Fri May 10 11:07:48 1996
Subject: [AM] The Best Laid Plans
        The dinner was sumptuous and plentiful.  Laura was beginning to 
feel somewhat at ease among the elder royals of Amber.  She had grown up 
among what many considered the royalty of what she was already starting 
to think of as Shadow Earth, so the mere fact that she was in the 
company of probably the *most* royal of all didn't really throw her.  
Not knowing which of them was her mother did, but she'd already taken 
the first step towards changing that.
        Not long after they had finished eating, while servants were 
coming around with glasses of Bayle's Best, Juliana and Karina bid them 
farewell and left the Dining Hall together.  Laura had her own plans for 
the night, but thought she would stay for a while and speak to Julian 
and Gerard.  Their placement at table hadn't given her much chance to do 
that during the meal.
        The recalcitrant Julian was cordial enough, but clearly social 
repartee wasn't something he'd do by choice.  Laura told him of her 
interest in archery and wondered if she might practice in Forest Arden.
        "You will find that in the forest your targets will not sit 
quietly with circles painted upon them waiting for your arrows to pierce 
them, Laura.  What you will shoot in Arden will be more dangerous than 
you may be prepared for."
        "I understand, Uncle, but if I am to be a Lady of Amber, perhaps 
it is well that I learn to use a bow for more than tournament play."
        "That may be more true than you have yet had time to learn.  I 
will watch for you in Arden and we will see what talent you have with 
the bow, but be careful when you ride in and do not come without a 
goodly supply of arrows.  Now, if you will excuse me...."
        "Of course, and thank you, Uncle."
        She was making progress, Laura thought.  King Random had been 
gracious to her, Queen Vialle had agreed to help, and Prince Bleys had 
already given her a list of shops to visit in the City and a personal 
writ vouchsafing that she was Lady Laura of Amber.  Benedict hadn't said 
much, and Laura realized she must seem but a child to him.  He hadn't 
been unkind, he seemed merely to prefer the company of his nephew, 
Zachary.  Fiona hadn't said much either.  She had been unfailingly 
polite, but it seemed to Laura as if she were constantly watching the 
three of them, Laura, Karina and Kyle.
        She approached Gerard and curtsied to him.
        "I am pleased to meet you, Prince Gerard."
        "It is I who take pleasure in welcoming my niece to Amber, 
Laura."  He took her hand to help her rise and kissed it."
        "I understand you command the Royal Navy, Uncle.  I wonder if 
one day I might go out on one of your ships."
        "Ah yes, the Great Sea.  It is surely something you will want to 
see.  If things remain peaceful, I will have one of my captains 
available to take you sailing."
        Laura gave him a brilliant smile which was returned in kind.
        "Thank you, Uncle Gerard.  A handsome one?"
        Gerard laughed heartily at that.  "You are indeed a Lady of 
Amber, Laura.  A handsome captain.... I will remember."
        A day at sea with a handsome captain.  It brought to mind any 
number of pleasant possibilities 
        Gerard excused himself.  It seemed that the elders were 
beginning to gravitate towards the King for some private discussions the 
newer royals would not be privy to.  Laura decided it was a good time to 
leave.  She said her good-byes and that she hoped to see more of them, 
then thanked them all for making her feel welcome.
        Her next stop was, once again, the Library.  For where she 
wanted to go next, a little more reading was in order.  She browsed the 
shelves, her fingers lovingly touching the books. Some were richly 
bound, others seemed ancient and tattered.  Laura loved books.  Since 
childhood, they had always opened worlds of wonder for her.  The one she 
wanted wasn't hard to find.  It was there, bound in black leather, its 
title imprinted in silver lettering... "The Chronicles of Corwin."
        Laura read with interest of his adventures on Shadow Earth.  She 
had planned to leaf through the book quickly, searching for the 
particular part she had come to read, but found herself enrapt in his 
story.  She took particular interest in the early entries which involved 
the Princess Florimel.  Eventually, she came to the section she wanted 
to study, Corwin's description of a Pattern Walk.  Several hours had 
passed before she was finished.  She closed the book and returned it to 
its shelf, though she would read it again the next day.  Now, it was 
time to take a look.  At least, that was her plan.
        Laura took a lantern from a table by the door.  It was filled 
with oil and she quickly lit the wick with a piece of flint that lay on 
the table.  Then she made her way down the grand staircase to the first 
floor of the castle.  The hour was late and there was no one about as 
she entered the Great Hall and went through the archway that led to 
corridor where the spiral staircase that led deep inside Mt. Kolvir was 
located.  That stairway would lead her to that room that housed the one 
thing that would prove her a daughter of Amber -- the Pattern.
        The stairway spiraled up as well as down around a thick 
cylindrical column.  Laura cast her eyes briefly upwards to where the 
steps led to the musician's gallery.  But that was not her destination.  
