From: Linden Tree 
Subject: [AM] Trailing Rainbows


"Abruptly, then, he was gone, trailing rainbows, leaving blood..."--Lord
Merlin of Chaos, Knight of Shadows.

Jono put her back up against a tree and basked in the serene beauty of the
little glen. Sunlight shone through the branches of oaks and maples, and
small creatures frisked about, enjoying the beautiful summer morning. Jono
considered the Family. Dinner last night had been subdued, even after her
announcement, though suspician against her had slackened somewhat. She
doubted that any of them would ever fully trust her. Trusting your blood kin
could be dangerous and deadly. And of course there'd been all that confusion
later, with another stranger turning up, this time in the middle of the main
hall in a sack, so she'd heard.

This she'd had from a young castle guard who'd been at the scene. According
to him, the man had been rushed off to see Random, then had retired to a
guest room. Jono had spotted him in the hall and been disturbed; the man
described by the guard and the man she had seen were different, though only
marginally. Was he shapeshifter or magician then? Either way, the issue
raised questions Jono couldn't answer and didn't want to deal with. How did
this man's circumstances affect her? Could he be a relative?

Relatives, she had too many of already. At least they were no longer
watching and spying on her. Not openly, anyway. They were likely still
suspicious of her as a newcomer and a Chaosite, but they nodded and greeted
her now if they met her, and there'd even been friendly overtures from some,
notably Zachary and Laura. Jono had found the Princess friendly and sincere
last night, and was as interested in Laura as Laura was in her. Laura's
request to "get to know her" had not been surprising; Laura was a relative,
after all, and Amberites were genetically curious and suspicious. Indeed,
Jono had been approached by the majority of her relatives, from Benedict to
Zachary, with similar requests, and now found herself with quite a full
schedule. All the Amberites wanted a good look at her, and almost all of
them would definately want a round of the Game, too.

Jono had bumped her breakfast with Laura up to a lunch date, and her
with Florimel had subsequently been changed to a late dinner. (Jono wondered
about Laura's relationship with her mother. How would she react to the
knowledge of their meeting? Vice versa?) The afternoon would be spent
riding with Julian, and in the evening, fencing with Benedict. She had a
feeling that her next few days would be quite taken with such arrangements.
But for now, the morning was her own.

She had planned for a brief sojourn into Shadow and a self-guided tour of
Castle grounds before she had to meet Laura in the Library. (She worried at
the wisdom of such lone wanderings in light of her pursuit by
Shadow-creatures, but tried to surpress her fears. After all, she couldn't
lock herself up in the Castle and hide behind Random forever.) Jono had
found herself a Shadow nearby, full of sunshine and warmth, perfect for
thought. 'It will be a good day,' she thought, spreading her breakfast
beneath a large oak tree. Munching an apple, Jono let her mind skip lightly
over memories of other glens, of picnics both alone and shared, of her early
years in Shadow. Remembering those adventures, content in the warm sun, she
lightly dozed.

But part of Jono's mind was always awake, always processing every bit of
information that reached her keen eyes, ears, and nose; it was the combat
portion of her brain, just as powerful and skilled as the part of her mind
devoted to poetry and things of artisitic beauty. Jono came awake as this
part of her gave clamorous warning. Leaves stirred; but the breeze had died.
The squirrels had disappeared. No birdsong graced the silence. Cinder
stood very still, his great black ears pricked up, head held high. Jono's
hand moved quickly to her sword hilt and she narrowed her eyes, listening
some betraying sound. Who was it? More of the creatures who had pursued her
two days ago? Who were they, and who sent them? Why would they want to kill
her? Jono was of Amber...perhaps that was the reason. But in any case, she
was ready for it...or them.

The first attacker dropped from the tree branches above, and Jono went into
sideways roll, so that the nasty thing failed to land on her. Instantly on
her feet with her blade out, she saw two more emerge from the brush. Not
like the Shadow-creatures who had chased her before. No, these were no
fleeting black images, but hulking 6-foot masses of yellow flesh. They had
bulbous noses and large orange eyes, with no mouth on the face. Instead, 5
arms reached out from each body, hands clawed, each with a mouth of gaping
fangs in the palm. Jono cursed silently, repulsed by the open mouths of the

The first monster came after her quickly, without a sound. Reaching toward
her with overlong arms, it sought with its many teeth to tear at her face,
throat, breasts, belly; any sensitive and delicate area. Jono moved to
protect herself, swifty and automatically. She swung her blade out, slicing
the monster's head from its body. 'No problem,' Jono thought, feeling a
little smug. She could easily handle these pests. But to her revulsion, the
removal of its head did not stop the creature's attack.

