Fri May 10 11:08:01 1996
Subject: [AM] A Visit With the Queen, A Trip to the Mall
        A soft tapping at her bedroom door awakened Laura the morning 
after her Pattern Walk.
        "Come in," she called.
        The woman who opened the door was young, though several years 
older than Laura's eighteen.  Her brown hair was cut short under the 
white cap she wore.  She was rather short and plump and was dressed in 
servant's clothes.
        "Good morning, m'lady.  My name is Audra.  If it pleases you, I 
will be your maid when you are at the Castle."
        "Good morning, Audra.  Come in please and come on over here."
        Audra moved closer to Laura's bed and curtsied.  "Is there 
anything I can get you, m'lady?"
        "Yes, please.  I wonder if you'd be good enough to bring me up a 
breakfast tray.  Oh, and I need some clothes for a ride into the City.  
Could you find me some slack and a shirt?"
        "I'll bring your breakfast right away, ma'am, and I think you'll 
find something to wear in your closet.  The Queen arranged for you to 
have a few necessaries."
        Audra opened up the doors to the large wardrobe.  From her bed, 
Laura could see that a few garments hung there and was grateful for her 
aunt's thoughtfulness.  With another curtsy, Audra left the bedroom, and 
Laura heard the outer door to her apartment close a few seconds later.  
        While she waited for her breakfast, Laura reflected on what had 
happened to her last night.  It had been nothing short of a rebirth.  
Her entire perception of the cosmos had changed as she had come to 
understand reality.  Her Shadow Earth, two days ago the center of her 
universe, she now saw as only one of countless shadow worlds, mere 
reflections of this true place called Amber.  The physical laws 
categorically considered inviolate on Earth simply weren't.  Although 
she would have to be taught, she could move through Shadow now, Laura 
knew.  She could return to the world of her birth, but she would see it 
through different eyes.
        Audra returned with the breakfast tray.  "Shall I draw your bath 
while you eat, m'lady?"
        "Yes, and thank you, Audra.  That will be all for now."
        Laura ate her breakfast, then enjoyed a leisurely bath.  By the 
time she was dressed, the hour of her appointment with Queen Vialle had 
arrived.  Her study session in the Library would have to be postponed 
until later.  
        Laura picked up her bow pin from the dresser.  Her eyes widened 
as she felt it pulse in her hand.  Holding it up to the light, she 
gasped.  She had worn it on her Pattern Walk and now the loops and 
swirls of the pattern appeared inside the rubies that made up the 
arrowhead.  Something had happened to her pin in that walk.  Laura 
wondered what it might be as she locked her apartment door.
        She descended the staircase to the floor below and stood a 
moment outside the door to Vialle's studio.  The next time she stood in 
this spot, Laura thought, she might know which of the Princesses was her 
mother.  It was a sobering thought.  Taking a deep breath, Laura raised 
her right hand and rapped lightly on the door.
        "Please come in," called Vialle.
        Once inside the door, Laura looked around at what was clearly an 
artist's workplace.  There were a number of works in various stages of 
progress on stands around the room.  Each of them would be worth of 
display in the finest museums and galleries of Laura's Earth.  The Queen 
was at work, her long tapered fingers sculpting in some final detail on 
a small statue of a unicorn.
        "Good morning, Aunt Vialle."
        "Good morning, Laura.  Come closer, dear.  Did you rest well?"
        "Yes, thank you", Laura answered as she approached.  "Thank you 
for seeing me."
        "You're welcome, child.  I'm pleased to see that you're well.  
Random told me that you walked the Pattern last night.  We congratulate 
you on your accomplishment, but you were a little foolish to try it so 
soon, without proper preparation."
        "I hadn't planned to walk it.  I studied the descriptions of 
Lord Corwin's walks in his Chronicles, and I had a need to see the 
Pattern for myself.  Once I was there, it compelled me."
        "And now it's done and there is much open to you.  There can be 
no doubt that the royal blood runs through your veins.  But that is not 
why you visit me this morning.  I haven't forgotten, Laura."
        Vialle stood and washed her hands in a basin on the wall behind 
her.  Then she asked Laura to come sit down in front of her.
        "Are you sure you want me to do this?  Certain that you want to 
        "Yes, please.  Now that I know for certain that I'm a daughter 
of Amber, I must know whose daughter."
        Vialle nodded her understanding and gently placed her fingertips 
on Laura's face.  Her hands softly traced its planes as the Queen 
continued to talk.
        "I already have an idea of who your mother may be based on what 
I have seen of you so far.  Let's see if your bone structure will 
confirm my theory."
        Laura held her breath as Vialle continued to "see" through her 
sense of touch.  It seemed an endless wait, but was really only a few 
minutes before the Queen spoke again.
        "Yes.  It is as I thought.  I believe there is little doubt that 
it's Flora who is your mother, dear.  Your bones are hers and your 
manner confirms it."
        "Flora."  Laura whispered the name.  "Flora.  I... I thought it 
might be she, your majesty.  Can you tell me something about her?"
