Sun Jun  1 16:19:48 1997
Subject: [AM] Brandi's Tale Chapter 4
        Laura was quick to learn the process of spell creation and 
casting, obvious essentials to make a decent sorceress.  But her innate 
creativity and -feel- for the art promised to launch her past mediocrity 
and make her a great spellcaster.  It was a creatively demanding art, 
relying more heavily on the individual^s imagination an personality 
than the greater powers.  Brandi was always of the opinion that 
artistically-minded people, whether it be music, dance, painting, 
writing, or any other form of art, were the best suited for mastering 
sorcery.  That creativity could mean the difference between survival and 
death in a pitched battle; Brandi always considered her sorcery the "Ace 
up her sleeve."  Well, one of them, at least.
        It was fun teaching something she loved to such a natural 
talent. Especially because it kept her inner conflicts on the back 
burner for a few hours.  A delay of the inevitable, but a welcome one.  
Brandi had felt a sense of kinship with Laura, as well as a fierce sense 
of competition, which was surprisingly welcome.  She was so used to 
being the only centre of attention, and now she had company.  On 
occasion she would meet a rival in Shadow- sometimes even a Shadow 
reflection of herself- but the rivalry would be short-lived, as is the 
case when a creation of Amber is put on the field against one of 
Shadow.  The turning point of the game was usually the opening face-off.
        However, in Laura^s case, it was a fair match, a novelty in 
itself. She wondered if Laura felt the same sense of competition.  And 
she found she liked her newfound cousin, rivalry and all.  That 
realization predictably brought the defenses up to Red Alert, and 
returned to the forefront the choice she had agonized over all night.
        After the lesson the two agreed to share lunch in an anteroom in 
the Castle.  As they left the Crime Lab a shadow briefly blocked the 
light in the hallway.  Laura barely started, and Brandi stared at the 
figure: Julianna, draped in purple so dark it was almost black, 
commanding in presence, regal, beautiful and aloof.
        "Hello, Julianna," greeted Brandi.  "It^s been a long time."
        "Hello Brandi, Laura."
        "Welcome back, Julianna" said Laura.  She was beginning to feel 
at home in Amber, Brandi noted from that comment: Laura was welcoming 
her enigmatic cousin as if she belonged here, which Laura very much did.
        "We were on our way to lunch," Laura said.  "Would you care to 
join us?"
        "Yes, thank you," Julianna responded, with a slight nod.
        Soon they were seated around a table in one of the smaller 
dining halls in the Castle, elegantly decimating a fine lunch.  Brandi 
was never sure what to think of Julianna- she concealed her emotions, 
motivations, and thoughts so well.  Sometimes she was tempted to use her 
sorcery to find out, but she was fairly certain Julianna could fry her 
brain if she tried.  Their personalities were like night and day, making 
it almost impossible for them to relate to one another, but not in an 
adversarial way.
        However, the relations between Julianna and Laura seemed a bit 
strained, though it was something hinted at rather than openly 
confronted.  However, it was not enough for any sort of grudge, from 
what Brandi could determine. Perhaps it was just a clash of personality, 
or the differences in viewpoint between a newcomer to Amber and one well 
versed in its ways.  Well, at least they were professional about it.
        Eventually, and not surprisingly, the conversation turned to the 
crisis at hand. Brandi turned to Julianna.  She did not bother to fill 
her mysterious cousin in on the events of the past few days; somehow, 
she knew Julianna would already know.  "What are your thoughts on recent 
        Julianna seemed pensive for a moment.  "It is obvious that 
powerful forces were involved in the attack on the Unicorn," she 
stated.  "The Courts of Chaos have traditionally been enemies of Amber, 
so logic dictates we keep that in mind.  However, Amber has always been 
ripe with internal dissent as well- dissent that could be exploited to 
our disadvantage.  So the threat could just as well be internal as 
external.  But what individual actors are involved, who is to say?"
        "Damn," muttered Brandi.  "Dalt^s got some powerful buddies, 
wherever they^re from."
