A Bride for Merlin
Session VIII, 7 January 2000
Lord Flark, Duke of Jesby, receives the tragic news of his stepbrother's death with the appropriate level of grief. Mentally, he makes a note on his new assassin's efficiency. The line of heirs to the Dukedom of Jesby has been reduced by one. For the time being his own Dukedom is secure, but he will have to see about assuring the future succession from his own line. The remaining heirs flash automatically through his mind. If he were to die, his brother, W'Zaal, would be the next Duke, followed by his step-brother, Feng. "Can't do anything about that right now," Flark comments to himself.
His uncle, Baron Laan, brings the next piece of business to Flark's attention. As is tradition when a new Duke of Jesby is confirmed, the senior member (from House Jesby) on the Council of the Guild of Bureaucrats has resigned. Baron Laan presents him the resumés of the three best candidates for the opening. Noticing that they are all distant relatives, Flark reviews their reputations. One of his distant cousins on the list, Baroness Yvette, has been called a "ruthless bitch" on more than a few occasions. Though she would undoubtedly be loyal to him as long as it suited her purposes, Flark decides that sooner or later he might find himself in a bidding war for her loyalty.
The next candidate, Baroness Ellowynn, is undeniable loyal to House Jesby.
The final candidate, Baron Qaash, is a long-time Guild member who would go along with House Jesby's wishes as long as it coincided with the best benefit for the Guild.
"I choose the third candidate," Lord Flark announces. His uncle looks at him, somewhat surprised. "I believe that, given the public reaction to my duel, this will help cement my leadership in the public mind," Flark explains.
"Excellent, excellent," the Baron chortles.
Flark waits for his uncles gleeful cackle to subside, then changes the subject. "Lord Jendo has offered to go hunting with me," he says.
"Oh, really?" Baron Laan responds. "And have you accepted?"
"I think I should at least hear what he has to say," replies Lord Flark. "It may be that we will be able to kill something."
"My, but you're blunt," observes the Baron. "Something or some things...?" he asks.
Lord Flark looks at him humorlessly. "I was referring to the animals," he says.
Baron Laan returns his protégé's humorless glare. Lord Flark, he notes, could maintain a fluid definition of the world "animal". Finally, he says, "Well, you could issue an invitation. Or, I could issue invitations and let it be known that you will be attending."
"Whatever you think best, Uncle," Flark replies.
"Very well, I will arrange it," responds the Baron. "I hear that the hunting in Axsom is particularly good right now. Did you want this within the next few days, or did you have a longer time frame in mind?"
"Sometime in the next few days would be most desirable," Lord Flark replies. "Be sure to get an invitation to Lords Shandor and Andreas. Oh, and the lizard fellow... Fendrith."
"I'll see to it," Baron Laan assures him as he moves off to make the necessary arrangements.
Meanwhile, Lord Shandor Sawall receives good news from his cousin, Lord Mandor. His sister, Alana, has been invited to a lunch date with King Merlin! Shandor looks at the plain invitation, devoid of any personalization, and asks Mandor how many other invitations were sent out. Mandor tells him that there are about fifty ladies on the list, and the King is entertaining three prospects each day. Lady Gilva of Hendrake meets with the King in a few days. Alana's date will not be for another two weeks.
"Does the order of invitation have anything to do with the order of preference?", he asks Mandor. Mandor smiles slightly and produces a scoreboard showing the current "standings", at least as far as he knows them. Alana's name appears in the bottom half. "Only 30 or 40 to kill", Shandor thinks glumly before abandoning that line of thought completely.
"Thank you for showing me this," says Shandor. "If you can't tell, I'm rather interested."
"I would never have guessed" laughs Mandor. "By the way, have you given any thought to your sister's protection? You might want to start thinking about that."
Shandor mentally kicks himself. "Again, thank you," he says. "Do you have any...?"
Before Shandor finishes, Mandor hands him three business cards and says, "As a matter of fact, I do."
Shandor studies the cards. None of the names are familiar to him, but fortunately he knows somebody who might help sort them out. He thanks Mandor yet again and heads towards the Ways of Jesby.
On the way, he reaches out a Logrus tendril to contact his sister. "Hello", Alana greets him.
"Hello," Shandor answers. "I take it you've already decided what you're going to wear for your date with the King?"
"Oh, I've got lot's of time to worry about that," she bubbles. "Right now, I've got to study for school, though." Then, thinking about the King, she adds, "He has done some interesting things with higher magic and Trump."
"Yes, he has," Shandor agrees. "It might not hurt for you to study up on that."
"I'm fairly competent with the magic, but I haven't even begun to study Trump," she explains.
"Well, I just wanted to check up on you and make sure you're on your toes," Shandor says, preparing to break the connection. "Love you".
"Love you, too," Alana bubbles.
Fendrith, for some inexplicable reason, finds himself remembering Kagariith Po's foul cigars with some fondness. He finds Seonaid's manager, as usual, sitting in his favorite chair at the local pub. As he walks in, the large orange demon greets him loudly, "Hey Fendrith! Sit down, join me for a brewski!"
