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Esprit de Corps

Steed's Tale - "Esprit de Corps" - Chapter 04

Journal of Prince "Major" Jonathan Steed of Amber:
Based on a Scenario by Rain Donaldson
Written by: R. Cal Westray, Jr. in 1996.
Steed's history was written in 1994.

"Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state,
need to be avenged by agents extraordinary..."


Bar
Episode A3-4 - Room Without a View

In which Steed goes gem hunting
... and then is put on ice.

Bathed in a golden glow, I left the others to go on a mission. I resisted the urge to say "I'm needed." The others wouldn't understand or appreciate the humor. Besides, there was no time. The sensation is not like a Trump portal, it is similar to a Pattern shift after walking the Pattern. 
I have been charged with the task of finding and returning the most valuable object in all of Amber, a large teardrop shaped ruby, the "Jewel of Judgment". It is also known as the Eye of the Serpent. It has been taken and it is on its way to Chaos. This can be officially considered as very bad indeed.
About the Jewel, it was implanted in the eye socket of Coral, after she lost an eye in an explosion within Castle Amber. For some unknown reason, my great grandfather Dworkin performed the operation to implant it there. I hope that Luke is successful in saving Coral and her unborn child. I thought when Coral was beheaded, the jewel would remain intact and safe with Luke. Instead, she was violated further by removing the implant and possibly killing her child. Whoever did this will have to face Luke, one day.
She who has summoned me and charged me with this task is my mentor, the Unicorn of Amber. She has imparted to me many years ago, the importance of the Jewel of Judgment. It was stolen from the Serpent of Chaos eons ago by Dworkin Barimen and the Unicorn. With it, Dworkin forged the Pattern of Amber and created Amber and the countless Shadow universes. Order formed from Chaos. Most of this may be legend, but that is what was imparted to me. She was there when it happened, she is my great grandmother, and I am not inclined to argue with her.
Oberon later used the Jewel to repair our Pattern, before he died. Corwin also used the Jewel of Judgment to forge his own Pattern, at the end of the Shadowfall War.
It was with the Jewel of Judgment that she appointed Random as king of Amber, after retrieving it from the Abyss. It is unknown how many people have attuned themselves to the Jewel. My research indicated that Dworkin, Oberon, Corwin, Brand, Eric, Random, and Coral were attuned to it. There may be others, I may one day learn who they might be. Like the Pattern of Amber, it changes a person and imbues them with additional abilities. I have been awaiting the opportunity to attune myself to the Jewel. The time may be soon. I may have to be attuned to it to bring it back.
Regardless, some diabolical mastermind has orchestrated the taking of the Jewel and Coral became the victim. Possibly and quite probably it was linked with Project Creed. Possibly that was one of the objectives of the Creed Project, to acquire an object of power from Amber. No matter who or why, I plan to get the Jewel back at all cost.
I find myself materializing, where? It appears that I am on a normal city street, the area has the same architecture and low tech feel of a Golden Circle Treaty city. I was looking into the street, now I look around and find myself standing under a tree in someone's front yard. There doesn't seem to be any activity near the house. A few people are riding horses and wagons on the street, but nothing suspicious. 
There is a reason that I am here, so the Jewel must be close by. I examine the yard in detail, there is a spot under the tree where the dirt was disturbed. I bring up the Pattern in my mind and focus on the object of my desire. I feel that I am very close to it, nearly on top of it.
I take out a silver dagger from my inner jacket pocket. I use it to dig up the disturbed soil. It takes around thirty of forty seconds to check the loosened area. I find some resistance and I carefully remove a solid object from the dirt. I clean it off carefully and reveal a ruby gem, this could be it. I place it in the pocket of my bowler and pull out a Trump of Random. I better get it back to Amber as quickly as possible.
As I focus on the Trump contact, I seem to be getting a contact. It is not from the Trump, but from the Jewel.
I take the Jewel from my bowler and I look into the gem. I seem to be projecting my mind into it. I see a three dimensional representation of the Pattern within the gem and I feel my body falling away from me. The awareness of the Jewel grows in my perception and I lose all bodily sensation. I try to stop it and return to my body, I need to do this in an area of safety.
My awareness has returned to normal, I gather my things and walk down the street and look for a quiet and safe place. I find a pub nearby. This is beyond a coincidence, it is the 'Bond Street Pub'. I realize now that I am in Kashfa. Before, I didn't have time to study the surroundings. This is the place where I collapsed from the Dalek poison. I hope to fare better this time. I enter the pub and ask the manager if a room is available. He said that there are no rooms available, but I would be welcome to use the office. He remembers me as a Prince of Amber. I thank him and lock myself within the office.
I make myself comfortable in a sofa. I break out the Jewel and focus my mind upon it, I move my mind into the Jewel. I feel my body drop away and feel my consciousness enter the Jewel. I see the three dimensional matrices of the Pattern, it seems to be a combination of a maze and a jungle gym. The lines of the Pattern turn in various angles with strange and awkward twists. The lines intersect in some places. 
I see a being walking the Pattern. It appears as a headless stick figure. The laws of physics seem to be different here, the Pattern has different angles and the figure seems to be walking up the Pattern. Something other than gravity must be at work here. The figure seems to be roughly a third of the way along the Pattern.
I see where the Pattern begins, but not where it ends. It must be on the other side, hidden from view. I find it troubling, the thought of some unknown creature walking a higher order Pattern. If this being plans to use the Jewel against Amber, it must be stopped. I will have to walk the Pattern myself, catch up to it, and stop its completion of the Pattern.
I try to extend my awareness to the Unicorn. I feel her continued presence, as I would the Pattern, but I am unable to reach her and communicate with her. I am on my own for now. It is going to be a foot race. I will have to judge my speed on the Pattern and keep track of the intersections on the Pattern. I will need every advantage I can get. I visualize myself stepping upon the Pattern.
It doesn't seem to be anymore difficult than walking the Pattern of Amber. There is even less pressure than I expected to feel. I am moving faster than my opponent. It is like walking a balance beam that shifts angles. If there was time to study this at my leisure, it would be a fascinating experience. Unfortunately, I will have to push myself to the limit to catch my quarry. Like the Pattern, I concentrate upon constant movement. To stop is to die.
I need to check my resources within the Jewel, what can I use here? My bowler and brolly are with me. Excellent! What other items are psychic manifestations here? Only one Trump, the one of the Unicorn Grove. This may come in handy later. This gives me long range and short range weapons, along with possible communications or transportation. I wonder if anyone has tried to use a Trump from inside the Jewel? I may get the chance to find out later.
The path is arduous and tiring, but I am steadily gaining upon my quarry. On the straight paths I try to pour on the speed. Measurements are difficult here, but I seem to be roughly five meters from the stick figure.
The stick figure seems to turn and regard me, this is an interesting feat for something without a head. With a voice more on a psychic level than a vocal level, the figure speaks. :Turn back, son of the Unicorn. You have a choice here, I do not.:
"What is your purpose here?" I ask. 
