From: Matthew Greenwood 
Subject: [AM] Brandi's Tale Chapter 7
BRANDI^S TALE CHAPTER 7: Can I Play With Madness?
        No one saw Brandi Blackswan leave the camp, just as no one had 
seen her enter.  Only two persons in the entire camp knew she had been 
here at all. One wanted simply to kill her, and the other would simply 
never forgive her betrayal.
        She didn^t blame Dalt one bit.  In fact, if the person she 
loved came to her out of nowhere, rekindled their love, and then left 
without a word in middle of the night, she^d want to kill that person 
        The post-rain mists gave her enough concealment that she didn^t 
think she would need a spell to remain undetected.  Moonghost was silent 
and steady, taking her through the mists like his namesake paced through 
the sky- slowly and surely.  He seemed to sense her mood, and remained 
unobtrusive, lost in his own equine thoughts.
        She still fought with the part of her that wanted to run right 
back to him. It was hard, and that part was obstinate and stubborn, and 
wouldn^t back down easily.  Just like the rest of her.
        But she had to do it.  She -had- to.  Damn him for falling in 
love with her, and being so underhanded and manipulative as to actually 
tell her.  Why did men always have to make it so damn complicated?  She 
wasn^t a good person to love, she was too volatile, too dangerous, too 
destructive to be loved.  She always tried to make that clear to those 
who desired closeness with her, but every now and then there was someone 
who she got to anyway. Like Dalt.
        And the worst thing was, he had had the gall to get to her too.  
She wouldn^t admit she was in love with him: that would mean it was true.
        The Robed One actually made it easier to leave, with his 
dispassionate, empty voice.  A slight shiver tickled the small of her 
back- that terrible, powerful man (could he even be called that?)- was 
the true threat.
        As if responding to her thoughts, the same voice wafted through 
the mists to her.  "Leaving so soon?"
        She froze.  Her eyes searched the ethereal landscape, looking 
for one shadow among many, something to point out where the voice had 
come from.
        "Your party sucked," she responded, trying to get a response so 
she could locate him.  She felt exposed, vulnerable.
        Then several shadows came together, coalescing into the Robed 
One^s form. The horrible laugh again, booming but strangely shrill at 
the same time, and altogether wrong.
        Her first instinct was to flee, a reaction this being had an 
annoying ability to bring out in her.  He was good at it, and she hoped 
he assumed it usually worked.  So, Brandi jabbed Moonghost^s ribs and 
they kicked forward, straight to him.
        She threw The Deep Blue Sea, still in its dagger form, at him; 
it was not her best throw, but the Robed One did jerk back and to the 
left to avoid it, giving her the opportunity to snap The Devil^s curved 
scimitar point below his elbow.  She felt slight resistance beneath his 
robes, but he was quick, and it was not as good a thrust as she was 
hoping for.  A sharp snarl smeared the night air, and she drew back.  A 
quick spell retrieved The Deep Blue Sea as she retreated from him.
        "Insolent wench!" accompanied a sudden burst of force that 
almost knocked Brandi and Moonghost flat.  The horse^s legs buckled, 
but he fought to remain upright, whinnying shrilly.  It was a testament 
to his skill and training that he did not pitch his rider, for which a 
small section of Brandi^s mind decided to kiss Mikal Grube if she saw 
him next. Yes, if, for Brandi had the sudden and strange realization 
that she would probably die this evening, unless a great stroke of luck 
came her way.  Damn it, she was due one, too.
        She released her first defensive spell, On The Merits Of 
Asbestos Tuxedos, and the gloom was lit by a whirling pattern of 
white-blue flames darting around her, just in time to block some sort of 
elemental snake of fire that jumped from the Robed One.  Several of her 
defensive sparks were snuffed by that attack; her spell would not last 
much longer.
        Her instincts took hold of her, as they did in any 
confrontation, and adrenaline now decided the strategy.  Another surge 
of force came from her opponent, swatting away the rest of her whirling 
shield as if they were dust motes on the wind, and Brandi had to hold on 
again.  The frightening thing was, she got the sense he was holding back^
        Then she brought out one of her heavy hitters; it was a risk, 
because of the slightly longer release time and the concentration 
involved, but she sensed she didn^t have much time to play with.  She 
had to distract him enough to release the spell.
        "Who are you, you insufferable bastard?" she called.
        The Robed One laughed.  "You are as conceited as your father, 
and as big a fool."
        Her -FATHER-???
        She released the spell, and the sky was torn by several 
thundering howls, as big dark shapes descended on her attacker.  Huge 
sprays of flame crashed into him, and an inhuman cry came from the spot 
where the Robed One had stood, now bathed in red flame that reflected 
off a multitude of moving red and gold scales.