"Don't mind if I do," Fendrith agrees and sits in the offered chair.
"Two boilermakers, put it on the tab," Kagariith orders the waitress. "So, did she come out yet?" he asks Fendrith.
"I haven't heard from her", Fendrith answers. "I don't know how long these things usually take."
"Hmm," Kagariith mutters. "We may have a problem."
"Hmm?" Fendrith inquires.
"Well, you remember our contract with Duke Despil starts in one and a half weeks!" the scaly manager reminds him.
"Yes, well," Fendrith agrees, watching the large stogie in Kagariith's wide, toad-like face. "I wonder if there's any way to find out how far along she is."
"Not unless you go in there," Kagariith replies. "I don't know about you, but... I mean I love the kid a lot... but not that much!"
"By the way," Fendrith blurts, "would you happen to have an extra..."
Seeing that Fendrith is eyeing his cigar, Kagariith produces one enthusiastically. "Oh, sure," he says, handing it to Fendrith. "I always keep a couple extras. Here, light it up, pal!"
Fendrith resists the impulse to shift to his native form and light it up but good. Then, he realizes that he doesn't have any appropriate spells for simple ignition handy. Kagariith, of course, is prepared. "Flare," he commands, and the cigar dutifully catches fire. Fendrith begins puffing on it with obvious relish.
"Well, I have some time on my hands, so maybe I could go to our first venue and see if there's anything that needs attention," offers Fendrith.
"Well, uh, Hraalk is handling the security... he's the liaison... he's going along with Sawall's goons," Kagariith explains.
"They're good?" Fendrith asks.
"Oh, yeah!" Kagariith affirms.
"I was thinking more along the lines of the production's technical needs," Fendrith says, helpfully.
"Oh, yeah," Kagariith affirms again, "you used to be one of the roadies! You'd be good for that!" He waves at a demon who has just entered the bar. "Hey, Sal! How ya' doing?" Sal waves back and joins a group in the nearby corner.
"Where do I go and who do I ask for?" Fendrith asks.
Kagariith explains how to get to the venue, and tells him to talk with the coliseum manager, named Keb.
"Okay, I'll let you know what I see," says Fendrith, getting up to leave. Kagariith rises also. Fendrith continues, "and afterwards, I think I might go hunting."
"Hunting?" Kagariith looks startled.
"Just a couple days," Fendrith hastily assures him. "I'll let you know for sure."
"Well, okay, whatever," Kagariith says dubiously.
"Thanks for the cigar," Fendrith gestures gratefully.
"Sure, any time!" the toad-faced manager replies, and gives Fendrith a friendly pounding on the shoulder. Then, he turns to the group in the corner. "Hey, Sal! Let's talk business!"
Keb is an energetic demon with four arms arranged symmetrically around his body. A dozen eyes all around his head blink in odd sequences. One of his mouths continues talking through some sort of communication device as Fendrith enters. "Yes, what do you want?" he asks, using the mouth closest to Fendrith.
"I'm with Seonaid's technical crew. I need to look at the stage and the other preparations," explains Fendrith.
"Very good," say Keb, sounding somehow relieved. "I'll have the stage manager show you around." He picks up the intercom on the other side and uses another mouth to page the stage manager.
The stage manager turns out to be a slow-moving slug like creature, which might explain Keb's nervousness. Fendrith determines that the preparations are all on schedule, with only a few minor difficulties.
One of the entrance chimes in the Ways of Jesby signals a visitor. The Servant Demon that answers the door is, as always, pleased to be of service. He greets a tall, gaunt, angular Lord of Chaos. From his spiky hair to his narrow, jutting chin to his long, delicate looking fingertips, he seems to be somehow made of triangles. The guest enters and commands, "Go tell Lord Flark that Lord Shandor Sawall wishes to speak with him".
"Very good, sir, you may wait here in the Library while I inform His Grace." The servant produces the library door for the young Lord and scampers off to inform his master.
Lord Flark is in the study when the servant enters and bows low to him. "Your Grace, Lord Shandor is here," he says with immense dignity. "He is waiting in the Library."
The Duke of Jesby considers this and says, absently, "I would have liked it to be the Plaid Room, but the Library will do well."
The servant looks noticeably flustered by this remark, and croaks, "Your Grace?"
"Never mind," Flark hastily assures him.
"Oh, thank you sir!" the servant enthuses, as his brains begin creeping back into his ears. His relief is complete when Flark exits to meet with Lord Shandor in the Library.
"How ya' doin'?" Lord Shandor asks by way of greeting.
"Just fine," Flark answers noncommittally.
Getting more or less right to the point, Shandor states, "I have a question for you."
"Certainly," Flark responds.
"Mind if I ask your bodyguard something?" Shandor inquires.
Slightly perplexed, Flark answers, "I suppose not."
Turning to Flark's bodyguard, Lord Shandor hands her the business cards that Lord Mandor had given him earlier. "Heard of any of these guys?" he asks.
The bodyguard looks at the first card and proclaims immediately, "He's overpriced".
She hesitates at the second card, saying "He's good... but you may not know for sure if somebody's bought his contract from under you."