Eager fingers reached back to untie the pink sash of her gown.  Laura 
lifted her skirts and retied the sash so that the hem now reached her 
knees.  She slipped off her shoes and hooked the heels into the band 
that encircled her waist.  Lantern in hand, she began her descent into 
        The stone steps were steep and sharply spiraled with no banister 
or handrail to offer protection.  They seemed to go on forever.  One 
slip or misstep would send her plunging down to a certain death.  The 
only light came from the lantern's fiery glow and the air became danker 
and more stale as she descended.  It was the stuff of horror movies and 
Halloween tales, and she half expected to hear ghostly organ music 
tunefully luring the next victim.  Laura began to realize that no one 
knew where she was.  If she slipped and fell, she wondered how long it 
would be before anyone came to find her broken body lying at the bottom 
of this endless stairway.
        "I will NOT fall... or fail," she said aloud, her voice 
reverberating amid the stony walls.  Steeling herself, she moved on, 
lower and lower into the heart of the mountain, her mind focused only on 
her goal.  Would it ever come to an end?  Each time she ventured a 
glance downwards, she saw nothing ahead of her but more curving stone 
steps.  She had no idea of how much time had passed when she at least 
reached the bottom and stood in the long, dark hallway that was the main 
        After fixing her skirts and putting her shoes back on, Laura 
began to walk.  This, she knew, was the location of the dungeons that 
housed all varieties of Amber's prisoners.  The air was even less fresh 
here than on the stairway and as she walked, Laura heard the ominous 
wails and moans of those who had been locked away here, some of them, 
she suspected, for longer than she had been alive.  There were others 
sounds, too, inhuman, terrifying, made by creatures she might never have 
imagined.  Striving to keep the sounds from her conscious mind, Laura 
began to count the side tunnels.  The seventh, according to the 
Chronicles, was the one she wanted.  
        The sounds grew louder and more horrible as she passed the 
entrance to each of the first six side tunnels.  The desire, the need, 
to reach Pattern would have to be indescribably strong to withstand the 
path that led to it.
        There it was, at last, the seventh tunnel.  Freshened by the 
knowledge that she was so near her destination, Laura turned and walked 
with new purpose down the side tunnel.  Just ahead was the door.  
Outside at a small table sat a young man engrossed in something he was 
        He lifted his head in surprise.  Then nights he spent here were 
usually long and lonely, yet this was the second visit paid here tonight.
        "Greetings, Lady.  How come you to venture into the dungeons 
alone and at such a late hour?"
        "I am Laura, Lady of Amber.  I think you know why I came here.  
The Pattern is in there, isn't it?"  She pointed at the door he guarded.
        "Yes," he assented.  "I am Kristoff and it is my task to guard 
the room wherein lies the Pattern of Amber."
        "You stay down here all the time?  It must be a lonely life you 
lead, Kristoff."
        "Aye, I do not often get to see the sun, nor the chance for 
conversation.  But I have quiet and solitude.  I like both for it gives 
me time to write my stories."
        "You're a writer?  My father was a writer."  Laura leaned into 
the desk trying to catch a glimpse of what Kristoff was working on.  
"May I see some of your stories?"
        "Oh no, my Lady!  They are just simple tales of dragons and 
spaceships, unfinished and not ready for any eyes but my own."
        "I'm sure they're much better than you think, Kristoff.  My 
father often used to say that his work wasn't fit to be read by anyone 
with reason, but he was highly respected among his peers.  You'll never 
know if your stories can capture a reader's interest unless you let 
someone read them.  I'll respect your wishes of course, but maybe one 
day, you'll change your mind."
        "Perhaps.  I will think about it."  But his expression was one 
of doubt.  "Is there any other way I may help you, Lady Laura?"
        "Yes.  Will you please open the door so I may see the Pattern?  
I have a note from Lord Bleys attesting that I am of the family."
        "Of course, I shall show you the room.  I caution you though 
against attempting to walk the Pattern.  It is more dangerous than you 
can know.  No one not of the blood royal may set foot on it and live.  
Even those who have the blood of Amber flowing through their veins are 
in great danger and must be properly prepared.  The Pattern tests those 
who dare to join with it, and its test is constant and grueling."
        "I don't plan to walk it tonight, Kristoff, just to look.  I 
will walk it soon, though."
        Kristoff nodded and rose from behind his writing table.  From 
the pocket of his tunic, he removed a large key.
        "You will not need your lamp.  The Pattern gives off its own 
        Laura placed her lantern on the table and followed him as he 
unlocked and pushed open the massive door.  She stepped inside the 
Pattern room and drew in her breath at the unreal glow that was, in 
fact, the center of reality.  She could see the lines of the Pattern in 
the center of the room.  They were hypnotic, commanding attention.  The 
guard, Kristoff, forgotten for the moment, she stayed close to the outer 
wall and made her way around to the far corner.  This, the book had 
said, was where the Pattern began.
        Once there, Laura could not take her eyes off the tracings 
etched into the floor.  Mostly curves and swirls, there were some 
straight lines, she could see.  The Pattern curled forward and around, 
turning back on itself, mazelike in its intricacy.  Laura could see the 
starting point, but there was no way to follow the tracing to its end.  
All she was aware of now was the Pattern calling to her, beckoning, 
daring, compelling.  She sank to the floor.
        Without her being aware of her own body movement, her hands 
reached down and again removed her shoes.
