Tue Feb 25 00:45:27 1997
Subject: [AM]
Brandi woke with the sun; the infant sunshine glittered across the 
polished shent stones scattered across her floor.  She sighed, 
regretting her temper tantrum but relieved that she had vented her 
anguish in only a marginally destructive way.
Sighing again, she knelt to pick up the debris; the cleaning staff left 
her room alone, a standing request from the beginning.  She didn't 
usually mind cleaning staff, but anywhere other than Castle Amber.  Here 
she preferred to take care of her room herself.  A girl can never be too 
After bathing she dressed in loose black breeches and a red silk blouse, 
with a brown leather belt set with blue gemstones.  She donned her high 
red leather boots as well.  The Devil, in scimitar form, was scabbarded 
at her side, while The Deep Blue Sea was concealed as a shimmering blue 
ring on her other hand.  A few moments fighting the still raw emotions 
brewing beneath the surface, and then she was ready to face the public.
First, to formally remind her family of her existence.  She crossed the 
third floor to the stairs, descended, and made her way down to the 
throne room.  She recognized some of the staff, and greeted them; they 
were generally more open than the royalty they served, and returned the 
greetings, though they still weren't entirely comfortable with the idea 
of a member of the royal family being so openly friendly towards them. 
Especially guardsman Chalm, who always squirmed and blushed when she 
flirted with him.
She slipped into the hallway to the throne room as a troupe of diplomats 
from the Golden Circle were leaving.  They glanced at her 
appreciatively; one of them let his gaze linger in a most obvious way, 
and as he made eye contact with her she gave him a smouldering look.  He 
leaned towards her, a practiced witticism on his lips, as if to take her 
into his confidence. "Careful what you wish for," she whispered to him, 
and walked on.  From his reaction she knew he would be distracted for 
the rest of the day, and would have some difficulty remembering his 
wife's name tonight.  Served him right; with a wedding ring on his 
finger, he should behave himself better. In the throne room itself King 
Random and Queen Vialle were in hushed discussion with Julian and 
Gerard.  She caught the words "Dalt", "move" and "waiting" as she 
entered, and they looked as one at her.
Brandi bowed.  "Greetings, my King and Queen, Lord Julian and Lord 
Gerard," she saluted.  "I have returned again to Amber."
The King looked at her a long moment.  "Are you sure you're not Brandi's 
evil twin sister?" asked Random suspiciously.  Gerard chuckled, and 
Brandi smiled.  Julian was impassive.
"Last time I checked I was still me, Your Graciousness," she replied.  
She had always liked Random's "down-to-earthness", a trait that seemed 
to run in his son Zachary as well.  Both were kind, considerate, and 
intelligent; distinctly "un-Amberite."  Sometimes the part of her that 
was still a child hoped that when she did discover her Amberite parent, 
it would be Random, and wondered what kind of father he would have 
been.  What kind of younger brother Zachary would be like.  She might 
even forgive the King. Then reality would crash in again.  Amber was no 
place for a child. Gerard and Julian nodded politely to her, and Vialle 
said "Welcome back, Lady Brandi."  The King was grimacing over the term 
"Your Graciousness." "I'm aware of the events that have occurred, and I 
heard mention of Dalt as I came in," Brandi continued, and noticed 
Random shifting into Full King Mode immediately.  "Is he moving again?"
"He has not made another offensive since the attack on the Unicorn," 
replied Julian, "but we should not assume he has been idle in Shadow."  
Though there was some question over whether Dalt actually did attack the 
Unicorn, the Protector of Arden evidently found it most logical (or most 
convenient) to assume he did.  Sometimes Julian took Amberite paranoia 
to some very practical conclusions.  "Still, it would be good to get a 
better idea of his movements.  Benedict has had some success, but there 
is still too much unknown."
"Dalt is an enigma," stated Random.  "A very dangerous one."
There was no more information to be gathered at this meeting, and after 
some small talk, Brandi excused herself.  Well, that was over with; the 
elder Amberites were always reserved when dealing with her, as if she 
was something unstable that could, at any moment, blow up in their faces. 
Well, she was.  Now for a more pleasant encounter:  Bloody Bob's. She 
crossed the entrance hall of the Castle and saw -her-. Brandi's first 
thought was actually of Zachary.  Her respect for his abilities with 
Trump jumped up a notch, for capturing as much of her as he did in her 
Trump.  But no representation could ever match the true Laura of Amber.
Her second thought was that the term "heartbreaker" did her no justice 
either.  Visually she was undoubtedly beautiful, with golden champagne 
hair and dark grey eyes, and a sensuous figure hinted at through a 
stunning gown of pinks and greys in various shades.  But that was not 
all; she had a way of carrying herself that demanded attention, a 
certain demeanour that added to and transcended the physical.  It was 
all natural, too, an effect born of true instinct rather than of 
training or practice.  Laura was facing away from Brandi, but presently 
turned to look at her, as if she knew she was there even though Brandi 
had not made a sound.
