Part Four - A Not-So-Unexpected Danger

"I don't know why anyone would be nervous about going to see royalty."
-Puss In Boots


I had only been to Amber about a dozen times in my life. The first time was to walk the Pattern, the second was to watch Adamantis walk the Pattern. I had then visited the Primal Pattern once and Tir-na N'goth several times(that place is soooooo cool!). Amber City had a couple of marks in my passport as well, but I had never been to the Castle(except for the Pattern room and that doesn't count).
It wasn't quite what I expected.
First of all, I had thought it would be bigger. Instead of numerous floors, each floor just had incredibly high ceilings. I had expected more stained glass windows, too.
It was nice though.
We were met at the docks by a group of guards and a relative.
During our journey the three of us had changed into more expensive looking apparel.
Adamantis was wearing something akin to a silk tuxedo and a hat which I could tell he was going to lose before we even made it to our rooms(I was right, too - it "happened" in to blow into the ocean when no one was looking)
He looked like a high class man out on the town.
Margo was wearing a pair of vibrant blue pants which hugged her legs and appeared to be made of silk. Her shirt was an oversized blouse the same color as the pants, but made of cotton. She wore a stylish white belt with a silver clasp around her waist and had a string of pearls around her neck.
If you ignored her nasty personality, one could almost say that she looked pretty.
I was wearing a ridicules purple skirt, which I kept tripping over, and matching shirt with brass buttons down the front. A pair of star earrings made of the same stuff as the buttons dangled from my ears.
I'm sure that I looked quite ridicules.
Anyway, the guards took our luggage(I never did find out what was in those oversized crates) which Dellen and packed to make us look more like "diplomats".
He had picked our clothes, too.
Panic set in the moment we were off the boat.
M'ky was there, standing next to the guards.
He looked exactly the way he had at my mother's funeral, only more happy. He wore black and green silk, his black hair hung to his shoulders.
Margo bowed, seemingly unaware of the danger.
"I am Rosali and these are my companions," she motioned to Adamantis and I in turn, "Josh and Bethany."
I smiled inanely. Adamantis coughed.
M'ky just stared at us.
I bowed. "It is a pleasure to meet you milord," I said, talking with a bit of an undecided accent.
Margo shot me a funny look.
Adamantis just coughed.
M'ky, in turn, bowed. "I am M'ky of Amber, though certainly not your lord." He smiled at me and I resisted the urge to throw up. "Please, think of me as your friend."
Now that he had introduced himself Margo recognized the danger.
"Of course, M'ky." She smiled, a rare thing, and leaned towards him.
She was trying to talk quietly, but I overheard her anyway.
"If we could hurry to the Castle I would most appreciate it. See the one who is coughing? Well, he recently over came a great sickness and Bethany, well, she has chronic problems along with a weak heart."
I tried to look tired and Adamantis broke in to a spastic fit of coughing which was over doing things a bit.
M'ky's eyes widened.
"Well, let us go," he said.
Much to my horror, my brother came over to me and offered his arm. He smiled friendly like. "Would you mind if I escorted you?"
"No," I said, trying to smile weakly(it wasn't hard - my heart was pounding with the fear of being recognized). "Thank you."
I hung off him, trying to appear weak and frail. For the first time since I had laid eyes on thing, I was glad that my shirt was "puffy". It kept my muscles from showing.
M'ky took the lead with me hanging off his right arm.
Adamantis followed behind, coughing every five steps.
"I say," said M'ky when we were about half way to the palace, "is he all right?"
I giggled. "Of course!" Then, in a whisper, "He was recently very ill and has only just recovered. The King did not think it was wise to send him on this trip, but he has always wanted to see Amber and it's very rare that we're asked to send diplomats." My words were coated with honey, but M'ky was smart enough to catch the last bit.
He smiled. "Well, you'll have to speak with Random about that last one."
"Oh, I plan to." I was all innocence.
There were no more questions. In fact, we talked very little as we traveled through town. Other than M'ky pointing out various landmarks, all was silent. (Aside from Adamantis' continued attempts to feign sickness.)
I was thankful. Silence let me think.
We were supposed to be here for an entire weekend. That meant two days of hanging around M'ky. I had counted on run ins with my Father. The thought terrified me, but I knew it was likely. I had not planned on running into M'ky.
Most of my Father's memories, I'm sure, involve me as a punk. M'ky, however, knew me back when I was still at being a nice girl. If anyone was going to recognize me, it would be him.
That would spell trouble with a capitol "T-R-O-U-B-L-E"
When we approached the castle I faked a fainting spell. No Amberite could ever be as weak as I was. There was no way I was going to let M'ky recognize me!
He left me in my room, lying on the bed, seemingly exhausted.
Ten minuets later Margo burst in.
"What the hell is the matter with you!"
I replied intelligently with, "Huh?"
She stamped her foot. "You know damn well what I'm talking about."
"Oh, that," I said, getting up off the bed. "Well, I didn't want him to recognize me. I figured if he thought I was a wimp, there would be less of a chance. I mean, no normal Amberite is that weak."
"You're an idiot."
"And you're Einstein." Either she didn't get the insult, or she chose to ignore it(probably the latter).
"Listen," she said, glaring at me, "this is not a game. This is a serious mission. We need to find out what they know about Brand and his ambitions."
"So have Cyanne scurry some trumps," I said, flopping on to the bed. "It would be easier."
