History(as told by
My name is Shantilli. Weird, huh? According to my
Father, my Mother picked it. Sometimes I wonder if my Father,
Benedict (Prince of Amber, Protector of Avalon, Lord of All,
etc..........) didn't pick it, but is too "manly" to
admit it. Either way, it's mine and I'm stuck with it. I can't
ask my Mother about it, because, according to my Father, she's
dead. I can't say. All I know is that I don't remember her.
I grew up in Avalon, rather, a shadow of the shadow of Avalon, where my Father was the "Protector." I'm not sure whether my Mother was a native or not; I don't think she was, because(if she really did chose my name) there was no one else in that shadow named Shantilli. Lots of Arthur's and Lancelot's and Ginny's. No Shantilli's.
Anyway, I lived in a manor house. It was very boring. Oh, sure, there were horses and orchards and stuff, but it all gets rather dull after a while. Father was always off at war and I was left in the care my evil governess, Lora. She was fat and jolly and used to make me eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast.
I really hated oatmeal.
Then there was Master Tamlin. He taught me to read and write, as well as mathematics and religion.
I hated him only slightly more than Lora.
When I was fifteen my Father appeared(he had recently won some great battle or whatnot) and told Lora that he wanted me to learn swordplay. I wasn't particularly interested in weaponry, but I went with his wishes. After all, Father was, literally, a God. Besides, if I did well maybe he would be proud of me for once.
He was very disappointed with the result.
The first time my Father saw me fence, all he had was criticism. My knees should have bent more. My parry sixte was sloppy. I didn't act upon obvious openings.
I was daunted, but not discouraged. I wanted Daddy to be impressed.
He left, and I practiced more. He returned four months later with a whole new round of "observations."
I didn't give up. My determination was undoubtedly inherited(along with those nifty Pattern genes) from my Father. I pursued fencing with a vengeance. Learned every trick the masters of Avalon had to teach me.
I wanted to impress my Father.
After seven years of pursuing the blade and other weapons of warfare, he remained unimpressed and I gave into a hopeless despair.
My Father, I had decided, wouldn't pay me a compliment if his life depended on it. He was absent and, as far as I was concerned, soulless.
That was when I left Avalon. Sort of.
My Father had left the day before, returning to the battle field which was his one true love, and I was riding, brooding over his latest set complaints about my fencing technique.
That was when I met him. Tall, with flame colored hair and emerald eyes, he stood, holding the reins of a gorgeous white stallion, blocking my path. He was different, that I knew the instant I saw him. Something else entirely. Something other worldly.
I sat there, atop my own horse, waiting for him to move. He didn't, however, but he turned his gaze toward me and met my eyes and smiled.
Finally, after no words had passed between us, I said, "Let me pass."
Without a word, he mounted his horse and began to ride. "Follow me," he called over his shoulder.
It was probably the stupidest thing I had ever done in my life, but, strangely, I had never been cautioned against strangers. Of course, common sense should have told me to ride away from him like the Devil himself was at my heels. Many people would argue that Brand was the Devil.
The changes were subtle. I didn't notice them at first. The sky was a little darker, the shrubbery oddly shaped. It wasn't until the dirt path beneath me turned to stone that I stopped and looked back.
The familiar path was gone, replaced by a road of gray.
He never faltered, but called back, "I wouldn't stop if I were you - Less you wish to be left here."
I spurred my horse forward. "Who are you?"
I couldn't see his face, but I would swear that he was smiling. "You'll find out soon enough."
It was then that I recognized my folly. Glancing behind I discovered that the path had vanished entirely, the ash colored stone starting several feet behind me.
I panicked and drew upon the reins, jerking my mount to the left, then kicking it into a run.
"Wait!" he cried behind me. I urged my mount to go faster. We plunged, blind through the unfamiliar underbrush.
Suddenly, a bird the color of blood appeared before us, wailing horribly. The horse reared, throwing me.
