From: Matthew Greenwood 
Subject: [AM] Brandi's Tale Chapter 6
BRANDI^S TALE CHAPTER 6: Heartache and a Thousand Natural Shocks
        Dalt let out a deep breath and rose from the bed.  He needed to 
think.  But he couldn't think of a better distraction than Brandi at the 
moment.  He smiled to himself as he slipped his breeches on.  A cool 
voice carried to him from behind.  "The Pattern works in mysterious ways."
        Dalt spun around and growled.  "What do you want?"  He said hotly.
        The Robed One stood silouetted in the entrance by the dawn.  "I 
want to know why she is here ... alive."  He said in a frigid voice, 
obviously indicating Brandi.
        The mere sound of that voice sent a sliver of ice deep into the 
base of Brandi^s spine.  Something deep and instinctual told her to 
remain still, not to flinch, that if she showed the tiniest bit of 
movement she would be dead.  Her eyes cried out to open, to look at 
this -thing-, but she kept them closed.  She had to force herself not to 
move, to keep breathing deeply and evenly, as if she were still asleep.  
Would the owner of the voice notice, or would he believe her to be 
asleep?  Her nerves and skin begged to move, to run away, as surely as 
if spiders were crawling on her bare flesh, but she held it in- she had 
        "That is my affair, not yours."  Dalt^s voice.  "She's not 
threat, if that's what is concerning you."
        A moment's silence.  "Do you trust her?" from the visitor.
        "I love her."  Dalt responded without a pause.  Brandi found 
herself holding her breath momentarily, and forced herself to breathe 
        The Robed One made no reply, and after a long silence, Dalt 
continued to dress, pulling on his clothes in barely contained anger.  
"If she gets in my way, I will dispose of her."
        Dalt raged foward.  "You will not touch her, even if she has a 
blade to your spindly neck.  You've already destroyed her home, with 
everything that had any meaning to her.  Isn't that enough?"
        It was agony to lie immobile, exposed and vulnerable before the 
being who had brought an entire shadow down (-her- shadow) as if it were 
a painting being torn from a wall.
        For the first time in her life she was genuinely terrified.  She 
thought of her scimitars, remembering they were draped over the weapon 
stand, within reach but impossibly far away.  She could dive for them, 
perhaps fire off a spell to set the mysterious figure off balance, but 
how much time would that give her?  This man could surely kill her with 
a thought!
        This was the one who had destroyed her home.  This was the one 
who sought to destroy the Unicorn and all of Amber as well.  This was 
the one who was manipulating Dalt and his anger for other, darker ends.  
Brandi feared not only for herself, but for Dalt as well.  The Robed One 
was going to destroy him as well, she was certain of that. She suddenly 
feared for her cousins in distant Amber, a reaction which surprised her, 
but something she would have to sort out later.  She had to do something.
        As soon as she was a little less scared.
        The Robed One laughed, as if mocking her silent thoughts, a 
sound that had no mirth or joy in it, a sound that could only be called 
a laugh because it followed the conventional form of one.  It was to a 
laugh what a corpse is to a living being- they may -look- the same, but 
the differences underneath them place them inexorably apart.
        "You were the last I would have expected such ... moderation 
from," continued the creature.  "We are at war, Dalt, and I assure you 
that I will do much more than just obliterate one insignificant 
Shadow... Much more."
        She still feigned sleep long after Dalt^s visitor left, her 
mind racing frantically.  Things were too far out of her control, and 
she liked being in control.  Therefore she had to get control.  And the 
best way to do so was through a healthy dosage of deliberate, strategic 
chaos.  Her fear had set her mind spinning, and it still spun now, but 
the fear, though not replaced entirely, was channeled into plan after 
plan after plan.
        Each one was rejected in turn.  The Robed One was too powerful 
for her to take on alone.
        Dalt shuffled quietly in the tent, busy but determined not to 
wake her. She opened an eye a sliver, and saw him seated in the same 
chair as when she had first come in, rubbing his eyes.  No one else was 
around.  She got up noiselessly, slipping off her shirt, and leaned 
against the table in front of him as he looked up again.
        They stared at each other, then hands followed eyes, and only 
silence passed between them for the rest of the morning, as if a single 
word would somehow break the spell that both somehow knew would end, but 
neither had the will to accept yet.
        Dinner was a simple affair: wooden trays filled with bread, some 
meat and cheese, and goblets of wine and water.  Even though Dalt could 
have availed himself of any luxury he desired, for Amber ran in his 
blood, he preferred simpler arrangements: luxuries were to be denied, 
for he was at war, as the Robed One so aptly reminded him.  He looked 
over at his cherished guest: well, maybe some specific, very special 
luxury was allowed.
