Deadly Weapons

After bidding Folly a good rest-of-the-afternoon, Garrett unsaddles the horses and releases them into the paddock to cool out before grooming them. Bet seems extremely disappointed at not getting a chance to run, but Garrett promises him some running time later, perhaps this evening when he's done at the library. Bet is not impressed.

Garrett takes the saddles to the tack building and cleans them up, then takes the long way back to the paddock. The long way takes him past the stall of a certain golden mare with a black mane and tail, and brown eyes that match those of her owner. Garrett stops to talk to Susan.

"Has she been down today, love?" Garrett asks the horse, not really expecting an answer. Susan is usually as aloof as Dame Lilly. But Garrett still tries. If the mare lets him, he rubs her muzzle before continuing on to the paddock.

When he's done grooming Sprite and Bet, he makes a quick run of his rounds before signing off duty. He tracks down Donovan in the office.

"Was anyone looking for me while I was gone?" Garrett asks hopefully.

"Yes," says Donovan. "Some lady named Marjoram. I don't think she likes you, son."

Garrett grins. "I don't think she likes anyone, Dad. I'm heading up there now, so I'll find out what she wants. See ya tonight." He departs quickly, hoping to avoid questions about his ride with Folly.

Donovan lets him go, perhaps figuring that he can corner Garrett later about that.

Garrett needs to clean up and change before going to the library, but he manages this without undue parental interference. With a kiss from his mother, he's off for the castle proper. He makes it to the library quickly and without getting drafted for other duties like carrying messages.

As he enters the library, Garrett checks on both sides of the doorframe to be sure he won't be startled again. Noting no one there this time, he steps farther into the room, pausing to once again admire the bigness of it. On his way to Marjoram's desk, he glances around, looking for familiar faces.

Marjoram is preoccupied with her duties when Garrett arrives, and makes no bones about the fact that she's too busy for a few minutes to stop and assist him.

He waits patiently, eyebrows raised in inquiry.

When she finishes with her current task, she stops and looks at Garrett.

"Good afternoon, ma'am," he smiles.

"Garrett," she says flatly. "I think Head Librarian Nestor was looking for you some time ago."

Garrett glances at the windows. By the angle of the sun, it appears to be around mid-afternoon. Looking concerned, he says, "I don't believe I'm late. I thought we agreed mid-afternoon." He looks back at Marjoram and asks, "Shall I meet him in his office?"

"I think you should do that, yes," says Marjoram. She rises to lead Garrett there.

Nestor isn't in his office, and Garrett and Marjoram have to hunt through the stacks to find him. He's helping another librarian sort through some scrolls and large, heavy books. When Marjoram announces them, he rises from his knees. "Ah, yes, Garrett. I'm glad you could come up. This is Glaze, one of my assistants. You'll be working with him this afternoon."

Garrett smiles and nods at Nestor, then greets Glaze. "Good afternoon," he says, offering his hand if Glaze isn't too buried.

Glaze is a reedy fellow with blond hair. If he's sorting through books, Garrett figures he'll have his work cut out for him.

Looking around curiously, Garrett asks Nestor, "What would you like me to do first?"

Nestor gives Glaze and Garrett some instructions, and Glaze proceeds to follow his share and supervise Garrett in Garrett's. Most of the work involves moving large, heavy books, but Glaze is happy to talk about how he's sorting them and explain things about the contents.

Glaze finds Garrett to be a hard worker. He moves the heavy books around not effortlessly, but far more easily than Glaze would have expected of someone his size. If Glaze comments on it, Garrett credits his years of stable work for building his strength.

Garrett listens carefully to Glaze's instructions and attempts to work on his own, only bothering Glaze with a question after trying to figure it out first. With effort, he resists his usual urge to chat, since this is a library.

Apparently these are some books and scrolls that had been in storage after they were found in the collapse of the family wing, and Nestor has only recently had a chance to open them. Glaze is sorting them into groups according to the library's organizational system.

Some of them are smoke-damaged and a few are wet and moldy. Those, Garrett learns, will need to be repaired or copied. Glaze's comments intimate that book repair is hard labor, and Garrett may have a share in that.

