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Martin pulled me along, always walking a bit too fast, and headed for a set of stairs. "Generally, ice cream is sweet, yes. I prefer Ben & Jerry's Cookie dough, but we haven't duplicated that here. Pity."

"Ben & Jerry? They sound gay," I snorted, my long legs moving to catch up with him. "So what do you recommend?"

"Not gay. Entrepeneurs. They make wonderful ice cream, and unfortunately, you have to walk to get it. Merlin became my new best friend when I found out he could get it just sitting in the gardens using Logrus. God! We gorged ourselves. And when an Amberite says that..."

We flew down a flight of steps, Martin leading, but always keeping a grip on my arm.

"Logrus... Hm. Something to consider," I decided aloud, staying close to Martin. It was getting cold after all...and he was so warm... I cleared my throat after a moment. "Someone should make a Trump of this cold cellar if its contents are so desirable."

He sighed. "Way back someone did, and started passing out copies. But Oberon got peeved that his ice cream orders tripled in two weeks, so he lined it with a psychic neutral. Man had no sense of humor, you know?" He thought for a bit. "Well, unless you think of this whole family being a joke, which sometimes I'm wont to do."

My grandfather was a wise man.

He put an arm around me to dispel the chill, holding me close with a smile that said oh, so much...if only I knew how to interpret!!

I looked up at him for a moment studying his smile. ~Oh...what the hell,~ and I smiled back, snuggling in. ~It sure beats being cold.~ "And do you know how to make Trumps?"

"Wish I did," he replied, patting his pack. "Damn nifty things. Merle can make them, but he's off kinging, so I can't just call him up anymore and ask for one. I need to find me a new art-fart to utilize. I suppose I could ask Dworkin, but he's so odd... and nothing from that man is without a price. I'm fairly certain he'd experiment with it and use me as an unwitting guinea pig."

"Who? OHHHHHH!" I suddenly remembered. "The guy with a thing for horses. Haven't met him yet...but I'm guessing that's a good thing."

He laughed. "Oh yeah. That was a system shock when Corwin shared that bit of loveliness with us. I don't know how anyone can look him in the face anymore. Not that it was easy before. The guy is about 4'5" in a family of 6 footers."

Ick...the mental images just kept getting worse and worse. However, they DID distract me from the recurring memory of Martin's lips closing in on mine with the heat of his mouth... #$*%. So much for the Dworkin distraction.

We finally reached the bottom of the stairs, and I noticed it was quite a bit colder.

I shivered again, glancing up at the door ahead of us. "Let's go quickly...I'm not dressed for winter climates, per se."

Martin eyed the front of my shirt. "So I noticed, oh bra-less wonder." He opened a door to the left, and a draft of ice cold air hit me. He bowed and motioned in to the room. "After you."

I grabbed his hand to walk inside with him...just so he didn't get any "funny" practical jokes in his head like locking me in a trump-proof freezer. "All what flavors do you recommend?"

He strode in. "Women seem to love chocolate. Vanilla is good, but boring. And then, for the kinky, there's always pineapple." He noticed something odd, and reached for something in a nearby rack. "What--?"

"Put it back," said a quiet voice from behind us. "I'm trying to chill that."

The voice had unnerved me, and I was angry for not having paid attention to the fact that there might be others. "What is it, a human head?" I smirked, turning around to regard the mysterious owner of the voice.

The man sat with his back against the wall, his clothes rumpled and face dark. His hair was blonde and in bad need of a comb, and his face was covered with a few weeks' worth of stubble.

Martin put the bottle back (I saw that it was alcohol now), and sighed. I noticed also that some of Martin's energy was gone, like the wind had been knocked out of his sails.

"Hi, Dad." the depression made sense.

"Hey," I gave a wave of my hand, and shifted my weight to the other foot for a moment. "Well?" I elbowed Martin, trying to refill those sails. "You gonna introduce me, or what? Besides, maybe HE wants some ice cream!"

Martin sighed again. "This, Faetan, is my father, Prince Random. Dad, this is Faetan, Bleys's daughter."

