Fri May 10 11:07:42 1996
Subject: [AM] A Family Dinner
        It was more than she could have anticipated, this Amber, Laura 
realized as she listened to Zachary's answers.... answers that led only 
to more questions.  She was glad she had decided to spend time in the 
castle's library.  What she had read so far allowed her to perceive a 
lot of what Zachary had told them.  Her resolve to devote a good deal 
more time to her research was strengthened.  For though she was 
impulsive and eager to experiment with what it meant to be a... what was 
she... princess, duchess, lady?.... of Amber, she was also methodical.  
When Laura Davega had a goal, she formed a plan as to how she'd reach it.
        "When I have walked the Pattern, I will know Amber, and I will 
understand reality," Laura mused quietly, more to herself than anyone 
else, but Zachary heard and took note.
        Laura had been watching the other two cousins who were as new as 
she to this world.  Each of them, she realized, was absorbing their new 
identities in his or her own way.  And each of them would likely walk a 
different path to discovery.  She wondered if any of them would become 
friends... or more.  From having no family at all, it seemed she had 
suddenly acquired an unknown number of relatives.  The little she'd read 
so far told her to be cautious, very cautious.  Alliances formed today 
could become enmities tomorrow if the stakes were high enough.
        Her interest was mainly in Zachary.  He had been nothing less 
than kind and welcoming.  Laura quite liked the soft-spoken you man.  
But when you stopped to think about it, he had told them very little 
really.  There was wisdom behind those gentle blue eyes, yet there was a 
hint of guardedness, too.  Laura felt that while Zachary might be a 
source of knowledge for her, there were things about him that she, or 
anyone else, might never know.  Still, she knew this cousin of hers 
could teach her a lot; she hoped fervently that he would consider her a 
worthy student.
        The young man, Kyle, also caught her attention.  Clearly he came 
from a world that was nothing like Laura's Earth.  With the swords at 
his side, he seemed more accustomed to Amber's air of the Renaissance 
period of Earth than she yet was.  He had said his father had brought 
him through.  Laura wondered which one it was.  That fiery red hair 
spoke of Brand or Bleys, but Brand was supposedly dead.  Was it Prince 
Bleys?  Kyle hadn't mentioned his father's name.
        King Random and his Queen were a pleasant surprise.  The king's 
manner confirmed the roguish image of his trump, yet Laura felt that 
among outsiders, her Uncle Random would display a regal manner that 
would leave no doubt as to his fitness for the position he held.  Laura 
was a bit startled, but not quite as amazed as the others to hear 
Zachary call Random, Father.  That was the connection she had wondered 
about earlier when she recalled meeting Zak Random about six years 
before.  Still, it would take some getting used to that he was obviously 
the heir apparent to the throne of Amber.
        She felt the gentle acceptance of Queen Vialle.  Laura had read 
about the blind sculptress and an idea popped into her head.  She 
decided to try to speak privately with the queen if the opportunity 
presented itself.
        Of her Uncle Benedict, she was a little in awe.  He was quiet 
and unsmiling just as the book had described him.  Benedict greeted them 
pleasant enough, but getting to know the eldest of the princes would not 
be an easy task.
        The followed the king and queen out of the throne room and back 
to the Dining Hall.  It was to be an informal dinner and so would take 
place in the same dining room where Laura had eaten breakfast.  The 
larger and more formal one on the first floor was, she assumed, used 
mostly for state dinners.
        This was to be no buffet, however.  A large round table had been 
set with place settings for sixteen.  Laura looked questioningly at 
        "We can never be sure who will decide to come home for a visit, 
so there is always a place for an unexpected relative."
        Vialle seated herself while Random and Zachary moved off a 
little and stood talking quietly with Benedict.
        "He's probably explaining us to his father and uncle," Laura 
        "Well, there's *my* father," Kyle exclaimed as the door opened 
and a jovial looking red-haired man entered the room.  A woman whose 
hair was the identical shade was on his arm.  Laura recognized them 
        "Bleys and his sister, Fiona."
        "Would you like to meet him?" Kyle invited.
        "Oh yes."  Karina took his hand and headed right for the pair.  
Laura nodded and followed them.  She sure did want to meet her new 
relatives, but she had felt her blood run cold for a moment when she saw 
Fiona?  Was it she?  Was this her mother?"
        "Good day, Father."  Kyle greeted the prince formally.
        "I hope it has been a good day for you, Kyle.  Let me introduce 
you to my sister, the Princess Fiona.  Fiona, this is my son, Kyle, 
arrived in Amber only last night."
        Fiona greeted her nephew and Kyle bowed to his aunt.  He 
introduced Karina as the daughter of Prince Corwin.  This caused the 
elder Prince and Princess to exchange looks.