Dazed, I sat on the ground, watching as my horse fled into the dark forest.
Weeping, I sat there, listening for familiar sounds. There were none. Finally, I arose and made my way through the bushes.
After an hour, the trees and shrubs began to thin, leading to a rocky, almost mountain like terrain, unlike anything I knew of in Avalon.
That was when it touched me. A trump contact, the first of it's kind that I had ever felt, tugging at the edges of my mind. I stopped and tried to focus on my surroundings, which were beginning to fade........
Then, suddenly, the contact exploded around me! If my Father was the God of Warcraft, then this man certainly was the God of the realms of the Mind.
I stood there, open mouthed, unable to comprehend exactly what had happened.
He reached for me.........
Instinct, thankfully, took over and I dodged him, moving backwards. I tried to run, but no matter which way I turned the contact was there. That was when he cursed and a knife appeared in his hand, seemingly out of thin air.
I jerked to my left, trying once again to elude this man who seemed to live in my mind.........
I felt myself fall.
God! I thought. I had stepped right off a cliff!
Maybe I screamed, I really don't remember. There was a sharp pain in my head, then blackness. No mountain in a strange world, no red haired man locked in my mind, nothing.............
When I awoke I hurt. My head most of all, but ribs and my left leg as well a shoulder seemed to have sustained some injury.
Dazed, I sat up. There was Lora, who, though I was twenty-three, was still watching over me. Gently, she put a hand on my shoulder and kept me from sitting up.
I looked around. I was in my bed, back home in Avalon.
Lora was happily yammering about how quickly I had recovered and how worried everyone had been after I had been missing a week.
A week? I had only been out riding for an hour or two, even including my following the stranger. I couldn't possibly have been unconscious for a week..........
How had I gotten back to Avalon? What had happened to the red haired man? Where I had been? How had he taken me there?
I closed my eyes. Too many questions, too few answers. Besides, I was so tired............
When I awoke, my Father was there, sitting in a chair at the side of my bed. He looked angry.
Our eyes met.
I smiled weakly. "Hi, Dad," I said.
He sat, silent, staring at me. "What happened?" His voice was very soft.
I laughed, then winced as the vocal movement sent knives through my mind.
"Something really strange........." I went on to explain it then, going into detail. Every thing from the man on the horse, to fleeing into the forest, to the strange "illusion" cast in my mind.
"Only, it was very real," I said. "When he reached for me........I.....I thought he could really grab me. I tried to run, but it didn't do any good. Then I fell over the ledge and there was nothing but darkness."
He just sat there, staring at me. I was waiting for him to tell me how stupid I was to follow a strange man into the woods, but he said nothing.
Then, after several minuets had passed, he reached into his pocket and withdrew an ornate little box. He opened it and withdrew a number of cards, all of which had a unicorn painted on the back.
He selected one and showed it to me. It was the red haired man astride a white horse, clothed in green. The man, not the horse.
"Is this him?" My Father's voice was very quiet, as if he was afraid of the answer.
I replied, "Seems to be."
Very slowly, he put the card back in the ornate little box, then put the box back in his pocket.
"Who is he?" I asked.
"Later. You need to rest."
I sighed. I wanted to argue, but I knew that it would be useless. I never did find out what Brand wanted with me, or why he never contacted me again. My fear is that he planned to use me as Pattern Eraser Fluid - like what he did to Martin.
In the next few weeks I recovered, my fractured leg, cracked shoulder, and split head melding back together.
Two weeks after I was completely healed, my Father asked me to go riding with him. I was perplexed - father/daughter bonding wasn't real big with him. I went anyway.
He led the way - over the river and through the woods and all that. Abruptly, we left the woods and came upon this field(actually, it was a plain now that I think about it) that didn't exist anywhere near the manor house in Avalon.
I didn't ask questions though - he doesn't like that.