        "We have to find out who they are, if indeed they^ve allied 
themselves with Dalt," said Laura.  "But how are we going to find them?"
        Julianna studied her wine glass.  "And if we do, what are we 
going to do about them?"
        "Kick their asses," stated Brandi flatly, as if commenting on 
the quality of the food.  Laura chuckled, and Julianna showed a hint of 
a smile. "Seriously, though.  I think that^s what it^s going to come 
down to. Benedict, Julian and Gerard all have the means to engage our 
enemies^ armies, and knock them flat, but I have a bad feeling that it 
will come down to a direct confrontation with the masterminds behind 
this.  And I think Dalt is the key to all of this.  We get to him, we 
get to his friends."
        Long moments of silence ensued, each woman involved with her own 
thoughts. The silence was broken by one of the servants entering to 
retrieve empty plates; that ended the introverted indulgences of the 
        "If you^ll excuse me, there are some matters that I must attend 
to," Julianna said, rising gracefully.  Laura and Brandi rose as well, 
watching Julianna practically float out the door.
        "There are some things I have to take care of as well," said 
        Laura studied her a long moment, a serious expression on her 
flawless features.  "You^re planning something, aren^t you?"
        Brandi was taken aback for an instant, then recovered and 
smiled.  "Am I that predictable?  I^m going to have to be very careful 
around you.  You see right through me."
        Laura smiled back.  "Care for some company?"  She sensed that 
the two of them would work well together, if yesterday^s ambush was any 
        Brandi frowned.  She would dearly like for Laura to accompany 
her on any venture^ other than the one she was about to take on.  
"Regretfully, I can^t.  This is something that I have to do on my own.  
Someday I^ll be able to explain it, and I think you^d want an 
explanation, but right now^ I can^t."  She smiled sadly- she could 
feel the walls coming up again, although not as high as before.
        She took a ring off her finger and placed it in Laura^s palm.  
It was a beautiful silver ring, ornately wrought with an amazing level 
of detail, resembling storm clouds and lightning.  Its centrepiece was 
an onyx swan, wings outstretched, seeming to reach above the storm.  
"Keep this for me, will you?"
        "It^s beautiful," Laura whispered.
        "It^s one of a kind.  I thought it appropriate that you hold on 
to it till I^m back."  Brandi grinned.  "See you soon!"  I hope, she 
added silently.
        With that she made her Dramatically Appropriate exit.  Now to 
find Benedict.  She located him soon enough, in a small dining hall 
close to the throne room that served now as the "War Room."  Various 
maps and other items lay in an orderly fashion on a large table, and 
Benedict, the ultimate warrior, stood frowning before them.  He watched 
her as she entered.
        "Hello, Benedict," she greeted him.
        "Hello."  Talkative as ever.
        "Have you located Dalt^s forces?"
        "Not yet."  That answer was actually twice as long as Brandi had 
        "I^ll let you know when I find him" Brandi grinned, and left.  
It would have been nice to say she had left him speechless, but no one 
would be able to tell the difference.
        Brandi crossed the castle again and entered her room.  Now to 
fully set her scheme in motion.  She had spent the night preparing and 
hanging spells, storing them in The Devil.  She had also been planning, 
preparing for contingencies, and establishing escape routes.  Now she 
changed into a black riding outfit, and strapped The Devil to her hip.  
She exited quietly, through the back passages of the castle.  Only a few 
guards and servants saw her leave.  She made her way to the stables, 
avoiding Mikal Grube, and saddled Moonghost.  Soon they were out of the 
castle premises entirely, heading towards Arden, with only Laura and 
Benedict really knowing she was up to something.  She began to alter the 
stuff of Shadow slowly.
        The Pattern is the embodiment of Order in the universe.  Amber 
is the one true realm, housing the Pattern; all of Shadow is an altered 
and imperfect reflection of that realm.  It is no surprise, therefore, 
that flawed reflections of the Pattern are found in Shadow as well.  