She didn't reply, just watched me from across the room.
"What's your problem anyway? You've been really bitchy lately," I said, returning her gaze.
"You seem very unaffected by the fact that brother has sided with Brand.
"So that's what this is about. Andrew."
She nodded. "I expected you to be upset."
"Upset?" I sat up. "How the hell do you think I feel?"
"You have shown very little that you're upset."
I laughed. "Hell, Margo. My brother stabbed me and joined sides with one of my worst enemies. What do you want me to do? Have a nervous breakdown?" I stood and started towards her. "Getting upset over Andrew's actions isn't going to do a damn thing except put me off my guard. Sure, I could be screaming and hollering and carrying on, but that won't change things. I learned a long time ago that you can't take back the past. You can only strive to make the future right." I was practically standing on top of her. I moved back.
"I really am sorry about Andrew," she said. There was actually a trace of pity in her voice. The Ice Queen shows emotion? Surely not!
"Yeah, well, I'll just add him to my list of relatives whom I'd like to avoid." You're on that list at the moment Margo......
"Anyways," I continued, "it really doesn't matter. I mean, all my intermediate family......." I trailed off, unsure of what to say. They all hate me? I want to avoid all of them?
I didn't know what to say. This was the first time anyone had brought up the subject of my brother's betrayal since Dellen's initial grilling. I didn't want to talk about it - especially since it wasn't real.
"Why does it matter to you anyway? I mean, ever since you butted into our lives you three psychos have been trying to turn us into your playing pieces in some sick game that's been going on before any of us were born. Why do you care what happens to me emotionally?" I scowled at her. "Why don't you go bug Adamantis?"
"I'll do just that." She stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. I sighed and fell back on to the bed.
Almost immediately, there was a knock at the door.
"What?" I snarled.
The voice which replied made me stop breathing. "This is Gerard of Amber," it said. "I heard you weren't feeling well and I wanted to know if there was anything I could do. I'm a skilled doctor."
"I.....ah.....no," I stuttered. Then quickly added, "Thank you, though."
"Are you sure?" he called back.
"Quite sure! I'm just tired. The sea voyage really took it out of me." I coughed lamely. "I'll be fine after I rest."
"Alright. But there's anything you need, be sure to ask a servant."
"Don't worry! I will! Goodbye!"
Perhaps I was rude, but I didn't quite know what to do. My Father, after all these years.........
There was another knock at door.
"I'm fine, really!" I called.
"Why wouldn't you be fine?" the person called back.
I scowled and rolled off the bed. Throwing the door open I grabbed his arm. "Get in here, quick."
"Huh?" was Adamantis' response.
"I thought you were my Father," I explained.
Adamantis blinked and took a seat at the desk. "Why would your Father be visiting?"
I sat down on the bed and traced the diamond pattern with my left hand. "Here was just here."
My cousin looked panicked. "What?!"
"He heard that I wasn't feeling well. Wanted to know if he could do anything to help."
"Bloody hell."
"Something like that. Funny, they must think we're pretty important. I mean, M'ky met us at the docks - I guess he's important - and I'm not feeling well, so they send someone important like my Father instead of an ordinary doctor........"
"You know," Adamantis said, looking thoughtful, "maybe they're playing the same game we are. We're here to find out what they know about Brand's return. Maybe they're watching us so they can figure out what we know about it."
"Hmmm......" I stopped tracing the diamonds. "Maybe. That would up the stakes wouldn't it?"
"I guess."
We sat in silence for a few minuets, then, "Kris? There's something I gotta know. I grew up with you and your brother. You two are my best friends. I trust you more than anyone else........"
I didn't look at him. "You want to know if Andrew and I planned the thing with Brand?"
I could feel the weight of his gaze. "Yeah."
Taking a deep breath, I turned to face him, "I swear, Adamantis, I didn't know what he was planning. If it's not for real, then Andrew is in on it by himself."
My cousin's face fell and I felt a sharp pang of guilt. It's not I don't trust Adamantis, it's that I don't trust Brand. My Abyss magic protected me from being spied on with trumps. Adamantis was protected only by his psychic ability to resist. He wouldn't even feel a scurrying - Brand would know the truth in no time - and that could cost Andrew his life.
"Well," he said finally, "at least it's nice to finally know. I've been wondering."
I tried to smile, but couldn't. Andrew was more than his cousin - he was his best friend.
All those years ago when Margo and Cyanne and Dellen had showed up we had learned quick that they didn't trust one another. At times, you'd think that they didn't even like one another.
My brother, Adamantis and I had made a pack - no matter what happens we would stay friends. Blood may be thicker than water, but friendship has nothing to do with being related. It's an entirely different bond and we clung to it like a drowning man to a life preserver.
It was the only thing that kept us from becoming just like them.
"I'm sorry," I said with real emotion.
He gave me a crooked smile. "So am I."
We just sat in the silence, each lost in our own thoughts.
Finally, Adamantis stood. "Are you going to dinner?"
"No. I'm gonna play sick. I'll have room service or something." I smiled at him.
He smiled back. "See tomorrow then."
"Tomorrow," I echoed.
He left, closing the door behind him.
I stared up at the ceiling.
Tomorrow, when the games began. Family against unsuspecting family.
What was it I was saying about not being like Dellen and the rest?

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