From: Allen Veazey 
Subject: [AM] From one kind of Court to another


Orbus had never had that much use for horses, but one had to make do,
hadn't one? Even contemplating on his missing Trumps reminded him
of just *why* they were missing, then he would remember the long,
dark sessions of torture under Jacinth's thumb...then the fury would
course through him again, distracting him from shadow-shifting.

It had been a long time, years, since he had lost such control of his
emotions. Never before had he felt so helpless, like a child. Even when
he had gained so much. With but a flicker of concentration, the Logrus
swam before him. It mocked him.

All this time, and he had finally gained the truth. His father had
revealed himself to him at last.

Then, he had betrayed him.

Were all Chaosites so...cold-blooded? How had he fallen for it?
For the hundreth time, Orbus' face burned with the shame of his
naivete'. Savagely, he bent to the task...the sky rippled, changing
color...winds whipping, screaming about him...grass green, then
violet, finally disappearing into bare ground...flames licking about
him, the horse whinnying in teror...

So far, so far to Amber. No way to get lost, but the distance was
tiring him out, just thinking about it. The hatred that had sustained him
for twenty-four hours or more was finally wearing thin. Fatigue was
clenching an icy grip about his heart, and even the painful memory of
Jacinth's face in his mind was not enough to keep him awake. He slowed,
shifting the setting again...a cave appeared in a low hillside, broken
stone in chunks around the opening. He entered, hearing the trickle of
water, seeing the funeral corpse laid out on the marble slab within.
It appealed to his sense of the macrabe'; Orbus pushed the body off
in a heap, then stretched out on the slab, his arm as a pillow. With a
and a gesture, Argent left his arm to guard the opening while he fell
an exhausted slumber.

He awoke to the clink of Argent's chain length on the stone floor. Even
as it slithered up his leg to its favorite spot on his arm, Orbus was
that there should be some light about to see. Bringing forth the Sign of
the Logrus, he stabbed at the dark, to no avail. He dismissed the Logrus
and tried the Pattern, with the same result.

"When one is running, trapping oneself in a cave is not a smart move," a
voice said to him.

Orbus readied Argent on his arm, then got ready to strike with the
Sign in front of him. It was a clumsy way to attack-he much preferred the
intricacies of high magic-but it was all he had. Also, Orbus worried that
the equivilent of being hit by a piledriver would be enough against a
properly warded magician. "There's a lot to be said for attacking some-
thing in its lair, too. Come on ahead if you think you're bad enough."

"Hey, relax, okay? I can't see, either. I thought this would provide a
neutral ground to talk, since you looked so touchy when you left."

Orbus' forehead wrinkled as the fought to recognize the voice.

"The man gets a cigar. That is, of course, if you smoke."

"You knew I was being held, and where? And you didn't help me?"
He felt his skin grow cold. "Merlin is in on this, too?"

"Like I said, relax," Ghost placated. "I didn't know until you left. And,
I must say, reduced part of Mandorways to a blasted ruin on your way
out. You looked just a little peeved."

"I still am. I don't really care to talk right now."

"Just think of me as an envoy. Merlin is concerned for you, and he asked
me to find out how you're feeling. You brought a lot of attention on
yourself, releasing Chaos through a Logrus Trump. That's one of the
no-no's that most all the high-order initiates are taught early. I
thought I
would see what your plans were from here-specifically if you're going
to be breaking anything else."

"Merlin has little to worry from me."

"I doubt he really sees it that way. I wouldn't, in his shoes."

"I don't guess that you would, considering. Just how alike are you?"

"Close enough."

"All right, I'll admit that my reception from Merlin was perfectly
My reception from other relatives...wasn't. I don't have much desire to
walk the hallowed Ways of Chaos for quite a while."

"Such sarcasm. So, where do you plan to go?"

"Nosy, aren't you? I've given some serious thought to just hiding out in
shadow for a while, but I think I'd rather settle a few things in Amber
He paused, then:
"And then I thought I'd have a few questions to ask my father."

"Really?" Ghost's voice sounded disturbed. "I don't get it."

"I was not put here to enlighten you on all things, oh omniscient one."

"Thanks. You can on this. What I don't understand is, Jacinth tormented
for all that time.."


"And then you break free from her, and she's at your mercy-or at least it

looked that way-and yet you're thinking about going after Mandor?

"Father hurt me worse than Jacinth ever could."

"No, he didn't."

"Yes he did. He's my *father*. I trusted him implicitly. More the fool,
Now he gets to explain himself. I won't make that mistake again. Put
another way, how would you feel if I went and tried to turn you off?"

"I doubt you could now, but I wouldn't like it."

"Mmm hmm. And compared to that, how did you feel when you thought
Merlin was going to do it, back in the beginning?"

"Ahh....betrayed. I understand, now."

"Betrayal is easy to understand."

"So, what message should I carry back to Merlin?"

Orbus' face grew hot. "Tell him to stay out of my way. I don't want him
nosing into this, and I don't want him hurt if he did."

"Mandor's of the house of Sawall, and his brother. I don't think he would
countenance patricide."

"I'm of the house of Sawall, too, and I have a right. Tell him to
that. There has to be a reckoning. Things need to be explained. I intend
to get some answers, for good or ill."

