I finished my report to the King and departed, heading back to the
Shadow where we lost Dara. Gerard (Ivan, Gramps, WHO*EV*ER) opened a
Trump gate of such proportion that the Fleet of the Tattered Black Flag
sailed right on through and into Amber. Wow. Good thing Dara didn't get
a hold of that.
Leaving Jesus to his miserable existence (Felix is eventually
going to have to face the music -- and when the crooner is Ahab, watch
out), Foster and I returned to see the kiddies. I couldn't help but
think, as I played with Iseult, that three is the magic number... if you
have to forge swords in threes, shouldn't you have three kids at a time?
Then Iseult opened her mouth and let out the most magnificent scream to
indicate that she was hungry, and I realized I certainly do not need three
small children. In fact, I already have three children, even if Beauty is
as grown up now as one gets... With that in mind, I went to see Beauty,
and tell her that we'd returned safely.
She was in the garden with Nicholas. I couldn't bring myself to
intrude for more than a moment or two.
The King posted orders not to leave the castle under any
circumstances without express permission from him. I recalled the events
prior to my arrival in Amber -- how Sand had brought the castle down
around the ears of the royal family. I really hoped that such
circumstances as those would be extenuating enough to depart the castle
without the King's express permission. I didn't take this up with Ahab,
The next morning, I looked in on Mom and Beauty. Beauty didn't
answer her door, and neither did Caitt. I took this opportunity to test
my door-kicking-in skill. It still works. Beauty was in a deep,
sorcerous sleep. I think I began to grumble something about the immediate
demise of the sheep-loving Faerie who did this, if this is another curse.
It's not, though, and it's not really directed at Beauty, but at Caitt.
It seems Mom got kidnapped by Faeries.
Really. And I'm trying to watch my language around the kids. But
how can you watch your language in such trying times as these?
We woke Beauty up -- we being, Foster was there, and I called in
Nicholas, and we broke the spell. Beauty was probably not pleased, but I
was too busy looking into where Caitt got to. Replaying the scene
indicated that some big, hairy-armed creature had reached up from under
Mom's bed and grabbed her and dragged her down to the pits of hell, or
some such. I shoved the bed aside. The floor looked seamless. I
knocked. Large, hairy arms flailed up out at me, grabbed me, pulled me
in, and then popped me back out a second later.
Hmph. I ran to get Nicholas. He came back with me. "When
something comes out, cut it!" I think I told him, and knocked again at the
spot. Large hairy arms reached out -- and snagged both of us.
We didn't get popped back up this time, either. We fell, and
fell, and fell... and just when I had time to wonder if we were falling
longitude or latitude-wise, I landed. And Nicholas landed on top of me.
Our fall was cushioned -- a very nice curtained bed. The room was not
overly glamoured. We had been taken by rich Faeries. Great.... Nicholas
and I scrambled off the bed quickly. There's nothing kosher about sitting
on your future mother-in-law. Good boy.
I scoped out hiding places, intending that when we were found,
we'd jump out of ambush and beat senseless whoever had trapped us here.
However, when we were found, I was the only one who leapt for concealment.
Nicholas stayed still and talked to the woman who came in. Eventually I
came out from behind the bed curtain, and we carried on a civilized
conversation -- what have you done with my mother? She'll be staying with
us until she learns her lesson. What lesson? Oh, she's been very bad,
interfering in the ways of Faerie.
I grew peevish, but nothing was to be done. The Faerie woman made
a few snide comments about my reputation. She sent us away... wise of
her, not to keep the King's son.
We arrived back in Caitt's room to a concerned crew; after
assuring them that we'd come to no harm, and breaking the news to Beauty
that Caitt will be staying with the Faeries for a while, I went to Ahab
and informed him that Faerie magic was working rather well in Amber. So
much for magic being turned off... but it came down to a good thing, as I
learned, for WE HAVE NO JEWEL, it has been GIVEN BACK TO THE SERPENT.
Could have knocked me down with a feather. What the hell are we going to
do? I wondered. Well, I was assigned something to do. Beauty and Foster
and I, with help from Ariana upon her arrival, played with Faerie magic,
and made the most beautiful thunderstorm... Until Ahab ordered us to turn
it off. But that's OK. We can duplicate at least some of the effects of
the Jewel. The weather-controlling ones, at least...
The next morning, possessed of the intelligence that something,
probably Benedict, is hunting the Pattern children, including my son, I
made a decision to lock them away in a stopped Shadow -- the Rath, to be
exact. This idea came to me because it's what happened to Vetch once --
he was going after Ahab's body, I think, and got stuck in a frozen Shadow.