They made eye contact, each one appraising the other, analyzing possible 
strengths and weaknesses, each knowing the other was doing the same.  
They walked towards each other.  Brandi fought a self-conscious urge to 
straighten her outfit.
"You must be the Lady Brandi," Laura smiled elegantly, in a musical voice.
"And you must be the Lady Laura.  Please, just call me Brandi."
"Brandi then.  Please call me Laura."
Brandi grinned.  "Zachary has spoken highly of you, with obvious reason. 
I'm pleased to meet you, Laura.  How do you find Amber?"
"It is quite different from what I grew up with, and very interesting," 
Laura replied noncommittally.  Brandi struck her as charming and 
friendly, in a roguish manner similar to Bleys, but she was not quite 
ready to trust her cousin more than necessary yet; if she was anything 
like that elder Amberite one had to watch one's tongue around her.
Brandi picked up on this.  Not only beautiful, but intelligent, Laura 
was. Laura had only recently come to Amber, according to Zachary, but if 
someone wished to use her bewilderment to gain an advantage, they would 
have a difficult time at it.  She may be a newcomer, but she was not 
naove, and not easily fooled.  She wondered how Laura would do when 
faced with the more conniving members of the family, especially Bleys.
"That's a very diplomatic way of putting it," Brandi replied somewhat 
bluntly.  "Amber's like an onion- layers and layers to get through."  
And it often brings tears, she added mentally, but did not mention it.  
"Tell me, have you been to Bloody Bob's yet?"
"Yes, I have, and I understand why it is a favourite of our family's."
"I haven't been in ages.  I'm on my way there now.  I'd welcome some 
company, if you fancy another visit there."  A whisper in the corner of 
Brandi's mind echoed a recurring wish to be taller, but she adamantly 
ignored it.  Having to look up at her newfound cousin only accented 
Laura's presence, but Brandi was determined that she didn't notice it.
"I'd like that," was Laura's response.  "I'll just take a minute to 
change into something more suitable.  We could meet in the courtyard, if 
you wish."
"Sure.  I have to get myself a horse.  I'll meet you there."
Brandi made her way to the stables with a definite idea for a mount.  
She greeted Mikal Grube and told him what she was aiming for: 
intelligent, hearty, well-trained, and black as night.  "Like that one," 
she pointed at one that fit her expectations.
"Ah, milady, I'm sorry to disappoint you," said the stablemaster 
"but that steed, Tovarich, has already been claimed by Princess Laura.  
I'm truly sorry"
"Fine," she pouted, and looked forlornly at Mikal.
"But I know of one here that may be a suitable alternative," he 
blustered, and led her further into the stables, desperately eager to 
appease her.  In a matter of minutes she was studying a beautiful white 
that examined her with equal intensity.
Mikal Grube's suggestion was a good one.  It was no wonder he had been 
chosen as Amber's stablemaster.  His charges were of an excellent stock, 
and each one was in prime mental and physical condition.  These horses 
were trained to withstand hellrides, after all.
"I suppose this one will do," Brandi sulked, though she couldn't help 
but smile when the mare nudged her with its snout.  "Excellent choice, 
Master Grube.  I'm very pleased."
"Thank you, Princess, I'm happy to be of assistance.  This one hasn't 
been named yet milady, but if you're satisfied with her, perhaps you 
could giver her a name."
"When she tells me her name, I'll let you know," said Brandi cryptically.
"I'll saddle her myself."  Before the stablemaster could protest and 
offer to do it himself, she added, "but please prepare Tovarich for 
Princess Laura, she and I will be riding into the city."  Not only did 
saddling the horse herself give them a chance to get acquainted, but she 
made sure herself that the fittings were done properly.  Once again, a 
girl can never be too careful.
Within the span of minutes both of Amber's most beautiful creations were 
riding down the winding route to the city, the gentle cool breeze 
playing about them and up and down the mountainside, as if reveling in 
their presence.  They spoke of their experiences in Shadow, a carefully 
neutral subject to begin with, each one sounding the other's defenses 
and motivations.
They stopped briefly at one of the better lookout spots on the way down, 
as if by unspoken agreement, and looked silently for a few minutes at 
the panorama that Castle Amber reigned over.  Even the horses seemed 
contented with what they saw.  Brandi dismounted.
"It's time we found out what you call yourself," she said to the white 
steed.  She half-closed her eyes and sent her will into The Deep Blue 
Sea for a spell she had stored there some time ago.  She examined the 
spell's structure carefully to make sure it had not deteriorated; it was 
a little "musty", but still quite serviceable.  She drew its power forth 
and began to hum it softly, her voice barely louder than the wind, a 
melodic counterpoint to its breath.  From the corner of her eye she 
could see Laura, curiosity clear in her features, steel eyes examining 
and analyzing her spellcraft. Brandi fought the urge to smile.  The girl 
had only been in Amber a few days, had dazzled the family in a way she 
herself had hoped to (but had never done), had earned implicit praise 
from Zachary (a rare and precious thing), and had stolen the best 
available horse in the stables.  The Black Swan had to show her up on 
-something-.  She would wager confidently that, if Laura chose, she 
would make a damn fine sorceress, though.
