Part X



". . .Buffy Anne Summers."

Principal Snyder actually managed to sound like he didn't mind saying Buffy's name as she crossed the stage to accept her diploma, but my trained eye picked up the telltale signs of extreme irritation that he was feeling at having failed to derail my daughter's high school education. For a moment, my resentment threatened to become anger, but my emotions rapidly changed to pride as I watched her accept the diploma and shake Snyder's hand with an expression of utter graciousness on her face. I remembered what Oberon had told me while I was still too young to carry a sword: "To be courteous to those beneath you is to be noble. . .and who doesn't want to be noble?" I laughed out loud at the memory and attracted the attention of the two people sitting next to me: I looked over at Joyce and nodded to indicate that I was all right, but Hank Summers gave me a long and quizzical look before he turned back to the stage with a smile on his face.

After the matter with the Council of Watchers had settled out, Buffy decided to come clean with the man she had believed to be her father until but two days before. With Joyce's reluctant help, she explained about her situation from both before and after my arrival, and the shock of it was evident on his face. I knew all too well what he was thinking: he had chosen a life that required him to be away far too often, and he had missed most of his daughter's growing up. Now, with their ties more tenuous than they had ever been, this news had come: he clearly thought that he was going to lose her forever, either from violence or because she might never want to see him again.

Buffy had gone over and embraced him, and told him of how she remembered the years where he had been there for her, and that she knew that if he'd known of what she had been going through, he would have been more understanding and supportive. Looking at her with Hank at that moment, I felt a pang of jealousy: I had missed those years, and I would never get them back. . .but I knew that I was not cut out for that sort of duty: for better or worse, I am a wanderer, even more so than Hank Summers could ever imagine being. The fact that I had a daughter to nurture as she came into her true power as a member of the royal family of Amber was largely due to him, and to a remarkable woman that I met through the most astonishing set of coincidences. . .even more than I knew at that moment.

I had decided to stay on in Buffy's shadow while she finished high school and helped supervise the installation of the new Council procedures regarding the Slayer. Fiona had departed after we returned from England, teasing me mercilessly about how parenthood had grown on me: Random had been pleased to hear that the new menace from Brand had been terminated thanks to the new member of the family. He authorized me to take all reasonable measures to facilitate Buffy's settling into her new situation. I had arranged for Benedict to take over her instruction in the martial arts once her high school education was complete: with her strength and agility augmented by the navigation of the Pattern, even Angel was no longer an adequate training companion. Private tutors would fill in some of the educational gaps that would have been dealt with if she had been raised in Amber; after that was finished, perhaps a college education such as Merlin received. . .best to do it in her own shadow, unless she wanted to go elsewhere.

In late May, I had stopped by Joyce's house after dropping Buffy off at the school. I had decided to adopt a more inconspicuous look now that I was staying there for a while: a T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes. I gathered that Buffy and her friends derived great amusement from the reaction that I got from their female classmates while so attired: what can I say? A Prince of Amber must make an impression wherever he goes. In any event, Joyce had gone to fetch us some tea while I looked through her old family albums: as with the rest of my family, I have a fascination with genealogy, and I couldn't help but wonder at the background of the woman who I had encountered twenty years ago to such a wonderful end. I was looking at some yellowed black and white photos when I froze. Managing to keep my voice level with supreme effort, I called over to Joyce, "Could you come here for a moment, please?"

Joyce came over, and I pointed to a picture of a man. "Who is that, Joyce?" The man in the picture was of slight build, with medium length hair and intense eyes. Joyce laughed ruefully and replied, "That, my dear, is the family scandal. My great-grandmother, Darlene Rogers, was a sweet young thing living in Chicago during World War I when she ran into this fellow. . .this is the only picture we have of him. Apparently, as often was the case during the war years, he loved her and left her, and Darlene found herself 'in trouble.' Fortunately, she found a very understanding young man who still wanted to marry her, and he became my great-grandfather in fact if not in the biological sense. You should hear my grandmother tell the story: she's eighty two years old and I wouldn't be surprised to see her last another fifty."

I stared at her for a long moment, then could resist no longer: "Joyce, did this fellow who abandoned your great-grandmother leave his name, by any chance?" Joyce frowned, then replied, "Yes, Bleys: his name was Arthur Brandenburg. Why do you ask?"

The name clinched it, of course. Faces can fool you, but Brand could never resist the temptation to use an alias that hinted at his true identity. I looked at Joyce as if seeing her for the first time. . .yes, I could see the faint family resemblance, and the pictures of Joyce's mother and maternal grandmother that I had seen bore the signs even more visibly. I carefully concealed my reaction, while thinking back to a conversation I had with Brand in happier times, while he was still rather young. "Bleys," he had commented, drawing on a pipe and staring moodily at the setting sun, "the universe is out to get me. . .and the only way I see out of it is to get it first." I had jovially tried to reassure him that he'd just had a run of bad luck, and his mood soon improved, but I wished that I'd paid more attention to that offhand comment. . .it might have saved us a lot of grief later. In any event, this new development put Brand's remark in a whole new light: because he had stopped in this shadow many years ago and become involved with a certain young woman, and because much later I visited the very same shadow and became involved with that woman's great-granddaughter, a plan of Brand's that would have almost certainly succeeded failed. As Corwin has been known to muse, are we of Amber the masters of fate or its most helpless pawns? I am as helpless to answer that question as anyone. . .but I had no intention of letting it ruin the immense good fortune that I had received in Buffy.

