Kaedric presented the bodyguards to me the following afternoon. 
There were five women and one man.  I raised an eyebrow at this, for I
could do math as well as anyone, and five women meant one of them would be
guarding Kaedric.  Kaedric introduced them all to me, starting with the
two that would guard Alora.  They were Isleen and Thorda by name, a former
Helgram and Hendrake, respectively.  My two were called Roxanne and Ola. 
If Roxanne had a former affiliation, Kaedric did not share it.  Ola was
another Hendrake.  The woman who would be guarding Kaedric was Ardis, yet
another Hendrake.  I wondered how annoyed the Jezetti were at Kaedric's
plundering of their ranks, and what he had needed to do to accomplish
this.  On second thought, I really did not want to know.  Jotham, the
male, was a Helgram.

	Kaedric attempted to justify Ardis' presence by explaining that
she was his night guard, and, should it be necessary for her to burst in,
I would not be embarrassed by my state of undress.  The fact that she
would also be seeing his state of undress, as would my own guard, was
apparently of no importance.  Still, he had found a man to guard him
during the day, and I knew that could not have been easy.  I decided not
to make an issue out of it.

	Having bodyguards turned out to be rather trying.  It is one thing
to know you will have someone watching you for every waking hour.  It is
another thing entirely to experience this.  There was no privacy.  The
only place they did not follow me was the bedchamber and the bathroom, and
even there, they entered the room first, to make sure that it was safe. 
Only in Kaedricways was I spared this behavior.  I found this ironic,
since it was from Kaedricways that I had been kidnapped.  Most
disconcerting was just knowing that every word and every action of mine
would always be observed.  I had always felt closely scrutinized whenever
I was in public, due to the nature of my position, but at least before, my
home had been my sanctuary.  No longer.  I found it difficult to talk to
Kaedric or Alora, knowing that someone else was listening to words I meant
only for them.  And I resented this greatly.

	A week passed in this fashion.  My bodyguards said little, and I
said little more, doing my best to ignore their presence, despite how much
it grated on me.  I spent most of my time in my office, fighting the
ever-present mountain of paperwork.  In the process, I came across one bit
of news that brightened my day considerably.  Amber had chosen its
ambassador to Chaos.  It was Ulysses.  The irony of the situation was
delicious.  I had to wonder what Random was thinking, though, given
Ulysses' professed hatred of Chaos and its denizens.  Maybe he was simply
getting revenge on us for inflicting him with Niccolo.  Knowing Ulysses, I
suspected his term as ambassador would be equally as brief as that of the
late Lord Vertix.

	I did manage to find time to travel to Ivory, to see how Ran was
recovering.  About three weeks had passed there since the explosion, and
Ran seemed to be doing fine, although he still had not yet regained his
magical potential.  Theo, on the other hand looked quite frazzled.  I was
struck by how much she reminded me of Kaedric, the way he had been when I
returned from talking to Finndo.  I mentioned something along these lines
to Ran, and we soon fell to discussing our spouses and their tendency to
get so upset over every little thing.  I found it a rather enjoyable
conversation.  It was odd to find we had such things in common.

	Swayvill's party for the departing ambassadors took place as
scheduled.  It was relatively uneventful, although I was somewhat
surprised to find Maron among Mandor's staff.  I felt a definite feeling
of relief when I laid eyes on him.  At least he was not involved with
Finndo, this time.  I mentioned my concern over his disappearance, and he
seemed surprised that I had even noticed that he was gone.  I cursed
myself for forgetting that he still barely knew me in this time, and
excused it as simply being concerned for a close relative.  Blood ties,
and all that.  He seemed to accept that explanation, and I wished him
success in his new position.  I wondered how Archimedes would react to his
presence in Amber?  Not well, if the past was any indication.

	Sylvester spent most of the party standing off to the side a bit,
looking a touch paranoid.  He had a staff, of course, but it was smaller
than Mandor's.  I suspected that had more to do with him trusting fewer
people than Mandor then it did with his job being less difficult.  We
talked mostly of inconsequentials, any information pertaining to his
position having been exchanged in the week leading up to the party.  I had
warned him not to mention Claudio, or Sky, or their children to Corwin,
nor Claudio and Sky's upcoming wedding.  So long as he kept this in mind,
I was confident that he would do well.