She sung the spell to a close and stared at her mount.  Animals rarely 
communicated in something as linear or orderly as a spoken language- it 
was more like a series of images and sensations that one responded to 
with the heart as much as the head.  She whispered to the big white, 
questioning it's name.  He responded with a fusion of scattered imagery- 
the light of a full moon shimmering through a mist-dressed lake surface, 
velvet blue darkness with a flash of ethereal white movement, silent 
swiftness.  She caught the horse's own perception of her- a flash of 
brilliant crystal fire and sweet noisy melodies, the scent of autumn 
She glanced over to her companions and sensed them in the same way.  
Laura was soft streams of pale and shaded light dancing gracefully, 
complex and subtle music, and the warmth of the sun in spring.  Tovarich 
was stone and strength; if he were human he would fit perfectly the 
image of a "knight in shining armour."
Brandi closed her eyes and let the spell's effect subside.  "I think 
I'll name you 'Moonghost,'" she said to her horse.  Yes, she supposed it 
was her horse after all.  Moonghost nodded once, apparently satisfied at 
the translation.
By the time they reached the city itself Brandi had determined that 
Laura was not trying to "work an angle" or otherwise manipulate her, and 
she loosened her guard a bit.  She sensed that Laura had probably 
reached a similar conclusion, and had also relaxed a bit.  After that 
their conversation became more friendly and animated, and Brandi began 
to enjoy Laura's company.  Brandi found, much to her surprise, that she 
had actually let her defenses lower farther than she had ever done 
before in this accursed place.  It was a welcome but uncertain feeling.
They made their way slowly through the city, aiming generally for Bloody 
Bob's, absorbing the busy sights.  They arrived comfortably before the 
lunch time rush.
"What a dive," Brandi hollered as they entered.
"I'll have you know, dear lady-" began George, in valiant defense of his 
famous establishment, turning his broad girth towards the offending 
patron, then stopped short as recognition lit his face.  "Lady Brandi 
Blackswan!" He rushed around the bar counter towards her.
"Good to see you again, George," she smiled as he took her hands in his 
in greeting.  "I'm here to save you from financial ruin, my friend.  
Your customers will start coming again once they know I'm back."
"Ah, Lady, your talent is surpassed only by your humility," he responded 
in mock severity, then turned to Laura.  "And who is your companion?"
"Lady Laura of Amber," Brandi said, "may I present Master George, the 
unfortunate proprietor of this -dive-."  The last word was practically 
thrown at him.
"I have noticed your presence here before, milady, and wondered when I'd 
have the honour of meeting you.  It is indeed a pleasure, Lady Laura.  A 
true vision of noble beauty honours and humbles my person and my 
establishment with her presence.  I will see to it personally that 
anything you desire at Bloody Bob's is granted."  George bowed grandly 
to her. 
"I thank you, good sir.  The pleasure is mine as well," Laura smiled 
"That was really good, George," commented Brandi, not sure if she felt 
more impressed or jealous, as George led them to a back table.
"Bloody Bob's is a preferred locale of the Royal Family.  I would be 
remiss if I did not show the respect they expect and deserve," he said 
proudly, holding Laura's and then Brandi's chairs as they sat.  "I would 
be grateful to attend to your service myself.  And would the Lady Brandi 
honour us with a song or two this day?"
"Keep up this grand service and I'll think about it," she replied. 
Brandi suddenly realized she was hungry, and set the removal of that 
sensation as her highest immediate priority.  Then, some more time 
getting to know the phenomenon of Laura of Amber.  A performance in the 
tavern would occur, she knew; George probably already had runners in the 
street advertising it even though she had not actually consented to it 
yet.  She couldn't disappoint the faithful, anyways.  She wondered if 
Laura liked music; her impressions (normal and spell-enhanced) pointed 
in that direction.
So, and interesting afternoon was ahead.  With plenty of time to figure 
out how to deal with their six-fingered followers and the net they had 
been contracting slowly around her and Laura within moments of their 
entering the city. 
NRPG: Hi everyone!  I'll be more or less out of touch for the next 
couple of weeks; I'm off to Salt Lake City (Mormon country!) for The 
Family Ski Trip this coming week and I'm in Washington DC to do some 
research the first week of March.  I feel like such a serious academic- 
where's my pipe?  I need a sabbatical.
Judi:  I hope I've described Laura accurately.  Brandi likes Laura, and 
feels a sense of rivalry as well (and some jealousy, too).
Allen: Helloooo Orbus!
Matt Greenwood
Master in Environmental Studies candidate
York University, Toronto, Canada
"On a personal level, Freaking Out is a process whereby an individual
off outmoded and restricting standards of thinking... in order to express
CREATIVELY his relationship to his immediate environment and the social
structure as a whole"
        Frank Zappa (from the liner notes of the album "Freak Out").