Journal Entry (Game Session on 6 Dec. 2002)
I reined in my horse as I crested Kolvir's ridge, to take in the view of the vista before me: the perfect shade of blue in the sky above reflected in the lapping waves below, and with the crown jewel of my late father's realm, the city of Amber, nestled in Kolvir's embrace.
It had been a painfully long time, far too long, since I had last stopped for a moment to drink in this wondrous view. But then, when one is exiled, one does not usually have the luxury of spare time for appreciating one's surroundings when one is somewhere one isn't officially supposed to be...
I nudged Storm's ribs with my heels and flicked his reins, and we resumed onward to the palace. I wanted to drop off my things and get the latest information on the newcomers, as well as see to my filial duties.
The guards at the gate didn't stop me, but I didn't recognize either of them, so they were probably new to their post, perhaps less than a decade or so. They had probably been briefed and given my description, with a warning of what would happen should they try to challenge my right to be here.
Reining in once more at the stables, I tossed the reins to one of the grooms after dismounting, and slung my saddlebags over my shoulder. "His name is Storm, and he will bite anyone trying to grab his reins, to whom he wasn't handed off, whether by me or by anyone else to whom I handed him off. Before you leave here today, you will see to it that you hand him off -- personally -- to whomever takes over for you when you leave, and you will repeat to him all the instructions I've given," I dictated. "Understood?"
The groom hurriedly acknowledged my orders, all the while suspiciously eyeing the black gelding. Good... With luck, he'll actually remember my orders and carry them out. I'd hate for some unsuspecting stableboy to loose a hand for someone else's stupidity.
"He's had a long, hard ride. After you've cooled him down and curried him, see to it that he gets some good oats," I added.
I walked into the palace proper, and headed upstairs. I stopped one of the senior-looking servants. "Have my quarters been aired out? Fresh linens? Dusted, swept, and cleaned?" He affirmed that everything had been seen to. "Good... I presume I'm still using the same quarters, the ones I was using the last time I was here?"
Quite some time ago, before this extravagant mass-exile that has just ended, I had overheard Dear Auntie Florimel speculate about renovating parts of the family suites, to make the remaining quarters more spacious and comfortable. Since my father's suite was no longer being used (him being dead and all that), it would be quite natural for his quarters to be sacrificed to enlarge Flora's suite. I had my things moved into Dad's rooms that afternoon, and I never heard Flora speculate about interior renovations again.
I dropped off my saddlebags in my rooms, and unpacked. After stowing away everything, I checked my sabre and my "derringers," and then left, locking the rooms behind me, and pocketing the key.
I made my way back outside the palace, back outside the city, and headed uphill, towards my father's tomb. Since it had been a millenium (supposedly) since the last time I paid my respects to my father's grave, it would be only natural for me to make the pilgrimage immediately upon my return to Amber. (And heaven forbid I should awaken the interest of anyone's spies by behaving in an unexpected manner.)
My father's tomb is a modest sized temple in the classical Greco-Roman style, with the main entrance in the east wall, and inside, a statue of him opposite this, and in the center of the chamber, his actual tomb on a raised dais.
As I stepped inside, I was greeted with a shock: the lid of the sarcophagus was on the floor, leaning against the side of the sarcophagus!
With great care, I continued into the temple and to the sarcophagus, meticulously checking for clues of any kind all the while. Other than the light traces of my own entry, I found only one other set of footprints, leading away from (and not into) the tomb... I smelled no trace of whoever was here (I have an unnaturally keen sense of smell), nor did I find any other suggestion of the intruder or intruders.
When I got to the opened crypt, I discovered that my father's corpse was missing. Curiously, however, his sabre was still there. The thickness of the dust as well as the type and quantity of pollen inside the mostly empty crypt, plus the thickness of cobwebs under the shelter of the sarcophagus lid, suggested a timeframe of three or four months since my father's tomb had been desecrated.
I took my father's sabre with me as I left, being careful to retrace my path, so as to minimize whatever damage I might cause to whatever clues might still be existing.
I returned to the palace, and to my chambers, and I locked Dad's sabre into the new safe (the one I had secretly installed during the exile). After that, I tried getting more information via one of the traditional family methods on inquiry: Trump casting.
After a fruitless expense of a hour or so getting nonsensical answers to my card readings, I decided to quit this, and instead spend my time more productively. I spruced up for dinner, and went back downstairs, incidentally getting the latest information regarding the newcomers. It seems that all four of them went into town to get new clothes, all patroning the same tailor (albeit, at different times).
Before dinner, we gathered together and were officially welcomed home by the Little Drummer Boy and his wife. He introduced each of the four newcomers, and then announced it was time for dinner (a pronouncement even he cannot screw up, or at least, not too badly).
Dinner itself was unusually uneventful and quiet. No surreptitious conversations or assignations, no biting, pithy banter. But nonetheless, there was still an atmosphere of slight unease, as if everyone was waiting for someone else to be the first to resume the old family traditions.
After dinner, the younglings were sent elsewhere, and the rest of us were asked to reconvene in the library. I intercepted Amber (Luke and Coral's kid) in the hallway outside her suite, and gave her a copy of the family's best-seller (you know, the dramatization of Corwin's usurpation of my father's regency?).
