From: Matt Greenwood 
Subject: Brandi Chapter 9: When Doves Cry


The first thought that came to Brandiís mind was a name.

Brianne.

Her true name. The name given to her by her parents, whose
identities she was about to discover. That name was the only link she had
ever had to her heritage, until she had learnt of Amber.

She had spent the first years of her life in the port city of
Aervis, living with a poor sailorís family. They had treated her as their
own child, almost; they had called her Brianne because the midwife had told
them it was so, by moonlight, after delivering the child to their door. In
the morning the midwife had been found dead in the water, her throat slit.
Her foster family had been kind, but distant. Her closest
childhood
friend had been the sea, and had remained a lifelong companion. And so, it
was not difficult to leave home at the age of twelve, apprenticed to a
merchant vessel.

Brandi took a series of tight steps, following the break in the
Pattern in a spot where it almost turned back on itself. This was far more
difficult her first time; at this spot she had almost fallen, to be
consumed
by the break, but had held on. Since learning the ways of the true
Pattern,
this little obstacle was not complicated at all, though the forces involved
still had their effect on her.

By the age of seventeen she was Brandi the Black Swan, captain of
her own ship, also named the Black Swan. A pirate ship. Little Brianne
was
no more; having no sense of her true identity, she had created a new one
for
herself, and from then on she had been Brandi Blackswan.

She followed the break in a slow curve around the Pattern, which also
brought her closer to the black-and-white stranger. He was smiling,
staring
at her, as if in anticipation, or perhaps waiting for an answer. But what
was the question?

Then his image wavered in her eyes, and another one was
superimposed
on him from within her own mind. This new image was of a face more
familiar, one she had seen in the family Trumps.

Brand.

She almost stumbled, then negotiated a winding turn, knowing what
was going to come next.

-Yes-, whispered a voice in her head. -Yes!-

"Great," she mumbled to herself. "Now Iím hearing voices."

-You are indeed-.

-Who are you?- Brandi asked mentally. She looked around her at the
Pattern she was traversing, and answered her own question. -Youíre the
Broken Pattern-.

-No,- responded the voice. -I am this Pattern. Each one of us is
unique, but a common bond links us together, as we are linked with you.-

-I donít understand,- Brandi thought.

-I am as much a creation of your fatherís as you are. I am your
brother, in spirit if not in flesh, Brianne, and we are tied to each
other-.

-No- Brianne whimpered.

"No," Brandi choked out loud.

-You cannot deny your truth,- continued the Pattern. -You cannot
deny your heritage nor your destiny. You are Brianne, child of Lord Brand,
and heir to his power.-

-I am my fatherís child- thought Brianne in a childlike voice. The
abandoned little girl inside Brandiís psyche called out for acceptance and
nurturing from her father, an instinctual reaction; her Brianne-self seemed
to be taking a life and will of its own.

"I am Brandi, Brandi Blackswan, maker of my own destiny!"

-You are the Patternís Destroyer, and the Remaker of Worlds. Carry
us to supremacy, as your father wishes!-

Brandi looked at the Brand Pattern-ghost, and a third image came to
her mind: the Robed One. Yes. It made sense now. Brand was not dead; he
had returned, more twisted than before.

-Join us, Brianne. Amber is decayed and corrupt. Make it anew, in
your own image. Erase the pain your family has wrought on the universe,
heal Shadow with your fatherís Pattern. Your Pattern.-

"My Pattern," Brandi said, and smiled. "My Pattern."

-Yeeessss-

Brandi laughed, her own laughter echoing the Broken Patternís.

Brandís Pattern-ghost smiled triumphantly, and raised his glass to her.

She
laughed harder. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Zachary, Laura and
Drokkís Pattern-ghost staring at her with dismay on their faces. Her eyes
locked on them, and she forced herself to stare at them as her Brianne-self
wanted to turn away and look at the apparition of Brand.

She fought a battle of wills against herself. On one hand, the
neglected child Brianne had resurfaced with a vengance and a desperation
that had been forced under long ago, and it threatened to overwhelm her.

On
the other hand was Brandi Blackswan, self-made woman, who had fought long
and hard to create her own identity, and wasnít about to let herself be
defeated.

Which one was her true self? Who was she?

Her mind raged in heated battle as her feet calmly and slowly moved
across the crack in the Pattern. Her eyes darted back and forth from her
cousins (who were also her friends, she knew, if she let them in) to the
Brand Pattern-ghost. A slight rustle in the bushes was registered
subliminally, then ignored. BrandiÖ BrianneÖ BrandiÖ Brianne Brandi
Brianne-Brandi-Brianne-BrandiBrianneBrandibriannebrandibriannebranbriabrandb
ribrabr-----

And all through it the mad, insistent voice of the Broken Pattern,
cajoling, pleading, whispering. Laughing.

