One night after Ishmael has tossed back a couple ales, he comes up
to Ariana -- an ale in each hand. He offers her one.
She takes it with a grin. "Hello, Ishmael. Having a good night?"
He gives that standard Ishmael Grin (TM). "As good a time as
possible under the circumcis...err. Circumstances."
She looks amused and raises an eyebrow. "So it would seem."
He casts a quick glance over each shoulder to make sure no one is
listening. Then he leans in and whispers, "Okay, now believe it or not, I
have ulterior motives in giving you that beer..."
The other eyebrow goes up to join the first, and she grins. "Do
you now? Please, don't keep me in suspense."
"Yeah...." he whispers, "I think you have something I want..."
She looks at the glass of ale in his hand. "Just how many of
those have you consumed already tonight?"
His face goes sour. "Damn it, woman! I don't want your ale!"
Then he seems to notice that he's shouting and quiets down a bit.
"Listen. I heard I had a brother named Rehab..."
Ariana's expression grows serious, and she takes a long drink from
her mug before answering. "Ahab. His name was Ahab."
He expels a relieved breath, "Oh thank God. I thought he was
retarded or somethin', and since everyone is so fond of saying how I'm
'just like him'..."
He takes his sword off and tosses it on the grass. Next to come
off are his boots. He stands with his feet in the grass, wiggling his
toes. "Hey. This feels pretty good..." He roles up his pant legs, then
plops down in the grass.
Ariana smiles slightly at that. "It feels even better when you're
walking along a sandy beach." She begins removing her own shoes.
He shrugs. "Guess I haven't had many opportunities." He looks
up. "Wow. What a view." He sprawls out on his back, looking up at the
stars. "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight..."
"...I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight,"
she finishes for him, a somewhat wistful expression on her face.
He cranes his neck to look at her. "Hmmm. You know, I always
wondered how that ended." He takes another swig of his ale. "So, why did
Ahab's name make you get all weird?"
She sighs, and takes another drink from her mug, then stares at
her feet for several moments. "He was a good friend of mine, before he
"I certainly hope YOU weren't to blame for the horrible clothes in
that trunk..." He pats his abdomen and gestures for Ariana to come closer
(use him like a pillow). "You mind talkin' 'bout this shit? I don't know
dick about him, and it seems like I should..." He pauses for a moment,
suddenly aware of his own serious tone, and tries to make light. "Well,
that and I think I've memorized every fuckin' blade of grass in this place
Ariana smiles despite herself at that, and takes him up on his
offer, moving closer and resting her head on his abdomen. She folds her
hands across her stomach and looks up at the stars.
"I'm surprised you don't know that much about him. Didn't
Nicholas ever talk about his father?"
Ishmael's abdomen shifts as he shrugs. "We weren't sure when or
even IF we were ever going to get back to Amber. It was easier to not
think about those things..."
"I see. Well, I'll do what I can to fill in the gaps. What do
you want to know?"
Ishmael sits bolt upright, tumbling Ariana to the side. "Holy
shit! Ahab was the fucking KING OF AMBER!"
The really scary thing is that he sounds like he honestly just put
two and two together.
Ariana sits up and looks at him in surprise. "You didn't know
"Oh man. If I wasn't so drunk, I'd probably be embarrassed." He
belches, then lays back down. "You know, I never really put it together.
People don't talk about your brother as 'King Ahab'...he's just Ahab if
he's anything at all..." Ishmael folds his arms under his head. "Okay,
so now that I've won the dumb fuck of the year award...I guess I could say
that no, I didn't KNOW that..."
Ariana smiles sympathetically. "Don't be too hard on yourself. I
don't imagine the subject of past rulers of Amber was a hot topic while
you were trapped in Chaos."
"Well that, and they thought he was an idiot." Ishmael settles
back into the grass. "So what happened, anyway?"
Ariana studies the ground in front of her again before saying
flatly, "He threw his life away needlessly and stupidly. That's what
He doesn't say anything, but gives her the general "ruh?" look...
She sighs. "Sorry. You'd think after all of these years it would
hurt less." She takes a long swallow of her ale. "Did Caine ever tell
you about how the Serpent and the Unicorn died?"
"Did he tell me, or do I REMEMBER?" He pauses. "I'm gonna have
to go with a 'no' on this one..."
"Ah. Well, from what Lavender told me, the Unicorn brought her,
Corwin and Caine to confront the Serpent, which had regained possession of
its second eye. Ahab showed up right as they were leaving, so they had to
take him along. There was no reason for him to be there. None at all."
One of her hands clenches briefly into a fist.
Ishmael pops his hand up in the air a-la-Welcome-Back-Kotter. "I
already have a few questions... First, who the hell is Lavender? Second,
what's the big deal about the eyeball? And third?" He stops. "Never
mind, just two questions."
