Disclaimer: all characters and some of the dialogue here belong to Roger Zelazny.
A/N: This is another fill-in-the-gaps fanfic, Bleys POV this time.
It was supposed to be the usual trip to Tir-Na Nog'th (if there is such thing as the usual trip to Tir-Na Nog'th) with one little exception. No one had been keeping trump contact with me. No one had been waiting for me down there, looking anxiously at the sky. Stupid? That's what my inner voice kept telling me when I was climbing the ghostly stairs, until an outer voice loudly interrupted it.
"Catch them, you fool!"
This was Corwin's voice, right out of the thin air to my right. Then, something appeared there, going rapidly in my direction. It turned out to be a trump. I caught it and studied it. It was Delwin's trump, but the colours were strangely washed out. I put it in my pocket and continued up the stairs, trying to block out overwhelming sense of deja vu caused by Corwin's words.
So, where was I? Oh, right. Stupid. Well, I had an excuse. My excuse was that I hadn't had an excuse. Official excuse for visiting Tir-Na Nog'th, I mean. I didn't trust anyone so much that I could tell them the truth - I was visiting Tir-Na Nog'th because I had an important decision to make. No, not like that. I had already made the decision, and the consequences were probably spreading like those circles in the water by this time. The question was, whether I should inform the "proper authorities" or not. Either way would result in far-going consequences of its own - much more far-going than I could look into. And here I was, entering the mystical city all on my own, hoping to find some clues before it dissolves into the night.
No strange encounters on my way to the palace. Surprise was waiting for me at the rear entrance itself. It was locked, with a cardboard sign on it. The sign read "WE'LL REOPEN AT" and then the opening time specified in some unknown runic language. I could try to force it open, but force rarely proves effective in Tir-Na Nog'th. I looked around for some kind of oracle, but the sign seemed to be the only clue. I hoped that whatever I was waiting for would happen before the dawn. In the meantime, I decided to try contacting Delwin through that strange trump. I didn't have to concentrate, the trump didn't become cold, and the picture didn't become animated. But next second, Delwin was standing in front of me, and the trump wasn't in my hand any longer.
"The spikard you have - it is the one from the Courts," he stated immediately.
"You can tell them apart?"
"Yes, and it looks like you have switched them for the reason unknown to me."
"Yes," I answered simply, leaning on the door.
"I'm not quite sure it was the right thing to do."
"You don't know all the circumstances."
"At least I can hope that you do," he sighed.
"So," I wondered, "you have any idea why this thing won't let me in?"
It seemed that he was about to answer at first, but instead he looked at me and said, "You'd better walk way. You can get hurt."
"If you mean the entire affair, I'm afraid it's too late. Or do you mean Tir-Na Nog'th? Or..."
The door swung open in complete silence, kicking me several meters away in process.
"Oh, you mean the door..." I remarked, raising myself from the ground. Delwin was crossing threshold already.
"Wait!" I shouted, following him inside.
"What-" I tried to grab his hand, but my hand went right through him. I realized that he was looking just like his trump - colours all washed out. "What are you? Just another local ghost?"
"Would you believe me if I told you otherwise?" smiled Delwin.
"Maybe," I said. "If you manage to explain your lack of... flesh."
"I didn't say I'm the real thing," he explained. "More like an astral projection."
"You mean, you are... dreaming?"
"More or less. I'm not sure myself. This place summoned me, and it means something important is about to happen here. Something having to do with the spikards."
"Is that why we had to wait?" I asked.
Delwin nodded. "Lead the way."
"When in Tir-Na Nog'th, one can sense where something important is about to happen. But I'm just a ghost myself - I don't sense anything."
So, in random direction we went. Not for long, though, for I noticed an invitingly opened door in one of the corridors. We entered, and two figures inside did not acknowledge our presence. A man and a woman were standing at what looked like some kind of altar, their lips moving in complete silence. The man had white hair and black clothes. I had already seen him before. The woman looked vaguely familiar. We leaned over their shoulders to take a look at what was lying at the altar, and I quickly checked my pocket when I saw it.
"No need to worry," Delwin said, noticing my movement. "This is only a vision. What are they doing with the spikard?"
"I can only speculate, but it looks like they're putting a spell on it."
I decided to tell him. I owed him, after all.
"The one that would allow them to manipulate its would-be owner," I started.
"That's why you've switched them? Smart move," he approved when I had finished the story.
"Hope so," I sighed. The pair finished their ritual and left the room, closing the door.
"You know them?" asked Delwin.
"That man is the one who brought the spikard," I said.
"And the woman?"
"I don't believe I've ever met her in person."
"But..." insisted Delwin.
"I have my suspicions," I said, trying to look innocent, and went to the door, hoping that it wasn't locked. It wasn't. Two figures were still visible at the end of the corridor, and I decided to follow them - for the lack of better ideas.
We ended up in another long corridor. The one that did not exist in Amber. A logical conclusion would've been that it was the Corridor of Mirrors, but one weird thing was confusing me. Strange cubicles stood along its walls, resembling telephone booths. Taking a closer look at the nearest one to my right, I saw a small oval mirror inside. Only it wasn't reflecting me. Another corridor could be seen in there, with mirrors on the walls and Merlin wandering around. Merlin? He stopped and looked right at me. Smiled, stuck out his tongue. He probably thinks this is just a dream. Either that, or he really needs to grow up. I looked around and saw that several people were entering booths on either side of the wall.