Garrett handles the books carefully, trying not to sneeze from exposure to nearly six years worth of accumulated mold. He places the ones that will require extensive repair in the pile that Glaze indicates. The rest he cleans and sorts, skimming pages as he goes. He finds some of what he reads fascinating, some boring, but it all sparks his curiosity. The more he reads, the more he wants to.

Some of the books are trifling: matters of fashion and mores in various shadows, some of which Garrett doesn't even know. Others are about natural philosophy, or about fanciful foreign magics he's never imagined. Still others seem to be fables from strange lands, or songs and poetry.

If he'd been raised by his father, he'd know what he was reading.

After a few hours of moving books, Garrett knows he's been working. It's not the same set of muscles he's used to stretching pitching hay. He's not exhausted by any means, but dinner and an easy evening seem very appealing to him.

Also, a good clean-up. As he surveys his dress uniform, now grimy with mold and smoke dust, he thinks that next time, he'll wear something more condusive to hard labor. He never realized working in a library was, well, work. Not that he minds. It's interesting doing something different.

Still, he glances out the window at the darkening sky and wonders, silently, when Nestor or Glaze will call for quitting time.

Glaze finally catches the direction of Garretts's gaze and dismisses him. Garrett is pretty sure he's missed dinner.

After confirming with Glaze whether they'll want him back tomorrow afternoon, Garrett bids him good night.

Glaze seems very enthusiastic about having him back.

Glaze seems to be kind of an absent-minded professor type. Even though Garrett can hear Glaze's stomach rumbling when Glaze dismisses him, Glaze shows no sign of stopping or even having a page send for a snack for him.

Garrett's original plan had been to do some reading after work, but he's sure he'd just fall asleep over the book tonight. It's been too wild a day, what with horses and new relatives coming through cards and messing with gryffons. Not to mention spilling his guts to Folly when all she really wanted to do was.... He shudders. At least it turned out okay.

One thing nags at him, though. The one person he really wanted to talk to never showed up. Didn't even ask for him at the stables. Or come to the library. Damn, this was a bad idea, Garrett thinks. If you want something done.... "And man, do I want this done," he mutters as he makes his way down the corridor toward the kitchens.

Garrett slows as he passes through the kitchens. He doesn't know the night staff that well, but he looks around quickly to see if there is anything, like a stray roll or uneaten drumstick, that they were going to throw out anyway. His stomach rumbles.

He's able to swipe some leftover bread from a meal someone had sent up.

Garrett munches hungrily on the bread on his way back to the Quarters and brushes the crumbs off his shirt before he opens the cottage door. Only his mother is still awake, waiting up as he knew she would. She tsks at the condition of his dress uniform while fetching the stew she saved for him. Mums are good that way.

After dinner and a bit of small talk (VERY small) about his day, Garrett bids his mother good night with a hug and a peck on the cheek. In the loft, he changes into a nightshirt and falls into bed. He's asleep before he has time to think about it.

In the evening after Random returns: When Lilly goes for yet another sword practice session (wherever that takes place?) she finds that Ossian sits there comfortably with his back to a wall. When she notices his presence, he smiles.

The sun was setting as night began to fill the sky. This was always an interesting time to practice, a time when light and shadow mixed creating strange patterns on the walls of the salle. It required more concentration then the brightness of morning, and yet not nearly as much as working in the dark of the midnight hours. For Lilly it was a time to focus, to work, to sharpen her mind and her thoughts. The last thing she expected to find now was someone else sharing the space with her.

Being in a state of focus, she noticed Ossian's presence almost immediately. His smile was met with a look of curiosity but she did not break her stride. She continued to ready both the room and herself. Once she was in place and beginning to stretch, she spoke. "Good evening Ossian. This is an odd place to find you this time of day. Is there something I can help you with?" Her voice seemed sincere and calm. Her eyes did not seem at all focused on Ossian however. Right now she was looking into her own spirit.

Ossian does not move, but his eyes follow Lilly's preparations with interest. He answers in a soft calm voice: "I have long wanted to see you wield your sword. That is my foremost reason to come here."

"Then there are a number of things we should probably discuss afterwards, but don't let that disturb you for now."

