"And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
MY GOD! WHAT HAVE I DONE?"
- Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads
I came to face down on cold stone. My head is spinning from the
morphine. My hand hurts, my face hurts, and my ears are ringing. The
uniform burns where it rubs against the sunburn. I'm hungry.
Where am I? The answer is "good question." I have a sneaky
feeling that I'm back in the Labyrinth, the Shadow with the happy fun
minotaurs. The worst part is, I have no idea how I ended up here. Even
if I knew how I got here, the fact is I AM here, and I don't know of a way
out. There are plenty of directions to go, but none lead to an exit.
I woke, and frankly, I freaked. After a day like mine, freaking
out is just par for the course. They say it only takes one really bad day
to break a man, and I've just had it. I found myself puking and crying
and curling up in a corner, praying it was all just a really bad
nightmare, a side effect of the morphine. But I've gotten my head
together a little better now. I'm starting to think clearly again,
relatively. As clear as I ever can.
Sometime during the day, I'm not exactly sure as to when, I came
to two very enlightening conclusions:
1) I am going to die
2) No one cares
It's liberating when you realize certain things happen in the
universe, and there isn't a thing you can do. Take, for example, the
clear and simple fact that I'm going to die rather soon. I realize I'm a
walking corpse, and I'm not particularly afraid. I'm not even annoyed.
Hungry, yes. Scared? No, not really. I'm a little peaked that I never
did finish the piano concerto I was working on. Oh, well. I wanted to
die by misadventure more than suicide, anyway.
I don't worry. Why bother? I just let it all go.
It's a bit of a fatalistic way to see things, I must admit. If I
was still playing Sturmbahnfuhrer Aleksandr Bryant Kuenstlersohn, Franz
and I would go to the bar and examine this new attitude. He would point
out that this is just another facet of depression, one of many. But I see
it as resignation. Throwing in the towel.
I just don't care.
But I do know this: this time I'm learned my lesson. If I ever do
get out of this, I swear I'm going to be a good boy from now on. No more
mouthing off. No more telling people where they can go. No more arguing.
There's a story behind how I got here, curled up in a damp corner
of the Labyrinth, sobbing and freaking out, unarmed, without Pattern and
with limited Sorcery. It's a pretty good story. So, pull up a chair, get
a beer, lean back, and listen.
Chapter 1: I'm off to join Starfleet!
"You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave"
- Eagles, Hotel California
After leaving Ulysses' room, I was shaking. I had overreacted,
started yelling, and made a mess of things as usual. Ulysses recently had
a myriad of personal problems crop up in his life, and he needed some time
to reconcile them. And here I come, and I went out of my way to make his
problems worse. I was feeling self-righteous and stupid at the same time.
I wish I didn't love him so damn much.
Realization never stops me from one of my favorite hobbies:
walking around wallowing in my misery.
I needed to do what I had been ordered, and get it over with. I
found a steward who got me a room where I could perform my little parlor
tricks in relative peace. I lay down, propped my foot up on pillows, and
let my mind just drift across Shadows.
Contrary to popular opinion about Pattern lens and teleporting,
lens is singular. This means you can only look in one Shadow at a time.
So, skating up Shadow is quite a bit like a morphing program gone
hideously wrong. Take, for instance, you focus on a tree. You can follow
the progression of the tree as it morphs into different species and
genera, then morphs into a car, then into a cat, then into a piece of
sidewalk, all depending on which way you carry your mind through Shadow.
It allows you to examine probabilities in minute detail, knowing when to
edit, or when you've found what you're looking for. It's much like
Hellriding, except very fast, and very fluid.
What I found in Shadow was not what I was looking for. Someone
was using the Jewel to cut off Shadow paths, making hiking through Shadow
that much slower. By nature, and by habit, it's much easier to follow a
path through Shadow than it is to make your own. It's much like roads:
it's easier to fly down the freeway at 90 mph, then it is to take your 8
year old Omni down a gravel side street. Someone was nuking the freeways,
and if I pushed, I found that same someone was also watching. I got the
queasy feeling in my stomach that meant things were bad all the way
I gave up on the Jewel-man, and went hunting on my quest, per my
orders. I discovered an anonymous and huge mind playing games in the
City, but no one else. I found Martin and Llewella in Rebma. Eric,
Caine, and Gerard were in the Amber Castle Dungeons, the party place that
that is. Of Random, there was no sign. I have this feeling that he's
I went and told Archimedes my findings. He didn't seem pleased.
And why should he? I had just relayed bad news to him. My little Shadow
quest was a total failure.
Upon hearing my report, he gave me leave, if and when I felt like
taking it. And since I felt like it, I figured I would, although I had a
thing or two to take care of first.
