Despite my desire to rid myself of the child as quickly as
possible, I found myself preparing to return to Chaos. Kaedric was of the
opinion that if Chaos did not see me pregnant, they might not believe that
the child was actually mine, or some such nonsense. So, I was required to
put myself on display for a little while, to satisfy this convention. I
was not particularly happy about this, of course, but I told myself that
since I was going to have this child, I might as well do it properly.
It was as I was packing up the last of my things that the note
from Theo arrived on the Net. It was rather brief. Simply, "Come
quickly, and do not ask any questions." Curious, and not wanting to
disobey the wife of my Head of House, I proceeded to Ran's home with
Kaedric. Theo handed me a tarot deck as she hurried past, and told me to
hold it for her until she returned. Then she rushed into a waiting
carriage and vanished. I found this rather peculiar, to say the least.
Kaedric identified the deck as Ran's, informing me that it was linked to
him in some manner. I added it to my own deck, since that is warded more
than anything else I own. With this accomplished, we gathered my dogs and
returned to Chaos. I presumed that if those desiring Ran's deck were of
the Shadow, they would be sorely pressed to find it once we had left.
Kaedric left soon after our arrival, on business of his own, and I
immediately turned my attentions to Ran's deck. My examination turned up
a few wards of exceptional craftsmanship, but nothing that seemed likely
to harm me. The deck was linked to Ran, but he could not read it. Only a
specific woman could do this, and no other woman could read it until she
died. That female was currently Theo. I began to understand why Ran had
married her. I had to admire the sorcerer who had crafted the curse, and
wondered what Ran had done to bring it upon himself. Since there was
nothing preventing the deck from doing readings for others, I decided to
use it to predict the result of my possessing it. I had my own Ivoran
deck, of course, but I thought Ran's deck would give a better reading on a
question it was involved in. I turned over the first card, the prisoner
being released, and suddenly felt myself being drawn into it, far too
rapidly to escape.
I saw blood on the Pattern in Kolvir, spreading over it from the
center. There was no body, nor any sign of there being one recently. The
blood welled up from the center as if the Pattern itself was bleeding.
Closer inspection revealed no further details. I was debating what to do
next, when there was a sharp pain in my shoulder, and the vision faded.
I found myself lying on the floor, staring up at Kaedric's face.
He seemed concerned, and when he told me I had been sitting there for
seven hours, I understood why. Seven hours! It felt like barely more
than a few minutes. Kaedric proceeded to berate me for using a cursed
deck, much to my annoyance. As if I had not checked the deck out
beforehand! It should have been perfectly safe for my use. Still, I had
to agree that one does not generally get drawn into the cards like that.
There was obviously more to this deck than met the eye.
Kaedric did not seem especially concerned about my vision, but one
of the phrases that he used caught my attention. He referred to the
Pattern I saw as my Pattern. I initially misinterpreted this to mean my
own imprint, but then he corrected me. Since he has no Pattern himself,
he tends to affiliate the Amber Patterns with the Amberites who do.
Still, the first interpretation was one that I had not considered. Maybe
it was not the Pattern in Kolvir that I saw being destroyed, but rather
the one in my own mind. I found this thought to be a rather disquieting
one. I have had three Pattern imprints destroyed in my lifetime, the
first when Father's universe was destroyed, and the last two when the
Atherton Pattern was destroyed, remade, and then destroyed again. It was
not an experience I cared to contemplate repeating.
I had no great desire to tempt my luck any further that night,
although I pretended otherwise, so it was with relief that I accepted
Kaedric's suggestion that we retire for the evening. Then he mentioned
that he intended to transfer his other self to the Taormin in the morning,
and all thoughts of sleep quickly vanished from my mind. Especially when
I learned that only Ulysses would be present to assist him. I expressed
my concern that the other Kaedric might be able to take over Ulysses'
mind. He told me that Kaedric would take him over first. I found this
less than reassuring. He then proceeded to claim that I would get along
splendidly with his past self, him being rather stiff and all. On another
evening, I might have found this more of the joke he intended it to be,
but my vision had unsettled me somewhat. After a few moments of silent
annoyance, I pointed out that I merely wished to make sure that I remained
married to the same man that I started out with. He seemed amused by
this, but assured me that he would take precautions in the morning. I
wished I felt as confident as he appeared to.
