I awoke still wrapped in Kaedric's arms, and decided that I was
content to remain that way for a while.  Unfortunately, it was not long
before Kaedric stirred, and I reluctantly allowed reality to intrude
again.  On some unspoken cue, we both began to dress at the same time - it
is one of those things that seems to happen more and more, the longer I am
married to Kaedric.  I wonder, sometimes, if Laughter and Archimedes
experience the same thing?  Not that I would ever ask such a thing.

	It was once we were dressed that I inquired as to the whereabouts
of the ring that Dworkin gave me.  Shielded as it was, it should have
survived Finndo's spell - at least I was hoping it had.  Until now, I was
loath to wear it, knowing almost nothing about its purpose or what it
might do to me.  My recent experience with the Logrus, however, had
changed my mind on this matter.  There was nothing I could do directly to
the Serpent about what it had done to me.  But, by wearing a ring
fashioned out of a remnant of its eye, I would rather effectively be
stating my opinion on the matter.  It was not quite spitting in its eye,
but it would do.

	Kaedric informed me that the ring was in Kaedricways, where it had
been since he brought me there after my Pattern was stripped from me.  The
idea of returning to that place was not something I found particularly
appealing at the moment - not that I would admit to this, of course. 
Instead, I queried Kaedric as to whether he thought I could reach it from
Mayfair.  It was certainly farther than I had tried reaching with the
Logrus before, and reaching that close to the Logrus...  Well, I had no
way of knowing what the effect might be.  He considered this for a moment,
then said it should be within my range.  I nodded and summoned my newfound
power to mind.

	It took perhaps an hour to locate the box containing the ring, and
then pull it back to me.  Kaedric passed the time observing my progress,
offering the occasional suggestion or critique of my technique.  He was in
full Ixaxin instructor mode, of course, all detached and logical.  I
thought, not for the first time, how cold and emotionless his students
must have thought him.  I knew better, of course.  The ring seemed just as
I had left it, but even so, it was with no small amount of trepidation
that I placed it upon my finger.  I had safely done so once before, of
course, but that was before my Pattern imprint had been replaced with that
of the Logrus.  There was the same pulse I had felt the last time I had
worn it, accompanied by the same brief vision of Archimedes' location. 
This time, he appeared to be in a bar, surrounded by creatures out of
myth.  I thought that was rather strange.  Then I recalled that he was in
that place Kaedric had called the Strangeways, so perhaps it made sense.

	I asked Kaedric what sort of Shadow this Strangeways was.  He
smiled at that, and informed me that the Strangeways was not a Shadow. 
Rather, they were a Shadow sorter, for lack of a better word.  You entered
them, and if you knew the way, you could exit in a Shadow far distant from
the first, in a relatively short period of time.  The catch was that it
was easy to get lost there.  The only means of navigation was by a special
book, which I gathered were rather rare.  The fey also knew how to
navigate the Strangeways, but, if Archimedes' fey was any indication,
training one would be a difficult task, at best.  Of course, if one could
assume the form of one, and then find others to teach you...  It was an
interesting thought, but not something I cared to pursue any further, at
least not at the moment.

	Since Kaedric was already in a scholarly mode, and Sylvester had
not yet returned with Alora, I suggested that it was the perfect time for
Kaedric to teach me the counter-spell that he had promised to.  This
occupied us for several hours, since the original spell was quite
complicated, and therefore the counter-spell was as well.  Unfortunately,
I could derive no knowledge of the original spell from what I learned.  I
expected no less, of course, but I had to try.  There would have been a
rather delicious irony in felling Caitlin with the spell which had killed
Kaedric when he was trying to rescue her.

	With the counter-spell finally learned to my satisfaction, I asked
after Ran's health, and was gratified to learn of his continued survival. 
I had spent some time working my way into the house, and it would have
been inconvenient to have to ingratiate myself with another head. 
Sylvester and Alora eventually joined us for dinner, Sylvester's sense of
timing being much better than Killian's, and the rest of the evening
passed agreeably.

