I Trumped Random immediately.  Nothing.  Nothing from Fiona or
Ulysses, either, damn it.  I paced the room for a few minutes before
placing a Trump of myself under Gerard's pillow and pulling out Benedict's
from my deck.  The card animated quickly.

	"I can't reach Random."  I took the hand he offered and stepped
through.  His frown deepened as I told him the story and of my recent
discovery that Finndo had a hand in it.  He suggested that I consult
someone with both serious Trump and Pattern knowledge.  I countered that
the only two that I knew of, and could trust, were currently unreachable. 
That's when he suggested Bleys, and it was my turn to frown.  I hadn't run
into Bleys a lot recently.  Maybe being soulless would increase my coping
skills.  Benedict then mentioned that Bleys was in Corwin's universe, and
we would need Melanie's help to get us there, since Ulysses was numbered
among the missing.  The feelings of unease caught up to me hard about
then.  I decided to delegate and handed Kaedric's Trump to Benedict.

	The next thing I knew, I was standing in front of Bleys and a
barbarian who had a spear hefted and aimed at my chest.  I placed my hand
on Song's hilt, and with a quick mathematical equation, decided that the
odds of my being able to draw Song and knock the spear out of the way
before it made contact with one of my vital organs could definitely be
better.  I settled for one of my best "don't even try it" looks.  Corwin,
who had been there all along, but who my senses had refused to acknowledge
in favor of the spear-bearer, quickly introduced Bleys and I to his son,
Killian.  At least this one didn't have blue hair.

	Benedict drew Bleys aside to speak to him privately, and I allowed
myself to relax a little, as Killian was now leaning on his spear instead
of pointing it at me.  The Jewel felt odd in this strange land.  I
wondered briefly if Random and I would ever have the chance to argue over
it again.  Then Corwin spoke.  He told me that Sky had told him a story of
the future, a future in which both he and his land were destroyed.  I
looked at the man for a moment, a man I didn't know all that well, really,
and tried to decide what I should tell him and what I shouldn't.  My
granddaughter, Sky, was currently making her life with him, and he and
Random had always gotten along.  I closed my eyes and sighed.  Yes, it was
true, I told him.  A lot about the future had already been changed,
though.  If he was still concerned, he would do well to keep an eye on his
son, Merlin.  I'm not sure what effect the information had on him, but I
had been honest and it felt good.  By that time Benedict had finished with
Bleys, and they appeared to be ready to leave.  I nodded my farewell to
Killian, and mentioned to Bleys as we left that Killian didn't seem to
like him much.  I just might be able to get along with this Killian
fellow, after all.

	Benedict and Bleys wanted to meet in the war room in an hour.  As
I pulled Laughter's Trump out of my deck, that whole, horrible, sick
feeling in the pit of my stomach began to reform.  I did not relish the
thought of facing Finndo again.  He'd killed me once already.  Maybe the
next time he'd get it right.

	Laughter's Trump animated, and I smiled to hide my thoughts.  She
looked somewhat disgruntled and told me Beatrice had a new habit.  I
smiled as I squared the deck and put it away.  At least I had the trials
and tribulations of family life to distract me.  When I arrived at our
quarters, Laughter informed me that Beatrice had been eating mud.  I tried
to hide my amusement for Laughter's sake.  I also conjured Bea a cup of
milk to help the dirt pass.  I enjoyed Bea's smile for a while, and then I
told Laughter all I had learned of late.  Of course, she wanted to
accompany me wherever this took me.

	"Our children need at least one parent," I told her, and knew I
would regret having said it.

	"Yes," she said.  "And by the word of the Unicorn, it should be
you."  I had an ace up my sleeve, though.  I placed my palm on her growing
abdomen, and looked up at her.  I couldn't feel Chance moving within her,
yet.  That's when the page knocked at the door.  The boy said that Claudio
wanted to speak to me.  I hadn't been aware that Claudio had returned to
Amber.  I looked at Laughter and asked her if our discussion was over. 
She frowned at me and said that she was staying, so yes.  However, she was
going to attend the meeting, no matter what.  I smiled and gave her a kiss
before leaving.  She mentioned something about the fact that the captain
shouldn't go on away teams, but I didn't follow.

