A Bride for Merlin
Session XIV, 16 June 2000
Shandor is in his rooms in the ways of Sawall. There is a fight going on, a loud painful thundering fight inside his frontal lobes.
"This is not good." He considers what is going on within him. A sharp bright painful stabbing sensation assaults his eyes. He seems hung over; the last he remembers is his sister staying way-late at the ball.
He shifts to let his body remove the toxins alcohol has left in his body, and after a quarter hour, he manages to rise and take care of the morning business; the restroom, a glass of orange juice.
He pulls the bell to summon a servant, who brings orange and tomato juices. "Lord Mandor felt you might be needing these."
Shandor thanks the servant, and in comes Shandor's baby sister, all enthused about the ball, still in the same dress. Shandor shushes her, pours a glass of one or the other, drinks it, drinks another, then bids she continue at a more composed pace. She tells of dancing, with Duke Chanicut, Lord Mandor, Duke Hendrake, Lord Kalten Hendrake, and others. She continues listing every other minor lord as well. Probably in the top three best times she's had in her life.
It becomes quite obvious that his sister, and hence himself, will be receiving many invitations to future parties. Not a bad thing for his campaign on her behalf, but sure to keep them both very occupied.
"When did we get back last night?"
"Well, Mandor and I... We finally got back rather early this morning." A glance at the clock on the wall tells Shador it's close to tea.
"You still haven't changed yet?"
"Well, I've been talking to Mandor and some of the others..."
"So you haven't slept yet? You're not tired?"
"Well, no... I wasn't."
"You amaze me sister."
Two pitchers of juice and much of Alana's story later, Shandor is feeling much better.
Shandor excuses her so he may get ready for what's left of this day. Checking his schedule, he recalls a hunting trip...
Seonaid awakes encased in a large cumbersome suit of armor. Mist is all around her, and she cannot see past arm's reach. There is a strong feeling of menace all around her. She finds it impossible to move, and for the moment has no concept of any of her powers or abilities beyond her very existence.
Eventually, she feels as if she could extend her perception, and she does, feeling nothing outside herself beyond the ever-present sense of menace, becoming stronger, and more dangerous the farther she reaches.
The thick, bulky, clumsy armor seems not unlike a prison, constraining her.
Slowly she comes to feel there is something out there, deliberately seeking her. She observes from her mind's eye, having a sense of direction for it. She resorts to some introspection, considering her nature and presence, and finds something accentuating the warning, in fact, the latent unconscious awareness of the armor seems to be warning her.
Cautiously, she moves away from the direction of this danger, slowly, encumbered by the armor. Focusing on this plan of action, the armor becomes easier for her to move in. The more she focuses on moving away from this presence the easier it gets. When she tries to rush forward toward the danger, the armor locks up again, making it almost impossible to move forward.
She turns away from the presence and flees.
After a time, she detects from the questing "danger" a sense of love and acceptance and concern. She pauses, considering this, and this presence seems to become a multiple of presences, a major source and two separate nearly identical but smaller sources.
"Majority Rule." She decides she no longer wishes to wear the armor. Trying to remove her gauntlets, she finds they become an integral part of the armor, nearly unable to remove them. Trying harder, she cannot seem to remove them. Now concerned of it's nature as a prison, she focuses her will to move toward the seeking presences, and can only manage a step, or a step and a half, and can no longer move. She opens her perception, questing for the seekers herself.
She makes a form of contact, and has a sense of feeling she should recognize them. They are loving and concerned, and offer strength, which she takes like a starving man, accepting the strength and power.
Using the newfound strength she snaps off the visor of the armor, it fades as she tosses it away. Bolts fixing the helmet pop, and she can pry off the coif. Shoulder plates follow, then gauntlets, eventually the entire suit gives way to her new strength.
Once the armor is gone, the presences manage to get a brief contact with her. There is a blinding flash, and everything fades...
