“I can take him!” -last words of Ezekiel Bonesundered before fighting the Mushroom King.
The Words of the Goblin God
Mara ebook is on sale at Amazon. I’m trying to avoid getting discouraged as the next project hits a slow period. Work is rough, but at least my model converged for the new hardware.
Stress really kills my creativity. I keep thinking to myself I’ll power through, but it’s a slog. The last two years have been pretty stressful. I wonder how much of that is only correlation, though. When I’m stressed, I really put my head down to work, but that means I don’t read as much, don’t do relaxing things as much, and don’t sleep as much. Any of that could be far more important than just the stress. I haven’t put pencil to paper and just drawn for weeks.
Good luck, everyone. I’m rooting for you.
My husband came home and caught me in the act. I hadn’t had time to clean up. The accouterments of my crime lay everywhere.
Staring at me, having caught me red-handed, he made a cold, critical, and judgmental face. His voice was worse.
“Honey, we’re going to put you in a program. It’s only got two steps. Step one: you have too much yarn. Step two: stop buying yarn!”
I needed a distraction. “Coffee?”
He looked intrigued. “When did you brew this?”
“While I was unpacking the yarn.”
“That could be anytime!”
“I don’t see what your problem is. I’m doing it for us. You need a sweater.”
“No, I don’t! It’s summer!”
“But you’d look so cute,” I said. I batted my eyelashes at him.
Did that ever actually work? It didn’t now. He took the coffee and scowled at me.
“Hector, come here,” called the hubs.
Hector came running in, and he looked adorable. He had four sweaters on, and they were so fuzzy. I could see the cream yarn under the outermost emerald knit. The only problem was that Hector stood like a tree.
“Mom! I can’t put my arms down!”
“You’ll be fine,” I said. Kids were tough. He’d be okay.
“Honey, look at what you’re doing to the children!” said the hubs. He waved at Hector. He sipped his coffee. “Your knitting fixation is tearing this family apart!”
“You know, I could fix that.” I beamed at him. “With the yarn. I could definitely knit the family back together.”
The hubs closed his eyes, unsmirked, and opened his eyes again. He immediately started laughing. With a supreme act of will, I could see the veins bulge in his neck, he unsmirked again and sipped his coffee.
“Hector, can you put your arms down?” he asked our child.
“I can’t!” yelled Hector. “I fell over, and I bounced!”
The hubs closed his eyes again.
See? Kids were tough. Hector would be fine if we could just survive this out-of-season cold wave.
“Jen,” said the hubs. “Stop. Buying. Yarn.”
I was sitting on the family room couch, surrounded by my loot. The criminal enterprise had gone well. I’d hit two fabric stores, acquired a plethora of colors and textures, and neat, well wrapped bundles tumbled off the couch. They were so tidy, even in macroscopic disorder. Each bundle was a single, delicately wrapped thread, gathered with a cardboard wrapper, and consumed with intricate but predictable patterns. The bundles themselves lay in chaotic heaps.
“You’re going to give the boy heatstroke,” said the fool I’d married, the fool who didn’t know how good he had it. He beckoned Hector, put the coffee down, and started unpacking the boy from his sweaters.
It was freezing cold outside. Hector would be a popsicle in moments if he went out unprepared.
“Jen, I’m taking the kids to the pool. When I return, you need to clean up this.”
I didn’t much appreciate his patronizing attitude, to be honest.
“Maybe I will, and maybe I won’t.”
“Organize it in the den.”
Ooh, that did sound good. I could put it with the other yarn.
“Don’t freeze,” I warned him.
The hubs nodded, took Hector upstairs, and started rounding up kids, pulling them out of closets, bedrooms, and boxes like like a magician. The noise they made was tremendous, but soon I was alone, in quiet and peace, with my yarn.
I just needed a little more. Maybe one bundle. In red. But first, I could start another sweater.
And one day, a guy named Matt actually got all his grading done in a timely manner. When he finished his own classes, no more sprang out of the shadows. He made real, meaningful progress on his dissertation.
He got enough sleep.
Magic! *Jazz hands*
As of chapter 20 of the Nine.