:To fulfill my geas.:
"What would that be?" I ask.
:To return the stolen Eye of the Serpent.:
"Back to Amber, do you mean?" The choice is simple.
:To it's rightful owner.: It means the serpent.
"Back to Amber then." My choice.
:Do not toy with me.: It knows.
"If you do not return the Eye to Amber, then I too have no choice." The lines are drawn. It turns to continue. I press on, it is imperative that I defeat my opponent. I will have to catch up with it, push past it, and complete the Pattern first. Somehow, stopping it from completing the Pattern. Nothing else matters, nothing less is acceptable. There is a slight possibility of catching my quarry at one of the intersections on the Pattern.
It is tiring work and I am pushing harder.
I reach the First Veil. I am flooded with memories of my time on Shadow Earth. I was born Jonathan Steed, on February 6, 1922 in Berkshire, England. My mother Flora of Amber, doted on me at first, but she quickly got bored of motherhood. Besides, she had other obligations, with watching Uncle Corwin under Uncle Eric's orders (that I was unaware of at the time). She was constantly traveling throughout Europe and America. She did not want to have to pack me up and cart me everywhere. So, I was passed from nanny to nanny until I went to school. I was placed in a preparatory boarding school in Oxfordshire, England at age five.
I learned to ride bikes and horses by the age of eight, but I preferred riding horses. The staff constantly had to keep their eyes on me, to keep me out of trouble.
With occasional visits from mother, she pampered me and we toured Shadow worlds of varying time lines to entertain me and teach me to be a proper gentleman and a future prince of Amber. With mother, everything was a grand showing. She constantly reminded me that appearance and behavior is everything. Pay attention to the details, they are what is important. Flora is the most possessive, irritating, demanding, manipulative, calculating, and fastidious person I've ever met. Regardless, I love her dearly.
There is a portrait opposite the entryway to the Great Hall, of my mother Flora. A beautiful lady of perfect features with the coolest of blue eyes, wearing a gown green as the sea. As described by Uncle Corwin later: her long hair and low bangs, all of a cross between sunset clouds and the outer edge of a candle flame in an otherwise dark room. He knows so well how to turn a phrase. In mother's portrait, she has her Irish Wolfhounds at her side. They are well trained and extremely nasty.
Flora has many housekeepers. In the states, later, she has a Puerto Rican lady named Carmilla. In Castle Amber, she also has William for a butler. He was the one who delivered messages from her. He must have had limited access to a Trump of hers. He was a pleasant enough young chap, and a proper gentleman but with no sense of humor.
I attended a boarding school in Winchester, England. Through the tutelage of Flora's butler, William, I was taught the history of Amber, family history, and how to be conversant in Thari. It is a fascinating language. I was groomed to go into military school and I learned to take care of horses. I had a rough childhood, if it could be called that. I was a loner who wanted others to like me.
I wanted to charm school mates, so I worked on ways to be pleasant and charming. I somehow felt that this was important to my development, here as well as Amber. I asked for advise from William, who seemed unable to understand the concept of charm. I asked mother for help on this. Flora took me to Amber and I was introduced to Dame Margot. We got along famously because I was an eager pupil, she was a terribly interesting lady, and she found me naturally charming. She is ancient but still beautiful, though she wears her white hair under a veil. She is the expert on court gossip and she regards Florimel as her finest creation. Now she was working her art on me. One thing was overlooked from all I learned from her. I was in a boarding school for boys. It would be sometime later before I would be able to exercise any charm on girls. The use on males would be quite limited, so I focused upon making friends and allies.
It was during those visits that I first walked the Pattern, gained immortality, gained the ability to mold Shadow, and found my personal path to Amber. I was given instruction at the early age of twelve to attain the Pattern. It was risky, but I made up my mind to do it. I struggled with it as all Amberites do, but my unwavering determination made it easier to accomplish. I was more exhausted when I finished than from anything I had ever done before. It is not to be taken lightly and one must never stop while walking it. I have walked it quite a few times since, but only to accomplish a major task.
I remember very clearly, my first Pattern walk and meeting my mentor.

I approached the Pattern from the far corner. I spent a few seconds to gather my concentration. I was so excited about this, I was wired for hours, now I force myself to calm down and think about nothing but the Pattern. I am sure that my mother, Flora, thinks that I need to build up my courage; she still thinks that I am too young for this. I will prove her wrong. My uncle Ge'rard is with her to oversee my Pattern walk. He is an imposing figure who takes his job seriously. I have always been fond of him and his straight forward manner. His features are serious and stern, but I can tell by the gleam in his eye, that this is a proud moment for him. I won't disappoint him either.
I take my first step, left foot first, on the single line that begins the Pattern at the corner. I feel the energy surges enveloping my foot and I see blue sparks. I take the second step and the crackling of electrical energy continues. My right foot is enveloped. I begin to feel the pressure of resistance on the third step. I continue walking as the resistance builds gradually. I move along a line that curves abruptly back upon itself. The resistance increases. I proceed into the First Veil, taking ten steady paces against heightened resistance. I apply a continued forward pressure against it to keep moving. I am sweating as I make it through the First Veil. The pressure eases a bit. A flood of memories fill my thoughts.
I follow a long curve, then a sharp switch back. I take two steps, a turn, three more steps, and the pressures increase again. Sparks of energy rise to the level of my knees. I can barely see mother out at the other end of the chamber. I can hear her words of encouragement. I reach a straight line which is the beginning of the Second Veil. The electrical energies rise to my waist and the resistance becomes terrible. I take three sharp turns and my effort is taxed to the limit as I press through these turns. I step into a curve and the resistance lessens, I know that I made it through the Second Veil. My breathing becomes labored and I have lost track of time, my only thoughts are to keep moving. I take ten paces, going through a swirling filigree of fire. I emerge from the filigree of fire and commence the Grand Curve. The sparks continue to crackle about my waist and I begin to feel hot and cold in turns. I advance into three more curves, a straight line, and a series of sharp arcs. At this point I gain an awareness of the power I now have over Shadow.
I step into ten dizzying turns, a short arc, a straight line, and I find myself facing the Final Veil. I take ten steps through the Final Veil, I need to exert enormous effort against the awful pressure. The energies rise to my shoulders, then to my eyes. I pass through the Final Veil, there is a short arc, then three steps more. Taking these last three steps, I struggle against heavy resistance. On the fourth step, I have reached the center of the Pattern. The pressure has abated, my body feels weak beyond measure.
Muscles ache everywhere, but I no longer care. I made it. I have proven myself as a Prince of Amber, that is all that matters. I see that mother is smiling; it may be a trick of the dim lights, but I believe that I see a tear in her eye. I have never before or since seen her shed a tear. I understood the implications and risks of walking the Pattern. She could have lost a son, she wanted me to wait until I was older. Uncle Ge'rard is laughing and clapping his hands, the sound reverberates throughout the chamber. I smile at them both. "Thanks to both of you," I say weakly.
