Sun Jun  9 18:10:47 1996
Subject: [AM] Conjecture and an Encounter 
        Laura listened thoughtfully to Zachary's explanation of what had 
happened.  The Shadow they had been in was gone forever.  She thought 
she knew what it would have meant had they not escaped in time.  They 
would have been trapped in the void.  In that blackness, no trump 
contact would have been possible.  It was no wonder that Zachary had 
insisted they leave immediately and without question.
        "In what I've read so far, I've never seen anything about the 
collapse of a Shadow.  Can Amberites do that?"
        "I've never heard of one of us doing something like that," 
Zachary answered.  "I would not say that anything is impossible for us, 
but it is not something I would expect."
        Laura nodded as if this were what she thought he would answer.  
Juliana did not contradict her cousin, but Laura wasn't sure if it was 
because she agreed with him or because she didn't want to share her 
thoughts with Karina or Laura.  Their eldest cousin was an enigma, one 
that Laura suspected she would never fully comprehend.  It would be a 
long time before she knew even a little about Lady Juliana beyond what 
was evident to all.
        "Could it be someone from the Courts?"
        As she asked this, Laura began to walk Tovarich while stroking 
him at the same time.  The young stallion had performed admirably.  One 
hellride was hard enough on a horse.  Two in such a short period of time 
could be devastating, especially for one like Tovarich who'd never had 
to do it before.  But her horse had done her... and Mikal Grube proud.  
He began to calm down under her touch.
        "I would certainly not rule out the hand of Chaos in this, 
Cousin," Juliana declared.  "It has the scent of magic."
        "Karina has a half-brother who rules in Chaos, hasn't she?  
Perhaps she could...."
        "Our cousin is hardly prepared to go off to the Courts just yet, 
        Juliana's statement was firm and brooked no argument.  That 
didn't stop Karina.
        "I -want- to visit the Courts of Chaos," she asserted.  Looking 
around at her three cousins, she added, "I've got stronger ties there 
than the rest of you."
        Juliana said no more since Karina wasn't in a position to do 
anything about it at the moment, but the look she shot to Zachary 
suggested just a hint of exasperation with headstrong newcomers who knew 
not what they might have to face nor how to deal with it.  Laura caught 
the glance and frowned, but let it pass as another idea came into her 
mind.  Just before the Shadow had started to collapse, they had heard 
the sound of thunder.  There was an item she had read of that lent 
control of weather.
        "Zachary, do you know where the Jewel of Judgment is now?"
        "As far as I know, it still rests in Coral's eye socket," he 
replied, glancing at Juliana for confirmation.
        "I have been many years in Shadow, Zachary, so I would not 
necessarily know, but I've heard nothing about the Jewel changing its 
resting place."
        "Coral."  Laura was thoughtful once more.  "She is the one 
married to Rinaldo, Prince Brand's son."
        "What do you have in mind, Laura?" Zachary asked.
        She sighed and Tovarich whinnied and nuzzled her neck.
        "I really don't know.  I'm just trying to come up with some 
ideas for what might be behind all this for you and Juliana to 
consider.  Guess I'm hoping that something I say may strike a chord.  
        Laura grew quiet for a bit as she thought about the Unicorn.  
Karina had been right.  She WAS absolutely beautiful, and if legend was 
correct, she was the great-grandmother of the four that stood in this 
new Shadow.  There were four very diverse personalities here among the 
royal Amberites, but one thing they all agreed on.  Each one was praying 
that she had gotten away and was safe.
        "Where do we go from here?" Karina asked impatiently.  "What do 
we do next?"
        "Does either of you know where we are?" was Laura's question?  
"Or have you any ideas about who would want to hurt the Unicorn, whom we 
might be chasing, or might be chasing us?"
        Again Juliana looked at Zachary.  This time Laura didn't bother 
to conceal her annoyance.  It was crystal clear to her that with all her 
unfailing courtesy, Juliana was loathe to share too much with her young 
cousins, but she was quick to notice Laura's expression.
        "Is something amiss, Cousin?"
        "I'm afraid so, Juliana.  I understand that we don't know each 
other very well, but I find it  more than a little annoying to be 
treated as a child."
        Zachary smiled and replied gently to his newly found cousin.
