I awoke alone, still lying in the same bed where I had gone to
sleep, my force wall still intact. I conjured myself some breakfast, not
trusting any food not from my own hand at the moment, and quickly consumed
it all. Despite this, I found that I was still hungry - hungrier than I
had been even while I was pregnant, in fact. I rapidly began to conjure
more food, and it was perhaps an hour before I finally felt the hunger
pangs begin to subside. I got up and looked in the mirror, beholding the
same haggard face I had seen the night before. I would have to do
something about that. I could not possibly let anyone see me looking like
this. It would take some time, though, time I could ill afford in Chaos.
Which meant a change in locale would be necessary. I used my ring to
locate Kaedric, and found him in his study. Walking down to him was out
of the question, of course. God knows what servants I might encounter.
So, I attempted to Trump down to him instead. And found that I could not.
When I first regained my sanity, I had noticed the absence of my Trump
ability, but I had assumed that this was due to the Shadow Kaedric had
kept me in, and that once I left, it would return. It seemed I had
assumed incorrectly. I still felt as though I could draw Trump, but I was
a living Trump no longer.
If you have never been a living Trump, you cannot understand what
it means to lose it. I had been one for so long, that it had felt a
natural part of me. Without it, I felt naked, somehow. Incomplete. As
if I was missing a vital part of myself. I resolved to remain in this
state for as little time as possible, and contacted Kaedric by more
conventional means. He had been sleeping in the study, judging by his
appearance, and it occurred to me that he probably could not have gotten
through my force wall without waking me last night. He blinked rather
sleepily at me. I folded my arms. I must have looked rather cross. I
certainly felt that way.
"I am leaving for Chantille Vale," I informed him, without any
preamble. I could see him becoming more alert by the second. He must
have seen that I would broke no argument, so he offered none. I softened
slightly. Then I recalled what had put me in such a bad mood, and any
"When were you planning on telling me?" I asked, my tone less than
pleased. He did not need to ask to what I was referring.
"I assumed you would be able to figure it out on your own," he
I opened my mouth to respond, and then closed it again. He was
correct, much as I hated to admit it. None of which changed the fact that
the current situation was unacceptable.
"I am planning to speed the Shadow up. I will have to redraw all
my Trump, after all. And I must put together my Font."
He frowned a bit at that. I realized how cold that had sounded.
"You are welcome to come with me, of course." I did not
particularly want him around me while I looked as I did, but a part of me
did not wish to be alone, either. I felt some relief as he nodded.
"Do you wish to bring Alora?"
I considered this. I did not wish her to see me like this,
either, and only a few hours would be passing in Chaos. On the other
hand, I did not wish to entrust her to Claudio's care again. And
Chantille Vale had been her home until recently. She doubtless would wish
to visit it again. It was this last that finally decided me. She would
come with us. I broke the contact and began to pack.
I passed the next week redrawing my Trumps, regaining my lost
weight, getting a handle on my new Logrus abilities, and gathering the
remaining energy required for my Font. Kaedric took care of switching the
control of my Shadow over to the Logrus. I found, somewhat to my
surprise, that my facility with the Logrus after this brief time already
surpassed my old skill with Amber's Pattern, or Atherton's, for that
matter. My slowness to adjust to Amber's Pattern had often been a source
of much frustration to me, and I wondered once again if I had taken it too
soon after the destruction of Father's.
It was when I was almost ready to recreate my Font, that Kaedric
chose to inform me that I could not bathe in it once it was formed.
Having worked so hard to reform it, and having been looking forward to
regaining that missing part of me, I did not take this news well at all.
Seeing my expression, Kaedric chose to elaborate. I had been bitten by
the Serpent, you see. Doubtless sometime during my taking of the Logrus.
It was this that prevented my bathing in the Font. Kaedric had been
bitten centuries ago, and even he could not safely bathe in the Font, if
he wished to do so. I felt a bitterness settle about me. Wait 500 years
or more to regain what I had lost? I would not. I could not. I would
rather die. That, Kaedric informed me, was precisely what would happen if
I bathed in the Font. I could not bring myself to care. Kaedric left me,
then. I spent the rest of the evening out of doors, contemplating my
situation and how I might extricate myself from it. When I returned to
the manor late that night, I found a note informing me that Kaedric had
taken Alora and gone hunting. They would return when my mood had
improved. I thought darkly to myself that they would be gone for quite
some time, in that case.