In the fashion of the line of kings, Lilly nods once abruptly before moving into her opening stance. If he wishes to watch, she will not disappoint. Right now she is not in the state of mind to talk anyway. Perhaps afterwards. Perhaps.

Her movements begin slowly, rhythmically. Each movement is a fluid extension of the one previous. No effort shows on her face or in her limbs. It is a beautiful thing full of poise and grace.

Her pace increases, the movements build. Complexity starts to rule and yet she still shows little sign of exertion. Occasionally a quiet noise escapes her lips but nothing more. Her sword is now becoming dangerous. One would do well to keep their distance.

Further she pushes. Regular sounds come up from her chest. Her feet begin to defy the very laws of gravity as she leaps into the air for impossibly long moments. Nearby walls and columns become springboards for the ever increasing aerial assault. The steel in Lilly's hand is nothing more now then a streak of silver moving all about her.

Pushing to her limits, it is impossible to tell what her exact movements are. She is little more then a whirling blur rising up from the floor at uneven intervals. The sounds that come from her tell of effort being put forth far better then sight.

Ever so slowly the pattern reverts. Her movements begin to slow and subtle grace is refound. She finishes as she began, nearly an hour late, in silence. Physically she appears as if she just entered the room. The only true difference is in her features. Her jaw line is not so tight now, her eyes not so distant. As she mover towards him, Ossian can sense an inner calm much like looking into the eye of a hurricane. She would erupt again, and soon, but for now she was as pleasant as a summer day.

Ossian sits there with his back against the wall, following Lilly's every movement, oblivious to anything else. The expression on his face tells of sorrowfull bliss, as if he is watching something otherworldly. During the whole exercise Ossian moves only once; to brush a tear out of his eyes.

When Lilly slows down and finally looks back at Ossian, he looks like he is watching an angel; a creature of utter beauty.

Lilly walks just past him and retrieves the items she needs to clean her blade. Sitting beside Ossian, she begins to go about that task in a loving, extensive sort of way.

"Now then, what shall we discuss?" she asks serenely.

Ossian shakes his head, as if to clear it. "Oh. Yes." he pauses. "Archer. The Queen put Archer on the Harga'rel case. I don't know whether that's good or bad. If Harga'rel's brother is involved Archer may be able to find out. If someone more powerful is responsible, though, I wonder what will happen. What do you think?"

"I spoke with Archer myself. He and I reached an agreement for an exchange of information. I have not yet heard from him," Lilly says knowing full well that did not answer his question at all. In her mind though it was important to establish that piece of information before hand.

"If he has any chance of at all of being able to aid us, then I think we should at least allow him to try. My hope is, if it is indeed someone more powerful, they will make a mistake and try to take down Archer if he gets too close. If we can get our enemy to act then we have more avenues to explore. Eventually one of those roads will lead us to the proper destination.

"And just to make it clear, I do not want to sacrifice anyone else to this cause. However, Archer knows the risks of his profession. He is well aware this could prove to be quite dangerous. If he is willing to continue on in spite of that, then I am willing to let him."

Ossian nods "I guess there isn't much we could do about it anyway, except finding the murderer, of course. We'll have to be careful that he catches the right person, though. He has a history of being more anxious to catch someone than to catch the right one."

"But I agree that we should let him continue. Especially since I am planning to leave Amber for a while."

"I take it then that you are not planning on an immediate journey to Xanadu either?" There is some concern in her voice. Cousins kept disappearing. This in her mind is not a good thing. Not only were their unknown enemies lurking about, they now had to deal with moving the population of an entire city. Not an easy task and one best undertaken with as many hands as possible. Beyond that, Lilly liked Ossian. She could not say that about all of her cousins.

"No. I'd like to go there at some point, though. You see, I don't want to be a part of Amber just crumbling away." Ossian's eyes looks sadder than they usually do. "I provided a plan for how to save Amber. Well, it's spirit, not the city. The king wasn't interested. He will save the people alright. But not the culture, not the history, not the..." Ossian sounds genuinely bitter. "I almost think he is happy that it will vanish..."

If nothing else, Lilly is a superb listener. Ossian can tell he has her full attention. Her face remains neutral, passive. She did not wish to interrupt with words or with expression.

