From: Judi Marko 
Subject: [AM] Through A Glass Darkly
        "This is the Forest of Arden," Laura explained to Sarah as they 
rode side by side towards Kolvir.  It borders Amber on the west."
        Sarah looked as comfortable in the saddle as she had claimed to 
be and Rainpuddle seemed contact to have her astride him.  That alone 
spoke to her horsemanship since there was a much stronger attachment 
between Amberite horse and rider than Sarah could possibly yet be aware 
of.  Sarah couldn't help but be taken with Arden's lush beauty, but 
Laura knew she must be uncertain and confused by all that had happened 
to her.  Would she be riding so steadily towards Amber if she knew how 
much more was yet to happen?   Laura had not forgotten her own 
bewilderment at discovering who she was.  But yes, if Sarah were a true 
Princess of Amber, she would, for the One True City was their home and 
drew them in with the full force of the Pattern.
        "What was that!" Sarah cried out, startled by the booming sound 
of a hunting horn echoing through the trees that seemed to have no 
effect on Tovarich or Rainpuddle.
        "That was Prince Julian sounding his hunting horn.  He is the 
Guardian of Arden, and my uncle.  Yours, too, it would seem." 
         Laura thought to herself as she 
continued to tell Sarah of Amber.  With a new cousin, one could not help 
but wonder just who her royal parent was.  From her story, it was one of 
the princes and the photograph they'd seen in Sarah's home pointed to 
Bleys.  That was by no means certain, of course, since Lord Bleys might 
easily insinuate himself into the home of a consort of one of his 
brothers.   Laura thought with sudden alarm.
        Tovarich whinnied in response to his rider's involuntary shudder 
and Laura patted his neck reassuringly.  The thought of a child of Brand 
in Amber was unnerving.  If he were her father, would Sarah have 
inherited the twisted madness that almost destroyed Amber and Chaos 
alike?  Watching Sarah and the way she sat her horse, there was no doubt 
she had the pride and arrogance of a child of Brand.  Of course, none of 
the royals, elder or younger, were without those traits.
        Sarah was quiet for the remainder of the ride, listening to 
Laura's tales of Amber, tales that only brushed the surface.  How did 
one explain Amber in an afternoon?  It wasn't possible.  Sarah would 
have to learn for herself as Laura had, as Laura still was.
        As they rode on, Laura had the distinct impression they were 
being watched by unseen eyes not those of Lord Julian's minions.  They 
were unfriendly eyes, she felt, prompting her suggestion to Sarah that 
they get to the Castle as quickly as possible.  What she didn't expect 
was that the simple suggestion would spur Sarah into urging Rainpuddle 
into full gallop.  One simply didn't rush headlong up the steep slopes 
of Mt. Kolvir unless being chased by deadly enemies.  Laura hurried to 
lead Sarah to the one fairly easy path up the great mountain.  Her heart 
was pounding when they safely reached the gates of Castle Amber although 
the two horses seemed happily excited by the romp.
        "I wouldn't do that too often, Sarah," Laura cautioned.  "Most 
of Kolvir's trail are a good deal more treacherous than this one."
        "Not for a good horsewoman," Sarah answered a little 
condescendingly as they rode towards the stables.  
She was more than a little awed by what she was seeing and she was 
covering it with a bit of bravado.  The medieval splendor of the Castle 
was breathtaking, beyond what the imagination could conceive even in one 
who knew of the grandeur of the European castles of Shadow Earth.  Laura 
noticed her new cousin bristle when the groom offered her a hand to help 
her dismount although Sarah did offer an apology to the boy immediately 
"This is Lady Sarah," Laura told the groom.  "She is new to Amber and 
Prince Zachary offered her a ride on Rainpuddle."  She knew the boy 
would be puzzled to see another rider on the Crown Prince's horse.  
"Please tend to the horses and tell Master Grube that Lady Sarah will 
probably stop by in the next day or so to select her own.  And take this 
for your trouble." Laura handed the boy a small gold coin.
"Aye, m'lady, and thank you.  Always a pleasure to serve Lady Laura.  
All the lads say so."  The boy bowed awkwardly and tucked the coin into 
a pocket of his britches as he began walking the two horses to cool them 
Hoping it wouldn't put Sarah's back up again, Laura offered a little 
advice as they walked towards the castle.
