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datatime: 2022-12-01 01:52:05 Author:tzFgDzcW

"Forget it, Random The reframing is out, too."

It was a long ride - I will not bore you with the details - and it was pretty far from Amber, as such things go. This time, I was not looking for a place where I would be especially important. That can get either boring or difficult fairly quickly, depending on how responsible you want to be. I wanted to be an irresponsible nonentity and just enjoy myself.

"... prisoner," he said, and something else that I couldn't make out.

"All right," he repeated. "There's a lot to tell..."

"Look very closely," he said. "Remember every feature. I may only be able to show you once. Come armed, too..."

"Can't bring you through," he said. "No Trumps, and I am too weak. You will have to come the long way around..."

The Jack of Diamonds began talking to me.

"Okay. I've exhausted my little gray cells, then."

I tried to figure every angle. He was smart, damn smart. Possibly the best mind in the family. He was in trouble and he had called me. Eric and Gerard were more the heroic types and would probably have welcomed the adventure. Caine would have gone out of curiosity, I think. Julian, to look better than the rest of us and to score points with Dad. Or, easiest of all, Brand could have called Dad himself. Dad would have done something about it. But he had called me. Why?

"Look very closely," he said. "Remember every feature. I may only be able to show you once. Come armed, too..."

I tried to figure every angle. He was smart, damn smart. Possibly the best mind in the family. He was in trouble and he had called me. Eric and Gerard were more the heroic types and would probably have welcomed the adventure. Caine would have gone out of curiosity, I think. Julian, to look better than the rest of us and to score points with Dad. Or, easiest of all, Brand could have called Dad himself. Dad would have done something about it. But he had called me. Why?

"Okay. I've exhausted my little gray cells, then."

Yes, that is how it started. I was in a weird frame of mind anyway. I had just finished a couple very hot sets and was still kind of high. Also, I was physically strung out from a long day's gliding and not much sleep the night before. I decided later that it must be our mental quirk associated with the Trumps that made me see it that way when someone was trying to reach me and I had cards in my hand - any cards. Ordinarily, of course, we get the message empty-handed, unless we are doing the calling. It could have been that my subconscious - which was kind of footloose at the time - just seized on the available props out of habit. Later, though, I had cause to wonder. Really, I just don't know.

"Can't bring you through," he said. "No Trumps, and I am too weak. You will have to come the long way around..."

"Forget it, Random The reframing is out, too."

"Okay. I've exhausted my little gray cells, then."

"Forget it, Random The reframing is out, too."

The Jack said, "Random." Then its face blurred and it said, "Help me." I began getting a feel of the personality by then, but it was weak. The whole thing was very weak. Then the face rearranged itself and I saw that I was right. It was Brand. He looked like hell, and he seemed to be chained or tied to something. "Help me," he said again.

"Okay. I've exhausted my little gray cells, then."

"Not the ones in charge of memory, I hope."

"Not bad," I said, "but I can't spare any more brothers at the moment. Not even Julian. Anyhow, he's the least frameable."

"Okay. I've exhausted my little gray cells, then."

The Jack said, "Random." Then its face blurred and it said, "Help me." I began getting a feel of the personality by then, but it was weak. The whole thing was very weak. Then the face rearranged itself and I saw that I was right. It was Brand. He looked like hell, and he seemed to be chained or tied to something. "Help me," he said again.

Anyway, I was here in Amber some years ago. Not doing much of anything. Just visiting and being a nuisance. Dad was still around, and when I noticed that he was getting into one of his grumpy moods, I decided it was time to take a walk. A long one. I had often noticed that his fondness for me tended to increase as an inverse function of my proximity. He gave me a fancy riding crop for a going-away present - to hasten the process of affection, I suppose. Still, it was a very nice crop - silver-chased, beautifully tooled - and I made good use of it. I had decided to go looking for an assemblage of all my simple pleasures in one small nook of Shadow.

Then I saw the landscape - over his shoulder, out a window, over a battlement, I can't be sure. It was far from Amber, somewhere where the shadows go mad. Farther than I like to go. Stark, with shifting colors. Fiery. Day without a sun in the sky. Rocks that glided like sailboats across the land. Brand there in some sort of tower - a small point of stability in that flowing scene. I remembered it, all right. And I remembered the presence coiled about the base of that tower. Brilliant. Prismatic. Some sort of watch-thing, it seemed - too bright for me to make out its outline, to guess its proper size. Then it all just went away. Instant off. And there I was, staring at the Jack of Diamonds again, with the guy across from me not knowing whether to be mad at my long distraction or concerned that I might be having some sort of sick spell.

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