Ossian takes a deep breath "Sorry for the outburst. I shouldn't have bothered you with this. I will go revisiting some places I have not been in many years. Try to find clues as to who my parents were."

There is a moment of silence as Lilly chooses her words, "There is no need for an apology Ossian. You have neither bothered nor offended nor caused me any harm. You have invested much of yourself in this city, it is only natural for you to want to preserve it. Amber is part of your heart, your soul.

"But if you consider the King's history, is it any wonder that he might wish to start fresh? This place has many dark memories for him. More then that, this is his father's home. Here he shall forever be fighting a ghost. Amber is a reflection of it's creator, not of Random. For him Xanadu represents his heart and soul. I am certain you can understand that.

"Of course understanding it does not mean you have to like it. But you know that as well I am sure."

Ossian nods "I understand most of it. I even consider helping him building Xanadu, it sounds like an interesting place. What I can't get is why he wants to take the people of Amber there? If he wants to start from scratch he should do that. Find more suitable raw material. We can save the people of Amber by taking them to other places. And not wipe out thousands of years of cultural development in the process.

"Then, I'm not king."

She shifts slightly and there seems to be a slight amount of tension rising in the air between them. When next Lilly speaks, Ossian can tell she is fighting much harder for the words. "Before you set out in search of your parentage, are you certain you are prepared for what you may find? I can understand the longing for answers, I spent most of my childhood wondering about my parents. But the truth can be very painful and some things are best left alone."

"I think I have thought of almost any possiblity in my parentage. There are some possible parents that would be...disturbing." Ossian says "Still, I need to know. I need to get a hint at how much Brand was manipulating me. What parts of my...taste that is my own. Where in his designs I fit in.

"You didn't know Benedict was your father?" Ossian sounds sincere, without his normal playfullness. "When did you learn?" the last is said with genuine sympathy.

"Only a short time ago really. My father is a cautious man," Lilly manages to say that as if it is not an understatement. "He has many enemies. He felt it best if only my foster parents knew of my true origins. It was his way of protecting me. It was only after I proved my prowess with the sword to him that he felt safe disclosing the truth. In many ways I still do not think of him as 'father'. Perhaps with time I shall." She gives a slight shrug. At this point in her life she no longer needed a Daddy, she needed a friend and a confidant. It had been her hope that her father would fill that role. With his continued absence however she was beginning to realize she may have to look for those things elsewhere.

Ossian nods solemnly. "Sometimes, when I look on Brennan for instance, I think we are the lucky ones. Parents are not necessarily a good thing. Still, loneliness isn't good either." Ossian stretches out his hand to touch Lilly's hand lightly with his fingertips.

It is a defining moment. When faced with this level of intimacy, Lilly usually chooses to flee. She never allowed herself to get close to someone. The risk of being rejected and cast aside tended to be more then Lilly could take. Her own mother had walked away from her, what would stop a near stranger?

Yet here, now, in this time and place, the risk seemed to be dwarfed by the gain. She did not have to be alone. Loneliness is choice, not a destiny...

Gently Lilly shifted her hand so that she could grasp Ossian's.

Ossian's grasp is firm but still light. His skin is surprisingly rough; probably from working with clay and stone.

"There will always be your cousins, now."

"When I was a very small child I lived in an orphanage. It was a horrible place, cold and dark, with too little food, a leaky roof, and rodents that you could hear scurrying under the beds at night. Some of the children there had lost their parents to war, some were simply forsaken. I believe we each had the same dream though, that somewhere we had family, we had people who would love and us and care for us unconditionally. I know I spent many nights lying awake just waiting for the day my own personal savior would arrive.

"I suppose I was one of the lucky few who actually had that happen. My father did eventually come to claim me. But as I have said, he did not make his relationship to me know. For years I wondered why he came, and who he was. It haunted me actually. I knew I was different. I know other children were simply not like me both at the orphanage and at the Tecys estate but I did not know why. It was something of a great relief to find out the answer.

"It was also a great joy to discover that our family is so large and that we are all special in our own ways. It takes a lot to truly stand out as being different here. I like that. I like being able to blend in and go unnoticed. And I like knowing that I do not have to be alone anymore."

