REFLECTIONS IN A CRYSTAL CAVE
My life had been relatively peaceful for eight years – not counting April thirtieths, when someone invariably tried to kill me. Outside of that, my academic career with its concentration on computer science went well enough and my four years’ employment at Grand Design proved of rewarding experience, letting me use what I’d learned in a situation I liked while I labored on a project of my own on the side. I had a good friend in Luke Raynard, who worked for the same company, in sales. I sailed my small boat, I jogged regularly –
It all fell apart this past April 30, just when I thought things were about to come together. My pet project, Ghostwheel, was built; I’d quit my job, packed my gear and was ready to move on to greener shadows. I’d stayed in town this long only because that morbidly fascinating day was near, and this time I intended to discover who was behind the attempts on my life and why.
At breakfast that morning Luke appeared with a message from my former girlfriend, Julia. Her note said that she wanted to see me again. So I stopped by her place, where I found her dead, apparently killed by the same doglike beast which then attacked me. I succeeded in destroying the creature. A quick search of the apartment before I fled the scene turned up a slim packet of strange playing cards, which it took along with me. They were too much like the magical Tarots of Amber and Chaos for a sorcerer such as myself not to be interested in them.
Yes. I am a sorcerer. I am Merlin, son of Corwin of Amber and Dara of the Courts of Chaos, known to local friends and acquaintances as Merle Corey: bright, charming, witty, athletic… Go read Castiglione and Lord Byron for particulars, as I’m modest, aloof and reticent, as well.
The cards proved to be genuine magical objects, which seemed appropriate once I learned that Julia had been keeping company with an occultist named
Victor Melman after we had broken up. A visit to this gentleman’s studio resulted in his attempting to kill me in a ritual fashion. I was able to free myself from the constraints of the ceremony and question him somewhat, before the local conditions and my enthusiasm resulted in his death. So much for rituals.
I’d learned enough from him to realize that he’d been but a cat’s-paw. Someone else had apparently put him up to the sacrifice bit – and it seemed quite possible that the other person was the one responsible for Julia’s death and my collection of memorable April thirtieths.
I had a small time to reflect upon these matters, though, because I was bitten (yes, bitten) shortly thereafter by an attractive red-haired woman who materialized in Melman’s apartment, following my brief telephone conversation with her in which I’d tried to pose as Melman. Her bite paralyzed me, but I was able to depart before it took full effect by employing one of the magical cards I’d found in Julia’s place. It bore me into the presence of a sphinx, which permitted me to recover so that it could play silly riddle game sphinxes love so well because they get to eat you when you lose. All I can say about it is that this particular sphinx was a bad sport.
Anyhow, I returned to the shadow Earth where I’d been making my home to discover that Melman’s place had burned down during my absence. I tried phoning Luke, because I wanted to have dinner with him, and learned that he had checked out of his motel, leaving me a message indicating that he had gone to New Mexico on business and telling me where he’d be staying.