Sun Mar  2 00:11:05 1997
Subject: [AM] An Awesome Threesome
        Flushed with success at having created her first working Trump, 
Laura, though tired, was too excited to stop.  Holding the image of the 
Pattern in her mind, she let its forces flow through her and began to 
work on the drawing of Rusty.  Keeping his image clearly in her mind, 
she worked carefully with pen and inks while calling on all she knew of 
her dear friend and attorney.  Time passed unnoticed, as it always did 
when she worked, and not until the portrait had come alive for her did 
Laura stop. Studying the newly born Trump, she waited until it grew cold 
in her hand.
        Rusty shimmered into existence for a few moments, then faded.  
Laura wasn't really surprised at that, nor even very disappointed.  He 
was not an Amberite; she expected he would need a Trump of her and some 
instruction and explanation.  Right now, he knew nothing of True City.  
He knew only that Laura had disappeared and she imagined he'd been very 
worried.  She did sense something that disturbed her, however.  There 
was an aura of trouble surrounding Rusty, serious trouble.  Laura 
thought she would have to visit there one day soon.  It was only Shadow, 
of course, but it was the Shadow of her birth, and Russell Mallory was  
her good friend and first lover.  With Bill Roth dead now, she wondered 
if maybe
        But that was a thought for another time.  She would devote some 
time each day to drawing new Trumps, circumstances permitting.  Now what 
she needed was a good night's sleep.
        Wakening later than usual the next morning, Laura dressed in a 
gown of pink and grey, very feminine and one of her favorites.  Barris 
Harte, ecstatic over the continuing custom of Lady Laura of Amber, 
strove to produce designs that would please her.  He wisely credited the 
House of Harte's increase in business from the nobility of Amber and the 
kingdoms of the Golden Circle to the spreading word that he was the 
designer of choice to Amber's newest Princess.
        On her way downstairs, Laura saw her mother, Flora, and Fiona 
talking in the hallway on the second floor.  Neither noticed her and she 
did not interrupt them.  The two sisters were talking quietly and 
affably enough, but there was a definite air of tension surrounding 
them.  It seemed likely that Florimel and Fiona were cordial but were 
not overly fond of each other.  Hardly surprising.
        She was standing in the Great Hall when she sensed a presence 
behind her and turned to get her first look at the woman she quickly 
presumed to be Lady Brandi Blackswan.  The two women were silent for a 
few minutes, each assessing and appraising the other, as women will do 
whether of shadow or substance.
        She's quite lovely, Laura thought.  No -- striking was the word 
to describe Brandi.  Her very presence demanded attention.  Once having 
gotten a glimpse of the Lady Brandi, no man would forget her.
        They exchanged some initial conversation, exploratory, cautious, 
tentative, yet with a hint of willingness on each side for a more open 
relationship once they learned more about how much they could trust each 
other.  When Brandi invited her along to Bloody Bob's, Laura accepted 
immediately, agreeing to meet Brandi in the courtyard as soon as she'd 
changed her clothes.
        Back in her apartment, Laura considered carefully what she'd 
wear.  She considered Brandi's stunning black and red outfit.  Their 
outfits should complement each other when they made their entrance into 
Bloody Bob's. Laura chose soft suede jodhpurs in a deep wine red and a 
long-sleeved pink silk shirt with matching riding boots.  Around her 
waist she clasped a black suede belt studded with garnets and pink 
diamonds.  She retouched her makeup and swept her hair back behind her 
ears, letting it cascade in flowing waves down her back.  When her 
mirror told her she'd achieved the effect she wanted, Laura hurried back 
        After spending a few minutes cementing her friendly relations 
with Mikal Grube, Laura took some time with Tovarich.  The bond with the 
black stallion grew stronger each day and he was happy to see her.  The 
horse let out a pleased whinny when she mounted him.  They were going 
for a ride.