As Lilly speaks Ossian strokes her hand comfortingly with his thumb.

"The family is a blessing, most of the time." Ossian says. "Here we can find real use for our talents, and people who appreciate them. And the only people who have a chance of understanding us." the last is said with an emphasis on 'chance', as if it might not have happened yet.

"But I don't think you can go unnoticed anywhere, Lilly." he adds with a smile. Ossian still sounds much less detached than he normally does.

She nearly blushes and shakes her head slightly before turning to look him deep in the eyes once more, "Be careful on your journey. I fear the dreams and nightmares many of us have had are more then just the torments of our minds. I believe they may be true visions. Shadow may not be as you remembered it. But I am sure you have thought of this, or if not I am sure others have thought to give it mention."

Ossian smiles. "I don't expect things to be unchanged out there. But I'll watch my dreams."

"When you return I shall have walked the pattern." Lilly lets that last statement just sit there for a moment so that she may gauge his reaction.

"And you are telling me to be careful?" Ossian exclaims before calming again "The pattern is really a trial. Take care, Lilly. You will meet things much harder than bad dreams there. From what I have heard it is very different for different persons. I don't think my experiences on it would be of any help to you."

"Uncle Random gave me the basic pieces of advice but he too alluded to the fact that it is not something that can truly be prepared for. That frightens me in some ways. I prefer to be able to study my adversaries before coming into contact with them. But in this situation perhaps not knowing is better. Knowing would give me more to dread I fear. But mentally I am resolved to do this and physically I believe I am up to the task." Or in other words, she feels she is as ready as she will ever be.

Ossian nods: "I think I have a piece of advise after all. The things you see; while you should not step off your path because of them, be sure to remember them. It is a unique experience." he reaches into his pocket for something with his free hand.

She gives him a curious look. That piece of advice interested her. She had thought walking would bring her to a place where she could begin learning more. Yet this advice made the journey seem just as important as the destination. That, to her, was comforting knowledge. If she could approach it as a learning experience and not simply an ordeal, she might be able to calm herself more easily.

"Lilly, I want you to have this." he gives her a Trump of himself. "Use it whenever you need to get away from somewhere, or need someone to talk to."

Lilly savored the cool touch of the card as she took it in her free hand. "Thank you," she replied quietly. "This means a lot to me." To her this signified trust and friendship. She valued those two things highly. Both of those things would return to Ossian tenfold. That was simply how Lilly did things.

"I'm glad it does." Ossian smiles very warmly. All his female cousins were lovely, but this one, this one... Should he? No, it would not be fair. None of them was ready anyway. Besides, he would leave in a day or two.

With his free he strokes the backside of her hand, once. Then he just sits there, quiet.

Lilly matches his silence. She does not want to ruin this rare moment of complete contentment. Strange how she felt comfortable with the most unlikely of her cousins, the ones who are really nothing like her. Then again maybe that is the reason. Opposites attract as her foster other used to say.

After several moments she says quietly, "Part of me wishes we had more time to get to know one another before you leave. Of course another part of me knows there will be plenty of time for that when you return. And if you choose to stay far from Xanadu, well then I suppose I can always come visit. I would like that. I would like to see more then just the Tecys, and Amber, and Xanadu."

Ossian looks at Lilly, smiling, but with sad eyes. "You make me want to stay, Lilly. I also wish we had more time." he says. "Still, I will be here for a few more days, and I won't be gone for long, I think."

A thin smile accompanies her nod this time; thoughtful and demure.

He hesitates, "You want to see other places? I would very gladly accompany you on a trip. You see, it is highly unlikely that I would end up staying far away from Xanadu, especially if you are there." Ossian seems to have lost some of his self-control. "That is a good way of learning to know each other better."

The slightest hint of color rises in her cheeks as he speaks of Xanadu. "I agree. It would most definitely give us time to get to know another. Beyond that I am certain you could help me learn more about the abilities granted by the pattern. I do not think it would be wise to go venturing off alone before I know exactly how to... whatever it is that is done to move from one shadow to the next."