The ceremony ended, and I carefully moved off to the side, giving Buffy a chance to spend a few moments alone with Joyce and Hank. I watched Buffy's friends as they mingled with their parents and classmates, and I wondered again at how things had worked out. I was still standing there watching when Buffy walked up and called out, "Hey, what's got you all contemplative, Bleys? That's not really your style."

I nodded and replied, "Ordinarily, no, but the last few months. . .I'd be a fool if it didn't make me wonder about the forces that guide our lives. . .anyway, enough serious thoughts for now. Buffy, I think we should leave in a week. . .I can make arrangements for the transport of your possessions to Amber, and everything else seems to be in order. . .is there anything I'm overlooking? Do you still feel all right about this?"

Buffy shrugged and replied, "I liked Amber. . .it seems so peaceful somehow after living on the Hellmouth for three years. Besides, thanks to our little surprise. . ." She paused and looked at her watch before amending, ". . . which we will be springing at my house at 9:30 tonight, so don't be late. . .my family and friends will both be but a moment away. . .sounds like a nice situation to me." She sighed and continued, "Besides, I don't have much of a choice at this point, do I? Living to a peaceful old age sounded nice when my lifespan looked rather limited, but sitting around kicking back when you have that immortality thing going for you sounds boring as hell. . .and Faith was right about one thing: we were built for fighting. . .it will be nice to be able to choose those fights from now on." She grinned at me, then turned away, saying, "I've got to visit a shut-in right now, so I'll see you at 9:30." She moved off, and I just watched her as she disappeared into the crowd.


I carefully entered the mansion and looked around. Angel was sitting near the fireplace and turned as I came in. He smiled wanly and called out, "Hi."

"Hi yourself," I replied, moving over to him and giving him a hug. I felt him reach down and take the cap that still rested on my head, then watched as he examined it with an amused look before setting it gently down on a table and commenting, "Not the most practical piece of clothing in the world, but it looks good on you."

I looked up into his eyes and retorted, "Liar." His eyes denied falsehood, and I nestled into his arms for a long, comfortable moment, before looking up at him and pulling away. I sat across from him and commented, "We do need to have that discussion we've been putting off, Angel."

His face darkened, and he whispered, "I don't see what we have to discuss, Buffy. You're going to go off to Amber, and I'm going to stay here. The only difference between now and before Bleys came is that I don't have to leave Sunnydale. . .which is good, since even with things calmed down, Faith and Giles could use some help. . .there are still a lot of vampires here, and artifacts of dangerous power drawn here prior to the sealing of the Hellmouth that could endanger this world. I have things to do here. . .and I couldn't follow you even if the problem of the curse wasn't there."

"I know," I replied, remembering what Bleys and Fiona had told me. The forces that permitted Angel's body to remain functional and intact were products of this shadow, and as such might well be disrupted by travel to Amber or even a shadow walk. Angel was trapped. "But Fiona said that it might be possible to find a spell that would restore your humanity. . .we have all of Shadow to look through now, and the help of the most powerful sorceress in the universe. . .if you are willing to accept it."

Angel looked tormented, and I tried to discern what the problem was. At length, he replied, "Buffy, that would have seemed wonderful before. . .but don't you see? You are immortal now. . .what right do I have to tie you down to someone who has a limited lifespan. . .who will inevitably die and leave you behind? What kind of fate is that for you?"

I was irritated, and my face showed it. "Really? Then what were you doing being in love with me, when our situations were reversed? Did you see yourself as being victim of some horrible fate when you fell in love with me?"

Angel looked shocked, then shook his head without otherwise replying. After a moment, he continued, "Also. . .Buffy, I know that if you find such a spell, the human Angel that would result would be technically innocent of all that I have done. . .but I'd still feel the remorse. . .I can't just abandon my penance. . .it would be an offense against whatever decided that I deserved a second chance after being sent to hell."

I was ready for this one. "Oh yeah, about that, Angel. I decided that the First Evil was feeding you a lot of crap about being responsible for bringing you back. . .she talked a good game, but it all seemed kind of haphazard to me. I asked Fiona some questions, and she performed some tests at my request. The results were interesting. The night you came back, I came into this room and placed the ring you gave me on the floor and said goodbye to you. Fiona's tests proved that a rift between the demon dimension and this shadow was opened just after that. . .by someone using Pattern manipulation abilities."

Angel was startled by the revelation and managed to blurt out, "How-?" I held up my hand and replied, "Wait, there's more. The night I was begging you to come in before the sun came up. . .when that freak snowstorm came up and blocked out the light? Guess what Fiona found?"