        "My Lady Laura, what are you doing?" called Kristoff from the 
doorway across the room.  
        Laura didn't hear him.  Almost in a trance she stood once more 
and slipped her shoes inside her sash.  She had told Kristoff the 
truth.  To walk the Pattern that night had not been her plan.  But it 
was calling to her with a demand she was powerless to resist.  She 
gathered up her skirts and tucked them into the pink sash.
        Every word she had read that evening was etched into her mind.  
One she set her foot on the Pattern, she must not stop, must not step 
off.  To do so would mean her death.  She would risk no turned ankle 
from a high-heeled slipper or a trip on the hem of a gown that fell to 
the floor.  Her heart pounding, Laura took a deep breath, then another 
and another still.  Cautiously she lifted her stockinged right foot.  
Then she touched the bow and arrow pin that rested on her breast and 
placed that foot down on the line that began the Pattern.
        Blue sparks curled around her foot.  Somewhere off in the 
distance, Kristoff let out in breath in relief.  She had set foot on the 
Pattern.  It had not killed her.  The blood of Amber coursed in her 
veins.  This was no guarantee that she could see it through to the end 
of course.  He summoned a guard and instructed him to get word to any of 
the royal family that a young woman named Laura was trying a Pattern Walk.
        Steadily Laura put one foot after the other.  With the first few 
steps she felt a current begin to flow through her body as if she had 
touched a badly wired lamp.  Her hair flew out behind her.
        "Concentrate, concentrate," she told herself.  The first ten 
paces were not too difficult.  She thought for a moment of how she 
focused when she competed in an archery tournament.  When she took the 
first arrow from the quiver, the noise of the cheering spectators, the 
outlines of her fellow competitors, all disappeared.  She saw only a 
round target off in the distance with its concentric circles of white, 
black, blue, red, and yellow.  As she notched the first arrow and drew 
back the bowstring, her attention narrowed even more until her world 
consisted of one yellow circle.  Nothing else existed.
        So must it be with the Pattern.  That was all there was in the 
universe.  She could look neither forward nor behind.  The intricacy of 
the design brought waves of dizziness.  One line, one step, even that 
seemed too much as she moved along and the sparks grew higher.
        Suddenly she felt as it she had run full speed into a brick 
wall.  Thankful she had prepared herself as much as it was possible to 
prepared at all for this, Laura realized this was the First Veil.  To 
lift her foot was an effort of will.  She pushed forward for what seemed 
an eternity until the resistance eased.  She had come through it.
        Now the sparks were as high as her knees.  Her head was pounding 
from exertion and the rising current of energy flowing though her body 
made her feel as is she were on fire.  Onward she pushed, keeping her 
eyes focused only on the next line, the next turn.  Tears began to fall 
from her eyes when she hit the Second Veil.  How could she do this?  How 
could anyone?  But she must.  Never had her will been so strong nor 
needed to be.  She was sobbing aloud when the Veil parted.
        Every step was agony now, each one more difficult than the one 
before it.  As she walked along the Grand Curve, her gown was drenched 
in sweat.  Now she felt a bone-chilling coldness.  Her teeth were 
chattering and  she was shivering almost uncontrollably.  The blue 
sparks had climbed past her waist now and were reaching higher.  There 
was nothing... nothing except the need to keep putting one foot after 
another.  Her shoeless feet felt as if they were shod in cement.
        Some straight lines, some sharp turns, more and more 
resistance.  The Pattern's challenge that she prove herself worthy of 
its gifts grew stronger yet.  So did Evelle's will.  She had come this 
far.  She would not be stopped.
        Then she hit the Final Veil and screamed.  This time it wasn't 
like running into a brick wall, it was like driving your car at 100 
miles per hour into a concrete pylon.  The force of the resistance 
staggered her.
        "I WILL NOT FALL."  
        Laura didn't know if she was saying it to the Pattern or to 
herself.  It didn't matter.  Push... forward... right.... left... an 
impossible task...  a task that must be done.  The blue flame engulfed 
her now as she broke through Final Veil to face the last few steps.  It 
was almost impossible to lift her foot.
        "I can't," she whispered.  "You must," her mind answered.  "I 
        And then it was over.  She was there, in the center of the 
Pattern.  And she was laughing and sobbing and shaking with exhaustion.  
But she knew..... AMBER!"
        She knew, too, that having done this, the Pattern would take her 
wherever she wanted to go.  And as much as she wanted to share this 
miracle with someone, the only place she wanted to go tonight was the 
bedroom of the apartment she'd been given.  She communicated this 
thought to the Pattern, and a moment later she stood at side of the 
simple bed that would be hers until she could furnish the apartment 
        She was exhausted in mind and body, but at the same time, 
exhilarated by the enormity of what she had accomplished and what she 
had learned.  And only now, as she let her sodden gown fall to the 
floor, did she realize how much more she still had to learn.  She fell 
naked into bed.  Tomorrow would be the start of a new day, the start of 
a new life.
Laura of Amber
NPRG:  Chris:  Different from what I had in mind, but Laura just 
insisted.    I didn't know if Zachary or any of the other royals 
would come down to watch.  If they did, you can include that.