I went up to see Melanie, to tell her I was going to be leaving.
She let me in her room, and we talked for a while. Many things came out:
I'm unhappy, I had a fight with Ulysses, I'm a sexual deviant, I was just
going to leave. She approved of my leaving, of course, any way to get rid
of me is fine by her. She memorized everything that came out of my mouth,
and I expected no less. But I did point out that no matter how far I run
or how fast, I'm going to end up right where I started, only bloodier.
She didn't agree. I said, "Just watch, and set your clocks." She seemed
to think my leaving was final.
I couldn't escape if I wanted. Just because I don't sit in the
dungeon doesn't mean I'm not a prisoner.
We hugged, and talked of staying in touch, and I left. I just
walked - or rather hobbled on crutches - right out the door of the manor,
down toward the jump point out of Foil. For one brief instant, I felt
like I might actually have freedom, a freedom of sorts I haven't enjoyed
since all of this began. And a brief, fleeting moment of happiness. I
should have run while I could.
It all came crashing down with a Trump contact from Ulysses. No,
he didn't want to talk, he just wanted to give orders. I don't really
take orders all that well, I never have. As far as I was concerned, I had
done what I had been asked, and I had been given leave to go. But I'm not
allowed to leave.
Ulysses was babbling something about the Primal Pattern and
reflections and something being in the center. I told him if he was so
all mighty powerful, maybe he should go check on it himself, and closed
After the conversation, I felt pretty stupid. It's the PATTERN,
for God's sake. It's what makes everything fun and fine and hunky-dory.
And it's what makes my life interesting. I sat down, back to a tree, and
decided to find out what was going on.
The Jewel-man was still playing Shadow-games, so I avoided him,
and took a direct path past Amber up to the Primal Pattern. And, sure
enough, there was someone standing in the center. He didn't look happy.
I really couldn't identify him, I couldn't have remembered his name if my
life depended on it. Not in my exhausted state. But he was with Fiona
and with us before the Labyrinth, so I figured he was one of the good
guys. I should probably rescue him. Besides, he was making a mess out
the Pattern, and that just gets annoying.
I teleported there, and neatly teleported him out. He didn't even
stop to thank me from saving him from eventual death. He just split.
"Well..." I thought, "maybe he's not a good guy after all." It certainly
didn't seem to be a big deal. He didn't treat it like it was. I just
didn't want Chaosite guts all over the Pattern.
Feeling like a bigger idiot than normal, I brought up Pattern one
last time. Come to think of it, if I would have known it was to be my
last lens EVER, I would have relished it, savored the experience. I
didn't know, though, and I was preoccupied with looking for a place to go.
A place that was light, and fun, and easy. A no-pressure Shadow to hang
out in. I picked a version of Star Trek, with an apartment, a bank
account, and a car, all in my name. Off to Starfleet I would go! Seemed
like something much more fun than screwing around with Finndo. A good
time to be had by all. With no muss, no fuss, I teleported off to my
ideal Shadow-homeworld, into my ideal Shadow-apartment in San Francisco.
When I got there, I passed out from exhaustion. And when I woke
up, the fun would begin.
Chapter 2: Trumps in Many Shapes and Sizes
"I take you where you want to go
I give you all you need to know..."
- Mr. Self-Destruct, NIN
I woke to a queasiness I usually associate with SOMETHING TERRIBLY
WRONG. It's my spidey-sense: a feeling when something is wrong with the
Pattern, and I'm about to get hosed. I rolled over off my stomach onto my
back, and started to contemplate this new problem.
The Shadow-people were throwing an absolute fit. There was
something going on with the structure of the universe, and they didn't
know what to do. They had just enough technology to know there was
something wrong, but not enough to know exactly what it was. The
disturbance was tipping off a few wars and skirmishes throughout the
I relaxed my body, and brought up lens. Lo and behold, what did I
see but Shadow storms, a few Shadows off. I didn't have time to brace
myself, and I didn't have the stamina to ride it out. The only thing to
do was to roll with it, and pray that I didn't run into a tree on the way
It hit like a ton of bricks. I did my best impression of Dorothy
in the tornado, and wondered briefly if I was going to end up in Oz or
not. Like every kid, I had read all 17 of the L. Frank Baum Oz books, and
I was hoping that they were coming true in a weird and twisted way.
Granted, I was also hoping that if I was going to Oz, Ozma would be older
and scantily clad. But, alas, not to be.