"Well...take your time, will you? Think it over, what you're going to do.
I'll drop by and visit sometime."

Driven over the edge by the Logrus, mentally tortured by a sibling...
now followed by a godlike machine. It was funny as well as maddening.
"Do what you feel like, Ghost," he said. Mentally, he felt into the
explored it, shaped himself to it, felt his body start to fray into the
nothingness, exploring the link...he paused before breaking it, disturbed

at the depth of his ability. He had not been able to do such a thing
Fortunately, Ghostwheel had kept the thing fed from a relatively weak
power source off in shadow. Light flooded back into the cave, showing
him Ghostwheel's man-sized hoop.

"Hey, what are you doing?!" Ghost paused, then: "that's pretty good,
where did you learn that?"

"Jacinth." He frowned. "Suhuy taught me the basics, but most of what
I know of Logrus magic comes from her, from wresting the information
from her mind. It's so different from Pattern magic, always moving,
always changing..." Orbus took a moment to sag against the stone slab.
"I suppose that to most others, my use of it is wild, undisciplined...
it's too new, and I don't know my limits."

"Merlin could help."

He steeled his resolve, stood up. "Maybe someday."

Ghostwheel apparently got the message. "Later, Orbus." He
winked out. Orbus grabbed his things, mounted the horse, and

...breath coming in gasps, like fire in his lungs...galloping, the road
black basalt in contrast to the yellow sky...the horse too winded to
voice its fear, climbing a steep hill as trees began to appear...
the stuff of reality molten, features writhing in response to his
changes...the sky was white now, stars black against them as
the ground became blue, then indigo...a tunnel appears, swallowing
them...hooves striking sparks, the sharp retorts echoing against
the walls...

Draw rein.

He had not planned to be here; the walls of the tunnel prevented
major shadow-sifting. Orbus cursed horribly, then looked ahead
to see black forms racing towards him. Behind, faintly, hoofbeats
approached him from that direction as well. A trap, then; but this
time, there would be hell to pay, and more. Orbus summoned the
Logrus Sign, heedless of the onrushing pursuit, reaching through
it, summoning...

He felt the object he wanted, and pulled. His arm slammed back
with the recoil of the summoning, but it was necessary. He
brandished the blade of his desire, pulling fire from shadow and
his mind, letting it run along the length of the blade. Even as the
horsed figures pulled up short, he spread the flames around him in a
wide circle. He could see the flame-ruddied faces of the shape-changers,
now doubled in number; half of them had been the horses.
"Who gets it first?" he asked, lightly.

Damned if it wasn't. Was she involved in this? He was amazed, frightened
at how fast their love-play had turned into dark suspicion. It couldn't
be. He banked the fire higher, feeding it with his fury and the power of
the Logrus. His eyes were watering with the heat and light, and Argent
was shining bright in response to his magic.

 she called again, 

Oh, if it only wasn't a trick...he gambled, as the flames started to die
around him.  he thought, readying a death-bolt,
leaving his pursuers to chase rainbows.

It was her! Laura smiled at him stunningly, reached for him...and gasped
as Argent slithered up his arm and around his shoulder. He looked at her
unspoken question, said, "It's name is Argent. A sign of my heritage,
you might say."

"Whys is silver?"

"Argent likes the taste of magic, you see. Sometimes, I've dis-
covered, he likes to eat magic, as well." Looking at her confusion,
he added, "I've been invoking a lot of power, lately...I'll explain
He looked around. "You neglected to mention that I would be arriving
at a formal dinner."

"You came through rather quickly. I thought I could explain it to you."

"I was in a bit of a hurry. I was pursued. You seem to have a knack for
getting me out of tough spots."

"Do you wish to tidy up and get ready?" Her voice dropped. "Did you
find what you were looking for?"

"More than I I said, I'll explain. It's a very long story.
Don't worry about my appearance." Orbus concentrated, building
power over a few minutes time, channeled...then spoke the entire
spell he knew. It was harder this way, he thought, but it
certainly beat fighting in a tunnel in shadow. He turned with a flourish
as his body became clean even as his clothes altered their appearance to
his usual form-fitting black and red attire. Argent shone like liquid
around his arm. He even smelled good, too, Orbus thought, running his
hand along his fresh-shaven face.

"Someday, you'll have to show me that spell. Definitely."

"Something I explored into existence long ago. Doesn't do much for
my state of mind or body though. I need a drink." He squeezed her
arm. "I know, I'm acting strangely...but then, I'm very tired and I've
been on a long, strange journey. I'm just glad to be here." He
released her, faintly disturbed; it was not easy, admitting that he
trusted her.

Laura might have understood; she smoothly changed the subject.
"I believe you've just disrupted the seating arrangements." Orbus
followed her gaze, noting the subtle urgency in which servants were
moving around the room. His expression darkened. "Looks like
everyone is here, including Mother."

"Yes, they are," Laura agreed. "I was about to mention, there are a
few new guests, and something with Brandi-although I think she
may bring that up herself." She blandly ignored Orbus' inquisivite
look. "Things do happen here without you, you know."

"Indeed." Noticing that he had caught Fiona's and Random's attention,
he added, "I think I may need that drink now."