Outside the inn, Tremayne and Uther face each other, about to fight, the rest of the party and Uther's knights looking on, when they are interrupted by a woman who demands to know what they are about.
Tremayne addresses her as Victoria. She asks whether the party has the sword, and what is going on here. Tremayne explains that Uther is trying to delay the sword getting to Corwin. She talks to Uther. Apparently she knows of him, and says that Corwin mentioned him to her. She says that Corwin is currently very busy, and asks who everyone is.
Xavier introduces himself as Xavier, and she asks whether he's Xavier of Amber. He acknowledges that he is, and asks who she is. She says that she's used many names, and now calls herself Victoria. She won't give her true name, particularly in front of a sorcerer - at this she eyes Uther. She says that she supposes Xavier is new, and he doesn't deny it.
Darius next introduces himself, Harry, Jack and Caine. Victoria seems quite amused at the dog being called Caine.
Joseph introduces himself as the son of Lady Florimel, and she says that he looks the part.
She knows Lucien already, and says that she's surprised to see him here instead of being a corporate assassin, then wonders how it is that he got to Amber. He says that it would be a long story, and she agrees that it probably would be; she gives him his uncle Jurt's regards.
Victoria and Mordana size each other up warily. Mordana introduces herself as of the Courts, and Victoria points out that surely Mordana's in exile from the Courts? Darius points out that Mordana is betrothed to Xavier, and that rather changes the matter of exile.
And then it's Kenton's and the knights' turns to be introduced, and so now everyone knows each other, and it's time for some explanations.
Osric and Malachi's involvement in the situation is explained to Victoria, and what the party can conjecture may be the reasons behind the delaying of the return of Greyswandir to Corwin. Osric, it seems, wants his due from Amber. Tremayne conjectures that that means a principality, which surprises and seemingly amuses Victoria. She suggests to Uther that he may wish to reconsider his allegiances, and asks what injury Corwin has done him. Uther explains a little, but he's rather evasive about details. She tells him that neither she nor, she believes, Corwin bears Uther any ill-will.
It seems that Victoria knows about the duplicates problem; it also seems that she's been offered refuge here in Corwin's Shadows against the problems. She seems pleased to learn that the duplicates have been defeated. Learning that Deirdre's free again, and seemingly not as mad as she was, she says that that rather changes matters, and would wish to continue finding out more, but matters are pressing. She leads Tremayne aside for a private discussion.
A private discussion about Uther. She says that it's important that he isn't killed, but that he shouldn't be allowed to get in the way. She points out that he's a very capable sorcerer, possibly more powerful than Xerxes was. It's better that he's watched by the party than allowed to wander around on his own.
They rejoin the party, and after polite farewells, she and Martin Trump out....
Meanwhile, Khan is hot, sweaty and covered with immobile horses and Cossacks. He's got a few scrapes, but he's pretty much unhurt, and he starts to dig himself out of the pile of mostly-unconscious bodies. He hears footsteps and looks up. A nine-foot being is looking down at him. It's one of those demons. It hisses at Khan, and he hisses back at it. It doesn't seem impressed, and Khan yells at it.
Malachi turns up, presumably having heard the altercation. He and Khan discuss the injuries Malachi sustained in the battle, and Tremayne. Malachi seems grudgingly impressed by Tremayne. Khan asks why Malachi never told him that they share a father. Malachi rejoins that their father isn't particularly impressed with Khan. Khan snaps back that he isn't exactly chuffed with Osric either. He asks why he and the rest of the party seem to be being used to consolidate family power. Malachi explains what he knows, including that it took the blood of Corwin (obtained via Lucien) and a fragment of the Ghostwheel to get the party in. Osric wants territory, particularly given some advantages from Corwin's Pattern, which isn't anchored at the other end, unlike the Pattern of Amber, which is anchored to Chaos. It's all about the demons - they left the Courts a very long time ago. They want a new home, and Osric's plan is to use the outer unanchored edges of Corwin's Shadows for that. Corwin has several reasons not to be obliging about that, it seems. Khan says that to him it sounds a rather sensible plan, and Malachi agrees.
Khan asks again why Osric is unhappy with him. Malachi explains that Khan, in Osric's opinion, has failed him, hasn't followed the plan. He points out that the message he left with Xavier before the battle should have explained much of that, and Khan agrees; he says he's learned nothing particularly new there. There's a certain amount of conjecturing about what it is that Xavier sees in Mordana - or vice versa.
