Part One - Into The Fire

"Is it just me, or does it seem to you I get more than my share of troubles?"
-Job

It was a dark and stormy night....then again, maybe not. It was actually a bright, humid day. There wasn't a cloud in sight and it was only ten AM local time, so night wouldn't be coming for quite a while.
I've never really thought to keep a diary before, but, as the old saying goes, there's no time like the present. I'm a rather plain individual I suppose. I'm about five feet, eight inches and look quite a bit like my mother if you ignore the height. She was a short person, my mother. I have her eyes and hair, though. Long, curly locks of chestnut brown and green flecked eyes.
I'm fairly muscular. Not that I look like a body builder or something, but I have enough that most men think twice before they attack me(Unfortunately, most of those men happen to be hired assassins, so it really doesn't matter to them how much muscle I have).
Now why would assassins come after me?
I have the unfortunate luck of being an Amberite.
My father, who I haven't seen in about...oh....two-hundred years, is Gerard. He's not the relative who wants me dead though. Nope. I made an enemy of two psychopathic elders.
One is Delwin. I never quite figured out why he doesn't like me, but I think it has something to do with my saving his sons life when he was trying to kill him.
The other is Brand, Traitor to Amber, Lord of the Abyss and pain in the neck. He doesn't want me dead, comatose would work just fine, but out of his way is more like it. I got my self a little too involved in his "I'm going to destroy everything!" escapade. (I sort of tipped several of my uncles off on what was going on and it caused him to be discovered before he should, or should I say liked to, have been discovered)
With those two after me and the normal everyday problems that come from being an Amberite, you'd think my life would be full of, well, stuff to do.
At the moment it's not.
Delwin vanished a while ago and hasn't tried to kill me since. Brand seems to be too busy trying to conquer the known universe to send anything to kill me, and the only cousins I have contact with(there are four of them) are off doing something.
So there I was, minding my own business, sitting at the kitchen table in a house that didn't belong to me(I don't know who it does belong to, but no one was home so I decided not to worry about it. If they came home and decided to shoot me I'd have a little fun), and sipping something that was green, but tasted an awful lot like lemonade.
My silver ring with the jade stone was on the middle finger of my left hand, chalk full of spells I might add, and my sword, Nightstar, was hanging at my side. I was sipping my green-lemonade-like-stuff and contemplating one of life's great mysteries.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
It had puzzled me for as long as I can remember.
The chicken, then the egg or the egg, then the chicken?
Of course, anyone who I had asked it to as a child used to pat me on the head and say "cute kid". Everyone except my brother M'ky that is. He used to tell me I was an idiot. Boy was he surprised the time I first came home with my hair dyed pink. The combination of shock and the "my-sister-is-a-lunatic" look were truly priceless.
I got up from the table and placed my empty glass in the bronze sink, sighing as I did so. My life either had far too much excitement, or not enough of it.
Life has a tendency to change.
First, I heard my name. Then I felt the incoming, but weak, trump contact. Either Brand had decided to blow my brains out over a trump, or one of my cousins was calling to say "hello".
The picture came clear in my head and the holder of the card was quite familiar. It was Adamantis, Eric's son, standing in a place that poets would call "made of crimson laced fire". Knowing Adamantis as I did, I wasn't at all surprised by his local. He's been known to hang out in some pretty weird places.
He did not smile as he addressed me. "Kris," he said bluntly, "can you bring me through?"
"Sure," I said, turning away from the sink and extending my hand. He reached forward with his free hand and clasped mine, becoming real.
Adamantis is taller than I, by about five inches, and has his fathers jet black hair, but his is straight while Eric's was curly. His hair is cut short, in sort of a bowl shape, and he has his fathers blue eyes, though he's quite lanky and always reminded me of a string bean.
"Thank you," he replied curtly, then turned away from me and sat at the table, glowering at his clenched fists and ignoring me.
His attitude annoyed me a little. Adamantis and I had always gotten along fairly well. Nix that last statement. We have always gotten along great. We were best friends for years before he found out he was an Amberite, so after he walked the Pattern things didn't change much.
Looking up he addressed me. "Kris," he said. When he didn't continue I prompted with, "Yes?"
"Coral's dead. Shot five times in the chest, then the Jewel of Judgment was dug out of her head. I'm not sure if that's the order." That explains his unusual mood. Though I feel bad for my Aunt(whom I've never met) and for my cousin Rinaldo(haven't met him either!), I didn't see how this particularly effected me. Or Adamantis for that matter.
