After talking to Caitlin and finding out that
there was nothing useful that Grace could do at the castle, she went to
naval headquarters to check on which ships were in port and what the status
of those ships were. The Rebecca had sailed early that morning, but there
were several other ships still in port. Grace ordered them made ready in
case of need.
After a couple of hours of catching up, Lady Diedre arrived to see Grace.
Grace was surprised not anticipating that Lady Diedre would have time for her with so much going on at the castle. Lady Diedre explained her quandry: "I need to be back at the castle because of this attempt, but I am most anxious to return to that strange storm that we encountered yesterday."
Grace controlled her immediate reaction which was that only a fool would willing seek to put a ship in a storm like that. The Swallow had barely made it out of that storm intact after the first encounter. Still, if Lady Diedre wanted to visit the storm again, it was Graceís job to get her there and back in one piece. Grace hoped that the strange storm might have disapated by the time they were able to return but expected that she would have no such luck.
Diedre brought Grace out of her reverie with a startling announcement. "I believe that it is time for you to walk the pattern."
Grace had been waiting for this opportunity for some time. Her voice was steady when she replied "Letís do it."
Diedre nodded and pulled out her box of trump. After looking through them and muttering about water damage, she turned to Grace and said ìWe have to walk back.î
Grace was not sure what the alternative was, but nodded since Diedre seemed to expect it.
On the way back to the castle, Diedre gave Grace some final pointers. Grace was only half listening. The grass seemed especially green and the sky especially blue. Grace was wondering if she would ever come back this road again or if this attempt would prove her a deluded imposter and cause her death.
On arriving at the castle, Diedre led Grace down several flights of stairs to the lowest part of the castle. This was a part of the castle that Grace had never seen before, but Diedre seemed very familiar with it.
At the pattern room, Diedre turned to Grace "I would not bring you here if I did not believe that you were Martin's child. Martin does remember your mother, but if you are not of the blood, you will die. Others have gotten this far only to turn back."
Grace wondered who the mysterious "others" were, but now did not seem the time to be distracted by this issue. Grace walked to that start "I'm ready. Let's do it." Grace started to walk the pattern. It was physically the most demanding task that she had ever undertaken. Grace knew that she had to keep going, but she wasn't sure how she was going to do it. Diedre shouted encouragement from the sidelines that Grace could barely hear.
At the first veil, Grace learned that the difficult part was only just beginning. The effort required increased tremendously and Grace began to see flashes of memory from her early years at the "Bucket of Blood" tavern. She remembered her mother, and saw her mother in a new light. At the second veil, Grace began to recall very early memories of her mother. In these memories, Grace's mother, Kate, was entertaining her baby by juggling little balls of liquid fire. Grace had never remembered seeing anything like this at the "Bucket of Blood". Catan was not a shadow known for magic, and her mother was an ordinary tavern wench. Grace's mind fought to understand the images as her body fought to continue moving forward on the pattern.
Out of the corner of her eye, Grace saw that Diedre was looking at her oddly and motioning her to keep moving. Grace realized that she had almost stopped in her distraction over trying to understand the visions that were coming at her. Grace continued moving finding the effort only increasing. She had badly underestimated what this trial would take. Grace had assumed that the "Corwin Chronicles" exaggerated the difficulty. They underestimated it.
At the third veil, Grace had a new vision. This time of Kate's death. Kate had tried to stop at tavern brawl and had been stabbed to death by accident for her efforts. Grace recalled vividly the scene of her mother's death and the tavern keeper taking up her mother's body from the tavern floor. Grace also recalled that the two combatants were in pain from severe burns on their arms. This last part had not conciously registered with Grace at the time, but she recalled it now.
Grace struggled with her memories and to complete the final few feet to the center. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Diedre vanish in a rainbow glow of trump. Grace was disappointed. Her teacher was not even staying to see her complete the pattern. Diedre had seemed more interested in her new student than that implied.
Grace finally made it to the center nearly collapsing. Suddenly, she realized that she was on fire! Even as Grace examined the flames on her arms and body, she realized that they did not truly burn or even hurt. The flames died away as she watched. Was this an artifact of walking the pattern that Diedre and Corwin had neglected to mention or some strange gift from her mother? It was a very unsettling phenomenon whatever the cause.
Where to go? Grace had not been sure that she would make it this far, so she had not planned to go to any particular place. Should she travel to the Rebecca ? It would startle the three princes who were supposed to be on that ship. On second thought, a clipper should have made it to Antioch by now. Diedre's disappearence had disappointed Grace. She had expected her mentor to stay to see her complete the pattern. Grace decided to go to Diedre's room.
With a start, Grace found herself in Diedre's sitting room with no Diedre. The door to the bedroom was closed, but a knock did not bring Diedre. Grace wandered about the room findind everything subtlely changed. There was a half finished trump of Galen on Diedre's desk. Grace took care not to disturb anything but did take the opportunity to get a closer look at the room.
With so much going on in Amber, Grace decided that she did not want to wait for Diedre, so she left the room and headed out of the royal wing. The guards gave her an odd look. Grace realized they would be surprised that she was leaving when she had never entered. She did stop to ask the guards about Diedre, but they had not seen her.
Grace wandered the halls of Amber Castle exploring her new senses until she ran across Diedre.
Diedre immediately apologized for leaving at an odd moment. Grace started to reply "You could have told me about the fire." Diedre interrupted "not here" and led them back to her room. Grace caught the startled look that passed between the guards.
Grace noted that Diedre covered her trump of Galen and poured them both drinks in one smooth movement. As Diedre handed Grace a brandy, she asked "How do you feel?"
"It will feel even more strange when we get out into shadow. The effects are more muted here."
Grace sipped her drink. "What about the fire?"
Diedre carefully set her drink down "I have never seen or heard of that happening before. I don't know what could have caused it." An admission of ignorance from Diedre was in itself quite telling.
"Finish your brandy. I have a good place to take us in shadow. It is about a day away, and I can begin teaching you. There is so much going on that I hope we don't get interrupted again."
Grace was feeling ashamed at her self-centered attitude to Diedre's earlier disappearence. There was an assassination attempt on the king. Diedre's special skills would be required to deal with the aftermath as well as any new crisis that could develop. Grace offered "Are you sure about doing this right now? We could stay in Amber until things settle down."
"No. We need to get you trained as quickly as possible. All Martin's children will be needed in the near future."
Diedre went into the bedroom and came back with another trump. Grace took her extended hand and found herself taken to a strange place. They were standing in a hilly forest clearing with a sky so light blue it was almost white. The air itself smelled different. Everything seemed strange to Grace including her own reactions.