"And you would be willing to be taught by someone who learned all his Pattern theory from the family traitor and madman?" Ossian asks, then suddenly concern appears in his eyes.

To Lilly this answer was an obvious yes. After all she would not have suggested such a thing in the first place if it were not.

"Someone has told you the basics of shifting Shadows, I hope?"

She thinks for a moment, remember past conversations. "No," she says finally. "Not really. To be honest I had thought I would be taught such things after the walk, not before." Then the reason he might be asking occurs to her, "Random mentioned that once I am in the center I can transport myself anywhere. He strongly suggested going someplace real, someplace I was familiar with. It was also suggested that the experience can be physically draining. My plan is to go straight to my rooms, to rest. As long as it works, I should have no need for pattern skills." As soon as she says those last words she knows exactly why knowing the basics is a very good idea.

Ossian shakes his head "You are not walking without knowing that." he says firmly.

For a moment, he sounds rather like her foster mother. This almost causes her to smile. Almost.

"It is simple, in theory, at least." he continues. "It's somewhat like painting. You have to keep a picture of the place you want to go firmly in your mind, and then slowly change your environment until you are there. To change things; just imagine they are as you want them to, and they will be."

"Oh. And you have to be moving; you basically change the things you cannot see; the things beyond the next tree, the next hill or behind the clouds. Change the nuance of blue in the sky, add a bird behind the next stone, change the smell of the wind..."

"The bigger details you change and the faster you do it, the more dangerous it becomes, and the process becomes more tiring. When you change Shadow, it is not only the details you change that will change, but other things too. Try to add probable things."

"Let me show you" Ossian rises slowly, if Lilly follows he still holds her hand as he walks toward a small window. "I have decided that it is probable that a small flower grows in the dirt between the stones of the wall just outside this window. The flower is...of a rather special colour."

Lilly is listing with rapt attention. Every detail, every nuance of his tone, is being saved and stored for later use. This might very well be one of the most important conversations she ever has and she certainly does not want to forget it.

He releases Lilly's hand, opens the window and reaches outside to pick the small flower. It looks something like this.

...but with a colour that exactly matches Lilly's jacket. "Notice all the details. The shape and colour of the petals. The leaves. See that this petal is just a little skewed. The lovely fragrance." he hold it so that Lilly could smell it if she wanted to. "All that is within your power to decide."

Her gaze travels from the delicate bloom to Ossian's eyes. He can see the understanding there, the wonder. She found all of this truly amazing. To think that one day she too would have the ability to alter reality... It was almost too much to ask for, to accept. And yet it is her future, a future she is ready to grasp.

With a smile he very carfully reaches out and puts the flower in Lilly's hair (if he is allowed.)

She does not stop him. Of course the show of affection causes her to blush and drop her gaze. There were many things in life she had not yet experienced. Some of them were far more obvious than others.

Ossian hesitates for a moment, then he takes both of Lilly's hands in his.

"I will miss you while I am gone, Lilly. More than I realised when I decided I should leave."

She looks up at him with sad eyes. Part of her felt a bit like the plague. Since her arrival, everyone she has befriended here in Amber has left. Not taking it personally is beginning to become a bit of a chore. First Paige, now Ossian. Who would be next? Perhaps she should refrain from letting anyone else close.

"Return safely and we shall have time then. I will be looking forward to it."

Ossian's eyes goes from sad to warm. He nods. "Don't forget that Trump. Use it whenever you want to." He lifts Lilly's hand to his mouth and kisses the knuckle of her middle finger lightly before releasing her hand. The playfulness is coming back in his eyes.

A hint of a smile brushes her lips. "I will," she says and he can tell the words are well meant. "And now I should be going. My night is not quite finished and I do wish to get some rest before morning." The smile blossoms as she moves to leave. "Until next we meet, Ossian."

Ossian sendes the following note to Valeria:

Dearest Valeria,
I have some news that you would be interested to hear, and that are best communicated in person. If it is convenient for you I will visit you at the embassy at Compline.

With love,

At the bottom of the note Ossian has sketched a flying thrush in full detail.

The return message is this:


I shall be waiting for you.

