To leave the thread of all time...
In hopes that I can still find
The way back to the moment
I took the turn...
I might be just beginning
I might be near the end
-- from "Anywhere Is"
The Memory of Trees, Enya
...and I was walking through a war-torn London, which was cold and
snowy and unbusy; all the squares were empty, and no place held people.
If there were people, they scuttled away quickly, hidden in poorly-charmed
glamours until they could find the next bolt-hole.
The matter of the ambush in the small town in France weighed
heavily on my mind, and I was entirely engrossed in the matter, wondering
how the na si forces could have found a breech in the walls between tiers
there, when it was a secret, and I had already taken it upon myself to
assassinate the wizards who could find that breech on their own. It could
be no accident. There had to be a traitor.
And of course, so engrossed was I in this thinking, that I
stupidly rounded the corner of St. Paul's without listening or looking or
even inspecting the snow for tracks, and that is when I quite suddenly
found myself in the middle of a knot of na siogai warriors on horseback.
If the moment then seemed familiar to me, which it must have, I
must have just taken it as the kind of heightened sensation that a person
gets when their life is suddenly in very real danger.
The na si, tall and pale on their tall, pale horses, looked down
at me from behind the masks of their helmets. It wasn't until the
leader's horse danced a little, beneath its nervous rider, that I even had
a clue as to what might be about to happen.
Calamus pulled off his helmet -- perhaps a gesture of good will...
his eyes sparkled in the light of the setting sun. I thought of ravens
"Sister," he said, almost graciously, almost as if it were a social
I regarded him, and said evenly, but not graciously, "Calamus." I
turned to the men with him and said "Sirs," also not graciously.
The tone, whatever I meant it to be in that moment, must have been
clear to Calamus, as his eyes narrowed, and he said, "Laughter, do not be
mistaken about who has the advantage here."
I raised an eyebrow in a contemptuous sort of way, but didn't
He hesitated. He's never liked my contempt, for several reasons,
not the greatest of which is simple sibling rivalry. For a minute, he
looked lost and lonely. He slid down off his horse and approached me.
"It's very simple, really, Laughter, and if you were truly my
sister, you would understand."
I still didn't answer. He grew frustrated with that.
"If you were my sister, you'd be half na si! And you'd be a
Princess, too. My father was a Prince, you see?"
In that too long moment where I pulled Sequence clear of the
scabbard, I thought a thousand things -- but mostly how becoming a na
siogai prince is not worth selling out villages in France. Or a sister.
Or a lover.
His head came off his shoulders with a sickening sound, and I
didn't watch it hit and roll before I turned and slit the throat of the
horse of the nearest man, and was soon engaged in battle with the na
siogai troop that had accompanied my late brother.
Two days later, we were engaged at close quarters with the puca,
when the faint feeling of a Trump contact bore down on me... much weaker
than what I was used to from my mother, so I surmised that she was very,
very far away.
When the face shimmered into view in front of me, I did not
recognize it right off -- the only thing I thought was, "green hair, how
interesting for him." Of course, in that moment, I felt my head ring with
a hit to my helmet, and I screamed, "Bide!" and kicked up my horse and
retreated to a secure edge.
I sort of recognized him, after a fashion -- his Trump was in the
standard deck, and he was somewhat important, being the Crown Prince of
Amber and all. His hair was much longer, though. He looked as though
he'd not slept well in ages. His chest was a mass of dried blood and red
glittery shards of something.
I thought I was being quite clever in recognizing him. "You're
the Crown Prince, aren't you?"
He looked utterly disappointed in me, said something hasty about
not bothering me, and cut the contact. I was left, puzzled, and seeing
the tide of battle wasn't going well, I hurried back into the fray and
scored myself a long jagged wound on my leg thanks to a puca ax. Damn
I dragged myself back to Castle Amber for the night, where I could
sleep a little easier, being mostly unimportant and all, and before that,
dragged myself upstairs to the infirmary, which was inconveniently empty.
I muttered a choice word or two, and began assembling supplies for
stitching my leg closed.
The Crown Prince came in then, with Ulysses. Archimedes took one
look at me and walked back out. I frowned, but Ulysses didn't seem to be
interested in leaving, and was willing to do me the favor of fixing my
leg. The Crown Prince came back in. He looked like he hurt in every
place on his body. Glass shards in the chest might do that to you. I was
impressed; even I have never sustained such a bizarre-looking injury.