I came to rest in a flotsam Shadow, where loose Shadow stuff was
washing up. Whatever could penetrate Shadow did, and ended up in a heap
with me. It littered the landscape, and generally made a mess of the
place. I was quite a way down from where I had started, since the place
was run by sentient mice. As sentient mice were a long way from sentient
humans, I figured I was on one of the wilder sides of Ygg. I made the
mandatory feeble attempt to edit the Shadow so that the mice worshipped me
as their god, but I swiftly gave this up as silly. I decided to see what
had washed up with me.
There really wasn't much of interest. Bits of this and bits of
that. But one thing did strike my eye, and tingled that spidey-sense of
mine: there was a piece of Trump. I distinctly remember, Dad had told me
Trumps were indestructible. Ulysses based his silly armor on this
principle. But here I was, standing among the mice, holding
irreconcilable proof that this assumption was wrong. This was a torn
Trump, just a piece of a whole. Trumps can be destroyed, or at least
shredded. I have evidence.
I picked it up in my hand, and turned it over a few times. There
wasn't enough left of the Trump to tell much about it, other than it
looked like it lead to a room. I was curious what a piece of Trump could
do, so I concentrated on it. Much to my surprise, the entire Trump phased
into view, as if I held the entire thing in my hand. It showed me a room
beyond, possibly a study. It was empty, and it looked abandoned. I
figured anywhere was better than where I was now. So, grabbing my
crutches and hitching up my guitar, I passed through the Trump.
Sure enough, I was in a study. There was a large desk, a shelf
lined with books, and a door that lead beyond. I relaxed and checked for
the owner of the study, but I found no one. Since the place looked
abandoned, I figured I would do a search. So, I approached the shelves.
My heart almost stopped. On the covers of the books was the
symbol of the falling star. My father's symbol. These were his books,
and the Trump I had was his Trump. With trembling hands, I opened the
book. And I almost dropped it when I found what was in there.
Laid out, in my hands, was the holy grail of all Amberites. The
one thing I can never have, the one thing no one ever figured out how Dad
pulled off. In my hands lay the instructions for becoming a living Trump.
Admittedly, I almost lost my bladder. But I kept my head, and
memorized everything I could. Going through my head at the same time was:
"Ulysses will never get this. It will never be his. It's mine. It's
mine and Melanie's. It's ours by birthright, dammit." It was a greedy
thing to think, but I was thinking it nonetheless. And I just memorized
I went through the other books. One set was a set of journals
pertaining to Melanie's childhood. I read them, and with every page, I
felt for her. She hides it well, the pain. It's amazing. Granted, Dad
never hit her, but he did things just as bad, in the name of turning her
into a 'Lady.' I wonder if she knows I understand, and I've been there? I
know what it's like to live with the nightmares and the terror. I have to
admire her strength. She just ignores it, and goes on, and I just can't.
Another set of journals was dedicated to Maron's childhood.
Apparently, his mother had more control over his life, than either of us.
He's much like his mother, and Dad never really seemed to like her. He's
never been through the gauntlet. He's not one of us.
I searched the desk, and found drawings of the universe. I
committed those to memory, too.
After the desk, I had exhausted the supplies of the little study.
I straightened up, more out of habit than out of necessity. Somewhere in
my mind, I could hear Brand speaking softly and calmly about how upset he
was with me for touching his things, in that menacing way of his.
Although he's dead, I still felt the need to eliminate my presence from
his private abode.
Finished with the room, I approached the doors at the end.
Opening them revealed a long, dark corridor. There was no place to go,
Chapter 3: Hospitality
"You little shit, you're in it now.
I hope they throw away the key."
- The Trial, Pink Floyd
The corridor was long and dark, and made of stone. I adjusted
myself on my crutches, and cast a small light spell so I could see ahead.
The light didn't do too much. The only thing I could hear was the sound
of my own steps, and the light thunks of the crutches on the floor. It
was deadly quiet. I was curious. Where was I? In Chaos? In a Shadow
shunted way off to the side? I couldn't tell. The position of the study
in Shadow was confusing, and the normal natural fix that I get on places
didn't kick in.
At the end of the hall was a large, roundish room, and inside this
room were five angry minotaurs. Don't ask me why I didn't detect them
while in the room or coming down the hallway. I think I'm going to chalk
it up to one of those great mysteries of life.
They made short work of me. One minute, I was standing in the
hallway, realizing that there were several minotaurs mouthing the word
'lunch.' The next minute, one of them was pounding me into a wall. I
I'm not too sure when it was I came to. My gut told me that it
was several hours, simply because all those twinkies I had eaten were
digested and gone.
I was lying on my back someplace dim, sans clothing. ALL of my
possessions had been taken, down to my cast. In the minute I had to
think, I evaluated the situation:
My clothing was missing. That's not a big deal. Small twinge.