"What's this?" I asked. "Is this how the Corridor of Mirrors really works?"
"Of course not," Delwin sniffed. "But that's how you imagine that."
I saw him in the booth across - the man with white hair. He was talking to Merlin, but I didn't hear anything. Then, Merlin walked further and the man disappeared in a flash of light.
"This is real Merlin," it dawned on me. "It's him we've been waiting for."
"We can probably talk to him that way too," Delwin confirmed.
"As soon as we pay for it," I said as I noticed a slot under the mirror. The sign on it said "1 D.R."
We began checking other booths. The woman was in the next one. She was laughing.
"What's so funny about this Pit," Delwin muttered.
"You can hear them?"
"Uh-huh. Can't make much sense of what she said, though."
Then, a strange snake-like creature. I couldn't tell whether it was talking or not.
"I need to talk to him," he said. "If I'm lucky, I'll even be able to bring us to him."
He entered the next booth and inserted a coin. In a few seconds, I saw Merlin strolling by in the mirror.
"Son of Amber, wearer of the spikard," Delwin addressed him.
"A spikard was hidden in Amber - for you to find. It conveys great powers. It also bears a series of spells that will cause its wearer to act in certain ways under certain circumstances."
"I suspected this," Merlin agreed casually. I wanted to ask him why the hell was he wearing it if he was so smart, but he wouldn't have heard me. My brother briefly informed Merlin of the situation, and in process, I learned the names of those who put a spell on the spikard - Mandor and Dara. I knew who Dara was, but never heard of anyone named Mandor before. Delwin gave Merlin instructions for transporting through the mirror, but things didn't go as planned. For when their rings had touched, Delwin disappeared in a flash. The mirror exploded into dozens of shards, and when I looked closely I discovered Delwin in each.
"Damn!" Delwins cursed. "He is probably too far from here. Give him your spikard. Looks like he'll need it more than you."
I was about to protest - one spikard is quite a lot of power, after all, and, besides, I wanted to get something for myself out of this mess. But he was gone already, replaced by the reflections of myself. He was probably right. About the spikard, I mean. So I took the next booth. I put one coin in, wondering about what happens to the real coin which is inserted into imaginary slot. I missed Merlin, as he had already passed to inspect a chest. I called out to him, but he didn't respond. He was looking at something in the drawer, and then a suspiciously pale lady appeared in the opposite mirror.
"The answer lies before you, dear friend," she said. Merlin looked so clueless I wanted to smack him. It was obvious that she was informing him on Corwin's whereabo... Obvious?? How had I known that? I shrugged. This city had been rumoured to affect visitors' thinking in peculiar ways. The conversation seemed to be getting pretty intimate, so I suppressed a yawn and went for the next booth. I passed the lady as she had been kissing Merlin, walked a little further and entered a booth to my left. Feeling stupid, I inserted another coin. Merlin noticed me almost immediately. I don't know why he was so surprised to see me, but the look on his face was priceless. And I thought I looked stupid.
"Well, well, nephew. Confused?"
"Can't say I blame you."
At first, I was going to tell him I was here for real, but then decided against spoiling the fun.
"Bleys, what the hell is going on?"
"I've the rest of Delwin's message," I explained showing him the spikard. "Here."
"It is the one of which Delwin spoke," I quickly added as he took it from me. "You must never wear it."
It seemed pretty obvious for me, but with Merlin, better safe then sorry.
"What am I to do with it?" he asked. Good question.
"Put it in your pocket. A use may suggest itself at some point."
"How did you come by it?"
"I switched it after Mandor left it, for the one you wear now."
"How many are there, anyway?"
"I suppose you know all about them."
"More than most."
"That wouldn't be hard. I don't suppose you know where my father is?"
"No. But you do. Your lady friend with the sanguinary tastes told you," I reminded him.
"Riddles," he grunted.
"Always preferable to no answer at all," I explained patiently. Suddenly, the mirror disappeared. Then the booth I had been standing in, and every other booth in the corridor. The walls became semi-transparent, and I figured what was going on. Dawn.
I reached for my deck, but just as I was about to concentrate on the trump, the floor lost its solidity and I fell knee-deep through it, dropping the entire deck. Trumps fell through the floor to where I could no longer see them. Uh-oh. I dropped to my knees and started fumbling around hastily. I finally found a trump and prepared to concentrate, but, ironically, it turned out to be Brand's trump. I tried again. Oberon. Was this city playing its last joke on me? I didn't have time to laugh. I groped several trumps at once. Luckily, one of them was for the palace, just like I originally intended. It had almost become real by the time Tir-Na Nog'th vanished completely. I managed to keep my concentration even when falling. Well, I already had some experience with trumping from mid-air.
My landings still needed practice, though. Transition didn't stop my movement, just changed its direction, so I rolled down the corridor with insane speed.
"What's that?" I heard Vialle's voice, and became vaguely aware that things had just gone from bad to worse, as judging from its direction, I was going right towards her.