From: Matthew Greenwood 
Subject: [AM] Brandi's Tale Chapter 5
BRANDI'S TALE CHAPTER 5: Love Lost, Fire at Will
        Brandi and Dalt stared at each other across the wide map-strewn 
        "I thought I^d never see you again," said Dalt, his face taut 
with suppressed emotion.  "Part of me hoped so."  He pulled up a 
discarded cloak and held it out to her.  "Here.  Dry up with this."
        Brandi walked slowly down the length of the table to his 
outstretched hand and took the cloak, then used it to soak up as much of 
the water as she could from her face, hair and clothing.
        "What are you doing, Dalt?" Brandi whispered.
        "What the hell do you think?"  He whirled, toppling the chair he 
had been sitting in when she came in.  She froze, nerves taut.  Dalt ran 
a hand through his crop of blonde hair.  Those hands^
        "You, of all the people I^ve known, should understand!  You!" 
his finger jabbed in her direction.
        "I do.  You know I do."
        "Then WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME?!"
        She held his gaze, even though she wanted desperately to look 
away, look at anything but his beautiful, terrible face.  He threw his 
hands in the air, and began pacing, like he always did when extremely 
        "As I recall, you wanted me to go," she responded archly, a 
familiar spark igniting inside her.  "Look, we^re not going down this 
road already, are we? That^s not what I came here for."
        Dalt smiled coldly.  "So what exactly do I owe this pleasure to, 
fair lady?" he said mockingly.
        "What are you doing?" she asked again, not letting him get to 
her so easily.  "Attacking the Unicorn?"
        "Are you surprised that I could pull it off?"
        Brandi glared at him.  "You do realize that by killing the 
Unicorn you destroy -everything-, don^t you?  Or has the idea not 
penetrated your dense skull yet?"
        "Yes, I do know.  That^s the point, damn it!  The Unicorn goes, 
Amber goes, and everything my sonofabitch father built is brought low!  
That^s the point!"
        "Look, I understand why you^re pissed off, but-"
        "Yes, you do understand!  You^ve been on the receiving end of 
our dear family^s crap almost as much as I have!"  He came up to her; 
they were very close now.  "Why the hell are you fighting me on this!?  
You should be here back at my side!  We could both take Amber down, 
        Oh, he was good at pushing her buttons, good at finding her 
weak, doubtful spots and drawing them out. After her  initial encounter 
with Amber years ago she had not fared well. It had taken her no time at 
all to find out the vicious underside of Amberite intrigue and 
manipulation, and she had left angry and bitter. Before she had left, 
though she had heard of the name Dalt, and to spite her family she had 
sought him out.
        They had nearly killed each other on their first meeting.  Dalt 
responded to her as a new threat from Amber, and she returned his 
sentiments, angry at his imagined rejection.  In the midst of flashing 
swordplay, though, something inside them had connected.  They had put 
their weapons down, each daring to momentarily trust the other.  That 
was all that it took.
        But that was a long time ago.  Things had changed far too much 
since then, she knew how to guard herself against him.  So why were her 
hands trembling?
        "The only thing that^s going to be destroyed is yourself, 
Dalt.  How long are you going to let this eat you up inside?  What 
lengths have you gone to this time to get your myopic vision of revenge?"
        "Oh, you^re a fine one to talk.  By the way, how are your 
mother and father doing?  Oh, I^m sorry, I forgot!  You don^t know who 
the hell they are!" "Don^t push it, you bastard-"
        "Has our family told you yet?  Or have they neglected to inform 
you which one of them spawned you?"
        Brandi glared daggers at him.
        "I^ll take that as a no."  Dalt turned away from her and 
grabbed a goblet of wine that had been sitting on the table, draining 
it.  She could drive a knife between his shoulder blades so easily right 
now.  She wanted to so bad she could taste it.
        He drained the cup and set it back down, turning again to face 
her.  "You still haven^t told me why you^re here."
        "To talk you out of it.  To tell you that Benedict and others 
are searching for you, but you^d probably assume that already.  To warn 
you that friends and enemies aren^t always clearly defined as such.  
