I stared at the card. Silver rose, black cloak. Bemused look on
his face. I grit my teeth. Nothing. I fear the death of Corwin - though
I did not know him that well, I had heard the stories of his return from
the Shadow Earth, and his movements against Brand to preserve Order. But
this, of all times, was not the one to mourn. A swarm of dead was about
to charge Amber. I must be ready.
I riffled through the cards -- the new pack I picked up in the
library before talking to Archimedes -- and found Fiona. Remembering that
day I first used her Trump in Helene, I smiled a bit, then activated the
card. She was terribly busy, but I thought she needed to know about the
undead, that Jubal, Mok, or Tristan were likely to be among them, along
with whatever other Amberites Orrin had defeated. She considered this
with silence and faint irritation at being bothered. I also handed her
the piece of the cauldron I lifted from the destruction in Helene. I also
reported Merlin's disappearance at the hands of Orrin, and Fiona could
only shrug. I didn't have to tell her that Merlin's father was not
answering his Trump.
Breaking the contact, I regarded the pennants flying in the skies.
My own streamed from my standard bearer's lance, red silk emblazoned with
the stylized image of an open flame, stitched in brown. My symbol. My
colors. It bothered me not to see the yellow flag of the sunflower; no
one can ever fill my father's place on the battlefield. I did notice a
familiar pennant off to my right, and a blue-haired woman riding to meet
me, carrying it.
Sky was not certain as to what exactly we were doing -- if these
were exercises, or even who the enemy was. I filled her in as best I
could, telling her what to expect. I was sorely tempted to tell her about
Merlin, but I kept it to myself. Now was not the time, nor did I mention
Corwin's silence. I wished her luck in the battle. We are very much
alike, Sky and I.
The crack was near-deafening, and dust mushroomed into the air
above what was once Arden. The hordes of undead pouring out froze my
soul. There was no end to them. I steadied my horse, and watched the
battlements for Archimedes' first move.
I have held the Jewel of Judgment, having retrieved it from Faine
so many days ago, and I had no idea of the powers it possessed. Archi
commanded fire, lightning, winds, and elemental death to pour upon the
enemy. Such an attack would have stopped any other force. But the troops
were not fazed, and continued toward us. I reminded my troops to aim for
decapitations -- that would seem the best way to stop them, if we could.
We engaged them, and it went poorly. Our troops fought
desperately, but any enemy that never stops, never tires, doesn't feel
pain... We began to suffer casualties. I moved to the back of the lines
and Trumped Ulysses, as Archi was presumably busy. He was agitated, and
suggested I do what I thought, in so many words. I tried to get
Archimedes anyway, but he was busy, as I had guessed. I signaled Sky
above the mayhem to fall back, and we did, still engaging the undead.
My mother appeared beside me, free of her shackles, and I smiled
as she leapt into the fray, blades whirling, the movements of the Tai Quan
evident even to a novice such as I. I thought then best to try my new
abilities, sheathing my swords, and concentrating on personal
manipulation. Moments later, horned, scaled, and taloned, I joined the
battle by my mother's side.
It was unusual, then, that the undead troops stopped as they
backed us up to the castle. They would attack anything that came near,
but did not further advance. I put Aelle in charge of my unit, contacted
Sky, and went into the castle to see what was going on.
I caught a vision of a figure flying up and away, so I morphed
wings and followed it. It was demon-esque, yet familiar...
"Caitlin?" The voice was undoubtedly Melanie's.
She told me what was going on. Trump was down in Amber proper, as
well as magic. We spread our wings and flew for the edge of Arden, where
we could Shadow- shift for Archimedes and Laughter. We failed, though, to
find them. I gave Melanie the secrets to Shadow/shapeshifting, and we
tried that way. Still, we were unsuccessful. It seemed as if they were
somewhere *inside* of Amber. It then clicked that perhaps the Primal
The bubble of whiteness consumed the sky. A wave of energy
expanded from Castle Amber, engulfing everything. We would soon be taken
if we didn't act. Melanie brought Sky and Aelle in from the battlefield,
and we regarded the approaching wave. Melanie Trumped us to Ixaxis, which
I had gathered to be Claudio's home Shadow. Unfortunately, the wave was
carving its was through each and every reality. We had only hours before
we were consumed.
The fight was over. We had given our all, yet we still came up
short. I tested my shapeshifting abilities once more, I had had them so
few days. I perfected a massive she-bear form, before giving up.
Aelle sat on a stump a few feet away. I approached her.
"It was fun."
She regarded me with a nod, a sad smile on her face. "Caitlin...
I wish I could have known you better."
