Drake opened the tube and unrolled a large drawing of the air guardian over Tor. It was in Isabeau's style. Drake concentrated on the sketch and soon handed the Mandor's through. While this was transpiring, Keladrian left the room. He wanted to settle the bill with the proprietor. I usually don't use cash. It was just easier to manipulate people's minds into thinking they had received compensation.

When Keladrian returned he Spun the four of us through to the plain we had been on when we rescued Isabeau. Hopefully here we would stop and make plans for our next move. Keladrian started shifting to his gargoyle form as he spoke. "The doodle was not patched well by King Random. One of my people was there fixing it. I have been told that Balek and his compatriots are attacking him. I appreciate the assistance if you wish to give it. If not, you may remain here."

"How about a weapon?" I asked hopefully, but was ignored.

"Assisting me will earn you, perhaps time to depart." Keladrian told us. Isabeau did not seem to understand what he meant. I could tell that Drake seemed to understand the implications. I had heard this from Keladrian often enough in the past weeks that I knew he was concerned that Thenaroth would not normally permit us to live. However I was feeling a little cocky. I had met the terrible Thenaroth and not only had he allowed us to live, but told us to remove Isabeau to safety also.

"We need to go, we do not know what is happening there. The question is, do you wish to come or not?" Keladrian was agitated and obviously concerned. There was no hesitation in the group. We would assist our companion.

Keladrian swiftly changed to his dragon form and launched into the air. "We go now." Drake pulled his Logrus blade and I stepped away from him. Then we Spun to the plain where we had last left Thenaroth.

The first thing I saw was the large blue dragon. Then I noticed a large humanoid shaped serpent near his tail. She was holding a Logrus rope. The other end of which was around Thenaroth's tail and his flesh was seared were it touched. Thenaroth seemed to be struggling and I could see at the front of him a large Balrog who also had a Logrus lasso around Thenaroth's muzzle.

While I stood looking around the shadow trying to get my bearings, Drake had already moved. He ran towards the serpent-woman and with balletic grace had severed her head from her body. Black blood was spraying everywhere. Keladrian had flown off breathing fire towards the Balrog. I quickly lost sight of him behind the massive bulk of the blue dragon.

I turned towards the Balrog and spotted yet another enemy on the field. This man was dressed in Samurai armor and carrying a blade more wicked than the one being wielded by Drake.
I was uncertain what to do. I had no weapon and it seemed that Drake had taken on the Serpent woman and was doing well.

Keladrian had gone after the Balrog, who I assumed to be Balek. I knew that Keladrian had managed to defeat him at our first encounter. That left the man with the sword for me.

I did a quick scan and realized that he was mentally shielded beyond my abilities to affect. I took a quick glance at Drake and saw that he had managed to push the body of the Serpent woman out of this shadow. The head still seemed to be alive and quite pissed. In the meantime it appeared that Keladrian had closed with Balek and was wrapped around his neck. Keladrian had a black Logrus lasso around his neck and I traced it back to the man in armor who was coming up behind with his sword drawn. I didn't have time to shout a warning before he had sliced into Keladrian's back and half severed a wing. Balek out massed Keladrian about 2 to 1 and now that he was injured I didn't know how much longer he could last in close combat. We were over classed, out matched and without weapons and a plan the Chaosians were going to take us apart.

I reached into my pouch and pulled forth Gerard's Trump. The last I knew he was in Dorad with Corwin's sword Grayswandir. We could use a Pattern blade against those Logrus tendrils. I put my full concentration into contacting Gerard. It was difficult to think with all the aches in my body and I was very tired.

Suddenly Gerard responded to the Trump call. "Zhelan." I had never Trumped Gerard before. He was as solid and reassuring a presence over the Trump as he was in person. I immediately felt more secure.

"Gerard, do you have Grayswandir with you?" I had no time for lengthy explanations.


"We need help immediately. Bring a weapon."

He hesitated a moment then said. "Ok" He headed to the wall to grab some weapons and I noticed that he was at my father's estate in Amber instead of in Dorad.

"Bring Bleys and Helioventar." I told him.

"He's sleeping." Gerard protested.

"Well, wake him up or just bring Helioventar."

"Did you need me right now?" Gerard reasoned while he grabbed an axe and a handful of swords. I noticed that he had grabbed a cutlass and poniard for me.

As he headed towards me to come through, I was Spun to another location in the same shadow. I extended the mental effort to keep the Trump contact open through the Spin. Then pulled Gerard through before stopping and looking around.

We were about three hundred yards from Balek and the man in armor. Isabeau was crouching on the ground between them. Thenaroth was behind me and I couldn't see Drake or Keladrian. After handing me the cutlass and poniard Gerard headed out towards Isabeau seeing that she was in trouble.

Gerard was only about half way to Isabeau when we Spun once more. This Spin was a long one and a little ragged towards the end. During the Spin I felt a tenuous mental contact and recognized it as Keladrian. I dropped my mental shields to allow contact.

He was not very good at this and he was not in very good shape, but his psychic voice was much more musical than I was used to. What I received was more visual imagery than verbal. The impression was that Thenaroth was poisoned with undertones that the poison was unique and dangerous. There was also an audio impression that Thenaroth was completely exposed and vulnerable accompanied by the sense of horror and failure as if Keladrian blamed himself for not being able to heal his Master. The overwhelming sense of tragedy seemed epic in proportion. Keladrian, near death himself, his entire concern focused on his Master and then the images faded and I was standing on a rolling green sward.

There was a small brook sparkling off to the right. The old growth forest nearby was reminiscent of Arden but it was incredibly well tended. The sky overhead was a magnificent pure blue and there were snow-covered mountains in the distance. The place was vibrant and alive. The very air was like wine. In front of me Gerard rumbled to a stop confused. Behind me I heard a rustling sound of scales shifting as Thenaroth came down to rest on the earth. His wing descended beside me and then curled into his body. It was slow and deliberate.

Then the ground shook. I turned around to see Drake lying prone. He was covered with blood and numerous cuts. There was no sign of Balek and the man in armor. And I still did not see Keladrian.

Back to Top

Chapter 30
A Little Night Music

I looked around to see if there was help immediately available to assist Thenaroth. I was concerned about Keladrian but knew that he had spent his strength getting us here and informing me that Thenaroth was his prime concern. I would win no points with him by ignoring his wishes.

We were in a bowl shaped valley surrounded by mountains. It was difficult to judge distance exactly here. The air was so clear that the valley could stretch for more than a hundred miles across between the mountains. There was a ring of old-growth forest at the foot of the mountains and then meadow stretching in the base of the bowl, unbroken except for the raging shadow storm that stretched across 50 miles at the center.

There were no buildings or people, just the shadow storm. Why the hell did he bring us here? I tried to reach back across the recently broken mental link to Keladrian, but there was no response. I wanted to ask him, 'Why here?' but I was on my own. I moved over to Thenaroth and reached out and touched his massive side. Closing my eyes I reached out with my mind and was greeted with the sense of immense age, beyond my comprehension.

His mental processes were pulled into himself around a core of pain. But there was a strangely philosophical approach to that pain that the aged get. He was alive but seemed resigned to death. Obviously a racial trait. I had to do something soon. It wouldn't be long before Isabeau and Gerard would be coming to investigate. I needed to keep the bitch away from Thenaroth. Anything she learned her mother would eventually know and Keladrian and his people needed to be kept below Fiona's level of awareness.

