The Ty Dahl ended up not being as complicated as I might have
expected. The only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth was that I, as
King, was the only one who could really do anything about it. The
challenge had already been called, so, according to the rules, I couldn't
simply declare that it would not happen. What I could do was change the
manner of the trial. It was up to me whether or not Sandr would walk the
I needed more time to consider my options, so I excused myself
from the little group that had gathered in my office and wandered the
halls of Castle Amber. I already had a lot on my mind. I was meeting
with the emissaries from Chaos this afternoon, over creating new worlds
for them; something I was more than a little apprehensive about. Once
that was done, there was still our Pattern to fix and that was something
that even Oberon himself had not survived. It was still a sore spot
between Laughter and I. I think that if she had a choice between me and
the Pattern, the Pattern would lose. As King I couldn't afford to think
that way. Perhaps it was because I was thus preoccupied that the
emissaries from Chaos caught me completely off guard.
You must understand that I was not looking forward to this
meeting. Ulysses had already given me a slight preview - that the
Chaosites were wondering how much access they would be allowed to the
Jewel of Judgment. Since I wasn't planning on giving them any, I expected
the meeting to get ugly quickly. Imagine my surprise when they brought
treaties and weddings to the table instead. They wished protection. Lord
Belen of Amblerash said he had a son of marrying age and Lord Helgram a
daughter. My mind drifted briefly back to the request Benedict had made
of me a few days before. Now that Caitlin was pregnant with Sandr's
child, I doubted its importance. Besides, after being raised in Rebma, I
doubted I'd have the balls to marry any woman off to someone she didn't
want, unless she made me really angry. Then I'm capable of anything, I
Needless to say, my mind groped for other options. No one
interrupted my thoughts; one of the few fringe benefits of being King.
After a bit, my mind settled on an alternative, one I would live to
regret, I'm sure, but an alternative nonetheless. I placed the Protection
of Amber on the table in front of them. They looked at each other and
seemed to communicate silently on some level. I didn't take my eyes off
"Would we have to swear fealty to Amber?" It was a question from
Lord Amblerash and seemed to echo Helgram's sentiments. I sighed.
"Non-aggression pact then?"
"That would be best," I answered. Wouldn't do to have my ass
kicked by one of them this week, and then have to go cover theirs the
next. Why is everything so complicated? This did, however, seem to meet
their needs, and Bill began the proper paperwork. Soon, I would draw each
of them a new Pattern. My stomach was uneasy.
A page intercepted me as I left the meeting. Claudio wished to
see me, but requested that I come to him. I found him manacled within in
his own room, two mecha guarding the door. I was glad that he was now
taking seriously the possibility that he was hosting Delwin, but I thought
he had gone a little too far. He had called me to him because he wanted
me to change the manner of Sandr's trial. So it began, but I was
surprised that it started with Claudio. It seemed that I would be able to
hide from that problem for no longer. We proceeded to have a rather
in-depth discussion. He did not feel that Sandr should be given a
warrior's challenge. I really couldn't argue, but the decision had been
Benedict's, not mine. I tried to explain this with metaphor, asking if he
would go against the wishes of the man who had trained him. I'm not sure
he understood. I told him the only way I would change the manner of the
challenge was by Benedict's leave alone.
I mused as I left him. What had made a Moorish warrior stand to
the defense of a gay Jew? More than music must be involved.
I dined in my quarters on food I had conjured myself, a necessary
evil now that the cult had shown themselves to be active once again. I
had hoped to spend a quiet evening in thought. That was not to be.
The first interruption was a Trump call. Kaedric was the second
to plead for Sandr's life. I wonder if Melanie put him up to it? Most
likely not. If Laughter was hurting, I know I would move to correct it.
I offered him the same answer as I did Claudio. He seemed less disturbed
by it, but then adopted an oracular tone.
"I suggest you strike the Ty Dahl from the books then." I nodded.
I, too, wished for no more of the Family to be involved in this than there
already was. I summoned Bill and excused myself for the hour. Once
again, he completed the necessary paperwork.
Melanie Trumped me then. She continues to surprise me, as she
mentioned nothing of Sandr. Instead, she said that Eve was awake and
desiring to be released. I told her I would be down momentarily. The
walk seemed short. I had a lot on my mind.
A few questions of her revealed that she did remember everything
she had done, but that she had truly been at Delwin's mercy. I asked her
of her intentions if I were to let her go. She said she wished to find
her real body, as she did not believe that this one was. I agreed, on one
condition - that she swear fealty to me, my wife and to Amber, and I asked
her to think before answering. She did so, and I released her. Melanie
and I avoided looking at each other.
I Trumped to the main hall, and returned to my quarters, where I
found Kaedric waiting. Somehow, in between everything else that was
currently going on, he had actually managed to think about a solution to
my small allergy. He suggested shapeshifting, more absinthe, and time.
I had to admire his courage. That sounded like a dangerous path to me,
but if he was game, so was I. He then dropped two bombs into my lap;
there was a spy in Amber, and Melanie was more than likely pregnant. The
idea of a spy made me not at all happy. That Melanie was pregnant was
more than enough excuse for his idea of working me through my allergy. I
told him to address the matter of the spy at once.
