An Enemy of An Enemy
The blood ran from my elbow to my wrist, pooling
across my lap and staining the green velvet shorts I wore as well
as my pale legs. Several drops spurted out on to my matching
cotton shirt, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered; not the
past and not the future.......only the present and the
satisfaction of the crimson river which flowed over me.
This wasn't the first time either. No, there had been various attempts to end my life before, but each time my accursed Amberite healing abilities had pulled me from even the most gruesome of situations. That's me, Kayleen the suicidal, daughter of Brand the mad.......
My thoughts slurred together, giving me a feeling of complete and total drunkenness.........
Reality came crashing down as the sound of breaking glass came from somewhere to my left. I glanced over and watched the outline of a muscular man rise from the other side of the window.
A convulsive shudder ran through me as I looked down at the half-empty glass of liquor. Briefly I glanced down at my left arm, the one normally chosen for suicide attempts due to the fact that I was right handed. Nothing but pale skin.
I ran my fingers through waist length locks of red hair and pushed the drink away with my free hand. So drunk that I was remembering that horrible time. I had wanted death, but it had eluded it me and I had not the courage to end my existence in some other way. I had awoke the next morning weakened by the loss of blood, but no worse for the wear, shape shifting taking care of the unsightly wound. I keep meaning to slash my wrists under water so the blood can't clot.........
I rose, pulling a green inked bill from the pocket of my blue Levi's and studied it for a moment, trying to figure out what country it was from and from there I might reconize the world it's self. So drunk I couldn't even remember which shadow I was in. I read the name beneath the picture: Jackson. That's right, I thought rather sluggishly, I was in New Jersey on that damned shadow Earth.
I exited the bar and, for all my intoxication, was able to walk without staggering. An odd talent. I passed by several police men who were busy arresting the guy who had been thrown through the window. I paid them no heed and prepared turn the upcoming corner, playing a dangerous game that the alcohol contributed to. Using the Abyss is always a dangerous thing, especially when one is far from the power source. On top of that I was playing with shadow rather rapidly. I staggered as New Jersey swirled around me, the comfortable pulse of the Abyss beating in my veins. It stopped then and I released the Abyss, the city of New Jersey replaced by a vast forest of greens tinted black by the moonless night.
Had my father been alive he certainly would have reprimanded me for the course of action I had just taken. He would have given me lecture on the danger of ripping shadow and how it called attention to you and your location. Damn him to the deepest hell and hope he stays put........
I took a deep breath and noted that my clothes had changed during the rip. Instead of faded denim and a navy shirt I now wore light leather armor, a broadsword, and a black cloak. I fingered the sword hilt and wondered if I could manipulate it in my current state , then unbuckled it and let it drop to the ground. My skill with the blade was not going to be of any use in this place.
If anything felt the need to attack me tonight they could die at the hands of pure and raw magic. I reached into the sky and willed a sapphire to appear. It did, though my time sense was distorted from the alcohol and I would have sworn it had appeared in two seconds flat, rather than the usual five. It was slender and hung from a silver chain. My father had once told me that it was a counterpart to the Jewel of Judgment and was very dangerous, so I wasn't suppose to touch it. Well, he died so I stole it from his rooms before any of the Chaos Lords he had been associated with could find it. Of course, I had no idea how to use it.
I softly cursed my father for his secrets, then cursed my Uncle Caine for killing him. How many days had it been now? Two, maybe three........
Focusing on the jewel I tried to study it. It took a good five minutes before I was able to activate it in the way needed. The drunkenness passed over me in a violent wave and I turned to the side and vomited, closing my eyes because the mess was so disgusting.
Staggered slightly I plucked the jewel from the air, absently winding the chain about my hand. The stone gave off an azure glow which illuminated the forest ten feet in front of me and three feet to each side.
"Wonderful. I have a magic stone and all I can do is cure drunkenness and light my path," I muttered bitterly. My father had done so much with it. I had seen him raise the dead and cast nets of pure magic that staggered even the most powerful of sorcerers. But, as my mother had cruelly pointed out, I was not Brand; I did not have his power, only the unbalance of his mind.
Obscenities in every language I knew ran through my mind, but I did not voice them. I didn't know whom I hated more: Caine for murdering my father, or Brand himself for keeping so many secrets. Bitterness filled me, along with rage and hatred.
I had never gotten along with my mother, in fact, as of late, she and I weren't even on speaking terms. My father and I had never been very close, but I had gotten along far better with him than I ever had with my mother, a simple shadow dweller who had been widowed when her Chaos husband died walking the Logrus, who found herself an Amberite to sink her fangs into. Family on my mother's side was out when it came to "friends." I don't trust any of my step-relatives worth a damn. I suppose, when it comes to family ties, I have three. My half-brother, by my father, named Sorzant; Corwin's bastard daughter, Alexandra; and Marino, illegitimate son of Despil, who is not related to me, but is my closest friend.
