Caitlin fainted in the middle of the dance. Laughter and I headed
over to see if she was all right. Merlin pulled a physician through a
card and Claudio wandered over as well. The doctor was able to rouse her,
and, after a cursory examination, suggested that she shouldn't drink while
pregnant. Since Caitlin seemed uncomfortable with all of the attention, I
took Laughter back to the dance floor.
I took the opportunity to mention to Laughter that I found her
armor a bit out of place on the dance floor, but I tried to say a little
more with my eyes. She took the bait and wandered off.
Kaedric came over in her absence. He apologized for the Serpent
showing up. I mentioned that I had all but been guaranteed that it
wouldn't show up. He hemmed a bit, and mentioned something about being
made the crown prince earlier this time around. I accepted his apology,
but told him he owed me one; the Serpent licking me had fucking hurt,
after all. He asked for miscellaneous advice on being crown prince. I
told him to keep his head down, keep moving, and keep an eye on his wife's
information network. I suggested that keeping the King alive was handy.
I also gave him a bit of sympathy for his choice of wives. He had gone
off and studied for a hundred years, and still wanted her. It hadn't
taken me that long to get over Marie, not that I could imagine ever
getting over Laughter, if it came to that, but I still think Melanie would
be an awful lot of work. As long as Kaedric is game to the challenge, I
imagine it will all work out all right.
Laughter returned in something much more to my liking. I wonder
if she realizes how beautiful she is? I almost think not, or she wouldn't
run around in men's clothes so much, but who am I to argue? I did mention
that we weren't married in this time-line, and that we ought to have
something done about that. I almost think she tried to get out of it.
Dinner came next, the highlight of which was my wife trying to
convince Ulysses to do something for her secretly, with me watching while
she did so. And I was the one who got kicked for my trouble.
More dancing followed dinner, and Laughter and I had fun playing
dirty mind games. It set the tone for the rest of the night...
The next day Caitlin had wanted to start after Cymnea, and I was
Trumped bright and early. I accepted her hand and found myself in the
midst of the rest of her posse. It was decided that we would simply walk
to House Halybard. As this was Caitlin's show, I let her run it, but I
felt a bit uneasy. I'll have to learn to trust those feelings, I guess.
Nothing happened in the twenty minutes it took us to walk there. There
were two guards at the gate. There were two less guards after I pulled
the trigger on the laser pistol twice. We continued past the gate until
we ran into a magical barrier. This was why Merlin was along, and he got
to work on it. I kept an eye out while he did. This all seemed far too
Merlin was able to open a hole up in the barrier and get us
through. He fell unconscious when he came through. This was more like
it. I conjured some smelling salts and brought him around. He said, with
a small groan, that any spells we had hung were now gone. So much for the
armor spell Laughter had placed on me before I stepped through the Trump.
Ah well, I'd just have to avoid getting hit.
It took us forty minutes more to actually make it to the main
house, and still no attacks. That nagging feeling I had intensified. The
guards at the next gate took immediate cover on seeing us and had to be
flushed out. That's when the Logrus first started tickling us. I tried
to bend the rules a bit, and make it difficult for Logrus to function, but
I was too far away from the Pattern. I dampened the effect to include
myself and Caitlin, and had to be satisfied with that. I had a sneaking
suspicion that if everyone had been wearing the rings that Dworkin made, I
would have had a lot more power to play with.
We continued to follow Orrin, and ran into a group of demons.
These were the same that had followed Laughter around in the future, so I
called out to Caitlin and Claudio, sharing the demons' weaknesses with
Things began to happen a bit more quickly at this point. We ran
into the first of Orrin's brothers, and one of the Logrus masters that
Swayvill had loaned us moved to intercept him. Caitlin decided to throw
one of her Pattern blades into the fray, which was only effective in that
it knocked both of the participants out cold. Another brother came to
replace the downed one, and we left him to the next Logrus master and
continued. A corridor stood before us, and a wall of Logrus. Daunting,
indeed, until Caitlin once again brought the Pattern blades into play.