Something my father had mentioned on more than one occasion. He thought that I should learn magic of some kind and there was something simple that he thought was in my attention span. It hadn't been at the time, but I have a pretty good memory when I choose to utilize it. I stood with my hands on Thenaroth's side and dredged up that lesson. There was something about a spell that could give a person a boost of energy. Father thought it would be useful for me to know this before I went off into shadow on my own. It was something that could give me the strength to get myself to medical attention if I should become injured. I took a few deep breaths and called to mind that afternoon session with Bleys. There was one problem with this spell. I would be imparting part of my life force to Thenaroth. It had better work because in my present condition this would probably knock me unconscious.

I took a deep breath and centered myself, then couldn't remember the blasted activation word. I stuttered out some incomprehensible syllable and then decided that maybe remembering my father's word didn't matter. This was going to be my spell and I could make it my own by choosing my own word of power. Ok, so now I had another problem, I was just too tired to get that creative. The hell with it.

"Shazaam." I said. Nothing happened for a moment and then things got a little hazy. There was an intense glow and a feeling like sticking your finger in a light socket. The shock ran up my spine and blew up golden fireworks in my mind, then my legs gave way and I sat down on the ground.

Gerard suddenly appeared in my view and I saw his hand reach towards me. I focused on it and there was a change in elevation. I smiled up at my uncle. "Thank you Uncle Gerard." I put my arms as far around his massive chest as they would reach and hugged him. Everything seemed so wonderful.

Gerard said something about staying here and then he wandered out of my line of sight. I turned and saw a large wall of scales and decided to follow it. Though it was more an impulse than a decision.

Sometime during my trek down the wall of scales the thought occurred that this was not a wall but a dragon that I was traveling next to. It was an intriguing color of blue and I stopped and started running my hand over a scale and became entranced by the texture and the play of the color in the sunlight. Music began to weave an effect into the play of light and color and I was unaware of time passing until I suddenly realized that I didn't know what I had been doing and for how long I had been doing it.

I stopped stroking the scale in front of me as lucidity returned. I hoped no one had seen me like this. My mind was starting to clear when the music stopped. At first I wasn't sure if the music had been part of my hallucination but then decided that it might not have been. Maybe I should see what the music was and why it had stopped. I thought I have been standing but realized that I was sitting on the ground. It took some effort to get to my feet, as my legs seemed very loose. I felt no pain anywhere in my body. Steadying myself against Thenaroth I headed to where I last remembered hearing the music.

As I rounded a protrusion of Thenaroth's head I saw Isabeau sitting next to him. She seemed to be drawing. I would need to let go of my support to go around her. I let go of Thenaroth and paused a moment to make sure my legs would take my weight. Father had never mentioned this kind of effect to spell casting. I think I needed a little more research before I did something like this again. It certainly would change my strategy about when to spell cast if I was this incapacitated from its use.

As I passed Isabeau my legs became more stable and my head cleared of the buzz. I spotted Drake with a woman who was 5'2" and older than dirt. She had a heavily creased face like a walnut and white long hair into which were woven beads, feathers and leaves. The look was primal but not messy. Her clothing was not made of fabric but looked like pounded and treated bark. Necklaces of wooden beads and stones hung around her neck and she was carrying a staff. She was heavily ornamented and moderately tattooed.

The old woman turned from Drake and stamped in my direction at the head of Thenaroth. Her tread seemed heavy but I noticed that there was no disturbance in the long grass as she passed. I had no weapons. Somewhere between spell casting and the Technicolor stupor they had gone missing. It looked like I would have to use diplomacy.

I waited for her approach but she moved up beneath Thenaroth's eye and looked into it, then snorted and moved in front of the great dragon's muzzle. The breath coming from the nostrils blew her hair but did not seem to disturb her otherwise. She turned to me with a glare, "Excuse me." She snapped.

I stepped back out of her way. She continued to look Thenaroth up and down then smacked him on the snout with her staff. "Hey you." She shouted. "No time to be sleeping." Smack.

'That's suppose to help?' I thought to myself.

Isabeau turned her head in our direction and said, "He's been poisoned, my Lady." I wondered how Isabeau had gained this information. If she had gone fishing in Thenaroth's mind Keladrian might have more of a problem on his hand than my knowing about his people.

"Yes!" she growled at Isabeau. Then turned back to Thenaroth and muttered something. She raised her voice to address the rest of us. "Are you just going to let him squash the grass here?"

I think we were all a little taken aback. What could we do? I heard Drake and Isabeau mutter protests.

"I . . . I did what I could." I finally stammered out. "I did what I could to revive him but it put me out for awhile."

"If you give us a few minutes we will be gone." Isabeau said without looking up from her sketching. I could feel the power of Trump being pulled into her sketch and wondered where she was trying to go.

"At least two of you will." The woman responded.

"Can you help him?" I asked her as politely as I could manage.

"If he gets off his ass." She answered in a more civil tone gesturing at Thenaroth. At that point there was a large disgruntled exhalation of breath from the dragon that blew the woman's clothes and hair into disarray.

"Yeah, you think you can do more?" she scoffed back at him.

"Does he have ten minutes?" Drake asked calmly.

"If he gets off his ass." The crone responded without looking in his direction.

Thenaroth's eyes opened and there was more color and focus in them.

"So I am assuming that none of you have a gurney." The old woman stated irritably.

"Not this size." I said indicating the length of the 80-foot dragon in front of us.

"Sorry, didn't pack it this trip." Isabeau replied sarcastically.

"Do you require a gurney, Grandmother?" Drake politely asked her.

"I don't." she responded. "But he's obviously being lazy." She indicated Thenaroth.

Drake turned to me and smiled. "I never thought this day would come, but your Luggage would be handy right about now."

"Where do we need to take him to?" I ignored Drake's comment and turned to the old woman. "How far does the gurney have to go?"

"At least past the mountains." She pointed off into the distance.

But the mountains had to be over 100 miles away. It would take forever to try to haul Thenaroth that far and I didn't think he would survive the poison that long. We would have to find another way. Why here if there was no assistance for Thenaroth? "The Mountains?" I protested.

"Well I can't work out here." She snapped back at me.

We stood in stunned silence a moment then Isabeau spoke. "Is there an antidote to the Sawall poison?"

A look of worry passed over Drake's face. "Which one?"

Isabeau paused in her sketching long enough to point towards Thenaroth with the end of her pen. "He said the Sawall child." Then returned to her sketch.

"I assume that Lila has one." Drake drawled sarcastically.

"Yes, but how likely is it that she would give it to us?" I answered back.

"Are you just going to lay here and make the kids work it out?" Grandmother chided Thenaroth as we stood around trying to work out how to move an 80 foot poisoned dragon over a hundred miles.

Drake had moved up closer to Isabeau and I. "You're sketching where? I don't recognize it." Drake looked down at the sketch on Isabeau's lap. I also looked down at it.

"It will take him back to his people." She stated simply. Oh, shit, not good. How did Isabeau get there and was that where we had rescued her from? If Keladrian lived through this, he was going to have a fit when he found this out. I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I thought about Keladrian, but I had to take care of Thenaroth first. That's what he wanted and expected of me.

"Would that be faster, trying to get him back to his people?" Drake asked the old woman.

"I don't know his people." She looked at us calmly.

"But you know that you can help him?" Drake seemed confused, as was I.

