Sun Jun  1 16:19:45 1997
Subject: [AMBER] Flights
Two tired crows flew above the hilly landscape, white mists rising 
around them. Once the weather had changed and rain begun to fall, the 
falcon- shape had become unweildy; Ix obliged by showing him the 
crow-shape. It was too bad things were so misty. Orbus had stared, 
fascinated, at the scenery even as they had flown with all speed away 
from the setting sun. Green fields, foothills, misty mountains, and now 
startlingly diverse marshes met his eyes. And oh, the sensation of 
flight. Orbus had piloted so many things, had gotten up in a plane as 
often as he could, but the thrill of mechanical flight just couldn't 
hold a candle to the feel of the wind on his wings, the instantaneous 
response as he moved his was magical, seductive, and he knew 
that it would spoil him quickly. It would be a shame to give it up.
They landed, then shifted; For a moment, the wild freedom Orbus saw in 
Ix's eyes was matched in his own. 
"Why are we stopping here?"
Ix chuckled. "Humor an old man. I can' t fly all day long like I used 
to. I thought that you'd be tired, didn't look like you had 
slept very much."
"Bad dreams. Reaction from all the experiences, I guess."
"Indeed." Ix looked around, said, "We're not too far away from our 
hiding place. We chose the marshlands because of the mists, of course, 
and because magical sight doesn't work very well here."
"Sort of a two-edged sword, isn't it? You can't see either."
"No, but it was worth the risk to stay hidden this way. The 
shape-changers are more powerful that us, at least with Jacinth on their 
"Maybe I can do something about that."
"And perhaps not. Why try? This is not your fight."
"Jacinth named herself my enemy. I *have* to find out more about her. If 
I have to face her directly to do it, then that's what I'll have to do."
"Admirable, but provoking a fight with the shape-changers would be 
folly. Perhaps..." Ix hesitated. "Something's wrong. They have found us 
again. Let's go."
They changed to crow form and launched into the sky. Behind them, a bird 
took off after them from a nearby tree. Then another, then another. 
Within seconds, a flock of birds had massed, pursuing them. Orbus gasped 
as he saw them; they held no static shape, changing from form to form as 
they flew. One second, wings and beaks of flame, another second large 
eagles, a third as metallic forms with mercurial one changed 
shape the whole flock followed suit. They surounded the pair, attacking 
with razor sharp talons and beaks, buffeting with wings. Orbus gave a 
piercing cry, slashed from a talon, and turned away to the ground. Ix 
followed, changed to human shape as the birds landed a short distance 
away and did likewise. Orbus changed, gasped at the pain, looked to the 
shadowy forms and the white-blond hair of the woman at their fore.
"Master Ix," Jacinth said, inclining her head. "I see you have made your 
"There was no choice. You are my enemy."
"If you say so," she mused. "All I cared was that he-" pointing to 
Orbus- "was caught. I had nothing against you."
"Until I refused. Then, in your pride and anger, you attacked me. No, 
Jacinth, there is nothing here for you."
"I say different."
"Just why do you have something against me?" Orbus asked. "I didn't do 
anything to you. I didn't even know you existed. Are you so willing to 
kill a brother for nothing?"
Jacinth smiled. "Perceptive, brother.  It will not be over nothing. Our 
father has officially recognized you. As long as you live, you hold 
title to the family's holdings."
"Who? Who is my father?"
"You really don' t know?!?" Jacinth threw back her head and laughed. 
"Poor Orbus. You will die ignorant even of your name."
"There's another side to that. I don't know anything. I don't care to 
inherit anything. No point in dying over something I don't want."
"No, my brother, if you are a true child of our father, then you would 
claim your birthright eventually. I cannot take that risk." She nodded 
to the figures behind her; they advanced, shifting, rushing past her to 
kill him...
