Subject: [AM] Gouts of Fire


"I wrenched my blade free and gouts of fire poured like blood from his
wound."--Lord Corwin of Amber, The Hand of Oberon.

"I-" Jono almost found herself at a loss for words.  "Grandfather.  What a,
ah, pleasant surprise."

"You're quite welcome," Corwin said smoothly, sheathing Grayswandir and giving
her an appraising look.  "I know it sounds trite; but you really have grown
since I've seen you last."

"In more ways than one," Jono said, returning the look.  She was swept with
love for him, of a sudden.  He was probably her favorite person, and years
apart (even the bitterness of his rejection in the woods) had not changed
that.  Jono felt the need to give him a huge hug, but reminded herself that
she wasn't a little girl any more.  She was a woman.  Beyond that, she wasn't
really sure  what she was.  Chaosite?  Amberite?  Son of Merlin, daughter of
Lady X of Amber?  Toy of deities and their servants?  Or something altogether

In any case, she held back her trembling joy at seeing him again and managed a
reasonable question.  "I take it you've been busy all these years, too?  No
one in Amber has seen you in years."

Corwin shrugged.  "Tell me of your adventures, granddaughter mine."  That
eccentric humor Jono knew so well...Familiar, and yet different.  It was true
that she had grown since last they met.

Jono picked up her own sword from beside her horse and belted it to her waist,
noticing Corwin's horse standing on the other side of hers.  "It's a long
story.  Days in the telling.  But I've travelled, and I've learned."

Corwin pretended to be interested in his sleeve.  "Nothing new about magic, I

"No," she said evenly, trying to catch his eye.   Why would he ask about that?
He knew she was hopeless at magic.  "Ever seen an orange-eyed, yellow Shadow

Corwin raised an eyebrow.  "I haven't had the pleasure, no."

"Somebody sent a few of them after me a couple days ago, just outside Amber.
I was poisoned.  I was also set upon by a magic-cloaked, Amber-hating, fencer.
I would have won, if not for the poison."  Her anger still showed in her tone.
Defeat was not something Amberites, Jono in particular, took well.

Corwin stroked his clean-shaven chin and peered at her.  "Doesn't ring any
bells.  But we'd better be moving if you want to get to Deirdre's place."

Jono pulled herself onto the horse and then gave him a sudden look.  "You've
been talking to your Pattern."  No acknowledgement, but she didn't need it.
"How much did it tell you?"

He shrugged.  "Not much that I didn't already know.  There's always been bad
blood between Amber and Chaos.  Opposing forces and all that."

"But it has intensified lately," Jono stated.  "When did it start?"

"I'm not exactly up on Amber current events."  Corwin's dodge was as smooth as
any of Jono's; of course, Corwin had been her teacher in more than fencing...

They walked their horses side by side across the grass, as the world shifted
again.  Now they travelled across a long wooden bridge over a nasty-looking
lava pit.  The bridge extended farther than they could see, and they found
themselves sweating from the heat as they avoided rotting patches of boards.

"Not very original," Corwin finally commented.  "Perhaps I was wrong to assume
that my sister has become more clever."

"So the Pattern told you about her."  Again, no acknowledgement of her
comment.  Jono decided that silence affirmed her statement.  "Why are you

"How blunt," Corwin said blankly.  "No 'how've you been' even?"

"I know you're not going to give me a straight answer about where or how
you've been."  Jono was as matter-of-fact as Corwin.  "Sadly enough.  I
thought we were beyond all this psychological bullshit."  She let the word
"us" ring in the air.  Corwin was a long time in answering.

"You were a child then," he said finally.  "The stakes are rather higher now.
But to answer your question, I am mostly here to see you."

"Will you be seeing Deirdre with me?" Jono couldn't help asking.  "After all,
she is your-"

"No," Corwin said, with a sharpness that she did not wish to question.  Then,
a moment later, he said more evenly, "I am here to see you because I decided
it was high time we talked.  You have a tendency to get yourself into

Her eyes narrowed.  "You've been following me!"  That made a surprising amount
of sense.  Maybe even explained why she always felt like looking over her
shoulder.  Or was that natural Amber/Chaos paranoia?


"How long?"  Despite her feelings of relief to know Grandfather had been
looking out for her, it angered her that he had taken liberties with her

"Oh, a while."  After a moment, he seemed to reconsider that answer, and
added, "Perhaps since your entrance into Amber.  I knew of the attacks, but I
was not in your immediate vicinity when they occured, or they might not have
happened.  I spent a great deal of time generally prowling about and assessing
the situation."

"So you lied when you said you knew nothing of current events," she accused.

"I didn't say 'nothing,' I said I wasn't up to date yet."

"But you know of Brand's planned attack."