My cast was gone. I wouldn't be able to walk, and I'd be
helpless. Slightly larger twinge there.
My jacket, my favorite black leather jacket, was gone. I started
They took my stratocaster with the black pick guard. I passed
A moment later I was brought around by one of the minotaurs.
I sat up and demanded to know why they had taken my clothing.
They told me they were under orders. Okay, I can buy that. But what I
wanted to know was why they had removed my cast. They told me some
mumbo-jumbo about concealing weapons down in there. The only thing that
would go down in there was a coat hanger. I pointed out that I wasn't
going to be walking very far without the cast. The fact is I wouldn't
have been walking far ANYWAY, but I wasn't going to tell them. The
minotaurs took this new problem in stride, though. One grabbed me, threw
me over his shoulder like a sack of kumquats, and off we went to see his
'master.' Someone I had already decided I didn't want anything to do with.
I bounced up the stairs, getting a good look at a combination of
this guy's hairy back and the floor. I realized I may have received a
concussion from where I was slammed into the wall, and my head was
screaming with each bounce. I figured, although I wanted to cry out, it
would be best not to antagonize the minotaurs, and bit my lip instead. I
felt pretty silly, being naked and over this guy's shoulder. But what
could I do?
I felt the hairs rise on the back of my neck, as if in
anticipation. Anticipation of what, I'm not really sure. But it's an odd
feeling. All of the sudden, I feel like someone is staring right through
to my soul. I had felt it in the Labyrinth, and then had chalked it up to
nerves. Now, I wasn't so sure that conclusion was entirely correct.
We came out of the stairway, and I realized to my dismay that I
recognized where we were. I hadn't the slightest clue as to how, or why I
was here, but I was, and that was that. I was in Castle Amber.
"Well," I thought, "at least the castle isn't sentient any more,
and trying to drop bricks on my head."
As we passed through the corridors, I started having the weirdest
sensation, something I haven't felt since I was small, and had just walked
the Pattern for the first time. I swear to God, as we passed courtiers,
guards, and the usual court filler, I could hear their voices clutter my
head. And not just the normal flim-flam associated with unfiltered
thoughts of Shadows. Either I had enemies out of people I had never met,
or there WAS a filter in place. The ultimate low-pass. I seemed to be
getting just derogatory comments. I decided I had been hit on the head a
little TOO hard, or now I was hallucinating. Or both.
Just before we entered the throne room, as I listened to the
comments about my skinny, freckled ass, I had a few realizations. The
first of which was that I wasn't just Sandr, Joe-off-the-street. I was
Prince Alexander of Amber, correct spelling and everything. It's not
really something I think about much. I knew there was a political war
going on, and no matter how far I run or how hard I hide, someone,
somewhere, is going to drag me back. It won't stop me from running, it's
just I know it will never be permanent. The second major realization I
had was that little Princelings like me who don't want to play the Game
have a bad tendency to get executed.
I did my best to look up at the crowds, smile, and wave.
We entered the throne room. The minotaurs took me down, and held
me up in front of the throne, so I could look at the men who had captured
me, face to face.
I tried to smile pleasantly at Finndo and Maron. I really did.
There wasn't much else I could do. Now, I KNOW what was expected of me.
I was supposed to grovel and cry and beg, just like I always do. And I
considered it for a moment, and decided there wasn't much of a point. So
I did what any sane man would do.
"Do you have a cigarette?" I asked.
Finndo wasn't really expecting this. "No."
"You sure have shitty hospitality," I observed. And it was true.
For my observation, I earned a fist to the face, and found myself
lying on the floor. I could hear Maron laughing softly in the background.
The short hairs on the back of my neck went up again. And I accused
Ulysses of acting like Brand. God, was I ever wrong. Brand's not dead,
he's just possessed Maron.
I was hauled again to my feet, and held up before Finndo. He
demanded to know what I was doing skulking about Kolvir. I pointed out I
wasn't. He insisted I was. I let it drop.
I was wondering what interesting humiliation I was to suffer at
the hands of these two psychos. But instead of humiliation, I heard
something worse. The soft CLICK! as a single manacle was clipped around
my out-stretched wrist, as the minotaurs held it in place. I wasn't sure
what it was exactly, but I had a hunch, and I really wanted no part of
what was to come next.
Finndo told me he was disappointed in be, since I had never
bothered to attempt to liberate him, and ordered me thrown into the
dungeon. The first thought to go through my head was, "That's IT?" I was
expecting a little more from the man in the way of imagination. I figured
I was going to get raped, or publicly flogged, or subjected to one of a
million other interesting torments. But they never happened. Ten points
for effectiveness, but minus several million for style!