I laughed, a hollow, lifeless sound. Three people among the innumerable amounts who dwelled in Amber, Chaos, and the lands between. How pathetic.
There was a sound behind me, very faint. A breaking of a twig no doubt.
Animal or something else?
I extended my psychic sense, trying to touch the fringes of the mysterious mind. It was human, male, but that was about all I was able to astern before he lunged at me out of the shadows, knocking me the ground. With a savage kick he rolled me over and stood, illuminated by the saphire's glow. Tall was he, towering over me with a height of a good seven feet or more. His hair was long, reaching down past his shoulders, and black. In his eyes burned the fires of hell it's self. He wore black. Black boots, black gloves, black pants, black shirt, even an arrow head of black hung from a matching wrought iron chain about his neck.
"The stone," he said in a grating voice. "Give it to me." He extended a gloved hand toward me. I wasn't in the mood. My father had recently died, my mother was being her usual bitchy self, my brother had disappeared into shadow.........hell, I just wasn't up to dealing with weirdos like this.
"Sorry," I muttered, then, a little louder, "Does the word 'mine' mean anything to you?" I rolled to the side and jumped up with a demons speed. He glared at me and pointed, saying something in a twisted dialect of Thari. I felt it coming and slammed my psychic shields into place.
"Aw," I said, mocking him as the brief attack faded, "your word of power no good without my name?"
A strange smiled creased his face. "Au contraire. I know your name. You are Kayleen, daughter of Brand."
"Been doing your homework," I retorted, nodding, realizing that his attack had been to test my powers. "Since you know my name, might I have the pleasure of yours?"
He gave something that sounded a cross between a grunt and a chuckle and replied, "Verent of Chaos."
"Never heard of you," I said, edging away from him. The man pulsated with power.
"Not surprising," he said, taking a step toward me. "I did, however, know your father and would appreciate the return of that jewel which rightfully belongs to the Chaos Lords who obtained it for Brand. Hand it over." He extended his hand in my direction.
"Finders keepers, losers weepers," I said, doubting it would curb his demands.
"No, not quite. Give it to me." I acted fast, pulling on the Pattern. I may prefer the Abyss, but the spiral does have it's uses........
I summoned it a foot behind the Chaos Lord and drew it to me. The image slammed through his body and he screamed, body convulsing as he did so. Dropping the Pattern I summoned the Abyss since most of my skills focus around it.
He reacted quickly, recovering from the attack and summoning the Logrus while calling me a nasty name. He threw the image at me, shattering my concentration. The Abyss fell away as he lunged at me, grabbing at the jewel still wrapped around my hand. I screamed as he tugged at it, the force causing the chain to wrap about my hand and break it with a sickening crunch. Mentally, I ordered my shapeshifting abilities to do something, trying desperately to grab at the rock and chain which were being unwound from my lifeless grip.
The hand healed and I calloused the palm, snatching at the end of the chain. I then reached forward with my other hand and grabbed the top of the jewel, which was perturbing from his clenched fist. Neon blue light encased us and tinted each of our pale skins cerulean.
He cursed and flung a fireball at me, which missed my body, but caught my hair aflame. I ignored it. Years of romping around in the Abyss with creatures of fire had caused my shape shifting abilities to automatically resist flames. It wouldn't burn me.
We struggled, trying to rip the sapphire away from each other while engaging one another on the psychic plane. I'll give this Verent fellow one thing, he was good. At least my equal when it comes to matters of the mind, which impressed me since I wasn't all that less powerful than Dad had been. I have power, I just can't use it.
I screamed bloody murder, trying to distract him, then broke into a chorus of Soul Asylum's "Runway Train" in a very off key voice. I shocked him enough that I was able to give him a psychic kick and abruptly shatter the contact. Regaining complete awareness before he did, I kneed him where it counts and landed a punch across his face. He fell back and I grabbed at the Abyss, tossing the sapphire into my personal pocket and withdrawing a trump.
Verent came too close then, so I kicked him in the stomach and sent him sprawling backwards. I felt him draw apon the forces of the Logrus.
The trump grew colder and the my apartment in the shadow of Cartola took on depth.
"It is far from over daughter of Brand." I heard him say as I stepped through the trump. "Far from over."
And so I met Verent, Chaos Lord and, as I later learned, husband of the "late" Dierdre of Amber. A man who would stop at nothing to have revenge because of what Brand took from him. A revenge which was to played out on myself and my kin, for we were the children of the man who had taken his wife and plunged her to her death, or so he thought. And with all my later experiences, I do believe I prefer Verent's company to Dierdre's any day.
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