"Yeah, as soon as the big lummox gets off the grass." She gestured to Thenaroth with her staff and I thought she might hit him with it again. She seemed to be very focused on getting Thenaroth off the grass. Was there something about the grass that was impeding any healing process?

"Can you and Gerard make him walk?" Isabeau asked Drake.

Drake shrugged.

There seemed to be more life to Thenaroth now than before, or maybe he was just getting pissed. I couldn't imagine how Oberon would have taken the scene that was being played out here. I moved to where I could be clearly seen by at least one of Thenaroth's eyes. "Do you want to go back to your own people, or do you want to be moved to where this woman can help you?" I asked him directly. "What is your choice?"

His response came to my mind cutting easily through my mental barriers. He was stronger than Fiona. There was a vague sense of 'at least someone here is talking to me rather than about me while I am busy dying'. He did not communicate to me in words, it was like Keladrian's last contact. The impression was that it would be beneath his dignity to return home in this condition in the company of these people. He was willing to endure the further indignities of this vicious little woman.

"Can you move on your own, or do you need our assistance?" I did not try to address him in kind but continued to speak to him. I received a feeling of resignation in response. "We promise not to tell anyone." I replied.

His tail started to twitch in the grass and muscles tried to move but he was still very weak.

"Do you need another jump start?" I asked him.

Grandmother looked at me and said, "You're going to be a junkie if you keep that up."

"Just trying to do something helpful." I protested. Then wondered if I were offering for Thenaroth or myself. The aftermath of the last one hadn't been all that unpleasant.

"Well it was helpful." She agreed. "Don't get hooked."

"Would another one help?" I asked her for clarification.

"No, he needs to get off his ass." She said to the great dragon prodding his snout with her staff.

"So, do you need our assistance or can you get up yourself?" I asked Thenaroth again hoping for an answer this time.

"Zhelan, does he want to go home or not?" Isabeau looked up from her sketch. I realized that they had only heard my half of the conversation.

"No." I told her.

"Fine." She said and put down her pen.

"You better finish it." Drake whispered to Isabeau. The two of them whispered a few more things back and forth that I didn't catch. Great! Even if I did get the Trump sketch from Isabeau, she could still make another one. I decided to postpone that concern and worry about one thing at a time.

Thenaroth tried again to move on his own. He still hadn't answered my question but I realized there was an element of dignity involved in asking lesser beings to assist you. I tried to imagine how Oberon would have reacted and decided that Grandfather would probably not have been as gracious as Thenaroth had been.

"Is that the best you can do?" the crone taunted the blue dragon.

Thenaroth bunched and tensed his muscles and the old woman smacked him in the snout about two or three more times. I wasn't sure if she was trying to make him mad or was actually doing something else.

Drake changed into his dragon form and moved back to the side of Thenaroth and tried to aid him to his feet. I decided that I was only in the way in the effort to get the elder dragon to his feet. Now I could take the time to check on Keladrian.

I moved to where Gerard was working. It didn't look good, one wing was partially severed and I was quite sure his spine should not bend like that. Gerard was just finishing sewing the wing back on.

My uncle looked up at me as I approached. "I think I've got him to where we can move him." He waited for a response from me. I looked down at the mangled body and my throat constricted; I couldn't speak for a moment. I took a deep breath and fought back tears. "Thank you." I finally managed.

Gerard's face softened and I had to look away. He must have realized that any kind word from him would break my composure because he said, "She's quite something, isn't she?" I looked back to see that he was indicating the old woman standing by Thenaroth.

I smiled. "Something different, yes." I looked back at Keladrian and wondered if I could help him the way I had Thenaroth. "If we could get him where he could shape-shift it would be better."

"Do you think it would be a good idea for him to shift in this condition?" Gerard asked.

I had talked to both Keladrian and Mandor about shape-shifting a lot in the last few days. Physical damage was damage but if the damaged area could be moved where it wasn't so critical? "I think it would be the best thing for him." I stood and watched Gerard finish his work. I wanted to touch Keladrian, reach out and assure myself that he would pull through. I just didn't know how to help. What could I do that Gerard wasn't already doing.

The sounds of getting Thenaroth to his feet continued behind us.

"Why's he on the grass?" The crone yelled in our direction. I turned to see that Thenaroth was shaky and his wings were drooping, but he was standing. The old woman was pointing our direction with her staff. I was afraid she would come over her and start smacking Keladrian.

"Can you pick him up yet?" I shook Gerard's shoulder.

Gerard gently picked up Keladrian and stood. Grandmother looked around in satisfaction. "Good, that's the way it should be."

I had looked down at the grass to see if there was any equipment that needed to be retrieved but found myself looking at leaves on a forest floor. We were somewhere else.

I looked up to see that we were standing in a sylvan glade. The enormous trees around us stretched hundreds of feet into the sky. Even though the trees formed a canopy overhead it was not dark. Sunlight was rippling and dancing off the leaves and dust motes danced in beams of sunshine that found their way to spotlight the forest floor. The trees held graceful arched structures and walkways and paths could be seen among the branches. The place had it's own music combining the wind through the leaves with voices and faint strains from actual musical instruments. The smell was green and fresh with no hint of organic mold or mildew. Occasionally floral fragrances would waft by on the breeze but it was not heavy or overpowering.

Thenaroth sank back down to the ground. Grandmother looked satisfied and said. "That'll do." Then turned towards the trees around us and yelled. "Get your asses down here."

There was no sound of running feet; it was more like the whisper of the wind as very tall, very fair people surrounded us. They were dressed in various fancifully designed clothing of fabric in many different shades of greens and some browns. This must be the primal point where all the shadow versions of fairy and elves originated. The elves before us were tall, graceful, with pointed ears and long flowing hair. It was difficult to distinguish male from female, indeed to tell one of these graceful creatures from the next.

Even though the elves were gathered around us I did not feel crowded. The group near the old woman parted and it was obvious that the person who stepped through was in charge. He was just another tall, stately man but his robes seemed a little more ornate.

"Honored one." He bowed to the woman who had brought us here.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." She waved aside his formalities. "The old man is poisoned." She pointed at Thenaroth, "The young buck over there is cut up." She gestured at Drake. "And the draped one, your problem." I knew she was referring to Keladrian. "If they give you any trouble, call me. If you give them any trouble, good deal." And she disappeared.

"Thank you. I think." I said more to myself, as the old woman was not around to address.

"If you will allow." The elf in charge asked. "My name is Kaeledon."

We all nodded and he began indicating members of his group to assist ours. Two of the slender people moved one each to the head and tail of Thenaroth and another six formed up, three on each side to form a diamond shape around the dragon. They began singing. The music was so beautiful that it made you want to move away from the source. A young man, who identified himself as Thetherin, moved towards Gerard and beckoned him to follow with his burden. I did not intend to be separated from Keladrian again, so followed behind my uncle.

Thetherin led us through some trees to the base of a large oak. There were steps winding around the trunk and we began climbing. Gerard had no trouble carrying Keladrian up. I followed behind and as I saw Gerard silhouetted against the trunk of the massive tree there was something right about the contrast.

We reached a branch that was more than 20 feet across. There was not a real room built in the trees but the living branches had been woven into screens. There was a pile of natural mosses and heathers laid out to form a bed. Gerard laid Keladrian gently down upon the bed and the smell of moss and heathers perfumed the air. Tools and implements were hung around the room on hooks. The room was sparsely furnished and all natural. It was obviously a domicile and the way Thetherin moved around, it was obviously his domicile.