        "Flora is lovely, my dear, just like you.  She is charming and 
sought after.  I daresay that through the centuries, she has had more 
suitors than any of the Princesses and many of the Princes as well."
        "Oh!  Then I may expect to have many lovers, too?"
        Vialle's laugh was a silvery tinkle.  "Can there be any doubt at 
all that she is Florimel's daughter?  I'm sure, my dear, that you'll 
have as many lovers as you may like.  Your mother is also a pragmatist.  
Above all, she loves and is loyal to Amber, but she is much more 
intelligent than she lets show and she is quick to know which way the 
prevailing winds are blowing.  She'll set her sail in that direction.
        "She's not in Amber now, is she?"  A picture of her mother was 
beginning to form in Laura's mind, but it was a sketch with only the 
least bit of detail.  Laura was determined to make it a portrait as 
alive and real as Flora's trump.
        "No, she isn't.  Flora prefers to spend most of her time in 
Shadow, but she does visit the Castle from time to time.  She's quite 
fond of my son, and I would say you may expect to see her here.  When 
that may be is impossible to say.  I think, if you give it a chance, you 
will come to like your mother."
        "I hope so, but I wish she had let me know her."
        "I'm sure she had her reasons for staying away, Laura.  It's my 
hope that you'll at least listen to them before you make any judgments."
        "If she will explain, I will listen.  More than that, I cannot 
promise."  Laura rose.  "Thank you, Aunt, for all you've done for me.  
I'll leave you to get back to your work."  Her voice took on a more 
frivolous note.  "I'm going shopping."
        Laura's mind was on her mother as she walked down to the first 
floor and through the Main Hallway to the massive front doors of the 
Castle.  Vialle had said that Flora was fond of her son.  Maybe Zachary 
could tell her more.  She'd make it a point to try to see him later that 
day.  There were any number of things she wanted to ask the Crown Prince.
        It was only a short walk to the stables.  Laura asked a very 
young groom if the stablemaster was about.
        "Aye, mum, ye be wanting Mr. Grube.  I'll be fetching him fer ye."
        The boy bowed and ran off to reappear in minutes with a barrel 
chested gray-haired man of uncertain age.  He ordered the groom back to 
work, then bowed to Laura.
        "G'day, m'lady.  Mikal Grube they call me.  Stablemaster of 
Castle Amber.  May I be of service?"
        "I am Laura, Grube, only recently arrived in Amber.  I want to 
go down into the City and I wondered if there are any unattached horses 
        "Will you be wanting one just for the day's ride, Princess 
Laura, or are you looking to choose a horse of your own."
        "One of my own, if it's possible, and if I can find the right 
        "Aye, it's possible.  Let me show you some I think might suit 
you."  He looked her over appraisingly, his practiced eye judging what 
kind of horsewoman she might be.  As a Lady of Amber, she would want a 
horse capable of handling a hellride.  He led the way to a corral where 
a number of young horses were milling lazily about.  Grube opened the 
gate and together they walked around.  The stablemaster made no 
suggestions to her.  What she selected on her own would tell him a great 
        "Oh!  That one!"  Laura was pointing to a coal black stallion 
who was standing a little apart from the others.  "He beautiful.  May I 
have him?"
        They approached the horse and Laura's hand reached up to stroke 
him.  He stood stock still at her touch, then leaned down and nuzzled 
her.  He was medium in size, sleek and well-muscled, with his sleek 
black coat gleaming in the morning sun.
        "Aye, he's a good one, m'lady.  Spirited, but he took well to 
training, and he seems to like you, too.  His name is Tovarich.  I'll 
just saddle him up and we'll see how he takes to you setting on his back."
        Grube quickly saddled the horse and Laura easily swung herself 
up onto the saddle.  Tovarich felt just right under her.  She eased him 
into a walk, then a gentle trot around the corral with the stablemaster 
watching her every move.
        "Aye, it looks a good match," he approved when she brought the 
horse to a halt.  "He's been up and down the mountain trails several 
times, so he'll be sure of foot.  If you and he both be pleased when you 
return, m'lady, Tovarich will be yours."
        After thanking the stablemaster once more, Laura and Tovarich 
began their walk to the main path that led down to the City.  Zachary 
had said it was the easiest of the trail to negotiate.  Even so, it was 
steep and twisting, but Tovarich was as sure-footed as Grube had 
promised.  Laura was being careful and concentrating on the descent.  
What she didn't notice was that Grube had ordered one of his hands to 
follow her.  A new Lady must be protected while she learned, he knew.
        Laura talked to Tovarich during the long ride down Kolvir.  
Feeling the raw power beneath her legs, she leaned forward and patted 
his head.
        "You want to run, I know.  Tomorrow we'll go into the forest for 
a romp."  Tovarich whinnied his approval of that idea.
        It was noon by the time the reached the foot of the mountain.  
From her pocket Laura removed the paper Lord Bleys had given her.