	It didn't take me long to find Claudio.  His mood seemed strange
to me.  He said that Sky wanted to speak to me, and then, for the second
time in one day, the scenery around me lurched violently and I found
myself in a different local.  Sky cursed and dove behind a dressing
screen.  I motioned Claudio down to my level.  He acquiesced.

	"If you ever do that again without warning me, I'll kill you."  I
didn't really get a chance to assess his reaction to that, as Sky was
rather insistent that he leave the room.  "Oh ho!" my mind said, then,
"What about Corwin?"

	"Since you're hiding from Claudio, when's the wedding?" I asked. 
I wasn't sure if this was better than Corwin, or worse.  It was
unexpected.  I wondered how Corwin was handling it.  Since Claudio had
courted her within the laws of the Lakota, she wished the ceremony to
follow them as well.  That gave me quite a bit of leeway as her male
relative.  I consented.  What a funny way life has of going on, no matter
what the current crisis happened to be.  The wedding was in a month.  I
gave Sky my consent that all would be as she wished.

	Claudio was waiting for me when I walked out of the room.  I
looked him up and down slowly, then chuckled with satisfaction.  I only
gave him enough information about the coming rituals to scare the hell out
of him.

	A page scurried up then and informed me that a strange man had
just Trumped into the main hall.  I've gotten in the habit, of late, of
keeping my card for the main hall at the very front of my deck.  I arrived
in the main hall on my own before Claudio had a chance to teleport us
there.  I don't know whether I was relieved by the sight of Killian, or
not.  I certainly didn't have time right then to take much responsibility
for him.  I hailed him and welcomed him, but cautioned him against doing
harm while he was in Amber.  I hoped he understood. On an impulse, I gave
him Kaedric's Trump.  I didn't really like having it in my deck, anyway. 
Killian asked me if Sky were in Amber.  I said she was, and grew
suspicious as to his reasons for asking.  I didn't have to wonder long, as
he went on to say that since she was here, he did have to bring her here. 
I couldn't help but ask him how he had intended to do that.  I was a bit
shocked by his answer.  Corwin had wanted Killian to toss Sky over his
shoulder and walk the Rose with her.  My eyes narrowed in a frown. 
Killian picked up on that, and mentioned that Corwin was a little upset
that Claudio had stole his woman.  I didn't get from Killian's tone that
he was extremely attached to his father.  That was fortunate.

	I had time to do some of Random's paperwork for him before the
meeting.  I was amused to recognize Melanie's seal and signature on it. 
Apparently Chaos was sending us an ambassador, one Niccolo Vertix, and
Melanie was now the Chief Ambassador of Chaos.  That would be interesting.

	I had wanted Caine and Julian at the meeting, as well as Flora and
Laughter.  Bleys also brought someone named Melchior with him, who was
supposed to be an expert.  I also had some of the military higher-ups
there as well.  Once everyone was settled, I again told the tale of
Gerard's disappearance, of how Ulysses and I had found him, the race to
save him, of bringing Fiona's expertise to bear, of Random, Ulysses and
Fiona going to investigate the spot, and of Gerard waking up and saying
Finndo's name.  Julian wanted to go to Gerard immediately.  I took his
hand and mentally gave him the coordinates.  After everyone had had a
chance to digest this news a bit, it was Melchior's turn to take the
floor.  He explained that there were passages through Shadow that existed
before the Logrus, during the time of the Warlords, and that these were
called the Strange Ways.  He continued by saying that the Pattern treats
Shadow, and locomotion through it, as if it were a flat piece of paper,
while the Strange Ways treated it like a crumpled piece of paper.  Arrival
points using the Strange Ways tended to be a bit random, but there were
maps.  Of course, the maps had been in the library, but were now gone.  I
sent Laughter to the library to use the talking bones, but I knew the
answer.  Finndo.

	No one had any way of locating Finndo.  I asked if any other maps
existed. Melchior said that there was another book.  It was in Atlantis,
near a Shadow called Ivory, at a place called the Nexus where the Shadows
of magic meet.  I found myself grasping the jewel around my neck
reflexively at the mention of magic, my one weakness.  While Ivory is a
Shadow more based on technology than magic, Atlantis is stronger in magic. 
Just my luck, and I was beginning to wonder just where Bleys had dug
Melchior up from.  Ah well, I had no choice.  I needed that book, so the
Nexus was to be my next destination.

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