        The trip down Kolvir was most enjoyable in early summer.  Brandi 
and Laura exchanging some more information about themselves, still 
cautious, but each extending the hand of possible friendship.  
        Laura stood transfixed while Brandi communed in some way with 
her new horse.  She was aware there was some magic going on here, but 
what Brandi was doing and how she was doing it was a mystery and a 
wonder to behold. When it was over, Brandi named her horse Moonghost and 
the mare seemed pleased with it.
        The remainder of the trip into the city was more than pleasant 
with each cousin loosening up as they talked.  There was no sign that 
Brandi was patronizing Laura for newness and inexperience as a royal as 
Julianna often did.  How nice it would be to have a female friend among 
her cousins, Laura thought.  She had already decided that she quite 
liked Brandi Blackswan although she was not ready to completely let down 
her guard with a member of her family and was quite sure that Brandi 
wouldn't either.  Still, this trip to Bloody Bob's was a good first step 
in what Laura hoped was the right direction.
        Their entrance into Bloody Bob's was as spectacular as Laura 
could have hoped for.
        "What a dive!" Brandi hollered as they walked through the door.
        Her comment immediately brought said dive's proprietor, George, 
huffily indignant until he saw who had made the disparaging remark and 
warmly greeted the Lady Brandi.  Laura graced Master George with a 
dazzling smile upon introduction, making him hers forever.  She sensed 
the slightest hint of jealousy in Brandi, and not for the first time.
        Silly, Laura thought.  She can more than hold her own in any 
woman's company.
        Brandi announced that she was starved and Laura found that she 
was in the same condition.  When George announced that he would wait on 
them personally, both Princesses bade him to bring on the comestibles.
        "You're a singer, Brandi?" Laura inquired with interest once 
George had left them alone at table.
        "Of some note," Brandi acknowledged.  "I'm known, among other 
things, as the Bard of Amber."
        "I adore music of all kinds.  Listening to you will be a 
pleasure.  I'm a dancer, you know."
        The two exquisite Princesses made themselves comfortable at 
their table, one of the bistros most select.  Brandi made the customary 
gesture of unsheathing her sword and laying it on the table.  Laura did 
the same with her jeweled dagger and smiled as she wondered what the 
patrons of Bloody Bob's would think of an exhibition of go-go dancing.
        Tonight would probably not be the night though.  Raised in the 
world of show business, Laura knew better than to step into another 
entertainer's spotlight.  She wanted very much to refrain from doing 
anything to breach the tenuous thread of friendship she hoped to build 
with her newly found cousin.  
        George brought their first course to the table, a heaping plate 
of shellfish freshly caught from the Great Sea, and a variety of sauces 
and dips along with a mound of freshly baked tomato/basil/garlic bread.  
Laura and Brandi immediately turned their attention to the food.
        "Did you get a sense that we were being followed on our way 
here?" Laura asked as she delicately wiped a trace of cocktail sauce 
from her upper lip, and immediately went up a notch in Brandi's 
        So, inexperienced as she was, she had noticed.  Laura was 
steadily confirming her cousin's initial impression of intelligence and 
        "Yes, I'm aware of it, Laura, and I don't like it.  I suspect 
we'd better be prepared for trouble.  What do you know of six-fingered 
        Laura frowned.  "Only what I've read in Lord Corwin's 
chronicles.  A prickly feeling began to wend its way up her spine.  "You 
mean they're the ones who've been following us?"
        Brandi nodded and fingered the Devil that lay within easy reach.
        "Yes, and I doubt they're approaching us to ask for a waltz," 
Brandi answered with more than a touch of irony in her tone.
        "If trouble comes, we'll be ready, Cousin Brandi."  Laura 
sighed.  "I seem to come under attack every time I come into the City."
        Brandi laughed as she lifted a tankard of Bayle's Best to her 
        "It comes with being a royal.  As long as I've been around, I 
still haven't figured out if it's a perk or a pitfall."