I never told anyone of my intention and it is my most private secret. I have been planning this for months and not asking anyone for advice. Instead of directing the Pattern to send me to some specific place as instructed, I quietly asked the Pattern, "send me to the one that can be trusted to give me lifelong guidance." I almost expected it to be a wasted attempt to expect direction or intelligence from something like the family artifact, but I was hopeful. In my mind, I could have sworn I heard someone say, :Done.:
I vanished from the Pattern, only to materialize in a quiet and beautiful grove. I was certain that something wonderful was going to happen. I felt the presence of a very powerful mind. I felt the gentle mental probe. Someone was trying to understand my intentions and the reason for this intrusion. I heard a slight mental laugh and turned around. I saw her and froze in my tracks, not daring to move, speak, or even think. She had the same affect on adults, yet doubly so for me.
The fabled Unicorn of Amber! Rumored to be my great-grandmother, the focus of the Church of Amber, and a legendary primal force. The Grove where she resides was said to be located between Kolvir and Forest Arden, not far from the Castle but I know that it will be a long walk home. I tried not to think about it, as exhausted as I was from walking the Pattern.
I spent a long time with her, learning about the history of Amber; unknown by people like William. I tried to absorb it all and found it too much for one mind to comprehend. I was so tired after walking the Pattern. Yet, I wanted to hear more. I promised to seek her for counsel and be her personal knight. After all, I was still very young and impressionable. This is one secret I would keep between myself and the Unicorn, no one will ever know.
I was slowly falling asleep from exhaustion. How long was it, I had no idea. It may have been a few minutes or an eternity. I heard her before drifting off, :I will remember your promise little one, and we will see a lot of each other in the future.:
I woke in my room with no idea how I got there. Had it all been a dream? I looked around my room for a clue. I found one, a white Carnation. I could only assume that the Unicorn somehow brought me here to my room and left the Carnation as a sign and a token. I sought out mother and Ge'rard and told them that I just woke up after collapsing in my room.
I began wearing the white Carnation on my lapel. I found that over time, the Carnation would not wilt. It retained its aroma and vitality, I could only assume magically. I later found that it also provided a form of protection from injury. I would not allow myself to rely upon its protection.
In my young mind, this was a favor from my eternal counsel. I would seek her out often, just to learn from her and curry her continued favor. As I grew up and lost my boyhood fascination; it became devotion to a greater cause which meant the preservation of Amber, the Pattern, and the Unicorn.
I became a devoted child of the religion of Amber 'The Way of the Unicorn'. Now, I am familiar with the location of all known shrines and I have visited them all. Any problems with the shrines are reported to the High Priest of the Church, the King of Amber. In my quarters with my collection of rare and invaluable books, I have a transcribed copy, in Thari, of 'The Book of the Unicorn'. It includes the 'Epistles of Oberon', the 'Epistles of Eric', and the 'Epistles of Random'.

My mind moves forward to my days in school. I found that I had an obvious flair for sporting activities with a fierce independent nature. I out played, out ran, and outwitted all my fellow pupils in every school sporting event. I was supportive of my teammates and discouraged taking credit for team wins. My wins would be wins for the school. I worked with school mates to help improve their abilities.
My encounter with the school bully, James, was a turning point in the boarding school. I refused to be intimidated by the much larger and older bully. He attacked me and instinct took over, I grabbed him by the belt, kicked his legs out from under him. He crashed to the ground, flat on his back. This knocked the wind out of him. I was upon him in an instant, punching him. I took out my accumulated frustration on him. He became the cause of my lack of friends and allies. When the house master came to separate us, I found that I had thrashed the bully bad enough to have him sent to the hospital. His parents were going to press charges, until they saw our comparative sizes. I supposed they were embarrassed that their son was beaten by such a smaller child. After that incident, no other bully took me on. I had won over the other students completely, who were constantly under attack from the bully. The house master, Mr. Perry, recommended enrolling me into the school's Officer Training Corps, who felt that I would make good officer material.
I was shortly very popular, beyond my wildest expectations. I was eager to help out a friend and I was afraid of nothing. I have the ability to locate things that eludes others and I was willing to share. I took my friends to the stables for rides. I was one of the rare kids in boarding school to have access to the stables. I even took them on small hellrides, without them being aware of it. My friends wanted excitement and I was their ticket. They would have followed me anywhere. I also went on many solo hellrides to investigate the possible Shadows that I could find. I found a Shadow where horses are carnivorous, another where gems littered the landscape as far as the eye could see, and an assortment of other Shadows.
At 13, I passed the Common Entrance Exam Paper for Eton College. It is the largest and most famous of a group of English private secondary schools called public schools. The full name of Eton, a boy's school, is the 'King's College of Our Lady of Eton Beside Windsor'. Eton is 32 kilometers west of London. Things were looking up, indeed.
I was in Eton College. The courses I was taking cover: ancient history, divinity, Greek, Latin, mathematics, and sciences. I was also taking any courses that will improve combat skills. My passion is fencing; using foils, rapiers, and sabers. My training with blades is ongoing. I plan to be the best there is.
I learned to ride cars, yet I still preferred horses and hellrides. I finished my military education and began taking college courses. I learned to handle minor personal finances; although, most of the funds were handled through an attorney. I kept an active passport, to make it easy to travel throughout Europe and the States. It came in handy for visiting mother in her travels as well as the various tours I went on. I was trained in self-defense using judo and tai quan do. I prefer the techniques of defense, distraction, and to quickly subdue or escape rather than prolonged combat. My endurance would allow me to defend myself for a considerable amount of time, this helps to get the measure of an opponent. However, a quick and smooth finish is the best. There were some exceptions, however.
I hate the mistreatment of mounts. On Shadow Earth, I witnessed a particularly vicious drunken groomsman, repeatedly whipping a horse. I got between them and the groomsman made the mistake of swinging the whip at me, cursing me, and threatening me for my bloody interference. I rolled under the whip, and came up within arms reach. It looked as though he was expecting me to charge and he tried to upper cut me with his left hand. I blocked his punch with my right arm and he spun to my left. He was getting off balance and I drove my left arm under his left ear. The whip dropped from his grasp. His body jolted but he didn't drop. He turned to face me with hatred and curiosity in his eyes. He said, "First, I'll teach you a lesson for interfering, then I'll kill the bloody worthless horse." He reached back for another swing from the right, there was still some force behind his swing. I was fed up with this. I side stepped his blow and drove my fist into the kidney region. He dropped to his knees and I beat him unconscious with my fists. I took his unconscious form and threw the man onto the back of my horse, Andrea. We hellrode to a particularly nasty Shadow I once encountered. One where horses are carnivorous, and I dumped the body there. I never checked the groomsman to see if he was able to survive in that Shadow. Later inquiries by the authorities had determined that the man disappeared without a trace, and no further investigations were done.