        "Clothes first," she said aloud.  Barris Harte, Fine Clothiers.  
Bleys had written the directions to the shop and Laura had little 
trouble finding it.  She tethered Tovarich and entered the store,  She 
presented her writ of identification and in moments, Barris Harte was 
welcoming her.
        "I need to purchase several items, Mr. Harte.  I shall want 
riding pants, blouses, skirts, dresses, gowns.  You understand?"
        "Ah, yes.  A complete wardrobe for the Princess.  Whatever your 
preferences are, the House of Harte will make you the finest."  He 
tapped a small bell.  "Opal!  Front, please.  I need you to take some 
        Once measured, Laura sat down with the costumer and looked over 
designs, colors, fabrics.  He showed her several examples of his work 
and indicated he had long enjoyed the custom of many of the royal 
family.  He hoped to now include the Lady Laura among his clientele.  
She made her selections and asked him to make certain adjustments in 
design. pleased that it seemed she'd be able to attend to all her 
clothing needs in this one shop.  It would suffice for her basic 
wardrobe and would give her time to explore other shops.
        "When may I expect delivery,  Mr. Harte?  I assume you'll send 
the bill to the Castle."
        "There will be no charge, Your Highness.  To have my designs 
worn by such a beautiful lady and one of the royal family will bring me 
sufficient business to more than cover the cost.  As to delivery, I am 
putting my finest seamstresses on it immediately.  We shall deliver the 
garments to the Castle as they are finished.  Does that satisfy?"
        "Eminently.  Thank you again, and good day."
        Laura's next stop was at the woodworking shop of Mangus and 
Son.  According to her Uncle Bleys, their craftsmanship in furniture 
making was second to none.  Old Mangus was at lunch, but young Mangus 
greeted her solicitously after she presented him with her letter of 
introduction.  Laura explained how she wanted to furnish her apartment.  
Again, she was just going to order the basic necessities.  With all of 
Shadow to explore, who knew what she might find to add to the decor.  
She chose wooden pieces of black mahogany, and a silver framed mirror 
for over her dresser.  Again she spent some time selecting fabrics for 
the upholstered pieces.  Rich velvets and brocades in shades of red and 
pink with black and grey accents were her choices.  Again she was 
assured of a speedy delivery.  Laura left the shop reminding herself to 
thank Lord Bleys for his recommendations.
        Her final stop for the day would take her along Harbor Road and 
into the Harbor District.  It was definitely a more unsavory part of the 
City than the upscale areas she'd just visited, but this was where she 
needed to go to find what she wanted.  Ah, there it was.  A right turn 
into Seabreeze Lane and she was in front of Nate's Emporium of Exotic 
        As Laura dismounted, her pin began to pulsate wildly.  Turning 
rapidly, she saw a man in a hooded black cape approaching, a dagger in 
his hand.  Laura prepared herself for unarmed defense.  But before she 
could act, the man the Stablemaster had sent after her was upon him.  
The assailant was easily subdued.
        "Mr. Grube thought you might need some help, m'lady, this being 
your first time alone in the City.  He sent me to watch out for you.  My 
name is Vegar.  Glad I could be of help."
        "Thank you, Vegar.  I think I could have handled him, but I'm 
pleased not to have been put to the test just now."
        "He'll trouble you no more, Lady.  The dungeons will house those 
who dare to attack a royal."
        "I didn't know she was a royal," the thief whined.  "How should 
I?  Never seen the like of her before."
        "Silence, toad!  Royal or not, you were up to no good.  Lady 
Laura, I suggest you should return to the Castle now."
        "I'll go back as soon as I've visited this shop, Vegar.  I see 
now that it's important that I do so."
        Laura went inside and spent some time looking at the very 
unusual items this Nate stocked.  She gave it a lot of thought, then 
carefully selected several items.  They included a bow and quiver and a 
dagger, which she sheathed in a leather belt.  There were a number of 
other, less common, items.  These she put in Tovarich's saddle bags.  It 
was late afternoon now, and time to go home.
        The trip back up Kolvir was uneventful.  Laura took her time, 
drinking in the geography of her new home.  The previous trip with 
Zachary had been late in the evening, and Laura had been somewhat in 
shock, noticing little.  This time she took note of her surroundings.  
Never, not in the Catskills, nor the White Mountains of Vermont, nor 
even the Rockies had she seen a mountain as magnificent as Kolvir.  She 
talked to Tovarich all the way up.  By the time they arrived at the 
stables, the horse was Laura's.
        She said as much to Mikal Grube when she brought Tovarich in.  
The Stablemaster nodded.  He'd thought it a good match of horse and 
rider.  Laura also made it a point to commend Vegar to his superior 
before she bid him good night.
        Once back inside the Castle, Laura realized that she hadn't 
stopped to have lunch in the City and she was ravenous.  She climbed one 
flight of stairs, momentarily ruing the lack of elevators, and headed 
straight for the dining room.
Laura of Amber