Eventually Malachi puts two options before Khan: he can either get dragged back, or he can be trusted to do "the right thing". Khan says that if he's dragged back he can hardly prove himself to Osric, and Malachi agrees - not without pointing out that it wouldn't do him any harm, staying #1 son in Osric's eyes. Malachi then hands over two bags containing Delwin's and Finndo's armour, then has words with the demon which seems to have been listening intently to the conversation, perhaps explaining why Malachi has seemed so tense and constrained in what he could say. The demon seems to deanimate at that, and Khan takes out his Trump sketch of Darius and calls him...
Tremayne proposes to Uther that he and his knights accompany them and delay handing over Greyswandir to Corwin until Uther has had his discussion with Corwin, otherwise it's no deal. Uther seems to think that's actually quite a good deal for him, and he assents. He asks about this 'Amber' that's kept cropping up in the discussion, and Joseph explains that, as well as being home to most of those present, it's also the City Of Cities, its reality the True Reality of which everything else is just a distorted image. Uther seems startled at the idea, and asks Joseph what gave him the idea that this was so. Joseph smiles and points out that there are books on this kind of thing in the Library at Amber, and suggests that after all the unpleasantness is finished, Uther might care to be a guest at the Castle and perhaps study.
At this point Darius gets a Trump call from Khan, and pulls him through.
Khan hands over the golden armour to Xavier. Joseph asks how Malachi fares, and is relieved to hear that Malachi isn't too badly hurt.
They all exchange information to bring Khan up to speed and find out what he's learned. Khan asks Mordana about the demons. She says they're bodiless, building bodies from the substances around them, and that makes them quite powerful, because their bodies can be destroyed, they can reform new ones with no great difficulty. She tells of a legend little told in Chaos, of a time just after Dworkin and Oberon fled to found Amber. The making of the Pattern changed things, and this generally unsettled Chaos. Most Chaosites took a wait and see approach, but some disagreed vehemently and insisted that Amber should be destroyed. Most of that dissent was 'handled internally', but some demons got away. These, quite possibly, are Osric's allies.
This leads to a lot of worried speculation on unattached Patterns and other cosmological issues that may just have immediate relevance.
Still, time presses, and they all leave the inn and start riding. Joseph, concentrating on Corwin, shifts them through hilly terrain, not too rocky for the horses, but definitely getting steep in places. A person appears ahead on the path, and Joseph shifts Shadow to where he isn't. They ride on, and then the man - it's definitely a man - is there again, and no matter how much Joseph shifts, he's there. Joseph resignedly points out to the rest that there's no evading this man, and they'd best be prepared to deal with him one way or another.
The man is tall, with long dark hair and beard, plentiful but not ill-kept. Despite the length of his beard, he is not old; perhaps in his late twenties, and muscular. He wears a burgundy robe over bronze-coloured armour, and is carrying a complicated pole arm which he uses as a walking staff. Yes, it's dear old uncle Osric, he with whom Uther dealt over the matter of a delay to the rejoining of Corwin and Greyswandir not so long ago...
He introduces himself, and says that it's plain to him that it would be a good time to have a discussion. He greets everyone by name, and apologises for dragging them into all this, but it was necessary. He points out that nobody was actually killed, though he does apologise again for the discomfort he put them through, and explains that the Shadow of Spire was unusually and unexpectedly responsive to those who were held there's presences, and started modifying itself around them almost as soon as they were put there. It sounds as though the detainees were at least partly responsible for their own discomfort... He's asked, courteously enough, what is is that he wants of the party - presumably a delay, since that's what everyone else seems to want, and he agrees: a week's delay should suffice. There's a certain amount of unhappiness about his alliance with the demons, with people being unsure that they wouldn't use a place here as a staging-point for a resumed assault on Amber. Osric says he bears Amber no particular ill-will any more - everyone he knew is dead, apart from Xavier, though he'd still love to get Oberon if he were still alive, and he points out that it was he who zotted the duplicate Julian - as he said, it wouldn't have done him any good if Reality got damaged.
Joseph points out that the delivery or nondelivery of the sword is about the only bargaining chip they have with Corwin for a safe and speedy return, and proposes agreeing to the week's delay. Tremayne's unhappy, being Corwin's sworn man; Darius doesn't trust Osric worth a damn, and says that they shouldn't piss Corwin off, because he's the only way they have out of here.
There are too many imponderables, though; as Joseph points out, they're almost certainly being used as a patsy by one side or other, if not both. At this unsatisfactory point, Tremayne, Lucien, Uther and his knights make Trump contact with Corwin and vanish.