A few more days passed, while I occupied myself as I had before,
with perhaps a little more concentration, given the lack of distractions
around me. My new Trumps were coming along, but frustratingly slowly. I
longed for my lost time magic, and cursed Dworkin for rewriting history
such that it no longer existed. Day after day of nothing but drawing
Trump taxed even my patience, and so it was that I finally Trumped my
brother, Sylvester. My purpose in doing so was twofold. Firstly, I
wished him to give me the name of another candidate for the position of
ambassador to Corwin's realm. Secondly, I hoped he could tell me
something that would assist in my quest for vengeance against Caitlin. I
had fastened on her as the cause of all my misery, and I had resolved that
she would pay dearly. It was all that kept me moving forwards, at times.
Sylvester came through at once, and I got straight to the point,
implying that if he could not give me the name of a candidate for the
ambassador position, he would find himself in it, he being far better than
the other two names I had to consider. Unfortunately, there was no one
whose name he could safely give me, without risking his own death. Which
left me with little choice but to make good on my threat. He was the best
choice of the three, and I knew it. And so did he. He sighed a bit, and
asked me to at least visit him in Corwin's realm. I assured him that I
would. It would not be considered all that unusual for the Chief
Ambassador to visit one of her underlings, after all. And it was the
least that I could do.
As to Caitlin, there was little he could tell me of her, other
than the fact that she was closer to the Serpent than had been expected.
I asked him to pass along anything that he might learn about her. This
aroused his curiosity, of course, and he inquired as to why. Once I had
his word that it would go no further than him, I explained my reasons. He
seemed to understand. It occurred to me then to wonder if he had ever
taken the Logrus himself. He spoke as if he had, but then again, he could
be faking it, based on what he had heard from others. I felt it would be
rude to check at that particular moment.
The talk soon turned to how I had lost my Pattern as a result of
Finndo's spell, and we exchanged some information on the subject. I
revealed which Amberites had been caught in the spell, besides me.
Sylvester revealed that Finndo had taken the Jewel of Judgment from one of
them. Now I knew why Finndo had set off the spell, but left those caught
in it alive. They were not his target. Still, it made little sense that
he had left Amber's chief defender and Amber's Crown Prince alive, when he
could have dealt Amber a severe blow by killing them. I began to wonder
if, perhaps, his goal was not Amber, after all. I had been assuming it
was, based on his past/future actions, but the circumstances had changed
since then. But, if not Amber, then what did he want with the Jewel? A
new universe, perhaps, as Father once did? It was difficult to say. I
reminded myself once again that this was not my problem, and turned my
thoughts to something that was. Namely, Vertix's request regarding
It was with this in mind that I inquired as to whether Sylvester
was aware of any ill-feelings towards him from his house. He could name
none that stood out. I considered this for a moment, then informed him of
the warning I had received from Niccolo. Whatever game Vertix may have
been playing, Sylvester was my brother, and my loyalty to him exceeded any
loyalty I had to them from some tenuous blood claim on Mother's side.
Sylvester hid his reaction well, but I could tell that he was somewhat
surprised by the news. He attributed it to the fact that he had bid into
the House, rather than been born into it. It seems that a blood tie was
not enough for some House members. There was not much he could do about
it at the moment, though. In the end, it would come down to the King. I
would give the Vertix message to Swayvill, along with my own
recommendation, and we would see how he decided. Vertix would not go
against the King, at least not on this matter.
Sylvester asked after Alora, and seemed disappointed to learn that
she was not present. I recalled how much she usually enjoyed seeing her
uncle, and admitted that she could be contacted. It would mean contacting
Kaedric, but I decided I could endure that. For Alora's sake, of course.
The fact that I missed him somewhat did not enter into my decision at all.
I focused on his features then, and he came into view, reigning up sharply
as he took the contact. I smiled, despite myself.
