(I tried, but I couldn’t get this to go anywhere.)
Whatever magic allowed me to breathe water in Rebma didn’t apply to smoking cigarettes.
Seeing Corwin walk the Pattern and survive it, stand tall in the center, and vanish surprised me not at all. However the seeing of it did make me long for a smoke. I turned to Dierdre.
She was the only dark-haired sister. Fiona, the red bitch, Flora, the golden girl, and damp, sad Llewella with seaweed-green locks, none of them were dark haired like my brothers. Elizabeth had been. She’d died–I cast my mind back–centuries ago. I’d had never particularly known Elizabeth, but Llewella had.
And, of course, Theophonia, but even a princess of Amber had to respect the double-edged sword of sorcery. Tiffany had not. Odd both dead sisters were dark haired.
Dierdre and Moire stood side-by-side, looking at the iridescent tracery of the Pattern. I watched them as they watched it. Dierdre was the most popular girl in high school, and she’d been that girl for about a thousand years. I wondered if she still thought she was there, fighting the other girls for the best boyfriend, the nicest class assignments, to be the most popular girl all the other girls looked up to. High school had been a nightmare, and I couldn’t imagine reliving it after escaping. Maybe it was different for girls.
She was pretty enough. To be the most popular girl in high school, she had to be pretty. But she also had to be approachable, smart, and status hungry, she had to get the right boys, and surround herself with the right friends. She didn’t have to be just popular, she had to be more popular. How was that going to work? Would her connection to Corwin strengthen her, or weaken her, now that he wasn’t here?
For that answer I looked to Moire. She had definitely slept with Corwin. He hadn’t said anything, but she had that look. She was effortlessly relaxed, and her green skin was flushed. Her skin was made of leaves instead of deep ocean. That’s how Morganthe looked after a good bedding. Moire didn’t watch the Pattern longingly, and by her face she wasn’t as interested in departed Corwin as I was in a cigarette. She looked like she was coiling up a train of thought, knotting it, and putting it out of the way.
Dierdre, tall, dark, and thinking, did the bloodline proud. I didn’t like her, but she was working angles already. Shorter, curvier, and greener, Moire was feeling an emotion to be finished. Dierdre wore finery that floated in the water, wrapping her in a gauze of Amberite power and hinting at sexuality. Moire stood topless, open, and present.
I really didn’t like either of them.
The Pattern fires subsided. They dwindled like the dying fountains after a water show. I’ve seen those in Shadow. Corwin made me think of Vegas. The power of Amber had danced in the Pattern like a ballet of waters as Corwin struggled through, and now that he was gone, the sparks flared, subsided, flared again, and always their peaks were a little less. They would never disappear. Soon they would reduce themselves to some background level of noise, a flash of power here and there, and roil the floor of this room like waves breaking against the beaches. Always, there would be waves, but the walking of the Pattern by the Blood of Amber raised a hurricane.
But he was gone.
Dierdre looked at me. “So you’re getting married. Congratulations.”
“Thanks,” I said.
Moire turned away from the Pattern and looked at us both. She looked back at it like it drew her. In the corner of the first Veil where the ribbon-like path draws close together, eddies carried cyclones of blue sparks, and elsewhere waves of the same sparks beat against each other. But they were fading. Moire drew her gaze away.
“Come away from there, Random. You owe us a year, and I’ll not have you escaping.”
Green-wench, I owe you nothing. I did a favor for a brother, but owe you? Nah.
Of course, I didn’t speak. I wasn’t going to elevate her to the status of one who talks to a Prince of Amber.
Dierdre turned to Moire, another popular girl, and started working. What was she going to do? Run for class president?
“Queen Moire, I’m so delighted to remain with you, for a while. I can’t wait to get settled, and if everything goes well in Amber, I’ll always remember you.” Dierdre smiled effortlessly.
Moire turned from me to her and raised her eyebrows. She didn’t seem to imply curiosity; if I could read her expression, it said, ‘Noted.’
The one I was related to continued, “Now, since there’s going to be a wedding, you can tell me how you’d like it and I can get started. A ceremony with two Amberites present, three if Llewella leaves her room, will be quite an affair. On the other hand, it’s only for a year, so we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Shall we talk?”
“Of course,” said Moire.
To prevent anyone from trying to escort me, I turned from the Pattern chamber first. I suppose I could make a break for it, but it was a year. What’s a year?
They might even let me go early, if I was obnoxious enough.