"I wish that also, Mother. But I appreciate every moment I spent
with you." I sat down next to her, and draped an arm about her shoulder.
We sat regarding the wave of whiteness that approached. I looked at
Melanie, and at Sky, and then at Aelle, and smiled. No matter how it
ended, I would go with my eyes open wide.
The wave hit.
It was as bright as night.
I stumbled about, groping for Aelle's hand, and noticed two
figures in the distance. I then noticed the disparity between them. One
was Benedict, that much was certain. The smallish figure I assumed to be
the mysterious Dworkin.
My father was sad, yet stern, as usual. Dworkin was busy working
on something or other.
"What's... what's going on, Father?"
"He's rewriting." Before I could ask what exactly that meant,
Benedict's demeanor broke. "Caitlin, I regret the things that had come
I lowered my head. "We did things...no father should do to his
daughter, and no daughter should do to her father." Those words were
truth, whether it meant the Ty Dahl, or my tryst with Aleksandr, or the
estrangement between Benedict and Aelle. "If this is indeed a chance to
set things right, let's make sure...things turn out differently."
He nodded. Dworkin muttered something about "not being much time
left," and I embraced my father, quickly, before the light flared up and I
I pulled my robes around me and hopped out of bed, wandering into
the other room. Graham stood at the fire tending to breakfast. "What...
Graham?" I stammered.
"Caitlin?!?!?" he remarked back, laughing. Graham. Alive. He
mentioned something about being in between jobs, but I was too dazed to
follow. "Excuse me a moment...," I whispered, and retreated to my room,
searching for my swords, expecting Splinter and Thorn. Yet it was the
Pattern blades that sat in their scabbards. I regarded the Pattern
filigree that encompassed both blades -- Nevermiss, from near the
beginning/middle of the Pattern, and Trueblade, from near the middle/end
of it -- and also found my Trumps. I skimmed them and found Benedict's
Trump. I activated it.
"Who are you?"
"Father, it's me, Caitlin, your daughter! Don't you recognize me?"
"Perhaps we should have lunch..."
He did not know me, and I told him the story of my existence in
Amber up until then, as a warm breeze passed through Avalon. He
considered everything I said, and then moved aside, and Trumped someone.
He then left. What had Dworkin done?
Benedict returned, telling me that others had returned with
similar stories. He suggested I Trump to Amber and meet with King Random.
I assumed this to be Archimedes' father, having never met the man. I
prepared my Trump, but paused. I told Benedict that I wanted to know him,
and that I wanted him to visit me in Amber. He said he had no Trump of
me, and I promised to find him one. And then I told him that I was with
child, and he nodded. He must never know what he had learned before. I
smiled at him. He asked if I was going to look for Aelle, and I said yes,
and that I hoped they could get along better this time around. He
considered it. I waved and activated the Trump.
Random was too busy to meet with me, but said he'd talked with
Ulysses and Archimedes, and that he understood and heard the stories over
and over, and he wasn't about to listen to them again. How terse, but
understandable. I approached Ulysses at dinner, and he suggested that we
not pollute the timeline, or something to that effect. I will abide by
this, for now.
After dinner, I was assigned a room, and I went there, riffling
through my Trump deck. I found the one, of the cocky young man with the
red hair, and my heart felt an ache that had been hollow since the Ty
Dahl. I concentrated on the card, tears welling in my eyes. C'mon...
Black suit, greet shirt... Sweat rolled down my face... Silver sphere...
The card refused to grow cold. I replaced it, noting to myself
that I had torn apart the stitches of weeks of healing since that day on
the Fire Pattern. Was he dead? Missing? Did he even exist? Oh Alek,
I'm still so sorry....
The knock at my door startled me. I regained my composure, and
opened the door to see Claudio and Sky, both looking rather glum. Claudio
wondered about telling people what we knew. I had never seen the man
so... flustered, more or less. He was worried about his father, Delwin.
I told them about Sandr's Trump, and how it would not function. I also
reminded them that Brand was more than likely still alive. Sky reminded
me that Sandr could still be alive. We discussed Mok and Merlin, and the
people we knew, and how to handle dealing with them.
I wished them good night, retired, carrying a candle and my Trumps
to my bed. I looked over those I had known...Ulysses, Sandr,
Archimedes...Laughter, Sky, Melanie...Claudio, Mok, Merlin...Benedict,
Fiona, Kaedric... And I thought about those I met today...Random, Julian,
How would things turn out this time?
Perhaps the cards would know, I thought, as I shuffled them, and
my fortune was cast...
So I walk up on high
And I step to the edge
To see my world below.
And I laugh at myself
As the tears roll down
'Cause it's the world I know.
It's the world I know.
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