Wed Aug  7 23:56:22 1996
Subject: [AM] Trump Design 101
        How strange, Laura thought, as she watched Ryan read and 
answered his questions as best she could.  How strange it was that she, 
only a week since she had discovered her identity as a Princess of 
Amber, even less since she'd become an initiate of the Pattern, and it 
was she who was trying to explain the concept of Amber to its newest 
        Julianna would think it preposterous, and presumptuous.  It was 
amazing how the mere thought of her so much elder cousin could stir a 
flicker of ire in her.  
        Are you threatened, Cousin Julianna, by my learning some of what 
you know?  That the dark princess would scoff at the upstart's audacity 
didn't stop the thought from occurring to Laura.
        Had Laura any idea that Julianna had suggested to Zachary the 
possibility of her complicity in the attack on the Unicorn, that flicker 
would have been fanned into a raging blaze.
        Watching her newest cousin, Laura knew he must be feeling the 
same awe she had felt when she had arrived in Amber, a stranger in a 
strange land.  He had shown the appetite of a royal, that was certain, 
and he had quickly learned the art of using cutlery.  That spoke to his 
being a true Prince of Amber.  The royals picked up new skills with far 
faster than shadow dwellers.
        "Do you begin to understand, Ryan?"
        The clansman looked up from his reading and brushed away a lock 
of hair that had fallen over his face.
        "Aye, I see what it says here... that Amber is the True City, 
the only reality.  All else is Shadow, reflections of Amber and unreal.  
'Tis all down here in print, but to believe such a thing!"
        "I know.  But think back to your Shadow, Ryan.  Were there times 
when you should have been bested in battle by one stronger than you or 
overcome by foes that outnumbered you?  Times when you should have died 
from wounds but found you healed more rapidly than you should have?"
        "Aye, 'tis true, and it caused no end of wonder among my 
fellows.  So I have the power to do all this?"  He held up one of the 
books.  "I can move through Shadow and return to visit the one of my 
        Laura laughed.  "Well, not just yet, dear cousin.  These are 
skills we must learn, and before we can even begin, we must walk the 
Pattern of Amber.  Only then, with its imprint upon us can we learn to 
shift shadow."
        "Well then, why do we hesitate?  Where will the Pattern be 
found?"  Ryan's voice boomed in eagerness.
        "Not so fast, I'm afraid.  It is dangerous to walk the Pattern.  
Those without the blood of Amber will die if they but set foot on it.  
For those of us who are true royals, one misstep and it will kill us as 
        "Do you think me a coward, afraid to challenge death?"
        Ryan rose from his chair, determined to prove he was unafraid.  
She of the lovely grey eyes and silver blonde tresses would learn he was 
a man of action, ready to meet any challenge to his honor.
        "Not at all," she answered, taking his hand to assure him she 
did not.  His face reddened again at the touch of soft skin on his 
own.  "But it takes preparation to walk the Pattern.  I spent many, many 
hours reading about it before I did it.  Even then, I'd planned only to 
look at it, but the Pattern drew me to it.  Zachary and Julianna still 
stay I was foolish to try so soon and without help from one already 
        Laura looked steadily into his eyes. "It was the hardest thing 
I've ever done in my life, Ryan."
        "Well then, you can be the one to guide me through it, Laura."
        "Oh no!  I've been here only a week, Ryan.  I don't have the 
experience to attempt ~that~!  Besides," she continued more calmly, "you 
must first prove to Zachary that you are a true royal.  I imagine he'll 
be here soon to test you."
        "He would question that I tell the truth?!!!"  Ryan's hand moved 
to the dirk in his belt.
        "Calm yourself, cousin.  All of us were tested.  It is for our 
protection and that of Amber.  If you pass, Zachary will present you to 
his father, King Random, who will welcome his nephew and give permission 
for you to be given an apartment in the Castle.  One thing you will 
learn very soon, Ryan, is that we royals do not trust each other, often 
with good cause."
        "Zachary is the Crown Prince?  Heir to the throne?"  Ryan was 
        Laura only smiled, and he decided that her smile was something a 
man would try to produce as often as he could.