These are called Broken Patterns, and though they are not as powerful as 
the True Pattern, they can be useful.  Especially the flaws. Brandi used 
that lesser version of the Pattern to move through Shadow, following the 
flaws of one realm into another.  It made for miserable riding- 
invariably, these flaws led her through the more unpleasant sides of 
each Shadow she traversed- slums, swamps, heated and bloody wars, 
shattered crystal, a New Kids reunion concert, and so on.  If those 
six-fingered men or other minions were following her, it would not have 
made a difference whether she used the powers of the true Pattern or the 
Broken one, they would be able to follow.  However, this way the pursuit 
would be as unpleasant as she could make it.
        After a while she was sufficiently away from Amber to manipulate 
the Broken Pattern easily, and her progress quickened.  She focused her 
will, and conjured up the image she needed:  The Deep Blue Sea, still in 
dagger form, lost with the disappearing attacker in the alley the day 
before.  She could have easily called it to her by manipulating Shadow, 
for it was a part of her, but she didn^t.  Instead, she followed it to 
where it had gone.
        Several hours later, she found it, discarded under a bush in an 
urban park. Sleek vehicles floated and zoomed overhead, and a man in 
elaborate clothing rode some distance down the path on a chromed horse.  
She picked the dagger up, studied it.  She was sure it had struck one of 
the attackers; indeed, there were minute traces of blood on it, 
encrusted in the detailed scrolling of the hilt.
        She summoned the sign of the true Pattern.  If her guess was 
correct, she could follow the trail leading from The Deep Blue Sea^s 
resting place through Shadow.  It was there, but very faint, and still 
fading- these guys blazed through Shadow at warp speed!  She probed the 
dagger with the sign of the Pattern, hoping to get some clues from the 
blood.  On contact with the projected Pattern the blood smoked and 
popped, the reaction backlashing through the sign.  Brandi snapped off 
contact, letting the blade drop, but not before feeling a momentary 
spike of power that made her head hurt.
        "Ow," she complained.
        During this time the man on mechanical horseback had come 
closer.  He was handsome in an aristocratic and fairly dignified sense, 
and was obviously aware of it.
        "Greetings, fair dame," he said.
"Hello, friend" Brandi responded, mounting.  The sign of the Pattern was 
superimposed over the visitor in her eyes, the elaborate stitching of 
his clothes jarring with the intricacies of the Pattern, rendering him 
tastelessly rococo.
"That is a truly splendid mount!" he continued, a winning smile on his 
"It almost looks like a real horse!"
"It is a real horse," she said blandly.  Moonghost snorted derisively at 
the metallic steed before him and the stranger mounted on it.
The look on the man^s face was a cross between incredulity and 
amusement. Brandi blew him a kiss and trotted away, shifting Shadow.  
She saw the man^s jaw drop at her disappearance, then he was gone.
Brandi chuckled, and Moonghost snickered in response.  "When I become 
Empress of Amber," she said to the white horse, "the first thing I^ll 
do is impose the Prime Directive on the family when they hellride.  
That^ll shake things up a bit.  What do you think?"
Moonghost said neigh.
"Oh, you^re no fun."
The trail was becoming fainter, but it remained consistent.  "We^ll be 
lucky if we can follow it to its source.  I hope it^s not too long.  
Things may get pretty ugly, my friend."  She patted Moonghost^s neck.  
"I need you to stay together."
The horse snorted confidently, and she patted him again.
Suddenly they weren^t shifting through Shadow anymore- they had reached 
their destination dimension.  The sky had only the faintest traces of 
daylight in it, further obfuscated by the rolling thunderclouds covering 
the sky.  The rain was so thick it was almost solid.  Brandi rode slowly 
through a mud-slicked, weed-tangled ravine; she and Moonghost were 
completely soaked within seconds.  Moonghost gave her a withering look.  
She dearly wanted to create a magical barrier to the elements, but it 
was best not to needlessly waste spells.
She felt she was getting close to Dalt, and to whoever destroyed her 
Shadow, so subtlety and stealth were needed; a girl can never be too 
careful.  She let the sign of the Pattern drop, and called up the first 
of her spells, creatively labeled "Psychic Bloodhound- Go Get ^Im 
Boy!".  In her sight a faint thread extended outwards, following the 
ever-weakening trail she had pursued through Shadow.