Orbus spoke a word, loosed an Electric Net upon them. They scattered, 
those caught under the net shifting into nothingness only to reappear 
when it had passed. Ix brought a ring of flame around them. Something 
seized Orbus' mind, a hold that was immediately broken. A power flashed 
at him and was stopped. The shape-changers took the form of water, a 
dark rush that overcame the fire and flowed towards them, melting back 
into humanoid form. Ix pushed Orbus out of the way, taking a sword 
thrust in his arm. 
"I can delay them. Go!!" 
"I will not!"
Ix gestured, catching the forms around them in a mini-tornado. His form 
wavered, and in his place stood the familiar form of Bob, the bartender 
from Earth he had known for years.
"If you value your life, RUN!"
Orbus ran.
Or rather, he flew. First as an eagle, then a falcon, burning away from 
the scene as fast as he could go. Several shapes took off after him. 
Seeing the pursuit, Orbus dived for the ground, galloping as a horse 
until he came to a river. Changing shape again, he dove in, his 
fish-form soon melting into a water-soaked branch.  He allowed the 
fast-moving water to carry him for a while, his thoughts hidden in the 
fibrous darkness of his being. Finally, dimly sensing that his movement 
had slowed, he climbed out of the slowing-deepening river, a 
half-drowned otter. He changed form again, resting as himself on the 
mossy bank. His chest rose and fell as he looked around for pursuit.
Nothing. He had slipped the noose. He hoped.
Other thoughts crowded in; worry over Ix, unreasonable considering how 
little he had known the wizard, but there nonetheless. Wonder, that he 
had been...Bob? It was incredible. He had known Bob for six years. Had 
the elusive Ix been around that long? And then of course, his protector; 
something had absorbed all those magical attacks. 
Ix had protected him there, too, it was obvious. So, whoever he was, he 
had been around longer than he was letting on. Orbus wondered if the 
other wizards even existed. Who was he? Why was the man helping him?
"Excuse me..."
Orbus spun around, summoning the Sign of the Pattern before him. All he 
could see was a whirling, luminous circle, rotating about three feet away.
"All right, where are you? No more games!"
"Just me," the circle said. "Could you tell me where-"
"What the hell are you?"
"Just call me Ghost," it said. "Where did Mandor go?"
"Who's Mandor? Are you some kind of Sending?" As far as he could tell 
from his Pattern sight, it wasn't exactly magical...
"Not like you're thinking. I'm in kind of a you know where 
Mandor is?"
"I don't know a Mandor."
"Yes you do. You were just with him. Where did he go?" There was a 
pause, then; "No wonder it was so confusing, you scan just like him."
"Ix? The wizard?"
"The one with the metal balls."
"Oh! I see your problem. I've got one." Orbus searched around in his 
pocket. "Where the hell did it go?"
"So did Mandor. The man you were with."
Orbus looked up. "I beg your pardon?"
"Dad was the one looking for him. I'm going to have to ask what he wants 
to do, now. I can't find him anywhere."
"Ix was in a fight just a minute ago. I hope he's all right."
"Oh, he's not there any more. He was following you."
"Wait a never answered me. Ix had metal balls with him?"
"Of course he did! Those things are hard to conceal, if you know how to 
look. They're part of him, kind of."
"So he was concealing them."
"Yes, he was. You don't really know what's going on, do you? 
"I'm not sure if I care to have things explained by a spinning hoop of 
light, either. I have to Trump out of here, I'm being pursued."
"Oh, that won't help."
"Why not?" Orbus' brow furrowed. "The shape-changers can follow Trump 
"No, they can't, but the other thing can."
"What other thing?"
"Something is searching through Shadow to find you. It's being awfully 
damned subtle about it, too; I don't know what it is."
"I'd rather not be found right now, if you know what I mean. Isn't there 
anything I can do?"
"I suppose I can hide you until Dad tells me what he wants to do. I have 
the perfect place, too. No one will find you there. Got lost in there 
once, myself."
The ring opened, turned, and settled over him. Suddenly, everything was 
"Sorry, not much light in here. Are you a sorceror?"
"I suppose you could say so."
"You can use your magical sight. Enjoy the show. I'll be back in a few 
"What is it?"
"Who's 'Dad'?"