Thetherin was very gracious but seemed unsure what we wanted from him. He offered food and drink and I declined. "All I need is to have my friend healed." I told him.

"All right." He nodded and moved to the side of the bed. He seemed to be somewhat intimidated by Gerard. I decided to assist by letting my uncle know that he could take his leave.

"Thank you Uncle. I know you have other concerns that are far more pressing, do not feel that you have to remain here. If you have to go I understand. I do appreciate you coming to our aid."

"Ok, then I'll leave." Gerard answered as though he felt he was being rushed off. I didn't want to hurt his feelings. After all, how many of my family would have dropped everything to come to my rescue.

"Thank you very, very much." I emphasized.

"Your welcome, be well." He said as he reached into a pocket and pulled forth a Trump deck. He shuffled through the deck.

Where was my mind at anyway? Here was Gerard. He should have been with Corwin, that's where I saw him headed last. When I Trumped him, he had been in Amber. "By the way, how is Uncle Corwin?"


"Is he awake yet?" I continued.

"No." He assured me.

"We still have the issue of Keladrian's friend that we need to discuss with Corwin when he wakes." I felt I owed Gerard an explanation. I wouldn't have given one to another member of my family. Probably not even my father at this point.

He nodded his understanding.

"You said that my father was sleeping. I take it then that his endeavors at Corwin's Pattern were quite a strain on him."

"A great strain." He agreed, and then added, "He's well too, Zhelan." He said as if this should mean something to me. "Though I would suggest that you not try to contact him for a little while."

"Why?" I was curious.

Gerard hesitated and looked at me askance. "He's, ah, going to be busy for awhile." I was obviously not picking up on something.

"Hmmm. Ok." What to say to that? "Thank you again Uncle and give my regards to Random and my father."

"Absolutely." He had found the Trump he was looking for and began concentrating on it. A minute passed and his brow furrowed in puzzlement and he switched to a new card. Another minute passed with the same results.

"Are the Trumps not working here?" I asked with some concern.

"Mine aren't." Gerard informed me.

Damn it Keladrian, where did you take us. I pulled out my Trump deck and quickly located a card for Gerard. The Trump was cold but there was no contact.

"Yours aren't either?" Gerard asked as I put my deck away.

"No, I just tried contacting you." I informed him.

I could tell that he started to ask me why I would try and contact him. It was interesting to watch Gerard's thought processes. Unlike Fiona's, his were usually slow enough to see.

"You may have to Pattern walk from here." Then I glanced over at Thetherin. "Or maybe you just need to move away from where Thetherin is working. You might have better luck."

"Right, I'll give that a try. Take care Zhelan." And he started back down the way we had come.

"Thank you again." I called after him then turned to where Thetherin was working on Keladrian. I got as close as I could without getting in his way. His brow was furrowed and he stayed in one place for a long time. I finally just curled up on the bed against Keladrian and drifted off to sleep.

I woke up sometime much later. It was dark and I was draped over Keladrian. Thetherin was still sitting motionless next to the still form of the dragon. I hated to interrupt his concentration but I needed to know.

"Is he going to be okay?" I asked quietly.

Thetherin leaned back and turned to me. "It will take me awhile."

"Is there anything I can do?" I offered. I hated the waiting.

"Your good will is the greatest gift you can give him at this time." Was his only response.

"Well, if you could just explain how I could do that." I said in frustration.

"You are doing fine." He smiled at me and placed his hand on my arm in reassurance. "I will need to consult further."

I wanted to throw something and yell, but held myself in check. I realized that part of my anger was due to hunger. The last opportunity to eat had been missed. I had been too exhausted and injured to eat.

"Is there someplace I can get something to eat?" There was obviously no room service but I could find something and bring it back here.

"You do yourself and him no good by straining yourself. Relax, enjoy, live your life. Return to him refreshed." I could tell from his manner and tone that I had been politely asked to leave the sickroom.

I stood up and quietly left, wandering back down the tree to the ground. I could hear singing and music in the distance and thought it best to go where activity was so didn't disturb anyone unnecessarily.

I came into a clearing where a break in the canopy of trees showed stars in the night sky. There was a large bonfire in the middle of the clearing, and many elves celebrating and dancing. Gerard was sitting next to a tree between two young elven maidens and a pile of food in front of him. It appeared that either he had changed his mind about leaving, not likely, or that Pattern walking didn't get him out of here either. I caught sight of Isabeau back underneath some trees. She was in the company of a young man and seemed to be deep in conversation. She actually seemed to be enjoying herself. Would wonders never cease? There was no sign of Drake. He was obviously still recovering from his own injuries.

I wasn't alone for long before many charming men surrounded me.

"Can we get you anything?"

"Food would be good." What type didn't really matter at this point. Filling would be good. I was led more to the middle of the clearing and was handed food and drink. I think they gave me water and I asked for something stronger. Sometime later I discovered that it was much easier to see in the dark.

Things around the clearing took on new form. The bonfire was not really fire but was some living entity made up of myriad of parts. Like it didn't need to be contiguous to be coherent. It seemed to take great joy in taking the form of a fire, but at any moment it could choose to be something else.

The elves that I was among were deeply rooted and I could start to discern their age by their connectedness to the earth. My gaze swept across Gerard and he was a mountain in the depth of his connectivity. Slow moving, solid, and structured. There was something implacable about him. I glanced in Isabeau's direction. She was a fire. It was ephemeral but there was order to it. Beyond the elves there were the real people. But I was not sure what I was really seeing. If I had to guess I would say that it was the trees. These people were much slower and much older.

I had to view myself in this new light to see what was there. I looked down at my hands and arms and saw 'Art'. It was artifice and art but not artificial. There are pieces of art that are easily worth more than a human life and I felt that I was among that select group. A beautiful work of art is worth more than a crack-addicted whore. The art, though only an object, is of more value and more beauty and will influence more people and create more good. It was daunting and intimidating to see myself in that light. It was not what I had expected of myself and it was hard to be held to that standard.

Ok, so enough for the introspection. I need to quite looking at myself so closely. First there was the revelation of my nature in my father's shadow and then this. I closed my eyes and put my hand to my forehead to clear my mind. It was then that I remembered what condition my hair was in. And I can't smell the best in this armor. I wanted to be clean.

I needed to get out of this armor and into something else. I must have spoken that out loud for about 5 young men led me out of the clearing. It didn't take long for us to reach a moonlit pond in an idyllic setting of willow trees and mossy banks. The elves nimble fingers quickly released the catches and ties of the armor and I found myself immersed in clear warm water while hands stroked and massaged my tired, bruised body and my hair was washed.

The hands on my body moved from soothing to sensuous and my lips met that of one of the young men. His body was pressed against mine and we kissed deeply. I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him to me as his lips moved from my mouth to my neck.

I opened my eyes and brought my hands around to his chest and pushed him from me. "I'm sorry. I can't." I heard myself saying.

He looked confused and somewhat hurt. "My friend." I tried to explain. "He is injured and I really must go see how he is doing."

"You are a good woman." He smiled at me and stroked wet strands of hair from my forehead.

I turned and moved to the shore of the pond and found willing hands to pull me from the water. They dried my hair and body and draped one of their green robes around me and fastened it.

I was confused. It wasn't like me to turn down sex. Random would be disappointed. But maybe since Vialle he would understand. If only I could talk to him about these feelings that I had been having. Damn Keladrian, even unconscious he was causing problems.

