From Fri Jan 31 03:25:01 1997
Subject: [AM] First Steps
        They were quite a pair, strolling together in the gardens of 
Castle Amber, two beauties whose similarity of face and form proclaimed 
their relationship.  It was mid afternoon and the air was quite warm on 
this sixth day of Posya but the elevation of the Castle, high on the 
summit of Mt. Kolvir, provided a steady, gentle breeze, a most pleasant 
        Laura's emotions were a stark contrast to the calmness of the 
day, however, as she talked with the mother she was meeting for the 
first time in her life.  She was eager for the mother/daughter 
relationship she'd never had, but reluctant to open her heart to this 
self-assured Princess of Amber.  At the core, she realized, was the 
desire, the ingrained need, to prove to Flora and Laura of Amber was a 
true royal and a daughter she could claim with pride.
        "You want to know what happened?  It was just a random, 
senseless thing. He was stabbed on the street by a stranger on a bad LSD 
        Laura's steel-grey eyes filled with tears as she remembered her 
father lying so still and pale in his hospital bed.  Everything possible 
had been done for Paul Davega, but they had both known he was dying.
        "I -am- sorry, Laura.  It's a terrible waste.  He lived life 
with such flare, as I recall."
        Although she heard the note of genuine regret in Flora's voice, 
Laura bristled.
        "Perhaps if you'd been there, you might have prevented it, 
Mother, although I didn't know that then."
        "Perhaps, Laura, although that is by no means certain.  Even if 
I had been in your Shadow, I may not have been with Paul when disaster 
        "He'd just returned from some successful deal-making on the 
Coast and stopped to by me this," Laura continued, ignoring her mother's 
reply. Flora bent her head to examine more closely the ruby, diamond, 
and onyx bow-and-arrow brooch Laura wore on a chain around her neck.
        "It's quite lovely, Laura, and just right for you.  Flora lifted 
the pin from its resting place.  "Why, what's this?"  She had noticed 
the Pattern ingrained in the brooch.  "You must have worn this on your 
Pattern walk.  I assume it has taken on some special..... qualities?"
        The hint of curiosity in Florimel's voice was not lost on 
Laura.  The corners of her mouth turned up in a small smile.
        "One would hardly go wrong in assuming that an artifact imbued 
with the Pattern would have such qualities," was her only answer.  It 
produced in Flora a genuine laugh.
        "Very good, my dear.  Very good, indeed.  Never confide too much 
even to family.  Especially to family.  You've learned quickly."
        "I've always had to with no mother to help me grow up."
        "Come now, Laura.  You're perceptive and sharp.  I believe you 
know quite well that it now that it was not a matter of indifference to 
you.  I kept an eye on you, watched your development, but I must be who 
and what I am..... what you are now, too.  Even had I remained while you 
grew up, you would not have found me to be --- let me put it in terms of 
your birth Shadow --- a June Cleaver or Donna Stone type mother."
        Flora reached out to drape an arms around the shoulders of her 
daughter, but Laura instinctively drew back.  She was far from ready to 
slip into the role of loving daughter.
        "Don't patronize me, Mother," she said somewhat stiffly.  "I 
really that you would not have greeted me at the door with Malomars and 
milk when I got home from school, but you would have been there, 
teaching me the things I would need to know.... things ONLY you could 
        "You will be a stronger royal having learned on your own, 
Laura.  I've seen the sons and daughters of my siblings come and go, and 
I've long been convinced, though others may disagree, that our children 
of mixed royal and shadow parentage must discover their heritage.  If 
you had not the strength of will to find your own way here, then Amber 
was not where you belonged. This may seem cruel to you, but I believe it 
to be kind.  I should like it if you'll tell me how you did it."
        "You may be right", Laura acknowledged.  Fully aware of all she 
had been through in the short time she'd been an Amberite, the young 
princess could concede Flora's point.  "And I did have a happy childhood 
really, but I missed having a mother's love."
        Laura stood very erect and looked her mother full in the eye, 
determined to show the self-possession expected of a daughter of Amber.  
She had worked hard since her arrival, harder she believed than the 
other new royals who had found their way to Amber at about the same 
time.  She would be given her due.
        "It will take some time, I think, for us to find how we'll 
relate to each other, but yes, I'll tell you how I made the journey.  