She was able to open a hole up at the base of the Logrus wall. Claudio
volunteered to go through first. Last time he'll do that. There was a
flash of light, and burst of heat, and Claudio stopped moving. I grabbed
him by the ankles and hauled him out. I also made a mental note to never
get hit by a fireball myself, if at all possible. He came around after a
bit, and demanded my laser pistol. I handed it to him, and he cast a
spell before going through again. I heard the pistol firing merrily
shortly thereafter, and Claudio soon summoned us through the hole.
Claudio moved us down the corridor by casting one force wall in
front of the other. I saw three to four people bounce off of it at the
end of the corridor. Caitlin quickly eliminated them as a threat. This
got us to what appeared to be a large dining hall. There was a large dais
at the end of hall. Cymnea sat upon it, and Finndo wasn't far away from
her. There were other miscellaneous people there, but I didn't pay them a
lot of attention. Caitlin didn't wait to sound the attack. Merlin let
fly with enough fireballs to give me nightmares for months, and decimated
half of their number. Those left moved to intercept us.
An invisible Logrus tendril wrapped itself around my waist and
threw me against the far wall before I could contemplate bringing the
Pattern up. I brought the laser pistol into line and fired at Finndo. It
bounced. I fucking hate magic. I called on the shards and tried to
dampen the magic in the room. The pistol was whipped from my hand, and I
felt my Pattern go down. The rest of my consciousness I viewed in slow
motion. I was beginning to bring the Pattern to mind once again, when the
shards lodged within me began to tingle. My eye was drawn to my chest by
motion firstly, and pain secondly. There was a hole in my chest, and it
was continuing to grow. Darkness claimed me moments later.
My awareness came back to me slowly, and had a rather dream-like
quality to it. A form was taking shape in the distance. I moved toward
it, and it became the Unicorn. I heard a voice in my head again, not
unlike that of the Serpent's, and completely different. This was the
second time I had managed to force my way into her presence, both random
acts of stupidity. I wonder if I was going back this time?
"You are really putting this immortality thing to the test, aren't
What could I possibly say in return?
"You must try harder to stay alive. You must raise your son. Your
line has my favor because he will be the greatest king Amber has ever had.
You must be there for him."
When your personal deity says, "Stay alive so you can raise your
kid," you feel damn inclined to do so, but I think I said something along
the lines of, "I'll try." Although I did ask exactly how one was supposed
to defend oneself against the Logrus. She said that whatever I was trying
with the rings was helping, and if everyone was wearing them, I might have
been more successful. I may have died, but at least I had the
satisfaction of knowing I was on the right track.
The brilliance of the Unicorn faded slowly to black.
The sound of my wife yelling "stupid" woke me up once again.
Ulysses was at my side, and there was an odd, painful tightness in my
chest. My fingers quickly told me that there were now staples there.
"Knock me out again, would you?" I asked Ulysses. The bastard took
me seriously, and I actually had to duck. That hurt. I heard Claudio
screaming, somewhere in the background. Laughter came back into the room,
then. I could tell that she was very upset, most likely at me. I tried
to lighten the mood, and told her that I had seen the Unicorn, and she had
told me to quit pushing my luck, and that I had to live because she had
told me so.
"Fine. As long as the *Unicorn* says so."
I tried to apologize for that, to no avail. She reminded me of
how I felt when she had her throat slit. I pointed out that at least I
had woken up. Strike two. She said quietly that I had been dead for over
three minutes. She then lay down quietly next to me, and I tried to
comfort her. She suddenly got up and left without a word.
Sequence came in, mad that I had made "Mom" cry. I ignored the
pain and forced myself out of bed, making Sequence take me to where she
was. I opened the door to find her crying in Ulysses' lap. I sat down
next to her and spoke quietly. I apologized as best I could, trying to
hide the hurt of her seeking comfort with Ulysses. I told her I loved
her, and that I would try to be very careful from then on. She said I
should go back to bed. I didn't think I could make it back myself, and
told her so. Ulysses then Trumped me back into my bed. Asshole.
Laughter came in and we talked more. I had no idea she had become so
dependent on me. We would have to work on that, for if the Unicorn's
words were right, die some day I would, so that Alaric could rule.
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