I asked and was escorted back to Thetherin's tree. They led me to the tree but did not climb the stairs with me, instead they hurried off into the night to enjoy themselves. Thetherin was sitting in the corner meditating and Keladrian was still lying on the bed. His spine was straight and his wing was scarred and sealed. He was still missing a couple of teeth but he seemed to be resting deeply.

I sat down on the edge of the bed and placed my hand on him to check his state. He was being kept asleep artificially. I would have done the same thing. It was what he needed now. I lay down next to him on the bed and stroked his scales until I fell asleep.

Keladrian's stirring roused me in the morning. It was good to see him awake and alert. I smiled up at him and kept my voice light. "You're awake."

"It would seem so." His voice was still tired sounding when he replied.

"How are you feeling?" I propped myself up on an elbow to look at him better.

"Like a Chaos Lord ran over me." He tried to jest but I could tell he was still in pain.

"Thetherin has worked very hard to heal your injuries. And the others are working on Thenaroth. I don't know his condition at this time." I felt a little guilty for not checking on Thenaroth before coming back here last night. "But he is in capable hands."

"Where is he from here?" Keladrian was obviously concerned about his kinsman.

"We left him in the large glade. He was a little big to fit up here in the trees." I sat up and moved out of Keladrian's way as he started trying to sit up.

"I take it your are trying to get up and get to Thenaroth." I stated. There was no point in arguing with him. I knew how stubborn he could be. But I might be able to reason with him a little. I was learning what buttons to push.

"You know Keladrian, I think that I've learned everything I can from you about teamwork because you don't seem to know much about it yourself." It was a low blow but I think it got the desired reaction. He quit squirming around trying to get up.

"Well if you wish to carry me, that would be more than adequate." He sniped back but not too seriously.

"Well, I probably could." I retorted. We had reached an impasse.

He sighed and said, "I must see to my master's condition." In a more reasonable tone.

"All right." I agreed. "I will help you."

He nodded and began to shift from his draconian to his human form.

Thetherin opened his eyes and spoke to Keladrian. "Don't' do that often."

Keladrian looked in his direction for the first time. "You would be Thetherin?"

"I am." He agreed.

"I thank you." Keladrian acknowledged and then explained. "This is a natural form for me."

"The shifting changes the neural paths." Thetherin cautioned. "I will need to retune them."

Keladrian nodded. "I will endeavor to stay in this form."

Between the two of us we managed to get him on his feet. I put his arm around my shoulders and put my arm around his waist. I supported most of his weight and he seemed content to allow that. It felt good to be needed by Keladrian this way. Sort of a payback for the times when he had hauled my ass out of places while I was out of it.

When we were ready to go I asked Thetherin if he could tell us how to get back to Thenaroth.

"I will take you there." He offered. He obviously did not approve of his patient walking out of the sick room and I had to agree with him, but I knew that Keladrian would have gone with or without me helping him. It was better to help him.

After we had negotiated the stairs down from the tree we had to stop for Keladrian to rest a moment. He contacted me mentally as we started towards the glade where we had first arrived. I lowered my mental shields enough to allow the contact. I would need to work with him on his projection. He was putting much more force into the contact than was necessary.

'Caution you I must on using my master's name in front on anyone.'

'I have not used it in front of anyone.' I disagreed. Not once, even when I was speaking to Thenaroth directly did I use his name.

'You just used it twice.' He chided.

'Didn't these people already know who he was?' I realized that he had been right. I had not taken Thetherin into consideration. It was a mistake on my part, but not one that I would willingly admit to.

'Some will, most will not.'

'All right.' I acquiesced. 'Drake, Isabeau and Gerard have not heard his name.' I tried to gain something back from this, and then changed the subject. 'It appears that Trump do not work from here. And I noticed that Gerard is still here and he was going to try to Patternwalk out. So there is an exit, isn't there?'

'Of Course.' There was a mental smile in his response as if he was enjoying some private joke. 'All one has to do is walk. To Kaer al-dare I bid you welcome. Show it to you I had intended, but not in this manner. It is an ally and isolated from the events between Chaos and Amber, but it is its own place.'

'We were greeted by a strange old woman who repeatedly beat Thenaroth on his snout with her staff and made him stand up.' I could feel surprise from Keladrian at that statement.

'And he was able to?'

'I kind of gave him a little boost.' I admitted. 'It was the strangest thing.' It was too difficult to describe in words exactly what had happened when I had used the power word on Thenaroth so I conveyed the effect in a mental image complete with sound and lights.

'That is most interesting. That is not how I intended to meet the Tree Mistress.' It seems that not much had happened as Keladrian intended.

'The Tree Mistress.' That reminded me of the previous night and the impression that I'd had that the trees were the real people here. 'I got this impression last night that the trees were like 'real' people'

Keladrian didn't respond but seemed amused. 'And as to Thenaroth's mental state?'

'He did not want to go home in the condition that he was in. I got the impression that he would lose face.

'He roused enough to be coherent?' Keladrian asked.

'Yes, we discussed whether he wanted to go home or stay and be assisted here. He chose to be assisted here. He wasn't happy about it but he stood up. I think . . .' I began.

'When he wakes and thinks about it, he will not be happy still.' Keladrian finished.

'Drake was kind of pushing on one side.' I explained how they got Thenaroth to stand.

'He will be less happy.' Keladrian seemed to be in better spirits. 'Sorry I am that I missed it.'

'I wasn't paying too much attention either, as I was more concerned about your condition.' I reminded him. I was enjoying our mental exchange immensely. This was unlike Keladrian. I had apparently won a considerable degree of trust from him and I cherished this moment. I was going to try very hard not to lose this.

'Appreciate that I do.' He said and it was difficult to grasp the emotion that went with that statement. It was guarded slightly but there was warmth to it. 'I did not realize how far I had overreached myself.'

We approached the glade where we had left Thenaroth and could now hear that clear, piercing song. It was not easy to be within hearing of that but I would not leave Keladrian's side.

"Do you wish to wait here?" Keladrian must have picked up on some of my discomfort.

"No, I will continue with you." I gritted my teeth and moved forward.

Thenaroth was still lying in the glade surrounded by the diamond of elves. His color was better and seemed to be resting more naturally.

"I will need to check out his condition and we should not be in contact." Keladrian said to me. I nodded and released him. He haltingly moved forward a couple of steps. He obviously did not realize that I was still close enough to be in contact with him if I wished to. I respected his privacy and restored my barriers.

Keladrian stood a moment concentrating and then turned to Thetherin. "May I request an audience with the Tree Mistress?"

Thetherin seemed taken aback by the request as if he had misheard or doubted the sanity of the speaker. Then he gave a forbearing sigh and said, "The Grove of Supplication is this way."

I stepped back to Keladrian's side and he put his arm around my shoulders again. "I can't say that you are thinking clearly." I commented. "Why do you need to contact that Lady again?"

"As I said, this place is its own." He paused as if searching for the proper phrasing. "And I must ascertain what they do."

"You don't trust them?" I was confused. If he did not trust them to heal Thenaroth, why did he bring us here?

He did not answer right away. "I do not know them well enough to risk that much."

"Then why did you come here?" The level of paranoia in him was great, and our recent mental exchange took on even more significance to me. His people must have suffered much more from Chaos than had Amber to have withdrawn as far as they had. Or maybe Amber did not take the threat of Chaos as seriously. Unless he would tell me there was no way to know.

There was again that pause before he answered. "There were several reasons why Dorad would not work."