"Do you have a plan for dealing with that?  Do you even intend to tell King
Random that you're about?"

Corwin slowly shook his head.  "You ask too many damn questions.  Wait and see
what happens."

Jono sighed in frustration.  "Just watching the danger and not interefering,"
she muttered, with some degree of bitterness.

"You survived the attacks.  I was there when you most needed my interference,"
Corwin said coolly.

"When?" she demanded.  "Oh, Patterns," she cursed, thinking hard.  "When I was
in my room.  The Trump for the new Pattern.  You put it there."

Corwin only smiled and looked straight ahead.

"I'm sure you did!  But how did you do the fire in the maze?"

"Glad to see your mind is still sharp," Corwin chuckled.  "Know what a molotov
cocktail is?  Type of bomb.  It's very common in street fighting in some
places.  Give it some fuel and it makes a nice bonfire."

"Then...thanks again.  That's three times you saved my butt."

"Don't mention it.  Maybe you'll have a chance to repay me-  But let's hope I
don't find myself in a position where I need to be rescued."

"Again," Jono added, and instantly regretted it when his smile disappeared and
he fell silent.  Apparently his rescue from his church prison, executed by
Merlin, was still a sore spot.

For several minutes, there was no sound except the clopping of the horses
hooves on the planks.  Then Jono recited softly,
"Shadow trav'ler, heed and hark,
Though thy bones be weary,
Ye who bear the Pattern's mark,
I beg you all to hear me."

"Epic poem?" asked Corwin with a raised eyebrow.  Jono resisted smiling.
Corwin was a musician himself, and she knew he wouldn't be able to resist her

"Ballad, actually.  About some Amberites and some Chaosites and one helluva

"Patternfall?"  Corwin's voice held a note of alarmed disgust.

Jono made a face.  "By the Serpent, no!  If I hear one more whiny ballad about
the valor of Amber's princes, I'll be sick."

Corwin threw back his head and laughed.  "Ballads are usually romanticized
versions of events.  Some are out and out fairy tales.  But being the subject
of ballads isn't all it's cracked up to be anyhow.  So how does the rest of
the ballad go?"

Jono shrugged.  "I won't know till the war's over, will I?"

Corwin nodded in understanding.  "Got a tune for it?"

"Well....I think I want it to have a strong flute melody, to match the lyrics.
I haven't entirely decided on the accompaniment.  Violin, piano, and guitar,
perhaps."  Jono shrugged.  "Anyway, the flute melody goes like this:"  Jono
carefully hummed the introduction and the first melodic line, then abruptly
stopped.  "That's all I've got," she said, almost apologetically.  "I've been
so bloody busy..."

Corwin had listened quietly, and now was pursing his lips as he considered
Jono's offering.  "Rather melancholy, wouldn't you say?"

"It's meant to be."  Jono sighed.  "I somehow expect this tale to be more
tragedy than comedy."

"They usually are."  Jono looked sharply at Corwin, hearing the sudden
bitterness in his voice.  But the tone rapidly changed.  "I should be getting
along, I suppose."  He reined his horse in, and Jono stopped with him.
"So...Good luck with the journey and with Deirdre.  Give her my best."  He
smiled as if at a private joke.

"Wait-I have to ask-"  Jono paused, then continued uneasily, "Grandfather,"
(It had been ages since she called him that; it felt good.)  "What do you know
of the events surrounding my arrival in the Courts?"  The question of Corwin's
involvement in her deception had been hanging over her since she walked that
Pattern.  It had to be asked, painful though the answer might prove to be.

Corwin paused.  "I know some.  Merlin did not confide his entire story in me."

Jono decided to be blunt.  "Did you know that Merlin and Mandor arranged that
my memory of my childhood should be hidden by magic?"

"Unicorn!  I swear to you I did not know that."  Corwin's face portrayed total
shock for a moment, and Jono decided that he was telling the truth.  "How did
you learn this?"

"I walked your Pattern, and I remember much.  But some things are still
hidden."  Her face twisted with mixed anger and sadness.  "The identity of my
mother is unknown to me."

Corwin nodded slowly.  "Perhaps, since the Pattern I created is not the
original, it was only capable of restoring part of your memory."

"You know who my mother is."  It was not a question.



"I can't tell you."

"Even after what he did to me, you still keep his secrets!" she cried angrily.

"I have to consult with Merlin before I start breaking my oathes left and
right, Jono."

"And people say Amberites have no honor," she muttered sullenly.  "Tell me
this:  is it Julia?"

"Julia?"  Corwin sounded puzzled.

"Yeah, as in Merlin's psychotic ex-girlfriend.  We share a name, in case you
haven't noticed."

"Oh, that Julia," Corwin said with relief.  "No.  I can state with absolute
clearness of conscience that she is not your mother."

