Heard a lot of talk about the ocean/Heard a lot of talk about the
sea/Heard a lot of talk about a lot of things/Never meant that much to
me/Heard a lot of talk about my spirit/Heard a lot of talk about my
soul/But I decided that anxiety and pain/Were better friends/So I let it
- Live, excerpt from "The Tyranny of Tradition"
I always seemed to be able to find Laughter if I lost her. I
often consoled myself with that; she would be gone for a time, and then
I'd find her again. I lost faith in this notion shortly after I lost her
for a hundred and twenty-five years.
Ulysses came to visit me in the afternoon. The woman he brought
with him bore him a striking resemblance. I didn't ask and he didn't
offer. Something was obviously bothering him. Apparently the plan he had
been forming had hit a bit of a bump. His father, Perseus, had cancer of
some sort, and would be unfit to draw a new, order-based Pattern; he had
to be cured of this before he would have the strength. What that really
meant for me was an even further delay to repairing our own Pattern, after
Joseph was kind enough to bleed all over it.
The woman with him was his sister. She had been raised in the
Courts and apart from him, and they came to ask if I would request for
them the aid of Mandor and Fiona in healing Perseus. I saw no difficulty
with that and made the proper Trump calls. Both Mandor and Fiona agreed,
and Ulysses and Lisandra left to fetch Perseus from Atherton. Lisandra
and I had had to make our own introductions. I continued to worry about
Ulysses' odd behavior.
That evening, Sylvie came to visit. She had a lot of information
to share. I found out later that she was working for my wife, and that
answered my question of how she came to gather it in the first place.
According to Sylvie, while Joseph had made his run at the Primal Pattern,
attempts had also been made in Rebma, the fire Pattern and the Tir, and
that there was a corresponding jewel for each of the Patterns. None of
the attempts had been successful, or so she assumed. We knew that Joseph
had failed. Benedict had also killed someone at the Tir, and all she
found at the fire Pattern was a charred skull. At this date I can't
remember what happened in Rebma. I assume that it failed as well, or I
would have remembered it. Since I hadn't had any idea that there were
other jewels, or what the significance could be, the only thing I could do
was thank her for the information and make sure that it reached Fiona's
Laughter and I got rather silly shortly after that. I discovered
she was a much better punster than I had given her credit for. I suppose
it was all the stress. I'm glad we did though. The memory of that night
still hangs sweetly in my mind, even now. It was the last time we made
Later that night, she was awoken by another nightmare. We somehow
wound up discussing my repair of the Pattern, and how she wanted me to
wait until the renegade Patterns were addressed before I killed myself.
I, for my part, had no intentions of dying. At that point I had too much
to live for, and I told her so. She placed emphasis on the argument by
announcing that she was pregnant. So much for the wager with Ulysses. I
had been caught in my own use of the Jewel. The baby would have been
I assured Laughter that I would take every precaution; I would
send Benedict in the morning to investigate the Black Road; to see if it
did, indeed, reach from Amber to the Courts. I would also speak with
Fiona about the duplicate jewels, and what she thought about the multiple
attempts at attunement. I also wanted to speak with Laughter's father,
Mandor. He was in Chaos when it fell, and he might have useful
information on the current regime. Laughter appeared to feel better after
I shared my ideas. We both slept well until morning.
True to my word, as soon as morning came, I began. Upon Trumping
Benedict, I found him already in Shadow, the Black Road at his back. He
informed me that the Road only reached from the Courts to the Badlands. I
had no fear of threat from that direction. It was a great relief. I knew
it would please Laughter as well. I told Benedict to leave it for now and
turn his attention once again to the army that was already approaching
Amber. I'm sure I didn't have to tell him that, but I did anyway.
Next I went to speak to my father-in-law, Mandor. He was amused
by the respect I chose to pay him. He may have been a dispossessed
Chaosite and I the King of Amber, but I would still give him the respect I
thought was due him, whether it amused him or not. My questions earned me
a bit of a history lesson. House Wickling, who was now the ruling house
in Chaos, had been founded by a descendent of what Mandor referred to as
the First Court. He was the eldest son of the King, and his name was Job.
