I was in the room again, strapped to the chair again. This was
nothing new. Instead of the dead man, I saw Claudio. This was something
new. He chopped my head off. Definitely new. I felt disappointment that
I had not killed him first, as the world went dark around me.
The blackness retreated, and I beheld the room once more. Things
seemed different, this time. Clearer, somehow. I glanced around me. The
room was not one I recognized from Kaedricways or Chantille Vale. It was
padded. Claudio sat in a chair to my right, snoring. Kaedric sat staring
fixedly into space on my left. There was a large pile of cigarette butts
on the floor beside him.
"When did you take up that habit?" I asked, with a bit of a frown.
He looked quite startled as he turned to face me.
"It's an old habit. I revert to it in times of stress." He did
look rather stressed, now that he mentioned it, and he lit up another
cigarette. Or tried to. Claudio took it away, while I made a face.
"If you think I am going to kiss you, with your breath smelling of
one of those, think again," I informed him with a bit of a smile.
"You do sound more like yourself," he allowed, but he would not
free me of my restraints. I had experienced periods of lucidity before,
you see. If so, I could not recall them. He moved to the other side of
the room, and lit another cigarette. Claudio let him be, this time.
"How long?" He did not need to ask to what I was referring.
"And in Chaos?"
I asked after Alora then, and learned that she was with Graham.
Claudio had been looking after them. I tried to reassure myself with the
thought that Claudio could not do too much damage in the short amount of
time that had passed in Chaos. I was not notably successful. Kaedric
asked me if I was hungry, then, and I realized that I was ravenously so.
I suspected that I had eaten little during my madness. Which brought me
around to thinking about the reason for my madness, and I inquired as to
the cause of the explosion that had begun this wretched mess. Kaedric
revealed that it had been triggered by me, or more precisely, my Pattern.
There was a similar explosion in Atlantis, triggered by Benedict, Bleys
and Archimedes. I can only assume that they lost their Pattern as I did.
I appeared to be the only one the Serpent had taken an interest in,
however. At least Ran had survived. He had been closer to the source of
the explosion than I, and lacked shapeshifting, so it was by no means
certain that he would have. The spell itself had apparently been
activated by the removal of Gerard's Jewel ring, and it was rather
intricate. I had to admire the skill and finesse which had gone into
crafting it. Not to mention the ability the caster must have possessed to
remove anything from Gerard against his will. Kaedric admitted, with some
prodding, that he believed Finndo to be responsible. Apparently, he was
making his move on Amber. Again. Really, I have never understood why
they did not just kill him as soon as we came back in time, given what he
had done before. Still it was Amber's problem, and I reminded myself that
I was no longer of Amber, and therefore it was not, could not, be my
concern. In truth, I suspected I had something in common with Finndo.
Neither of us had reason to be especially fond of Caitlin.
I realized at that point that I could recall nothing from the
point at which Caitlin had attacked me. Kaedric, unfortunately, knew
little more. I had contacted him through our rings from the Logrus room,
but by the time he reached me, I had already taken the Logrus. Judging by
the damage he found on the walls, he assumed that I had tried to escape,
and failed. Whatever the events leading up to it, I appeared to have come
through somewhat better than Kaedric had his first time. He could recall
nothing of the two days leading up to it. I had lost but a few hours. I
wondered which was the normal reaction, if there was any such thing.
The full realization of what I had done began to sink in at this
point. I had taken the Logrus. I should feel different, somehow, should
I not? Besides the madness? I felt for the place where my Pattern had
been, and I found *something* there. There was a buzzing sensation. It
felt very odd. I focused on it, trying to resolve it, somehow. I saw an
image of the Logrus briefly, and then the madness overtook me once more.
When my senses returned to me, Claudio was gone, and the pile of
cigarette butts beside Kaedric had grown larger.
"That was a mistake," I observed.
"You shall have to do it again," he replied. I looked at him as
though he were the mad one, not I.
"It's a matter of getting used to it. Of building up a
resistance, so to speak. When you can look at it, and retain your sanity,
then we will know you are well."
"Is there anything you can tell me that would help in this?" I
asked, not wanting to lose my hard-won sanity so soon. He explained that
I should not try to picture the Logrus as it had appeared before, but
rather let it form as it wished. My knowledge of the Pattern was going to
be a hindrance in this regard. There was no other way to acclimate to it,
though, other than to continue looking upon it.
I found the thought of deliberately provoking my madness to be
disquieting in the extreme. All of my life, I had prided myself on my
control. Kaedric had often vexed me because he could make me loose that
control as no other I had ever known. The madness of the Logrus was the
ultimate loss of control, and it terrified me. I desperately cast about
for a means to postpone this, and asked if I might have something to eat,
seeing as how I had never actually done so the last time that I could
recall. He fed me cake, and for a moment I almost expected to grow
smaller. How strange. I wondered how much I had been eating, and how
drawn I must look. Kaedric looked quite haggard, and I wished I could
hold him for a moment. It was an irrational impulse, and utterly
impossible at that. I asked instead how long he had been watching me. He
informed me that he had last left my side about two months ago, to briefly
check on Alora. I suggested that, given that I was mad much of the time,
and therefore hardly fit company, perhaps he did not need to spend quite
so much time with me. He revealed that I had managed to escape at least
three times, thus far, and he was concerned that I might injure myself if
left alone. I was somewhat surprised to learn that my mad visions of
escaping had some basis in reality, after all. He and Claudio had been
poisoning me, of course, to keep my shapeshifting from responding quite so
readily to my will, but there had been a few opportunities, and I had
taken advantage of them. My memory of biting him turned out to be true,
as well. I expressed relief that my memories of killing him had not
similarly been proven true, although I had apparently tried, hence his
reluctance to release me. He seemed reassured that I had tried, though,
since it meant that I truly loved him. I raised an eyebrow at this.