"Father lay dying," she began, her eyes misting over as the deathbed 
scene flashed in her mind. "He was determined to stay alive until he 
could tell me something important.  I tried to keep him quiet, but he 
insisted there were things he must tell me.  It was then, struggling for 
the breath to get the words out that he confessed you had not died and 
that I was not who I believed myself to be.  He said that he had left 
certain items with his attorney that belonged to me.  He said that he 
loved me very much and that he had loved you very much.  Then.... he 
        Laura bent her head and let the grief wash over her for a few 
minutes. When she looked up, here eyes were clear and dry.
        "Did you love him at all, Mother?  Or, was he just another of 
your famed Shadow trysts?"
        "I truly did care for him, Laura, and for you," Flora replied, 
taking Laura's hand in her own.  "Love with a man of Shadow is, of 
necessity, fleeting for us as you will not doubt discover for yourself.  
But I did care deeply for Paul.  I stayed with him quite a long time, 
for me, and when I found I was pregnant, I chose to have the child.  You 
should find that quite significant when you consider what it did to my 
figure for a goodly amount of time."
        Flora shuddered at the memory and Laura couldn't help but 
laugh.  It was such a Florimel thing to say.
        "About a week after the funeral, I went to Rusty's office and 
got the box you left for me.  I took it home and found your gifts.  The 
deck of trumps captured my attention.  I focused on the one of Zachary 
and after a while, it shimmered to life.  I called to him in anguish 
asking for help, and he pulled me through."
        "Where you began to discover who you are.  You've made quite 
astonishing progress according to Zachary, my dear.  It is interesting 
that it was his trump you selected.  Perhaps you were remembering when 
you met him during your girlhood.  It was at an archery tournament, if 
memory serves."
        "You knew about that?"  Laura's eyes widened in astonishment.
        "I told you that I kept watch, Laura.  Yes, I observed that 
meeting, and no, we never spoke of it.  It wasn't time."  Flora smiled 
with genuine fondness.  "You're quite right, dear.  It will take time 
for us to grow closer, but it is my hope that we shall.  I ask only that 
you keep an open mind."
        "I shall try, Mother.  Zachary is quite fond of you as is Aunt 
Vialle. The Queen was kind enough to help me discover which princess was 
my mother."
        "Yes, Vialle, tender-hearted and wise.  She would help if she 
thought it judicious.  She's been good for my brother, Random.  Speaking 
of whom, I should pay my respects to the King and Queen.  Shall we go 
back in, Laura, and meet for dinner as Zachary suggested?"
        "Yes, Mother.  I have things to do and I think we've said enough 
for this first meeting.  Will you be staying long in Amber?" she asked 
as the two women made their way back to the castle.
        "For a while, I think," Flora mused as they walked.  "I do want 
to spend some time with you, and if, as Zachary mentioned, Dalt has 
risen once more against Amber, that's a cause for concern.  The attack 
on the Unicorn is even more so."
        Once inside, the two women parted company.  Flora went off to 
find her brother while Laura ascended the grand staircase to her 
apartment.  She had a fencing lesson scheduled for the following morning 
and also planned to spend some time in the Crime Lab concocting some 
lotions and potions.  The remainder of this afternoon she wanted to 
spend doing what the attack in the forest had interrupted.... drawing a 
        Entering her apartment, Laura found her maid, Audra, doing some 
polishing the ebony desk that stood in front of the window.  The black 
wood gleamed in the lowering sunlight.
        "Good afternoon, Milady.  I'll make myself scarce now you're 
        "Good afternoon, Audra," Laura smiled.  "Before you go, is there 
any news going about the Castle?"
        "Oh yes, Mum," the young girl said eagerly.  "The Lady Brandi 
has returned."
        "Brandi?"  Laura was puzzled.  She neither read nor heard 
anything of a Brandi.
        "The Lady Brandi Blackswan, Princess of Amber.  She has been 
away a very long time, but she came back last night.  Off to her rooms, 
she was, and hasn't been seen around all day."