"Good.  I never liked her."  Jono clasped Corwin's hand uneasily.  She wasn't
sure how to view him at this point; still her grandfather, but was he a
confidant to be trusted, or did he view her as just another player in the
Game?  At any rate, she shook his hand firmly and watched him turn his horse
and go back the way he had come.  Jono sighed and moved onward, hand on hilt,
trying to stave of the sudden lonliness she felt.
Jono had just about convinced herself that there was no end to the
bridge....when suddenly there was, and she was guiding the horse off of it and
onto a cold stone surface.  Jono peered across it, but saw no end in sight.
Here and there, huge slabs of rock jutted from the ground at odd angles.  With
a sigh, she set off across the landscape.

She had just become used to the deathly silence of the place when there was a
*thok* and Jono's mount squealed in pain.  The stallion staggered and Jono
realized that he was about to fall.  Instantly she yanked her feet out of the
stirrups and leapt clear, striking the ground on her shoulder and rolling with
the fall.  She quickly went to the animal's side, but could see no problem.
With a grunt, she heaved the creature onto its other side.  There.

Sunk deep into the lower right side of its chest was a long arrow.  Jono tried
to pull it free, but it would not come.  'Has to be a barbed tip.'  She
frowned.  Wishing she had a gun, she instead pulled her bow and readied a
razor-sharp arrow.  She pulled the bow until she could hear the string humming
in protest.  She stepped back, checked her angle, and carefully aimed at just
the right spot on the horse's head.  She muttered a Beruvian prayer for dying
horses and let go of the string.  The horse had no chance to make a sound
before the arrow penetrated cleanly and pinned the head to the ground.

"Aw, did the poor little girl lose her horsey?"  Jono whirled, already nocking
another arrow to the string.  There was a black-clothed figure with bow in
hand, face totally obscured.  

It was the same person who had attacked her in the woods on her second day in

"You!" snarled Jono.

"Oh yes," the person said, and Jono was sure he was smiling, although his face
was hidden.  "Now where were we?"  He cast his bow aside and drew his sword.
She stowed her own bow and struck an en guard just in time to block his first
powerful attack.  She thrust, parried, blocked a quick neck cut and caught his
feint in time to dodge a jab at her left thigh.  The two circled warily, each
judging the other's defensive capabilities.  Then, the sorceror darted in with
another jab.

It occurred to Jono as they fought, with barely a gain or loss on either side,
that the similarity in their style was almost uncanny.  Her attacker seemed to
know what her next move was before she even thought of it herself.  It tore at
Jono's curiousity not to know his identity, and she wondered again who he
really was.  Surely an Amberite or Chaosite, for only one of Royal Blood could
match her stroke for stroke.  'If only I could see his face!' she thought.
She had been almost positive that she could beat him without his poison
affecting her this time, but now she was slightly less confident.  The
revelation of his identity might provide a clue she could use against him.
Besides, if she killed him the spell might remain intact, forever concealing
his identity to her.

It was then that she had her fiendishly clever idea.  The old Amber blood
working in her, she supposed.  In any case, there was a slight break in the
fighting as Jono considered her next move, and she was thinking about how to
unmask her enemy, when the blindingly obvious occurred to her:  in the
infinite shadows of the universe, there was one in which the sorceror's
cloaking spell didn't work.

Jono barely contained her joyful laugh as she realized how simple her dilemna
was to solve.  She was searching for a shadow identical to this one, with only
one variable.  It was a baby step sideways through Shadow, and Jono took it as
she feinted toward her enemy.  Whirling and repealing her movement, she leapt
at the black-clad warrior, this time to end the fight as he staggered with
shock at the loss of his magic.  As she leaned into her strike, she looked
into the now uncovered face of her attacker-and froze.  Her cut went wide and
she fell to her side on the hard ground, staring at that face which was
twisted into a cruel smile.

The face was hers.

Her double laughed.  "Clever, you threw my spell.  No matter.  I'll kill you
anyway."  Jono's mind spun.

"But-this is impossible-"  It couldn't be her!  Jono would never behave in
this way, never speak so flatly.

"No, not quite."  The double chuckled.  "You yourself say it best:  'reality
is relative.'  At least to such as us."

"But-"  Jono tried to think.  A double out of Shadow?  That happened, a mere Shadow copy of herself would not match her in strength
and speed as this double did.  Equal strength, speed, and
stamina...cunning...deadly....evil-  "Son of a-" Jono uttered a series of
explicatives.  The narking Logrus!  It was a Logrus ghost!  The Logrus was the
only one of the Powers who could and would create an evil copy of her.  "But
this isn't right.  You're my copy from the moment I walked the Logrus.  I
ought to fight better than you, I'm older.  Plus, you can't be me; I would
never let the Logrus use me to kill my real self."