His brothers were Vertix, Barimen and Halybard. Seems like we Amberites
descended from not the best of stock. The throne was currently held by
his son, Corliss. Job he described as deliberate and thoughtful, while
his son was rash, an obvious weak spot. He also said that Wickling had
absorbed all of the other houses. In response to my question of how
dangerous they were, he merely stated that, yes, they possessed the
resources to move on Amber, but seemed content to wait for the moment. He
had no answer to my question of why. I wish now that I had delved into
the 'why' far more vigorously, not that I would have had the time to.
After Mandor, I spoke briefly with Flora, and asked that she
prepare the household staff for the possibility of war and siege, although
I hoped it wouldn't come to that. She handled the request as gracefully
as she did any.
The discussion with Fiona I saved for last. All of the
information I presented to her failed to surprise her. I know I'm King
because they all let me, but sometimes I wish they wouldn't point out my
weak points quite so blatantly. She had known about the existence of the
other jewels for quite some time. She informed me that the bauble that
currently hung round my neck belonged to the Primal Pattern; the one set
in the crown belonged to the Pattern in Amber proper, and that Moire used
the Rebman Jewel to allow air breathers existence in her realm. That's
the one that hurt, but even as Moire's grandson, I wasn't privy to that
information. She wouldn't speculate yet as to why so many people had
tried to attune themselves all at once, or even what benefit they would
have received for their pains. Given Joseph's sudden appearance, I
wondered if there was some way she could go about finding other family
members. She said she was currently working on it, and I asked her as
nicely as I could to see if she could do it a little faster. I really
hate doing that, but my paranoia was beginning to get out of hand.
I then found a quiet spot and used the Jewel to disallow the
functioning of Logrus in Amber.
The rest of the morning I spent with Laughter and the twins. It's
now one of my more common, recurring dreams. I console myself with
knowing that for a year and two months I was completely happy. The
kingship and its responsibility aside, I had Laughter and my children, and
I was truly happy for the second, and possibly last, time in my life.
I've often asked myself, for some stupid reason, if I had known then what
I know now, would I ever have married her? It's an easy question. Of
course I would have. I wouldn't trade that year and two months for
anything. It's far too precious to lose.
I suppose you're wondering why I'm speaking in the past tense. My
apologies. What follows shortly after this scene was so intense, at least
for me, that I thought I would perhaps build you up to it gradually. I
think it would have been a bit much for you to handle if I hadn't
foreshadowed it a bit. I know it certainly was for me.
You see, my brother Martin Trumped me shortly thereafter. He said
the Rebman Jewel had been stolen, and that Moire wished to speak to me. I
have to hand it to Abigail, it certainly fit in well, what with all the
recent attempts at the Patterns and their corresponding jewels. I really
didn't give it a second thought. I told Laughter that I needed to go to
Rebma for a bit, that I wouldn't be gone long, and to have some towels
ready for me when I returned. There's a lot of painful irony in that last
I took Martin's hand, but I didn't arrive in Rebma. I arrived in
a maze of corridors. I felt my Pattern fade moments after my arrival, and
Laughter's ring was unable to make contact. I didn't panic. The last
time we had been separated, she and it had parted company, so I wasn't
ready to assume the worst, yet. A bit of wandering in my new surroundings
produced a few other unfortunates; most of my family and Ulysses', plus
Claudio, Caitlin and Sandr. Thankfully, Sandr was unconscious. I didn't
see a need to rectify the situation. We had all arrived in a central hall
of sorts. Abigail had planned it that way, and a projection of her gave
us an inspired harangue on the importance of Shadow people, and shame on
us for not treating them better. She didn't have to tell me, I had
married one once. It was how she ended her speech that made my blood run
"You have all been here for ten or twelve minutes or so. Keep that
figure in mind as you leave."
Three doorways opened up, showing a beach, a forest and a stable.
We stepped into the forest and knew we were in Arden. Except that Arden
had been burned to the ground by Shandril's armies a year before. These
trees were big. The pain began there. It started coming faster when
Caitlin pulled her father, Benedict, through. He confirmed what I feared,
but hadn't really allowed myself to contemplate. A hundred and
twenty-five years had passed for them in Amber while we had spent about
twelve minutes in Abigail's Inter-Shadow. From that point on, I'm not
really sure I felt any ground under my feet.
