But they tell me to please go fuck myself
You know you just can't win
"Loss for Words", Pink Floyd
Even after my loss, I am not allowed a moment's respite.
I was handling things quite calmly after the trial. I would rest
in the morning, and spend the afternoon atop the battlements, practicing
my art. Only by giving myself totally to the rhythmic movements of Tai
Quan, can I find inner peace. The rest of my time is spent in meditation
and silent mourning.
This afternoon changed all that.
Upon returning to my quarters I discovered a large box festooned
with colored paper. I opened it, and was shocked to find Graham's severed
head. Oh, my mentor, I had hoped you would not be caught up in all this.
Once again I've brought death to those I love. Maybe Benedict was right
about this curse. Who's next? Aelle? My child? Inside the box was a
poem about the Fire Pattern.
It was rigged. Damn Benedict to hell. He knew Aleksandr would
never survive. Bastard.
God, I feel ill.
Wrapped in the note was a Trump of a smiling young man, with blond
hair and brown eyes. The smile oozed with smugness and cruelty. I undid
the catch on my sword belt, and activated the Trump. He recognized me,
and I asked him why. He suggested we speak in private. I feigned
approval, and drew Trueblade as I was pulled through the contact. I
grabbed at him to put the sword to his neck, but he ducked. I took up a
defensive posture, leveling Nevermiss at his head.
"You have ten seconds to explain yourself," I growled.
He introduced himself as Orrin, and told me that Graham had died
under his command, by a black-haired, blue-eyed man. This didn't explain
the rhyme and the Trump. But when he mentioned that he was the son of
Osric, things clicked into place. He had me where he wanted me, and
vengeance would be his. I moved into an attack posture, but I was not
quick enough to avert the dust thrown in my face. It rendered me
unconscious, but not before I let loose with a Power Word of Pain.
He finds greater satisfaction in enslaving me, and humiliating me
with a whorish outfit and a chain around my neck. I was bound to his
throne. My attempts to escape proved for naught, and I fell asleep on the
I was awakened by a familiar face. I recognized him as the man
who bade me flee when Graham and I last rode together in Helene. A
limited conversation got me his name -- Jubal. He won't help me, nor get
me anything else to wear. The humiliation is total when Orrin's armies
enter the main hall. Jubal tosses out the red carpet for the king. He
addresses them, and asks if any defy him. Since none do, they disperse.
Funny, they all have that same look in their eyes.
I told him that enslaving me won't work, as Benedict no longer
cares what happens to me. Orrin grins, which I hate with a passion. He
says Benedict still cares for me, and he'll come. Even if he doesn't,
someone from Amber will eventually come for me. I can't argue with that
logic. Though I don't expect Archimedes to come with the white-hot fury
that he does when Laughter was kidnapped, I know there will be a response.
Orrin has shown me his weakness, but I can't exploit it. He's
taken with me. He wants me as his wife and queen. I've got to use this
to my advantage. Unfortunately, I fear that due to my strained relations
with Amber, it would be believed that I had actually turned traitor.
A most shocking discovery indeed. Orrin asked how I got away from
him last time. I pointed out that Jubal told me to escape. Orrin frowned
at this, drew his sword, and pierced Jubal straight through the heart.
Jubal returned to his station. Never did he once drop to his knees.
After breakfast, Orrin showed me his troops. I feel so disgraced
walking about half-naked. When we left the castle, I could tell we were
in Helene. We walked over to three huge cauldrons, into which dead bodies
were tossed. Moments later, to my horror, the bodies re-animated and
crawled out of the cauldrons. So, this was how he was doing it. Undead
troops to march upon Amber. No wonder Jubal wasn't affected by Orrin's
sword thrust -- he's already dead.
Disheartened, I was lead to a room. I fell upon the bed, tugged
at my binds, and fell into a sleep.
I awoke with a hand on my shoulder. I would not pass up this
opportunity. I grabbed hold and tossed Orrin across the room. A moment
of small satisfaction at best. "Just as I was to give you a present," he
muttered, rubbing his head. "Do you still want it?"
"Fine," I sighed.
The guards led my mother and Kaedric in. Kaedric had been
horribly beaten. Aelle looked discouraged.
"Was there anyone else with you?" I asked.
Aelle looked down at the floor. "Mok..." Kaedric whispered.
And then I knew.
"Oh, don't worry. Mok won't be dead for long," said Orrin.
I pleaded for a decent burial of Mok. Orrin told me it was either
Mok or Aelle and Kaedric.
Bile rose to my throat. "My mother and Kaedric, then."
"Oh, you can have dinner with them later," Orrin grinned as the
prisoners were led away. "If you need anything, ask the guard. But you
know," and he leaned closer to me, "You can get more presents as my wife,
instead of being my hostile witness."
I didn't say anything. As he was leaving, he told me to ask the
guard if I needed anything, laughing. I hailed him. "You think I'm
hostile now, just wait."
He grinned again and left.
And here I sit. I must get back to Amber and warn Archimedes. I
have to tell him that a horde of undead warriors is about to take the
castle. I've got theories on how to stop them. I've got to save Aelle
and Kaedric. I've got to get my swords. I've got to stop Orrin.
We're standing at the gates of Hell, and the armies of darkness
are about to be unleashed. And here I sit, naked, chained to a bed.
Bitter tears are mine this night.
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