        "But Laura, you must understand that to Juliana you -are- a 
child at least in the way of Amber.  She seeks only to keep you from 
harm and worries that your inexperience might prevent our dealing with 
this threat to Amber."
        "That is true, Cousin.  I do not mean to give offense."
        "I'm sure you don't, Juliana, but Zachary knows I've done all I 
can to prepare myself in the short time I've been here.  I know I've 
still got bushels to learn, but, like you, I -am- a Lady of Amber and I 
intend to accept all the responsibilities that come with it."
        "Your determination does you credit, Cousin, but a few days in 
the library falls far short of adequate preparation.  You and our Cousin 
Karina have both shown yourselves to be impetuous to the point of 
recklessness.  Your inexperience may jeopardize us all and so add to our 
peril.  I would be failing in my own duty to the True City if I did not 
think of that."
        Laura looked hard at her raven-haired cousin, wondering if there 
was anything more behind Juliana's obvious wish that she and Karina were 
not involved in this beyond the words she was hearing.  Behind the older 
woman's unruffled placidity and unfailing courtesy was a mask of 
inscrutability.  Laura wondered if anyone, even Zachary, truly knew the 
Lady Juliana.  She doubted it.  Were there hidden motives behind that 
mask?  Among the Amber royals, one could never be sure, but it would be 
folly to think it impossible.
        Matching her cousin in polite discourse, Laura answered her.
        "I fully understand your concerns, but how does one gain 
experience without experiencing anything?  In any event, it would seem 
to be moot.  Karina and I are here and involved.  It seems to me that to 
keep information from us would only increase the chances for us to 
inadvertently do something wrong."
        "She's right," Karina agreed, a hint of annoyance present in her 
own voice.  "I didn't ask to be involved in this.  I was trying to trump 
back to Amber from my home Shadow, and found myself smack in the middle 
of it.  You even said I saved the Unicorn's life, Juliana.  It's not 
fair to just dismiss me now.  Especially," she said, looking around 
ruefully, "especially since I've now lost all my treasures."
        "Come now, Cousins."  Zachary walked among the three women 
maneuvering them into closer physical proximity.  "None of this is 
helping with our predicament.  Cousin Juliana is right that through your 
ignorance, for which neither of you can be faulted, you could put us in 
more danger.  But, Laura is also correct that she and Karina are here 
and involved, and so far they have acted well.  We must turn our 
attention to our common enemy, not focus it on perceived weaknesses 
among ourselves."
        "You speak wisely, Zachary, as always.  We must deal with things 
as they are though we might wish they were different.  Other than a 
tendency to act on impulse not uncommon in the young, I admit I have 
found no fault with our cousins' actions.  I apologize sincerely if I 
have given offense, Cousin," she added, turning to Laura.
        "No offense taken, Juliana.  So I repeat, what do we do next?"
        The question was barely out of her mouth when the sound of a 
hunting horn rang through the grove.
        "That's it!  That's what it sounded like," Karina exclaimed.
        "But, Zachary," Laura interposed, "that sounds like horn Lord 
Julian blew when we were in Arden."
        The two older Amberites exchanged yet another look.  Zachary had 
opened his mouth to speak when an unholy roar sounded behind the group.  
They turned slowly to see a terrifying creature.  Twelve feet in length, 
it had the face of a man, distorted by a gaping mouth with three rows of 
razor-sharp teeth, the body of a lion, and the wings of an eagle.  It 
stood at the edge of the grove and considered which of the four would be 
its prey.
        "A manticora," Juliana whispered.
        Zachary drew his blade and Karina's eyes widened in horror.  
Laura shivered as well, but moving slowly, drew her bow from its resting 
place on Tovarich's saddle.  Taking an arrow from its quiver, she 
notched it and drew back the bowstring.  Once again, awareness of all 
around her disappeared.  All she saw was the grotesque face of the 
creature that had begun to move towards them.  When the spot between its 
blazing eyes had become nothing more than a small yellow circle, she let 
fly the arrow.  It found its mark.  The manticora bellowed an unearthly 
scream and collapsed in a massive heap.  Its wings fluttered in the 
throes of death for a few minutes, then it lay still.  Cautiously, the 
four Amberites approached the body.
Lady of Amber