Ah, well. I'm not hot on damp, enclosed places. I'm not hot on
enclosed places at all. So, I thought I'd try groveling. It's what he
wanted, wasn't it? But I don't think my heart was in it. To be frank, I
didn't really think it was going to do the smallest bit of good. And, of
course, it didn't. Just made me look stupid.
The minotaurs dragged me out into the hall, with intentions of
taking me down to the dungeons. There were tons of them, there was no
escape, my Pattern was gone, and I was wounded and helpless. I was
figuring at this point the reason they took my clothing was to keep me
from committing suicide on them. See, I'm prone to that. While I had my
chance, I figured there was more than one way to kill myself, other than
malicious use of boot-laces. "What the hell," I thought. "I wanted to
die messily, anyway." I waxed the minotaur carrying me, and started for a
second. They didn't have much brains, and were easy to fry. They didn't
seem to want to kill me, being under orders to keep me alive or some other
nonsense. Seeing this, I simply decided to fry them as they came near.
The law of limits applies, even to minotaurs, and eventually I'd kill them
Not to be, unfortunately. Finndo summoned the Logrus, and carried
me down to the dungeons, past the cells of Caine, Eric, and Gerard, and
deposited me in hell.
There is something very FINAL about the way a cell door closes.
Loud and sudden, it conveys the feeling that your life is pretty much
over. You can live in this dank, dark little room and live in your own
shit day after day for eternity, growing skinnier and sicker, until you
figure out a way to commit suicide and end it. And it was feeling pretty
final to me, too.
As my bravado ran out, and realization dawned, I finally broke
down and started to cry.
Chapter 4: A Breath of Freedom
"I was bruised and battered
I couldn't tell what I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself"
- Bruce Springsteen, Streets of Philadelphia
While my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I started to think of all the
cool ways to die while stuck in this cell. On the top of my list was
starvation. It's long and slow, but effective. Next came exposure, then
the flu. They weren't misadventure, and none of them seemed much fun.
Eventually I got up, and paced the length and breadth of the cell,
to find out how much room I had. It wasn't much. I started inspecting
the door, and making plans of what spells I might be able to cast to help
me out. I wasn't sure if I even had my sorcery, nor if it would be
effective in here. I wished for clothing again. The cell was damp and
cold, and I shivered. I knew that in prison that murderers and rapists at
least get books to read. I don't even get that.
On the far wall, across from there door, was the first sign that
someone had occupied the cell before me. They had scratched a pair of
murals into the walls, apparently to pass away the time. I walked over,
and squatted before one, examining it. It was a careful depiction of a
library, complete with desk and books. The other one was a picture of a
lighthouse standing on a bluff. I shook my head, and figured I would be
adding to the pictures on the wall before long. I had to find something
to do while I starved myself to death.
The longer I studied the pictures, the more I realized that
something was wrong. Deep in the back of my mind, I felt the stark
coolness that I associate with the impending opening of a Trump. I took a
step back, not believing. These weren't murals on the walls. These were
Trump sketches. One led to a library, the other to a lighthouse.
I backed off, and thought about this for a while. Someone - one
of us - had escaped from here before. A Trump artist? I couldn't
remember a Trump artist being imprisoned in the Amber dungeons. But I
chose not to intellectualize this too much, and just go. But which one?
Under normal circumstances, I would take the library every time. These
were not normal circumstances, and I didn't want to take the chance that
the library just went to someplace else in Amber, and chose the
I braced myself, relaxed, and opened the Trump. It shimmered and
sprang into life, showing a scene of a lighthouse standing on a bluff
looking out to sea. Keeping off of my foot, I crawled through, and landed
with a "whumph" onto the warm sand.
I looked up. Towering above me was the lighthouse. There was no
one in sight. But, neither was Castle Amber.
I tried to get up to walk to the lighthouse, but understanding
dawned when I stood on my foot and screamed in agony as the bones ground
together. I fell to my knees, lay there, and panted for a moment. I knew
that getting to the lighthouse was going to take a while. I looked for
something to be used as a crutch. No dice. I was going to have to crawl
over the rocks, with my foot dragging behind.
So, in the red-hot sun of midday, over rocks that scraped my hands
bloody and tore at my knees, I dragged myself up the beach to the
lighthouse, in a vague hope that someone lived there who could help me.