I was later taken back to Amber, I was given an extensive tour of Amber and was assigned a permanent room for future visits. Mother never knew that I visited Amber before on my own at other times. Flora provided arrangements of security to her exact specifications, she probably wanted to monitor me when I am there. I toured many Shadows with mother usually via Trumps. It was quick and efficient, but rather dull. It is much more interesting to travel through Shadow. Whenever I mention it, she would shudder and veto the suggestion.
To Shadow travel and hellride, I brought a few Andelusian horses from Shadow Earth and several are available for me when needed. They are medium build horses, 15.2 hands high. They vary in color from Bay (red-brown to golden-brown) to spotted silver-gray. Their mane and tails are long and wavy. They have been best suited for Shadow travel, they don't spook easily. They have always been my favorite for riding.
I am untrusting of my relatives and their motives, but outwardly I am openly friendly and very charming. As long as they are in support of Amber, I try to learn how far they can be trusted. I am even suspicious of mother, because she keeps too many secrets from me. The most painful one is the identity of my father. I hope that my father is unaware of my existence, this would explain why he never looked for me. She has long ago refused to answer any questions regarding it. I knew better than to ask one of the others, even if they knew the answer, the price would be too high.
I learned to listen attentively, meditating on Pattern energies, not talk too much or to divulge information, and keep my back covered. Her coaching was working too well. She is well pleased with my talents in Pattern usage. She is concerned about my stiff devotion to the protection of Amber, she never understood my motivation and I never told her. I am certain that I could keep secrets better than she could. She told me a little of her activities on Shadow Earth and that she was under orders from Eric to monitor the activities of Uncle Corwin. She instructed me to stay clear of Eric, because he may decide to use me as another tool in the confrontation with Corwin. From then on, I subconsciously blamed Eric because mother was always gone. Therefore, I do not trust Eric, period. As a result, I almost certainly would support Corwin's position over Eric's.
I traveled through Shadow to locate the artifact of my bowler. With much guidance from the Unicorn, I located my Sabre and personal weapon: Shadow Veil, the Avenger. It is a thin silver sabre, with an umbrella for a scabbard and also for concealment. Shadow Veil is incredibly hard and sharp, causing deadly damage. Unlike typical curved sabres, Shadow Veil is a straight dual edge fencing sabre. This is when I decided upon my style of dress. While hellriding through Shadow before joining the Royal Navy, I stopped at various Shadows. I found a Shadow where gems littered the landscape. Loading the saddlebags with an assortment of large gems, I brought them back to Shadow Earth. Selling them to various jewelers, I eventually accumulated a fortune of my own. I purchased a large Westminster Mews London apartment, '3 Stable Mews'. I still have a large supply of gems stored away in lock boxes at several banks in London. Some of the keys are left with my attorney and the others are well hidden in my apartment. I also have access to an entire Shadow of wealth to draw from, if needed. As a result, I have an extensive wardrobe of clothing in Castle Amber and on Shadow Earth. I also have an extensive wine cellar and several expensive cars.
When I was 19 in 1940, I entered the British Royal Navy as a Lieutenant. I was involved in various military activities. World War II would be in full swing later. I took command of a 25 meter motor torpedo boat and joined the North Sea Fleet. A few months later, I was in an off-shore landing party behind enemy lines, where I single handedly captured an enemy machine gun post and took five of the enemy as prisoners. A feat of valor that earned me a citation for bravery. I just did what was necessary to protect the men of the landing party, it was rather an invigorating experience. This and other acts, lead to becoming awarded the Military Cross, a medal usually reserved for Army personnel. In the British Royal Navy, with my gained knowledge of cryptology, warfare, and strategy, I quickly rose to the rank of Major. Unfortunately, it also led to a desk job after World War II.
I accepted a position at the War Ministry, where I expected to see some action. To my immediate dismay, I found that it was a tediously dull desk job. I spent many lengthy lunch time drinking sessions with my Ministry colleagues. This was due to boredom, I missed the action in field work. There were no challenges. Me and a desk job made poor bed fellows. After many afternoon drinking sessions, I was reprimanded and dismissed (with loss of pension rights) for "conduct unbecoming a service member of H. M. Service".
Flora rarely visited or contacted me then. She was spending more time in the states with Carmilla. She suggested that I stay away from Amber for awhile. Another coup in progress. She mentioned that Eric is now the current King of Amber and Corwin was blinded and in the dungeon. During my last contact with Flora, there was a mention of a Black Road. Travel through shadow was becoming more difficult. Familiar paths to Amber were changing or blocked. The Unicorn Grove was inaccessible as well. I encountered the Black Road and was disgusted by it. The various creatures out of Shadow and Chaos were increasing in number with each encounter. Being attacked, I killed many of them on each encounter, then returning to Shadow Earth. I notified Flora about my experiences, not sure who in Amber to trust. She instructed me to keep out of reach for now.
When I was 33 in 1960, I was no longer in the service, I looked for things to keep me busy and occupied. Something better suited to my Service training, in the field, with no desk job. From boredom, I fell back upon visiting pubs and womanizing. My curiosity was aroused when a close friend advised me to look up an old Naval colleague who now held 'some kind of secret post' with the Ministry of Intelligence. The man, previously known to me as 'Douggie', I later learned in Ministry circles he is known by his Department prefix of 'One - Ten'. Douggie greeted me warmly and after a long conversation and a few pints, said that he would be in touch later.
After having my background 'vetted' by the department's internal security division, they recalled me to the Ministry two weeks later. They offered me a post as a departmental investigator Class A, I was elated and accepted. It was an incredible field job with a lot of action, adventure, and mysteries to solve. Within eight months of accepting the post, with my resourceful handling of cases under my supervision, coupled with my eagerness to succeed, I was promoted to Security Class A1 - Plus (Pass number 379905) - Code Red. I kept my pass secreted in my bowler.
When I worked ostensibly for the Intelligence arm of the British government, I was neither a spy or counterspy. I was more a free spirit in many ways, assigned to work on cases considered too sensitive, too difficult, or simply too bizarre for other operatives to tackle. Somehow, it was always the third type that I seemed to handle the most frequently and the kind that I enjoyed most. I had passed an apprenticeship in conventional espionage, but had found the work depressingly boring, underpaid, and pointless. The position I held for the last few years in the Ministry, was more fascinating, well salaried, and better suited for my tastes. The job often left me saving - well, perhaps not the world, but certainly extensive portions of the British empire and/or the inhabitants thereof. I gladly left saving the world to other operatives, the real life counterparts of that fictional fellow with the double 0 prefix. 
I was in charge of my own department, mostly working solo, and sometimes I recruited others. Forging alliances with other equally dedicated (though often 'amateur') colleagues. I was kept busy on cases, working with people whose abilities complimented my own. I had some incredible teammates. I even developed close professional relationships with foreign agents, who often could not be trusted any more than our Chaosian 'cousins'.