Brandi wiped the rain off her face, only to have it replaced by more.  A 
black scarf now held her fire red hair back in a thick tail drooping 
down her left shoulder.  She nudged Moonghost forward: the hunt 
continued. She was glad for the rain, even though it was miserable.  It 
was an unexpected bonus: in the downpour her movements were concealed 
from detection by the usual senses.  She only hoped that her quarry felt 
comfortably hidden from the powers of Amber, and wasn^t expecting a 
visit from that side of the tracks.
Soon enough, the ravine began to shallow out.  She could sense the 
activity of sentries and other indications of an organized camp.  She 
couldn^t see much, but preliminary indications told her that the camp 
was massive. She released her tracking spell, and called on another- 
"Don^t Mind Me, Just Passing Through".  They blended in even more with 
the gray surroundings, the spell giving them limited chameleon-like 
abilities, and passed by a couple of sentries unobtrusively.
Brandi was wired, adrenaline coursing through her.  Every sense was 
peaked, instinct and training acting as one, as she floated into the 
camp like a spectre.  Moonghost echoed her anxiety, shuddering 
occasionally, ears twitching. Tents appeared, darker splotches against 
the uniform darkness of the rain. She proceeded slowly, avoiding clumps 
of soldiers.  They seemed to be a variety of beings, all essentially 
humanoid.  It was hard to tell, but she didn^t think her six-fingered 
friends were among them.  Perhaps they were an elite group- she hoped 
so; if Dalt had an army of those things, Amber would fall.  She didn^t 
bother to try to count the amount of troops, but they easily numbered in 
the thousands, if not tens of thousands.  Not a heartening tally.
If her guess was right, she felt she should be able to spot the tent she 
was looking for.  So predictable^
In time, she found it, well into the camp, spaced away from the 
surrounding tents.  Its banner hung limp and forlorn in the weather; 
otherwise, the device of a lion rending a unicorn would be seen 
fluttering in the breeze. Brandi dismounted.  Her stomach was a tight 
knot.  "Stay here, Moonghost." The steed fairly glared at her.
"Look casual, like you know what you^re doing.  It always works for 
me." She rubbed his snout affectionately.  "If you get into trouble, 
run.  I mean it."
Moonghost sullenly agreed, walking over to a group of horses tethered to 
a nearby tent.  He stood next to them, flicking his tail, acting as if 
he truly belonged there.
Brandi walked out from concealment, making her way to the main tent.  
She cut a minute hole in the thick canvas with The Deep Blue Sea, the 
otherwise resilient cloth rending easily before the supernaturally sharp 
blade.  She peered in, saw her target alone inside.  He was brooding 
over a table covered in maps, a parallel to Benedict^s own pose 
earlier.  Nodding to herself, she crept forward, closer to the tent^s 
entrance.  She cast another spell- "No! No Please! Aaugh!".  The two 
soldiers guarding the main tent^s opening scuttled a few paces away 
from her, investigating an imaginary cry. They were experienced men, not 
straying far, keeping the entryway in sight. But for a moment they were 
looking away from the entrance, and a moment was all she needed.
She slipped through the entrance, adrenaline soaring, heart beating like 
a dynamo, emotions peaked.  This was going to be ugly.  She knew it in 
every fibre of her being.
"Hello, Dalt," she said, her voice coming out stronger than she felt. 
Dalt looked up, eyes wide, staring at her.  They stared at each other 
for a long, long moment.  The air was thick with barely checked tension.
"Brandi," he whispered hoarsely.
NRPG:  Woohoo!  Has our favourite little fireball got herself in a heap 
o^ trouble this time!  I^ve been planning this juicy tidbit for a 
looong time. Jason, it^s good to see Julianna again.  Judi, Allan, and 
Chris, your stories are simply amazing!  I see a Pulitzer coming our way^
Matt Greenwood
Master in Environmental Studies candidate
York University, Toronto, Canada
        "Out of the nowhere, into the here"
                - James T. Kirk