Once we were all assembled at the library (presumably, after tucking the younglings into their beds), Drummer Boy told us of the disappearance of Gerard and Benedict, during the exile. Since he didn't mention the third familial absence, I announced that his opposite number, Corwin's brat, had also disappeared quite some time ago, and his disappearance might possibly be related to the other two absences.
Random nodded, and then continued on. Since this was the first family gathering in some time -- (which drew quite a few sharp, pointed looks, but that's Uncle Drummer Boy for you, he couldn't have been more asinine if he'd tried, but I digress) -- it might be a good idea for the family to try to Trump the absentees en masse, akin to what Corwin urged during PatternFall, to rescue Brand.
We got no response from any of the three concerted Trump attempts, no contacts whatsoever. In the case of Benedict's Trump, we got the feeling of distance, great distance. We also got a similar feeling of distance when we tried Merlin's Trump as well, but it wasn't exactly the same...
Since we were unsuccessful in contacting any of the three absentees, I suggested that we compare the sensations or feelings we got from these recent attempts to their recollection of the results they got when they (presumably) tried this to find Corwin during his long absence (i.e., before his return and imprisonment). My posture and bearing as I said this was one of, well, of course you must have tried this method back then, but the Little Drummer Boy didn't take the bait.
Since one of the Trump attempts had resulted in a feeling of great distance, I then suggested that several of us should go out into Shadow, say, to the Dancing Mountains, and then to the Courts of Chaos in necessary, to try these again. I then asked if he wanted to lead this effort himself, or if he wanted to deputize someone to lead it instead... (And since it was my suggestion, by family tradition, I would be the one deputized, getting members of the family used to the idea of taking orders from me.) He waffled, of course, wanting to wait until tomorrow, after the younglings walk the Pattern.
Once this meeting dissolved, I approached Julian and told him I needed to speak with him on an important yet sensitive matter. He agreed, so I briefed him on what I found (or rather, what I didn't find) at my father's tomb.
After we made a brief stop back at my rooms, where I picked up a knapsack and a boot, we proceeded to the tomb. Once there, Julian checked for tracks and other evidence, as I had done previously, but he discovered nothing new.
"As I see it, Uncle, there are three possibilities. One: My father walked out of his tomb, alive. Two: My father walked out of his tomb, animated or possessed. Three: Someone (or something) teleported to my father's crypt, opened it up, and walked away from here, carrying my father's body... Unless you see something that I don't?"
Then, to hammer home my thesis, I placed one of my father's old boots (that I had retrieved when we stopped back at my rooms) into one of the footprints... It fit.
Julian suggested that we call in a specialist in matters arcane, to which I agreed. He suggested Fiona...
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't actually hate the red-headed
bitchwitch, I just don't trust her, and I honestly believe Amber would be safer with her and her red-headed brother safely reunited with their other red-headed brother, if you catch my drift. Also, she had been quite insistent, I found out, to have my father autopsied, citing that his wounds shouldn't have been fatal. (Great... He shouldn't be dead, so let's cut him open to see why he isn't breathing. That'll help Eric a lot!)
Seeing my reluctance, Julian added, "Can you think of a better expert on arcane matters?..."
Having no other palatable choice, I shuffled Fiona's Trump out from my deck, and handed it to Julian. He contacted her, explained the situation to her, and offered to pull her through. She came through the Trump, and proceeded to cast spells about the area, presumably to investigate. (I am not that well versed in matters arcane, but I know that Julian has some command of these powers, having created his impervious armor and his legendary steed Morgenstern, so I was relatively confident that Fiona wouldn't be able to lie to the both of us.)
While we waited, Julian handed the Trump back to me, and I shuffled it back in, boxing the deck and putting it away. After a while, Fiona finished whatever it was she was doing, and told us she had discovered nothing to suggest that magics of any kind had been involved.
We discussed the possibilities amongst ourselves for a few minutes. Eventually, we decided that we should investigate if this was a singular event, or if other dead relatives were missing. Since the only other dead relative nearby was Caine, over by the seashore, I fished out my Trump of Malaclypse and contacted him.
After telling him that I needed his help on a matter of some importance and sensitivity, he asked that I wait a few minutes (presumably, for him to get dressed), and then he came through. Once there, we briefed him on this matter, and explained that we wanted to investigate whether or not Caine (Mal's father) was still dead. He was genuinely intrigued, and consented to our investigation, but insisted we give him time to deactivate the safeguards he had installed around and inside Caine's tomb.
So, we made our way seaward, and Malaclypse bade us wait. After a few minutes, he returned, and we then went inside Caine's tomb to discover it still occupied. Neither Fiona nor Mal found any magical clues there, so we left, waiting for Mal to reset his wards. Once he rejoined us, we returned to the palace, discussing possibilities on the walk back.
"The best thing I can think of doing," I said, "is to walk the Pattern, and have it send me to my father." None of them disagreed with me, so I told them, "No time like the present."
Once inside the palace, Fiona said she was turning in for the evening, and left us to continue on our way, downstairs into the caverns beneath the castle, to the Chamber of the Pattern.
What else can I say? I walked the Pattern...
After making it once more to the center, I took a few minutes to regain my breath. I visualized appearing in sight of my father, wherever he might be, no more than a stone's throw away from him. Not necessarily anyplace safe (what place is truly safe?), but at a place that would not be imminently perilous. I visualized all this.
I willed the Pattern to take me there!
The universe flickered around me...