Laura joined in the laughter.  What a perfect summary of life as a child 
of Amber!  The two beauties were drawing their fare share of admiring, 
and in some cases, frankly leering glances from the steadily growing 
number of customers as the hour for lunch drew closer.  Each accepted it 
as her due. Then the door opened again and her eyes widened as she 
noticed the man who strode through the door and made his way to a 
distant table.  How very attractive he was.  And that white hair!  It 
suited him perfectly.  He had the air of regal expectation about him 
that made Laura sure he was one of them.  This was a man she just had to 
"I'll wager the price of this meal that's our cousin Orbus," she 
suggested to Brandi with a nod of her head in the newcomer's direction.
"No bet," Brandi laughed after looking the man over with the same 
interest Laura had shown.  "Shall we ask him to join us?"
        "Just what I was about to suggest."
        Laura's beckoning hand brought a waiter to their table 
        "Would you be so kind as to ask that gentleman if he'd care to 
dine at our table?"
        "You've never met Orbus?" Laura asked as the waiter hurried to 
do her bidding.  It was a matter of some amazement to her that any of 
her older cousins, having been around as long as they had, remained 
        "No, I've heard of him, naturally, but I spend a good deal of my 
time in Shadow.  I imagine Orbus does, too.  We've never been in Amber 
at the same time, strange to say.  Or, perhaps not so strange."
        "Perhaps not," Laura agreed.
        She bestowed a withering look upon a sailor, apparently already 
well into his cups, who stumbled passed her placing a hand where it was 
most definitely unwelcome.  Raucous laughter from a nearby table told 
her he was probably just what he seemed, a drunken sailor out to get as 
much woman he could while away from his ship.  But, was he?  Laura had 
already learned that it was unwise for a Princess of Amber to take 
anything at face value. Brandi's hand had already moved atop her sword.  
Neither was aware of the approach of Orbus until he accosted the hapless 
        "You would do well," he said in a voice so calm that it was 
deadly, "to remember that it is bad form to foist unwelcome attention on 
lovely ladies."
        The sailor was not so drunk that he did not recognize the 
presence Orbus bore about himself or the unmistakable threat behind his 
understated words. Mumbling an apology about an unfortunate accident, 
the man slunk back to the jeers of his companions.
        "May I thank you for your kind invitation to dine with you," he 
said, turning to the two beauties.  "I regret that our meeting was 
marred by this bit of unpleasantness."
        He made a courtly bow.
        "Have I the pleasure of addressing the Lady Brandi Blackswan and 
the Lady Laura?"
        "I am Laura," she said, extending her hand and receiving the 
brush of his lips on her fingertips with a good deal of pleasure.  "And 
this is indeed Brandi Blackswan.  Lord Orbus, I presume?"
        "The very same," he acknowledged while giving the same hand 
treatment to Brandi that Laura had received.  The smaller Princess 
seemed to be enjoying it as much as her cousin had.  The Prince seemed 
to relish it as well. What man's heart would not do flip-flops at the 
nearness of these two? "But, just Orbus will do, if you please."
        "And I'm Brandi and pleased to meet you at last.  I trust these 
excuses for waiters George hires are bring your meal over, so, pull up a 
chair and park it, Orbus," she invited with a grin, using the vernacular 
that was appropriate to the setting.  "Since Cousin Laura was in Amber 
when the Unicorn was attacked, I was about to ask her to tell me about 
        "Please do tell your tale, Laura," Orbus requested.
He was curious to see how what the lovely Laura had to say would compare 
with the little he had learned from the elder royals earlier.  For her 
part, Laura studied her two elder cousins.  It still seemed they wished 
to learn more than they told.  Neither had yet confided his reasons for 
returning to Amber just now.  Was it wise to tell them anything?