Yours, as always,

When Ossian arrives at the embassy, he is ushered with appropriate ceremony in to see Valeria. She offers him drinks and finger foods: little raw fish slivers arranged artistically with seaweed. It is very civilized, and Ossian can see the artistry in it, even if it is not to his taste.

[Oh. Ossian has nothing against sushi, unlike his player.]

"Wonderful!" he exclaims "If this is what you normally eat in Rebma I'm envious."

She waits for Ossian to bring up his news at the appropriate moment.

"You might know this already, but I promised to tell you in person" Ossian says. "This morning a new cousin of mine showed up. Queen Moire's ward, Celina. She wanted me to tell you that she was here."

"Did she?" says Valeria, sounding not particularly surprised, and not particularly happy.

"Apparently she's the daughter of Corwin." he says as an afterthought, studying Valeria's reaction.

Valeria's eyebrows arch. Clearly, she hadn't known that detail. Wheels turn in her head, and pieces of a puzzle fall into place. "Really," she says. "How interesting. I wonder how that piece of news came out."

"It sounded pretty official when Martin presented her, she arrived in the company of Merlin, Corwin's son." Ossian says, smiling a little. It was not every day one could see Valeria surprised "You certainly know her better than I do. Who is she?"

"She is a ward of my grandmother's. My sister and I couldn't figure out why Grandmother took her in. Now we know." Valeria looks almost angry.

"You say Martin presented her. Do you know when they met?"

"As far as I can tell they met only soon before Martin presented her. The king seemed as surprised as the rest of us did. But I have learned that I never really know with Martin."

Ossian gets that mischievous look in his eyes "So, your grandmother is as shrewd as her granddaughter. I doubt she's as lovely when her mind is working hard, though. You already have a good guess at why she didn't tell you, haven't you?"

"I have guesses," Valeria says, "but nothing to confirm them." She smiles slightly, perhaps at the flattery.

"If she is of your blood, she will have the powers of your kindred. She will be an initiate of your arcana. Control of such, of the great Pattern of Rebma, would be of use to my grandmother."

Ossian suspects there is more Valeria could say on that topic, but she lets it rest at that, at least for now.

"Of course. Although your grandmother would have to let her go for her to learn how to wield that power." Ossian says "I wonder how long Corwin has known he has a daughter. Do you know who the mother is?"

"No," says Valeria. "It is said Corwin stayed in Rebma for a time before his assault on Amber, but with whom he dallied, I cannot say." She appears to be doing some math in her head. "She is older than I would have thought of a child of that visit, but time in some of the Seawards does not run the same as in Rebma."

Ossian nods: "Your grandmother would have used the time difference. That always makes age and background hard to determine. Like mine. Although I plan to find out soon. I intend to leave Amber for a while."

"Leave?" Valeria asks, dismayed. Then she smooths her expression. "Finding your parentage is important, although I would have thought with your blood proven, someone would have stepped forward to claim you as theirs. I suppose it is possible that one of your kinsmen was careless with his seed, like poor Martin's father ... but let us not speak of this, if it distresses you."

She waits to see if she has said too much.

Ossian shrugs, obviously not distressed. "Oh, no, it does not distress me. I have pondered very many possible scenarios. Anyone who would claim me as their child would have to explain to their brothers and sister why Brand knew about me: that could turn out to be a not so pleasant discussion for my parent. And, at least three of my possible mums and dads are dead. Unless Brand could find me by some unknown arcane means, even if he didn't know of my existance, I think it is safe to conclude that at least someone has known who my mother/father is, even if the parent himself doesn't.

"It would be a relief to shed some light on at least some of my history.

"Will you miss me while I'm gone?"

"You know I will," Valeria says, and touches Ossian's cheek. She's not even lying, quite.

[Oh. But this relationship is founded on honesty!...not.]

Ossian kisses Valerias fingertips lighly, before she withdraws. He smiles.

"Do not discount the idea that Brand found you by magic. Some magics are very powerful and subtle."

Ossian nods "I can't afford to discount anything at this point, but I can check the easier hypotheses first."

"As for subtle and powerful, magics are beaten by far by women." Ossian's eyes are playful as they gaze into Valeria's.

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Last modified: 27 September 2004