Sun Jun  1 16:19:38 1997
Subject: [AM] Magic Comes In Many Forms
        In the sitting room with her cousins, Laura reflected on the 
day's events as she listened to Orbus relate them to Zachary.  She had 
been moved beyond words by Brandi's performance on Bloody Bob's stage.  
Growing up in the world of entertainment on Shadow Earth, Laura had been 
immersed in music since infancy.  It lived within her.  She had thrilled 
to the sounds of Robert Merrill singing Carmen at the Met, the rich 
baritone voices of Howard Keel and Robert Goulet on Broadway, and the 
pure harmonies of Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Kingston Trio, and Simon 
and Garfunkel, but Brandi Blackswan had touched her soul.  Never had 
Laura heard anything like that first ballad.
        The spirit had the table had been one of conviviality as they 
shared a quality red wine when Laura's brooch had started to throb a 
warning. Brandi had Orbus had instantly become equally alert to 
impending peril.  As the three cousins hurried left Bloody Bob's to meet 
what waited outside, Laura touched the Pattern-ingrained brooch.
        "I must name you," she said in an undertone and the pin pulsed 
its agreement.
        Personifying artifacts of power had long been the custom on her 
Shadow of birth.  It was even more true here in Amber, she had discovered.
        "The rain is Tess, the fire's Joe, and they call the wind 
Mariah," Laura sang softly as they took to their mounts.  "I shall call 
you Bloodstone."  
        Once more the brooch signaled its agreement with its owner.  The 
name fit with the color of the blood red ruby center which held the 
imprint of the Pattern.  It was also Laura's birthstone.
        Now, listening to Orbus tell the tale, Laura felt the bonding in 
fire that had taken place among the cousins.  It seemed to her that this 
generation of royals was a shade less family phobic than the preceding 
one.  Perhaps it was due to their not having been raised together; maybe 
it was just natural development.  The distrust had not evaporated; it 
was just a little less all consuming, at least among those present.  In 
Laura's mind, Julianna was an exception, but then, that Princess was 
more than old enough to be considered closer to the Elders.
        Orbus' announcement that he was about to depart jolted the 
Princess out of her private thoughts.
        "You're leaving Amber?"  Laura sounded hurt.  Orbus looked at 
her, taken by her beauty and her air of innocence^Eit 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.  While I am gone, perhaps the lovely Brandi will begin your 
instruction in the matter you proposed.  It will be my pleasure to 
continue it when I am once more in Amber."
        "The pleasure will be mutual," she answered with just a hint of 
emphasis on the word 'pleasure' and gifted him with a smile that would 
make any man's heart flutter.
        Orbus nodded to Zachary, then to his companions.  His thoughts 
echoed Laura's.  They had bound themselves together, somehow; he could 
feel it. He smiled slightly as he left the room^E.
        Laura watched him go.  There was no denying that she felt a 
strong attraction to this Prince of Amber, nor did she have any desire 
to deny it. Astute, though carefully concealed, observation of Brandi 
convinced Laura that her cousin felt the same.  As the true daughter of 
Flora, such matters were Laura's natural province.  She wondered if this 
might cause a rift in their developing friendship.  What were her own 
feelings about this?  Laura gave it considerable thought.  While she 
realized that she could not accurately predict her reactions in fact, 
her instincts said that with eons of time open before them, why should 
jealousy be a factor?  Would she feel that way if push came to shove?  
Only time would tell.  And, how the volatile Brandi Blackswan would feel 
on the subject, Laura wouldn't presume to prophesy.  What she did 
foresee is that her life as an Amberite would never be dull.
        Brandi, for her part, was still coiled tight as a watch spring, 
outraged at the effrontery of the attack on them.  Even more than that, 
Laura suspected, because that attack had caused her lightened mood, come 
by with such effort, to vanish. Nevertheless, she, too, watched the 
departing form of Orbus with more than passing interest.
        "Have you learned any more about what may be behind all this, 
        "I fear not much, Laura, though I do have some ideas, as yet 
unproven.  I think Orbus may prove to be of more help to us in that 
respect than even he may yet realize."
