Flark's (Non-Existent) Diary      23 November 2001

I have spent the past few days considering the marriage question and experimenting with self-replicating thaumavores in fast-time, high magic Shadows. They are voracious, and I had to relocate three times.

My agents brought me word of several interesting developments. First, Shandor's sister, Alana, continues to act as his secretary, performing much of the day-to-day business of Sawall.

Second, Despil is poised to resume favor with the King for having solved the problem with the self-replicating construct, Hydra. Aside from the worrying implications behind his ability to control such an entity -- are his mirrors involved? -- this will also mean that Shandor's regency over Sawall will come to an end.

I invited Shandor to lunch. He is none to pleased by this development himself, and we considered ways in which his regency might become permanent. Learned several interesting things. First, Shandor has evidently freed himself of his 'internal problem' -- (I jest) -- meaning, he has found a way to remove the Pattern-bomb attached to his soul. He claimed he did this by causing his own death. A pragmatic solution. I would have wished for a detailed response, but knew better than to press him. Second, Shandor does not know (or claims not to know) how Despil destroyed Hydra -- or even if it was Despil who did so. Third, Shandor has a bit of Hydra still -- and it exists at his command and may be remotely controlled. It has access to the libraries of Sawall, and has noticed the Duke of Kolvir -- (even now it vexes me to call him by his more grandiose title) -- checking files related to Despil and Shroudlings. This suggests the good Duke also fears Despil and might favor Shandor. He will contact the royal person without mentioning my involvement.

Unfortunately, we came no nearer to a solution to Shandor's problem. Shandor's Hydra does seem capable of self-replication, but fears to do so. Plus, we have no way of preventing new copies from being easily destroyed. So we cannot use a resurgent Hydra to embarrass Despil. Nor, seemingly, can we remove Despil's favorite toy -- Kor informs me that Shroudlings are no more edible to a thaumavore than are ordinary humans. Unless it can be definitively demonstrated to be a magical construct, I do not want to tip my hand with the thaumavores. Plus, I imagine that Despil could handle any threat arising from a secondary power such as magic. A Logrus-based attack might be more fruitful. Perhaps if I released it while Despil was in court and hence unable to act...

In any case, Shandor does not seem to be any immediate danger should Despil regain his House, and I have offered him refuge if the unlikely event does come to pass. It could be awkward, if Shandor came to me after an attempt on Despil's life, but Shandor has been a reasonably loyal and forthcoming friend. (Although he knew more about Keliith than he was willing to share...) Ideally, I would prefer Shandor as Duke Sawall than Despil, but I fear he has been pitted against a rival he cannot overcome.

After the meeting, I attended the Barimen social function. I brought Felara with me, to evaluate her performance as potential spouse. [How did she do, Franklin?] Fendrith was there, in a fully human form I have not seen before. Another item for contemplation. Other major players in the game also present, excepting Feng. Feng was evidently not invited. I wonder why not, as persons considerably below his station were present. Perhaps there is anger against him in Barimen. That would be useful to know.

The future presses, but I seem to await it with less enthusiasm than I once did. It is a dull thing when one's major adversaries are dead or tamed, and I have not yet found new ones. [Hint, Hint, Franklin.] Still, I must continue to plan.

Foremost is the question of an heir. Keliith can no longer be considered really suitable. Keliith is a man of many accomplishments and much power, but his first loyalty is not to Jesby, and his aims are unknown. Feng is too dangerous to nominate as an heir. To do so would be to invite more attempts on my life. I could hold out the prospect to him as a reward, perhaps even grant it as a test of loyalty. I think I could survive for a time. Yet some more suitable cushion between me and his blade must be found sooner or later.

Hence, perhaps a natural heir would suit best, and I have begun to search for potential spouses. A pity. I think I would prefer not to marry. I do not trust anyone near me when I am sleeping. It might be worthwhile to politick outside the House for a candidate, but that would take time, and I feel events will proceed more rapidly than that. Nor, I think, would it bring me closer to the throne. Although others come to mind, I suspect Felara will be the best candidate, for she, like Uncle Laan, is impeccably loyal, and we share a similar disposition towards life, things, and ends. Still, I may announce my search and see what baits others offer; it could serve to further illuminate the long-term plans of my peers.

Another Interregnum approaches, I fear, and I must prepare Jesby for that eventuality. I cannot see Corwin's son retaining his control for much longer. His handling of the crisis with Brand was ham-fisted and alienated just about everyone. The King of Chaos is not so formidable that he can run roughshod over all the Dukes at once without danger, but I do not think the fool realizes it. Merlin has a formidable rival in his half-brother, and Jendo also seems to be eyeing his position as well. Additionally, Mandor is near him, and either he or Dara may yet find a way to make a puppet of him.

I must determine what my aims will be, when the inevitable comes to pass. Should I seek the Throne myself, or support another candidate? The former would flatter my ambition and satisfy my father's ghost; the latter seems more prudent given my youth and Jesby's relative strength. If I live long enough, there will be other interregna, ones which I might be better situated to use to my advantage, particularly if I arrange them myself. Following the course of prudence, then, there seem to be two candidates worth supporting -- Despil or Jendo. I am already allied with Jendo, and though he is somewhat reactionary when it comes to Amber, I believe I could support him for king. Despil, also, has not yet made me his enemy, save through Shandor, and if he gained the throne, Shandor would become Duke of Sawall. Either of them are sufficiently competent and ruthless to make a fine king.

I must meet with them both soon.

One great difficulty lies in this course -- Seonaid. In any scenario for Interregnum, she would quickly perish. She has not the temperament nor the gift to rule, and ever if the throne fell to her, new rivals would destroy her. One could argue that she has betrayed me, and I owe her nothing. Yet, in her own foolish way, she felt she was acting honorably and balancing the conflicting interests that had been imposed upon her. I would not willingly see her dead, and would even accept some discomfort and political loss to prevent that from happening. Why did she have to be that man's child, and, failing that, once she learned it, why did she have to make the knowledge public? She is, whatever her bloodline, sister Anakara's child. Does this mean that I am forced to support Merlin, even prevent his death? What an odious thought!

Even more frustrating, if she were not my niece, she would make an ideal spouse in all but temperament. As Merlin's only human child, marriage to a Duke would almost assure that sovereignty would fall to her upon his death. Perhaps she can yet be saved in some other way.

In the shorter term, there is the question of magical power. There are far too many devices of great potency and unknown limits floating about these days. In addition to the Royal Ghostwheel and Spikard, there is Despil's mirrors, the Emerald lady's construct, the Keep of the Four Worlds, and now even Shandor has his little Hydra! I am revoltingly under-strength and must find either my own device or some way of neutralizing the others. Preferably both.