	Swayvill took me aside for a moment during the party, and informed
me that Corwin had finally announced his ambassador to Chaos.  His name
was Evan, and he was to be considered a Prince of Corwin's realm, a fact I
found rather interesting.  What connection did he have to Corwin to
justify this title?  Another of Corwin's by-blows?  Perhaps, but it seemed
unlikely that he would send a son of his to Chaos, especially after having
lost several of them to Amber, recently.

	It was the morning after the party that I received a rumor that
Halybard had been occupied by Finndo's army.  Caitlin's whereabouts were
unknown.  Nothing official had been heard, of course, but I believed the
story to be true.  Finndo had mentioned that he would use troops against
Halybard, and having admitted this to me, he could not delay overlong
before using them, lest I use the information against him.  Kaedric took
the news with little outward reaction, but I knew he was troubled by this. 
He left soon afterwards, ostensibly to patrol the lands, but I knew he
simply wanted time away to think.  Not time alone, of course, for Jotham
accompanied him, but he seemed to find it sufficient.  I kept an eye on
him, so to speak, and was surprised to find him receiving a Trump call
from Archimedes.  I had little time to speculate on the nature of the
call, for I soon received one of my own.  It was Ulysses.  I smiled as I
took the call, for I knew why he was calling.

	As I had expected, he had found a way to squirm out of the job,
and was only to hold the ambassadorial position long enough to train
Flynn, who was apparently now called Dakota.  Ulysses was, of course, in
fine form, answering every question with a sarcastic answer, and a
scornful look.  For some reason, this did not bother me any more.  It
amused me, in fact.  Perhaps it was the knowledge that Ulysses was in
Chaos against his will.  Or perhaps I had changed more than I knew over
the years.  Whatever the cause, nothing Ulysses said could rankle me.

	Once these pleasantries were out of the way, I introduced the new
ambassadors to the King.  Ulysses proceeded to acquit himself quite
admirably, and I began to see, for the first time, some evidence of Flora
in him, other than his good looks.  I presented he and Dakota with the
list I had prepared, warning them where they should not go, and what they
should not do, then left them to be shown to their quarters in town.

	I was surprised to find my Ivoran robes laid out on my bed when I
returned home.  I inquired after Kaedric's whereabouts, and was informed
by Elspeth that he was putting Alora to bed.  I hurried off to join him,
and after Alora was safely tucked away, I asked why we were going to
Ivory.  I thought perhaps it had something to do with Ran.  I was not
expecting to learn that we had been invited there by Archimedes and
Laughter.  I suspected Laughter had more to do with it than Archimedes,
since, as far as I knew, Archimedes had never been to Ivory.  Kaedric
assured me that he had given Archimedes a tourist tag, since it would not
do for the Crown Prince of Amber to die while in a Shadow Kaedric

	It did not take Kaedric and I long to dress, and then Kaedric
Trumped Archimedes, who pulled us through.  And the bodyguards, of course. 
Always the damn bodyguards.  We dined at the Lantern Gardens, Laughter
having apparently developed a taste for the place.  I must admit, it did
bring back a fond memory or two of the evening we spent there, just before
my wedding.  Still, I had to wonder what the purpose of this dinner was. 
It was not until the floor show had started that I got an answer.

	"Bathroom," Laughter said, and it took a moment for me to realize
that she was speaking to me.  It took another moment to realize that she
wished me to accompany her.  I quickly ascertained that she was attempting
to draw me away so that Kaedric and Archimedes could talk in private, and
I suppressed the urge to chuckle as we left.  Subtlety has never been
Laughter's forte.  The urge to laugh quickly fled as I saw Roxanne
emerging from the bathroom, and I gritted my teeth a bit.  If Laughter
noticed this, she made no comment.  According to Laughter, this going to
the bathroom in groups is a tradition in some Shadows.  The point of the
tradition was to gossip.  All right, I was game.  I did not intend to tell
her anything that she could not learn from other sources, anyway.  I began
by informing her of Ulysses' arrival in Chaos, along with Dakota.  Judging
by the look on her face, I do not think she knew he had been appointed
ambassador.  Interesting.  We both agreed that the appointment was
doubtless the work of Random, since no one else would be so clueless.