"Gee, that's horrible." I tried instead of "Why should I care?!"
"That's not the half of it," he said, maintaining his stance that implied both anger and sorrow. "I....we.....know who killed her."
"Really?" I said, trying to sound amused as I sat down across from him.
He slammed a fist on to the table. "This is not a funny matter."
"Death never is."
"It was Sorzant who killed her."
I felt ill.
"Sorzant," I croaked out. Implication hit me like a bombshell. "That means...."
".....that Brand now has the Jewel of Judgment," he finished for me.
"I do believe that I'm going to be ill."
He stood. "Well, I hope you feel better," a stressed joke that failed to make me laugh "but I've got to go. Only Dellen and I know. He was going to tell Cyanne and I said I'd tell you. He's researching the whole thing after that, so I have to leave and tell Margo and Andrew." He pulled his trump deck from his pocket.
"I'll tell Andrew," I said stoutly. He nodded and pulled a card from his deck. All I could see was the green field and the white unicorn. A few words were spoken and he was gone.
I sighed heavily. Poor Coral! What a disgusting way to go.....killed by Sorzant so he can give your makeshift eye to his daddy. Gross!
I pulled my own trump deck from mid-air. (I have a nifty little Abyss connection. I can stuff things into a pocket of the Abyss and retrieve them later.) I shuffled through and selected the card for a male version of myself.
My twin, Andrew, to be exact. We're identical except his hair is cut short and is never combed(and the fact that he's male.......). He considers himself a sorcerer. A very good one in his over inflated ego. He's not half bad at the arcane arts, though I'd never admit that to him.
I studied the card and contact came instantly. It always does with him.
"Hello dear little sister," he said cheerily. I resisted the impulse to grimace. He is the older twin. Older by three damn minutes and he enjoys rubbing it in. I must be the luckiest girl around. I have two older brothers. Oh yes. I am very lucky.
He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a Van Halen T-shirt. No shoes and oversized sunglasses. A beach blanket was beneath him and grains of sand were littered about it.
"Can we talk?"
"Hmmm......let me make a change of location and I'll call you back, okay?"
I nodded. "Hurry. I've got important information." He returned my nod and I passed my hand over the card. I stuffed it in with the rest. I happen to have quite a large trump deck and I long ago removed the tarot cards from it. I have all of Dworkins Trumps, plus ones for the occasional relative he missed, Uncle Dalt(who I secretly think of as "Uncle Dolt") for instance. I also have a trump for the rim of the Abyss, for my old apartment in New York, my current room in a bizarre shadow that I didn't chose to live in(it was Dellen's idea), my old room back home(you wouldn't believe how often I had to use that as a kid. Sneaking out and trumping back in - and I still managed to get caught? How is that?), a trump for Delwin's son Dellen(any guy who gives his kid a name almost identical, but not quite, to his own can't be sane, now can he?), Caine's daughter Cyanne, Adamantis, Andrew, Julian's daughter Margo, one of myself(just in case I ever need to give it to someone), and one (it's never been used!) for M'ky. I also have one for Sorzant(Brand's son) and Martin(Brands victim).
It's quite large.
I tossed my trump deck back in to my abysmal pocket. I sat and waited for Andrew to call.
A key turned in a lock, footsteps sounded in the front hall....
"Damn," I muttered. I now had excitement. I didn't want anymore.
Clump. Clump. Clump. Heavy footsteps. Boots I'll wager.
Just as a man, tall, grungy, heavy-set, walked through the kitchen door a trump contact came to me.
*Took you long enough* I thought to Andrew. I looked then to the bewildered man.
"Oh, my love," I said in Thari, not sure if he could understand me, "we could have done so many things together, but I must leave you. Don't worry," dramatic pause "there are other fish in the sea." I blew him a kiss just as an irritated Andrew reached through the contact and grabbed my arm, pulling me through.
I tripped over my sword and fell on top of him.
"Get off," he snarled. I could tell that he wasn't really angry. It's a twin thing.
I rolled off him and undid my sword belt, tossing it into my abysmal pocket. Them things sure are useful.
Andrew rose and offered me a hand. I took it and looked around.
There was tile and wet sand beneath my feet(not to mention on my but since I fell atop it) and in front of me were five shower stalls. Andrew still wore his faded blue jeans and Van Halen t-shirt.