        "Whatever it is, it's escalating fast," Brandi stormed.  "I, for 
one, do not intend to let that happen, or curse me for a scurvy-infested 
        "I quite agree, we must begin to take the offensive position, 
but we need to know more.  However, you two are safe for now.  Why do 
you not get changed, and I shall have some food put together for us.  I 
would like to ask a few more questions, but they can wait.  Except one.  
What is this proposal of yours, Laura, of which Orbus made mention?"
        Laura chuckled.  "Oh, just that I think it's time I learned a 
bit of sorcery, Zachary dear."
        The crown prince shook his head and smile.  Their newest royal's 
thirst for knowledge seemed insatiable.  He had long since given up 
trying to persuade her to take baby steps.  Her stride was that of a 
giantess.  If Laura wanted to learn sorcery, Zachary had little doubt 
she would do just that.
        "Shall we meet back here then?" she asked her cousin.  Although 
they had enjoyed a sumptuous meal at Bloody Bob's the Amber appetites 
were always ready for more.
        Zachary nodded.  Laura could feel his eyes following her as she 
headed for the door, and she smiled.  Orbus was not the only cousin she 
found attractive, and the thought of one day being Queen of Amber had 
passed through her mind more than once.
        Brandi caught up with her a few feet outside the door.
        "Shall we go upstairs together?"
        Laura nodded and matched her stride to Brandi's as they began to 
climb the Grand Stairway.
        "I'm going to dress quickly, Brandi.  I'd like to check on 
Tovarich before we rejoin Zachary.  I couldn't ask for more than he gave 
today, but he's as new at this as I am.  I want to make sure he's all 
        "Good idea," her cousin agreed.  "A well-trained horse can be a 
life saver, and Tovarich seems devoted to you."
        "He -is- wonderful, isn't he?  So sleek and black with all that 
raw power under his haunches.  And Moonghost seems so write for you.  I 
saw what happened when you named him.  It was ---  magical."  Laura 
grinned at her cousin and Brandi laughed out loud.
        "Can I persuade you to meet me tomorrow and give me a lesson in 
Sorcery 101?"
        Brandi nodded her assent.  Never had she received the degree of 
acceptance and approval from the family that Laura and Orbus had given 
her this day. While she would not rush in headlong and reveal her 
deepest secrets to either, the feeling of being connected like this was 
one she would prefer not to give up.  So, until she had cause to sever 
it, Brandi would not discourage it.
        "Thank you.  I'll be going to the Crime Lab right after 
breakfast.  Meet me there when it's convenient, or I'll meet you 
        "Is Zachary still calling it that?"  Brandi laughed.  "All 
right, the Crime Lab will be the setting of your introduction to magic."
        An hour later, garbed in a gown of sheer red chiffon, Laura was 
back in the sitting room with Zachary and Laura.  As good as his word, 
Zachary had seen that trays laden with tempting morsels had been 
provided and the Amberites were digging in with relish as they talked.
        Laura had finished describing the events that had led up to the 
ambush in vivid detail.  Additionally, when she had stopped at the 
stables to see for herself that Tovarich had suffered no ill effects, 
she had retrieved from his saddlebag an arrow.  This was an arrow that 
had been aimed at her during the attack, but had missed its mark.  She 
handed it to Zachary and a look of significance was exchanged.  Would 
this arrow bear any similarity to the one that had pierced the skin of 
the Unicorn?
        It occurred to Laura that they knew nothing of what the Elder 
Princes and Princesses might be doing about the threat to Amber.  Surely 
they must be taking an interest.       What significance did her 
mother's return to Amber hold?    Even if one of her brothers or sisters 
had trump contacted Florimel with the news that her daughter had arrived 
in Amber, Laura doubted that it was only maternal devotion that had 
prompted Flora's journey home.  Which of the Elders could have sent that 
news, anyway?  The most likely candidate was Vialle who knew how much 
Laura wanted to discover the mother she never knew.  She asked Zachary 
about their aunts and uncles.
        "Lord Benedict prepares to defend Amber against current or 
future threat. Julian has increased the patrols of Arden, and Gerard's 
ships rotate to prevent unwelcome access by sea," he answered.  "More 
than that, I cannot say.  The Elders are not always inclined to make me 
privy to their plans."