Looking at the third card, the bodyguard states, "He's good and reliable. With him, your safest."
She then hands the first and third cards back to Lord Shandor, keeping the second card. "Just trying to protect you," she explains when challenged. Shandor accepts this and lets the bodyguard keep it.
"Thank you," Shandor says gratefully. He looks at the recommended card. The name on the card is "Feldar", but there is no price quoted. Apparently, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.
"I take it these aren't plumbers," Flark comments.
"My Lord, I suggest you hurry in contacting him," the bodyguard states. "If he is available, he won't be for long."
Taking the hint, Lord Shandor gets up to leave. "Sorry to bother you just to speak to your bodyguard," he says to Lord Flark. "I knew she would be required to remain in your presence."
"Very well," Flark assures him. "I believe you'll be receiving a hunting invitation from my uncle."
Baron Laan chooses that moment to enter. "Lord Shandor, I heard you were here," he says. "With your permission?" he asks Flark, who nods affirmatively. The Baron hands Shandor the promised hunting invitation.
Shandor opens the invitation and examines it. "I will be there," he promises. "Thanks for the info, and I'll keep in touch." With that, he takes his leave and sets about contacting Feldar.
In accordance with Feldar's contact instructions, Shandor sends a message through the proper anonymous channels. He receives a reply instructing him to go to a specific restaurant at a specific time (don't show up early) and ask for the table reserved in his name. Lord Shandor is, of course, perfectly punctual in his appointment.
Deep in the Logrus, Seonaid has a particularly vivid vision. Somebody she vaguely recognizes as a sort of an aunt receives a baby from another, slightly familiar, red-haired woman. The scene shifts.
A couple walks hand in hand along a moonlit beach, towards steep cliffs that climb out of sight. A tunnel appears, or rather, becomes visible, as they approach. They continue walking through the tunnel a short distance and emerge into an impossible jungle at midday. After a while, they settle themselves in an impossible vista, and begin making love.
Seonaid seems to zoom in on them, the vista blurs. It occurs to her that she may be witnessing her own conception. Suddenly, she feels herself shatter into thousands of fragments, each one separate, each part of the whole.
Another tunnel. In front of us, a bright white light. Behind us, darkness, and noise. The noise hurts. We don't like the noise. We move toward the light. But what is out there? Some of us don't want to go. The noise is merely painful. Out there, it might be dangerous!
The bolder fragments of Seonaid attempt to keep moving forward, but the more wary pieces keep her standing in place. Finally, she strikes a deal with her selves. They will go to the exit and look out. Putting this plan into action, Seonaid moves to a point just inside the portal and peers surreptitiously out.
Outside, in the bright light, a furry creature sits on its haunches, apparently waiting. A black, scaly creature hides in the shadows, trying to avoid being seen by the furry creature. Two other black creatures verge on the edge of visibility. Most of Seonaid agrees that they might summon good thoughts about the furry creature, if they had the energy to do so. They also agree about the likely badness of the scaly creature. Just then, the scaly creature produces a sharp pointy object which Seonaid recognizes immediately as BAD.
The scaly thing throws the dagger at the furry thing, which makes Seonaid very angry. She's pretty certain that she can do something about it, but another large furry creature, with four arms and long fangs, appears out of nowhere and knocks the blade aside before launching itself at the black demon. Seonaid realizes that she recognizes the new arrival. It took care of her when she was young. And the other furry creature might be her little brother!
She steps forward into the light as the four-armed demon finishes dismembering the dagger-throwing demon. The other two black demons choose that moment to attack Seonaid. Part of her expects this attack, and offers something new to play with. She uses the Logrus to turn the daggers around and send them flying back in the direction they came from. The demons catch the daggers in their foreheads and fall over, dead. A part of Seonaid notes that the demons were created using the Logrus. As they catch fire and burn to ashes, another part recognizes them as the same type who invaded her hotel room -- how long ago? Weeks? Millennia?
Still worried that this might be a trap, Seonaid looks for further threats. Almost all of her agrees that the furry creatures are exactly who they seem to be. The cautious remainder forms the Logrus into a lens to verify their identity.
Now certain, and much relieved, Seonaid greets her (former) nanny and her brother. "Well, hey! Been waiting long?"
"Just a few days," her brother replies. "Are you okay?"
"We seem to be," Seonaid answers.
Suhuy enters the chamber. "Oh, good! You made it," he remarks.
"Yes," Seonaid affirms.
"How many of you are there?" Suhuy inquires.
Seonaid thinks about this for a few seconds, then answers honestly, "We've lost count."
"I mean, how many of you are their physically?" Suhuy asks again.
"Oh," Seonaid answers. "Just me, I think."
Suhuy growls, "That's important."
"Okay," says Seonaid. "Do you think I should wait here until more of me come out?"
"If you're not certain," Suhuy suggests, "it would be a good idea to wait."
"Well, since we started training here, we haven't been very sure of anything," Seonaid explains. "But, if you don't think it's very likely, and we don't think its very likely... then I guess it's not very likely," she reasons. Still, a nagging part of her seems to remember something about splitting into pieces...
