Ellie and Imogen at the beach

She looks in that direction, frowning. Who is it? Perhaps she has been given a guard of her own. Perhaps ...

Her heart starts to pound.

Perhaps it's Brand.


As she walks, Ellie wonders how best to smooth things over with her father. Ideally without causing more hurt later. Looking up, she sees Imogen in the near distance. With a smile, Ellie heads over, calling out "Hello, Imogen."

Imogen starts as she hears her name and then turns to see Ellie, moving towards her. She smiles - and looks beyond her to the figures on the beach. Jurt, she guesses, and the smaller figure near at hand must be Ryoden ... with a friend. Briefly she wonders who the other is, but pushes the thought aside as she holds out her hands to Corwin's daughter.

"Hello, Ellie."

As Ellie comes up to her, she risks a swift glance over her shoulder at the person who seems to be watching her.

The figure is still there, but partially obscured in the greys of morning. Dark-- with dark hair. No, he's too large to be Brand. But something about him seems to strike a chord.

Ellie sees the swift glance as she comes over and takes Imogen's outstretched hands. As she does so, she steps slightly to the side to see what or who Imogen is looking at, saying softly "Is everything alright, Imogen?"

Suddenly, without knowing quite why, she feels cold. Her hand reaches to the little pendant around her neck and she clutches it tightly.

"Ellie," she says quietly, "who is that man?"

Ellie sees the place where the man was, now empty. She thinks over her cards... Dark hair, but not Corwin. Maybe Caine? She had only seen him by the blue light of the Pattern, but the way he carried himself seemed familiar.

Ellie hesitates then replies "I think it was Caine. His carriage seems familiar anyway."

She looks up at Imogen, concern clear in her eyes "Are you okay, Imogen? You seem anxious."

Imogen draws a deep breath.

"I'm all right. I know ... I shall have to meet him sooner or later. It was just ... he was watching me so intently."

She tries to smile at Ellie.

"I've just had ... quite a few shocks today. Perhaps we could find somewhere to sit down for a few minutes."

She searches for a neutral topic of conversation. "Did you know that your father slept with my mother, his sister?" hardly seems the thing to get easy conversation going - even if it is one of the topics uppermost in her mind. "I'm trying to find out if your father murdered mine," also seems something of a non-starter. And she isn't even prepared to go into, "How do you feel about your father and me being lovers?"

She went for something that seemed a little safer.

"Was that Jurt on the beach? Is he your ... " she hesitates over the word 'chosen'. What was the one Bill had recommended instead? Ah, yes.

"Your paramour?" she finishes, pleased with her command of the new vocabulary.

Ellie looks away briefly, then back, green eyes troubled, an echo of pain in them "My father has forbidden that possibility to me." She draws out her trump deck and asks gently "How about we find a nice sitting room in the Castle where we can have tea and just talk?"

"Forbidden?" echoes Imogen, her tone surprised. "But haven't you discussed it with your ... "

She breaks off.

"Yes," she says. "I think tea would be a good idea. Then you can tell me how one is meant to go about choosing here. Because I think I too may have over-stepped the rules!"

She slips her arm through Ellie's.

"Do you really think there's going to be one sitting room in this place that Flora hasn't commandeered? Or shall we go to our own rooms?"

Ellie chuckles "You may have a point. I don't know where my room is to be though, apart from being one of Father's. So your rooms?"

With that, Ellie draws out her trump of the Castle gates, saying "Let's take the quick route back." as she concentrates upon the trump.

Imogen, the memory of her arrival in Amber still vivid in her mind, shrinks back.

"What are you doing?" she says almost sharply.

Ellie looks up "Using a trump to get us back quickly. What's wrong, Imogen?"

"It ... it was one of those that brought me here," she says slowly. "A nasty little compelling thing - that's what Flora called it. She wouldn't touch it with her naked hand."

She looks up at Ellie. "Are you sure it's safe?" she asks.

Ellie nods, filing the information away, and says "I'm sure it's safe, Imogen. I wouldn't endanger either of us, I promise."

"I know," says Imogen quietly. At least, she hopes she does. What if Ellie, in league with her Chaosian paramour, is planning to dispose of the king's new mistress?

~That was how Mother might have thought,~ she tells herself dismally. ~And much good it did her.~

She holds out a hand to Ellie that shakes only a very little.

Ellie takes Imogen's hand and concentrates on the trump. In moments, they stand before the castle gates. Ellie smiles up at Imogen "Alright, your turn now. Please, lead us on to your rooms, Imogen."

She squeezes her hand gently "I promised I wouldn't hurt you. I like you, Imogen. Please don't worry."