"Had you still doubts, after all these years?"
"Occasionally." I sighed. I would have thought that he could not
have doubted how I felt about him, by now. It is not in my nature to be
as openly affectionate as some, but I stopped denying my feelings for him
a long time ago. I searched for something to say.
"Are you ready, yet?" he asked, seeing through my attempts to delay.
"How long must one wait after taking the Logrus before walking the
Pattern?" I responded, still not ready to face the madness.
"It's hard to say," he said with a frown. "There are few who have
taken both, and they let quite some time pass in between. Even Merlin
waited at least 200 years." I sighed. There was no point in delaying any
further. I took a deep breath, and focused on the buzzing in my head.
The world disintegrated around me.
I became aware of the room once more, with the vague recollection
of having been a fish. Kaedric lay sleeping in his chair, the cigarette
pile only slightly greater than before. Kaedric looked badly in need of
rest, so I chose not to disturb him. I had only been watching him for a
few minutes when he awoke. He informed me that I had only been mad for a
day this time, and showed me a paper with a strange sigil on it. If I
looked at it while concentrating on the Logrus, it would help me adapt to
the power. I was still quite hungry, so I asked for more food. I ate in
silence, then sighed once more.
"I suppose there is no point in procrastinating, is there?"
"Actually, there is. I used mouthwash." He kissed me, then,
handily proving his last sentence. It was over far too quickly.
"I would like to say I will remember that, but alas, I doubt I
will." I gave him a shaky sort of smile, and focused on the sigil as I
concentrated on the Logrus.
I came back to awareness, still staring at the sigil. I blinked
once, and then began blinking furiously. It felt like I had been staring
for a very long time. It seemed like the sigil had helped, though. I ate
and drank some more, and then Kaedric asked if I was ready again. I
nodded. I wanted this over with. I braced myself, stared at the sigil
once more, and summoned the Logrus.
Nothing happened. Nothing bad, that is. I beheld the Logrus, and
I was still sane. I smiled at Kaedric, who looked somewhat relieved, but
insisted on verifying that I was, indeed, seeing the Logrus, before he
would unbind me. I managed a sort of half shrug within my jacket at this,
indicating that he would have to do the honors, since I could not offer a
hand to him. He touched my cheek briefly, then began undoing the straps
that confined me. Pain shot through my arms as I attempted to use muscles
long held fast, and I winced slightly, despite my efforts not to. Kaedric
suggested that I might prefer to be unconscious for the next part, and I
gladly took him up on the offer. I had not been free of the chair for
over three months. I had no desire to be awake while I was disconnected.
When I awoke, I was in my bed in Kaedricways, with Kaedric
sleeping in a chair next to the bed. I looked at my arms, now gloriously
free, and they seemed thinner than I remembered them. I rose carefully
and forced myself to look in the mirror. I almost did not recognize the
face that I saw looking back it me, so emaciated had it become. I wanted
to look away, but forced myself not to give in to this weakness. I am not
certain how long I stood there staring at myself, before I saw Kaedric's
reflection rise and come to stand behind me. I told him to go back to
sleep. He informed me that he would as soon as I did. I denied that I
felt tired, but in truth I was exhausted. I sat down on the edge of the
bed, and allowed that I would sleep once I had seen Alora, assuming he did
not think my appearance would frighten her. He rang a bell as his answer,
and my daughter arrived shortly afterward.
I steeled myself for Alora's reaction, but she did not seem
surprised by my appearance. I reasoned that Kaedric must have spoken to
her while I was still unconscious, and warned her of what to expect. I
asked her to tell me about her day, and something in her manner made me
suspect that there was more to it than she was telling me, but I was far
too tired to deal with it then. I resolved to look into the matter
further, once I was more fully recovered. She took the news of my taking
the Logrus well, only wanting to know why I had done so. Why indeed? Not
wanting to explain that I had been forced into the matter, I indicated
that it had seemed logical, since I had lost my Pattern, and I was
Princess of Chaos, after all. All of which was true, in a sense. Left to
my own devices, it is likely I would have chosen to take the Logrus
anyway, but I would have preferred to have had a little more preparation.
Kaedric as well, I suspect. He looked so worn... What must it have been
like for him to watch me, day after day, for all those months, much of the
time with no one but himself for company? I am sure that he could have
found others to watch me in his stead, but he knew how I would feel about
having strangers observe me in that state. As it was, I was less than
happy about Claudio's presence, but Kaedric had needed him there, so I
resolved to keep my feelings to myself.
My eyes were beginning to close of their own accord, so I sent
Alora off and lay back in bed with a sigh. I found myself looking forward
to my first real sleep in what seemed like an eternity. Kaedric said
something about returning shortly, but I was past the point of caring, and
did not notice when he left. I had just begun to drift off to sleep, when
I recalled the last time I had fallen asleep in this bed, and what had
happened when I had awoken. I sat up with a start and looked quickly
around. There was no one there. I used the last of my fading energy to
erect a force wall around me, then lay down and closed my eyes once more.
It seemed unlikely that Caitlin would return, nor was there any certainty
that the force wall would stop her if she did, but I felt better for
having erected it, all the same. If I had not been so careless in the
first place, perhaps I would not be in my current state. I had felt safe
in Kaedric's Ways, you see. I should have known better. I would not make
that mistake again.
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