The first while of imprisonment -- I could not say if it was days
or months, nor at the last could I tell you for sure if it was a year --
Zane told me it was a year, all totaled, but I don't know if Zane lied or
told the truth, and how could I?  How do we know if our gods are
truth-sayers?  Since they are our gods, then it must be truth they speak;
they make the truth for us.  What we perceive, what we think we know, can
all be obliterated by a word, a gesture, or even a thought from our
gods...  Anyway.  The first while of imprisonment, whatever span of time
it was, I prayed for rescue, I made songs of war, I told myself I was
free, I resisted the questions, I cursed myself and my fate, and hated
myself...  I relived every moment of grace I had shared with Foster and
Driscoll.  I clutched my hard pillow in effigy of my children.  I mentally
refought every fight, first the way it went; then to victory; then to
death.  All these things I did, when I was still myself, when I was still
Laughter.  Then, there came a day when I wasn't Laughter, for a while,
when I was simply Zane's.  Zane's what?  His tool, I suppose.  His desk
reference encyclopedia.  His...just his.  Just Zane's.  The creature of
this ultimately powerful, ultimately patient man.  On saner days, I knew
what I was suffering's that amazing thing that happens to
prisoners, when they come to love their captors.  Of course, on saner
days, I would also launch myself at the Hellmaids -- just to be hit across
the face was enough to remind me of the joys of human contact.  My saner
days were not so sane, after all.  And through this time, I was never
really hurt, never really tortured.  There was no pounding, and there were
no thumbscrews.  There was simply the interminable pressure against me
that made me speak secrets I would rather have kept.  And, occasionally,
the rape of my mind.

	There was no way out.  No hope for rescue.  There were days I lay
catatonic; there were days when I raged and beat myself against the walls
of my cell.  Days I wished for greater punishment, so at least I would
have something to fight against.  Days when I wept endlessly to Ahab's
ghost.  Days upon days, that's all I know.  All days I couldn't escape.  I
couldn't break free of the walls, and I couldn't break free of the time. 
It weighed on me.  Sleep, the least valuable commodity to an Amberite, I
had plenty of.  Freedom, the most valuable commodity to any human
being...I had none.  I made plans for escape, I made plans for my release,
I made bargains with gods I didn't know I believed in.  I counted seconds,
I counted sheep, I counted spots on the wall, and hairs on my arms.  I
chanted an endless litany:

	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.
	I kill you, Brand.

	It went on.

	Then, one day, the door swung open, and into my hands were
delivered my Trump deck, my sword, my gloves, my daggers, my boots, my
clothing.  I held out my arms for them automatically, my eyes large, my
mouth closed.  I couldn't breathe.  I didn't want to.  An echo of an old
conversation crawled up out of my memory:  "Take away my sword, and what
do you have?"

	Take away my sword, my weapons, my abilities...and what do you
have?  A meaningless husk of a woman, good only for the shreds of
information she possessed.  An honorless woman.  No secrets were ever safe
with me; always, always, they were destined for Zane.  And the most
horrifying part of it all is that with the death of our gods, there is no
one to blame for this destiny but myself.

	I can feel Foster's nervous, anxious, hovering presence behind me,
as I take my first step onto the Pattern.

	Silly boy.  Always blaming himself for the stupid stuff I do.

	You'd think, after as many years as we've been together, he'd know
that he's not responsible.

	But he doesn't know.

	And there's no way I can reassure him as to his lack of blame, to
my health and my sanity.

	Not yet.

	The sparks jump up around my boots.  The tingling begins.  The
first step always feels like I'm walking with lead weights all over my
body.  From that point on, it gets worse.

	Two steps in, it's as if I've passed beyond the mortal realm, in a
way.  I'm communing with the gods now, I'm worshipping the order of the
universe, and trying to find the order within myself again.

	Memories flood in.  It is part and parcel of the Patternwalk.  You
cannot escape them; the Pattern demands an accounting of your life like an
Egyptian god.

	A dark night in Londontown; a werewolf on the steppes; a faerie
assassin in a grove of trees; my sword, my brother's head.

	Memories rush away, the tide goes out, and everything narrows down
to a tight focus, and I make a concentrated and concerted effort to push
through the First Veil.

	Goodbye, Zane's touch on my mind.

	It's almost harder, once you've passed a veil; even though the
going is easier, weariness is already setting in, and the resistance seems
to build even more quickly between the First and Second.

	Before I have too much time to contemplate this, the memories rush
in again.  Dour Hellmaids escorting me everywhere.  Zane's slightly smug
smile.  Brand's softly seductive voice.  My grandfather's body, impaled on
a Takaran spike.  Chameleon's fingers on my skin.  Driscoll, a mindless
slave.  "Ahab" awakening me, telling me everyone is dead.  Brand, and rose
petals...and the noisome stench of the Serpent's lair.

	Then, again, the outrushing, as the Veil approaches.  Or, rather,
as I approach the Veil.  Narrow, focus, squeeze through, panting...  A
kind of simulacrum of birth.
	Goodbye, Brand's touch.

	The Grand Curve comes up more quickly than I remembered.  It's a
wonderful feeling, this feeling of *doing*, of *being*, of exertion...  I
was too long locked up.  The sparks rise up around my shoulders,
occasionally spitting onto my face.  I have never loved this harrowing
walk before, but it is the first time I have felt alive since I was

	Since I threw myself into Zane's hands.

	Damn fool.

	Why?  Since the death of the gods, I have been, in comparison to
my previous behavior, responsible, thoughtful, and I have not acted out of
haste or foolishness.  Until that fateful day.

	Yes, Brand was goading me.  But why could I have not been more

	Why, indeed?

	I muster all my strength and concentration, and make the last
step, off the Pattern to the small island of safety at the center.  I bend
over for a moment, resting, breathing.

	"Take me back to the beginning."

	And suddenly, faster than fast, I'm at the beginning.  Foster
stares wretchedly at me, and I try to give him a reassuring smile.  "I'm
almost there," I try to say, but I don't have the words or the breath to
do so.

	And I turn, and step back onto the Pattern.

	It makes sense, really.  The first time to erase what the bad men
have done.  The second to rebuild myself in my own image.

	On my way to the First Veil, I embrace the memories:  A dragon
flaming Driscoll, just as he stands between us and shields us with his
cloak.  Elspeth's tiny rosebud face, sleeping.  Foster's amazed face, the
first time I kiss him.  Haris, nonchalantly holding a screaming Iseult
still.  A blue rose falling to the ground in a faerie grove.  Beauty's
first toddling steps.  A proud, lonely young Nicholas saluting me stiffly
with the sword of my forging.  Pax's face upon meeting his grandfather. 
Isaac's eyes, like my own.

	First Veil...  Mother of God, why did I think I had to do this

	I could have been far less lucky.  I thought I might be given to
Bances for a pleasure slave.  I thought I might be killed.  It wouldn't
even take a Takaran spike to finish me off, either.

	The second wave of memories approaches...and all I can see are the
Eyes.  I can see them clearly in my mind's eye, laying there in the dust
and ash of the Serpent's lair, gleaming dully, and I can feel them, at the
same time, burning into my hands.

	Push...through the Second Veil.  Around the Curve.  And still the
Eyes stay with me.  I reach again the small island of safety, and say to
the Pattern, "Home, to my bedroom."  And I am in the bedroom, and I
collapse onto the bed, my hands curled around imaginary stones.  I sleep.

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