I had just settled down for the night, a few hours later, when
there came a small rapping at my door. I sighed as I threw a robe on.
Would this day never end? I looked up into Caitlin's face upon opening
the door. Of all the Family, I wished to see her the least at that
moment. I let her in anyway. She was the last to ask me to change the
trial. I didn't have to wonder about her motivations. I explained to her
why I couldn't. I couldn't because her father had taught me everything I
know; how to fight, how to conjure. Her father had been more of a father
to me than my own had. And now he seemed to need this, and if he did, I
was not going to deny him. She let me speak my peace and I watched her
face as I did so. I couldn't get past the pain it contained to anything
that might be lying underneath. Finally, she spoke.
"This will strain the oath I gave to you." I guess that shouldn't
have surprised me.
"I can understand that. You also know what I'm like when I'm
crossed." It was all the warning I had the heart to give her. She nodded
and left. I lay awake in bed for a long time before sleep claimed me.
I was awakened early the next morn with the news that Wickling was
on my borders. This I simply had to see for myself. I dressed quickly,
ignoring Laughter's annoyed sputterings. I knew I'd pay for that later.
I went to the stables and bridled the hell-beast that had been my wedding
present from Sylvie. I didn't bother with a saddle, preferring to ride
bareback. And I really wasn't expecting any trouble. Apparently my wife
had other thoughts, as Ulysses, and a full compliment of guards, quickly
caught up with me. He added another snide comment to the long list he
already had on me upon his arrival. I rewarded him with a good-natured
kick in the head for his trouble, and for being stupid enough to appear
There were only two men waiting for us, pointedly just outside
Arden's border. One introduced himself as Calder, an emissary of the
King, and that, as was their right, they were here to watch the trial.
Since they agreed to abide by Amber's laws, and to having a guard placed
on them, I allowed them to stay. I mostly killed time for the rest of the
day. I did come to a decision of sorts, however. I decided that if Sandr
said anything at the trial to make me doubt his guilt, I would change the
nature of the challenge. I didn't hold high hopes for him, but I felt I
owed Caitlin at least that much.
The trial itself disgusted me. I'd never seen anyone use another
so poorly. All guilt and blame Sandr dumped on Caitlin. I agonized for
her. I doubt I could have born the same with such eloquence had Laughter
ever said similar of me. Sandr said nothing to make me believe his
innocence. I would have respected him more, nay, even done something on
his behalf, had he accepted his guilt like a man, and showed remorse for
any but himself. At the end Ulysses spoke only briefly with the Chaos
observers before rendering his verdict. The plea of not guilty would
stand. The Fire Pattern would make the final decision.
More than a few eyes fell on me then. I rose, nodded my consent
to Ulysses, and then left the sickening mess behind me.
I must admit that the week that followed passed mostly in a blur.
I don't think I can ever remember being so utterly exhausted. With
Perseus well, the new Pattern for Atherton was assayed. What an odd
sensation it is to let yourself be completely guided by another.
Considering that I then went on to draw a Pattern for both Amblerash and
Helgram, I believe myself to be a somewhat more humble person now.
The repair of our Pattern came last, and after I had had
sufficient time to recover. Laughter and Corwin were to stand by, acting
as seconds if I needed to draw on more power. I didn't like the idea of
my wife being on hand to observe my death, if that was the outcome, but
there was no way I could deny her since she had attuned herself to the
Jewel. I forget who actually was there. I do remember it being a small
crowd. I stood at the beginning of the Pattern for a long while, the
Jewel of Judgment in my right hand and a dagger in my left. I had to ask
myself, in the moments before it began, was I really ready to die? I
decided instead not to think about it and placed my right foot on the
Pattern instead. Heh, no turning back now, Archimedes old boy. When have
you ever given yourself over to extensive thought? You wouldn't be King
if you had. You wouldn't be married if you had. As if echoing my
thoughts, the Pattern began to assail me with memories. I hate walking
It seemed I reached the dark stain across the bright path all too
soon. The timing of this would be important. I moved the dagger to my
wrist so the blood would land on the right spot, at the right time, and
without causing me to stop walking. I ignored the pain of the incision.
It was harder to ignore the feelings that followed after. To this day I
am unable to put it into words. I know for certain, however, that when I
collapsed at the center, I did so a dead man. Score one for the cultists,
there was no way I should have lived through that. And Laughter, who had
been at my side via her connection to the Jewel, knew it as well.
When I'd recovered sufficient strength, I teleported back to her.
I think I must have passed out shortly after, because the next thing I was
aware of was waking in my own bed, and feeling somewhat rested. A page
fully roused me at eleven, saying that Sandr was to walk the Fire Pattern
at noon. I got dressed and met with the party assembled. Benedict led
the way. To any who are ocean-born, the Fire Pattern is truly a terrible
site. I don't think I had fully recovered yet. I still felt rather
divorced from my emotions. I can't remember how I felt when Sandr
dissolved in a burst of glowing sparks before reaching the center.
Benedict handed me a Trump of himself, saying he would heed its call. We
returned to Amber proper. I had a note sent to Anton, Sandr's widow, or
widower or whatever, saying that he could stay in Amber as long as he
wished, and would be granted safe passage if so desired. That done, I
collapsed into oblivion once more.
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