        "Don't let our cousin's mild appearance fool you, Ryan.  Zachary 
is a true Prince of Amber and far more skilled in most things than you 
or I."
        What a handsome one he is, and so rugged, Laura thought to 
herself.  How different the life he lived in Shadow must be from mine.  
It was time for a change of subject.
        "I'd really like to know more about your life before you came to 
Amber.  Tell me of your Shadow," she requested, "and I'll tell you about 
mine, if you like."
        Time passed quickly as they talked together.  Laura was as 
fascinated by Ryan's Shadow as he was in awe of hers.  They talked of 
traveling together to visit their respective shadows.  It was an 
intriguing idea, Laura thought, though it would be a while before it 
could be more than an adventure planned.  Ryan must first walk the 
pattern and they both needed to learn more of shadow shifting.  In any 
event, with the current threat to the very fabric of Amber, it wasn't 
likely she could go traipsing through Shadow for fun at present.
        One thing she did not do was tell Ryan of that threat.  Although 
her instinct told her he was truly one of them, Zachary had not yet made 
sure of it.  Curious and impetuous she might be in exploring her new 
life, but she had the innate tendency to not fully trust her relatives 
that was her heritage.
        As if responding to her thoughts, Zachary quietly entered the 
        "Good afternoon," he greeted them.  "Has Laura shown you around 
Castle Amber, Ryan?"
        "Not yet more than the gardens, the dining hall and this 
library," he replied.
        "It's a good start."  The Crown Prince turned to his female 
cousin with a smile.  "Laura, would you mind giving me some time alone 
with Ryan?'
        "Of course not," she answered pleasantly, well aware of what 
Zachary wanted.  "I've a few things to do myself.  But, we have an 
appointment for later this afternoon, Zachary."
        "I haven't forgotten."  He knew well that she'd have reminded 
him even if he had.  Laura was nothing if not determined to grow as a 
Princess.  "Here, two hours from now?"
        "I'll be here.  Bye, Ryan.  See you later."
        Lost in thought, Laura climbed the one flight to the third floor 
of the Castle, her hand resting lightly on the highly polished 
banister.  On this floor were the apartments of the younger generation, 
the grandchildren of Oberon, and Laura was headed to hers.  She wanted 
to dress carefully to sit for her trump and had already selected the 
gown she would wear.  The doorknob was already turning in her hand when 
she stopped.  Temptation was calling her once more.
        A casual look around confirmed there seemed to be no one about, 
not even servants.  She moved away from her own door and walked quickly 
down to one apartment on this floor that housed an elder  Princess of 
Amber.  Flora's apartment had always been on this floor.  Those of the 
King and Queen were the only others.  
        She rapped several times on the door.  As expected, there was no 
response.  One more quick look to the left and right, and Laura tried 
the doorknob.  What she was doing, entering another royal's apartment 
without permission, was seriously frowned upon.  Their private quarters 
were exactly that, a place to ensure their privacy.  Laura didn't care.  
It belonged to her mother, the mother she had never known and wanted to 
learn about.  This place was a beginning.
        The door was locked.  Testing her developing skills, Laura 
focused her will.
        "That key ring I found in Shadow," she thought, and touched the 
bow and arrow pin now etched with the lines and curves of the Pattern.  
"I'm sure there's a key to this door on it."
        Smiling she reached into her pocket.  The smile widened has her 
fingers curled around something metallic and withdrew a key ring holding 
seven golden keys.  The third one she tried opened Flora's front door.  
Holding her breath, Laura stepped into her mother's living room.
        She walked from room to room drinking in the elegant splendor of 
her mother's taste.  The decor was period French.  Laura recognized the 
carpet as something she had seen in pictures of the Palace of 
Versailles.  On the walls were masterpieces.... a portrait of Napoleon, 
several Degas, Matisses, Renoirs and others.  They were certainly 
originals and Laura was certain her mother had not purchased them.  More 
likely was that the masters had presented Flora with them as gifts.  To 
have had such men as lovers... the idea delighted the young royal.
