I had finally given the idea enough thought that I wanted
Laughter's opinion on it. Her concern over my fragility with the return
of my soul had inspired the thought in the first place, and I told her so.
I had expanded on an idea of old; the one where Ulysses would redraw the
tattoo and imbibe it with Trump energy. I was after bigger game than that
this time around, however. If I could somehow infuse shapeshifting into
the tattoo, I should be able to increase my rate of healing. It would be
lot like making an item, but a bit more personal, in that they'd have to
skin me to get the item away. I didn't tell her that, of course. What I
really wanted her opinion on, though, was whether or not I could get
Kaedric to help me with the shapeshifting aspect of the plan.
She was surprised, and wanted to know what had inspired the change
in my level of trust. Common sense, I had to admit, and the death of
paranoia. The man had never done anything to harm me, regardless of the
positions we held. On the contrary, he had been more than helpful. Petty
jealously aside for the time he spent with Laughter, I was beginning to
feel comfortable with him. It had been, more or less, through me that
Kaedric's daughter, Alora, had been conceived. How could Kaedric bear me
any serious ill will? She chuckled over my logic, but thought Kaedric
would be amenable to the overall idea of helping. She even suggested that
we invite the Kaedrics to dinner. Her word, not mine.
I was afraid of the possible international incident that would
cause, so she suggested someplace in Shadow, the Lantern Gardens. I asked
her what that was, and I'll be damned if she didn't blush. I had to touch
her cheek to verify her reaction. That had been some damned powerful
peyote, after all, but she actually was blushing. Whatever this place
was, it had to be good, so I agreed. I'm sure it's uniqueness had
something to do with the floor show she mentioned.
I Trumped Kaedric to offer the invitation. He looked surprised by
my choice of restaurants, so I assured him that the choice had been
Laughter's. I also warned him that there was a bit of business that I
wished to discuss.
He Trumped back later to let me know that he was ready. I
collected Laugher and stepped through. I nodded to Melanie. We were
standing in a bustling marketplace. Kaedric led us through the market to
an open-air restaurant. Apparently he was already familiar with the
Lantern Gardens, as well. Once the floor show did start, I realized why
Laughter had blushed at having to explain it. It was an odd production,
made more odd by the fact that the performers wore no clothes.
It was then that Laughter, in all of her subtlety, provided the
distraction for Melanie that I had asked for, if not in the way I had
visualized. She asked Melanie to go to the bathroom with her.
After they left, I explained to Kaedric my plans for the tattoo
and avoiding a fast death. He thought it at least possible, and we
planned to begin the next morning.
Ulysses Trumped shortly after we arrived back in Amber. He had
given asylum to Caitlin. I wanted to know why such a thing was necessary,
but he didn't know. I heard Laughter say "oops" in the background. I
asked Ulysses to Trump back, so that I could query my wife in private.
She explained how Finndo had invaded, and taken over Halybard. I didn't
have a chance to take her to task on it, however, because there was a
knock on my door. It was Isaac, one of Claudio's boys. Claudio was
missing, and he hadn't been able to get in touch with him. I quickly
decided that Kaedric would be the best one to handle it, so I Trumped him,
unsuccessfully. I tried at regular intervals until he answered. I had a
feeling of what I was interrupting, but Claudio was his brother, and I'm
sure Kaedric would want to know about it. I explained what I knew to
Kaedric, and his side of the conversation sparked quite an argument
between he and Melanie. So much so, that he asked to Trump me back in a
When he did, we went to Claudio's room, after he talked to Isaac.
Once in the room, Kaedric was able to tell that Claudio had been Trumped
by Corwin a few hours ago. More importantly, he was able to trace where
Corwin had Trumped him from. When we arrived there, we found both Corwin
and Claudio unconscious. Claudio had been badly wounded, in a way I
sympathized with, and Corwin looked to be the victim of sorcery. I was
half tempted to leave Corwin there, but called Random for his opinion on
the matter before making a decision. He was of no official opinion, so I
looked to Kaedric as next of kin. He shook his head and suggested we take
them back to Amber. He mumbled something about the two of them really
needing to work this out, and that they ought to be tossed in the same
When we returned to Amber, I saw that they were. Then I had a
flash of inspiration on the way back to my room, and returned, binding
them to each other in such a way to insure cooperation if they were to
The next morning, I got a Trump call from Moire. Killian had
apparently gotten clever and secured himself a spear. I had to go get his
word that he was not going to use it on any of the local populace.
Laughter got a big wet hug when she pulled me back through. I bet she
won't do that again soon.
Kaedric Trumped shortly thereafter with the vials of ink. Now the
real work began.
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