As I approached my 50th birthday, Shadow Earth was experiencing world wide disturbances. With my Pattern sense, I could detect Shadow storms beyond our Shadow Earth. Something was happening out in Shadow, and I was excluded from it. It is time to find out what is going on. I was longing to return home. Again, I missed Amber and the Unicorn, to the core of my very being.
I filed for an extended leave of absence. My superior reluctantly granted it, after all I did for Queen and Country, I deserved a break.
After repeated attempts to Shadow travel, I felt that the worst of the disturbance must be over and Shadow travel seemed to be relatively safe again. I wasn't entirely sure how I knew, I just felt it. In the past, it irked me to have missed anything, but I was to stay out of it. Besides some paths to Amber were closed, I had tried. Lords, I had tried. Those black roads I encountered and their stench of Chaos. The bizarre creatures I killed, some were Demons! I determined that my best option was to return before the creatures from Shadow found their way to Shadow Earth. It was now time to return, I was certain.
Now, I had to find out for myself what was happening there. I hellrode there, not finding the black road and now truly finding my familiar true path to Amber. I skirted Forest Arden as much as I could and did some investigating in the uptown side of Amber to Bayle's Place near the Unicorn Shrine. From snatches of gossip and news, I learned: Oberon and Eric was dead, Random was now King (by decree of the Unicorn no less!), Brand and Deirdre was lost in the Abyss, and Corwin created another Pattern. Changes abound, and I can't stand being away any longer. What an interesting concept to create another Pattern! This would indeed be something marvelous to see.
I made it to Castle Amber and was summoned to present myself to King Random. I was surprised that the Unicorn herself had selected this man to rule Amber. Upon being presented to Random, I withdrew Shadowveil from the brolly sheathe and placed it at the feet of Random, swearing allegiance to King Random and Amber. Uncle Random was a difficult man to understand, but he shared a love of Amber and that was enough. His wife, Queen Vialle was a charming and complex lady, truly regal. I met Merlin, Corwin, Bill Roth, and others who were now freely moving in and out of Castle Amber. I paid my respects to Lord Chantris, Dame Margot, Baron Bayle, Michael, and of course the beloved Unicorn. I found out that Flora spent centuries monitoring Corwin on Shadow Earth, traveling between Europe and America. She briefed me about the Patternfall War, I would learn different versions from other family members. Amber was experiencing a true Renaissance.
I finally made my excuses and went back to Shadow Earth, once more, to put my affairs back in order. My attorney was paid a large sum to keep my Winchester Mews apartment and investments maintained. Saying only that I would leave the country, not knowing when I would be back.
Memories of my partners, contacts, and fellow agents flow like a high speed film. We faced mad scientists, misguided inventors, enemy agents, criminals, corporate spies, industrial spies, evil organizations, and a multitude of diabolical masterminds.
There were many rewards for my efforts. My connections made it possible to have extensive financial holdings throughout the British empire. These funds have come in handy to entrap many greedy individuals I investigated. It became a natural cover, as a wealthy eccentric. I traveled throughout Shadow Earth. I have modest holdings in some wine and beer companies. I also have direct contacts for Cuban cigars and other tobacco products. I treat myself to the best of everything. I have established silent partnerships in London men's fashion establishments. I designed my own clothing and have personal tailors to make them. Most important, the women of class and beauty were numerous.
I never established a close relationship with women. My closest female friends were those I worked with, but I would not let myself become romantically involved with them. It tended to cloud judgment and they would be used to entrap me. I was over protective of my partners and one was kidnapped in an attempt to discredit me in the Ministry. Putting myself in constant jeopardy was typical, but I hesitate to risk others in my line of work. A loved one would be in danger being too close to an agent, as well as being too close to a Prince of Amber.
When I am on Shadow Earth, I drive my Green 1929 Speed Six Bentley (Registration number XT 2273). If I need a faster car, I drive my Olive Green 5.3 litre Jaguar Coupe (Registration number NVK 60P). All in all, my time on Shadow Earth was wonderful and challenging. Yet, something was missing. I was being pulled back to the true reality, Amber.
When I was 51 in 1978, at the end of the Patternfall War, I went to the Ministry and gave my resignation to my superior. I've been fond of the gentleman for years; a plump, mustached, English gentleman the Ministry referred to only as 'Mother'. He wanted to know why I was leaving. I could only tell him that I wanted to spend some long overdue time with my mother and family, nothing more than that. I was not dissatisfied with anything, and that I will miss him and the Ministry. I could sense the gruff resigned disappointment in his voice. With others, he would suspect defection, but he knows better with me. We worked well together since our time together in the Royal Navy. His injury in the Navy put him into a wheelchair, but his stubbornness and determination took him far regardless. He is highly intelligent and resourceful. He now coordinates the activities of many agents like myself, a highly respected leader of agents. He also knows that it is pointless to argue with me. I turned in my Pass, with profound sorrow, and I shook his hand. "I'll be back someday, old friend. Count on it!" I then left the Ministry of Intelligence; I hope I will return one day.
From the stables, I took four of my Andelusian horses (Andrea, Andy, Lucy, and Lucian) and a few possessions (among them a few handguns of various caliber's and plenty of ammunition, even though they will not work in Amber they may come in handy in Shadow). Large saddlebags with a few changes of clothes (good suits are hard to find) and my best wines. I included my best collection of blades, brollys, and other personal items. I also packed some travel rations for the long trip. I then took my leave of Shadow Earth, heading back to Amber, the Royal Way.
As I leave, old habits die hard, I make sure that no one is following me. I wouldn't put it past the Department to have me shadowed even if it is only to make sure I am not in danger. I would hate to have an old colleague stranded in Shadow somewhere along the way to Amber. I can imagine someone explaining to a Department head, that Steed vanished into thin air with four horses. No one on my tail, good. I shift Shadow and make my way to Amber.
More memories of the many people, animals, plants, devices, and Cybernauts who have tried to kill me. They are trying to prevent me from walking the Pattern. I fight them all off another time, because I cannot stop. As fatigue sets in, I am rescued from the last opponent by a familiar lithe figure in a black leather jumpsuit. As I offer my genuine thanks to an old and dear friend, I pass the First Veil and move on quickly.
I press on from the First Veil, my quarry seems to have passed the Second Veil. I have to pick up the pace. I am looking ahead to see where the Pattern intersects. There seems to be an intersection just before I reach the Second Veil. I have to time this just right and not lose and distance or time. My window of opportunity is narrow and quickly approaching, I will have to pick up the pace even more.
I take off my bowler and place the contents of the hidden pocket into my jacket. The headless stick figure seems to be nearly the same height as myself. Finding a vital spot would be pure guesswork, so I prepare for a leg shot. Possibly, I can knock my opponent off the Pattern or off guard. 
