Tue Apr  1 13:18:12 1997
Subject: [AM] Relativity
"Hello, friend," Orbus half-whispered. The tip of his sword hovered 
scant inches from the man's throat. A cold smile spread across his face, 
not quite reaching his eyes, as he regarded the horseman who had pursued 
him through Arden. 
"You!" exclaimed the stranger hoarsely.
"Who are you, and why are you here," continued Orbus in a flat, deadly 
tone. "Quickly."
The man started to shake his head, until he realized that he had little 
chance of escape down the alley. Still, he appeared to have no intention 
of sharing any information...Orbus reached forward, grabbed the man by 
the shirtfront, and lifted him off the ground. The man's eyes bulged, 
but he still remained silent. Under the cover of several not-so-subtle 
threats, Orbus spoke the guide words to a hung spell; the trembling 
figure relaxed, his jaw slackening, as Orbus searched the mind behind 
the eyes. The blue eyes, so recently filled with terror, splintered into 
fragments of memory...
Orbus saw the projecting edge of a massive glacier, ice crystals whipped 
around in a snowy mist before melting in a troubled ocean...turning to 
see the the harsh lines of a young woman talking to him, her hair white 
as the ice field...she didn't seem too happy. Orbus concentrated, 
pulling the words from the man's memories, seeing the word 'Orbus' form 
on the woman's lips...then the swirling chaos as the rider's 
consciousness swirled into blackness...
Orbus blinked, shrugged himself out of his trance. The man hung limp in 
front of him, the bone-white handle of a dagger protruding from his 
back. Suddenly, Orbus was awash with fury; he had been so close to the 
truth! He dropped the corpse to the street. Looking down at Brandi, who 
had just chopped one of the man's companions down, he felt goosebumps 
rise on his skin. 
"Laura," said Orbus, swinging Torch around.  Brandi jumped into her own 
saddle and followed.  Laura was at the end of the alley, looking around 
wildly.  Two bodies lay crumpled in  the alley, feathered shafts 
protruding from them.  Laura let another one fly into a darkened window 
above and behind her retreating cousins.
"We have a score to settle still, Laura of Amber!" came a hidden voice 
from down the street, away from the alley itself.  "With all of you!" 
echoed from a different voice in the opposite direction.  Coordinated 
movements were evident among the milling and fleeing pedestrians: they 
weren't done yet.
"Come on," Brandi spat, heading back into the alley.  Laura and Orbus 
followed. She made a gesture and released a spell, blocking the entrance 
with a wall of white-hot flame.  "That will hold them long enough to get 
us out of here," she said. As she pulled out a pack of Trumps, Orbus saw 
a shadow of movement behind the flames; he fished out a dagger and 
threw; he had no idea if it connected, but the shadow disappeared. 
They dismounted to get more cover behind the flames, and prepare for 
Trump travel.  A shimmering portal appeared before Laura, and she spoke 
briefly. A hand came through the portal, and Brandi, Orbus, then Laura 
came through. A rush of cool air hit as the smoking alley was replaced 
by one of Castle Amber's gardens.  Zachary was there, holding Laura's 
hand still, concern clear in his eyes.  
"Cousins! What happened?" he asked.
"Just a moment, Zack."  She drew a deep breath.  Feetal's Gizz!" she 
swore, following it with an impressive and unbroken collection of curses 
that was new even to Orbus. What was really suprising was when her horse 
nudged her and she nearly belted it. 
"Whoa, whoa, big fella," she said, stroking his neck.  "Sorry 'bout 
that." The big white calmed somewhat.  Though he was trained for 
hellrides, a Trump voyage obviously unsettled him a bit; not to mention 
his new master almost taking a swing at him.  All three horses were 
jumpy, in fact, but they remained tractable, another testament to Mikal 
Grube's skills.  Tovarich looked ready to kick in any head that 
contained thoughts of attacking Laura.
"We were ambushed," Laura began.
"Are you hurt?" asked Orbus of his female cousins. She and Laura shook 
their heads.  "But that was too close," said Brandi.  "And you?"
"I'm fine."
Moonghost was unhurt, and Torch and Tovarich seemed uninjured as well.  
At that moment one of the groundskeepers came into sight, bewilderment 
on her face at the sight of three horses in the middle of the garden.  
Zachary beckoned her over.