Watch your back, Dalt, not only against Amber."
        Dalt barked a short, harsh laugh.  "Listen to you.  Talk me out 
of this? Damn it, you know me better than that.  Once you may have been 
the only person who was ever able to do so, but not anymore.  And what 
is this little word game you^re trying to play?  ^Friends and enemies 
aren^t always clearly defined.^  You^re talking like -them-, full of 
hints, allegations and things left unsaid.  You^re becoming just like 
them!  Just like the people you and I despise!  I^m disappointed, 
Brandi."  The last was said with contempt. "Don^t dismiss me like that, 
you half-wit," Brandi snapped in return.  "It might be nice to look at 
things in black and white as you do, but most of us with a functioning 
brain have figured out that things are just a bit more complicated.  Not 
everyone in Amber is a bastard like our parents, though I admit most of 
them leave a lot to wish for."
        "Like your newfound cousins?  And how exactly are they different 
from the people who sired them?  I^ll tell you: -they are no 
different-!" How did he know about them?
        "Look at you," Dalt continued.  "Still looking for acceptance in 
Amber, even after the shit they^ve put you through.  How does that 
saying go?  ^If you can^t beat them, join them?^  Obviously, that^s 
what you^ve done.  I guess you can^t beat them.  -But I can-.  This 
time, I can."  He smiled.
        Brandi^s head was reeling with doubt.  She should have expected 
this; seeing Dalt brought out all the familiar old wounds, one by one, 
and put them up to the harsh light when they preferred to remain in the 
shadows.  She hated confusion.  But she wasn^t done with him, not yet.
        "When you and your new friends, whoever they are, attacked the 
Unicorn, you destroyed a realm of Shadow."  She paused: what was that 
look that flashed across his features when she mentioned his friends?  
Anger?  Disgust? Resentfulness?
        "And?" Dalt prompted.
        "That shadow was mine, Dalt.  You destroyed my home."
        Even though Brandi knew him so well, she hadn^t known how he 
would react when she told him, but she was surprised nevertheless when 
the blood drained from his face and he practically fell back into his 
chair.  He put his face in his hands.
        "You destroyed my home," she repeated, hoping to hurt him like 
hell.  "The one sure thing I could fall back on in my life is gone, and 
-you- took it away from me."
        "Oh, Brandi, I^m so sorry," he whispered after a while, his 
voice raw.  Was he^ crying?  "I^m so very sorry, I didn^t know.  Oh, 
gods!" the last was a harsh cry.  He looked up at her, flushed and 
weary-eyed, as if carrying an unfathomable burden, then looked quickly 
away, as if seeing her still there only increased his pain.
        Brandi was, for one of the few times in her life, struck 
absolutely speechless.  She simply stared at him, not knowing how to 
react, fearing the response her own heart was giving this display of 
grief. Dalt sobbed then, a broken and wounded sound.  "Why do I always 
bring such pain to those I wish only to love?"
        And there it was.  The one word that doomed her inner self, the 
one that would haunt her forever.  -No-, she cried silently, -anything 
but that-. She seemed momentarily outside of herself, watching as if it 
was someone else who now approached Dalt, as if someone else took his 
head in her hands and cradled it against herself.  It was someone else 
who Dalt wrapped his arms around, drawing her to him, it was someone 
else who pressed her lips against his.
        But the moment their lips met she felt thrown back into herself- 
the rough feel of Dalt^s unshaven face against herself, the heat of his 
lips, the salty tang of his tears as they met her own, the feel of his 
hands, all had an immediate urgency as if it was an electric shock. As 
she unleashed the emotions she had tried so hard to keep locked up, her 
heart cried^
NRPG: Looks like things are really steaming up in Amber now!  Sarah,
aboard.  Hey Krish, when do we get to see the Light of Amber?
Matt Greenwood
Master in Environmental Studies candidate
York University, Toronto, Canada
        Restless minds have searched- long before
        The truth will be the same- forever more
        The mightiness of trees- that you can feel
        Can give you all you need- just listen still
                        -Helloween: "Longing"