        *Another cousin* Laura thought, *and not a neophyte.  *Will she 
think me a bumbling child as Julianna does, or will she be more 
accepting of me as an equal, like Zachary?  How long will it take, I 
wonder, before I'm no longer the newcomer?*
        Laura expressed none of these thoughts to her maid.  Instead, 
she asked with smile, "Can you tell me something of Princess Brandi, 
        "She is very beautiful, Milady, like you.  She has a kindness of 
manner towards the staff, but you don't want to get on the wrong side of 
her.  A real fireball, she can be, I'm hear to tell you."
        "Whose child is she, Audra?"
        "I'm sure I don't know, Mum.  The talk below stairs is that no 
one knows. It's never been spoke of."
        "Well, thank you, Audra.  If you should happen to see her, 
please tell Lady Brandi that I look forward to meeting her at her 
        "I surely will, Mum.  Will there be anything else?"
        "No thank you, you may go.  Oh, and Audra.... you remember that 
white day dress that Barris delivered a few days ago?  I've decided it 
doesn't really suit me.  You may have it if you like."
        The young maid gasped and looked at Laura with the devotion of a 
puppy to its master written in her eyes.
        "You don't mean it, Milady!"  Audra was incredulous.
        "But of course I do, my dear.  The dress is yours."
        Gushing her thanks and fairly fluttering with excitement, Audra 
dashed into the bedroom to retrieve her new dress from Laura's closet.  
As the door closed behind the girl, Laura smiled.  Small kindnesses to 
servants reaped their rewards a thousandfold.  
        Approaching her desk, she withdrew her blank cards, pens and 
inks, and studied the preliminary drawings she had started.  Flora, 
Rusty, Zachary.... which one to work on?  It would probably do to think 
more about her mother before attempting to finish that one, and telling 
the story of her arrival in Amber had brought thoughts of Zachary to 
Laura's mind.  It was his sketch she placed before her.  Bringing her 
brooch up to eye level, she gazed into the reflection of the Pattern 
within it, immersing herself in the lines and swirls, drawing its power 
into her soul.  In fierce concentration, she focused her will.
        [I WILL become a mistress of Trump]
        Willing herself to feel the essence of Zachary, Laura began to 
enhance the portrait of her cousin.  Time passed; she was unaware of 
it.  Slowly, she came back to full perception of her surroundings and 
looked at the card she had made.  It looked right.  More importantly, it 
felt right.  The features were the same as his trump in the deck Flora 
had left for her, but the style was different.  It was her own knowledge 
of Zachary that stared back at her.  Was it possible?  Maybe, just 
maybe, she had created her first Trump.
        "There's only one way to tell," Laura said aloud. and held the 
Trump up before her eyes.
        She concentrated....  Minutes passed....  She held her 
breath.... More minutes passed.....
        Then a sense of unbridled joy welled up inside of her as the 
card grew cold and the picture began to shimmer.
        "Who calls?"
        "It's I, Zachary.  Laura."
        "Is something wrong, Laura?  I'm at Bloody Bob's with another 
cousin of ours you haven't yet met.  Do you need me to bring you through?"
        "No, thank you, Zachary.  Not if you're busy.  I just called you 
because.... because this is a new Trump of you.  I only now finished it."
        "Congratulations, Laura."  Zachary smiled with true affection.  
"It's quite an accomplishment you've made, not that I'm overly surprised."
        "Thank you, Cousin.  You're with another cousin, you said?  Is 
it Brandi, by any chance.  I've just heard that she's in Amber."
        "No, not Brandi.  She is yet at the Castle, I believe.  I'm with 
our Cousin Orbus.  You'll meet him soon."
        "A new arrival, like me?"
        "No, my dear," Zachary laughed.  He knew Laura's frustration at 
being the eternal newbie among the Royals.  Those less advanced than she 
had all left Amber to follow their own paths.  Her sigh was audible.
        "Well then, I'll leave you to your visit.  I'd best take a 
little rest before dinner.  Please tell Cousin Orbus I look forward to 
meeting him."
        They broke the contact and Laura decided to take a relaxing bath 
before dressing for dinner.  Her efforts had exhausted her.  She knew 
that it didn't take nearly as much out of Zachary, nor any of the others 
she suspected, to create a Trump, but this was her first and her talents 
were still in their infancy.  She wanted to be fresh and at her best 
when she met her two new cousins.
        And when she next saw Florimel.
Laura of Amber
NRPG:  Looking forward to writing with you, Matt and Allen.  I LOVE AMBER!