"Sarah, I grew up with servants and I don't think you did.  It can be 
very helpful to have friends among the staff in more ways than you 
know.  That's even more true here in Amber than in Shadow.  Servants 
hear and see everything often because we don't really perceive them as 
being there when we talk.  A helping hand from one can save your life."
"Oh, I know I shouldn't have been harsh with him," Sarah replied, peeved 
once more.  "But really, just because I'm new here doesn't mean everyone 
should assume I can't do anything.  I'm not a child, you know."
Laura laughed.  She had said the exact same words to Julianna in similar 
"I understand, Sarah.  Really I do.  I'm a newcomer, too, and frequently 
getting the same kind of advice I'm giving you.  Sometimes I listen."
Anything more she might have said was interrupted by the approach of 
Flora coming down the path to greet them.
"Mother," Laura said softly, noting a look in Flora's eye that said she 
had things to say to her daughter in private.  "Mother, I'd like you to 
meet a new cousin.  Sarah, this is my mother, Lady Florimel, or Flora to 
"Ahh, another cousin!  We seem to be having an abundance these day."  
She studied Sarah for a bit, then held out her hands before her.  
"Charmed to meet you."
Sarah took the hands in hers like she'd been taught by her 
social-conscious mother, giving them a slight squeeze.  "Thank you for 
having me, ma'am."
"Mother, would you please.."
"Zachary's already talked to me, dear.  I'll show her around the castle 
and to her temporary room."
"Thanks, mother.  Sarah, I have some things to do, but I'll meet you in 
the morning and introduce you to King Random.  He'll want to test you 
right away, I'm sure."
"Test me?"  Sarah's eyes narrowed.
"Don't worry about it, dear," Flora said with a reassuring smile as she 
lead Sarah away.  "My brother will simply need to make sure you are a 
true Amberite, for your own protection, of course.  In the True City 
it's vital to know if royal blood flows in your veins.  After the test, 
you'll be given your permanent apartment at the Castle.  Meanwhile, you 
are an honored and welcome guest."
Laura stopped by the library to see Zachary and was more than a little 
surprised to find her cousin not there.  Thinking that he may have had 
business with the elders, she put it out of her mind and decided to dine 
in her apartment and make it an early night.  She had a good deal to 
think over.
Early the following morning, Laura dressed and went collect Sarah and 
bring her down to breakfast.  Surprised by the sumptuous buffet, the 
newcomer nevertheless helped herself to a healthy portion.  If she were 
nervous about meeting the king, she gave no outward sign of it.
"You have the appetite of an Amberite, to be sure," Laura told her with 
a smile.  Her own fork moved from plate to lips enthusiastically.  "I 
know you came here with nothing, Sarah.  If things turn out as we 
expect, I've made a list for you of the shops in the City that I like.  
There's Barris Harte's House of Harte for clothes and Mangus & Son are 
the finest of woodworkers.  Then, there's Nate's Emporium of Exotic Arms 
in the Harbor District.  Of course, there are plenty of other shops you 
might like better.  You can go to Mikal Grube and choose a horse 
whenever you like."  
"Yes, I'd like to get my own horse, Laura, but as for shopping, well, I 
don't have any of the coin of the realm."
"Don't worry about that," Laura laughed.  "If it turns out you're a 
Princess of Amber, no one will present you with a bill.  Are you ready?" 
she asked and hastily swallowed the last drop of coffee in the fine 
china cup when Sarah nodded her assent.   "We'll probably find Uncle 
Random in the library at this time of the morning."
And so they did, sitting at his drum set tapping out a rhythm in the way 
that helped him concentrate.  Dressed in brown leather britches and a 
billowing shirt of the same color topped by an orange leather vest, he 
didn't look precisely regal.  He looked up as they approached and smiled.
"Good morning, Laura dear.  I trust the day finds you well?"
"Very well, thank you, your majesty."  Laura curtsied, then giggled as 
Random waggled a finger at her.  "Uncle Random," she said and bestowed a 
dazzling smile upon the king.
"I bet you'll recognize this one," he said with a wink and began to beat 
out a sensual, throbbing rhythm.  Laura, a teenage of the sixties in her 
Shadow, let the pulsing beat flow through her and began to dance the 
frug, a dance probably never seen before in the True City.
"Oooh^ 'Wipeout!'" she beamed.  "You play it better than the Beach 
Boys, Uncle."