We rode a little longer, and this elaborate picnic lunch appeared. We stopped and ate and talked. Rather, I ate and he talked.
He told me all sorts of things - about Amber, Shadow, Chaos, Trumps, the Pattern. We sat and I memorized the names and faces of those depicted on the tarot cards.
I guess you could say that we bonded. I realized that he really did care about me and I put my hatred aside, to be assessed at a later date.
We fenced and, though he was still a lot better than I was, he told me that I was doing well. I beamed. I was happy that he was proud.
Then we rode back to Avalon and I slept. When I awoke he called Gerard and I walked the Pattern.
I spent another few weeks with my Father, learning to shift shadow, then he left saying that WHEN I get in trouble, I should call either him or Gerard with the trumps.
Silently laughing(I felt invincible), I watched him go.
The next years were the best. Nothing, but wandering from shadow to shadow. As much adventure or romance or peace as I wanted. No one held me down, no one ordered me around. There were no rules and reality bent to my will, shaping and re-shaping it's self to my desires.
I became a vagabond of a sort, never staying in one shadow too long. An affair here, a battle there. Along the way I acquired my sword, Talshan.
Then I came across Earth. I later learned that my Uncle Corwin as well as my Aunt Florimel had dwelled there(were dwelling there) for years, which was why it had called to me the way it did.
I came there and was overwhelmed. Never had I come across such a place. I was country girl, who had sought out country shadows. The technology baffled as well awed me, as did the inhabitants. I wandered the streets of San Francisco for months, learning the language and the society. When I felt ready, I bought some forged documents and became an American citizen, my official name Shantilli Lora Avalon. Needless to say, I did not often tell people my full name.
It didn't matter. They all called me Shawn. It was the beginning of the era known as the sixties, and I was happy.
Swordplay, there, was different than back home. I had been taught simple, deadly techniques. On Earth they practiced fancy moves and fought with masks and vests and rubber tipped swords.
It was incredible.
I got a job at the local university teaching remedial math classes. Later, once I had picked up the "conversational" blade techniques, I started teaching fencing three days a week, too.
San Francisco was incredible. Rather, Earth was incredible. The music, the people......it was all so different.
I lived in a studio apartment with my marijuana plant, Beuford. Despite my plant life, I stayed away from drugs. Multiple bad experiences had sent me on strange journeys through shadow.
Years later, I was at the theater seeing some dopey opera(Andrew, my date, had bought the tickets. He was rich, but I didn't like him much. I think he felt the same way about me.) when I got a trump call.
At first, I hadn't known what it was. Just a strange, subtle buzzing in the back of my mind then logic took over. I excused myself in the middle of an act and slipped into the empty bathroom about the time the call came through.
My father stood on the other side of the contact. Where he had gotten a trump for me, I don't know. He wasted no time on pleasantries.
"Your grandfather is dead and I want you to come here. Now."
I blinked. "What?"
He narrowed his eyes and repeated, slowly so I would be sure to understand, "Your.......grandfather......is....dead....and...I.....want...you...to....come.... here. Now."
I just stood there, mouth agape. "Now?!"
He nodded, looking more annoyed.
"Gezz. I've got stuff here - a life. Don't I get any time to straighten things up? Besides, my trump deck is at home. You don't want me leaving that, do you?" It was then that I noticed he only had one arm.
He continued to look annoyed. Finally, "I will call you back in twenty-four hours. Get a sword, your trumps, and some armor. Be ready then."
"Yes, sir." I said, like the good little soldier, but he was already gone.
My watch read 7:42.
I slipped back into the theater and told Andrew that I had a family emergency and had to leave. Reluctantly, he offered to drive me home. I said that I would take a cab, then left, a tenor singing off key with the beat of a drum.
It was 8:30 by the time I got home. I immediately began to pack things up.
At 9:45 I knocked my next door neighbor's door. Dee Dee answered, her stringy blond hair hanging over her face, her breath smelling of alcohol.