She decides to engage in a waiting ritual she dreamed up somewhere along the way -- "toasting marshmallows". She reaches out with the Logrus and grabs a bag of marshmallows. Just as she is about to start a fire on a nearby rock, Suhuy somehow divines her intentions and produces a proper camp fire. "Please don't ignite my rocks," he admonishes.
Toasting marshmallows doesn't require much energy, and Seonaid soon finds that with the Logrus, she can toast them to perfection. Lazily, she experiments with drawing the Logrus inside the marshmallow. Unfortunately, she can't quite seem to catch the ever-changing nature of the Logrus inside a static marshmallow. Then, she realizes she's been working at the molecular level. What happens if we do it proton by proton?
This proves somewhat perplexing at first, as she tries to differentiate between molecular chains at the atomic level and the basic pieces of matter at the sub-atomic level. She soon gets the hang of it, and finds that the Logrus still can't quite be captured. "Guess I'll just have to try for the quarks..." she thinks to herself. Hastily, a majority of her other selves remind her that this would be a dangerous undertaking. "I know of a desert where we can experiment," she says to herself. Or did she speak aloud?
Just then, a few of Seonaid's fragments emerge from the Logrus. She quickly captures them and considers how to reincorporate them into herself. They are small enough to fit inside a marshmallow, but Seonaid finds the sensation of being chewed inside a marshmallow rather disturbing. One of her briefly considers suppositories, but is quickly shouted down.
A few hundred more fragments emerge, and Seonaid dispatches the Logrus to round them up. Looking at her catch with obvious pain, she asks, "Well, gee, Suhuy, can't we just bag them up and save them for later?"
"You have to take them all now," Suhuy answers mercilessly.
Seonaid wonders how she is going to re-absorb this much mass without getting seriously ill. She decides to create a few osmotic sacs in her body to pour the fragments into. Then, she puts the fragments into a giant blender she has produced from somewhere, and steels herselves for the liquefaction process.
The final result looks something like a strawberry milkshake, so Seonaid decides on that flavor. Then, with much gulping and slurping, she pours the concoction down her gullet. Suhuy hands her a vorpal spatula. Finally confident that she is completely self contained, she moves over to the desert shadow to continue her experiments. This leaves her erstwhile marshmallow-toasting companions a little stymied, since they have no idea where she's gone.
Fendrith awakens to a loud pounding on his door. A voice that could only belong to Kagariith Po yells, "Yo, Fendrith! Come quick!"
Groggily cracking the door open, Fendrith demands, "What?"
"She's out of the cave," Seonaid's scaly manager explains. "She walked out of the Logrus. She disappeared," he concludes. "We gotta go find her!".
This news wakes Fendrith up a bit. "Just a minute," he says and closes the door, leaving the orange, scaly demon to wait in the hall. A few minutes later he emerges, prepared for the search.
"Where was she last seen?" Fendrith asks.
"Why, at the Cave of the Logrus," Kagariith answers quickly. Fendrith waits for more. Realizing that a further response is required, Kagariith continues, "She apparently emerged just as some assassins tried to whack her and her baby brother."
After another pause, Fendrith prompts, "They failed, I presume?"
"Between Seonaid and the nanny, they killed the attackers," Kagariith affirms.
Fendrith resists the impulse to grab the toad-faced manager and try to shake the rest of the story out of him. Instead, he asks, "Has Suhuy said anything?"
"He just woke me up a few minutes ago and told me that she had exited the Logrus and was out on her own," Kagariith explains.
Grasping at a straw of hope, Fendrith quickly asks, "Where is Suhuy now? Can I talk to him?"
"Well, I don't know... he walked out through the wall after he finished telling me all this," Kagariith answers. Then, finally warming to his inner sleuth, he offers, "Suhuy did say that Seonaid mentioned some kind of sandy place."
That could be just about anywhere. But more likely than not, it would be the most recent sandy place they had visited, Fendrith reasons. "I think I know where she is," he says.
"Great," exclaims the orange demon.
Not really expecting an answer, Fendrith continues, "We'll need somebody who can travel through shadow..."
"We could always ask her mother," Kagariith volunteers.
Mentally, Fendrith kicks himself, believing that now the toad-faced manager will try to take complete credit for the rescue. "Let's go," he says.
It is dinnertime in the Ways of Jesby. As usual, Lord Flark has used the Logrus to get his own food, as a precaution against being poisoned. He sits in front of his meal as his stepbrother, Feng, enters the room.
"Oh, brother, so good to see you!" Feng exclaims, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Absolutely tragic about our two brothers.  But, you know, these things tend to happen. I just wanted to let you know that I am totally relieved that our nephew is still alive."  He pulls a piece of fruit out of the basket on the table and exits.
A moment later, Feng pokes his head back in and says, "I've just received word that W'Zaal and your grandfather have been assassinated in the Ways of Amblerash."
Feng quickly retreats, leaving Flark in a very bad mood. He finishes off his meal and contacts his uncle, Baron Laan, hoping to find out more details of the assassination.