	Laughter then mentioned that she had heard rumors about Finndo. 
After a moment's hesitation, I told her of his takeover of Halybard, and
that Caitlin appeared to have escaped.  It seemed likely that Caitlin
would seek help from her friends in Amber, and I did not see the harm in
alerting them to this possibility in advance.  So long as Caitlin lived,
Finndo would be preoccupied with finding her.  And the longer Finndo was
preoccupied, the more time Kaedric's assassin would have to work with.

	Then the conversation took an unexpected turn, as Laughter
suddenly asked if Kaedric had been smoking a lot, recently.  I frowned.  I
had gone ten years before discovering Kaedric's smoking habit.  How had
Laughter come to learn of it?  For a moment, old suspicions sprang to
mind, but I recalled Kaedric's words to me regarding Laughter and quickly
quelled them.  Still, I could not stop myself from asking how she knew
that he smoked.  She told me that she had smelled it on his clothing, and
there had been a shower of cigarettes that had appeared over Archimedes
via Trump.  I tried hard not to laugh, but a bit of a smile escaped.  She
thought the cigarettes had come from Kaedric.  I explained to her the
circumstances of the cigarettes' return, and we fell to discussing our
husbands' annoying habit, for Laughter thought as little of Archimedes'
smoking as I did Kaedric's.  I was more fortunate than her, at least, in
that Kaedric only smoked when he was upset, while Archimedes apparently
made a regular habit of it.  Kaedric also tried to avoid smoking in my
presence.  As Laughter told of making Archimedes leave their quarters when
he smoked, I realized that I had never needed to do so with Kaedric.  I
felt a surge of warmth towards him at that, and I found myself looking at
him somewhat differently when we rejoined them.  There is nothing to make
you appreciate what you have like comparing it with someone else.  They
appeared to have finished their business, and, as we expected, they both
smelled of smoke, although no cigarettes were in evidence.  Kaedric caught
my expression and protested that he had not had any.  After a moment's
hesitation over the public nature of the situation, I kissed him
thoroughly enough to verify that he spoke true.  I had expected no less,
but it was still fun to test it.  I reflected that talking with Laughter
had made me a bit whimsical.  Perhaps it was fortunate that we did not
speak too often.

	The rest of the meal passed agreeably, and we parted company soon
thereafter.  Kaedric and I returned home, and went to bed, if not to
sleep, the floor show having provoked its usual response.  At some point,
I became aware that Archimedes was Trumping Kaedric.  I was a trifle
distracted, so it is not surprising that I failed to notice until the
effort was repeated.  I ignored it and hoped it would go away.  Kaedric
did the same.  Alas, we were not to be so fortunate.  Eventually, Kaedric
gave up with a groan and took the call.  Then he frowned and began to get
dressed.  I sat up and shot him an inquiring look.  He informed me that
Claudio was missing, and that he was going to look for him.  I began to
dress immediately.  Kaedric raised an eyebrow at this.
	"What do you think you're doing?"
	"I am coming with you."
	Kaedric objected to this idea, as I expected.  He honestly seemed
to expect that I was just going to roll back over and go to sleep.  I
informed him that I was hardly going to let him go without me. 
Admittedly, I cared little for Claudio, but, for all we knew, Finndo had
taken Claudio as bait to lure Kaedric into a trap.  Kaedric still insisted
that I must stay behind, because of Alora.  I set my shoulders stubbornly. 
Kaedric made to go through to Archimedes, then, at which point I informed
him that I would track him through Shadow, if I must.  Kaedric told
Archimedes that he would call him back, and I felt a small bit of
satisfaction.  There was no way he was leaving without me.