"Please take these horses to Master Grube, and have him look them over 
thoroughly.  Then have him report their condition to their owners," he 
said to her.  She blushed under Zachary's gaze.  Brandi and Laura patted 
their mounts comfortingly, and the groundskeeper left with them and Torch.
"Now, then," continued Zachary, "why don't we go inside and get settled 
down?"  His cousins agreed, and he led them back into Castle Amber.  
Minutes later they entered one of the comfortable sitting rooms near the 
Library.  A servant entered with a bottle of chilled wine and some 
glasses, then left. They seated themselves, with the exception of 
Brandi, who paced back and forth like a caged tiger, predatory but 
confined. Zachary poured wine for them, then sat back.  "So, who wants 
to begin?"
"Not much to say...we were ambushed close to Bloody Bob's," Orbus said.
"It was more than that," Brandi said from behind him. "They knew who we 
were. They mentioned Laura by name. We know who they are, too- I 
dispatched a man with six fingers. Hell, even Orbus knows the man we 
Zachary's eyes flicked to Orbus, who winced. "One of them was the leader 
of the group who followed me," he explained. He was killed to preserve 
his silence. I rather wish he was still alive."
"No doubt," Zachary said. "So much for your idea that they wouldn't 
follow you into Amber. We should have told my father about it; they 
represent a threat to the family."
"And I still have my reasons to wait. I have something I absolutely must 
do now, and I can't be stuck here answering questions."
"You knew about these things?" Brandi sounded shocked. 
"Not really. Like I said, the man and a group of shadowy figures pursued 
me into Arden. The figures were different than the ones we saw 
today...sort of faster, somehow. I eluded them."
"You think this ambush was for you, then?"
"No...they knew who we all were. The trap was big enough to catch all 
three of us. I'd say it was planned from the beginning with that in mind."
"What is it?" Zachary asked.  "Where do you have to go?"
Orbus hesitated. "I can't say yet. It deals with Mother and myself. But 
I will return shortly."
"You're leaving Amber?" Laura sounded hurt. Orbus looked at her, taken 
by her beauty and her air of was refreshing, almost. He 
touched her cheek. "I will return within a day or two. I simply must get 
this out of the way. When I return, I'll be able to help." He nodded to 
Zachary, then to his companions. They had bound themselves together, 
somehow; he could feel it. He smiled slightly as he left the room....
...and pulled out his Trumps. Within seconds, he was staring at the 
image of Fiona, reaching out with his mind, establishing contact...and 
failing. Again he tried, then again. His head hurt slightly as he put 
them away.
Mother was rejecting Trump contacts. Why? What was she doing? Walking by 
the main kitchen, he asked and found that no, his mother had not 
attended any meals that day. Going up to her room, he knocked on her 
door. No answer. The library, the main gardens, all her favorite haunts...
She was gone. Left soon after he had talked to her in the library. He 
fished out the metal ball from his pocket, juggling it in his palm. What 
was the importance of the thing that she had to go tearing off away from 
Amber? The thing needed more exploration, and he knew how to do it. 
Locking himself into his room, Orbus spent the next few hours hanging 
spells, his Pattern sign looking like a Christmas tree with ornaments 
when he finished. 
Now, to attend to the ball...he spoke the guide words to a spell, 
closing his eyes, letting his mind encompass the object. Like a second 
vision, he saw a faint luminous trail lead away from the dark metal 
ball, trailing off into shadow. Concentrating, he followed the trail, 
moving his mind through shadow-stuff, heading back into the recent 
past...until his mind stopped in a half-lit bedchamber, a flickering 
candle his reference point. He committed the image to memory, intending 
to draw a Trump...but wait...he felt the resistance, the stuff of 
magic...the room was shielded with power. He could probably drill 
through it with his Trump, but using that much power to gain access 
would surely raise an alarm. There was one other way, however... 
Breaking his spell, Orbus relaxed against his bed for a short doze. The 
method he had in mind would be a taxing one.
His lamp sputtered as he reached the bottom of the intermitable 
stairway. It was the longest stair he had ever descended in 
memory...once again, he wondered just how deep into the mountain it 
went. He put the lantern down as the light sizzled and went out, and 
darkness fell; in the fading light, he saw the guard table in front of 
him, unmanned. Summoning the Sign of the Pattern in front of him, he 
continued onward, the walls and floor taking on a bluish, darkly 
luminous cast. After a long walk down the corridor, a side passage 
appeared; Orbus continued, until another and another appeared and slowly 
fell behind. At the seventh passage, he turned and made his way to a 
huge metal-bound door, reaching up to take a key from the wall and 
unlock it. The door swung open to an enormous push, and he stood facing 
the thing he had only seen once before.