"It was a brutish piece of work," the Baron begins. "The assassin was wearing the livery of House Amblerash, and carried a tray of food to your grandfather's quarters. W'Zaal was also there, and the assassin shot both of them in the head. The assassin managed to escape."
"How irritating," Flark comments.
"Yes," Baron Laan agrees. "But there's more..." The Baron then informs Lord Flark of the attempt on the lives of Keliith and Seonaid at the Cave of the Logrus. "We're not at all sure that the demons which attacked your nephew and the demons which attacked Seonaid were sent by the same people," he concludes. "The two that attacked Seonaid disintegrated into ashes after they were dispatched. Your old nanny tore up the third demon, which had attacked your nephew, but the pieces did not disintegrate."
"Good old Nana," say Flark, genuinely pleased. "Any idea if Feng sent them?"
"I think it's a good bet that Feng sent the demon after Keliith," ventures Laan. "But it would do no good to assume that he was behind the attack on Seonaid. However, it strikes me as a peculiar coincidence that all three of them were waiting at the same place at the same time."
Lord Flark is silent for a while, considering the options at his disposal. Finally, his uncle asks, "How do you wish to respond?"
"Maybe something different is needed for Feng," says Flark, still considering.
"He has proven very resourceful," the Baron agrees. Changing the subject, he says, "I have grave misgivings about you attempting the Logrus any time soon."
"Afraid that Feng and his mother might take advantage of my absence?" asks Flark.
"Yes, and also that they might take advantage of your weakened condition when you exit," explains the Baron. "It may not be sociable, but considering the circumstances, it would be understandable if you were to have a contingent of armed guards waiting for you."
Flark assures him, "I believe I'll wait until after the hunting trip to take the Logrus. It would not be good to plot during the madness. However, I need the extra power of the Logrus to stand against my mother and brother."
Baron Laan says, "Speaking of the hunting trip, I have received confirmation from Lords Jendo and Andreas."
"Good," Flark answers. "As for Feng, it occurs to me that so far, our attempts on Feng's life have been somewhat mundane. Poison, steel, that sort of thing, and he has avoided them with relative ease. Although he is an accomplished sorcerer, he could hardly be considered one of the best. Perhaps we should find an assassin with more arcane talents."
"If you'd like, I'll start sending out feelers," Baron Laan offers.
A cunning gleam glints momentarily in Flark's eyes as he says, "It would be very satisfying if he were to meet his demise in such a fashion."
"Just on more thing," asks the Baron. "Would you please get a status update from your friend Jarek?"
"I shall do so tonight," Flark promises. "Something about assassins... they don't like meeting during the day."
Lord Shandor arrives at the restaurant on time, as instructed, and takes a seat at the reserved table. Within minutes, a young lady approaches and asks, "Lord Shandor, I presume?"
"Yes," Shandor replies.
The young lady takes a seat and says, "Feldar sent me. What is it you wish to discuss?"
"Protection for my sister," Shandor replies.
Feldar's agent begins going through a mental checklist of questions. She asks, "When would this protection begin?"
Shandor answers, "As close to immediately as possible."
"Do you want constant protection, or just when she is outside the Ways?"
Shandor considers his answer. Although he has every confidence in House Sawall's staff, he knows that any security may be breached by a determined individual. Finally, he answers, "Constant."
"Intrusive or covert?"
This answer comes a little easier. "I was thinking of covert," he says.
"Given her recent change in social status, it would be appropriate for your sister to have a lady in waiting," the agent suggests.
Shandor nods his agreement. The lady scribbles something on Feldar's business card and hands it to Shandor. "These are the arrangements we would expect," she says. "When you make the first deposit, we will know that you have accepted."
The financial requirements, Shandor notes, are a little steep. However, they are not completely unreasonable, and he can afford it. "Very good," he says.
Preparing to leave, the agent adds, "Please don't wait too long."
"I shall not," Shandor promises. But the agent is already gone. A little while later, the waiter arrives with his meal, and he finds it exceptionally good. Shandor enjoys it all the more, realizing that he would not be able to splurge like this in the foreseeable future to meet his sisters protection bill.
As Shandor leaves the restaurant, Lord Mandor enters the front door and pretends to be surprised at meeting him. "Why, cousin! You show exquisite taste in dining establishments."
Lord Shandor gives him a look that says, "You're not fooling me."
"I trust your lunch went well?" Mandor asks.
"Yes, very well," Shandor affirms.
"Excellent," Mandor responds. "Well, good running into you. Cheerio."
Shandor makes the necessary arrangements to meet Feldar's conditions. Alana calls him from school a short while later. "Did you send me a maid?" she asks accusingly.
"Why, yes, I did," Shandor answers, a little lost for words.
His sister, clearly disgruntled, asks "What do I need a maid for?"
"A lady of your status should have a lady in waiting," he explains.
Unconvinced, Alana states, "You're being silly."
"About what?" Shandor asks innocently.
"About this whole thing!" Alana explodes. "I mean, there must be 30, 40, maybe even 50 other girls!"
"Yes," Shandor replies patiently, "which is precisely why I am doing this. Do you remember what happened just before King Swayvill met his demise?"