If Vetch can get stuck, so can Benedict. Not because Benedict and Vetch
have fully equivalent abilities, or anything, but that seemed the safest
basket to load my eggs into. And Beauty's eggs, and Ariana's... I left
Foster to guard. Eventually, he'll forgive me for that.
So I went back to Amber after a long, hard morning of Shadow
freezing. I tried not to think about things. Not beyond living through
the crisis, and getting my family through it, either. Caitt -- captured
by Faeries -- but far safer there than here, with the assassins... she's
not important to anyone but me and mine, but she would defend us with her
life... and likely would lose it, as well.
Though my thoughts did wander... I am more than half-way through
my third decade, and the gifts of my heritage are showing through. I'm
never going to look older than 25 for at least a few centuries, and that's
fine, but now that I've stopped aging, and Caitt keeps going, it is, as
Beauty says, hard to watch. Is it too late for her, too, to walk a Broken
Pattern and find immortality?
I sat still, contemplating these things.
Then a Faerie comes through the wall.
I jokingly asked if his presence here meant there was finally a
bounty on my head. He quite seriously told me that it had been there for
some time, but that was not what this was about.
He asked if I would submit to being questioned by himself and his
associates. After much back and forthing, I made him swear on cold iron
that I would not come to harm under his care, and went with him, to be
questioned by his nameless "triumvirate." Drumm, as he called himself
upon my insisting he give me some sort of name, is part of a non-aligned
group of Faeries trying to decide whether or not it is worth the while of
the entire race to aid ours.
Ugh. I went and met this nameless triumvirate, and was asked why
I thought Faerie should aid Amber in reacquiring the Jewel. An awful
emotion struck me then, something of anger, despair and horror -- the fate
of myself, my family, my race and my homeland rested on how well I could
argue our right to life before my personal mortal enemies.
It is a terrible thing to realize you have been chosen to
represent your kind, not because you are the best of it, but because you
are the worst. Or, at least, considered the worst.
I tried not to snivel, nor to whine. I faced it as baldly as I
could. But I had to abandon my usual bravado -- several times I held my
tongue, and did not pronounce that we could damn well retrieve our own
Jewel without their impertinent aid. WE are the immortals, the children
of the Unicorn... I said none of this. I considered, for the time, what
they were saying, as the barest truth -- that we would not retrieve the
Jewel without Faerie aid, and without the Jewel, Amber would eventually
fall to Chaos. And that was the best argument, really -- "If you do not
help us, Chaos takes the universe, and my race is gone." We face
extermination. And it is a far, far more complete extermination than that
I visited on the sidhe of Dexter. The most obvious example -- no human
under my command went through slaughtering Dexterian infants in their
cradles, nor even small children. Only those who raised arms against us
were killed. There would be no such promises from the new regime in
I pointed out that it would fare just as poorly for Faerie if
Chaos took over the universe. That was when Drumm asked if I would allow
him to do a very personal spell. He wanted to inspect my soul, I guess,
to determine the balance of good and evil, or something of that sort... to
weigh my heart against the feather, to take a page from the Egyptians.
Seeing as there was no other course, I allowed it to happen, and
fortunately remained insensible of the whole act. I went into a trance
where I neither saw nor heard nor felt any of what Drumm did; when it was
over, I was sweating a bit, and my head hurt, and Drumm was a little
closer to me than before. The woman in his triumvirate looked quite
angry. I asked the result, and though no one said anything, Drumm winked
at me and offered to escort me back to where he had found me.
I went, quizzing Drumm on the way out about a thing or two (what's
an appropriate goodwill gesture to Auberon, and will he even care?), and
as he shoved me rather ungraciously through to Amber, I felt very odd to
know that someone I might consider an enemy under some circumstances knows
the precise balance of my soul.
I sought out Ahab, and found him and most of my relatives
assembling for what looked like a massive battle in the Main Hall.
"Laughter!" he greeted me. "Join us. We're going to rescue Flora and
Gramble from execution by Zane."
First things first. I told him that the Faeries have a way of
gaining access to Amber quite stealthily. He didn't like this. Second
things second -- I told him Faerie will either come to our aid or it
won't, based on the balance of my soul. He was too distracted to truly
weigh that, his eyes busy with the thoughts of oncoming violence. My duty
discharged, I agreed to sign on and rescue my grandfather and
step-grandmother, late the King and Queen of Chaos. I had only a small
twinge of guilt about what Foster would say. I was too abstracted,
wondering about why my destiny is so tied up in Faerie.
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