Fighting the continuing resistance, I work my way closer to the intersection. Only a couple steps before I reach the Second Veil. I throw the bowler and it scores. Unfortunately, the leg I hit bows and seems to bend like a rubber band, taking the impact. My quarry stumbles forward and falls on one hand onto the Pattern. It cartwheels forward along the Pattern, then up the upward sweeping wall of the Pattern. Apparently, up and down have become relative to the Pattern itself. My quarry is now sideways of my position, almost perpendicular.
I tap my forehead and the bowler will try to catch up with me. I enter the Second Veil. I am experiencing memories of my times in Amber.
I remember my first Pattern walk and my first experiences with my mentor. I remember my first hellrides with my Andelusians and how it felt to shift Shadow. I treasured the time I spent in Amber, learning from people I will always respect.
I spent a great deal of time with Michael. He runs the castle, domestically. He coordinates the activities of the kitchen, cleaning, and maintaining all quarters. Michael is average height with thinning hair bound in a black cloth. He is fit and lean, and gives the appearance of a Drill Sergeant. I learned all the activities he is responsible for, and I have assisted him on occasion. This includes dispensing keys to new guests for their quarters and playing tour guide to visiting dignitaries. This helps me to learn about our guests and their current intrigues and activities. It doesn't hurt to keep alert, knowledge is an important commodity. Michael and I spent many days pouring over recipes of exotic food and experimentation of beverages. We were rarely disappointed in our results. I also know most of the staff quite well, it tends to improve the service and efficiency of the staff.
I was taught basic strategy and chess at a very early age. I spent long day and evening sessions with Lord Chantris, drinking, discussing strategy, and discussing horses. We got along famously, Lord Chantris even offered Flora to adopt me as his own son. He is the type of man I would be proud to have as a father.
Lord Chantris is tall and thin, pale-skinned and blue eyed. His nose is exceedingly long. He stares intently when spoken to, as if pulling words from the speaker's mouth by sheer force of will. For some, it is difficult to feel comfortable around him, though he is never rude or less than gracious. He speaks in an archaic form of Thari, and his dress is formal, all in gold and gray. His manner makes me very comfortable and that pleases Lord Chantris to have someone to talk and drink with that enjoys his company. I was able to get plenty of practice in speaking Thari, during my visits with Lord Chantris. Make no mistake, in battle Lord Chantris is formidable. He is a marvel in strategy and I knew this very well, learning all I can from him.
I spent many months with the charming Dame Margot learning etiquette, manners, and everything else a young gentleman needed to know. I was learning about girls as well, something rarely seen at a military school or boarding school. Dame Margot had to keep a close eye on me, there were young and lovely girls in Castle Amber trying to attract a young Prince of Amber. Beyond the explanation of courtly love and protecting my family honor, she directed Lord Chantris to answer specific questions she was unwilling to answer, she is after all a proper lady.
I spent months with Baron Bayle to learn about the business of brewing and wine making. Baron Bayle is the Official Vintner to Amber. He is a stout man in his 50's at this time, with cheeks and nose red with veins, head crowned by a magnificent mane of white hair. His eyes are dark and piercing, and he is still strong enough to lead soldiers into battle.
Baron Bayle has several beautiful daughters. I find Vinta Bayle and her sisters, charming ladies of quality. I don't pursue them out of respect for Baron Bayle. Although, I am sure he would personally arrange a marriage to one of his daughters to a Prince of Amber, especially one that would continue the family tradition of brewing and wine making. It has been a tempting idea.
I surprised Baron Bayle by displaying a wide knowledge of the art. I spent a lot of time crossing the Strait of Dover into France touring breweries and wineries to learn as much as possible. I wrote countless papers on the subject at school. I visited as many pubs and wineries as possible. These were private field trips, investigative studies, and purely scientific research. Indeed! I greatly enjoyed it, and I greatly enjoyed my visits with Baron Bayle.
By the time I entered the military, I was an expert on brewing, wine making, and I was adept at recognizing all varieties and qualities of beers and wines. I also demonstrated a large capacity for drinking, but rarely drank to excess. I got my high tolerance for alcohol from my Amber endurance. I sampled often because I enjoy the broad range of drinks available. I prefer the sparkling wines like champagne. For beer, I prefer the amber and dark ales, but I prefer it in a frosted tankard, not at room temperature.
I graduated with honors from Eton College in England at the age of 18. My classmates nick-named me 'Bacchus', because of my knowledge of wine and beer and my capacity for drinking. I was very fond of my classmates and would encounter them later in the British Royal Navy or the Ministry. I was ready to join the Royal Navy. After all, at the time of my departure from Eton, there was no one who could best me with a blade or in hand to hand combat. It was time to put my skills to work for the military.
I went back to Amber to serve in the Amber Army, under the command of Uncle Benedict. I absorbed everything I could learn from him. I was not given any special treatment, Benedict did not treat me any differently than any other soldier. I was impressed, almost awed, by my uncle's knowledge of strategy and his skill at arms.
I found that, as good as I was with a blade, there was a lot I still needed to learn. I was determined to quickly advance through the ranks and become the best in the Army. My skill at hand to hand combat was efficient, not depending upon my Amber strength but using proper fighting techniques. My use of light blades was smooth, graceful, accurate, and deadly. I got so proficient, that I soon had to practice only with the most experienced officers.
I often went drinking with the men to learn bar room fighting (or brawling), I constantly monitored my environment to see if there was something that could be used to an advantage. I learned every dirty, underhanded, and unexpected trick in the book. A chair, a curtain, a table leg, a helmet, a broom, or a mug of Bayle's Piss became weapons in a fight where anything goes. I constantly observed others to pick up on their flaws or techniques that I could learn.
From 'civilized' soldiers, I learned the skills of diplomacy on the battlefield and rules of conduct. I learned emergency field first-aid, for men and horses. I quickly advanced to the rank of Major before leaving the Amber Army.
After my obligatory four years, I left the Amber Army and I made an agreeable separation from Uncle Benedict. Benedict was pleased with my plan to return to Shadow Earth. He knew what was developing in Amber and on Shadow Earth. Unknown to me at that time, Corwin was in an automobile accident and was released into the custody of mother. He was committed to Greenwood Private Hospital. I also learned later that mother changed her name to Mrs. Evelyn Flaumel when she moved back to the states with Carmilla. Benedict was convinced that I would be removed from the situation developing in Amber prior to the Patternfall War. I bid farewell to the family, not knowing what I would miss.
In a flash of memories, I face all the opponents I faced in Amber. Each is trying to stop my progress on the Pattern. The many men I killed in battle, the men I dueled with, and the creatures from Chaos I killed in defense of Amber.
I also experience the memories of Amber since my return to Amber from the British Navy and from the Ministry. Since I have been back, many events have occurred.
