Sun Jun  1 16:19:40 1997
Subject: [AM] The shape of things to come
nrpg: this takes place in a shadow on the Chaos side of things, so the 
time differential is very significant. Hardly any time at all will pass 
in Amber through this.
He awoke slowly, feeling the ache in his neck and back, the scratching 
of broken masonry against his face. His vision blurred, then cleared. 
Before him, an older man stood, clad in breeches and tunic, his hand 
outstretched. Wrinkles and cracks stood out sharply on his clean-shaven 
features, and mud covered parts of his clothes and hands. He looked as 
if he had been toiling in the fields, yet there was something in his 
eyes...something predatory, something wild and powerful. Orbus backed 
against the remains of the wall behind him, dislodging more of the stuff 
on him.
"Relax," the man said. "I mean no harm to you. I am Ix, and you are 
lying in the remains of what used to be my school. Can you stand?"
"Yes." Orbus moved, painfully, to a sitting position, then accepted a 
hand to his feet. Looking around, he was shocked by the scene before 
him; the broken, smashed place he had been was apparently the best part 
of what had once been a school. And what a school...Orbus felt it, a 
thrum of power through the soles of his shoes. Never before had he been 
so sensitive to the feel of magic. He summoned the Sign of the Pattern 
before him, then gasped in wonderment; everything in the destroyed 
school held an ember or memory of power. Broken timbers, rotted papers, 
shattered pottery and broken gems...all held magic within them.
"Yes," Ix said, reading his face, "it used to be a school for students 
of wizardry. For centuries, I taught them the ways of power. They 
learned from me the strictures governing the use of power, how it is 
locked in the earth, how to study and control the force of magic that is 
in the Realm. Unfortunately, it was not enough."
"What happened?"
"Jacinth came from her world to ours. We tried, but could not trace 
where she came from. She appeared whenever she wanted, recruiting the 
shape-changers-" he paused. "They have found us. We need to hurry. Take 
my hand."
"Who's found us? I have no intention of-" Orbus broke off, seeing the 
dark shadow-like things he had last met in Arden. There were so many 
more, now. Ix grabbed his arm, craned his neck as if looking at some 
unseen thing, then stepped forward-
 -and they were suddenly in another place, standing by a badly-rutted 
road, the crumbling remains of the school in the far distance. Orbus 
opened his mouth to speak, but the man took another step-
And another, and another. Finally he released Orbus' arm, gasping, his 
eyes bloodshot. Orbus was shocked to silence; there was no possible way 
that he could have accomplished this, what amounted to multiple Trump 
jumps. What manner of place was this?
They stood at the edge of what could have been the same dirt road, but 
in better repair. A silver ribbon of water meandered slowly alongside, 
catching the blazing rays of the setting sun on its surface. 
"How did you do that? What kind of place is this?"
"," the man gasped. "I must rest, we don't have...much of a 
lead. I you another time."
Orbus waited for Ix to calm down, let his breathing ease, before 
asking, "Against what? Those shadow things, are they what you call 
shape-changers? I've seen them before, but they never actually attacked 
"That is very suprising...they are masters of the earth and its magic, 
able to shift their shape to anything in or out of the Realm. You were 
lucky, that day...we were not so fortunate. Jacinth used the 
shape-changers, made some kind of deal with them, and together they 
destroyed the school."
"And your students?"
"Dead. All dead. It is ever the nature of wizards to try and understand 
magic, to shape its laws, to discover and follow its strictures. When 
Jacinth came, we found that she wielded a power beyond our ken. It was 
lawless...remote...guided by the twisting thing of force she summoned. 
Kind of like what you did when you destroyed the portal."
"She used what I did?" Orbus felt his stomach drop. Where could she have 
walked the Pattern?
"No, not exactly. It was similar, but different. The thing she used 
twisted and writhed as power flowed through it. It is hard to describe."
"The Logrus?" Now, that was confusing. Orbus sat at the edge of the 
road. He reached down to a rock, skipped it across the river's surface, 
disturbing its tranquility.
"I must rest for the moment, but we will need to go in a minute. The 
shape-changers can find us here."
"I believe I can handle your shape-changers."
"No! You mustn't! Even Jacinth could not control them, merely ask for 
their help. I have no idea what bargain they struck. They are powerful 
and deadly, one of the greatest powers in the Realm. You would not stand 
a chance."
"Nevertheless, I'm going to have to find out about them. They pursued 
me, and I have to know what they're capable of. Come to think of it, 
just why are you helping me out?" Orbus tensed.
The wizard smiled, not unkindly. "Because you are the damned one."
"The what?"
"Before the school was destroyed, Jacinth approached us. She wanted us 
to capture or kill you. She described you very well. She said that you 
could not be suffered to live, that you sided with a great evil of the 
"Gee, I'm flattered."
"Then, she destroyed everything. I don't know why...jealousy for our 
power? Arrogance? Impatience? Anger that we refused her? In any case, 
she is responsible for the death of my students...and I am in your 
service. I only wish to know what kind of power it is that dwarfs even 
those of the shape-changers."
"One of the two greatest powers of the universe, I'm afraid."
"Perhaps that is why they follow her. To gain a measure of this power."
"I don't think it can work that way, but who knows?"
"I will leave you for a moment. Remember, we must not tarry long-we will 
be found soon if we stay here."
Ix walked off, Orbus' eyes following. Finally, he turned back to the 
sight of the river. So many questions...who was behind this? Why was 
this Jacinth after him? Come to think of it, how was he being helped? 