Ghislain has finished making trumps from Flark's list of nobles. He decides to use his free time to investigate the edited bootlegs of Seonaid's work. He networks, trying to locate the sources. Since the recordings are stored in a pesudomagical device, he deduces that a thaumatergical engineer would be needed to alter them, with the assistance of an artist/performer, followed by a facility to reproduce and distribute them. Thinking the artists making the changes are the smallest target, he starts looking for skilled and sleazy artists who could do / could be made to do these bootlegs.
Flark and Fendrith were waiting as Anakara and Seonaid's sister are trying to fix Dara's handiwork. Flark pulls together his sources; he wants to know what the hell is going on around Fortress Gantu. He puts out the word for Jarek to come talk to him. He also assigns people to monitor the political situation between Jendo and Dara.
(Flark is NEVER wrong; it is the universe that is in error!)
Eventually a servant brings Flark a message. But the servant is really Jarek. The message is "You rang?". "Will there be a reply, milord?"
Flark asks how the situation around Fortress Gantu has stabilized. He's informed that Jarek's agents in the area have been removed. Someone has also attempted to attack Flark's uncle. Agents he sent to aid Flark's uncle have not reported back. Flark fills in Jarek on the plan to capture a demon, but admits his own failure in the endeavor.
Jarek's latest information is that they have split into three factions. Actually more, but three quickly settled out. These factions were fighting amongst themselves, before Jarek lost track of them. Flark mentions the 'dragonflies' of Fortress Gantu, which Jarek was not familiar with; they must be a recent addition. Flark anticipates political fallout from this in regards to Helgram.
Flark offers Jarek a permanent job. Jarek says he will discuss this, as long as his team can freelance in non-conflicting situations.
Jarek asks after Flark's uncle. Finding his Uncle out of commission, he theorizes that this is to stimulate Flark's independence.
Flark dismisses Jarek.
Fendrith knows there is little he can do here to help. He's been keeping interruptions away. Things continue much as they have. Anakara and the girls take a break, looking tired. She reports one full layer of coercion has been removed, but has little idea how much longer it will take. One of the twins theorizes, "Perhaps we've been taking the wrong approach, perhaps we should be even more multithreaded."
Anakara considers, "The more people you have working, sometimes the harder it is to keep a unified direction." She discusses with the twins their theories. When she concedes a point, the twins wander off to pursue an errand.
Anakara sits down wearily and asks Fendrith to join her and order them some tea. The servants bring high tea for them both.
Flark returns, and inquires on the group's progress.
Flark expresses concern with Dara's skill, wondering if everything will be taken care of when Anakara feels she's done.
Anakara thinks one of her students may have developed sufficient technology that may assist. Flark suggests tossing Seonaid in the Logrus to cure her.
Anakara feels this is a bad idea; to have any chance of negotiating the Logrus, Anakara feels that the participant must be fully cognizant of their actions.
Anakara asserts that this way will be the way, as it is under her personal control. Flark backs down.
Seonaid's imperatives include standing ready to support Dara, to observe and record information for Dara. Safeguards to keep these imperatives in place. All detailed by Anakara to Flark, who wonders about "virus" imperatives. Anakara says she's seen nothing like this.
The sister-cats return with a third woman wearing a blue dress and a blue mask. Glowing, floating lights dance about her head. Removing her mask, she is revealed to be Julia Barnes-Sawall, who greats Anakara as "Professor".
"Are those what I think they are," Anakara asks.
"Yes, my research has progressed sufficiently, and yes, I think I may be able to help you."
Julia greets Fendrith and Duke Flark. Fendrith excuses himself to inform Kagariith Po. Flark arranges to have lodging prepared for Anakara.
Julia places a hand upon Seonaid's head. The glowing lights travel down her arm and into Seonaid's head.
Seonaid feels as though she is swimming in a fluid medium. It is dark, and she lacks any sense of direction or light. It is slow and difficult to move. There is a sense of warmth, safety, and contentment here, floating, doing nothing.
Something intrudes upon her awareness, there is something out there, looking for Seonaid.
She sends out her awareness to greet this thing. It seems to be an uncountable multiple that possesses a singular focus. A segment of this multitude becomes aware of her, and a swarm begins to approach, rapidly, drawing along the central guiding force.