At the age of 52, I was part of a foreign exchange program where my cousins and I were exchanged with cousins from Chaos for one year. We were assigned different Houses. I was given over to the House of Sawall. I was assigned quarters in the Ways of Sawall. They were designed to match my Winchester Mews London apartment, my link to stability in a world of chaos. I also developed a close relationship with Lord Sawall, Mandor, and Merlin (whenever he visited Chaos). Mandor and I are kindred spirits, we spent many nights drinking, telling stories, and womanizing. After accomplishing our appointed tasks, which is still treated as State secrets from both Courts, we were awarded "The Order of the Serpent" and other minor awards. This was almost unheard of for Amberites. I display all my awards, rather proudly in my quarters in Amber. I also keep the Trumps that were given to me of Mandor, Lord Sawall, and my Chaos quarters in the Ways of Sawall. I visit Chaos whenever I get the chance or when I am invited, they are such interesting people.
I was once sent on a fool's errand to lead a Caravan slowly transporting casks of explosive materials through many Shadows. It turned out to be casks of Unicorn manure for the rose gardens. I basically ended up baby sitting for the younger Amberite cousins after we were all set up by Random's 16 year old daughter Kit.
I was also assigned to a naval blockade to keep privateers out of Amber's port. It was quite a struggle, but we accomplished the task. This was while the elders were negotiating with the Golden Circle parties, who were enlisting the privateers to attack Amber. It took quite awhile before normalcy returned between Amber and the Golden Circle Treaty parties.
I was also whisked away by Dworkin to a parallel Amber where all the Patterns were dead. I was to find three allies among 16 to assist me in reconstructing the Pattern. Other parties were sent by other elders, to kill us if necessary, to accomplish their own tasks. I found my allies: Martin (who was shot and was put out of action at the last minute), Niles (a Pattern ghost kept alive by carrying a Jewel of Judgment of his own), and Caliban (who was killed in the final battle while helping us to accomplish our mission). Each of us carried a Jewel of Judgment from our own Amber's. Mine was given to me by the Unicorn, before it was implanted into Coral. It became my task, after Martin fell, to take all four Jewels and walk the dead Pattern. Upon completion, I was to shatter three of the four Jewels to complete the Pattern. I was expecting to get a bullet in the back while walking the Pattern, but Niles was protecting me by creating multiples of himself to take the bullets instead. I also had to make sure that I did not shatter Nile's Jewel, not knowing that he was a Pattern ghost. I accomplished the task, recreated the Pattern, restored the parallel Amber to it's prior glory. My team was sent back to their own versions of Amber knowing that we restored more power to the Pattern multiverse. When I returned, I found that the Jewels were not truly destroyed, just sent back to their own Amber's. In that Amber, I was attuned to a Jewel; but only to the one from that Shadow. Now, I will become attuned to the true Jewel of Judgment, not just a Shadow Jewel.
I have been sent to other parallel Amber's; one of which where the Castle Amber was in the form of a long railroad train. Each car was a different room. The Pattern was in the form of a series of clocks to be calculated and set. The Jewel was in the form of a pocket watch, used to set the clocks of the Pattern. We barely got out alive.
I was also trapped in a Ghost wheel simulation. When we realized where we were. I flooded the area with Pattern energy to attack the renegade Chaosian who trapped us there. I was ready to kill him because he had killed Flora and dumped her body in a garbage scow, but it was just a simulation of Flora. After dispatching him, we jointly used a Trump of Merlin to have us pulled out.
With my abilities, I deal mostly with the family artifact, the Pattern of Amber. Quality food and drink, horses, Shadow travel, hellrides, and fencing are things I enjoy with a passion. To the confusion of others, I place a great deal of importance on insignificant things and little importance on things of seeming importance. It keeps others on their toes and hopefully off guard. Regarding my family, I distrust the motivations of most family members. I dislike the stench of the Logrus, and I avoid the various sorceries. I have learned to accept and respect those of Chaos, although trust is not a word that I would use. I have learned to respect those who use the various sorceries, but from a distance.
I am highly confident, highly disciplined, very studious, and somewhat guarded. I am a humble gentleman with impeccable tastes, unquestionable loyalty, and unwavering determination. I have a subtle British sense of humor that is often seen by family members and friends.
I am perfectly charming, suave, urbane, debonair, and I enjoy making friends and allies. Like my Uncle Corwin, 'you may trust me in all things...'. I am not easily trusting; after all, I am an Amberite. Once a friendship is gained with me, it is unshakable. Only a threat to Amber, the Unicorn, or my Shadow Earth home could break that friendship. I am acquainted with King Random and the elder Amberites and some of my cousins who frequented Castle Amber. I have several close friends in Shadow Earth, that share similar interests. Mostly from Eton College, the Royal Navy, and the Ministry of Intelligence. I frequently visit them, when things are too quiet in Amber.
With my friends, I am charming, jovial, dignified, and discrete. I stay out of power plays, I will keep a low profile to stay behind the scenes. I may open up about safe topics. I will support Amber, the Pattern, and above all the Unicorn. I don't accept the concept of balance between Amber and Chaos. I am a slightly reluctant practical imperialist.
My main purposes are to protect Amber, the Unicorn, and my home Shadow Earth; to gain knowledge, power, skill of Pattern Mastery, and skill at arms. I am not interested in ruler ship of Amber for myself, although I would not turn it down, if that is what was required to preserve Amber. I understand leadership and responsibilities, I feel that I would make a good and fair ruler. However, I would prefer to have the ear of a ruler instead and operate from a discreet position. My skills as an agent make me especially qualified in that role.
I will retreat to Shadow Earth if I am out gunned and backed into a corner. I will refuse to do anything against my principles. I don't fight fair, I will try to quickly get the drop on my opponent when off-guard. If I am crossed or insulted, you can forget any favors. Oh yes, then watch your back.
I am the Avatar of a higher authority than mere kingship. She whom I serve, placed my uncle Random on the throne of Amber. She is my great grandmother, the mate of Dworkin, the Unicorn of Amber, the primal force of the Pattern, symbol of our family lineage, and the focus of our religion. All of Amber must honor, love, and respect her in all things; even sacrifice themselves in her defense, a role I take very seriously. My plans are to walk all known Patterns and to become attuned to the Jewel of Judgment. I know that my personal power will grow considerably, when I do this.
I relive the experiences in Amber that led to this point in time. I now face Creed, who bars my path. He is more skilled than I am in warfare and strength. It is imperative that I get past him. In physical combat I have no chance. Physical laws operate differently here. By sheer force of will, backed with the Pattern, Creed is pushed away. There are others who are trying to hold me back. I find others helping me along and giving me their support. Support from: Ge'rard, Flora, Random, the Unicorn, Scout, Suehprom, the Doctor, and others. With their help, I am able to push myself through the Second Veil.
I press forward. Briefly looking around, I see the bowler valiantly trying to catch up. The next intersection is after the Third Veil. Soon, I reach the Third Veil behind my quarry.