The sun glinted off the heavy silver manacle on my wrist, and more than
once I wished that I could just teleport myself to a hospital. Or
teleport myself ANYWHERE, for that matter. I could feel my eye start to
blacken and bruise, an effect of the punch to the face I had received. It
was long, it was painful, and more than once I wished I had stayed in the
I finally made it to the lighthouse, and was able to pull myself
up off of the floor, and steady myself on walls and derelict furniture. A
search provided me with the information that I didn't want to know, that
the lighthouse had been long since abandoned of any inhabitants. Whoever
had lived here before didn't leave much in the way of anything useful
behind. There wasn't anything that I could use for clothing, and very
little I could use to help my foot. I found some twine and some kindling,
to be used as a vague splint. It wasn't comfortable, but it would have to
do. I discovered a large branch that would work as a crutch, and went out
to figure out what I would do next.
I stood on the beach, and looked back. What was left of the
Forest Arden stretched from horizon to horizon. It was blackened and
charred, and it didn't look like anything was left alive. I felt a bit of
pain, and closed my eyes. For everything that I hate about Amber, they
knew how to keep a beautiful forest, and now it was gone. Burned,
charred, twisted, obliterated from existence. I couldn't understand how
Finndo could do such a thing. I thought of people who lived there,
probably dead. Jubal, we had actually gotten along, was long gone, either
out of Amber or dead. It was hard to believe that Finndo could murder his
own son, but Amber's a funny place. It makes you do some unbelievably
evil things sometimes. I mourned for him, and the people who died
defending the forest briefly, and then moved on.
At the bottom of a short cliff, on the beach, was moored a boat.
It looked like my best bet for getting out of here, since walking overland
was not an option. There was a small rocky path down, and I took it,
slowly and carefully. I banged my foot a few times, and tried my best to
stifle my screams every time. I made it down, eventually, but not without
some pain. Releasing the boat wasn't too much of a problem. Luckily, the
boat actually came with oars. I did my best to push it out to sea, with a
combination of hobbled shoving, and prying with the oars. But,
eventually, I was free, and in the boat, and leaving. I quietly thanked
every god above that Else had talked me into buying a rowing machine.
I didn't have a real destination in mind. With the manacle, I
wasn't sure if I was limited to rowing around on the same world as Amber,
or if I'd slip through the cracks between Shadows, or what. I decided
that I would head in the general direction of Rebma. I didn't know what I
would do once I got there, but anything was better than where I was now.
I rowed for a while, trying to ignore the sun beating down,
burning me to a red crisp. My arms started to ache, a pain that spread to
my back. There was a burn there associated with unused muscles. I tried
to just concentrate on rowing. Soon, I was concentrating on rowing and
remembering some of the better tenor parts from my main man Mozart's "The
Marriage of Figaro." So, eventually, there I was, sore and in pain,
burned, naked, singing opera in German. It was so apropos, I could have
But, all good things must come to an end. The little boat turned
out to be leaky. Just my luck. It wasn't bad enough that I was beaten,
naked, and now a refugee. My boat had to sink, too. Annoyed, I decided
to find out if my sorcery really did work or not, and cast the "you too
can act like Christ and walk on water" spell. If I thought I could get
the boat into shore reasonably easily without it sinking on me first, I
would have. But I didn't. I think I was more than a little sunstroked.
My spell went off successfully, and I found myself struggling to
stand on now solid water, trying to figure out which way Rebma was. That
wasn't difficult, so I headed in that general direction.
I walked for a few more hours, and it was slow going. I'm happy
that Rebma isn't really all that far away from Amber. I found the stairs
down with relative ease. Figuring that whomever lived there could only
kick my ass further, I descended.
Chapter 5: Refugee
"And as you cross the Circle Line,
well, the ice-wall creaks behind -
You're a rabbit on the run."
- Jethro Tull, Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day
I was naked and I would stand out like a sore thumb on the Rebmite
streets. Since I could do an impression of Christ, I figured I had enough
left in me to do an invisible too. Sure enough, I took care of the nudity
problem really fast. You can't see it, it can't hurt you.
I raided a dwelling by the stairs for something to wear. Rebmites
don't wear much, as a rule. Breaking in was relatively easy, and I stole
one of those bathing suits they consider clothing. Putting it on made me
feel almost human again. I left the house, dropped the spell, and tried
to figure out what to do next.
I knew the people in Rebma didn't exactly like me, what with my
raid on the castle and all. Maybe, I thought, I could beg and grovel and
someone there would take me in anyway. Did Llewella need an addition to
her collection of souls? I was happy to donate mine, even for a donut.
Hell, I was hungry enough to eat a bathroom floor tile.
I thought up an alternative to begging on my knees to Llewella. I
had also spotted Martin within Rebma somewhere. All I needed to do was to
open my mind, and find him.