What, no love slave? Curious... And this was... Oh yes, I remembered now. Bleys had mentioned him during my chat with Corwin. I'd mentioned pouncing as a possible cure. I saw now that pouncing would probably end up with a knife through my throat, judging by that dark look on his face.

"What are you doing sitting in the fridge?" Martin asked.

"Obviously, waiting for someone to come along and ask a stupid question."

"Heh..." I grinned, and glanced at Martin. "Now I see where you get your charm, ducky." Then I glanced over at Random. "Probably training for some husky races...perhaps exploration into a dangerous ice Amberites are an adventurous sort, after all."

"Or maybe I like my vodka chilled," muttered Random, pulling himself up.

The first thing I noticed was that this guy, unlike every other guy I'd met here, wasn't tall! I stood a good four inches taller than him. He was also thin, and held a lit cigarette in one hand.

He brushed by us and checked the bottle. He nodded, then left without a word.

"Nice to see you, too, Dad," muttered Martin.

I frowned, hands on my hips. "Not much love lost there..." And then I glanced at Martin, looking down, then up. ~At least, only on one person's part.~

I put my hand on his shoulder wordlessly, staring at the door for a moment. I could have said a variety of stupid and pointless things to cheer the mood. "He didn't offer us any!" or, "Maybe he hates ice cream." But it just didn't feel right at the moment. So I clasped Martin's shoulder heartily before grabbing a random container and tossing it to him. "So you wanna talk?"

He shrugged. "Hey, why not? It's not like George Burns is going to walk in and lighten the mood."

Another Amberite, I guessed.

He opened the container and looked about. He pulled a spoon (well, actually a scoop) from a bin and dug in. "I'm assuming you want to have some sort of heart to heart about good ol' dad, huh?"

"Hey, it's your moment. Whatever YOU want to have a heart to heart about is fine with me," I leaned on his shoulder, eyeing the scoop. "Interesting choice of servingware. Amberites have such style," I grinned at it. After all, he was trying to keep his wits sharp, and was doing a pretty good job. But I knew he was hurting. What was odd, though, was that it was striking up sympathy pangs inside of me.

He found my own scoop and invited me to dig in.

"You know, I always knew who my dad was, but didn't meet him until I was grown. As a matter of fact, he didn't dig me up until I was nearly killed during Patternfall."

My mind flashed, and I remembered a slight scar on his chest, over his heart... I hadn't thought to ask about it then, being intent on the lovely view of his pectorals and whatnot.

"Guess that's better than my mom. Never really knew her. She died a few months after I was born. Guess that's why Ben took me on. Felt sorry for me." He dug out a chunk of ice cream and stuffed it in his mouth.

"I don't think it's because he felt sorry for you," I pointed my scoop at him. "It's because you're GOOD. You kicked my can without even breaking a sweat. And I'm not a shoddy fighter," I narrowed my eyes, to make sure he didn't contradict me. I sat down on a crate, crossing my legs as I patted the space next to me. My butt was immediately frozen, but I didn't care too much. It was better than standing.

"Besides Martin, who needs parents anyway? Bleys and I act all friendly, but he only showed up every couple of years. Mom's a you either become independent or you become dead. YOU are a survivor, and you don't have to put up with any crap from anyone. Except for me," I smirked.

He chuckled, his mouth full of ice cream. "Eh, the parent thing was just a good place to start. Dad and I actually got a bit chummy. You know, visit the bars, check out the houses of ill-repute, that sort of thing." He paused. "He was married to this Rebman, Vialle. Nice girl. Knew her really well." Another pause. I managed not to submit to the urge to smack him. "He really loved her, which was a good thing, since we were all worried he'd do something that would destroy Vialle like..." Pause pause pause. "Anyway, she died in childbirth, and the way he looks now, so did he."

He ate some more ice cream and joined me on the crate, setting the carton between us on our laps.

I dug out a scoopful, and took a tentative bite. I rolled it around my mouth for a moment, considering. Then I smiled. It was rich, and creamy, and smooth. I was appeased. "Hmm...not bad. Not bad at all!" I nudged his leg with my foot. "So do you miss him?"

He shrugged. "I miss what I wanted, not really what was. It's like asking me if I miss my mom. I never knew her. Truth is, I miss Vialle more than her. We grew up together. She was forced into marriage with Random and... I was just glad she was happy, is all."