How do you think Balak and Lila traced Thenaroth to Corwin's Pattern?" I had wondered if they had learned to track Spin. When we had met up with them some weeks ago it had appeared that they were unable to track Keladrian. But they had gotten to Thenaroth fairly quickly when he came to Corwin's Pattern.

"How did they trace Derrick and I when we first left?" his answer wasn't accurate. He was not thinking it through.

"They have a way of tracing Spin?" I restated. My question really was; could they follow us here?

"I do not know how they do that but I do know that we went right there without trying to hide our path." He explained.

We continued walking to the Glade of Supplication. The path that Thetherin led us on went into an area that was more overgrown and much less used. It became evident that the community areas that we were leaving behind had a much less natural feel, more tended. The plants along this path had been allowed to remain wild. Thetherin became more reluctant and his glamour began to slip. He seemed less tall and stately. I could not tell what his true form was only that he was less the elf that we had become used to in the community.

We finally reached a tree more ancient and alive than any we had seen before. There was not an aura of evil about it so much as not giving a damn. Thetherin stopped and would go no further.

"Thank you for your guidance." I assured him then turned to Keladrian. "You're sure you want to do this?"

"I did not have a chance to thank her previously."

"She did leave rather abruptly." I smiled. "None of us had a chance to thank her."

Keladrian stepped forward "I come to offer my thanks to the Tree Mistress and to speak to her if she wishes it." His words echoed off into the empty woods and there was no response.

I was somewhat relieved.

Keladrian bowed his head somewhat and said, "I have perhaps overused your invitation to return sometime and bringing in so many in the state we were in. And for that you have my apologies. If I may be of some service in return, you have but to ask."

"I may keep you to that." The Tree Mistress said as she appeared before us.

"I would not offer if I meant otherwise." Keladrian responded looking up at her. "And of my elder's condition? May I inquire as to his recovery?"

The Tree Mistress looked up the path and Thetherin decided it was time to go. "They didn't tell you?"

"Other than that he recovers, no." Keladrian told her.

"And what part of he's recovering did you not get Keladrian." Her tone was slightly harsher but not as harsh as the one she had used with the rest of us.

I tried to make myself non-existent. If he wanted to anger the old woman I didn't think I wanted to be this close to ground zero.

"You know my people are reclusive." Keladrian tried to explain.

"Yeah." She encouraged him.

"In the extreme. And I am worried that his nature may become restive and perhaps others of my people will be concerned at his long absence." Keladrian was not making much impression on the Tree Mistress.

"Huh." She responded. "That's their wherewithal."

"True but I would know more when he's expected to recover."

"When he recovers, Keladrian. He's in good hands, with people who will forget he was there the next day. You know these guys, they have no retention, but they do know how to spin a song. If your big boy there gets all antsy, he's kicked out."

"Very well. I had not been here." Keladrian emphasized the word 'here'. I took it to mean that he had not been in this portion of this shadow.

"Well, you don't get out much." She offered.

"Change that will probably happen." He replied.

"I'm thinking." She said indicating me with a wink in his direction. "Change will do you good."

"I agree." He replied. "It is something perhaps a lesson that my people can learn."

"Either that or a big stick." The Tree Mistress shook her staff.

"In that, we are in one hundred percent agreement." He laughed.

"One comes." She said.

"I did not know you . . ." he began.

"O, hell, it's jangling half the known galaxy." She replied. They had to be talking about the Emergence. She seemed old enough. Maybe she had experienced this before.

"I knew you would be aware of it, I did not know perhaps. . . never mind, that would be very stupid to ask." Keladrian finished.

"Hey, you got it before it was all the way out." She gave him a big smile.

"I had a thought on that, that I think has not occurred to others. It seems that the Courts intend to oppose."

"Hmm. I don't mix with them." The Tree Mistress shook her head.

"Agreed, but if they were to offer it no resistance, wouldn't the disruption be much less?" Keladrian finished his thought. "If it was welcome to Emerge as long as it did not stay in their region."

"There is always disruption, Keladrian."

"Might I ask a question?" I asked the Tree Mistress. Never a good start to ask if you can ask a question, because you just did. She didn't object so I continued. "The Emergence, you seem to be familiar with them,"

"No." She denied.

"You're not?" I was confused. Wasn't this what she and Keladrian were just discussing?

"I can hear it." She explained.

"You have witnessed previous ones?"

"No." Her tone wasn't as kindly towards me. "Go talk to your big boy."

"What is your question?" Keladrian looked down at me.

"We still haven't decided whether we should or shouldn't on the issue of the Emergence. We know that Chaos doesn't support it but that's because it would disrupt their power structure. The question I have is; do we stay with the enemy we know or go with the unknown?"

"Or it could be neutral with its own concerns and interests." Keladrian added.

"We don't know whether it will be a neutral power." I countered.


"That still leaves the question. Do we go with the enemy that we know or take the chance?" I restated.

"If you're going to argue like this, get along." The Tree Mistress interrupted. "I've got work to do."

"Thank you for your assistance, Tree Mistress." I nodded to her.

"Again I thank you as well." Keladrian's voice was not as strong. I could tell that he was tiring.

"Don't make a habit of it." She said as she disappeared. "Now get out of here."

I turned us around and headed back along the path to the community of elves. We walked in silence awhile and then Keladrian spoke.

"That is the heart of the problem." He continued as if the disappearance of the old woman had not interrupted our conversation.

I nodded knowing what he was speaking about. "There is still the question of whether to interfere or not to interfere." Now was as good a time as any. We were alone and I wanted to bring some personal matters into the open. "Being raised as an Amberite I was led to believe that whatever I wanted was mine for the taking somewhere out in shadow and there were no consequences so dire that you couldn't simply walk away from them."

"I would call that naïve." Keladrian stated.

"But that viewpoint has changed recently partly because of you. I have come to realize that for the first time in my life, I give a damn what somebody thinks about me." I paused. This was not easy for me to say. But it was time I owned up to my feelings for Keladrian. Even if only to myself.

"The change is not all yours." He replied. "As you will perhaps learn when my master is once again himself. I too have come to care what you think. And I know not where this leads but I know I intend to walk it with you."

We did not need to say more. I opened my feelings up to him and we walked in contented silence down the path. I don't remember ever having felt this kind of happiness in my life.

We arrived back in the middle of the clearing where the party was going on last night. Drake and Isabeau were sitting at a table with breakfast before them. I assisted Keladrian to the table and made sure that he had what he needed to eat.

"It's good to see you up and about." Drake nodded as Keladrian sat.

"It is good to be up." Keladrian replied. "Balak and his compatriots were better prepared than I had anticipated."

"His compatriot who wounded you and who I faced in combat is of a generation of Benedict's parents." Drake explained.

"Oh, shit. Oh my god." Isabeau exclaimed. "Well, we are very lucky to be having breakfast today."

"Why would he align himself with Balak?" Keladrian asked. "From your earlier conversation, Balak was not a power within your house?"

"No Balak and Lila are of the Seraglio." Drake agreed. "Lila is of the illegitimate line of Sawall. She is Swayvil's daughter from the Seraglio." Drake added when Keladrian looked confused.

"Ulris was from the Seraglio?" I asked checking my facts.

"Yes." Drake affirmed.

"Seraglio means illegitimate?" Keladrian asked.

"The Seraglio is the distaff side of the Imperial house." Drake agreed. "There are two empresses and some other ladies who have had his children. So you have met Prince Seclar. Second born of Emperor Swayvil and Empress Margette."