The lovely, blind Queen Vialle, smiled fondly at her husband and patted 
his hand.  "He'll tell you it was he who taught them, Laura."
"And so I did," the King proclaimed, "and never got a penny's royalties 
from them either.  Ungrateful wretches, those Wilson brothers.  But, you 
could earn yourself some good coin, Laura dear, dancing like that at 
Bloody Bobs."
"Perhaps I will one of these days," she laughed, "but just now I'd like 
to introduce you to Sarah."
"Ah yes, the new one.  Flora told me.  So, you claim to be one of us, do 
you, Sarah?"
"I claim nothing, Your Majesty."  She curtsied to the king but stood her 
ground. "I was just looking at these cards^.. "
"Yes yes, I know.  Well, we must find out and best begun is soonest 
done. To the Crime Lab, all."
"Have you seen Zachary, Uncle?" Laura asked as they climbed the Grand 
Staircase to the third floor.  "I've been looking for him since 
yesterday afternoon."
"Sorry, but I haven't.  It seems that several of my nieces and nephews 
have been taking themselves off on their own little jaunts," the King 
complained.  He opened the door to the lab and put a hand on Laura's arm 
as Sarah preceded them inside.  "And regarding that, Laura, I feel I 
must say something to you about taking care with the -- um-- attachments 
you form."
Laura bristled. She had had a He could be referring only to Orbus, she 
realized, even if a little obliquely. Were the elders monitoring her 
romantic escapades?  Her mother-come-lately had issued a similar warning 
last night in her apartment and her Aunt Fiona had tossed a stony glance 
in her direction on the way down to breakfast.  
"Really, Uncle Random!"
"Laura, this is serious.  One of my nephews has gone off on a path of 
which I cannot approve, a very dangerous path, to him and to Amber.  I 
would not like to see you drawn into it."
"Are you trying to direct my liaisons, Your Highness?  Are you giving me 
an order?"
They kept their voices low so as not to be overheard though Laura was 
certain Random had discussed the matter with his wife.  Gentle, wise 
Vialle was often his sounding board.  The King sighed wondering if he 
and his brothers and sisters had been as rebellious and independent as 
their offspring seemed to be, and realized that, of course, they had.  
Especially after Oberon had vanished.
"Would it do any good if I were, Laura?   I am just trying to guide you. 
You are still new to Amber and, even with all you've been through since 
you came, you are still woefully inexperienced.  You cannot know the 
nature of the dangers you face."
"I will heed your words, Uncle, but I will choose my own friends -- and 
lovers," Laura answered stubbornly.  "I will not believe Orbus is a 
danger to Amber until such time as I see it for myself."
"When it may be too late, my dear.  Are you thinking with your mind or 
your obviously healthy and very inviting libido?  Well, I have warned 
you.  I know that you love Amber and I will trust that love and loyalty 
to keep you on the right path.  Just remember that if you rise against 
Amber and the Pattern, they will rise against you."
"I never will, Lord Random.  You're right, I love Amber above all."
"I hope you'll be strong enough, my dear."  He leaned in and kissed her 
cheek.  "But, enough of this.  We have a new relative to test."
Random walked over to Sarah and led her to a small lab table where he 
quickly pricked her finger and gathered a drop of blood onto a slide.
"There we are.  We'll know in just a few minutes."
He took the slide into a small anteroom.  None of them knew how Random 
tested their blood except perhaps Zachary, the heir to the throne. 
Emerging a few minutes later, Random approached Sarah and kissed her on 
both cheeks.
"Welcome to Amber, the one True City and your home, Lady Sarah, Princess 
of Amber."
"Then, it's true," Sarah gulped.  "Everything Laura and Zachary told me 
is true."  Her life had just changed drastically and she knew it.
"Yes, young Sarah, it is all true."  A smiling Vialle took her by the 
hand. "May I, my dear?"  Vialle, sculptress extraordinaire, examined 
Sarah's face with both hands.  "Ah yes, you are lovely.  Now, let me 
show you to your apartment, just down the hall from Laura's on this 
floor.   Perhaps you have some questions I can answer.  Once I was also 
new to Amber."
