I talked with a chancellor regarding Killian's punishment the
following morning. He suggested a week's rest in between trials. I
couldn't think of a reason not to do that, so I agreed. I certainly
wasn't out to kill the idiot, for reasons I didn't like to think about, so
I arranged for the first trial to begin at noon. Just as I was finishing
my discussion, a page informed me that Ragnar wished to speak to me. I
felt about as comfortable bringing him to Amber as I had Jubal. When
would I learn to stop picking up strays, useful as they might appear?
He wanted to discuss Finndo's camp in the Strangeways. He thought
he could infiltrate it and kill a good share of the men, and that it would
be an excellent opportunity for me to strike the first blow. Not that I
didn't appreciate a healthy dislike for Finndo, but I really had to wonder
what was in it for him. Unless this was a new assignment from his
unknown, and apparently well-intentioned, employer. I asked him what he
wanted in return. I had to stop myself from laughing when he answered by
saying transportation. I had a day to chose who I wanted to take with me.
This would be a truly horrible time to find out that Ragnar actually
worked for Finndo.
Then I received a note from my son, Dakota. Busy morning. Almost
reminded me of when I was king. He needed a break from watching Killian.
That I could understand. I told him I would send someone, and Trumped
Claudio. I informed him he had next shift on the crazy barbarian.
Random wanted to speak with me before the combat at noon.
Apparently he had talked with Kaedric about establishing a embassy in
Chaos. I wasn't sure how I fit in to all of this until he mentioned Flora
and Ulysses. Those were his two choices for ambassador. Of course, I
opted for Flora. Things with Chaos were tentative enough at the moment
without putting a blatant racist on the job, and Ulysses had never been
quiet about his dislike of Chaos or its denizens, ironic as it might be.
Random didn't think Flora would bite, though. Somehow I got talked into
speaking with Ulysses if Random was unable to convince Flora. That would
While I had Random's attention, I mentioned Ragnar's plan. Random
wasn't thrilled about it, and went as far as to forbid it, unless we had a
much more solid plan. I could respect that. I decided I had better check
up on Ragnar's claims of not having viable transportation.
It took me a while to find Fiona, and she surely didn't look happy
when I did. She answered no when I asked her whether or not Ragnar had
Logrus. I couldn't help but ask if there was anything I could do to ease
her irritation. She suggested that Chaos' embassy in Amber be far removed
from the castle. I immediately sent Random a note to that effect. I had
no idea what this said about Niccolo's replacement, and I pondered that as
I prepared myself for battle.
The arena was packed. I didn't know we had a PR guy, but he did a
damn fine job. I left Song with Laughter, wanting to meet Killian on
common ground by facing him with a weapon he was familiar with. I ignored
the nagging sensation that screamed that I couldn't kill him. Not that it
mattered much, because once I got to the center of the arena, the fucker
wouldn't fight me. Called me the spirit guide, or something equally
foolish. Well, I had arranged this farce, and I'd be damned if he was
going to evade it that easily. I called Dakota from the stands. Killian
accepted combat with him, and Dakota proceeded to kick the shit out of
him. Good boy, that kid of mine. And while I still couldn't stand the
thought of Killian's death, our shared souls didn't share any of the pain
he was soaking up with me. I call that a good thing. I called the
contest at an end when Killian could no longer pull himself from the dirt
of the arena floor, and gave himself over to the relief of
That afternoon, I listened to Ragnar's plan. There were very few
holes to fill, and we tightened the plan up. Neither Caine nor Benedict
were interested in joining us, so I would have to pull volunteers from my
cousins. Dakota, Sky and Claudio were all willing. I told Bleys he was
coming, as I needed someone who could read the damn book. I wasn't ready
to trust Ragnar that much. I gave Random the updated version of the plan.
He still wasn't thrilled but wasn't ready to pass the opportunity up,
either. I left the Jewel with him.
We once again entered the Strangeways. It was decided that Bleys
and Claudio would use sorcery to lay waste to as many of the troops as
possible, and offer the rest of us protection where they could, especially
since Claudio had brought his children. We dispatched the sentries, and
Ragnar told us to wait in hiding until he gave the signal. I've never
been good at waiting. I was kind of glad I did however, as all holy
magical hell seemed to have broken loose in the middle of the camp shortly
after Ragnar left us. There was enough of a wind to make us dig in, and
it looked like things were really flying at the center of the camp. It
took Ragnar forever to give us the signal, but once he did, it didn't
really take long. Thank Lyr the wind had died by then.
The end was a bit sticky, though. The wind started to pick up
again, and a dark shape blotted out the stars. I yelled for Bleys to get
us moving. No sooner had we entered the Strangeways again than we found
our path blocked. It was Brandle, and two fucking enormous birds. I
thought I had found Finndo's double agent, until he said that he merely
didn't want us running amuck at the crossroads, whatever the hell that
was. Ragnar assured Brandle that we weren't, in fact, going there. The
birds let us pass and we got back to Amber as quickly as possible.
The repercussions I was expecting from Finndo never came, and
Laughter and I were re-wed a week later. Just a small ceremony this time.
I kind of liked it. Killian's second trial was also held then, and was to
be the Fire Pattern. He handled that easily until he got to the center,
disappeared, and failed to reappear with us like I had told him to.
Claudio went after him. I was contemplating putting Killian in temporal
stasis for the next 50 years when I got a Trump call. It was Fiona and
she was requesting my presence. How could I refuse? The sight of the
room she pulled me into set the hair on the back of my neck to standing on
end. Killian looked uneasy as well. A dislike of sorcery we had in
common without sharing souls. Arranged around the room were our
duplicates. At least, there were duplicates of everyone who had
'survived' the end of the world. I was all for getting the hell out of
there as soon as possible, so much so, that I didn't really hear what
Fiona was saying, only that she was talking about a horn or other such
nonsense. And then Killian threw the object in question at my head, damn
him. I caught it reflexively. As my hand clasped around it, I heard a
faint horn note in my head, and my double on the bed twitched. Carved
into the side of the horn were the words, "To awaken them when the time
has come." Apparently this little experiment had decided me as the person
in charge when "the time came." Lovely. I vocalized more firmly my
opinion that we leave this place alone. This time they all moved.
I returned to my quarters and fought the urge to do whiskey shots
until I forgot about that horrible room. I set Killian up in Rebma
instead, which was a much better application of nervous energy.
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