        "You do look just like him, my dear," Bleys told the girl... and 
that locket... it does tell the tale."
        He turned to Laura and lifted her chin to look closely at her.
        "And who might this vision of loveliness be?"
        "My name is Laura, Lord Bleys.  I am the daughter of a Princess 
of Amber, but I do not know which one.  Yet," she added after a few 
moments' pause.
        She had hesitated, not sure just how to talk to the elders.  
Then she silently chided herself.
        Laura noticed no visible reaction from Fiona to her words.  But 
would there be any even if she were Laura's mother?  The royals had 
centuries of practice in giving nothing away.  Laura contemplated asking 
her, but only very briefly.  If Fiona was her mother and wanted to 
acknowledge, she would say so.  Laura determined that she would stick 
with her other idea.
        "You certainly make a charming addition to the family, Laura," 
Bleys said as he kissed his niece's hand.  That is a lovely gown."
        "Thank you, Uncle.  I'm afraid that it's the only one I have 
though.  I'll have to find somewhere to get some clothes tomorrow."
        Bleys looked her over.  "I think I can recommend some tradesfolk 
in Amber whose goods you might like.  They enjoy our regular custom."
        "Thank you, I would like that."
        Fiona suggested that they take their seats at the dining table.
        "Shouldn't we wait for the King to be seated first?" Laura asked.
        "My brother does not stand on such ceremony among the family, 
Laura," Fiona replied.  "He'll sit when he's ready.  We might as well be 
        At the table, Laura moved with apparent intent until she was in 
a position to sit next to Queen Vialle.  Just at the moment the door 
opened again and a woman dressed in a magnificent gown of black velvet 
swept into the dining room.  Her hair was as black as her gown and she 
had an air of supreme confidence about her.  She headed directly for 
where Random, Zachary, and Benedict still stood.
        "Who's that?" Laura wondered.  Kyle was looking at the woman in 
a way that suggested he'd like to know himself.
        "That's Juliana," Karina offered.  She's another cousin of 
ours.  I went riding with her today."
        "You did?"
        "Yes, Laura.  I called to her through her trump.  I thought she 
looked interesting and I asked her if she had some time to talk to me.  
She was really very nice to me even if she didn't really tell me much.  
I like her."
        "I'd like to meet her also," Kyle agreed.  "I hope she's staying 
for dinner."  Then he turned and started talking quietly with his father 
and Princess Fiona.  Laura took the opportunity to approach the queen.
        "Your Majesty."
        "When we are among family, you may call me Aunt Vialle, if it 
would please you, Laura."
        "Thank you, I would like that.  You're very gracious, Aunt 
Vialle, to a girl who is a stranger."
        "Hardly a stranger, child, since you are family.  Just a niece I 
have not yet come to know."
        "May I make a request of you?" Laura asked the queen.
        "You may ask.  I shall grant it if I can."
        "My Lady.... Aunt... please stop me if I speak out of turn, but 
I know that you are sightless and that you are a fabulous sculptress.  
That tells me that you must see a great deal through your hands."
        "Yes, that is true."
        "What I'm getting at is this.  I cannot bear not knowing who my 
mother is.  I wondered... if you touch my face... could you tell?  I 
mean, bone structure... things an artist would see that others don't."
        "I understand, Laura.  If you will come to my studio tomorrow, I 
will try to help you."
        "Oh, thank you, Aunt Vialle.  What time would be convenient for 
        "You may come at 10.  I cannot promise, but I will try."
        "Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I am ravenous."
        The words were King Random's.  He had take the seat next to 
Vialle's other side and Zachary sat down at Laura's left.  Benedict and 
Juliana sat between Kyle and Karina.  When the King took his seat, it 
was the signal for the servants to bring in tureens filled with steaming 
broth.  Laura had just raised her spoon to her lips when the doors 
opened yet once more.
        "Well well, this is an evening for surprises," Random said with 
a laugh.  "Julian and Gerard, it's not often you grace the Castle with a 
visit.  Come sit down and meet two new nieces and a nephew."
        The two Princes of Amber joined them at table and Zachary 
greeted his uncles and made the introductions.  Conversation slowed a 
bit as the royals began to eat with their customary appetites, but it 
did not die.  Laura watched and listened mostly, trying to learn as much 
as she could about the uncles and the one aunt who were there.  She 
would try to spend a little time talking to each of them who might allow 
it as the evening progressed.  For later in the night, she had her own 
Lady of Amber
NRPG:  I'll probably be picking this up tomorrow.  Laura will take 
things further along into the night, and likely into the next day, but 
she'll have stayed for the entire dinner party and whatever anyone wants 
to have happen at it.