His eyes were between brown and green, and when I looked up from
Ulysses' too perfect profile bent in deep concentration over my leg, I
caught him looking at me. His eyes darted away, like the clown fish in
his Trump. I was growing a little annoyed. He shouldn't be looking at me
like that with that wedding band on his finger, I thought, more than a tad
I turned my attention to Ulysses, instead, who seemed a little
different than I remembered him. I wondered if he had been to a fast time
Shadow, or something. His hair was longer than I remembered it. He had a
different look. And he wasn't trying to cop a feel. What was he up to?
And why he was he best buds with the Crown Prince?
They were bantering -- or at least Ulysses was. Archimedes and
Ulysses had obviously been through *something* together, and Ulysses was
taking it a lot better. Archimedes mentioned his wife a few times. As
though she were in the room. I didn't feel comfortable with this.
That was when I noticed Song. I don't know if I drew Sequence or
if Sequence came out on its own, but we both were suddenly as tense as we
had been two days before when we had had to subdue Song.
"Where did you get that?"
"You gave it to me."
Like hell I did. Ulysses admonished Archimedes to some extent,
and Archimedes said, in an exasperated tone, "She's my wife!"
They embarked on a convoluted story about future sorcery and one
thing and another -- weird stuff. It made my head spin more than a little
bit. I demanded some explanations, and just got more confused.
Archimedes told me, almost perfectly, the story of Calamus' ambush.
Ulysses outlined a plan for ending the war that I had been considering.
I went to take a shower. My head reeled.
After the shower, I grew angrier, and went back to the infirmary
with every intention of making them tell me the truth. Archimedes was
lying on his back while Ulysses picked the glass shards out his chest.
The shards were red -- from blood? Probably. I stared for a bit. I
asked some questions. They confused me some more.
I suggested we go to dinner. I looked at Archimedes, who did not
offer me his arm. Hmph. Some husband. I looked at Ulysses, who
gallantly did offer me his arm, and we walked down to dinner, where there
were three strangers -- a dark man with black armor; a Rebman woman
dressed modestly in some sort of animal skins; and a blonde wearing two
swords. I had to admire that.
I began to eat. Every once in a while, I would look up and catch
Archimedes' eyes on me again. But my eyes kept going to the stranger --
Claudio. It struck me: he is the king's bodyguard.
He is the King's bodyguard.
I remember the future, and in it, he's the King's bodyguard. He's
very important to me (because of that, I later guessed).
I looked over at the blue-haired woman from Rebma. I recognized
her too. Her name is Sky.
I put my head down on the table.
I remember Ulysses leading me out into the hall. He sent me back
to Foil, at my request, and I began to believe what they had been telling
I couldn't go to sleep, of course. So, I was wide awake when the
most disgusting things started happening to my body. I angrily Trumped
He came through and asked to make mental contact with me. I
sighed. It couldn't be more disgusting than what was staining my shirt.
...Think of a lava lamp. Two solutions, suspended in each other,
constantly rising and falling through each other. Old memories, new
memories, converging, diverging. Very difficult to deal with when you
have a concussion.
I took a deep breath.
I looked at Ulysses. He was both a stranger and a very good
friend to me. I remembered chopping off his foot; dancing with him at
numerous social events; Trumping me away just when things got interesting;
pushing Abigail onto the Pattern; holding Beauty's hand at Oriana's birth.
My heart swelled. I love Ulysses, I really do. He must be one of the
best friends I have had since I came to Amber.
"Take me there," I said, because I knew he could.
He did. He must have left discreetly, because I don't remember
him leaving. I was too busy trying to remember everything I had ever
learned about the person I married.
He's possessive. Over-protective. Uxorious. Arrogant,
sometimes. A dirty in-fighter, and a tremendous bastard. He is too
easily upset. He almost rivals me as a genocide. He's a rapist and a
murderer, too. Worst of all, he occasionally feels guilty about all of
that. Well, almost all of it. I'm sure he's never felt guilty about
being possessive or over-protective.
I was smiling by the time I had catalogued all of his faults in my
head, because I heard his voice in my head reciting them.
I ran into his arms, because, of course, I've got most of the same
faults, except I've never raped anyone. But I do collect the heads of my
enemies, and I am a real genocide. That should do in a pinch.
(I think the concussion was getting to me.)
His arms closed around me.
I closed my eyes and began to remember the good things.
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