Shell shocked is the word.  Funny how I can lead a hammerhead
strike on a fortified Syrian HQ and come home with a grin on my face, but
one look at a dead old man made me go all numb in the head.  But then, no
amount of AAA and SAM fire can measure up to the memories I have of

	On top of that, Benedict is stuck in a Trump trap.  That
undermines everything I had planned to do, which throws my coping skills
into further turmoil.  I had hoped that I could win his support and
leverage that over all the remaining nobles and relatives.  Only a fool
would even think of rebelling against a King with Benedict's backing. 
Contrariwise, if he thought I was unfit, I would have abdicated in his
favor without hesitation.  The only other Amberite I would do that for is
Julian.  The other are all too ambitious or too limited to rule.

	Now, I have to do all the work myself, win or lose them
individually on my own merits.  That's more strain on my merits than I
ever really wanted.

	I think I've managed to snap Eric into line.  He's a lot like
Corwin in certain ways.  He's capable in a wide-ranging way, and doesn't
like playing second fiddle to anyone.  I've left him plenty of room to
act, and I've shown clearly that I trust him, and I think he'll respect

	Putting him and Deirdre together was a bit of a risk.  On one
side, they hate each other, or did at Patternfall, anyway.  On the other,
Eric needed to be part of this.  He's known in Amber.  He's someone the
troops will follow.  Deirdre is better, but she's not around as often, and
given her marriage to Luther, I did not want to depend totally on her.  So
I'm using them both, to safeguard our nation.  If they have a problem with
that, I hope they let me know.  I can work out other plans, but I won't
have their bickering compromising the security of Amber.

	I have Fiona's support, but I never doubted that.  We have an odd
relationship, and I've never been sure what she gets out of it, but she's
never seemed to want me to ask.  She has always been there when I need
her, and that has not changed.  For that she has my love, always.  Except
maybe when my wife is looking.

	Finally, I have already started to make use of my cousins.  Random
saw us as cannon fodder, but I use them for totally dissimilar reasons.  I
know them.  To whatever degree anyone can, I understand how Laughter,
Ariana, Felix, Bart, and Usires think.  Or don't.  Usires and Bart have
interests of their own, I think, but the first three, at least, I trust
utterly.  Some jobs require a known quantity, and I have three.

	I will meet with my other relatives soon to establish the status
quo anew.  One thing I learned in Israel is the importance of active
leadership.  People follow the person with ideas and orders.  I intend to
show myself to be in command and dealing with the situation, rather than
uncertain.  It's a good act, if I can pull it off.  If not, the situation
will disintegrate and my throne will mean nothing.

	Obviously, I'd prefer to avoid that eventuality.

	To top it all off, I'll need to improve on that performance when I
meet with my nobles.  I must make it clear that while I am not Oberon, I
will have the same degree of obedience from them.  Precisely because I am
so limited, I cannot afford to have unknowns and wild cards in my hands. 
I am not a good enough player at this time to play with cards that deal
themselves.  I think I can make that impression easily, though, if the
first meeting goes well.  The Barons will follow the Princes, all other
things being equal.

	The crown isn't as heavy as I expected.  Perhaps that will change,
if I live long enough.  Right now, that seems unlikely.  Dara killed
Oberon, and she's out there for me, somewhere.  What remains now is to
lead my people in a manner that befits my rank, training, and ideals.  I
can be defeated; Amber will not be beaten.  I must do what I can, as best
I can, in order to maintain something for my son to rule.

			Ahab Barimen,
				Just another King of Amber

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