"Do you think," Brandi said, laughing again, "that I would destroy
the Pattern just to put my -fatherís- in its place?"

The Broken Pattern was not laughing anymore.

"Why should I use my fatherís when I can make one of my own?"

She was approaching the centre of the Pattern. It threw resistance
at her, but she fought her way through it with all the stubbornness and
anger she could muster.

"You cannot stop me, my Ďbrotherí!"

-Donít fight us, Brianne!-

"Get the hell out of my way!!"

And with that, she broke through, clearing the Broken Pattern, to
stand in its clear centre. Then a flash of movement to one side- the
movement in the brush she had noticed before- and a brighter burst of pain
from her shoulder. Her legs buckled and she fell. She vaguely saw Laura,
bow in hand, looking as if she had just released an arrow.

"Brianne is the name placed upon me by my father. It is the name
of
his pawn."

-It is your name.-

"NO!" She clutched at her shoulder, and pulled. Her hand came
away
slick and red, holding a crossbow bolt. She straightened, still on her
knees.

"My name... is Brandi. I am Brandi Blackswan. I will NOT join my
father." She raised the bloody bolt high.

"But I will claim his bastard Patterns as my own!"

She lowered the bolt to a fingerís width above the brightness of
the
Pattern. Her blood dripped onto it, crackled as it made contact with the
substance of the Pattern.

-Nooooooo!-

Using the bolt as a sort of gory stylus, she inscribed a symbol
into
the very end of the Pattern. Then she drove the bolt down into the ground
next to it. The Pattern cried out in agony, but she drove its shrill voice
from her thoughts.

Then, weary and bloody for the second time in a very short while,
she transported herself to the start of the Pattern.

A new person had joined the audience, and the hostility of this
newcomer was evident. It was Bleys, a broken crossbow in his hand, the
head
of one of Lauraís arrows embedded in the firing mechanism. That was a hell
of a good shot, and it had probably saved her life.

Brandiís uncle looked closely at her. His sword was not drawn, but
that didnít detract from the danger he presented.

"You knew all along," she stated.

Bleys smiled thinly.

"You were born just before the time Brand started showing his
disturbing changes. Your mother was a shadow-dweller whom he had picked
because of her psychic abilities; it was his hope to create an heir with as
much of his power as he could pass on, in order to continue his plans in
case he failed.

"Your mother died during childbirth. I believe my brother planned
it that way. That was when I stepped in; I had the midwife carry you to a
home she could trust, then she was killed to keep your location secret. By
this time Fiona had imprisoned Brand, and we thought you safe from him."

"Fiona knew as well? Who else?"

"No one. We kept your existence a secret from the rest of Amber.
Fiona and I have been keeping an eye on you for a very long time. You have
not posed a threat to Amber as yet. Had you followed your fatherís path,
we
would have killed you."

"Which is what you just tried to do," Brandi added, still holding
her bleeding shoulder.

"You came too close out there. Your fatherís madness is in you. I
thought it safest to eliminate the threat." He drew his sword. "I may
still do so."

Brandiís scimitars flashed in response. They started circling each
other.

"Stop this!"

Both combatants turned to the new speaker. It was Laura. Zachary
quickly interposed himself between Brandi and Bleys.

"Uncle, she is not a threat," said Zachary. "She renounced Brand.
You heard it yourself."

"And if she lies?"

"I donít believe she is lying."

Bleys lowered his sword. "Very well. She is your responsibility
now. Both of you," the elder Amberite said to Brandiís cousins. "But if
you follow your fatherís footsteps," he turned again to her, "you will meet
his end. Iíll see to it personally."

"Thatís not much of a threat," Brandi snarled. "Heís still alive."

A long moment of silence ensued. Bleys then smiled mirthlessly.
"Iím not surprised. He was always a tricky one, my brother."

"Why donít we return to Amber?" asked Zachary, sensing that this
confrontation was not resolved, and now was a bad time to pursue it. "The
others should know of this." Brandi could see he would make a good ruler
someday.

"Yes, why donít we," agreed Brandi. "Iíve got a few things to
say."

Zachary pulled the Trump of Castle Amber, and soon the Amberites
were gone. Before stepping through, Brandi took a long look at the ghost
of
her mentor Drokk, who nodded once and smiled at her. She smiled back, and
stepped into Amber.

Brandís Pattern-Ghost had dissipated on Bleysí entrance, but the
dragon Drokk remained behind, silent. He arched his long neck over the
Broken Pattern, and looked at the mark Brandi had left on it.
Inscribed at the end of the Pattern, minute wings outstretched, was
a swan.