Angel stared and asked, "Another use of Pattern powers?" I nodded grimly and replied, "You win the prize. Fiona said that both uses were rather crude in methodology, but considerable in power. She was rather impressed, considering that the person who did it had no clue what was going on."

Angel blinked and whispered, "You?"

I nodded slowly and replied, "That's right, me. Little Miss Untrained Talent thwarted the sanctity of the demon dimension and blew off the First Evil without realizing what in the hell she was doing. So if you want to thank the force that is responsible for you being here, go ahead, but you're welcome, already. As for the past crimes of Angelus, you've done a lot of atoning, wouldn't you say? This world wouldn't be here any more several times over if it wasn't for you helping me. If you feel the need to keep doing what you have been doing, more power to you: you're stuck here and as a vampire until I can find the right spell. But enough is enough, Angel: I love you, and your excuses about why it won't work are starting to get old."

He could take a shock rather well. . .I had to give him that. He looked at me with a rueful smile and commented, "I'm not going to win this argument, am I?"

I grinned and shook my head, then nestled back into his arms, and commented, "We've got plenty of time, Angel. . .and if you're worried about getting old and feeble on me, I've found out that living in Amber greatly slows the aging process for normal humans. . .sounds like a nice place to retire from life as a demon hunter, wouldn't you say?"

Angel's response was a smile and a kiss, and I knew that I had won.


Everyone had gathered, and they all seemed to be openly curious as Buffy walked into the room. I heard Xander audibly inhale, and Giles, Wesley and Angel were visibly startled, while the women in the room seemed interested, and Oz. . .well, I just can't read that fellow.

Buffy was wearing a red evening dress with feathery ruffles around her shoulders. A diamond and gold necklace rested around her neck as if it had always been there. She looked like a fairy tale princess coming to the ball. . .except for the jeweled dagger hanging at her side. She looked at her friends and her mother and asked, "Well, what do you think of the new look?"

Everyone was speechless for a moment, then Xander looked at her for a long moment and commented, "Wow, Buffy. . .gives 'dressed to kill' a whole new meaning." He smiled and asked, "So what's the occasion?"

Buffy turned to me, and I explained, "It is traditional for a young Amberite who has completed the Pattern to choose a personal set of colors, then for Dworkin, Oberon's father and the original architect of the Pattern, to draw the personal Trump of that person dressed in those colors for distribution to the family. This is how Buffy chose to appear, and this is how Dworkin portrayed her." I pulled out the Trump that Dworkin had finished two weeks before, and I displayed it to the fascinated group in the room.

Dworkin had drawn Buffy standing in the library of Castle Amber: a massive bookcase was the background and a globe sat in the lower right hand corner of the image. Buffy's expression, particularly her eyes, was contemplative, yet there was the hint of a smile, as if she were appreciating a private joke that she would love to share with the viewer. Her right hand rested casually against the dagger at her side. . .a threat, and yet not so. Prejudiced as I admit being, I viewed it as Dworkin's finest work.

At length, everyone had seen the Trump, and I put it away and continued, "Unfortunately, producing large amounts of these Trumps is not practical. . .therefore I cannot provide you with copies. . .but simple sketches by an adept with the ability to produce Trumps. . .such as myself, will serve the function in a less elegant manner." I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small pile of cards, after which I gave one to every person in the room. I kept one for myself and examined my work: Buffy was wearing the outfit that she had worn the night I met her: no thought given to fashion or glamour, yet she looked fully as lovely as she did in Dworkin's work.

Buffy smiled and explained, "You can use those to contact me. . .but don't overdo it, please. . .our clocks won't be synchronized any more, and one too many early morning wakeup calls will make me cranky." At that, everyone moved in to congratulate Buffy and otherwise shower her with affection, and I made a point of moving back and letting her enjoy the moment. After some time, she came over to where I was standing and just stood there silently. Eventually, I turned to her, and I could see sadness in her face. "What's wrong, Buffy," I asked, "Having second thoughts about leaving?"

She shook her head and replied, "No. . .but it's all so different. I'm used to being able to pick up the phone any time I want and talking to Xander, or Willow, or even Giles. . .now, it will just be Trump calls. . .and they have to call me, not the other way around. I'm going to miss them, that's all."

I smiled, and commented, "I think we can remedy that. . .you just have to add another subject to your study list. I can teach you to make Trump sketches, and you can use them to contact your friends, or even cut out some walking time between Amber and here. . .but it will take some time. Do you think you're up for it?"

Buffy grinned and replied, "Hey, I'm Buffy of Amber. . .what's a little extra studying against facing the dangers of infinite Shadow?" I leaned over to embrace her, and wondered again at the twists of fate that had brought us together. . .she still had a long way to go before she could rest on her laurels, but I was confident from what I had seen that she would come through it all successfully. . .she seemed to have everything under control. I straightened, motioned to her, and we rejoined the party that would be the end of one stage in her life and the beginning of the next one.

AUTHOR'S CLOSING NOTE: Well, that's it for this story. I haven't decided on a follow up story, yet, but it will probably involve Buffy settling into her life as an Amberite, while keeping touch with her old friends and keeping an eye on her home shadow. I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired.