Sun Jun  1 16:19:51 1997
Subject: [AM] Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall
        It was mid afternoon when Laura made her way into the 
Library.          She was hardly surprised to find Zachary sitting at a 
table piled high with books. Laura approached her cousin with a smile 
and greeted him.
        "Good afternoon, Zachary.  Buried in the books again, I see."
        He leaned back in his chair and looked up at her after inserting 
a tooled leather bookmark, embroidered with his monogram, to mark his 
place.  He closed the volume carefully with loving hands and returned 
her smile."
        "Books are a repository of knowledge and pleasure and contain 
much to ease a troubled mind," he answered.  "How often the mind can 
find answers to a vexing problem if left to deliberate subconsciously 
while the active brain concentrates on the printed word."
        "Oh, I agree.  My love of books is as strong as yours, but not 
to the exclusion of other things just as pleasant.  I do miss your 
society, Zachary.  You were the first of my true family that I met.  
Indeed, several years before I even knew I had an unknown true family."
        Zachary knew she was thinking of the time he had visited her 
Shadow Earth and had accompanied her father to watch an archery 
tournament in which she was competing.  The realness of her had 
surprised him and caused him to speculate about her even then.
        "We've hardly seen each other in the past few weeks," she 
continued, "except when potential disaster made its demands.  I do wish 
you had come to Bloody Bob's with us yesterday."
        "I was not invited along," he reminded her, a soft smile 
removing any hint of reproach from his words.
        "We didn't know where you were," she protested.  "Actually, I 
had thought it was going to be a girls' day out for Brandi and me to get 
better acquainted.  Who knew that Orbus would have chosen to dine there 
at the same time, or what would happen after?  Still, you would have 
been most welcome.  Always."  Her lovely mouth curled up in an impish 
smile.  "You do need to get out more, dear."
        "I suppose I do," he admitted, "and your company is often a 
tonic to both mind and heart.  Not to mention the eye," he said with 
gallantry.  "It's a lovely afternoon, Laura.  Would you care to go for a 
ride in Arden?"
        "Regretfully, not today."  The smile turned into a fetching 
pout.  "I'm here to do some reading myself, if you don't mind the 
company.  But, before I begin, I would love for you to take a look at 
the Trumps I've designed. I value your opinion."
        "Of course to the company and to the cards, Laura," he replied, 
reaching across the table as she put her hand into a deep pocked in the 
skirt of her gown and withdrew her deck.
        "Thank you.  You know, while all the Trumps work for me, of 
course, I seem to feel more strength in the ones I've drawn."
        "That is not at all unusual.  I should be surprised if you did 
        Zachary looked over the deck knowing instantly which cards in 
the deck Laura had designed.  Approval was reflected in his eyes.  All 
Trumps were imprinted with the style and personality of their creator.  
Those drawn by Zachary, while identical in feature, would give a sense 
of being vastly different from Dworkin's and different yet from those of 
Fiona's hand. Laura's cards clearly depicted the passion and zest for 
life that was part of her essence.  Even the one of Julianna, cooler and 
more distant than the others, showed a smoldering sensuality hidden 
beneath the reserve.
        "You have a definite talent for it," he told her.  "I believe 
your chose wisely when you decided to become a Mistress of Trump."  He 
handed the deck back to her.
        "Thank you."  The cards were returned to their former resting 
place.  "I feel so fulfilled when I finish one, as if I've done what I'm 
supposed to be doing.  It makes me very happy that you like them."
        Zachary watched as she moved gracefully to the bookshelves and 
removed several volumes.  Laura was fairly certain the Crown Prince knew 
precisely which books she'd chosen merely from their location.  She sat 
down a few tables from him and began to study.  Time passed unnoticed as 
she became immersed in word and illustration.
        Earlier she had tested the first spelled she'd designed, had 
found it needed refinement and had made some adjustments.  While she 
felt that she had an innate understanding of what Brandi had taught her 
that morning, she knew that magic lay within the creativity of the 
individual and she wanted to learn more of the nature of magic as it was 
derived from the power of the Pattern.  There were a several more spells 
dancing in her brain that she wanted to design, prepare and hang when 
she was done.  She was also more than a little eager to discover what 
Orbus could teach her when he returned.
        Orbus.  Laura stopped reading as she thought of her 
white-tressed cousin. He had not been far from the forefront of her mind 
since he had departed so abruptly.  She wondered what, and how, he was 
doing and was enthusiastically awaiting his return. With his courtly 
manners and oh, so handsome visage, Lord Orbus of Amber had the look of 
a man of the Italian Renaissance of Shadow Earth.  A little flutter of 
pleasure welled within her as a picture of him formed in her mind.  A 
bond had formed with him and with Brandi Blackswan that was more than 
the result of their mutual escape from death the day before.
        Laura giggled.  Had she been in Shadow Earth, she might well 
have been sitting on the grass of the college quad with her friends.  
"What a hunk!" they might have said had he happened by.
        That little metal ball ^V it still triggered something for her, 
something Laura knew she should remember.  Was it something she had 
read, or seen described not so very long ago?  Laura rose and returned 
to the bookshelves where she began rummaging through several volumes, 
searching.  Suddenly, there it was and her eyes widened in surprise.
        "Oh, my!" she said in a whisper.  "Now, I wonder if ^E."
        Deep in thought she moved back to resume her reading.  Casually, 
she looked down at the finger that bore the ring Brandi had given her 
for safekeeping. If Zachary had taken note that Laura wore it, and she 
was fairly certain he had ^V the crown prince missed little ^V he had 
not mentioned it.  Brandi had said the onyx ring with the white swan was 
unique, something of which Laura had no doubt.  Did it hold some power 
of magicka?  Laura would not be surprised to find that it did.  Perhaps 
it was a memento given to Brandi by someone who had held a place of 
importance in her life.  Although admittedly curious, Laura would not 
try to discover any secrets the ring might hold.  She would merely do as 
asked, wear the ring while Brandi was gone and hold it safe for return 
to its owner.
        Laura feared for her cousin.  That Brandi had eschewed her 
company told Laura that whatever the volatile firebrand was doing, it 
was dangerous. She wished she'd been allowed to ride shotgun though she 
knew Brandi had far more experience in taking care of herself in times 
of peril than she. Laura hoped only that Brandi would call for help if 
she needed it. 
The connection she felt with this cousin, though different from that 
with Orbus or Zachary, was equally as strong.  While carefully checking 
each other out, they had found themselves surprisingly at ease in their 
conversation, a feeling that had grown as their hours together had 
passed. There was mutual admiration and respect, Laura believed, and 
something else as well.  A kind of rivalry?  Yes, that was it.  A 
rivalry, but not one of enmity.  Rather, it was more like the kind she 
remembered on her archery team.  In tournament play, the best of them 
were always determined to go for the gold, but in practice, they 
encouraged and pushed each other to become the best that they could be.
Would this hold true for Laura and Brandi?  Laura thought it might.  
They complemented each other, these two.  In a pageant, Laura thought, 
she would be the classic beauty with grace and elegance while Brandi 
would be the sultry, exotic one who captured the judges' attention while 
making them extremely nervous as to her behavior should she win the crown.
The thought made Laura smile.  Their friendship would grow, she felt and 
hoped, and their clashes, when they came, probably inevitable among 
members of this family, would be spectacular.
With these thoughts still occupying her, Laura turned back to her 
reading and quickly became engrossed in her study and was slightly 
startled by a new voice greeting her.
"Good afternoon, Laura.  It is indeed a pleasure to see you again.  Word 
has come to me that Amber's newest princess is proving to be a true 
member of our family."
Looking up, Laura was surprised to see King Random.  She rose 
immediately and curtsied.
"Thank you, Your Majesty."  
She gave the king a dazzling smile, wondering at the same time what 
meaning there might be behind those words.  They could easily be the 
compliment they sounded or a hint of the infamous family suspicion.  
That the thought occurred to her gave proof that she had her fair share 
of it.
"Now now, my dear.  Uncle Random will do nicely in such an informal 
setting.  Zachary, I wonder if I might have a word," the king requested, 
turning towards his son.
"Of course, Father."  Zachary put down his book and rose to join his 
"If you will excuse me," Laura said quickly as she gathered up her books 
and tucked them under her arm, "I have several things to do yet today." 
She would have loved to be invited to stay for the conference between 
the king and his heir, but such invitation was not forthcoming.  
"Zachary, I shall hold you to that ride through Arden very soon."
"Ah," said Random with a wink as Laura closed the door behind her, 
"before Vialle, I should have jumped at the chance of a ride in the 
woods with one such as she."
   Laura took her evening meal in her apartment.  She briefly questioned 
her maid, Audra, as to any rumors circulating among the servants.  She 
learned only that Fiona had not been seen in several days, that Bleys, 
on the other hand, seemed to be everywhere and anywhere, and that her 
mother, the lovely Florimel, was entertaining a visiting gentleman in 
her suite.
Laura thanked her maid by giving her the evening off, then went back to 
the arduous but stimulating task of creating spells.  She gave it the 
same concentration and attention to detail she employed when designing 
Trumps. The hours passed unnoticed as she worked and it was already well 
past evening when she was satisfied with what she had done.  Though she 
should have been exhausted from her efforts, Laura new she was too keyed 
up for sleep to come.  She changed into a pair of charcoal grey slacks 
and a pink silk shirt and decided on exploring the Castle.
The hallway outside her room was deserted.  Laura decided to go up one 
flight to the fourth floor, an area of the Castle to which she'd never 
been.  On the way up, she passed only a few of the domestic staff doing 
their nightly cleaning.
The fourth floor was still mostly unused, she knew.  There were military 
storage areas in the southwest and southeast corners, guarded areas 
which Laura avoided.  The darkened and deserted corridors filled Laura 
with a feeling of foreboding, but she walked on, feeling almost drawn to 
a side hallway at the north end of the floor.  Candles of every color 
were burning as she looked into the hall.  With a quick, sharp intake of 
breath, she stopped dead in her tracks for she knew what it was she was 
looking at.
Down the hallway, illuminated by the flickering flames of candlelight, 
were mirrors, countless mirrors of all sizes and shapes.  Some were 
shaped in ways Laura would not have believed it possible to design.  She 
wanted nothing more at that moment than to bolt and run.  She had heard 
or read the stories of those who were found dead or alive, but mindless, 
in the place where this corridor was last know to have shown itself.  
But, what was is Lord Bleys had said?  "If the Corridor of Mirrors 
beckons to you, it may be more dangerous to run from it than to enter."
The corridor was beckoning her.  The candles seemed to be waving an 
invitation.  It felt as if a giant, unseen hand had grasped her waist 
and was pulling her forward into the eerie scene of reflection.  Laura 
knew that she must accept.
Slowly her feet carried her forward.  No two mirrors were the same.  
Some were bare and plain, some framed simply, others in frames that were 
ornately carved and bejeweled.  Some dimmed to opacity and showed her 
nothing.  Some reflected back her image, distorted and unreal.  Some 
drew her through the looking glass into scenes of terror.
She was careening down a roller coaster ride with the tracks dropping 
out from under her.  She was lying on a pillar of fire, borne aloft by 
the spewing fire of an erupting volcano.  She was dragged into the 
maelstrom of a tsunami wave, tossed in the swirling water with no sense 
of up or down. In between, faces familiar and unknown spoke to her.
Lord Bleys smiled down at her from a diamond shaped mirror, his 
expression a mixture of fondness and malevolence.
"I gave you some advice about finding friends at court, lovely Laura. 
Advice which you have not heeded.  You are yet an innocent among the 
sharks.  Take the hand of one who wishes to guide you."
Bloodstone throbbed a message of distress as Laura moved on.
A cackling witch chortled gleefully.
"You trust far too easily, my pretty."
The grotesque image faded, to be replaced by one of Laura tied to a 
stake as a pillar of flame rose to consume her.  Around the pyre, 
Zachary, Orbus and Brandi laughed and danced and toasted each other with 
mugs of Bayle's Best.
"Off with her head!" screamed Vialle, brandishing a glowing blade.
"NO!" cried Laura.  "They are NOT trying to destroy me!"
She spun around no longer sure from which direction she had entered this 
Hall of Horrors.  A huge gilded mirror called her next.  It reflected 
not pictures, but words written in a flowing script of blood red.
"Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
 Who is fairest of them all?
 The fairest one to walk this Hall
 May be the cause of Amber's fall."
Laura was trembling as the corridor drew her further.  She wanted 
desperately to leave this place, but how?  Already another face was 
taunting her.  A hated face as she recognized it.  She had seen that 
face only in a photograph in the New York newspapers.  It was the 
lunatic who had murdered her father on the streets of New York's jewelry 
district.  But now, the man was waving his hand.  There were six fingers 
on that hand.
"Hah!  Did you really think it was a random act of drug induced violence 
that killed your father, little girl?"
Yes, that was what she had thought until this very moment.  It was the 
death of her father that had led her to discover who she was.  Now, it 
seemed this was all part of a plan to bring her to the True City.  Why?  
To be the catalyst for the destruction of Amber?  No, it couldn't be!  
She loved Amber.  She would do anything in its defense.
The twisted face of a demented old dwarf appeared in a mirror devoid of 
any embellishment. Even as she shrank away from its contorted features, 
a strong attraction forced her to face him.
"Welcome to Amber, my youngest great-granddaughter.       I tell you now 
as others have told you, you must be careful of the choices you make.  
The forces of Chaos are strong, as they must be, for Order comes from 
Chaos. Chaos dwells in all of the children of Amber.  The Pattern must 
survive. Beware, child.  Beware of the lure of the Courts and the Logrus."
The image faded and Laura could take no more.  Desperately, she sought a 
way out, but saw nothing except her own reflection mirrored thousands of 
time over.  Whirling and twirling, the last thing she saw was a bolt of 
blue lightning streaking towards her.  She screamed as it hit her and 
knew nothing more until she awakened lying in a crumpled heap on the 
floor by her bed.  Still trembling, she pulled herself up and splashed 
water on her tear-stained face.
If sleep had been difficult before, it was impossible now.  What she 
needed, Laura decided, was some air.  Breathing deeply, she tried to 
compose herself lest she should meet any of her family on the stairs.  
She was thankful that no one seemed to be about, although with her 
family, you never knew.
Once outside the castle's walls, Laura looked around.  Where should she 
go? It was a warm summer's night with a hint of a gentle breeze to 
soothe her. Looking up, Laura knew where she was headed.  A million 
thoughts filled her mind as she began the climb up to Kolvir's peak.
Though the air was balmy, Laura still shivered as she relived the 
minutes ^V hours? ^V she really didn't know, that she'd spend in the 
Corridor of Mirrors.  Why had she been brought there?  Was she really a 
danger to Amber?  Or might she be a tool for its victory?  Almost since 
the moment she'd arrived, a recurring theme had been developing.  
Choices.  Over and over again she'd been told she would be faced with 
choices and she must make them carefully.  Logic would have it then that 
those choices would lead her down one path or the other.
"Whatever they are, they will be ^Vmy- choices," she said aloud as she 
reached the top of Kolvir.  And, I shall choose rightly."
The breeze grew into a gentle wind that blew her golden hair out in 
waves that shimmered in the moonlight and rippled the silken folds of 
her pink shirt as she stood tall and proud at the top of the world.
And waited.
For what?  For whom?
Princess of Amber