Kaedric returned with Ulysses, and we proceeded to Kaedric's
bedroom, Kaedric having decided that should he collapse at some point, he
would prefer to land on his bed.  Fortunately, this proved to be
unnecessary.  Kaedric simply stared at the Taormin for an hour or so,
while Ulysses stared at Kaedric and the Taormin, and I stared at Ulysses,
since I assumed he would react in some manner if things went badly.  Then
Kaedric returned my bracelet to me, and Ulysses took his leave, along with
the Taormin.  I regarded Kaedric silently for a moment, wondering if I
would even know if I was talking to my Kaedric, or the one from this
time-line.  In the end, I decided that the only way to find out was to
speak to him, so I proceeded to tell him of my second vision.  He found it
as disturbing as I had, and blamed it on the cursed deck.  Naturally, he
was eager for me to be rid of it, but a quick trip to Ivory revealed that
Theo and Ran still had not returned.  Kaedric looked less than happy at
this news.  Concerned, even.  It is an odd feeling, for anyone to care
about me.  I chose not to dwell on it, overmuch.

	Seeing as how I could not rid myself of the deck just yet, I
invited Kaedric to examine it.  I was certain no curse existed, other than
the one directed at Ran, of course, but I thought it would ease Kaedric's
mind if he determined this for himself.  And, well, although the chance
that I was wrong was slight, the visions had unsettled me enough that I
did not object to a second opinion on the matter.  Just to be sure. 
Kaedric eventually concurred with me, of course, but he also determined
that the deck had once been owned by a Chaosite.  He could not say who,
but their presence was in the cards, and was rather "ornery," to quote his
words.  I took the cards back, but could determine no such thing, of
course.  I really do hate that.  There almost nothing I am capable of that
Kaedric does not outstrip me in.  He does have the advantage of years, of
course, but that makes it no less annoying.  I do so hate to have my
inadequacies pointed out to me in this manner.

	Kaedric thought he might be able to determine the deck's owner if
he could have the deck for a few hours, and, after brief consideration, I
allowed this.  I was very curious to know who could have made such an
impression on the deck, over 3,000 years ago.  Besides which, I had no
reason to hold onto it.  Theo had not returned, and I had decided to
curtail my investigation, for the time being, at least.  It was becoming
obvious that I was dealing with something too dangerous to be taken
lightly.  Before I would risk using the deck again, I needed more
information about it than I currently had.  With luck, Kaedric would
provide this.

	I passed the time during Kaedric's absence by delving into the
house finances, such as they were.  Given how recently the house had come
into existence, this did not occupy me long.  Fortunately, Kaedric soon
returned with my deck, now encased in a warded box.  Apparently, the
deck's original owner was Halybard, who was not the most pleasant woman,
and Kaedric had decided that I was not to touch it again.  I argued this,
of course.  Not because I wished to come near it, but on the principle of
the matter.  Although, given the affect the deck had had on me so far, I
was not inclined to argue the matter too fiercely.  Eventually, I left the
box where he placed it, and we went to lunch.

	Lunch was followed by a tour of Thelbane, during which Kaedric
chose to mention that I was to see Swayvill in two day's time, to discuss
the matter of my power in Chaos.  Much would ride on this meeting, and I
found myself both excited and nervous about the prospect.  It was past
time for me to determine what powers I would have with my new position. 
Supervising a house that had barely begun its existence was not how I
wished to spend all of my time.

	The following days passed rather quickly, and tend to blur
together when I recollect them.  I continued to check Ivory for word of
Theo's return, but there was nothing.  I found myself wishing she would
hurry with whatever she was doing, as I was eager to be rid of the deck. 
Some of Kaedric's nervousness regarding it was beginning to rub off on me,
I suppose.  Caitlin's ball was held, and was relatively unremarkable.  I
observed that Orrin seemed to have become rather close to Caitlin, though,
which rather surprised me, given what he had done to her.  But then, there
was much about Caitlin that I never understood.  I did my best to avoid
Orrin entirely that night.  What do you say to the man who killed your
husband?  Nothing that I could think of.  Kaedric showed no real desire to
converse with the man, either, and we did not stay overlong.

	My meeting with Swayvill turned out rather well, I think.  After a
brief discussion as to what I wished my role to be, he gave me my choice
of three positions that lay open at the moment: the Lord High Adjudicator,
the Royal Trump Artist, or the Chief Ambassador.  My decision was expected
in a week.  I returned home and consulted Kaedric and Sylvester
(separately, of course) as to what these positions entailed.  Kaedric
seemed to find the idea of my being the Royal Trump Artist rather amusing,
but would not say why.  Fortunately, Sylvester was more forthcoming.  I
quickly eliminated the Lord High Adjudicator position from consideration. 
Not only did it require a far higher profile than I like to keep, but,
while the King had not expressly forbidden me to take it, he had strongly
indicated that he would prefer to give it to someone less royal, and I saw
no reason to go against his wishes unnecessarily.  Given my skill with
Trump, and my ties to Amber, I felt capable of filling either of the
remaining two positions.  I found the Royal Trump Artist position to be
the more appealing of the two, but I resolved to think on the matter
further.  I would have plenty of time to do so, after all.  Kaedric's ball
came and went a few days later, and then we were finally free to depart
for Chantille Vale, to wait out the rest of my pregnancy.

	There is not much to be said about the next six months.  I studied
as much as I could to prepare myself for new role in Chaos.  I tended to
my affairs in Chantille Vale.  And I grew larger.  Much larger.  And there
were other things...  I expected the discomfort of course.  The emotional
reaction, on the other hand, was as unanticipated as it was unwelcome, and
that is all I intend to say about it.  It was quite a relief to finally
have the child, although I cannot say that the labor was an experience I
look forward to repeating.  I imagine it must be far worse for those
without the ability to shapeshift, but I have spent far more enjoyable
hours, let me assure you.  Still, it was over relatively quickly, and then
I was holding the source of all my recent discomfort in my arms.  I was
unprepared for how I felt at that moment.  I thought it would be no
different than the times I held Eve, or Nadine, but...  It was more than
that, much more.  I still cannot explain it.

	We named her Alora.

	It was Kaedric's idea, actually.  His mother's mother's name, I
believe.  I had been planning to name her after Eve.  I can hear Father
laughing at the thought.  "Foolish sentimentality, Miranda, I taught you
better than that."  Indeed you did, Father, and I would like to believe
that is why I changed my mind.  But, in reality, when I saw her for the
first time, with her black hair and her blue eyes, I realized that the
name simply did not fit.  She was not Eve.  I did not know who she was, or
who she would be, but I was sure of that one thing.  It was then that I
finally understood why Kaedric had not wanted to name the child after
Daegan, if it had been a boy.

	Kaedric was the one to point out her unusual nature.  I suppose I
should not have been surprised to discover that she was a living Trump,
but I was, nonetheless.  I did not think it was something that could be
inherited.  Would she remain one permanently, or would the power
eventually wear off?  We had no way of knowing.  Whether the power lasted
or no, it would not be easy to conceal her nature from others.  A child
that feels no pain is bound to draw attention.  Kaedric did not feel we
needed to concern ourselves with this, just yet, and I allowed him to
persuade me.  At that time, I think I felt more at peace than I ever had
in my entire life.  I should have known better.  Happiness never lasts,
you see.  Father taught me that as well.  It was only a matter of time.

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