"Sylvester would like to visit with his niece, if you are not too
busy." I expected him to pass her through. He offered his hand to me,
instead. He can be the most aggravating man, sometimes. I sighed, took
hold of Sylvester, and allowed Kaedric to pull us through. He had not
dismounted, and Sylvester was deposited rather unceremoniously on the
ground. I, on the other hand, found myself sitting sideways in front of
Kaedric, his hands clasped rather firmly about my waist. Sylvester
spotted Alora riding ahead with the dogs, and shifted form to run after
her, leaving Kaedric and I alone.
"I am not really dressed for riding," I pointed out, wanting to
break the silence that was growing between us. This did not seem to
disturb him in the slightest. We were silent for another minute, before I
"Are you still smoking?"
"That depends," he replied. "Are you still mad at me?"
I denied that I had been mad at him at all. He smiled slightly at
that, before continuing.
"I just keep thinking that, if I hadn't married you, none of this
would have happened."
I raised an eyebrow at that, and pretended to look surprised.
"Now that you mention it, you have a point. That had not occurred
to me until now." In reality, it had, of course. If he had not married
me, and become the Crown Prince, I knew I would not be in this situation.
And, now that he mentioned it, I had to admit that I was somewhat angry at
him for it. But I was far angrier at Caitlin at the moment. And the
Serpent, but there was not much I could do about that.
"I was sure it would occur to you eventually," he said, with a
rather roguish grin. I was suddenly very conscious of his arms around me.
And how long it had been since we were alone together. Not since before
the madness. I had spent as little time around him as possible while I
was recovering, looking as dreadful as I had. The fact that he had spent
several months already viewing me in this state made no difference.
Besides, I could not imagine that he would want anything to do with me,
looking as I did, crippled as I was. But now... I heard the hounds
baying off in the distance, the sound growing fainter. I smiled and
repeated my initial question.
"So, are you still smoking?"
"When was the last time you did so?"
"Who wants to know?"
I looked slightly aggravated, and waved a hand at the forest
around us, devoid of all human life, save for the two of us.
"That bird over there. It dislikes the smell."
His eyebrows raised slightly.
"Oh. Not since last night."
"I see. In that case..." I kissed him then, quite thoroughly.
He had, indeed, not been smoking recently. I told him so, and then kissed
him again, taking my time about it.
"I am sure Sylvester can watch Alora for a while..." I said when
we came up for air, with a rather suggestive smile. He quickly brought us
to a manor house, and I had time enough to briefly realize that we were in
Mayfair, and then I was past caring about such things. I hoped Sylvester
and Alora would not come looking for us for a while.
I awoke feeling somewhat more contented than I had in quite some
time. I also felt hungry again. Despite the fact that I had regained
most of the weight that I had lost, my appetite still had not returned to
normal, although it had abated somewhat from its greatest levels. Kaedric
still slept, and I chuckled inwardly at the thought of my having worn him
out. Not too much, apparently, for he stirred a bit at my leaving. I
assured him that I was simply stepping out for a bite to eat, and he went
back to sleep. He was sleeping still when I returned. This was
inconvenient, since there were several things I wanted to ask of him, but
I did not wish to disturb his rest. Instead, I disrobed and turned before
the mirror, trying in vain to pick out the place where the Serpent had
bitten me. There was no mark upon me, fanged or otherwise. Even the scar
from Father's Logrus tentacle was gone. I considered this. Obviously, my
shapeshifting skills had increased dramatically. A result of the
Serpent's bite, perhaps? I crawled back into bed, enjoying the feeling of
the warm body lying beside me. Kaedric stirred once more as I did so. I
decided that he was awake enough for me, and proceeded with my questions.
The Serpent's bite, it would seem, not only granted the ability to
draw Trump, but also a greater ability with shapeshifting. It seemed
likely that it had bitten me to improve my shapeshifting enough for me to
survive the Logrus. It was my living Trump that had prevented my
shapeshifting from advancing any further than it had, so the Serpent had
simply removed it. To bathe in the Font again would be to impose an order
too strict for my newly modified cells to bear. I acknowledged this, but
still could not bear the thought of waiting half a millennium before
regaining my lost abilities, and I said as much to him. He tried to
reassure me, pointing out that these things occurred at different rates
for different people. I had overcome my Logrus madness quite swiftly,
after all, and had learned skill with the Logrus equally rapidly. His
first encounter with the Logrus had left him insane for close to a year.