"You brought me to the men's shower?" I asked incredulously, forgetting for a moment that I needed to tell him about Coral.
"Yes," he said mildly, grinning. He had done this to annoy me.
"No cute guys better walk in," I warned in a mocking voice, shaking a finger at him.
"I," he said knowingly, "am the only cute guy on this beach and many women would just die to be alone in the shower with me."
"Well I am your sister and I have no desire to be alone in a shower with you. That's positively disgusting."
"Julian and Fiona," he sung.
I pretended to gag. "If you start making comments to me like Julian makes to Fiona I'm going to decapitate you."
He smiled wickedly. "Julian would tell Fiona that her eyes are like emeralds, but I shall tell you that yours are uglier than dead oak....."
"If my eyes are ugly, then so are yours." I interrupted.
"True," he mused. "What was that you wanted to tell me?"
I stopped smiling. "Coral's dead. Sorzant's the killer. Brand has the Jewel of Judgment."
He frowned. "This is bad."
"I know." Then, "I have a plan on how we can get it back."
"Have you run it by Dellen yet?" Dellen is sort of in charge of our little assortment of Amberites. It's only because he's the oldest.
"Dellen can't know about it."
"He wouldn't approve?" Andrew was smiling again. He and Dellen don't like each other much. In fact, they have never liked each other and Andrew relishes in going behind Dellen's back and making him mad or at least annoyed.
"He defiantly would not."
"Tell, tell, tell."
I shook my head. "Not here."
He nodded. "Of course." He motioned towards the door that lead to the sunny outside. "Let me go get my beach blanket."
I raised my eyebrows.
"It's my favorite beach blanket," he explained, then left. One thing I love about Andrew is being his twin. We share some kind of psychic rapport and can't hide things from each other, due to this we don't try and we maintain a far better relationship than most of my relatives.
I wiped the sand off my clothes, found that it wouldn't come off easily, and gave up. I wasted a spell and triggered my ring, shortly finding myself magically clothed in a pair of denim jeans, a pink tank top, and sandals that had ankle straps. That particular spell is wonderful. It always dresses you to match the weather.
Checking to make sure that there was no water on it(when do men bathe anyhow?) I sat upon the bench across from the showers and waited for Andrew to return. And waited. And waited.
What the hell was he doing?! Saying goodbye to every eligible women and crustacean on the beach?!
I sighed and waited some more. And a little more.
Footsteps sounded outside and a shadow passed before the door.
"About time," I called out in Thari. "Someone steal your favorite beach blanket or something?" A man who was definitely not Andrew(unless he gained a beer belly, a beard and started to bald) crossed the threshold and entered the shower room, covered in sand and seaweed. He looked surprised to see me.
Life has a way of throwing silly inconsistencies at you. This guy was the mirror image(I suppose I should say "Shadow", but who wants to be politically correct?) of the guy I had trumped out on earlier. The new arrival gaped at me.
I gave him my best smile.
He said something in a twisted language I didn't understand and dropped his pink towel. I only hoped that he didn't drop his blue swim trunks too.
I heard a loud, and most definitely Thari, "Move" and Andrew, beach blanket in tow, entered, shoving the other poor guy out of his way.
"Come on," he said, continuing toward me and, without breaking his stride, shoved me backwards into a mental trump gateway.
I suppose Andrew's teleporting powers are on par with Brand's "Living Trump" abilities, but I have never liked to give his powers that name. Makes him sound evil or like someone who has no taste in clothing.
The place I landed(I suppose "floated" would be a more correct thing to say) in was black and purple and forever populated by swirls of either color and several of silver. A sourceless light shown here, illuminating our clothing and faces.
"The Abyss," I said. "Charming."
"What's your plan?"
I quickly told him everything that had been collecting in my sub-concius since Adamantis gave me the unfortunate news of Coral's death and Brands assumed control(again......) of the jewel.
He nodded thoughtfully, a malevolent grin on his face.
"Who says the red heads are the only plotters in this family," he said with a laugh. "We brunettes seem to be damn good too."
"Are you willing to go along with it?" I asked.
"Yessssss, but there is one slight problem. What do we have that Brand wants?"
"Details, details," I said.
"You're right. Leave the details to me." I nodded. His grin grew broader, he rubbed his hands together. "The next time you see me here," false dramatics implied, "I will be the right hand man of Brand, former Prince of Amber, Current Lord of The Abyss."

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