"'re a cute little one," I grinned at him, taking a bigger mouthful of ice cream. I let it melt slightly, sucking on it while chewing at the same time. PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN!!! I suddenly whimpered, pinching the skin of my nose between my eyes. "Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!"

"I see I've introduced you to brain freeze," he chuckled. "Don't be so fast to stuff your mouth." He patted my head while I howled out the rest of my pain.

The throbbing subsided, eventually, and I shook my head as though to clear it. "Now, how about chocolate, on the go?" He grabbed a smaller container and stood. "Unless we want to dig in my closet some more."

"We can do that someplace warmer," I rubbed my arm, giving the ice cream a mean glare. "Chocolate I like. I understand it...being a princess of Amber I can charge things to the castle. Why don't we go shopping?" I grinned toothily.

"Sure, sure!" He took one last huge bite of ice cream and followed me out the door. Swallowing, "One last thing about ice cream..." He dove in and threw his free arm around me, and kissed me on the neck.

With... Ice... Cold... Lips...

Involuntarily, I cringed as goosebumps ran down my neck and up my spine. "Geroff me!" I snarled, shoving him away. "Ugahh!" I shivered again, shrugging my shoulders up to my neck as though to cover it up. "*I* know why you're hanging out with me...YOU just want someone to torment!"

He clapped his hands. "Oh, you've figured me out! You're such a smart one, you know that?" He opened the chocolate and started dipping in. "You're just too much fun, you know that? You just can't let anything go..."

"What, and give up my trademark? Never!" I rubbed briskly at my neck to jog some hot blood into it. Then I ran a hand through my unruly black hair, tossing my head haughtily. "Now...where's the best place to buy some weapons?" I rubbed my hands together gleefully.

"Arm you? But whatever for? _I'm_ here to defend your honor." As proof, he waved around the ice cream scoop in a vaguely threatening manner.

"And the world trembled," I rolled my eyes, grinning.

"But if you want something pretty to hang off of your waist, there's always the armory."

"But there's no SHOPPING in visiting the armory. It's fun to haggle with shopkeepers. And I wouldn't mind some new fact, I've got a few good ideas as to what I need to get around this place."

"Oh, shopping? I thought we were doing something manly! I can't go shopping! You'll drag me into perfume shops, and the only time I like to smell like a french whore is when I've been with one."

"Perfume, bah..." I snorted and grumbled, shoving another scoop of ice cream into her mouth...taking it more slowly THIS time around. Perfume ranked up there on my annoying list along with make-up and giggling.

He brandished the scoop fiercely. "I've never met an ice cream container I didn't send to lactose heaven. Fear me!"

I nearly choked to hear my catch phrase being echoed. "HEY!" I sputtered. "Quit stealing my trademark! And we're going shopping for weapons and apparel...maaaaybe some 'spirits.' Any other interesting shops or points of interest? I'm determined to see the city of Amber," I poked his shoulder. Especially if I was going to conquer it.

He blinked, the paragon of innocence. "Is that line yours? I thought it sounded vaugely familiar..." He took another bit of ice cream. "I suppose you'll want to have it trademarked. I think I know where that office is..." He eyed my red halter that I'd managed to keep with me this entire time. "What, you don't like what I've gotten you?"

I twirled the torn garment around before whipping it at his shoulder like a deadly weapon. "Hel-LO, it's completely shredded! Or have you forgotten such a sight already? Couldn't have stabbed me any more with a sword, geez..." I appeared wounded.

He eyed the shredded material still. "What? I like it that way. It's just so... punk. And as for what you have now, there's something about a girl wearing a guy's shirt that leads to all sorts of indecent thoughts. It would be better if it were _my_ shirt, but oh well."

" had your chance, buddy!" I winked, and toyed with the shirt a bit more. "I bet I could make a great souvenir bandanna out of this."

We made our way to the armory, and he glanced about. "I still insist on getting your weapon here, though. Finer make, and most important, free."

"I like running up other people's bills," I shrugged. "So what? supports the economy. Now come on," I pulled on his sleeve, "it'll be too dark before long, and that's when the grossly drunk people come out, barfing all over the place."