Archimedes looked up with an intent, focused look on his face, and
I knew that he was taking a Trump contact. I frowned. "I'm going through
to talk to Martin," he said, handing me Beatrice. He disappeared. In the
corner, I heard Song mutter angrily to himself. Sequence answered,
something in a snotty tone to the effect of "Mom would never leave me
"Enough!" I said in a warning tone to the swords. Beatrice turned
her head almost worriedly towards me, hearing a quality to my voice she
did not like, squinching up her little face almost as if she were going to
cry. I cradled her closer, then laid her down beside Alaric and began to
tickle their tummies. I was well-rewarded for this, and a pleasant
afternoon was spent.
The dinner hour came. I wondered if I should Trump my husband,
but felt certain he would not be so rude as to not contact me and tell me
his plans for the evening unless he were involved in something very
important. Or unless he were unable to do anything. I don't know if I
looked over at the desk and saw his Trump deck lying there, or if I felt
for the contact through the ring first, but within a few short moments, I
was more than a little panicked. I called Alfred and handed the children
over and Trumped Martin.
"I never Trumped him, Laughter. What are you talking about?"
By the end of the evening, having spoken with my mother, with
Benedict and Kaedric, I realized that a full half of my family had been
taken, systematically. Archimedes, Mandor, Ulysses, Sky, Sylvie, Vain,
Flynn, Caitlin, Claudio, Sandr and Merlin, all gone. I paced around my
quarters feeling like Satan himself, with all the plans I was making to
torture whoever was responsible for this. I sent messages to assemble who
we had left for a meeting on the morrow.
There was a knock. I jerked the door open to see Jurt -- my uncle
on the Sawall side. I smiled tightly, and waved him in.
"I've looked for her high and low," he said, scratching the back of
his head and looking a little sheepish. "Can't find a trace of her --
He sketched a space in mid-air with his hands and began playing
the spell for me. I saw Sylvie, standing stock still on the Plain of
Arden, looking suspiciously at a hole in the ground that had opened up
just in front of her. It wasn't like a Trump contact hole. I saw her
lips move, as if speaking to someone, and then she stepped into it.
"No audio?" I asked, disappointed.
He shook his head.
"Was in his quarters and then was gone. His quarters are warded
against this thing ten ways from a Blue-turn."
"Ah." I looked at him. "Thanks, Jurt."
He just nodded, and then left.
So, there was no trace of what happened to any of them, except for
what Jurt dug up on Sylvie.
I sat for a long time in Archimedes' chair by the fire. It didn't
help much. There was a long strand of green hair on the arm, that he had
shed in the course of the day, that wouldn't be cleaned up 'til the maid
visited the next morning. I twined it around my fingers and tried to
meditate. But when I tried to clear my mind, nothing happened. The
nightmares from Abigail were there. Archimedes, with his throat
slashed... I reached for a glass of water I knew was beside me on the
table and threw it into the fire. The tinkle of glass was satisfying, but
the fire that flared up was disturbing. I had spilled a bit of the water
on my hand as I threw it, and I tasted it, delicately. Absinthe.
Well. At least I knew the cultists didn't know he was missing. I
spit into the fire rather than swallow the stuff.
The next morning elicited a finding from my mother, who replayed
the scene of Ulysses and Sandr stepping into a hole in the universe not
unlike the one that Sylvie had stepped into. I asked Kaedric to bring
Melanie in on this, and theories of Inter-Shadow were bandied about --
only that anyone who had much of a clue on the subject had been taken.
Benedict chose this point to remind me that there was an army
marching up this way through the back paths of Shadow. I, King pro
tempore by sheerest accident of who I decided to marry, ordered him to see
to it. Please. He went, looking like thunderheads in the distance. He
had lost his daughter, after all.
I tried to contact Tianen -- she is a master of time magic, after
all; but she was not reached, either, and I put her on the list of missing
The rest of the day passed with Beauty sitting on the window seat
in my quarters looking sad and distant, while a bubbling Oriana ran Alfred
ragged. Archimedes' secretary approached me, looking lost, and I gave
orders to convert half the upstairs storage rooms to several large
quarters. There had been reason for this before they all left. Perhaps
there would be reason again.
A week passed. Benedict Trumped me and came through to say that
his army was assembled, and waiting, and they would allow the Badlanders
to march right up into them, and defeat them with an ambush of grand
proportion. This seemed a sound plan to me.
Beauty spent much time with Vialle and all the children; I came in
from a review of the guard and found her reading a tale to Oriana and
Kevin and Vialle, called "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." I've never
liked that story. It's long and complicated, and it starts out like
"Beauty and the Beast" but ends as something quite different. She was at
the end when I came in, where the heroine is rescuing the prince from the
trolls, or some such nonsense. That night I dreamed that Archimedes was
being held by the trolls, and I didn't have the ability to command the
North Wind to take me to him. I woke up, went to the sitting room, and
threw the book of tales out the window.
I remained in a very, very bad mood, and it only got worse, when
Benedict came through to tell me that the army was being aided by an
empatterned person and a Logrus wielder. Which meant that they had
by-passed Benedict's army and were well on their way into Arden. I came
out of my mood to act, and we began to mobilize. Mother brought Bleys in
from parts unknown, and he led a battalion and killed with fierce and
silent intensity. Corwin found me, and I was amazed to see he was whole
again; he brought troops from some Shadow previously unknown to the rest
of us. I used the Trump gate from the first battle I fought for Amber,
and brought my troops in from Foil. I tried not to think of the Puca.
And still, we were losing. We were badly outnumbered, even though
Mother brought in thousands of fresh troops daily. We were lucky that
Archi had turned off Logrus before he left.
Finally, one night, Corwin knocked on my door and bowed. "Your
Majesty," he said. "There is the matter of the Jewel."
I would have been more than happy to let him use it for Amber, but
he felt that he was more inclined to the battlefield than the battlements.
And that the rigors of the battle were not recommended for one in my
I glared at him.
"Your daughter told me," he admitted. "And as to your condition,
you don't want Benedict to know that you've been on the field while
carrying a child, do you?"
As a matter of fact... no, I didn't particularly want that.
"So, you will allow me to attune you to the Jewel?"
And he did.
From then on, the battle went somewhat better. We were only a day
away from victory when the Eye pulsed once, and I knew there was Logrus in
the vicinity. I frowned, but Mother held up a hand and said, "Do not
target that Logrus-user, dear. It's your father."
I just looked at her, but didn't ask any questions.
Then Ulysses appeared beside me.
They were all back.
Most of them are on the battlefield, and won't return to the
castle until nightfall. Including my wayward husband, who is, as Ulysses
said, working out frustration. I'm inclined to pout, but not that much.
It's good enough to know he's alive. And the fact that I have to wait
makes the death I rain down on the enemy all the greater. Nothing
inherently wrong with that, is there?
He's not wearing the ring, though.
But I can see him through the Eye.
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