The next morning I Trumped Fiona and asked if I could have a
moment of her time. She consented and I stepped through to her. I didn't
know if she was still alive when the world ended, and I didn't know if she
remembered or not, so I felt a bit awkward when I asked for her daughter's
hand in marriage.
"Wasn't once enough?" she replied. She remembered. That was a
relief, but she couldn't be sure that Mandor would, and then she mentioned
the wedding rings. She thought that there definitely was a presence in
them. She thought it was most likely Sand, but Brand couldn't be ruled
out. What a way to begin the day.
"If it was Brand, don't you think he would have taken over one of
our minds yet?"
She looked thoughtful, so I changed tack.
"Am I acting appropriately stupid?"
That earned me a smile and carried my point. She also requested
that I keep her knowledge of our future secret. I told her I would do my
level best, and then I returned to Foil.
I had planned on searching for Flynn that day and shared my
intentions with Laughter. I asked her if she felt up to handling the
twins alone for a few hours, and a somewhat guilty look crossed her face.
"When we were discussing nannies the other day, I forgot that I
already had one for Beauty."
Wait a minute, I thought. "Isn't Beauty a bit old for a nanny?"
"Not the one from this time."
"There are *two* Beautys now?"
My mind began to reel. It was a problem I decided to leave to
Laughter and Ulysses.
I walked out of Foil until I found the horse I was looking for, a
little Medicine Hat stallion. I've always had a weakness for pintos, and
this little guy would help identify me as big medicine to Flynn's people.
I wondered what Flynn would be like now, as I held him in my mind and rode
to him. I changed my clothes as I rode and noticed the pattern of scars
on my chest. They weren't healing very quickly, and it looked like it was
going to be quite a few years before I was rid of the sun-burst pattern on
my chest. Just what I needed, a blazon reminder of failures to come.
It didn't take me long to find Flynn's Shadow. I sat at the edge
of camp until I saw him, then I rode straight up to him and said we had to
talk. He obviously didn't remember, so he was dead too when the world
ended. So much for his vow to see that I had a long reign, when he
consented to be my heir. I pulled him up behind me and we rode out of
camp. I conjured a horse for him and told him who I was. Then I told him
of my history on the plains, how I had come there looking for peace, had
found it, and had then watched it disappear when the white man came. I
wasn't proud of his conception, but as a warrior, he at least understood
it. I asked how he had come to be raised by the People. He said his
mother had died when he was very young, and they had taken him in.
Fortune had chosen to smile on me a bit. He would never have been
accepted in the white culture. He had been happy on the plains.
I then told him of what I was, my history in the Shadows before
his, and Amber's history up to the point I now found myself. I told him
of Vain and Laughter and the twins. That seemed to touch a cord in him,
and he asked if I knew where Sky was. I said she was in Amber, and he
consented to go there. I took it nice and slow as we made our way back,
and told him what I was doing, and how. If he had questions or comments,
he kept them to himself. I sent a page for Sky when we arrived, but she
couldn't be found.
I took him to meet his grandfather then. I introduced him to
Random as Flynn. I was told by Flynn that that was not his name, that he
was, in fact, Hair Like Grass. I erred in favor of taste and then
introduced him as Harry. He said, in fact, that he was not, and in answer
to my question, preferred to be called Grass. Having run out of options,
and hope, I was forced to introduce my son to Random as Grass. I knew
that there was no way I would avoid a ribbing at my father's hands, but he
saved his comments until after Grass had been showed to his new rooms in
Amber. My response to my father's humor had Random standing sharply to
attention, a predictable response to a conjured tack underneath the Royal
posterior. Had he forgotten whose son I was?
I went to find my addled boy then, to tell him that I was
returning to my family in Foil, and that he was more than welcome. He was
more than willing to join me. His introduction to Laughter went better
than the one with Random did, but I suspect that was because Laughter
could read the pain in my features. She was kind enough to engage him in
small talk, and to give him a tour of the garden. I busied myself with
We discussed the tournament on her return, and I spent the
remainder of the day Trumping various relatives to inform them of the part
they were to play. I would have to say that the conversations I had with
Kaedric and Melanie were of the most interest. I do not think Kaedric's
wooing of Melanie is going well. I feel for him. She would be a
difficult woman to woo. I wonder if her pregnancy has put them at odds?
Claudio and Sky showed up shortly after I had finished my Trump
calls. Claudio happened to be dressed in full Rebman garb, a fact I
declined to comment on, other than to conjure him a towel. Claudio and
Sky were beginning to argue in such a way that I knew they were soon to be
sharing each other's beds, or soon to be causing each other bodily harm.
Claudio wanted to use my Trump of Caitlin. I snatched it back from him
before he could attempt to pull her through and bounce her off of Foil's
boundary. I told her to recite some of her favorite verse and pulled her
through without harm. Apparently the 'rat-dog' had given them both rings,
and they wished to compare notes. As soon as I saw the rings, I was
interested as well. There was something awfully familiar about the red
stones set within them. Closer inspection confirmed my suspicion. They
were, indeed, made of the old Jewel shards. Perhaps Dworkin was
concocting a way for those of us who remembered to identify the others?
Who could be certain?
I pulled Laughter aside afterwards, and shared Fiona's opinion of
our wedding bands with her, which caused Laughter to promptly remove hers,
and to give me the task of attempting communication with whomever resided
within, a task I carried out with some trepidation. I was relieved when
the presence I found within identified herself as Sand. I asked her how
and why? She said that she had 'hitchhiked' back in them, because she was
dead at the time the world ended. I am beginning to feel more and more
that I am living on borrowed time. I asked her if there was anything I
could do for her. She offered that having a new body would be good. With
the tournament pending on the morrow, I asked if this was an immediate
problem, or one that could possibly wait until I began my search for
Corwin. She consented, so long as I didn't offer Corwin up for sacrifice.
I assured her that this had never been my intent, and then it dawned on me
rather suddenly that my wife and I had been somewhat less than alone
during our most intimate moments. I also discovered that I had not an
exhibitionist's bone in my body. Sand sent back an image of the vastness
of space in response to my query, for which I was most relieved. My fears
allayed, I placed the wedding band back on Laughter's finger and did my
best to allay hers as well.
Dinner that evening was rather painful to behold. It seems that
Kaedric is not alone in his difficulties. Claudio began rather earnest
efforts in regards to my granddaughter. He treated us all to a dinner
that he must have spent hours on, both in research and preparation.
Laughter was a bit dubious in having to dine on buffalo and snake, but
bore it as the trooper she is, making comment that she didn't think it was
proper for Amberites to dine on snake. I told her that personally, I
reveled in the irony, and helped myself to seconds. What effect all of
this had on Sky, I didn't hazard to guess.
I suppose I should have been less cooperative when Laughter
suggested that I show the Moor to the baths, given her conspiratorial airs
of late, but show the Moor to the baths I did. I left him with a warning
of my wife's devious ways, however, and conjured him a more substantial
screen than the sheet currently in use. My suspicions were confirmed when
I rejoined the rest of the party and made note of Sky's absence and
Laughter's expression. I told her that whatever she had done, the
consequences thereof rested squarely on her shoulders.
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