I started navigating the streets, and I heard someone shouting my
name from behind. I flinched involuntarily, turned around and, of all
things, I saw my amulet coming bounding down the street at me. I thought
I had left it with Mok, but it had followed me through Shadow and found me
in Rebma anyway. I wasn't unhappy to see it, though. I leaned down, and
picked it up. It was doing its best imitation of being out of breath.
When it relaxed, it screeched, "Do you know that you're in danger??"
Now I know why I flush it down toilets across Shadow. "No shit."
"Well, you are," it answered, and then it squirmed in my hand a
I hung it around my neck. I had felt empty without it, like a
piece of me was missing. Now, at least, I could follow people through
Shadow. I wasn't totally confined to individual worlds. As a bonus, I
had someone to talk to.
As I walked down the busy streets of Rebma, I started hearing the
voices in my head again. Most were just the normal "get out of the way"
kind of thing. A few were comments on my rather lack of physique. Most
were just anonymous rude comments. I worked on building a new filter in
my head as I walked.
It seems the streets were crowded with refugees, people fleeing
their homes rather than be trapped under Finndo's rule. Normally I would
stand out like a sore thumb. But now, with people here from all over
Amber, I was simply another poor slob who got caught in the onslaught.
It wasn't hard to track down Martin. Amberites really stick out,
when you know how to look. I followed his psychic signature across town
to a rather large manor. I walked up, pounded on the door, and felt
annoyed. Now would be a good time to take up the mantle of being a
Prince, instead of some poor schlub, at least to get lodging and food.
The door opened, and Martin stood there. I could see that he was trying
to figure out what I was doing at his house. So, I pointed to the manacle
on my wrist.
"Oh," he said. "We don't harbor refugees from Finndo's dungeons."
I closed my eyes, and envisioned a scene where I leapt up, and
bashed Martin's head against the door frame repeatedly. But I didn't. I
decided to beg, instead. So, I was going to beg for a Trump.
Martin looked at me quizzically, until the notion sunk into his
head. "All right. Fine. One of my Trumps is missing. Except for
Archimedes. I might need that."
I asked for Ulysses. No go. Neither was Laughter. He didn't
have Melanie. Banging his head repeatedly against the door frame was
starting to sound better and better. But instead, I just started to
giggle. I asked him whom DID he have. He had Cameron. I thought "fuck."
He said he'd leave it in the middle of the room, get it, and don't come
I picked up Cameron's Trump. It felt cool and smooth under my
fingertips. I felt dumb Trumping him, but I didn't have a choice. The
Trump animated easily, and I went in with kid gloves, as not to jostle
him. When he came on, I begged again, this time to be pulled through.
The funny thing is, after all that time, I ended up right where I
Chapter 6: Will the Circle Never be Unbroken?
"I'm so happy
Cause today I found my friends
They're in my head"
- Nirvana, Lithium
I found myself standing in Laughter's manor, dripping wet, propped
up on my branch to keep me off of my foot, sunburnt, and exhausted. And
at that moment, I could have hugged Cameron. But I didn't. I didn't want
to catch anything from him. Instead I ended up sitting down hard on the
floor, and thanking him profusely, filing in the back of my head that I'm
now in hock with my life to this guy.
Melanie was standing there, and I had the presence of mind to tell
her that I had something very important to tell her, thinking of
discussing Dad's notes. On the heels of that, I showed them the manacle.
I told them that I needed a doctor, some morphine, and a hacksaw. It came
out really confusing. The doctor and morphine were for my foot, and the
hacksaw to see if I could cut through the manacle. But the other two
seemed to think that I wanted to cut off my hand to get rid of it. Uh,
no. I'd rather be Patternless than handless right now. But, something
good did come out of the confusion. Cameron healed my foot.
That's twice in hock to him. Ouch.
We started to figure out what to do about the manacle. It took
them a while to pry out of me where it had actually come from in the first
place. From healing my foot, we had this idea that maybe we could shrink
my hand down, and slide it out. No go. We tried shrinking my hand, but I
started screaming in pain long before it got anywhere. I felt like my
hand was imploding. Cameron quickly stopped, and tried to put my hand
back. My hand changed, but the manacle stayed the same. It's quite a bit
like a noose. I started screaming again. He stopped. We figured that we
have a problem. My hand started throbbing and throbbing.
I heard people enter behind me, and I turned around. In the
doorway stood Ulysses, Archimedes and Laughter. And at that point, I had
been too preoccupied to hear the thoughts. But now they were coming in
loud and strong. I heard quite a bit of strange and confusing things,
something about Sky, and killing me, and "A good thing..." came out of
Archimedes. I have no idea what it meant, but the angry thoughts just
kept rolling at me. There was no way to escape. So, for the moment, I
tried to ignore them. But it was hard, and I could feel myself start to
I asked for some real clothing, and Archimedes dropped a uniform
at my feet, complete with jack-boots. I picked it up in my hands. I knew
this kind of uniform, like it was second nature. It was from home. I
looked up at him confused. Had they gone to my home, looking for me? And
if so, why did they have an SS uniform? The rank was wrong, I'm not a
Commandant, and I'm a political officer, not a military one. But it was
clothing, and I hadn't seen any in what seemed to be a lifetime.