"Merlin, King of Chaos."
"Oh." As the circle disappeared, he said, "Is that all."
Employing the Sign of the Pattern, he saw what Ghost had been talking 
about; he was in the invisible 'underside' of a spell, one that was used 
to fold space. The latticework view of space folded in strange ways say the least; Orbus wished he had the kind of 
skill that was obviously in use here. Probing further, he saw that 
hundreds, maybe thousands of objects were inside the spell, ranging from 
tiny to overwhelmingly huge. Moreover, the frame was constructed so that 
a new face was presented every time one walked into it. It was 
distracting, but fun; Orbus watched shifting planes of force, thinking...
Then it all clicked into place.
His metal ball had disappeared after he had met Ix. "Ghost", whoever 
*he* was, said that Ix had metal balls, too. Ix had taken it away? 
Ghost was looking for Ix. Merlin, Lord of Chaos, wanted him. But, Ix 
wasn't really his name, it was Mandor.  
Mandor had been watching him, too. Protecting him. Keeping tabs on him 
as Bob, saving him from being killed, not once but several times. Never 
revealing himself to Orbus, either. Why play games?
Unless Mandor was his father. Or, he could have been sent by his father. 
Working incognito so as not to reveal that he was aiding him against 
If this was true, then Mandor had done him a great favor. Not only had 
he saved his life, but he had revealed an enemy Orbus had no knowledge 
of. Plus, he had taught him to change shape...
Orbus looked at his hand, concentrated; he was barely suprised to see 
the hand lengthen, grow fur, the nails mold into claws...and back again. 
Something he had never been able to do before, and now he could do it. 
Was it his exposure to the magic of the shape-changers' Shadow? Perhaps 
a mental block within himself?
No, that wasn't it. He had made the exact same effort before, and had 
not succeeded. What was it Ix had said? "Perhaps things have changed 
since you tried last."
What had happened since he had tried last? He had grown older, taller...
...walked the Pattern again, although he couldn't do it after the first 
...and lost his magical enhancements.
She had never told him who his father was, only that he was "from 
Shadow." Never told him that it was a Lord of Chaos. And now, years 
later, he finds that she had deliberately deceived him, hidden his 
shape-changing ability underneath a number of spells to 'enhance his 
Why? Orbus knew that Fiona was distant from him...up until that point he 
had chalked it up to the way Amberites were around each other. But 
this...this was beyond simple emotionlessness. It was cold, calculating, 
designed to keep him in the dark. It had worked, too, for years. Was he 
so much of a pawn to her? To what end was he being used?
There would be a rekoning, there was no doubt about that. He fished out 
his mother's Trump, concentrated, reached...
Nothing. She was still blocking all contacts. He tried again, more 
strongly, mentally drilling through the card...sweat beaded his brow as 
he gave up. Mother was too powerful for that, although he hoped he had 
given her a headache.
Well, he could look for Mandor...or, it wouldn't work. Trumps 
had to have an exact representation to work, an image to concentrate on. 
Trying to contact a shapechanged disguise would be pointless. Of course, 
Ghost had said that they scanned alike...
Orbus' skin suddenly felt cold. Of course Mandor was his father, Ghost 
had said they scanned alike. Looked alike? Sounded alike? Whatever. The 
evidence was strong in Mandor's favor, and if Orbus had the chance he 
would ask at the first opportunity.
"Orbus! Finally!"
Orbus turned. "Zachary?"
There he was, larger than life, walking up to him. Well, maybe smaller 
than life; Zachary look exceptionally tired, as if ill. "How did you get 
here, cousin? By the way, where is here?"
"You're at the wrong end of the universe, cousin," Zachary said. "I 
tried to find you earlier, but you disappeared."
"As in searching through Shadow for me?" Orbus looked dubious. "I didn't 
know you had that kind of power, cousin. Or why you didn't use my Trump."
"Had a little help from a friend," Zachary said. "The important thing 
is, you need to come back with me immediately. Do you mind if we find 
someplace else to talk? This is a little...distracting."