Random’s in Mordor, imprisoned in Barad Dur. Sauron announced his plan to give Random a Ring, but it hasn’t happened yet. (CH 20)
Fiona’s in Amber, sitting in a garret. She’s just looked into her trumps and seen Random. She believes him dead. (Ch 19)
Llewella’s in Rebma, having just slaim Rog the Serpent. (CH 17)
Bleys is somewhere unknown. (Various)
Tatianna’s in Amber castle, sort of under arrest. She has designs upon Julian. (CH 16)
Julian is in Amber. (CH 16)
Caine’s in an ER in Amber. (CH 16)
Gerard is off in shadow, getting his arm looked at. (Various, most recently 16)
ADM Dracken lies unconscious in a ruined part of Amber, outside the house he once lived in. (CH 15)
Obrecht has just left the same part of Amber. Bleys has spoken of him to Llewella, and she said she’d look after Obrecht if he came to Rebma. (Various)
Vialle is in Amber. (CH 19)
Flora’s in Amber. (various)
Everyone else is unknown, elsewhere, or dead.
I’m not back.
For my own reference.
Armist found a bag with nine rings. She put one on.
Obrecht and Tatianna robbed her, taking the bag now holding eight.
Obrecht and Tatianna each took one, leaving six in the bag.
Bleys found the bag (6), wears one, runs down Tatianna, meets Spait, flees. Rings are disseminated and recollected. One goes into the river.
Fiona collected five including Tatianna’s and has Gerard walk the Pattern with them. The other four (Bleys’s, Armist’s, Obrecht’s, one in river) are elsewhere.
(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.
Toward the back of the group, Llewella and Gerard stood in similarity and contrast. Both watched the arguments with something like boredom. He outmassed her by a margin of a wildebeest, but they both had perched on the same rough boulder. She stared into space, he rubbed his beard, and their siblings fought with each other.
Suddenly, he leaned toward her. “My liegeman Vo Tallath sends his regards.”
Llewella stared blankly.
“Vo Tallath,” said Gerard. “Dark hair. Little mustache. He likes you.”
In another time, Llewella would come to a brilliant reply. She thought of several of them in the shower the next morning. Instead, she blinked like she’d an eyelash caught in her eye. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening at all. What did you say?”
Gerard didn’t look offended. “One of my liegemen likes you. He sends his regards. Vo Talleth. I hear he’s handsome. I forgot until just now.”
Llewella massaged her damp hair. It seemed like it never dried. “Oh, a knight. Gerard, I’m not really interested in knights.”
“I’ll let him know. Too bad, though. He’s well read, and you came up in conversation.”
“How did I come up in conversation?”
“Vo Talleth thinks he’s something of a wit. His mouth is somewhat quicker than his sword arm, and neither has remarkable aim. On a float he said something funny to an Admiral Hahm, who didn’t find Vo Talleth’s remarks nearly as witty as Vo Talleth did. The admiral assigned him to write an analysis of Teylon Gramm’s amphibious invasion of the West Isles. Long story short, Vo Talleth came to me because I have pretty much everything ever written on the subject, and after he’d discovered I’d read far more than he had on naval tactics, we started talking books and the family. I figured you’re the other best read, and he mentioned he thought your were pretty. I said I’d pass it along, and I have.” Gerard waved his hands like spreading a feast before her.
Llewella, for her part, grimaced. “Tell him thank you very much.”
Before Gerard could space back out, Llewella asked, “You think you’re the best read member of the family?”
He nodded. “I’m pretty sure I am. I have to read twice as much as the rest of you to keep up, so I read even more to stay ahead.”
“You found a way to be a meat head about reading.”
Gerard shrugged and grinned.
Llewella looked up at him and said, “That is both deeply shocking and somehow exactly what I expected you to say.” She shook her head.
Gerard wore a wry smile. “If you can’t keep up, I’ll assume I won.”
Now Llewella looked ever so mildly annoyed. “What are you reading now?”
“Chrissom’s Modern Logistics for Medium Range Fleet Operations–which I don’t suppose you’ve picked up.”
“I have not,” she admitted.
“Pity. It’s a page-turner. And Busong’s Obscene Poetry for Terrible People.”
“Is that the one full of dirty little limericks about the court?”
“Aren’t you in there too?”
“Frequently and unflatteringly.”
“Then why in Amber would you read it?” Llewella demanded.
“Because he had jokes. He called me the lesser cousin of cattle, lacking a cow’s utility in the dairy barn or the bull’s utility in the ring. He said it better. Interesting guy. Got killed in a bullfight.”
“Am I in it?”
Gerard lost his wry smile. “No.”
Someone left kudos on Lanterns. Thank you, whomever you were. I reread it.
That was a pretty good story. It’s definitely rough around the edges, but going back over it, it was better than I remembered. I have this really dark view of everything I’ve written before, and I remember them all badly. It wasn’t. It was all right.