I told her that I had a family emergency and had to leave the country. I asked if she would take care of Beuford for me, then(after she had said yes) offered her all my electronic equipment.
She cursed a lot and cried, sucking on a bottle of gin, while I moved my TV, radio, and such into her apartment.
I spent all night collecting things.
That morning I delivered them.
My science fiction and fantasy books went my friend Karen, who was into that sort thing. Mystery novels were dropped off at the library. I gave my ex-lover Mike(who was now my friend) my collection of chess boards(marble playing pieces, gold and silver inlay, you name it, I had bought it). I knew that he would appreciate them.
I donated my collection of antique costume jewelry to the museum, as well as gave them all the money in my bank accounts. My clothes went to Cassandra, who was almost my size and my shoes were given to Nicole Brewster, who lived on 22nd street. Everything else was given to Goodwill or left in the apartment to rot.
I looked out at San Francisco and wondered if I would ever return.
At exactly 7:42 my Father called. I was ready and waiting, wearing dark armor and my sword, Talshan, at my side. He brought me across and asked if my fighting skills had improved any.
I said they had.
We sparred and, I think, I may have impressed him. I was still no where near his level of skill, but my years on Shadow Earth had given me practice.
With a nod, he sheathed his sword and told me of everything which had transpired. From Corwin's return, to Brand's final, mad move.
He said that my Grandfather, Oberon, was dead, though the others did not yet know that. (He chose not to tell me how he knew that)
That was the day of the final battle in the Patternfall War.
An hour after my Father and I spoke I was, Talshan in hand, fighting on the front lines against the forces of Chaos.
Never before had I killed so many. Never before had been so afraid.
I didn't get to see the final confrontation with Brand. I was back with the rest of the army, scared and trying not to break down and cry. The Great Storm was upon the horizon and death seemed certain.
Then, when there seemed no time left, we were lead into Chaos to wait out the storm.
I left then, no words to my Father. I had never fought like that. Oh, sure, I had killed, but never on such a grand scale. It showed me why he was the way he was. No one who spent most of their life (and he is very old) killing people could hold on to their soul.
I spent a month, shadow time, a place called Gerselle. Peaceful people.
Then I left, unsure of where I was going. I didn't feel like roaming in shadow, so I returned to Earth, but not to San Francisco. Instead, I went to Los Angles, the City of Angles, changing my name to Shawna Chaos Reeves.
I didn't like Los Angles, or Chicago, which was my next stop. After a couple tries of trying to integrate myself into small towns in Indiana, I was ready to give up on good ol' shadow earth.
Then I came across New York.
Never before had I come across a city. Beautiful and deadly, new, yet ruined. I was entranced. I don't know why, but I stayed.
Getting forged immigration papers was as easy here as it had been in each of the other cities. Going by the name of Shawnali Amber Gerselle, I got a job teaching archery and fencing at NYU.
I feel in love with Broadway and an aspiring actor/singer, Nathaniel Roberts.
I loved him.
We were happy - I actually married the man. I never told him about my family or shadow or any of the magic contained therein.
Then he died. Not of old age as one might suspect, but he was killed.
He had been playing the part of Tony in "West Side Story." It was the last scene in which Chino appears and shots Tony as he(Tony) rushes into Maria's arms. A stage gun is used, one that emits smoke and makes an audible pop as it fires a blank which doesn't even penetrate clothing.
Someone put a real bullet in the gun.
It was strange, sitting there in the audience, watching him fall, then hearing the actress who was Maria screaming that their was "real blood." Then Nathan had begun to call my name. I rushed on stage.
In short, he was dead before the ambulance arrived, dying in my arms in a theater in Dallas.
They never discovered whether it was an accident, or if the gun had been deliberately loaded.
I left Earth after that and went, for the first time since I walked the Pattern, to Amber, where Random was King.
Amber, my homeland no matter where I was born.
The one true realm.
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