"I can't, now. I'm very close to finding my father."
"That's part of the reason why we need to hurry back." A spasm of pain 
crossed his face. "Orbus, it's dangerous to find him. Very bad things 
could happen."
"Like what?" Zachary definitely didn't look like himself any more, very 
pale and shrunken and...sparkling?
"You're not Zachary."
"I am and I'm not," Zachary said, "and that's the best I can give you. 
Please, can't we talk somewhere else?"
"I'm sorry Zachary, I can't. You're not really him, for one, and I don't 
want to leave. Why trust a deception?"
"Fine, then listen," the false-Zachary said. "The Pattern is weak at 
this stage of the game. It forsees that if you continue this, that you 
might upset the balance again. It's willing to do almost anything to 
prevent that from happening. If you stop, return to the fold, then so 
much can be prevented. Think about it; the Unicorn was attacked in 
Shadow. Attacked! There are forces working against the Pattern, strong 
forces that can ruin everything, destroy the balance, erase all that you 
have known. The Unicorn being hurt is a sign of just how bad things have 
gotten, how strong the forces are that are arrayed against us. Never in 
living memory has that happened, not since the beginning when the 
Unicorn and Serpent fought. Are you willing to drive the final nail in 
the coffin?"
"You mean to tell me the Pattern is worried? Sentinent?"
"Cut the crap, Orbus, I know Fiona told you. You were there."
"Now I know you're not Zachary. Zach never found out about that."
"Like I said, I am and I'm not."
"I refuse to believe that something as simple as finding my father will 
ruin everything."
"It's not that, Orbus. If you find him, you will walk a path that will 
eventually ruin you, and all of us with you." The pseudo-Zachary gasped, 
faded. "The Pattern asked you not to go. I'm asking you not to go. Don't 
make an enemy of the Pattern. I know you've been looking for Fiona, this 
gift I give to your mother, she is in the True Amber, near to 
the Pattern. You know the place." Just then, the twirling hoop of Ghost 
appeared. Zachary cried, "The construct!" and faded. From thin air, his 
fading words rang: "Seek her out!!"
Ghost's form wavered, then slowed. "There's only one thing in the 
universe that calls me that. And it's a long way from home. It does 
explain who was searching for you, though."
"Indeed. Either he was more persistent than you thought, or you don't 
hide things very well."
"I take your chastisement in good humor. I apologize. Since you're still 
okay, I assume there's no harm done. I came back to tell you that Dad 
would like to see you."
"I can't now, I have to go home. It's urgent."
"As you wish, the invitation is open for whenever. Dad was confident 
that you would meet at some point, if not now. Want a lift?"
"No thanks, I'll manage." Orbus took out his pack of Trumps, riffled 
through them, selected one. 
He concentrated, reaching through...
"Orbus! I can barely hear you."
"I'm far, far away from home, Uncle. Will you bring me through?"
"Of course. Take my hand." Seconds later, he stood in Amber, grasping 
Benedict's hand. 
"Thank you, Uncle." Orbus looked around. "I see I picked a good time, at 
least. I had hoped you were not busy when I Trumped you." They stood in 
the Royal stables, and Benedict was carrying tack and saddle.
"I was contemplating visiting the City of Dreams tonight. You come at an 
opportune time- I was looking for someone to spot me." Benedict glanced 
at him, then asked, "Where was that? The time differential was very 
"I believe I was on the Chaos side of things."
Talkative as ever, Benedict said, "Trouble?"
"I don't think so. I was following a clue."
"That was a long way to go for a clue."
"Perhaps, but sometimes the best clues are the ones that are hardest to 
track down." Orbus smiled. "I would be honored to watch out for you on 
your trip tonight. I only ask that I have a chance to talk to Mother for 
a moment, face to face. We," he grated, "have something to discuss." 
Orbus is back, and oh boy won't there be fireworks :) He'll be 
unreachable at the True Amber, but will be with Benedict at 
Tir'-a-nogth (sp) through part of the night, then at the castle. 
This is so much fun :)
Orbus of Amber