I find myself getting heavier, gravity has considerably increased. I notice my attire has changed. I am wearing an incredibly heavy cloak and robes. The weight on my shoulders is considerable. My head feels like it is supporting a heavy weight. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the edge of a crown. Curious.
I am surrounded by a crowd of people. Some I recognize and some I don't. They shout with one voice. "King Steed, help us! We need your help! Only you can stop the black road! Only you can stop Creed!" I hear an assortment of other pleas. Their cries are a monstrous burden on me. The mantle of kingship is something I never desired. I only wish to protect, serve, and preserve Amber; not rule over it.
One voice wants me to stop the evil of Creed, another to stop the black road. They are pulling me back and pulling me down. I struggle to push on and ignore their pleas. The crown and cloak is increasingly heavy. I continue to struggle, bearing up under the ever increasing weight. I realize that the burden of the crown and cloak makes it impossible to continue. I am getting incredibly exhausted. I remove the crown and cloak, divesting myself of the perceived responsibility of ruler ship. I am naked for a moment, my clothes are then restored, and I feel stronger as I emerge from the Third Veil.
I am running out of time. I realize I cannot beat my quarry to the Fourth Veil, regardless of how I exhaust myself. The best I can hope for is a tie. I have never heard of anyone doing this before, to enter a Veil simultaneously. However, there is no choice. This won't be the first time I have done something unheard of. My first Pattern walk was such a time. It was successful and it brought me to the Unicorn and my destiny. That gives me the optimism to attempt this. I plan to emerge from the Fourth Veil first and stop my quarry from finishing.
We are still a distance from the Final Veil, I am trailing by nine paces. My quarry turns to me again, this is unsettling to see a creature without a head to turn around.
It says. :Don't fight me here. You may be an Amberite. This is a realm of the mind and I am a being of pure mind.: It pauses for a moment. :I have no desire to kill you, but I will if I must.:
"It would be a pity to die on the Pattern. If that is what it takes, then one of us must."
:That is your choice, not mine.: It turns and continues on it's way.
We proceed, I gained a few paces. I plan to pass my quarry. At our current pace, it will be within the Final Veil. I push harder with my limited and draining resources. I am on the verge of collapsing, but I can't let that happen yet.
I draw my blade, Shadowveil the Avenger, from my brolly. When I get within two paces of my quarry, I plan to strike. If the blade is ineffective, I plan to bump it out of the way. If both are ineffective, We have to enter the Veil at the same time I have to pass while in the Veil. As I said before, it is best to have alternate plans.
We near the Final Veil. I am one pace behind my quarry, I don't want to miss. I strike with a vertical sweep, to split it in two. I score and split it down the middle, but it continues on. One step left for it and two for me. I lunge forward. To my surprise, my quarry turns around bracing itself, expecting me to knock it out of the way. As we grapple, we both enter the Fourth and Final Veil.
I lose all sensation of my body, I can only sense that I am moving forward and I must continue to do so. I find myself in a place where the sky is in rainbow shades, nearly Blue Sky . I recall that Chaos looks very similar to this place. I have a sense of other beings like myself without bodies. I recognize the others and the name Ty'iga comes to mind. I feel that I am one of the bodiless demons.
Some of them seem to be playing below. The younger ones don't seem to require it, but the less mature do. They seem to be playing with some kind of creatures who seem to be merging their consciousness with them. They seem to be riding them; not as a horse and rider, but as a way of possessing these creatures and bending them to their will. I sense that I can also do this as well.
As I push on, I see a huge cloud of multicolored smoke. Winding tendrils of smoke emerge from the cloud which dissipates with a rainbow shimmering. From this I see a beautiful woman I don't recognize, but she reminds me of someone of the blood of Amber. She is tall and slender, with dark eyes and long brown hair. 
She has been preparing a spell which she is releasing. I try to stop her and realize that I have a stick figure body, with no hands or feet. This woman seems to be protected from anything I can do to stop her.
The spell is released and flows over me and nearly a half dozen brethren. "By three names, I bind thee. To protect my son Merlin." We are given a visual image, also a psychic sense of his identity.
So, this is Dara, I will remember her well. She is using us to protect her son. I imagine that the others may not get the visual image as well as I because they lack visual senses. I feel that a geas has been placed upon us. I feel there is more to this. Maternal overprotection doesn't explain this elaborate setup.
She continues. "Ye shall lead him in all ways to the eventual throne of Chaos."
I try to push on; this place seems more real than the Final Veil. I can't allow myself to be trapped here.
Time moves on and a group of us are at the edge of the Abyss. Real bodies would be in grave danger this close to the Abyss. With my Ty'iga form, this feels like a perfectly normal and safe place. We step into the Abyss and float towards another of my kind. There is an indescribable sense of age in this other Ty'iga, we communicate and I relate to him my contact with Dara.
He opens up to me and I get a psychic sense of the connection between myself and the other Ty'igas and him. I realize that for all of my life, I have been under a similar geas to return the Eye of the Serpent. This is the primary mission of every Ty'igas life. It overrides the geas placed upon us by Dara.
My senses return as I am leaving the Final Veil. I am back in my own body again. We are still grappling, as we left the Final Veil and moving together in a lock step. I try to push past the Ty'iga, trying to throw it backwards away from the end of the Pattern. With a last surge of effort, I manage to push it behind me. I am now a half step ahead of it. Excellent! I step forward to complete the Pattern. I turn to face my quarry, who I understand better and can empathize with. I wonder what it learned about me, it probably knows my motivations as well. I just hope that I haven't gained a geas from the Ty'iga.
My blade is ineffectual here. This is as good a time as any to get my sea legs. I concentrate upon the Jewel of Judgment and draw energy from it. I feel renewed and full of a power I hadn't experienced before. I force the energy outward toward the Ty'iga, as a wall of energy. It overpowers the Ty'iga like a tornado and knocks it off the Pattern into the wall of the Jewel.
It says before disappearing from the Jewel, :You win and you lose.:
I have attuned myself to the Jewel of Judgment, a higher order Pattern. An amazing accomplishment and hopefully a beneficial one. I still have a mission to accomplish.
I can only assume that it is trying to escape with my body to take the Jewel back to Chaos. I can't let this happen. I try to send my mind back to my body, it is blocked. I seem to be stranded here for now. A world weariness has come over me, more than I can bear. I have gone beyond my abilities and the energy of the Jewel only gave me a very brief reprieve. That time is past and I find my world fading. I feel myself collapse to the floor of the Pattern. I am sorry, great grandmother, I have failed you. To sleep perchance to dream.
As I sleep I have a nightmare. Scout is walking a Pattern and is fighting some unknown people passing through the First Veil. He is struggling valiantly. He makes his way to the Second Veil and faces Creed. As they confront each other, the dream fades. Time passes. I try to wake up from my exhausted sleep, without any luck.

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R. Cal Westray, Jr.
Copyright 2001 [Westray.org].
All rights reserved.
Revised: October 23, 2007 .