"Obviously the blue dragon was a great prize." Isabeau interjected. Which reminded me that I had not yet told Keladrian about Isabeau's Trump sketch.

"I don't know if Seclar and Cymnea were working together or individually but obviously they were making a push for power. And Seclar, Lila and Balak factored your people into it somehow." Drake conjectured. "I don't know why they've been so interested in you."

Which was a lie. Anyone with as much court savvy as Drake had displayed could figure that out pretty quick.

"They are not interested in the individuals, they are interested in the power." Keladrian said. "Countless of my people, and your mother's Drake, have died to keep that power from Swayvil."

"Swayvil is no longer interested." Drake reminded us.

"But others of his line are and will always be. Where there is power, there are those who will want it." Keladrian told him.

"Probably at this point with the Emergence, even more." I added. I had a sudden thought. Maybe the power that belonged to Keladrian's people was not protected in the way the Pattern was. Only one of the blood of Amber could safely walk the Pattern. If there were no similar protection on Spin, Keladrian's people's only line of defense for the power would be to stay hidden if they didn't think they could withstand a Chaosian onslaught. That's why it was safer for Amberites. I wished to discuss this with Keladrian if he would continue our trust that far.

"Exactly." Keladrian looked at me.

"They might consider it a way of keeping the upper hand in the upcoming conflict." It did make so much more sense that way.

"Or when things are on the table it's always a good time to make a grab." This from Isabeau.

"Those that grab had best be careful or they will find they have no hand at the end of the arm." Keladrian warned.

"Why stop at the hand?" I mused thinking of what Seclar had done to Keladrian.

"Lila and Balak have always been trouble makers but now we see one of the hands behind them, I'm not sure if they are aligned with the Hendrake faction." Drake paused a moment then continued. "You would have my gratitude if any of you could manage to separate anyone of Seclar's parts from another, but he is most formidable."

"And I must thank all of you for your assistance." Keladrian added.

"Next time let's have a plan." I quipped.

"Weapons would have been nice." Isabeau agreed.

"As you saw, speed was of the essence." Drake reminded us. "If we had gone in fully prepared and the elder had already been taken away it would have availed us naught."

"That is true, but next time, let's not stay so long to get beaten up. We should have moved out of there like we did a lot quicker." I cautioned.

"That was a misjudgment on my part." Keladrian admitted. "I thought my master, once freed, would be more than capable of teaching a lesson to those who required it. Unfortunately I did not realize he was poisoned until it was too late."

"A little personal revenge clouding the judgment." I challenged.

"Those who would hunt us will find that we are no longer prey." Keladrian stated. "It may take time, but all three of those will find that out."

"I'm all for putting a spike in their boot, but let's have a plan next time." I wanted to meet them on our terms and not theirs. I knew what Keladrian and I could do together when we had the time to prepare.

"Yes, if there is time. I agree we will have a plan." We exchanged looks and laughed. We had shared much in the past few days.

"This whole escapade has taught me a list of things that you should have on your person at all times." Isabeau said.

Again Keladrian and I exchanged knowing smiles about the amount of equipment that we had lost over the course of shadow hopping.

"At some point we will need to try to reequip ourselves." I agreed.

"How long are we going to stay here, Keladrian?" Isabeau asked. "It is obvious that you are going to require more time to heal before you are well enough to travel."

"I must stay until my master is ready to travel." He responded to her. "And as for the rest of you, you may leave anytime you wish. The issue before us, I believe, is the Emergence."

"Are we likely to be found here." Isabeau asked the question that I had contemplated earlier.

"It can be done if one wishes to find us, but they will not get this far without plenty of warning." Keladrian assured her.

Isabeau nodded then said, "As far as the Emergence, we can plan what we want to do from here as well as we can anywhere else. But we are still going to need to get some supplies if we are going to do something. And I'm not sure what we are going to do."

"All of the weapons and supplies we can obtain here." Keladrian informed us. "It is more what we plan to do in regards to the Emergence that concerns me. And for that I feel we need more information."

"We're always lacking information." I agreed.

"What kind of intelligence do we need?" Asked Isabeau.

"Whether we should oppose it or not." I told her.

"Exactly." Agreed Keladrian. "And what will tell us that? I am unsure. I wish to know more of the nature of this . . ."

"Entity." I finished for him.

"You met one of its creatures. What can you tell us of it?" Keladrian asked both Drake and myself.

"Well it didn't like Drake." I chuckled.

"No offense but understandable." Keladrian joined me in the joke at Drake's expense.

"That's what I thought." I quipped back.

Keladrian turned to Drake who was not taking this ribbing too poorly. "Maybe not so much of you, but of that which you wield. The Logrus seems to be inimical to most other powers. It does not rest quietly with any that I am aware of." Drake did not respond.

"It didn't seem to be against Amber. Or the children of the Unicorn." I added.

Keladrian admitted, "We still don't know enough about Avatars and how they are formed."

"Well we do have someone who should know." I reminded him. "If you are willing to talk to him about it."

"I'm more than willing to talk to him, whether he's willing to talk to me is a different question." Keladrian could be so stubborn on this issue. "And I do not know if they will know better than we do."

"But we do have some checkmarks in the Plus column with him right now." I reminded him.

"Perhaps and perhaps not." Keladrian disagreed.

"We can always try." I argued. If I had to sneak down and talk to Thenaroth on my own, I would. Maybe Keladrian was just too close to his people's faults to think that they might be convinced to be reasonable. I had no preconceived ideas about what Thenaroth would or would not tell me.

"Do you have any idea what they are arguing about?" Isabeau asked Drake.

"Are you confused?" Drake inquired.

"We went from planning to talking in psychobabble here. You've developed quite the personal language." She accused us. "Are we going to continue to plan or are you going to continue to talk in relationship babble?" Isabeau was getting herself worked up.

"We are planning." I tried to explain to her. But I realized there was an edge to my tone. It seems that we had become somewhat territorial over Keladrian. At least that's how it felt to me. I assumed that she was aware of the new level of our relationship and she was jealous because she needed to get herself laid.

Drake stepped in to head off the brewing conflict. "I believe that what Zhelan is saying is that the elder has knowledge of the Emergence."

"She has learned to respect my wishes to not talk directly about my people." Keladrian added in my defense. Like I needed defending from Isabeau.

"That's nice but I don't have a clue what you were talking about. If you could give me a clue what you are talking about so I can follow along, it would be nice, but I don't expect much from Zhelan."

I felt my blood heating up and started to see red flashes at the corner of my vision. Then suddenly something snapped and I became dead calm. She was not worth the effort at this point in time. There were more important issues. I would think about it later and decide if I had crossed into acceptance or the cold-blooded calculation of my Aunts and Uncles.

"I did not realize that you did not understand the reference." Keladrian said calmly. "But now you do."

"Now I do." She agreed. "So basically we are in hold mode until your master wakes."

"He is but one source of information." Keladrian disagreed. "What I am cautioning is that it may not be forthcoming."

"Correct, but you are not willing to leave until he wakes anyway." She reminded him.

"I am in hold mode. If necessary and you feel you have a reason to leave for other information that may be gathered." Keladrian began but was interrupted by the sound of three brass rings on a staff. A sound that I knew by now heralded the arrival of the Tree Mistress.

Suddenly the servers were gone and she said, "Is this somebody's?" I turned and saw that she is holding the Luggage by one handle.