	Come morning, I returned to my work on my Trumps, feeling a bit
less bitter than I had in the past few days.  I must have still seemed
edgy, however, for Kaedric took Alora out hunting again, or so I thought
at the time.  It was drawing close to dinner when Kaedric Trumped me and
asked if I was free that evening.  I indicated the paints around me, and
allowed that I could spare a few hours.  His second question put me on
guard immediately.
	"Will you promise not to be angry?"
	I frowned at this, and he made to break the contact.  "Wait," I
said, before I even knew I intended to stop him.  "You asked if I was free
this evening?"
	"I did.  Alora is being presented this evening.  In Amber," he
added hastily, seeing my expression.
	I calmed somewhat, but the frown remained.  Something was
definitely odd here.  Why had Kaedric chosen now, of all times, to present
Alora in Amber?  Given everything that had happened to me?  And without
consulting me first?  This would not have happened, under normal
circumstances.  So, obviously, the circumstances were not normal.  I
inquired as to how the presentation had come about, striving to keep my
voice level.  Kaedric explained that he had been in Amber gathering
information when the idea came up, and Random agreed.  Gathering
information...  Talking to Laughter, he meant.  He admitted this, but
added hastily that he had other sources of information.  Of course he did. 
But I still disliked the fact that Laughter was one of them.  I liked even
less that he had been talking to her while Archimedes was gone.  There are
times I have been tempted to tell Archimedes of the relationship his wife
has with my husband, but the information she passes along is useful, from
time to time.  So I smiled pleasantly, and said I would get ready. 
Whatever the reasons, there was nothing I could do about it now.

	Kaedric left the contact open while I changed, and I made no
attempt to stop him.  There was a time when I would never have dreamed of
doing such a thing.  Not that there was any real risk of anyone else
spying on the contact - there are very few people who exceed my husband's
skill with Trump, fewer still who could spy on a contact without his
knowledge.  Or would risk trying.  Kaedric can be amazingly jealous, when
the mood strikes him.  But, security of the contact aside, I did not mind
that he wanted to watch me.  It was comforting to know that my husband
still found me attractive after ten years of marriage, especially when I
had just spent the last three months raving, spitting, and trying to kill
him.  A vanity, to be sure, but one I seemed unable to overcome.

	Kaedric pulled me through once I was dressed, and began to escort
me to the Great Hall.  Perhaps to lessen my ire a bit, he informed me that
Claudio now had three sons to keep him occupied.  One was Sky's by Corwin,
of course, but he would be Claudio's within a month.  I thought of Claudio
dealing with three children, and I had to laugh a bit.  The slight rise in
my spirits did not last long, however.

	I could tell from the moment the presentation began that something
was wrong.  Ulysses was smirking, Archimedes was hiding something, others
seemed puzzled.  I was pretty sure I knew the cause of Ulysses' smirking,
of course.  He, of all people, would be able to tell what I had lost.  I
turned my gaze from him and wished desperately that I was elsewhere.  As
the meal progressed, it soon became obvious that Killian was both the
source and the target of much enmity in the room.  And then there was the
man who escorted Flora in.  Kaedric informed me that he was a Chaosite of
no honor, and that such a man would not be invited to our house, Kaedric
having his own peculiar code of honor.  I studied the man's features for a
while upon learning that, in preparation for placing them on a Trump.  He
noticed this, of course, and raised his glass to me.  I smiled in return,
prompting Kaedric to comment that affairs were supposed to occur behind
his back.  "I have my own code of honor," I responded, still angry at him
for whatever he was hiding from me.  Ragnar, the man's name was.  I
suspected I would be talking to him, soon.  A man with no honor can be
very useful, for certain things.

	The most puzzling thing I noticed were the looks being exchanged
between Niccolo and Ragnar, and Niccolo and Archimedes.  Archimedes'
expression reminded me of the one he had once worn for me, after the
incident with Maron.  I pondered what our ambassador had done in such a
short time to earn the ire of the Crown Prince.  It must have been
impressive.  I would have to speak with the man.  His poor performance
would reflect on me, and I would not have that, even from a man we had
chosen solely because we wanted to be rid of him.

	My intention to speak with Niccolo was rendered rather moot when
he fell forward into his plate and expired quite suddenly, just before
dessert was served.  Archimedes and Ragnar exchanged a rather interesting
set of glances at that, not exactly guilty, but...  While it was quite
possible that this Ragnar was responsible for Niccolo's sudden demise, I
was reasonably certain that Archimedes was not.  Nor did it seem likely
that he would have allowed Ragnar to do such a thing, had he knowledge of
it.  Which meant that whatever the glances meant, they likely had not
killed the ambassador.  Still, I wondered what had occurred between the
three of them.

	Kaedric and I were first to investigate the body, of course, being
the highest ranking Chaosites present.  Kaedric's spell soon revealed that
the plate itself had been poisoned, by a rather short, shadowy figure. 
Which definitely ruled out Archimedes.  A search of Niccolo's belongings
turned up a note addressed "To whom in may concern," informing us that
Vertix now had a new Head of House.  I felt my eyes widen in spite of
myself.  Niccolo was the Head of House Vertix?  No wonder they had killed
him.  He seemed to excel at disgracing himself and his house at every
turn.  His primary qualification for being picked as ambassador was
because we wanted to be rid of him more than Mandor.  To be honest, I was
impressed he had lived as long as he did, if he was their Head. 
Obviously, they had hopes that he would eventually regain his sanity.  He
must have been rather good before he went mad, for them to have waited so
long.  This was going to complicate things.  Or perhaps not.  Swayvill
would likely simply appoint Mandor to the post, assuming no other
candidate had come to his attention.  But Vertix would also need to
appoint a new member to the Council.  I wondered if Sylvester would try
for that.  It seemed unlikely that he would succeed, given the disfavor in
which those who bought into the house seemed to be regarded, but my twin
had proved himself to be amazingly resourceful in the past.