"I remember reading about it," Alana replies. "Are you saying something like that might happen now?"
"I'm saying that it's best not to take any chances," he explains.
"You've been hanging around Flark too much," his sister mutters.
Fendrith and Kagariith track down Seonaid's mother, Anakara, at the college. She is grading papers while her twin daughters, Kara and Kiri (in their preferred feline forms), practice their arcane arts. "Great news," Fendrith proclaims as he enters the office. "Seonaid has made it through the Logrus!"
"Wonderful!" Ankara exclaims. "What hospital is she in?"
"Well," Fendrith explains uncomfortably, "I don't think she's in a hospital..."
All eyes in the room lock on Fendrith, who now wishes he'd been a little less cavalier about proclaiming good news. He continues hesitatingly, "I think I know exactly where she is and I need your help to find her."
The cats flatten there ears back in anger. "You think you know?..." one of the twins begins. "...Exactly where she is?" concludes the other. 
Fendrith, trying to regain his composure, says, "If we act quickly we have a pretty good chance..."
"Where is she?" Ankara interrupts.
"There is a desert shadow where we launched an attack against the wizard who was hunting me," Fendrith explains. "I'm fairly certain she has gone there for some reason."
Lady Ankara takes a deep breath, and says, calmly, "All right, we'll find her." She, along with her daughters, summon the Logrus, and begin searching.
Fendrith, anxious to redeem himself, offers, "If my memories of this place will help you find her...".
"We've got her," the twins interrupt in unison.
"Someone's trying to find you," says a part of Seonaid to herself.
"Someone's trying to find you," another part affirms.
"Someone's found you!" a majority agrees. Seonaid decides to teleport to a little known park where she once performed in concert.
"But the Logrus is so much more fun!" a portion of her protests.
"They'll be expecting that," the majority believes. "Maybe we can throw them off the track by using plain old-fashioned magic."
After completing the teleport spell, Seonaid begins planning a move to someplace she's never been before. She will use the Logrus for this move. After all, it is so much fun. She will go someplace she's never been before, some place where nobody else would take her...
"I think that might have been Mom and our sisters tracking us," a small but persistent minority asserts.
Seonaid tries to shake off the troubling effects of this assertion, but it only compounds. "Why is Mom tracking us down?" asks another minority. "Did we do something wrong?" nags a different minority.
Trying to collect her thoughts, Seonaid jumps again and attempts to recollect the recent events in their proper sequence. She had been in the desert, attempting to detonate a proton. Or was it a photon? It seems she was successful in converting a proton into a whole bunch of photons, but that doesn't seem like anything that would make Mom angry. But then there was that photon that she had converted to a proton... that had imploded an entire shadow. She makes another jump.
The internal arguments continue, slowing Seonaid enough that her mother and sisters begin anticipating her moves. Finally cornered, Seonaid stops and resigns herself to her fate. "Yes, Mom, what is it?" she asks.
"Come home, Seonaid," Ankara replies. "We want to help you."
"But we were doing fine on our own!" Seonaid protests.
"Seonaid, come here!" Ankara commands.
Realizing that the jig is up, Seonaid Logruses to her mother's office. "Hi, good to see you," Fendrith greets her.
"Hi," Seonaid greets Fendrith and the room at large.
"How many of you are there," Anakara inquires.
"Just me," Seonaid replies flippantly. "Suhuy counted."
Unconvinced, Ankara tries a different tack. She asks, "How many of you were there?"
"Well, I was the only one of any size," Seonaid explains. "We reincorporated the others in liquid form."
"Oh, dear," her mother replies. She produces a green fizzy potion and says, "You need help. Here, drink this."
"But why?" blurts a rebellious portion of Seonaid. Meanwhile, another portion thinks that it looks like a delicious pistachio milkshake, and a rather substantial majority knows that mother would never hurt her. The rebellious faction wins out, on the grounds that she doesn't want anything else screwing with her head.
Sensing Seonaid's hesitation, and hoping to help his friend by example, Fendrith asks, "Can I have some of that?"
"Certainly," Anakara says, and hands him the glass. She conjures another and holds it out to Seonaid.
Fendrith makes a great show of enjoying the tasty potion. Seonaid, however, is unimpressed. "We're not taking any more medicine until you tell us what it is you're trying to fix," she states.
"There's only supposed to be one of you," Ankara explains.
"We took care of the others as they came out of the Logrus. Suhuy was there," Seonaid assures her.
"No, I mean inside of you, there should only be one," her mother explains again.
"We really don't see a problem here," Seonaid asserts stubbornly.
One of the twins looks at the other, who shrugs, and says a power word, and Seonaid crumples unconscious on the floor.
Concerned, Fendrith demands, "Was that really necessary?"
Lady Ankara answers him coolly, "We'll see. It's certainly a lot easier for now."
Calming down a little bit, Fendrith asks, "I notices that she seemed a little, um, fragmented. Just what is going on here?"
"The Logrus makes people insane when they first come out," Seonaid's mother explains. "We'll take care of her until she gets over it."