        It was interesting, Laura thought, his choice of words.  "I 
cannot say," not, "I don't know."  "Not always inclined^E" but this 
time?  Zachary, immersed in books as he was, was always meticulous about 
his use of language, especially in Thari.  But, it seemed as if he were 
taking even more care this evening.  Brandi seems to agree.
        "Your skill in sidestepping has definitely improved, Zach, since 
my last visit to Amber," she snorted.
        The heir to Amber made a valiant attempt to look both innocent 
and aggrieved.  He was quite good at it.
        "If Dalt is behind all this, perhaps we should focus our efforts 
on locating his base of operations," Laura suggested.
        "More easily said than done, Laura.  He could be anywhere in 
Shadow.  One may be tracked through Shadow, of course, but without a 
starting point, the task is monumental.  Nevertheless, you make a good 
point.  To pinpoint his location without his knowledge would give us an 
        "That misbegotten son of a harlot," Brandi spumed. "Someone 
should have put an end to his miserable existence centuries ago."  Her 
blazing eyes left no doubt as to whom she thought that someone should 
be.  "That halfwit doesn't have the brains to pull off a stunt like 
this.  If he's behind it, he's got help."
        "I have to agree, Brandi," Zachary said with worried eyes.  
"Even we are rarely successful at locating the Unicorn unless she wants 
to be found. Someone with the power to do that and successfully attack 
her as well is a fearsome adversary."
        "Then let the cowards come forth and be challenged," Brandi 
rallied, springing to her feet as if she expected an appearance in 
answer to her dare, "instead of sending their six-fingered lackeys to 
remove the threat of the Royals of Amber!"
        "If Dalt could hear you, he might be goaded into such action, my 
volatile cousin, but I suspect the one who guides him will not be so 
foolhardy as to move without being sure of victory.  He, or she, will 
take time to prepare."
        "Which will give us time to prepare as well," Laura said 
thoughtfully, "and to learn more about what we face."
        "Well said, Laura."  Zachary smiled charmingly.  "I believe Lord 
Benedict would approve."
        Amber's youngest Princess rose from her chair in one lithe 
movement of grace and beauty.
        "I think then, that if you will both excuse me, I shall go 
upstairs.  I have some things I want to do before I retire.  See you in 
the morning, Brandi."
        Her cousins bade her goodnight, and Laura left them alone.  What 
she wanted to do was to sketch out her ideas for trumps of Brandi and 
Orbus. That chore was postponed for a while when Laura found her mother 
waiting at the door to her apartment.
        "May I have a word with you, Laura?"
        It still amazed Laura that her mother looked not many years 
older than she.
        "Please come in, Mother."
        Flora's first act was walk around the apartment examining it was 
a practiced eye.
        "Very nice, dear.  Our tastes are not precisely alike, but you 
do have an eye for finery."
        "Thank you, Mother.  The excellent taste of Florimel of Amber is 
well known.  I'm pleased you approve.  Please sit down and tell me 
what's on your mind."
        "Ah, you do not believe I've come just to visit with my 
daughter?  Flora smiled.  "Well, you are right.  I see that already you 
have involved yourself in politics.  I would warn you to take care.  Do 
not form alliances rashly and without thought.  One never knows who will 
be in favor at Court."
        Flora's ability to know how the prevailing winds blew in Amber 
was at least equally as well known as her elegance and loveliness.  What 
did she know of the day's events, Laura wondered, and how did she know it?
         the younger woman thought.  
        "I am not you, Mother, and I must do what I feel is right.  
Thank you thought for the warning and your concern."
        "No, you are not I, though there is more of me in you than you 
may think or wish to acknowledge.  But having just begun to know you as 
a Princess, Laura, I should not like to lose you prematurely.  That 
said, I shall bid you good night and hope to see you tomorrow."
        Laura rose and accompanied her mother to the door where Flora 
leaned in and kissed her daughter's cheek, the first such display of 
affection Laura could recall receiving.