"Maybe you were too weak and pathetic to be useful," the double sneered.
"Especially since you've become such a snivelling wimp of an Amberite."  Jono
scrambled to her feet and stood staring as her double spewed the anti-Amber
smut Jono had grown up hearing in the Courts.  "The Logrus created me and made
me what I am.  It prepared me for this task; taught me what I needed to know,
and even gave me what Suhay could not."  She laughed nastily.  "Magic.
Something you will never be able to do, you pathetic excuse for a Chaosian."

Things made sense.  Jono went to Amber, and the Logrus tried to kill her.  Did
it think, then, that she'd defected?  Is this what Merlin had tried to avoid?
But blast him, if he'd told her, she might have been able to stop this.  Or
would she?  No use worrying over what-ifs, when so much was left for her to
connect.  Jono shuddered inwardly.  Is this what the Logrus had wanted her to
become?  The hate-filled monster she now faced?  Did it have a kind of ironic
humor in that it sent her own double to destroy her?

The double waggled her sword.  "Oh, yes, Amberite whelp-"  Jono bristled, but
the double grinned and went on.  "I can more than match you.  Even if my magic
doesn't work here, I will kill you just the same.  Traitor!"  The double
feinted and then struck.  Jono rapidly blocked several cuts, set up her own
attack, and the battle began in earnest.  Snarling curses and insults, her
double fought in a style almost identical to Jono's.  Neither could triumph,
and they backed off, dripping with sweat.

"Ready to give up?" sniggered the double.

"Never," said Jono, and was almost ready to go after her again, when something
leapt on the double's back and tore her shoulder with its talons.  As the
double threw the new fighter, Jono saw who had come to her aid:  it was the
ghost Corwin's Pattern had sent back to Amber in her place, hands shapeshifted
into razor-sharp talons.  Jono calculated.  It must have been several days in
Amber since she left, and the ghost must have been there for a while.  The
Pattern must have sent the ghost to help her, just as it had removed Rinaldo
when he was needed.  Then the Pattern had survived, perhaps.  Or maybe the
ghost came on its own initiave.  All must-haves and what-ifs!  Why could she
never get any solid answers?

So busy was she, thinking all this, she broke the cardinal rule of war:  she
let her guard down.  A split second was all the Logrus-ghost needed, and she
lunged-  But Jono did not feel the strike pierce her chest.  The Pattern-
ghost, in one wild leap, flung herself between Jono and the blade.  The
Logrus-ghost wrenched her sword free from the other ghost's chest, and Jono
recovered from her shock enough to jam her own sword into the Logrus-ghost's
The ghost backed off to nurse her arm as Jono knelt beside the other ghost and
assessed the damage.  The wound was bleeding freely, and Jono needed only one
look to know it was fatal.  The ghost in her arms grinned faintly.  She spoke
Jono's own thought.  "It's all like some macabre made-for-tv movie, isn't it?"
she said.  "Dying in your arms."  She smirked.  "I would say it's romantic,
but that would be kind of a sick twist, don't you think?"

Jono's hands were covered with blood, and she felt a pang of remorse; why did
she feel so terrible?  It was only a Pattern-ghost.  And yet-  It had tried to
save her.  It wasn't twisted the way the Logrus-ghost was, and could have left
her to take that chest strike, gone back to Amber, taken her place, lived her
life....But the Pattern-ghost didn't.  She was as much a representation of
Jono's better nature as the Logrus-ghost was of her worser one.

"I never thought," the ghost whispered, drawing breath shallowly.  "I'd take a
cut from myself to save myself."  She managed a weak chuckle.  "A cut from
myself to save myself.  Sounds almost...lyrical.  Promise me you'll write a
song about it."  


The corpse faded away, along with the bloody spot on the ground,  and Jono
realized that the Pattern was reabsorbing the energy it had expended to send
the ghost so far out.  Jono stared at the spot for a moment before turning
back to the Logrus-ghost.  She had wrapped her shoulder as best she could,
with strips torn from the hem of her cloak.  Now she stood grinning and
waiting for Jono to finish being maudlin.

"All finished?" she asked.  She had the confidence of one who knew she would
be victorious.  Her attitude was so like Jono's own it would be funny under
other circumstances.  Some things about her even the Logrus couldn't change.
"Pity.  Pity I missed, that is.  Ah, well, next time I'll hit you.  Unless, of
course," again, the infuriating grin, "You've got more Pattern-ghosts about?
No?  Well then."  She took up her stance again to face Jono.

"Say your prayers, Amber whelp.  You've only got a few moments left!"

Jono snarled in fury and steadied her blade.  "Then I pray this sends you to