The Pattern glowed brightly before him on the dark stone floor, seeming 
to pulse at regular intervals. The Sign before him was becoming too 
bright to look at; he banished it. Crossing to the other side of the 
room, he stumbled on an object in the floor; he looked down to see that 
he had tripped over a bumpy protrusion, with a regular shape. Squatting, 
he saw it was a raised letter in the dark stone. There was another and 
another; he traced the letters, barely visible to his sight...
"Care to explain it? Anyone?" Summoning his Pattern sight again, 
squinting against its brightness, he saw the chamber was empty. Oh well, 
he thought, if they're going to be that enigmatic then I'm going anyway. 
He crossed the room, placed his foot on the start of the Pattern.
Sparks immediately shot out from under his foot. He took another step, 
another ....resistance already began to build againt him, as if he were 
walking against a stiff wind. A switchback now, the pressure rising...he 
struggled against the First Veil, electrical shocks coursing through his 
body. Suddenly the pressure eased; he had made it through, and now he 
was flooded with recent memories of medical school...he ignored them, 
continuing. There was suddenly some discomfort, a heat against him; he 
reached down, pulled out the little ball that had begun to glow red-hot. 
He couldn't get rid of it now! He spoke a word, dropped it into an 
extradimentional fold; it ceased to bother him. 
He continued, following a long curve, another switchback...the sparks 
were at the level of his knees now, the pressure rising again. He fought 
through the next few turns, the resistance was terrible against 
him...until he unstuck himself from the Second Veil, his body merely an 
extension of pure will. He followed the Grand Curve, the sparks up to 
his waist...three more curves, a straight line, and suddenly a wall of 
pressure. He threw himself against it, his mind pushing, his feet 
inching along. He managed one step, another, wondering if he could do 
it...the sparks covering his shoulders, his eyes... Moving in 
infentesmal slow motion...
Then through.
He gasped, sweat pouring off of him. I made it! he thought. The Pattern 
glowed even brighter than before, it's circuit completed. He focused his 
mind, concentrating on the candle flame...and was there. 
It was a spacious bedroom. The candle he imagined was suprisingly lit; 
it illuminated expensive furniture, a four-poster bed on which a figure 
slept. He advanced towards it, even as the figure turned to see him. The 
candle was behind him, and in this light he was a dark silhouette with a 
corona of white hair. He was taken aback as he saw the girl in the dead 
man's memories. "Father?" she asked. Then her eyes narrowed.
"You!!" She immediately swung around and gestured. Orbus was forced to 
ward a fireball, then another. 
"How dare'll never make it out of here alive!" She gestured, 
spoke; chains of force wrapped around his body, then were immediately 
broken; the girl uttered an incredulous curse.
"Who are you? Why are you doing this?"
"Jacinth!" she spat. "And it gives me great pleasure to know that you 
will die ignorant." She raised her hands again. 
Orbus wasted no time, reaching behind him to the candle and sweeping it 
in her direction; he uttered a word, and the single candle became a 
curtain of flame falling towards the bed; even as the girl raised a 
shielding spell, Orbus was running out of the chamber and pelting down a 
long stairway. 
He slid down the bannister, landed before a pair of astonished guards, 
and cracked their heads together; before him, a shimmering mirror-like 
projection hovered beside a towering fount of flame. Orbus ignored the 
flame, concentrating on the former object. A portal! The thought 
eagerly. He dived through it as the flames toppled in his direction...
He hit the ground, rolled, and stood up. He appeared to be in some sort 
of destroyed school; half-broken walls held the remains of a roof, and 
the floor was littered with rubble and other broken items. The portal 
was still open, and Orbus saw movement on the other side; as an arrow 
skipped through the opening, he raised the Sign of the Pattern close to 
the portal; the resultant explosion rocked the school, throwing him 
against the far wall and collapsing the wall behind it. Orbus stared 
bleary-eyed at the air where the portal had been before darkness claimed 
his senses....
To be continued...
Allen Veazey
        "I'm not really bad, I'm just drawn that way."
                        --Jessica Rabbit