Come now, Laura chided herself.  Caution with family was wise and 
necessary, but at some point, the royals must trust each other, at least 
temporarily, or nothing would get done.  The family mistrust was the 
best chance the enemies of Amber had for victory.    It took her only 
seconds to decide that Brandi was assuredly not part of the plan against 
Amber and the Unicorn, and her instinct told her that Orbus wasn't 
either.  So, Laura related the story of Karina's discovery of the 
bleeding Unicorn in her lake, the hellride to rescue both, the collapse 
of the Shadow from which they had to hellride again to escape, the 
attack by the Manticora, the subsequent abrupt departure of Karina from 
Amber to the Court to search for her half-brother, Merlin, and the 
discovery of Dalt's insignia on the arrow removed from the Unicorn.
        There were things she held back, perhaps to be told later.  She 
did not tell of Bleys' attempt at seduction nor of the implied warning 
that she would do well to look for friends at court after she refused 
him, pleading other work to be done that night.  She did not tell of the 
attacks on her that came the following day and had all but been driven 
from her mind by the first meeting with her mother when she returned.  
She wanted to see what her older cousins would share of themselves.  
Laura was willing, even eager, to meet Brandi and Orbus more than 
halfway, but she would not be the inexperienced newcomer easily led by 
her elders.  She was eager for the their friendship, but determined to 
win their respect.
        "Ah, the fair and enigmatic Julianna," Orbus remarked.  "Where 
might the Lady be now?"
        Laura gracefully lifted her shoulders in a shrug, causing 
interesting movement beneath her silk shirt, movement that Orbus did not 
fail to notice.
        "Lady Julianna does not confide in me.  She seems to think of me 
as an impetuous child, likely to be more hindrance than help in defense 
of Amber."
        Serious conversation dwindled for a bit as the threesome 
concentrated on quelling their pangs of hunger.  Each told stories of 
Shadow.  Laura had the least to relate; she had only one shadow of which 
she could speak, the Shadow of her birth. She used her own perceptions 
and those of her archery pin imbedded with the forces of the Pattern 
guide her in learning of these two new cousins.
More and more she felt she would like to develop a friendship with 
Brandi Blackswan.  What a pair they made, two impossibly exquisite women 
riding through Amber on their magnificent horse, one milky white, the 
other inky black.
And Orbus.  There was no denying he was a man who could raise a woman's 
heart rate and quicken her pulse.  Several times during the course of 
the meal, Laura had seen him reach into his pocket and bring out a small 
metal ball that his fingers rolled around as if examining it by touch.  
Her cousin seemed to be unaware that he was doing this, but Laura would 
not have been so foolish as to take that as fact.
Laura's attention was caught by that little ball though there seemed 
nothing out of the ordinary about it.  It was just a plain polished 
metal ball, but it triggered a flicker in her mind as if such a sphere 
should be telling her something.  Nothing would come, however, and Laura 
pushed the thought away to be brought out again some other time.
What she did realize with total clarity was that there was an aura of 
magic around Orbus as strong, or perhaps even stronger, than Brandi's.
"You know," she said thoughtfully, laying her fork tines down on the 
side of her nearly empty plate, "I will stake my skill as an archer up 
against anyone, but I doubt I'll ever be anything more than adequate 
with a sword."
"Adequate by the standards of a royal Amberite should hold you in good 
stead most anywhere," Brandi said with a wide grin.  She was not at all 
displeased to find something at which she knew she could outshine her 
breathtakingly beautiful young cousin.
"That's true, of course, and I do have some other  interesting weapons 
to work with.  But there's a skill I've not yet begun to work on."
With that, Laura put an arm about each cousin's shoulder and drew them 
closer to her.
"Where," she whispered in a conspiratorial tone with a sly smile on her 
face, "can a girl go to learn a little sorcery?"
Princess of Amber
  Go for it, Matt and Allen.  I loved both your posts.  Laura's 
game for anything.  She really would make a good sorceress, I think. :)
Would you all please put Kat Harris ( back on your 
mailing list?  She may want to bring Karina back into play at some time 
and wants to keep current on our adventures.