"Well, no doubt you know what you're doing in these matters," Fendrith agrees. "If you need me, please don't hesitate to call."
Kagariith Po, who has been observing all of this in wide-eyed consternation, finally breaks his silence. "Is she going to be okay to perform in two weeks? We do have a show you know..."
His voice trails off as all eyes in the room swivel deprecatingly towards him. Quickly recovering, he says, "I'm just going to wait outside."
Realizing that he can do no more in this place, Fendrith takes his leave as well. As he and Kagariith walk down the hall, a servant dressed in the livery of House Jesby approaches. "Master Fendrith, you are a hard man to track down," the servant says. "I have been commanded to give you this and await the favor of your reply."
The servant hands Fendrith his invitation to join Lord Flark's hunting expedition. Only an hour ago, he would have jumped at this chance. Hesitatingly, he says, "I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to accept the invitation at this time."
"I see," says the servant, raising a questioning eyebrow.
"My employer has just emerged from the Logrus," Fendrith explains. "I feel I should be available if my services are required. Would it be possible to defer my answer for a day or so until I can be certain of her status?"
The eyebrow lowers slightly. The servant answers, "I shall explain the situation to His Grace and beg his indulgence on your behalf."
"Thank you," says Fendrith gratefully.
The servant takes his leave and reports back to Lord Flark, who says, "Given the current circumstances I can hardly fault him for that. Besides, if someone really is trying to assassinate my niece, it would hardly do to have her bodyguard off on a hunting trip."
Flark, having sent out the usual signals, waits at his usual table in the usual restaurant. As usual, Tela, his bodyguard, sits at another table, just out of earshot, but within reach should her services be required. Jarek arrives at the usual time, sits down at the table, and says, "My condolences for the loss of your brother and grandfather."
"Thank you," Flark replies. "So how are... things?"
"Quite well, actually," Jarek answers. "I was pleased to hear that your niece and nephew escaped injury in the recent attack. The beast that attacked your nephew was almost certainly Feng's doing, but you didn't need me to tell you that."
"Yes," agrees Flark.
Jarek continues, "The other two assassins who attacked your niece were of the same troops who have been spying on Dara."
"I see," says Lord Flark thoughtfully. "Could they be from Lord Jendo?"
"He would be the most likely suspect," Jarek agrees. "Either him or someone from his camp. But, why would they be after your niece?"
"Yes, it does make me wonder," Flark murmurs. "I will have to be wary."
An uneasy silence falls over them. After a while, Flark asks, "So what is your appraisal of all this?"
"If I were you," Jarek responds, "I would consider unconventional means of attack on your step-brother. Perhaps a sorcerer. I would also watch out for your sisters, Shantrell and Vanara. They have been neutral so far, but the best I can say is you cannot count on them for support."
"Any chance of moving against my step-mother?"
"Not at this time," Jarek informs him. "The only time she has left the Ways recently was for Lorek's funeral. She was accompanied by several troops from House Helgram."
Flark measures all this information, and finds that things aren't adding up. "Why would Lord Jendo attack my niece?" he asks again.
"I don't know," Jarek answers. "Maybe he knows something we don't. It should make for an interesting hunting trip."
"Indeed," Lord Flark agrees. "Well, I will think on these matters."
Jarek gets up to leave. "Good day," he says. "Give my regards to Tela."
"Good day," Flark replies. "I will tell her you said hello."
Flark waits the usual amount of time before taking his leave. Jarek is, of course, long gone by then.
Seonaid becomes aware. Her head hurts. She's mostly sure that she'll live. And, there seems to be only one of her! Trying to think of her former plurality makes the headache worse.
Fighting for consciousness, Seonaid opens her eyes to find herself in her bedroom. Her mother is seated beside her, watching. "Would you like some breakfast, dear?" she asks.
Seonaid's stomach readily approves. "Yes, I would" she answers. Lady Anakara signals for a servant to bring breakfast, and fetch Fendrith.
A short while later, the servant reappears with breakfast on a tray. Seonaid's little brother, Keliith (in his usual wolf form) follows the servant in and settles himself at the foot of Seonaid's bed. Seonaid notices a bandage on his shoulder, and seems to remember a fight just as she left the Logrus. Although it hurts, she forces herself to remember the details. Yes, her brother had been wounded, but Nana had disassembled the attacker. And then there were the two demons that had attacked her. They were the same kind that had attacked her in her hotel room, she was certain of that now.
"Who attacked you?" she asks.
"I don't know," Keliith answers. "They're dead now."
"We're not entirely sure, but we think it was your Uncle Feng," Anakara answers. "Lorek and W'Zaal were recently assassinated, so it stands to reason."
"I could become a Duke!" Keliith interjects. "Wouldn't that be cool?"
Seonaid allows the full impact of this news to settle in. "So it's just Flark and Feng?" she asks.
Lady Anakara answers, "Yes, that's true."
"What about the Governess?" Seonaid asks.
"Charyss has been holed up under the protection of Princess Dara," Anakara answers.
Seonaid realizes that a lot has happened while she was out. Two potential successors to the Dukedom of Jesby removed... The attempt on her brother's life could be explained as a continuation of that feud. But why would anybody want to kill her?