On it came, arms waving. Jono wildly struck, taking off its limbs one by one
as the other two creatures began to move toward her. Finally, it fell,
gushing bright orange liquid, writhing like some overlarge slug, and died.
But the other two would not fall so easily, and Jono was hard-pressed to
deal with them. She found herself in an akward defense, surrounded by waving
arms and sharp teeth. Again and again, she flailed about her with the blade,
each blow precise but panicked, hacking limbs, heads, bodies. What the
creatures lacked in skill and armaments, they more than made up in ferocity,
endurance, and all-around nastiness. Another fell, writhing, as Jono cursed
aloud and swung her sword.

The ground was littered with pieces of yellow creature by the time the last
one, with a single remaining limb, reached for her. Jono ducked under the
arm, but she felt the teeth sink into her back. She screamed in pain,
rolled, came up behind the creature. Now covered in orange gore, she thrust
her foot upward against its slimy abdoman, her back braced against the
ground. Catching hold of its arm at the same time, she ripped it from the
monster's body with such force that much of the shoulder came away as well.
Jono completed her kick, and the body hurtled off into the bushes.

As Jono regained her feet, tossing the arm away, she heard muffled applause
and, wheeling, struck an en garde in preparation for a new attack. Chest
heaving, she faced the person who stood in the shadows. Jono was useless at
spellcasting, but she knew magic theory, and she knew a cloaking spell when
she saw one. The person's face was bare, but Jono could not clearly make it
out. Powering up her Logrus sight, she took a long, slow look at the figure.
Obviously a very powerful spell. But who was this sorceror, and what did
he/she want? "Bravo." The voice was sexless, amused. Jono decided to
classify it as a man until something suggested otherwise. "Better than I
expected from the likes of you."

Jono growled angrily. She was bleeding and her shirt was torn half off, but
she'd fight this bastard; kill him too, if needs be. "Oh yeah? Who the hell
are you, pal?" The creatures must've been his. She didn't appreciate that,
and she didn't like sorcerors.

The figure chuckled softy. "No friend to any half-breed whelp of an Amber

An insult. It infuriated her, but she controlled herself. He had cause to
hate her and Amber both, then. But what did that mean? What did he know
about her mother? "What do you know about my mother?"

"Enough," the figure snapped, drawing a blade much like her own. He lunged.
"Now you die, whelp!" Jono parried his rapid chest cut. This was to be a
true duel then, no wild hackfest. Jono could fight for days, she knew, and
it was unlikely that he would outlast her. Let this jerk do his worst. And
so they fought, cutting, striking, parrying, defending. Back and forth
across the clearing they dueled, blades clashing, for hours. Jono was the
first to draw blood, with a light wrist cut that the stranger missed
parrying. He was obviously good; although Jono had got several light hits
in, it was looking as though they were too evenly matched for either to win.

'Impossible,' Jono thought. 'I'm an Amberite, and superior by far in
strength, speed, and endurance to any friggin' Shadow guy.' But he matched
her, blow for blow. Was he an Amberite, turned bitter traitor? Or a
Chaosite who hated Order? Either one seemed likely to her. She briefly
considered switching to demonform and tearing him limb from limb. But no.
She was quicker in this form, and she didn't want to prompt him into pulling
out any of his nasty magic tricks. Anyway, she was absolutely certain she
could beat him in a clean fight.

Then the world slowed down. Jono found herself seeing the enemy blade swing
toward her in slow motion, and her parry was even slower. The strike was an
explosion of pink and yellow fireworks inside her skull, and she tumbled
backwards. Jono sluggishly realized what must've happened; the monster had
poisoned her with its bite. Laughter surrounded her, filled her with its
jarring sound which appeared neon green in her colored vision. Sliding up
against a tree, Jono held her sword out. Her attacker would have to fall
upon it to strike a killing blow. The figure laughed again.

"It appears a stalemate for now," he said. "You will see me again, never
fear. Until then, little half-breed...."

"Bastard!" Jono gasped. "Dammit, come back here!" His mocking laughter rang
in her ears as he faded from sight.

Jono struggled to Cinder's side, hauled herself on. In her altered state,
even this was a massive struggle. The horse seemed a towering black
mountain. Finally astride, Jono shifted the short way back to Amber in one
jump. Cinder carried her mistress to the gate, where she slid off and
staggered into the castle, orange-stained blade still in hand. Through a
haze of purple and red fog, Jono moved up the stairs, coming into the
where Zachary and Laura, having given up on her, were eating lunch.

"Sorry I'm late for lunch," she gasped, then collapsed to the floor as a
multi-colored waterfall embraced her.