	With the body safely stowed back in Chaos, we joined the
reception.  Much as I wanted to be elsewhere, we could hardly leave the
reception being held in our daughter's behalf.  I was not looking forward
to it.  More time that I must pretend to be poised and confident and not
ready to strangle my husband.  I was quickly growing tired of this.  A
fact which apparently was more obvious than I would have liked, judging by
Kaedric's squeeze on my arm, and his quiet admonishment to make nice.  He
introduced me another Golden Circle family then, the Henriks, I believe,
and they began droning on about trade.  Under other circumstances, I might
have been a little more interested in the topic, but I just wanted this
whole affair to be over with.  Until it was, there was nothing to be done
but smile, and nod, and pretend fascination.

	Kaedric invited me to dance after the Henriks were dispensed with,
and I readily agreed.  At least I would only have to deal with him on the
dance floor, and I had little enough to say to him, anyway. Kaedric had
other things in mind, however, and we had not been dancing long when he
invited me to blow my stack, discreetly, of course.  I pretended not to
know what he was talking about, but he refused to believe I was not
internally seething.  The fact that he was correct made it rather
difficult to argue this point.  I decided to let him know exactly what was
bothering me, then.  All of it.  He listened to me go on about not being
consulted about the presentation, about being given only an hour's notice
of its occurrence, of not feeling ready to be in public yet, of knowing
that he was hiding something from me, something which other people were
aware of.  His expression changed not a bit during any of this, damn him.
	"Sometimes, to salvage a political situation, one cannot consult
one's wife," he murmured when I was finished.
	This was not the answer I had been expecting, and I inquired as to
the nature of this political situation.  It soon came out that this was
not Alora's first visit to Amber.  She had been here before.  With

	As the story came out, the urge to strangle Kaedric quickly moved
on to his brother.  Apparently, the fool had brought Alora to dinner in
Amber the night that I finally recovered from my madness, thinking nothing
of the political ramifications of such an act.  Which explained why Alora
had been so evasive when I had spoken to her that night.  I had looked
rather dreadful at that point, and she did not wish to make things worse. 
I cursed my weakness in letting her see me in such a state.  I should have
gone to Chantille Vale and recovered, first.  Kaedric seemed to feel
differently, but there was no point in arguing it - the mistake had
already been made.  What was left was to ensure that it did not happen
again.  Kaedric had already spoken to Alora, and I suspected that she
would not be making that mistake again.  She learns quite quickly, unlike
some.  As for Claudio, Kaedric assured me that he would be taken care of,
and he would rather I stay out of it.  I liked this idea not at all, but I
could see the wisdom of it.  Because he was Kaedric's brother, I could not
deal with him in the manner I desired.  Given that, it was best that we
did not speak of it at all, lest my resolve fade at an inopportune moment. 
Still, there was a price I required in exchange for my non-involvement.  I
wanted an apology from Claudio.  And I did not want Alora left alone with
him, again.  Kaedric did not think Claudio would be willing to apologize,
of course, and in truth, it did not matter all that much, to me.  A forced
apology has no meaning, after all, but honor demanded that I request it. 
As for the second matter, Kaedric pointed out that Alora had come to no
harm.  It did not matter.  The fact that this time the result was simply a
political faux pas did not mean that next time it would not be worse.  I
would not risk my only child with that man again, Kaedric's brother or no. 
Nor did I see any reason why I should.  He would never entrust his
children to my care, I was certain.  Why should I do any different?

	Kaedric brought up another matter as well, namely the former
ambassador's behavior while he had been in Amber.  It would seem that he
managed to antagonize an amazing number of people during his brief stint
in Amber.  I cursed once more the madness that had prevented me from
properly supervising him.  Random was of the opinion that it might make
more sense for an embassy to be constructed in the city, and, given what
had happened, I was inclined to agree.  We certainly would not allow an
ambassador from Amber to reside in the same residence as Swayvill.  Not
that there was an ambassador from Amber.  At least not at the moment. 
Given that Chaos was establishing an embassy in Amber, I suspected this
was a state that would soon change.

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