"That would be mine." I admitted.

"Would you get it trained." She snapped, dropped the Luggage and then left.

The Luggage scurried over to me. "I see you made it away from the mages." It had obviously been pelted by several different colors of magical powders. I wondered if there were any residual magic effects that I should be concerned about. "We will have to get your cleaned up." The Luggage spotted Drake and they glared at each other.

"Live with it." Drake threatened it.

"Touch my Luggage again and you're toast." I warned him. He would throw my Luggage through no more windows if I could help it. I checked for bodies in the Luggage and then told Keladrian. "Well now I have weapons."

"What other sources of information do we think we can find?" Keladrian brought us back to the topic of importance.

"Ulris is kind of restrained right now." Isabeau told us.

"Yes, I would not necessarily wish to talk to him freely unless he was removed from the Courts." Keladrian agreed.

"I can understand why you would not want that." Drake nodded. "I would also like to wait until your master recovers."

"We also have the Mandor's." I reminded the group.

"I doubt the Mandor's could be any help at this point." Isabeau protested.

"No but Mandor Prime might have information." I pointed out. "Whether he is coherent or not, his agents are the only ones we've spoken with."

"I might be able to contact him." Isabeau offered.

"Then there is your mother, who seems to know more about what's going on than she's willing to tell anyone." I added.

"The last time I saw my mother she was still in a coma and not communicating." Isabeau reminded us.

"There is also Dworken." I added another name to the list. That name was met with silence. "Though how coherent he might be. " I shrugged.

"Dworken, or Oberon?" Keladrian asked.

"Oberon is dead." I told him.

"No he's not, the Unicorn is coming." Isabeau objected.

"Well, he had a funeral procession to beyond the Courts of Chaos." I reminded her.

"Yeah, but how many funerals have we had for Caine?" she responded.

When she mentioned Caine I smiled and traded looks with Keladrian. I wondered if he had gotten out of the shadow trap where we had left him.

"I don't know where to look for Dworken." Isabeau stated.

"Random mentioned going to consult with someone. He might know." I offered quietly not really sure myself what dear Uncle Random knew or didn't.

"Working your way up the elder ladder might be a possibility." Isabeau agreed.

"Perhaps starting with Gerard." Drake added.

"He is the most malleable and the most available." Isabeau offered.

"Malleable?" Keladrian questioned. "Your choice of descriptors is surprising."

"Considering our family, no." I added.

"Reasonable, I would have expected." Keladrian continued.

"No." Both Isabeau and I said at the same time. We were agreeing on something, Keladrian should take the cue.

"If your mind can be changed, it's seen as a weakness." Drake told him.

"If you can convince Gerard that what you need or have to say is powerful and truthful enough, he will assist you." Isabeau told Keladrian.

"He is the defender of the injured of the family." I added.

"The other Amberites, if they have an agenda, they don't care how good your agenda is." Isabeau finished.

"And speaking of other Amberites, there is your Uncle Corwin." Keladrian turned to me.

I nodded. "There was a possibility of him having some contact." Why would the Emergence seek him out? Was it just for his Pattern? Or was there some other explanation. The Emergence was unexpected. It was not against the Children of the Unicorn and it had tapped into Corwin's Pattern for power. Was it because it was an unstable power source? Or did Corwin's Pattern become unstable because the Emergence had tapped into it? There was something about this that I needed to talk through. I was missing a thread somewhere.

"I have other reasons to speak with him." Keladrian added.

"I don't think we can rule out bungee jumping into the abyss." Drake offered.

"It's an interesting experience but I wouldn't recommend it." Isabeau said.

Isabeau had been in the Abyss? I needed to hear this story and I'm sure Fiona would also be interested.

"So we have the list of the usual suspects how do we approach this? Do we go separately and try to contact different people?" I requested.

"I don't like separating." Isabeau complained.

"When we were dealing with Corwin's Pattern it seems that it did not complete until the results of our individual efforts all came together." Drake offered. "I do hope that procedure was finished." He asked Keladrian and I.

Drake was there until Random left. He didn't know that Thenaroth was there to finish fixing the Pattern. "To the best of my knowledge." I began but Keladrian said "No, but it is adequate for the time."

"What information about the Emergence do we need, or do we just want to collect what we can find?" Isabeau brought us back to the subject.

"Weaknesses." I told her.

"What is its nature?" Keladrian added.

"I don't think its nature is determined until it emerges." Isabeau conjectured.

Keladrian disagreed, "It already has shown an affinity for those of Amber over those of Chaos."

"The other Avatar's seem to be lining up on one side or the other." Isabeau nodded.

"I think it obvious that it knows those that would oppose it." Keladrian pointed out, "Or who would control it." He nodded to Drake. "No offense."

"I don't think it is a matter of control." Drake countered

"Perhaps, perhaps not." Keladrian shrugged.

"Do you think you can control the Emergence?" Isabeau asked Drake

"Who controls the Unicorn?" Drake responded to her.

"But can you guide it?" Keladrian asked, "Can you offer it a path of least resistance?"

That made me think of something. "Let's take a look at the Unicorn. All by itself the Unicorn does not appear to be a ferocious animal. How did it survive its Emergence?" I wondered about that. How did the Avatar's decide who got to Emerge.

"Apparently it was destructive to the Courts." Keladrian added.

Drake nodded, "True. From what I understand, an upheaval across all of reality."

"But more on the Courts." Keladrian restated.

"The Courts are on the edge of the Abyss." Isabeau stated the obvious. "It would make sense that they were most impacted, but the Unicorn did not stay at the Courts."

"I don't know how the Courts reacted to the last Emergence." Drake said.

Isabeau seemed confused, "So this Avatar that is rising is looking for a mate?"

"Or may already have one." I reminded them thinking of Drake's father.

"I suppose I could try to contact Mandor." Isabeau offered.

"I will attempt to talk to my elder when he is awake." Keladrian also offered.

"If there is an opportunity to speak to your elder I would like to ask him if there is a chance of peace between our peoples." Drake proposed.

I wondered how Drake could offer that, "Do you have the ability to broker that from your side?" I asked him directly.

"I have a good opportunity to begin such negotiations." He nodded, then turned to Keladrian. "On a personal note, I wish to assure you that your name did not come to the Emperor's attention."

"I appreciate that." Keladrian assured him, "And I will carry your question to him."

Isabeau suddenly changed the subject, "By the way, Keladrian, the Trump does not work here."

"They do not work in this glade. You will have to travel to the shadowland on the otherside of the Shieldwall Mountains." Keladrian informed her.

"How far is that from here?" Drake asked.

Keladrian shrugged, "I have no idea, yet I would think that if you but ask to return there, transportation will be provided."

"We can't just shadow walk out of here?" Isabeau asked.

"You would first need to travel to where shadow becomes accessible." Keladrian explained. "Much as in Amber you must walk to the edge of Arden. Somewhat inconvenient but also a form of security."

"Can I return here by Trump?" Isabeau wanted to know, "Or can I shadow walk to the shadow on the otherside of the Shieldwall Mountains?"

Again Keladrian shrugged, "I am not a Trump expert."

"Powers will work in various areas in there, I felt that." Drake said, "I would also consider a trip there and back as I would like to test the Trump."

"So much for the Idyllic stay." Isabeau sighed.

"The elder may not be awake by the time we get back so we may have a little more idyllic time." Drake smiled at her.

We had finished eating our breakfast and it appeared that we each had tasks to accomplish.

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