        The red-canopied bed that was the focal point of the bedroom was 
one Laura would loved to have had for her own.  On the vanity lay a 
magnificent diamond necklace, but it was what lay next to it that made 
Laura gasp.  It was a Faberge egg, the most beautiful one that she'd 
ever seen.  Lovingly she picked it up and let her fingers examine it.  
She opened it to see carved inside a man and woman in passionate 
embrace.  Carefully placing it back on the table, Laura made out way out 
of the apartment, still trying to get a feel for her unknown parent.
        Why had Flora not visited her since her babyhood?  Was her 
mother aware that Laura had now found her way to her destiny?  Did she 
care?  They were answers the young woman didn't have and wanted very 
much.  Soon, very soon now, she would try a trump contact with her mother.
        Some time later, bathed and dressed, Laura descended once again 
to the second floor Library.  The gown she'd chosen for her trump was of 
soft, blood red silk; it's bodice rose to just beneath her breasts which 
were covered with a filmy pink chiffon.  The same fabric billowed into 
long flowing sleeves.  A belt of jet black pearls circled her waist.  
Her only other jewelry was her bow and arrow pin, hung from a band of 
red velvet about her throat.  Silver blonde hair hung in long, flowing 
        "Do I look all right?" she asked Zachary upon entering the 
Library?  "I didn't really sleep all that well last night."
        "You look enchanting, Laura.  But what disturbed you during the 
night?"  He smiled to himself at her question.  How like her mother she 
really was.
        "I don't know.  I woke once and felt there was someone in the 
room with me.  There wasn't; I looked carefully, but still I had the 
sense of a presence there.  I did go back to sleep, but it disturbed me."
        "It may well have been a reaction to two hellrides," Zachary 
suggested, though privately he didn't believe it was.  "I've found some 
bothersome news myself, though."
        He handed Laura a note which she unfolded.
        "So, Karina has left us.  She did seem not quite comfortable 
        "Yes, she did.  What worries me is that it makes no mention of 
where she's gone.  She hadn't yet learn to ride, and I don't believe she 
can shift shadow on her own," Zachary mused.  "That would seem to leave 
a trump contact."
        "She talked about finding her brother," Laura said 
thoughtfully.  "Merlin.  She couldn't have gone to the Courts, could she?"
        "Come stand by the window, Laura.  We'll pose you against the 
backdrop of Mt. Kolvir."
        Zachary waited until Laura had struck a pose that pleased him 
and he had begun to sketch before answering her question.
        "If Merlin chose to answer a trump call, he could certainly 
bring her through if he chose."
        Laura shifted her position as an unpleasant thought came to her.
        "Please hold still, Laura dear.  These first lines must be 
totally accurate."
        "She could learn the ways of Chaos then, right?  Even walk the 
        "We all are potentially capable of that, Laura.  There is Chaos 
in the Amberites.  But the Logrus is even more difficult to negotiate 
than the pattern.  The pattern will kill you if you misstep, but the 
Logrus will attack your sanity.
        Laura repressed the shudder that wanted to come out in deference 
to Zachary's work.  She did so want her trump to be flattering.  The 
prince fell silent as he continued to sketch and focused his 
concentration on capturing his cousin's essence.  After working for a 
little more than an hour, he looked up.
        "That's enough for today.  I've got the preliminary sketch."
        "Oh, let me see!"  Laura moved rapid to join him, but Zachary 
covered his work.
        "Not until it's finished," he said with a smile.  "And no 
peeking when I'm not here."
        "You're going to make me wait?  How cruel!  When will it be 
done?  Soon?"  she asked, pouting prettily at her cousin.
        "Impatient as ever, aren't you?  Will I be forgiven if we start 
your lessons right now?"
        "Oh, yes!" she cried eagerly.  "And you can tell me what 
happened with Ryan after I left.  Did you test him?  Is he really Lord 
Benedict's son?  And what will we do next about the threat to Amber?  
Have you talked to the King Random?  Will you tell Ryan about it?"
        Zachary laughed again as he began to set up for her lesson.  So 
many questions, such curiosity she had.  Still, he ~had~ told them all 
he was the one to come to with their questions.  His cousin, Laura, 
apparently was taking him at his word.
Laura, Princess of Amber