I awoke in the morning to find Kaedric gone, and not responding to
my Trump. I feared he had gone to deal with the other Kaedric without me,
despite having given his word that I would be present. I briefly toyed
with the notion of using Ran's deck again, wanting to punish Kaedric for
risking his life so foolishly by doing the same, I suppose, but then my
common sense returned, and I saw the idiocy of this thinking. With anyone
else, such thoughts would never even have entered my mind, but Kaedric
often has this sort of unfortunate affect on my rationality. I decided to
do a reading, but with my own cards instead of Ran's. They informed me
that Kaedric had not departed, as yet. I should have known that he would
honor his word, but I have spent my life distrusting everything and
everyone, and it is not such an easy thing to overcome. I set off in
search of him, and the servants soon directed me to his study. I pointed
out that he was not answering his Trump calls, whereupon he informed me
that he had done so expecting me to locate him by means of my wedding
ring. I must confess, I had forgotten about the link that exists between
our two rings, never having had the occasion to use it before. I made a
mental note to remember it in the future.
Kaedric shooed me off to breakfast, busy with work of his own,
apparently. When he still had not appeared after breakfast, I decided to
investigate the cards again. More carefully this time, of course. My
vision of the previous day was still troubling me, and I hoped to learn
something that would put my fears to rest, or at least provide me with
more information. I investigated the deck once more, being as careful as
I knew how, but could find nothing more than I had the previous day.
Aside from the curse against Ran, which Kaedric had informed me was set by
Ran's own grandmother, the deck seemed no different from my own. I wove a
spell to wake me if I became ensnared again, then did a spread seeking the
results of Kaedric's upcoming endeavor, being careful not to focus too
closely on the cards. They indicated success, and nothing untoward
occurred. I began to focus on them more intently, but still no change. I
reshuffled the deck and cast once more my question of the previous
evening. The first card was the prisoner again, this time being jailed,
and I was sucked in almost immediately after I turned it over.
I found myself viewing everything through a red haze. Oddly
enough, this did not seem strange or out of place. I looked around and
discovered that I was near the Abyss. Right on the edge of it, in fact.
There were people nearby, but they did not seem to notice me. I quickly
attempted to move away from the edge, but found that I could not. I tried
to move my arms, but met failure there as well. It was then that I
realized this was because I had no arms. I had the body of a snake, and a
second head, that was missing one eye. It stared at me, but said nothing.
I felt a bit of a pang at that moment, almost like a pang of conscience,
but it was gone almost immediately. My spell going off? I could not be
certain. I tried to leave the vision, but suddenly found that I did not
wish to. The sun beat warmly upon my body in the most relaxing manner. I
decided to lay there and enjoy it for a while.
I felt my body hit the floor and came to myself again. Kaedric
was standing there once more, and informed me that I had been entranced
for three hours this time. I could not read his expression. He asked if
I was done fooling around with the cursed deck. I informed him that I was
quite finished, actually. He then left to fetch Ulysses, and I resolved
not to tamper with the deck again without Kaedric being present. If I did
tamper with them again. I would like to think there are not many who
could become the Serpent, however briefly, and not feel somewhat
disturbed. What could the visions mean? A bloody Pattern, inhabiting the
Serpent's body... Images that did not bode well for my future, you may be
certain. As I waited for Kaedric's return, I sent a scrying lens to the
place of my last vision, but found that I could not espy the precise spot
by that means. There was something obscuring my vision there, causing my
lens to just slide around the area. I felt no desire to investigate the
site in person. I already suspected what I would find there, anyway. And
if I was right, I wanted no part of it.
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