	Kaedric tried to assure me that he would not be doing anything
dangerous, and therefore, I need not go.  I countered that if it was not
dangerous, then there was no risk to my accompanying him.  He changed
tactics then, having no way to counter that argument without rendering his
own invalid.  Instead, he informed me that he wanted me to stay behind
because of our future children.  My mind went blank at that.  The idea was
ridiculous.  How could I have children if he was dead?  Kaedric proceeded
to explain that my shapeshifting had advanced enough that, should he die,
I could use the results of the night's...activity to conceive.  I almost
smacked him.  That was supposed to be comforting, the thought that not
only would he be dead, but I would be raising another child alone?  Hell,
no!  Kaedric sighed then, and sat down on the bed.
	"Very well.  You can go.  I will stay here."
	I narrowed my eyes at him as I tried to figure out what he was up
to.  Send me to find Claudio?  He could not be serious.  I said as much. 
He told me he trusted me.  And he would not leave Alora alone.  I began to
feel the icy grip of defeat, and I wanted to scream.
	"Perhaps we could leave Alora with Laughter?" I suggested, knowing
even as I said this that it would not work.
	"And if we both died?" he said quietly.  "You would leave our only
child, the heir to the throne of Chaos, to be raised in Amber?"
	My shoulders slumped.  There seemed no way around it.  It was
foolishness itself for me to try and find Claudio.  Even if I succeeded,
his distrust for me was so strong, that he would never accept my help. 
Kaedric had to be the one to go.
	"I'll keep the link between our rings open," Kaedric assured me,
seeing my decision in my eyes.
	"Were you able to track me when Finndo had me?" I asked, already
knowing the answer.
	"Go," I said, and turned away, lest I change my mind.  "I never
should have had children," I muttered.  Then he was gone.

	Kaedric left the link open, as he had promised, and I was able to
trace him to Amber, and sense the Trump contact he traced from Claudio's
room.  It had come from Corwin.  I relaxed, ever so slightly.  Corwin's
presence made it rather unlikely that Finndo was involved.  Kaedric then
traveled to a place near Ygg, where Claudio and Corwin lay somewhat the
worse for wear.  Kaedric healed them, then brought them back to Amber. 
And just like that, it was over.

	Sensing that Kaedric was ready to return, I hastily went to the
bookshelf and pulled a book at random from the shelves, then climbed into
bed with it and affected unconcern.  It was not a rational response, by
any means, but I suddenly did not want to look like I had spent a moment
worrying since he had departed.  I barely had time to realize which book I
had grabbed before Kaedric appeared.  It was Byron's book of poems.  I
suppose it made sense that my hand should find it without even thinking,
given the number of times I had perused it.  Kaedric perceived which book
I held mere moments after I did, and seemed to relax a bit.  I do not
suppose I presented the proper air of an angry wife, not with the meaning
we both attached to that book.  I sighed a bit exasperatedly as Kaedric
lay his head on my shoulder, and asked how Claudio was faring.  Well
enough.  He would wake up next to Corwin, however.  I choked off a snort
of laughter at that.
	"You do realize that whichever one of them wakes up first, will
kill the other one."
	"Seeing as how they are in Amber, that's Archimedes' problem."
	I was a bit surprised that he was being so cavalier about it, but
then I reasoned that Archimedes would hardly allow them to kill each
other, having just stopped them from dying.  I sighed.  "We shall have to
find a guardian for Alora, you know."  I had no intention of going through
another night like this one again.
	He nodded.  "Or we can pass enough time such that a guardian is no
longer necessary."
	I considered this with some surprise.  Given everything that had
happened recently with the Serpent and Finndo, the idea was rather
appealing.  We could ensure that Alora finished growing up safely.  But
would we be doing her any favors by allowing her to mature outside of the
Courts?  Kaedric said we could discuss it in the morning.  Alora would
need to be consulted as well, after all.  I laid my book aside and we
simply held each other for a while.

	I was not aware of falling asleep.  It seemed as though one minute
it was night, and the next there was light streaming through the diamond
panes that Kaedric was so fond of.  Kaedric joined me in awareness a few
minutes later, and I broached the question of how serious he had been the
previous night.  As it turns out, as far as Alora was concerned, he was
quite serious.  He wanted Alora to be able to take her place in the
politics of Chaos soon.  Her ultimate position would give her quite a lot
of weight on the Council, and Kaedric felt that this weight would be
needed now.  With all that Finndo had done recently, I had to agree.  If
Finndo tried to claim a place on the Council while Caitlin still lived,
she would have the right to challenge that claim.  It certainly would not
hurt to have as much power in place as possible when this happened.  And
now that Alora had had a few weeks in which to see Chaos for herself,
rather than rely on our impressions, Kaedric was confident that she had
gained enough of a perspective to leave again, for a time.  We would not
be returning to Chantille Vale, though, on that he and I both agreed.  It
was far too isolated a place for Alora.  She needed a peer group.  But if
not Chantille Vale, then where?  I thought immediately of Mayfair, of
course.  I had always enjoyed that Shadow, ever since Kaedric first
brought me there on our honeymoon, and Alora seemed happy on the occasions
we visited it.  Kaedric admitted that was a possibility, then made his own
suggestion:  Ixaxis.