Archimedes handed me a towel so I could finish drying off.
While I dressed, I tried to listen to the conversations going on
around me, but things were getting really confusing. Mention was made of
the manacle around my wrist, and that I came from Finndo. Something else
about our attempt to remove it. More thoughts pointed in my direction. I
didn't have filters in place, and the group of Amberites was a much large
collection of MIND than at either Amber or Rebma. It was becoming
overpowering. I finished dressing, and looked around.
The exhaustion was getting the better of me, and the room was
starting to go swimmy. I sat back down on the floor, and dropped my heads
in my hands. Melanie told me I needed sleep, and I told her I didn't.
She started to get insistent, and I told her to go away. Laughter's
thoughts of "dumbass" were starting to override mine, and I yelled at her
to stop thinking so damn loud. I didn't know what was going on around me.
People yelling, something about multiple Patterns, others thinking things
about me I didn't understand, Melanie trying to tell me that I needed to
go to bed, all I needed to do was take her hand. I wanted people out of
my mind. I didn't want to be in Foil anymore, but I was too tired to run.
I remember yelling at people, and feeling out of control, and
trying to explain to Cameron why multiple Patterns are a bad idea. I
remember feeling like I was standing on the lip of a very tall well, about
to fall in.
Then there was a prick, a sharp pain, and Archimedes standing over
me with a needle, Ulysses ready to hold me if I freaked. I looked at the
needle, looked at them, and felt a brief spurt of uncontrollable anger.
Then I started to fall and fall and fall and fall...
The last thing I remember was gentle hands picking me up off the
floor, and Archimedes' instructions to put me to bed. Then nothing else.
"Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I think I'm cracking up"
- Green Day, Basketcase
I came to face down on cold stone. My head is spinning from the
morphine. My hand hurts, my face hurts, and my ears are ringing. The
uniform burns where it rubs against the sunburn. I'm hungry.
I'm in the Labyrinth, of that I no longer have much doubt.
Somehow, I got myself on my feet and walking. I don't look up, or side to
side. I just stare down. But I'm moving. It's either the depression or
the exhaustion. I can no longer tell the difference between the two.
The question isn't so much as HOW I got here anymore, but WHY? I
can't imagine the other Amberites dumping me here because I've lost my
little trick. At least they would have let me finish sleeping, and eaten
a little, before I got kicked out. It doesn't strike me as something they
would do. So, WHY? I don't know. Maybe a Shadow storm came across Foil,
and I got tossed here. Maybe Maron showed up while I was sleeping, and I
got shoved here last-minute, for my own good. Maybe someone was playing a
game, and wanted to find out what would happen if my life somehow became
worse. It's like the question: "How many licks does it take to get to the
center of a lollipop?" The world will never know.
I'm not thinking clearly. I think I've had a breakdown, but it's
difficult to tell. It's not like getting a wart. You can point to the
growth, and say, "That's a wart." Other than a complete manic response, I
don't have something to point to and say, "Yep, that's a breakdown."
Well, the crawling into a corner, and the crying jags are a bit of a
tip-off. I keep crying and crying, and trying to tell myself that I don't
care. But one side of my brain doesn't listen to the other.
What bothers me is that Maron has the Trump I found to Dad's
study. It won't take him long to figure out how to become a living Trump,
and then he'll be unbeatable. It takes time, but he has the resources
right there, in Amber. All I know is I carry the instructions around in
my head, and I'm not sure if it makes me indispensable or just a target.
Probably a bit of both.
I'm so tired. I want to sit down again. I don't want to move. I
just want to stay in one single spot. I want to be a vegetable. I keep
I've been thinking about my funeral. I think about arrangements I
would have like to have made. I decided I don't want to be buried. I
want to be cremated and rolled into a joint and smoked. It would make me
I want to go home.
I have decided, though, if I do get to leave here, that I'll be
good for now on. After all that's happened, I'll be good and loyal and
anything else anyone wants of me. No more mouthing off. No more being a
jerk. It had to be pounded into my head, but I never want to be in this
situation again. I never want to be quite as frightened, or lonely, or
tired. I promise, swear to God, that I'll good. No more beatings.
I've learned my lesson. I really have. Can I go home now?
to the Diary list