Someone or something broke those force chains and earlier provided the 
flash of light for his getaway. 
And Jacinth...she looked so familiar. Not to mention that when she saw 
him standing there as a silhouette, she called him "Father". Of course, 
the fact that she used Logrus- power indicated she came from the Courts. 
Was it a plot against him personally?
Father? Father.  Wait, if she thought he was her father, because of the 
resemblance, that would argue that she was his sister. Well-half-sister, 
probably; Mother was close-lipped, but he thought that she would divulge 
things like *that*. So they were related through their father, who came 
from the Courts of Chaos. Ah, that explained the giant calling him 
"Child of Chaos." Well, perhaps her mother came from the Courts instead, 
but 'father' explained the giant, who had obviously been sent from this 
The implications finally hit him. A child of Chaos? His father was a 
Lord of Chaos? Who? He didn't even know he had a sister, why would she 
try to kill him?  It made no sense; he had never even met his sister, 
much less crossed her in any way. He slid his hands over his eyes, 
blocking out distraction, then changed his mind. No point trusting the 
mage, you never knew what would happen. Especially since he no longer 
had his magical augmentation; he had lost that when he walked the 
Pattern. Mother had never gone into detail about it, but it had 
something to do with the Pattern sort of changing you, breaking you down 
and rebuilding you as you walked it. It left its mark upon you even as 
you proved your mastery over Shadow. In any event, he was his old, 
original self; it was a small price to pay to unravel the mystery. He 
would have to re-cast it sometime soon, he thought...
Ix spoke from behind him. "Are you ready?" 
"I am ready. Are you going to do the jumps again?"
"No, I had thought of changing shape to a horse and you riding me. 
Transporting us in that fashion is not so tiring."
"You can change shape as well?"
"All who carry power within this realm can alter their form. Even 
Jacinth changed her form, although she was slower at altering her shape 
than the rest of us."
"Don't look at me...I can't. I've tried. It's just not a part of me."
"I believe you can. You have the power within you to change shape, I can 
see it. You just lack direction. If you were able to, our journey would 
be much quicker."
"Where are you trying to take me?"
"To the refuge of the last wizards. We have stayed hidden from the eyes 
of men and shape-changers since Jacinth attacked us. There, you will be 
safe until we can find a way to send you back. A new portal must be 
"No, I have my own means of returning."
"Indeed? Then why haven't you gone back?"
"I have to know more about Jacinth and these shape-changers...this is 
the place to look. I will leave when I'm ready. Please, teach me how you 
change shape."
Ix reached up to the sky, called out in a squawk. A hawk, circling 
overhead, dropped like a stone to land gracefully on his arm. Holding 
the bird there, Ix reached into Orbus' mind; the Amberite's thoughts 
were suddenly filled with pictures, images, memories....thousands of 
fleeting images of birds in flight, memories reaching back to his 
childhood. He had been fascinated by watching birds in flight, Orbus 
realized; he was impressed by the richness of his memories, the 
exhiliration he felt seeing them glide on the air currents...
"You must think of the bird, understand his life, his love of the 
hunt...his freedom, his power...feel it, see the world through his eyes. 
Become it..."
Orbus felt his sense of self fraying, his attention focusing to various 
points of his body. He could feel the shifting, feel himself grow 
lighter...the itch as thousands of pinpricks on his skin began to show 
the vestiges of feathers... he began to lose himself in the change...
Orbus shuddered, pulled back, cried out in alarm; he fell back to the 
ground, unwilling to lose his entire sense of self. Ix had released the 
hawk by that time, looking down at him. Orbus tried to explain why he 
couldn't do it, that he was not ready for the change, but all that came 
out was a suprised piercing call. He looked at himself, shocked; he saw 
the brown wings and claws of a falcon. Ix smiled slightly as he changed 
back to his human form.
"I didn't...that was incredible."
"You had the power within you. I'm suprised you haven't done it long ago."
"I couldn't, I said. I've never been able to. Once I leave here, I'll 
lose it."
"Perhaps," Ix said. "And perhaps not. Perhaps things have changed since 
you tried last. And perhaps you would be suprised at what you could do." 
He gave Orbus an enigmatic look, which Orbus had trouble understanding.  
What was he trying to say?
"Change with me now," Ix said. "We can cover a lot of ground, and I 
believe that we can get ahead of them. The shape-changers will not be 
looking for two hawks." They changed shape, then winged up into the 
darkening sky.
Hours later, in darkness, they roosted in a large tree. Ix immediately 
went to sleep, but Orbus was afraid to. What if he went to sleep and 
fell off the branch? Then, he felt Ix's voice in his mind. 
Still, Orbus found it hard to relax, so much was on his mind. In his 
thoughts, Jacinth flashed before him like a deadly blade; Amber swam 
before him, a jewel about to be grasped by Dalt; Laura and Brandi's 
faces, prompting fascination,respect and longings on his part; and his 
nameless, unknown father, a shadow fleeting just out of his grasp. 
Finally, he stood in a dream-cave with a dream-Ix beside him; along one 
wall, a twisting, pulsing image played, which he somehow knew to be the 
Logrus; he reached out, but touched only the wall. 
"Grasp your destiny," the dream-Ix said. He tried, feeling the wall, 
seeing the image before him but unable to reach it, frustrated...
"I cannot," he mumbled in his dream.
"You *must*. Strive for it, embrace it. Turn away, and you fail 
On the branch, the hawk with the white-feathered head twitched and 
mumbled in bird-speak. The older, larger hawk, awake now, merely stared...
To be continued
Allen Veazey
Orbus of Amber