	I cannot say I exactly leapt for joy at the thought of spending
the next several years in Ixaxis.  I had spent nearly a month there,
getting over Maron's death.  It had not been a particularly pleasant time,
the icy weather outside matching the coldness I felt in my soul, and I
felt no great desire to return there.  But Kaedric pointed out that Alora
could acquire an excellent sorcerous education there, and at least Sand
would not be present.  I had always felt like she viewed me as some sort
of intruder when I was there, and her absence would make the place easier
to bear.  It would only be six years before Alora was likely to be ready
to pass the ordeals.  I decided I could bear the place for that span of
time.  Kaedric would, at least, be happy to be home for a while.  It would
not be the only Shadow we stayed in, of course, for Ixaxis alone would not
provide enough of an overall education for Alora.  Kaedric offered to show
me his favorite prospects in the afternoon.

	It was while we were dressing for breakfast that I finally asked
if he had been serious about wanting me to have a child if he died.  He
considered this for a bit, before admitting that had been his plan,
although he acknowledged that it was unnecessary.  If he died with no heir
to the House, I could take up that place, or Alora and I could abolish the
House and form a new one in her name.  I did not see how this could work,
if the heir had to be male.  Kaedric admitted that he was considering
changing the rules.  The current rules had apparently been established at
Swayvill's suggestion, the King not wanting to duplicate in any way the
circumstances of his own rise to power.  Apparently, when he took over the
throne, his mother was the Head of his house, not him.  His mother
attempted a coup against him, to either put herself on the throne, or one
of his siblings who would be loyal to her, even as King.  Swayvill
destroyed his house to keep his throne, either executing for treason those
who did not flee or renounce the house, or defeating them in single
combat.  Apparently, he hoped that by not duplicating the circumstances
under which he took the throne, Chaos would avoid a similar bloodbath.  I
decided that Swayvill was a very superstitious man.  Given this, it seemed
unlikely that he would be happy if Kaedric chose to change the rules of
inheritance for his house.  Kaedric admitted that this was so, and that he
might not do it.  It all depended on what our next child turned out to be.
	"If we have the next one properly, as opposed to after you are
dead, then I imagine you will have some control over that," I pointed out
with a bit of a smile.
	"We could arrange it to be done properly, you know."

	I still do not know what made me consider this seriously.  Maybe
it was something in the tone of his voice.  Maybe it was the fear of him
dying, as Finndo had implied that he would.  I had always taken some
comfort in the fact that I had 20 years before I had to provide Kaedric
with another child.  But what if Kaedric was not around in 20 years? 
Would it bother me that we had never had another child together?  That the
only child we had had been an accident?  I realized, much to my surprise,
that it would.  I loved Alora no less because of the circumstances of her
conception, but...  The fact remained that Kaedric and I had not intended
to have a child, then.  Kaedric did not even remember the night in
question.  What would it be like to have a child deliberately, to know
from the beginning that would be the outcome?  There was a time when such
a thought would have been abhorrent to me.  Now...I wanted to know.

	Still feeling somewhat cautious, I admitted that, given how we
would be passing another stretch of years in Shadow, it seemed a logical
time to have another child.  When I saw the way Kaedric's eyes lit up at
my words, I knew I had made the right choice.  And as he went on promising
that we would do it right, this time, I had to wonder what Alora would
think of having a baby brother.  That, I decided, was a topic that could
wait until after we had dealt with moving once again.

	You can imagine the rest.  And if you cannot, I am not going to
enlighten you.

"Ghosts and Shadows"
Melanie's Page | Melanie's Diaries

All text on this page is © 1996-200 by Kris Fazzari.

Last modified on January 5, 2000 by Kris Fazzari.