She turns to face him. "Well, Lavender is Fiona's oldest
daughter. She commonly goes by the name Laughter. As for the eyeball,
when Dworkin drew the first Pattern, he did so with one of the Serpent's
eyes, which the Unicorn had stolen. You might know this eye better as the
Jewel of Judgment."
Thumbs up. "Gotcha!"
She smiles. "As you might guess, the Serpent regaining its eye
gave it a lot of power. Zane killed Gramble and took over Chaos at the
same time, so it's believed that there was probably a connection between
the two. Zane or one of his allies were doubtless the ones who returned
the eye, in exchange for the Serpent's backing."
"Rotten little fuck," Ishmael mutters under his breath.
Ariana nods. "For what he did to Flora alone, I want to see him
"Oh man," he groans, "What did he do to Flora?"
Ariana seems to steel herself. "Flora was Gramble's wife. She
was pregnant at the time Zane took over Chaos. Besides killing Gramble,
he..." She pauses, then continues more quietly, "He killed her unborn
child as well." Her hands have moved over her own abdomen, although she
doesn't seem aware of it.
Ishmael seems uncomfortably aware that he's expected to say
something comforting here. Unfortunately, all he manages to spit out is,
"Man. That sucks."
"Yes, it does. But we were talking about your brother. From what
I understand, Corwin and Caine were to distract the Serpent so it wouldn't
notice that what it thought was the Unicorn was actually a rather powerful
glamour cast on Lavender. Ahab and Ariadne, who was his personal
bodyguard, wound up playing this role as well. Only Caine managed to
survive until the Unicorn was able to attack the Serpent. She killed him,
but was mortally wounded herself in the process. So they both died."
She clenches a fist again. "Ahab had no business being there,
especially when he was the king. All he accomplished was to get himself
killed. I don't think the outcome would have been altered had he not been
there, although it's possible that Caine might have died. But the mission
would not have failed if he had remained in Amber. He died for nothing."
"I would have gone, too." Ishmael shrugs. "But it sounds like
your beef has a lot more to do with your friend Ahab going, than King
"No, it's both. I miss my friend, and it drives me crazy that he
died for no reason. But the King should not have been there. He had a
duty to Amber that should have been higher than his personal desire for
vengeance. I'd feel the same if it had been someone else on the throne."
"Okay, so far Ahab sounds like exactly the kind of jerk everyone
hinted at. What else can you tell me about him? I figure there's got to
be something more important about him than the dumb-ass way he died..."
"There was more to him, yes." She looks somewhat melancholy. "He
was a good friend. He was open about what he believed in and very
straightforward. He was uncompromising in his determination to set things
right. He was the first friend I had in Amber."
"Man. You get morose when you drink." He tips over her already
empty mug. "No more for you."
He sidles up behind her and starts to rub her shoulders and neck.
Given that he worked her half-to-death earlier, it actually feels pretty
"So basically, all the things that pissed you off about his death
are the things that made him what you liked about him..."
Ishmael still looks like he's trying to figure out exactly what he
meant to say in his last sentence, but stops when she starts to talk.
She nods sadly. "I suppose so. That, and the fact that it was so
unnecessary. He wasn't needed there. And he left such a mess behind when
he died. I don't think he ever really understood that he was the king.
Not the full weight of it. It was more a tool he could use to change
things to the way he wanted them to be, but he ignored the responsibility
that came with it." She sighs. "I suppose Oberon thought he'd have time
to learn all of that before he had to take the throne."
She is very tense initially under Ishmael's hands, but he can feel
her starting to relax a fraction.
He stops. "Sorry. I don't have to do that..."
"No, please, it feels wonderful. I'm just a bit keyed up right
now. I haven't talked to anyone about Ahab for a long time."
He shrugs, then moves back behind her. "Ten days wasn't a whole
helluva lot of time, ya know... Before we left to come to Tree Watch,
Whims and I had been in Amber about that long. Look at all the trouble we
got into..." He tips back the last of the ale in his own mug. "It takes
time to change when major shit goes down in your life..."
"Yes, it does. And I know he did the best he could. I just wish
he had listened to me. To someone. The last time I spoke to him were
fighting over whether he should go to Chaos or not. Even Benedict advised
him to stay in Amber. But he wouldn't listen to either of us, and we were
both so angry with each other that we didn't talk when he returned. And a
few days later he was dead." Her voice is starting to sound strained.
"You're using your 'mommy voice,' you know." He keeps rubbing, a
A bit more of the tension goes out of her. "I am? What makes it
my 'mommy voice'?"
He stops rubbing her shoulders, then clears his throat. His voice
affects a ridiculous falsetto. "Oooooh, if only he had listened to me!"
He stops and coughs. "Damn. That's hard to do."
He starts rubbing again. "Based on what you knew of Ahab, if he
had not gone to Chaos, precisely how long do you think he would have lived
before some other 'cause' sent him off half-cocked? More importantly,
what kind of king would he have made in the long-term if he kowtowed to --
and I swear that I'm not trying to piss you off by saying this -- you?"