They had assumed we were dead. Sand, Kaedric and Bleys had
followed us to our graves a short time later. I asked about Laughter. It
was a stupid thing to do, but I couldn't help myself. Benedict said she
was remarried, about fifty years ago. She had married my brother Kevin,
Random and Vialle's son. Then I asked of the baby she had been carrying.
Benedict said there had been fighting shortly after we disappeared, and
the baby had been lost. A sharp pain was developing beneath my sternum.
Melanie arrived somewhere in the middle of this, as did a young man, and a
woman who bore me slight resemblance, Laughter's son and my granddaughter,
I was to later find out. Ulysses stole one of their horses and bolted.
They wanted to stop him, but I interceded, something about it being the
only way for him to cope. Heh, fine subject for me to be engaging in
And then I was staring into the face of what had to be my son,
Alaric. Except when I had last seen him, what were to me moments before,
he had been barely able to sit up by himself. That pain behind my sternum
intensified. Yet another missed opportunity. I asked him of his sister.
He said she had married an Atherton. I remember nodding a lot and trying
hard not to really focus on anything. Sandr was throwing a fit somewhere
in the background.
It wasn't long before Melanie gathered us all up and Trumped us
back to the castle. It wasn't hard to see that she hadn't let the time
pass idly. I asked Alaric if he was wielding Song. He said no, that
Laughter had forged him a new one, and that Song wouldn't let anyone else
touch him, anyway. He suggested we go to the armory so that I might
retrieve him. I agreed. We were just beginning to discuss how to break
my arrival to his mother, when his mother chose that moment to Trump me.
She looked the same to me, but maybe that's because I wanted her to. I
took the hand she offered me and then stepped through.
Ulysses was there, still bent on finding some way back to our own
time. I told him I would do what I could to help, within reason. There
were footsteps in the hall then, and Laughter slipped out. While she was
gone, I worked her wedding ring off of my finger and slipped it into my
pocket. I had no idea whether or not she still wore the other ring,
actually I rather doubted it, but I didn't want to take any chance of
sharing the pain I was currently having with her. She had mourned my
death long ago. I was just beginning to mourn hers. She didn't need to
relive it through me.
Ulysses left when she returned. The more I talked with her, the
more I realized that whatever discomfort I had felt before was a paltry
thing. The ache in my chest threatened to tear me apart. She had gone on
after I left because I had made her promise to. She raised the children
without me, and then raised two more with Kevin. I'm ashamed to admit
that I had to get away from her then. I just couldn't take it anymore. I
wanted nothing more than to throw my arms around her and hold her close,
but she stood before me as another man's wife. I no longer had that
right. It was just more than I could take.
As I made my way to the front gate, my own words came back to
haunt me. I had said them to Laughter not that long ago, for me, anyway.
She had wanted to know how I knew I was in love with her. I said,
"Because I can't stand the thought of you with another man. That's how I
know I love you."
My son, Alaric, found me before I reached the gate.
"Archimedes?" he said. As if I wasn't in enough pain already, my
son was calling me by name. He wanted to know what I knew of the Cult of
the King, and shared with me what he knew before I could answer. It was
about ten times what I knew. Apparently, back when they had kidnapped me,
tied me upside-down on their pole, and walked away with a part of me in a
jar, the part that had been in the jar was my soul. They had spirited my
soul out of me and hidden it somewhere. Alaric said that they had done
the same thing to him, and that it came with a couple of side effects.
One was, I was currently sterile; the other, that I couldn't be killed.
That's just what I wanted to hear about then.
I'm afraid I didn't make the best of impressions on my offspring,
but I don't think anyone would have held it against me at the time. I
told him to use my Trump if he needed me. Then I walked out the front
gate, used my nose to find water, and headed straight for it. I left my
boots at the riverbank. I suppose a greater man would have tried to do
something useful, like Ulysses was, but at that moment I just didn't have
it in me. I had to put some distance between myself and my pain.
I wondered, with my soul hidden in a jar somewhere out there, just
what was it that was aching beneath my chest?
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