They all left the laboratory and Laura stopped at her own apartment to 
change clothes.  She'd decided to take a swim in the artificial lake 
behind the castle.  It took only a few moments to shed her day clothes 
and don a bikini, but as she opened her door to leave, she found her 
maid, Audra, with hand raised about to knock.
"May I speak to you, milady?"
"Of course, Audra.  What is it?"
"A message from Prince Zachary.  I met him on the stair and he asked me 
to tell you^ now, let me make sure I have it right, ma'am.  He said to 
tell you that he has gone in search of the Unicorn.  If you need him, 
you can try to reach him through the Trumps.  If not, he will contact 
you as soon as he can."
Laura drew in her breath sharply and Audra looked frightened.  Lady 
Laura was so good to her, she didn't want to displease the Princess.
"Have I done wrong, m'lady?"
"No no, dear.  You've done exactly right.  Thank you and you may go on 
about your work."
Now Laura really did need a swim.  She hurried down the staircase, but 
was stopped at the second floor landing by Lord Rein, the King's jester 
and confidant.  Though elderly, he looked at Laura's bikini-clad form 
with clear admiration.
"Lady Laura, just a word to tell you that you must not take offense at 
the King's words.  He is quite fond of you and he worries."
The lake was warm and inviting and Laura used it to good advantage to 
relax both mind and body.  She knew Lord Rein had meant to be kind and 
reassuring, but good grief, was the entire Castle keeping track of her 
intimate relations?  Not that she gave a hoot; the night with Orbus had 
been spectacular and she was looking forward to more of them.  The 
scandal magazines of her Shadow had made fortunes reporting on the 
affairs of the famous and infamous.  Let the denizens of Amber get their 
kicks speculating on hers!
Laura giggled mischievously as she swam with long steady strokes.  The 
water was clean and clear and a much needed tonic.  She felt happily 
refreshed when she toweled off and went back to her rooms.  Lying down 
on her bed, she shuffled through her Trumps as she thought of Audra's 
message. Zachary had gone looking for the Unicorn?  But where?   And 
how?  The blessed Unicorn appeared to them only when and where she wanted.
If he needed her help, how would she give it?  Laura knew she wasn't yet 
adept enough at Shadow travel to track through it.  But wait!  Audra 
said she'd met Zachary going downstairs.  Laura suddenly knew how 
Zachary had made the attempt.  The Pattern!
It was no good.  Laura's own Patternwalk had been only a few short 
months ago. She was nowhere near ready to try another one.  Anxious, she 
reached for her Trumps and shuffled through them until she found his. 
Concentrating hard, she felt the card grow cold as she called to him, 
but there was no answer and the cold faded away.  She tried for Brandi 
and Orbus as well with as little success.  Frustrated, Laura reached 
over for the book on Trump design that lay on her night table and 
devoted the rest of the afternoon to study.  The time passed rapidly as 
she immersed herself in the wonder of Trump.  When she next looked up, 
the sun was low outside her window and it was time to dress for dinner.
Laura was arranging her hair into an intricate updo when the mirror 
began to shimmer.  Her reflection was replaced by that of a black-hooded 
figure, face hidden beneath the cowl.  A large jewel of brilliant red 
appeared before him and Laura was terrified.
The figure laughed and all Laura could see was misshapen white teeth 
exposed by a hideous smile.  A bolt of psychic pain shot into her brain.
"You were warned, Laura of Amber, and you were given chances to make 
choices.  Now, you will watch as Amber crumbles and dies, as the Pattern 
shrivels and collapses in blood.  Then you will die with the rest of 
your family.  But, there is still a chance for you.  You have not been 
in Amber long enough to be fully corrupted by your unfortunate 
bloodlines.  Choose right this time.  Come.  Come to me.  Come to your 
fate.  Come through the looking glass."
The ruby sparkled an invitation and a hand began to reach through.  
Laura found herself reaching out to take hold of it.  Reaching^. 
"NO!" Laura screamed as Bloodstone pulsated frantically against her 
breast. Concentrating, Laura let a picture of the Pattern form in her 
mind and let its power fill her with the will to resist.  "NO!"
"Then DIE< Laura of Amber!  Die with the rest!"
The image faded and left Laura trembling with fear and revulsion.  It 
was a powerful sorcerer she faced; she could sense the power.  Her own 
embryonic spells would have been pitiable again him.  
"Orbus, oh Orbus, you promised to teach me," she whispered.