        He swirled the wine in his goblet thoughtfully, once again 
trying (and failing) to find the best way to approach the subject.
        He was slightly relieved when Brandi brought it up for him, but 
that now meant dealing with some difficult choices.
        "All right, enough of this.  Out with it Dalt.  Who are you 
mixed up with? Who the -hell- was that?!"
        Here we go, he thought sadly, taking a deep breath.
        "I don^t know his name.  I know him only as the Robed One.  He 
came to me not too long ago, saying that he knew the secrets of Amber, 
and how to bring it down.  He is a being of immense power- more than I 
have ever seen, and he seems to^ know things.  Everything he^s told me 
he can do he^s done.  In a strange way, he^s a man of his word.  He^s 
got his own agenda, obviously- he seems to really have it in for your 
        "But working with him is hell- I have begun to loathe him almost 
as much as my father."
        "Then back away," Brandi said.  "Drop him, or he^ll burn you."
        Dalt laughed harshly.  "It^s too late.  Do you think he won^t 
find me?  Do you think I can walk away now?  He cannot be stopped, 
love.  But at least I^ll be on the winning side for once, whatever it 
may cost me."  He leaned forward, intense, and Brandi found her heart 
pounding.  "You could be, too. We could start everything over, make it 
right this time!  Erase the mistakes of the house of the Unicorn!  We 
could make it right this time!" he repeated. He held tightly on to her 
hand.  She stared at him.
        "Do you think he^ll let us?"  There was no doubt who "he" 
was.  "A being with such immense power ruling over everything; do you 
think he^ll want to share it?  With you?  With -anyone-?  He. Is. 
Going. To. Kill. You.  Get away, Dalt.  Come with me- we can face it 
together, I watch your back, you watch mine, baby.  Let^s just get the 
hell away from this scene- I^ve got a bad feeling about this."
        Dalt stood abruptly, turning away from her.  "I^ can^t."
        "I just can^t, all right?  I wish I could explain it to you."  
He turned to face her again, an almost haggard look on his face.  "This 
is something I have to do, Brandi.  Someone has to show my father and 
his family- even though I am of his blood, I don^t claim any kinship 
with him or anything of his- that you can^t just go around toying with 
others as if they^re your playthings, as he did with my mother.  And if 
I have to consort with total bastards to do so, I will.  The gods know 
I^m one."
        Brandi rose and put her arms around him, resting her head 
against his broad chest.  He held her silently in response.  Inside of 
her she felt something like defeat.
        In the concealing darkness of Dalt^s tent, there was furtive, 
quiet movement.  A form moved slowly, silently across the space, 
crouching, one hand held out in front to search the near total blackness 
for obstacles.
        A faint, gentle rustle, as someone moved underneath the heavy 
bedcovers to one side of the tent.  The figure froze, staring intently 
at the jumble of covers on the bed.  The slightest sliver of ambient 
light glinted momentarily on something sharp and metallic in the 
figure^s other hand. Long, still moments passed.  No following movement 
came from the bed; just a bit of dream-induced shuffling.
        The figure moved closer to the bed, at an even slower pace than 
before, crouching defensively, trepidation in every move.  The free hand 
moved out, searching without touching, as if feeling for the sleeper^s 
position by the heat of his skin.  The hand stopped, mere fingerwidths 
away from the sleeper^s face, feeling his breath with fingertips.  Then 
the hand jerked away as if it touched fire, and the figure retreated to 
the tent^s entrance. One long look back at the tent^s resident, and 
the figure exited.  Fitful torchlight flashing momentarily on a 
flame-red lock of hair, and the figure was gone.
NRPG: Hoo boy things are hectic these days, not only for Brandi but for 
myself as well.  Essay crunch time, as well as moving downtown 
(Toronto), and planning a trip to Guyana next month.  Argh!  I^ll try 
to get one more Brandi post out before the trip, but the one after that 
won^t be till mid-September. Hey Allen, your description of the Logrus 
was positively Lovecraftian...
Matt Greenwood
Master in Environmental Studies candidate
York University, Toronto, Canada
"You can jiggle this gibberish into a semblance of sense if you think of
^the economy^ as those who own and run it.  They^re clearly doing well.
then what^s the rest of the population- filler?  More or less."
        Rick Salutin, "Economics jargon obscures plight of people."
        Globe and Mail, June 20, 1997.