It was not until his second initiation that he needed only three months to
recover. I shuddered at the thought of traversing the Logrus again. And
at the idea of spending a year lost in madness. Had Kaedric been
expecting me to be insane for that long? I saw what only the three months
had done to him. How could he have borne a year? How could I, strapped
to that chair? I mentioned this last to him, and he allowed that had
things continued for much longer, he would have had to release me and let
me run loose in the room - guarded, of course, lest I escape. As he had,
his first time.
Our discussions were interrupted by a Trump call, from Killian,
astonishingly enough. I had thought we had seen the last of him when we
sent him on to Amber, and was rather curious as to why he would be
calling. As was Kaedric, apparently, for he took the call, despite his
state of undress. I expressed some surprise at this, to which he
responded by stating that Archimedes was in the habit of doing the same,
and what was good for one Crown Prince, was good for another. I commented
in return that perhaps I should Trump Archimedes more often, if that was
the case. If this idea bothered Kaedric, he gave no sign of it, as he
listened to Killian speak. Out of habit, I tried to monitor the call, and
found that, for once, Kaedric was not blocking me. I did my best to hide
my surprise, and listened in. Ironically, Killian was looking for
Archimedes. I, of course, told Kaedric that I would be happy to connect
Killian to the Crown Prince. This also failed to get a rise out of
Kaedric, although he did tease that he would not let me listen in if I did
not keep quiet. I attempted to locate Archimedes, then, but surprisingly
could find no sign of him via Trump. Kaedric fared no better, and
proceeded to relay the news to Killian. Killian stubbornly continued to
insist that he must speak to Archimedes.
I began to tire of the conversation, and started encouraging
Kaedric to finish, using the means conveniently close at hand. I must
admit, Kaedric impressed me with his control. I do not think Killian even
suspected what was going on, although he surely must have been wondering
at the various changes in Kaedric's voice. Good his control may have
been, but I was being most...persuasive. Kaedric hastily tried to get
Killian to Trump back to Amber, and look for Archimedes there, but Killian
seemed rather reluctant to do so. This gave me pause, and I began to pay
closer attention to the conversation, despite Kaedric's whispered urgings
for me not to stop what I was doing. Unfortunately, it soon became
obvious that Killian would say no more, so I returned my attentions to my
previous task. Kaedric quickly sketched Killian a Trump of an entrance to
something called the Strangeways, soon afterward. Remarkably quickly, in
fact, and I speculated as to whether Killian would be able to use the
Trump more than once. I privately doubted it. If he could, then
obviously I was not doing a proper job of distraction.
It was not until some time later that we returned to our original
discussion of the Serpent's bite and its effects. I was rather surprised
to learn that the venom heightened shapeshifting to such an extent that
nothing could interfere with it. Kaedric even believed I was less mortal
now than I had been when I was a living Trump. I found this last rather
difficult to believe. Had he not died, despite having received the bite
of the Serpent? I mentioned this to him, and learned for the first time
the details of the spell which had ended his life. The harm to his body
was apparently incidental. What killed him was the severing of his mind
and soul from his body. It sounded like a thoroughly nasty spell.
Naturally, I wanted to learn it. Kaedric would only teach me the counter
spell, though. Not because he did not trust me, but because he detested
the spell, and did not wish to see it ever used again. I somehow doubted
that Orrin shared his view on the matter. He said that he was working on
We discussed Caitlin, then, and my desire to punish her for her
role in my kidnapping. Kaedric was of the opinion that she had done me a
service, the Logrus having an advantage over the Pattern in that its
imprint could not be removed from one's mind, nor could it easily be
destroyed. Given the many troubles I had observed with Patterns, and my
own experiences with my various imprints, I had to concede his point. It
did not change the fact that I had been taken from my own bedchamber, and
lost the one ability I valued most. Kaedric tried to argue that the Head
of House Halybard was the complete servant of the Serpent, and therefore
Caitlin's actions may not have been ones she desired herself, but I found
this did little to change my feelings on the matter. Because of her, I
would never feel safe in my own home again. I would never feel the power
of Trump running through my veins again. Servant of the Serpent or not,
this was not something I would easily forgive.
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