"It had nothing to do with kowtowing to me. My point was that
several people, not just me, had advised him against going to Chaos.
Repeatedly. I don't know about you, but when Benedict advises me not to
do something, it at least makes me think twice."
The words, "too bruised to move," are drifting through Ishmael's
"But you're right. If it hadn't been the Serpent, it would have
been something else. He was always rounding up a posse to go fix a
problem he saw somewhere. He seemed to feel that if you threw enough
people at a problem, and you had the right intentions, you'd always come
out on top."
Ishmael's tone softens significantly. "In a perfect world, you
Then, eager to leave such depressing thoughts behind, "So, so far
I know that he was thick-headed and ignorant. Definitely sounds like he
could be related to me... I'm going to go out on a limb here -- do you
know anything about him that isn't going to depress the shit out of us
both? It's really killing my buzz..."
She smiles slightly. "He had a good heart. Even though he had
the power to control any of us, he refrained from using it for the most
part. And he loved his family very much. We used to get together from
time to time and chuckle over the antics of our children. Nicholas was
very determined, even as a young boy."
"It's a damned good thing, too. He put order into our Chaos."
"What is he like now? Most of my memories of him are from when he
was a boy, chasing after Beauty. We didn't interact much after Ahab died,
except for the time he put me under house arrest."
"Whoa! YOU got locked up? What did you do?"
"I refused to tell him about Avalon. I had no choice. I had a
far earlier oath to keep their secret."
The ale and his massage seem to be getting through to her now, and
she leans back against him a bit.
"I shoulda guessed it'd be something lame like that..." He stops
and stretches his fingers and arms.
"Nicholas. Hmmm." He pauses. "He's definitely not the same
Nicholas that he was before. From what I've been told -- I was only five
at the time -- he walked the Logrus and it drove him mad. Fiona grabbed
his head like a melon and forced him through it. Quickly. Deirdre had
died so he could walk it, but there just wasn't any time for him to be a
She winces. "Poor Nicholas. I remember when Foster took the
Logrus. I don't imagine being forced through the madness that quickly is
good for you."
"No, but it was necessary. I don't think dying was good for
Deirdre, but it was necessary. There are times when we're called to do
things like that..."
"Yes. But that doesn't mean we can't regret the fact that it was
necessary." She pauses. "So, how has he changed?"
He shrugs. "I don't know what you're looking for here, Ariana.
He's honorable, and that's the highest compliment I can pay a man -- but I
don't expect he picked that up in Chaos. I imagine that Nicholas has
always been honorable...."
"Yes, he was. I suppose I'll just have to find out the rest
myself. I assume that he's harder now. After what you all went through,
that's to be expected."
"Good assumption. Don't forget it..." Ishmael backs off and
starts to stand up...
Ariana leans forward, then twists around to look at him. "I
won't. But that is unlikely to change my own actions. It didn't before."
He shrugs. "I've at least known you long enough to know that
you're going to do whatever the hell it is that you want to do. Just
remember how much time passed for us...use your overly developed sense of
empathy, then stack on top of that that Nicholas was living under Ahab's
blood curse the whole time..."
She looks puzzled. "Ahab's blood curse?"
He nods. "My son shall set things right..."
That seems to trigger her memory. "'Thus I give up the spear...'
I don't think he meant that as a curse on Nicholas..." Her voice trails
off. "You don't mean it's still affecting him?"
He shrugs. "It's one helluva job to hand over to your son..."
"Yes. I guess it is rather open-ended. Who's to say when things
He nods. "I didn't tell you so you could talk about it with him.
In fact, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Nicholas would chew both
of our asses over it if you did. Just remember it. Even if it wasn't a
BLOOD CURSE blood curse, Ahab dropped a big-ass burden on Nick when he
bought the farm..."
"Yes. And here I was upset with Ahab for leaving the throne to
Nicholas when he was still so young. I hadn't even considered... He's
imposed his own obsession on Nicholas, you know."
Ishmael starts to yawn, then catches himself. "No offense...I'm
just not used to thinking this much. I think I'm supposed to be off
somewhere killing something..."
She raises an eyebrow. "How can you possibly have any energy
Ishmael stops and sniffs the air... *SNIFF*SNIFF* "Do you smell
something? What is that?" *SNIFF* "OOooooooh! That's SARCASM! Get
it?" He smiles at Ariana. "Congratulations. You thunk me into
exhaustion." He stretches, then turns to go. Then stops and turns back
around, and she can see that he's getting ready to say 'knock knock'...but
he doesn't. "Thanks..."
She plops back down onto the grass. "You're welcome. If you want
to talk some more about your brother later on, you know where to find me."
She chuckles. "I'll probably still be lying here, too tired to move."
Ariana's Page |
All text on this page is © 1998 by Kris Fazzari and Lisamarie Babik.
Last modified on February 24, 1998 by Kris Fazzari.