        Dragon Tequila (This Time, The Wyrm Eats You) was the name of 
that spell. Spectacular and destructive.  However, it drained her to use 
her power that way.  Five forty foot long red dragons now circled the 
air above her.  The ground was a bit clearer now, dragonfire having 
burned away the mist. Brandi was sweating, from the heat and the exertion.
        Time to go.
        Suddenly a sharp spike of pain entered her brain, and Brandi 
screeched. Something was boring into her psyche!  The Robed One laughed, 
a sound that came more through her own head than from the spot where he 
remained standing, an invisible but almost tangible barrier protecting 
him from the dragons.  The beasts dissipated as Brandi^s attention was 
riveted elsewhere. She tried to focus her will to combat his intrusion 
into her mind, slowing him, but not stopping the juggernaut in her 
head.  She felt herself losing the battle quickly and inevitably, and 
was afraid for her life.  It was going to end here, just as she had 
gained a hint at her own father^ Deep inside of her Brandi suddenly 
found something to hold on to.  She focused on it.  It was the familiar 
quick temper of hers, but blossoming into a fiery inferno of rage that 
coursed through her veins like molten gold.  No, she would NOT DIE HERE!
        She rode the feeling as it coursed upward from the pit of her 
stomach to her brain, gaining force and momentum.  Then she took hold of 
it and stabbed at the psychic intrusion that was threatening to rip her 
brain apart.  She was rewarded with a gasp and a grunt from her 
mysterious adversary, and a quick curse in a language she did not know 
as she continued to rail against the attack, and even succeeded 
momentarily in putting the Robed One on the defensive.  Then, with a 
cry, he broke off the attack.
        "Enough!" the Robed One barked, an added dimension of power in 
his voice.
        "Usurper^s child, now you die!"
        Then Brandi felt the true extend of the Robed One^s power, as 
she was knocked flying from atop Moonghost, who rolled in panic on the 
ground to one side of her.  Stunned though she was, she saw her steed 
shakily stand again. Her legs felt like butter, but she forced herself 
upright as well.  She had retained her grip on her weapons, and with a 
flicker of thought The Deep Blue Sea became a dark mirror to The 
Devil^s own curved form.
        Then she was hit again, though the Robed One had not perceptibly 
moved.  She felt a bright streaking through her body, and knew she was 
seriously wounded.  Pain shot through her, like hot metal coursing 
through her teeth. She found herself staring at the sky above, tried to 
move, but couldn^t. She waited for death.
        Then a sharp, surprised yelp from the Robed One.  She forced 
herself to look over, and was fairly certain she saw the Robed One prone 
on the ground as she was, but still moving, and Moonghost galloping away 
from him, towards her.  Her eyes wanted to shut so very bad, and she 
could feel her own blood soaking her clothes.  Was that blood on 
Moonghost as well?
        The Robed One had made it back to his feet, and her horse 
reached her, blocking her view of her adversary.  She dimly acknowledged 
that he was trying to protect her.  But one more blow and they both 
would be dead- perhaps it was too late already.  The rage was still 
there, though severely beaten down, and she called on a final, desperate 
burst of power as the Robed One raised his arm^
        Laura, Zachary and Sarah sat in the Library, as they discussed 
the creation of Trumps with Amber^s most recent newcomer.
        "^ when a location is the subject of a Trump, that is called a 
Trump Gate- this one depicts the front entrance to Castle Amber," said 
Zachary.  "These usually take more of a mental effort to open and 
maintain, as well as to create."
        Suddenly Laura felt a chill, as if an icy wind blew through the 
room, and breathed in sharply.  The other two noticed immediately.
        "Laura, what^s wrong?" asked Zachary, concern clear on his 
        "I don^t know," she responded, and suddenly found the source of 
the strange sensation: Brandi^s ring, still on her finger, had turned 
cold as if it were a Trump itself, transmitting the sensation through 
her body.  "It^s Brandi^s-"
        She was cut short by a sudden rainbow image before her, 
extending from the ring, and an instant later Brandi and Moonghost 
crashed into the room, Brandi^s fingertip touching the minute black 
swan on the ring.  As an explosion of power thundered, accompanying 
their arrival, and Brandi jerked painfully; the explosion was cut short 
the instant she lost contact with her ring, backlashing psychically to 
the room^s other occupants without severely hurting them.
        Brandi^s limp form crashed into the table, scattering 
Zachary^s Trumps, and she remained there, motionless, blood seeping 
over the visages on the cards^
NRPG: Hey howdy folks!  This is the last Brandi post for a little while. 
Over the next month at least, perhaps more, I won^t have regular access 
to my computer, will be moving, and will be starting fall classes, 
enough to keep me extremely busy.  I thought this a suitable place to 
leave the Bard of Amber for now, but we haven^t heard the last of her 
yet!  Also, when things settle down, I^ll be joining the Midnight Sun 
crew. Keep up the excellent posts, friends!  You^ll hear more from 
Brandi in a little while!
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.