"Is Fendrith around?" she asks, as Fendrith enters the room. "Glad to see you're feeling better," he says.
"Most of me is feeling better," Seonaid answers with a weak smile, and finds it still hurts to think of herself as fractional parts. "Have you observed the first venue of my tour yet?"
"Yes, I have," Fendrith assures her, and relates the story of his visit to the coliseum.
"Just as I feared," Seonaid frets. "I'm going to move to a fast-time shadow and make some adjustments to my equipment. It should only take a couple of days."
Fendrith looks to Seonaid's mother for any sign of disapproval. Then, self consciously, he says, "Lord Flark has invited me to go on a hunting trip. Since he is the new Duke of Jesby, I feel compelled to honor his request."
"Well, all right," Anakara replies, somewhat dubiously.
Seonaid adds, "I'm sure I'll be all right."
"Can I go?" Keliith chimes in. "You can't go hunting without a good wolfhound!"
Fendrith looks at the young Chaosian, amused. "No, I'm afraid not. You weren't invited."
"How do you know?" Keliith asks, reasonably.
"Do you have an invitation?" Fendrith challenges.
Unruffled, Keliith answers, "Not with me..."
"Well, I'm afraid I can't accept your alleged invitation for you," Fendrith replies. "Right now, I have to go accept my own." With that, he leaves for the Ways of Jesby.
Seonaid asks, "Mother, could you give me some pointers on building a fast-time shadow and warding it properly?"
Lady Anakara answers, "It's a lot of trouble building one from scratch. I could let you borrow one of mine for a while," she offers.
"Well, I'm going to have to have one of my own sooner or later," Seonaid replies.
"True," her mother concedes.
Seonaid continues, "But I could use yours for some preliminary work, if it wouldn't be too much trouble."
"That would be fine," replies Lady Anakara.
"Flark, I'd like to introduce you to Kor," announces Baron Laan. "Kor, Lord Flark. Tela, Kor. Kor, Tela. You three should be very happy together. This is your magical bodyguard."
Lord Flark observes the black, shadowy figure that seems to hover vaguely in front of him. Never at a loss for words, he asks, "So, Kor, what do you like for breakfast?"
"I don't eat food," the entity rasps in a dusty, monotone voice. "It will not be a problem, my Lord."
"I see," Flark replies. "Do you have any special requirements that I should be aware of?"
"None that your Uncle has not already provided," Kor assures him.
"Very good," says Lord Flark, and allows a long interval of silence to elapse.
Finally, Baron Laan signals a servant and asks, "Lord Flark, would you like to inspect the troops we have reserved for the hunt?"
"Yes, I would," Flark answers. The servant hurries to assemble the troops. They are all veterans of the House of Jesby, specifically chosen for this honor. Lord Flark expresses his approval and dismisses them as another servant approaches.
"Master Fendrith has arrived and is waiting in the Parlor," the servant informs him.
Flark goes to the Parlor to meet Fendrith. "Lord Flark, it is good to see you again," Fendrith greets him as he enters. "I have come to accept your invitation. I am also happy to report that Seonaid has survived the Logrus, and an assassination attempt, in fine fashion."
"Yes, I heard," he replies. "And I have something for you. My contacts tell me that the creatures which attacked her are very similar to other creatures which are shadowing House Helgram, keeping watch on Dara. There are two principal factions in House Helgram. One of them is Dara, and the other is Lord Jendo, who you are going to meet. The question is, if the creatures are his, what would he gain by assassinating my niece? And if not, who else is watching House Helgram?"
"Hmm," says Fendrith. "You have given me much to think about."
"I was thinking that your presence may goad him into some action," Flark continues, "although it would probably be best not to mention it directly."
"I will be on my guard," promises Fendrith. "I don't believe you are aware that this same style of demon attacked Seonaid prior to her entering the Logrus."
"No, tell on," encourages Flark.
Fendrith continues, "About 3 weeks ago, I saw one scaling the exterior wall of the hotel to her room. I notified security and the demon was dispatched. However, Seonaid was slightly wounded in the shoulder during the attack."
"I see," says Flark thoughtfully. "Three weeks ago, you say? Well before the other events began..."
"Yes, well, this should be an interesting expedition in many aspects," observes Fendrith.
"Indeed," Flark agrees. "If you like, you may consider it an extension of your bodyguard duties."
"I do indeed," Fendrith replies. "How long will this expedition last? You realize that we have a concert coming up in 10 days..."
"A couple of days," Flark informs him. "We will be staying overnight at the lodge. If you wish, you could excuse yourself after the first day."
Fendrith says, "I believe I am going to enjoy this trip. Thank you for the invitation, Lord Flark."
- It should be noted that, so far as Flark knew at this moment, the only brother (or step brother) of his who had suffered any kind of mishap or tragedy was the recently assassinated Lorek.
- As #1 above, but with reference to the attack on Seonaid and Keliith upon Seonaid's exit from the Logrus.
- Fendrith isn't familiar enough with the twins yet to be able to distinguish which one is which.