        "Now, I wonder what that was all about," she said as the door 
closed behind Flora.  "Is she really concerned for me, or is something 
else afoot?"  She remembered having seen her mother in conversation 
early that morning with Fiona.  Family suspicion still thrived in the 
True City.
        Alone now, Laura disrobed.  When she was comfortable in a 
negligee that would have prompted passion in a man if one were around to 
see it, she sat at her desk and worked on preliminary sketches of Brandi 
and Orbus until she was satisfied.  In another day, she would have their 
Trumps drawn. What Laura had learned in the art of Trump design was that 
the card was influenced by her own perceptions of her subject.  The 
Trump she drew now might well differ in substance from the one she would 
draw after relationships deepened.  Content that she could form working 
Trumps of them, Laura opted for bed.  Her last thought before she slept 
was that she'd been sleeping solo more than long enough.
        Up early the next morning, Laura breakfasted alone and then went 
directly to the Crime Lab.  She had been studying the herbs of Amber and 
while she waited for Brandi, she brewed some potions which when applied 
to blade or arrow would have some interesting effects.  A pale yellow 
powder when into a hidden compartment in an intricately designed silver 
ring she'd purchased from Nate's Emporium of Exotic Arms.
        "Who'd have thought I'd be preparing to slip someone a Mickey," 
she mused with a chuckle of pure enjoyment.  This new life might have 
come to her like a bolt of the blue, but Laura knew she had found her 
        The laboratory had shelves and drawers and cabinets galore to 
examine. Laura explored freely, testing combinations of leaves, powders, 
and liquids.  Then she opened a long, narrow cabinet she could have 
sworn was locked when she had tried it earlier.  Now, it opened easily 
at her touch. As the door swung open, Laura stopped dead in her tracks.  
Hanging there was a long bow unlike any she had ever seen.  It's highly 
polished curved handle was of a brilliant cherry red, its bowstring a 
shimmering black. Without conscious thought, her hand reached for it.
        As her hand curled around the red wood, it fit so perfectly that 
Laura felt this bow had been designed for her.  With a loving hand she 
pulled back the string.  As she let it go, its vibrations hummed a sound 
of pure beauty.  Laura suddenly knew that only she could ever hear that 
sound. This bow held magic and it was hers.  The black arrows with 
feathers of red and pink that she had bought at Nate's were made for 
this bow.
        "You are mine," she whispered.  The bow hummed its assent.
        Her finger found a small round surface that seemed like a 
button.  Laura pressed, then gasped.  The bow folded in on itself and 
was in an instant no more than six inches long and easily concealable in 
pocket or sheath. Another light touch and it was once again full size.
        "Very nice," came a voice from behind her.
        Laura turned to find Brandi standing in the doorway.  She had no 
idea how long her cousin had been there watching, and she found it 
didn't matter. The sight of her cousin was a welcome one.  Brandi looked 
rested and in a better frame of mind this morning, Laura was pleased to 
        "Good morning, Brandi.  Thanks for coming."
        "Good morning, Laura, and you're welcome.  I wouldn't miss the 
chance to give someone her first glimpse at magic."
        There was more than a hint of mischief in Brandi's grin.  They 
soon became serious as Brandi began to explain the rigors of preparing a 
spell.  Laura learned that she must first envision the effect she wanted 
to create, then draw on the power of the Pattern inside her for the will 
needed to shape and hold it in readiness.  Like everything in the lives 
of the Royals, it was first and foremost a matter of will.  And 
practice, of course.  The art of spellmaking was not learned in an 
        Laura soon realized she could not hope to have an arsenal of 
spells at her command in a day.  She thought for a while about what she 
would want for her first one, ideas coming into her mind and being 
discarded, until one suddenly seemed right.
        Brandi had given her the tools, but could not guide Laura 
through the process.  This was something she must do herself.  She held 
Bloodstone in her hand and drew from the power of the pattern as she 
focused her will on what she wanted until she thought she had a spell 
hung and ready.  Later, alone, she would cast it and see the results, 
then make changes until it was finished.
        "Thank you, Brandi," she said at last.  "If you're not busy, 
lunch is on me."
Laura, Princess of Amber                      
NRPG:  I can't wait to see more of Brandi, Orbus, and Zachary  :)