Who could it have been who held the kind of psychic strength that she 
had just felt.  The image was gone, but the pain remained boring into 
her brain.  One name came to her mind.
The twisted Prince of Amber was supposed to be dead, she knew, but Laura 
didn't believe it.  Or, at least she wasn't sure of it.  There were too 
many records of the elder royals seeming to have passed on, then showing 
up, somehow resurrected.  No one had ever seen Brand's body.  Whatever 
the others believed, she felt the only one she could be sure was dead 
was Eric, and that because of the blood curse.
And if not, Brand, then who? Rinaldo perhaps?  Son of Brand and Jasra of 
Chaos, he had been both friend and foe of Amber.  Who knew where his 
loyalties now lay?  Not she.
Still shaking, Laura tried to compose herself.  She grabbed Zachary's 
Trump and held it as if for dear life.
"Zachary!  I need you!"
Several days passed and Laura spent them hard at work.  She fully 
understood now how much real peril Amber was in and had taken stock of 
her talents and limitations.  Physically, she knew there was no better 
archer than she among the Amberites, but she was only a little more than 
adequate with a blade and she devoted several hours a day to practice 
with sword and dagger.
Her gifts did not lie, she believed, with her becoming a Mistress of 
Pattern such as Julianna was, but her mastery of Trump grew stronger 
each day and her knowledge of herbs of healing and of destruction was 
also developing.  Her arrows could kill with more than piercing alone.
She had reached a decision about her sorcery, too.  It would take many 
years, centuries perhaps, before she was as skilled with spells of 
destruction as Brandi or Orbus.  So, until he returned to teach her, she 
would be content with the simple spells of fire and ice.  But, she was 
learning that she had a talent for things of the mind.  For the present, 
she would concentrate on creating spells of illusion, alteration, and 
psionics. And, even with those, she would feel her way carefully.  The 
sheer terror she'd felt from the face in the mirror had shaken her, but 
it had also made her more determined than ever to prepare herself for 
whatever Amber must face.
Zachary had returned, worried, because he had heard Laura's call for 
help. She had told him of the hooded man and the jewel and had 
apologized for calling to him for help.
"I behaved like a silly schoolgirl," she had told him sheepishly.
"Not at all, Laura.  You had every reason to be frightened and it is 
something I should know about," he'd answered.
Now, they were in the library with Sarah.  Laura had been trying to help 
her prepare for her Patternwalk which would probably come soon, and 
Zachary was explaining the concept of a Trump Gate to her.
"None of us REALLY understands how the Trumps work, Sarah," Laura told 
her, but designing one is not simply drawing a picture, even a very 
accurate picture.   It's drawing the essence of something or someone 
using the power of the Pattern and your own perceptions."
"^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."
"OH!" cried Laura.
"Laura, what's wrong?" asked Zachary, concern clear on his features.
"I don't know.  I just felt a blast of ice hit me.  Oh, wait.  It's 
here." She pointed to her finger.  "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.
"Brandi!" Laura cried out and rushed over to her prostrate cousin.  "I 
KNEW there was something about this ring," she said to Zachary who was 
also leaning over the unconscious woman.
Sarah rang for the servants who came in, took stock of the situation and 
rushed out to bring back towels.  Laura began wiping up the blood and 
check Brandi's heart and pulse.
"Her vital signs are strong, Zachary.  It looks like psychic shock to me 
combined with some physical trauma.  Can we get her to her apartment?  
I'll stay with her for a while."
"Yes, and I'll have the doctor in to examine her.  Sarah, would you take 
Moonghost to the stables and ask Mikal Grube to see the horse personally."
"Of course," Sarah answered.  She approached the horse with an 
experienced and gentle touch.  If the rider had suffered such shock, the 
horse must be feeling it too, she knew.  Moonghost, sensing he was in 
the hands of someone who understood, went willingly.  He saw that his 
rider was also being cared for.
One of the manservants carried Brandi up to her apartment where Laura 
carefully undressed her and watched for any signs of consciousness. 
Pulling a chair up close to the bed, she took her cousin's hand, 
remember the good times they had shared at Bloody Bob's and the teamwork 
with Orbus of the fight that came after.
"What happened to you, Brandi?" she asked the girl who could not 
answer. "What have you to tell?  Come back to us, please.  We still have 
so much more to share."
Princess of Amber