Seonaid feels a sense of danger from her surroundings, regarding this approaching "menace". The medium around Seonaid begins to jell. It thickens, especially between her and the questing presences. Seonaid panics. The approaching presences offer strength, assistance if she opens up and receives them.
Seonaid does. They fill her with warmth and strength, and the medium dissolves and evaporates. Her surroundings become lighter, and the central guiding force comes closer and closer.
Seonaid starts to understand who she is and her past. When she actually contacts that central presence, she starts waking up.
The first she sees is Julia Barnes-Sawall, her hand retreating from her head, and bringing these glowing things with her.
Seonaid blinks twice, and looks at Julia. She doesn't look away until Anakara asks if she is okay. Julia feels that she has gotten most of the imperatives removed, and suddenly Seonaid realizes just how much of a mind fuck she's been under courtesy of Dara, Dowager Princess of Chaos.
Flark says, "That seemed remarkably fast."
Anakara asks, "Dear, do you mind if I check."
Seonaid looks at Julia, "She should," as if apologizing, and nods to her mother.
Julia nods and concurs. Anakara and Seonaid check things out in her mind and are satisfied.
Seonaid sighs, and asks, quietly, "Can it all be put back?"
Julia, Anakara, and the two twins, all say, "What?"
"I occurs to me, that if they or something like them, were in place, I'd be the perfect double agent."
"For what purpose?" asks Julia?
"Keeping track of Dara." Seonaid responds looking at Flark.
Anakara is aghast, Flark adds, "Are you sure you want to put yourself at that kind of risk?"
"I really don't like this, not in the least little bit," Anakara says.
"This idea has merit, but are you sure you want to surrender that much of your free will," Flark asks.
"No!" exclaims Anakara.
"We'd be able to feed false information to Dara under such a scheme, but to what ends?"
"Would we get the opportunity again?"
"Excuse me," Julia says, "The only way we could get something like this back in place would be under my control. There's no way it would be under your control, Seonaid."
"Another consideration," Flark begins, "I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but it seems to me that unless we employed some device that Dara had not prepared for we cannot be sure all the imperatives have been removed. Dara seems to be a very thorough person."
"She only had herself, where I had all my assistants," Julia adds.
"So, its unlikely Dara was prepared for this."
"Maybe she wanted to delay you for the next few days," Julia considers, "It would have taken you much longer without my help."
Flark wonders what Dara's up to.
Seonaid asserts that if they will use her idea, they must do so now.
Flark asks Julia to analyze the exact nature of the imperatives.
Seonaid says, "Thank you," as Julia prepares to go.
"Maybe next time we'll have that conversation."
"I look forward to it."
Julia excuses herself, vanishing.
Shandor feels much better, and sends out a tendril to contact Flark. Flark alerts his compatriots and takes the call.
"You're late," Flark says.
"I just woke up."
"How fascinating for you."
"Yes, you could not imagine the explosions and pain that were going on inside my head. Did I miss the gathering?"
"I had some things to try."
"You may have to try them again later."
Flark explains that Dara had a chance to interrogate Seonaid and his nephew. He elaborates on those who helped repair Dara's handiwork. After some discussion, Flark invites Shandor to join them.
Shandor asks how they've checked that the imperatives are gone.
Anakara has confirmed it through her relationship with Seonaid. Seonaid nods, and Shandor seems to agree with his assessment.
Shandor suggests the Logrus, and Anakara rebuffs him explicitly. Seonaid pales at the suggestion.
Anakara asks Seonaid if she will bring up the Logrus herself. "Okay, Mother," and she does. Seonaid sees tiny traces of psychic scar tissue where some deep imperatives. "I don't think I'll be working as a double agent anytime soon, there's some scar tissue that would be obvious to her too. But I'm quite sure if any latent imperative were to manifest, I'd know it and it would invalidate itself."
Anakara adds, "That's only while you're under the influence of the Logrus, dear."
Seonaid drops the Logrus and nods.
Flark anticipates cases where they could use Dara's imperatives without replacing them. If the imperatives called for written or remote communication, they could be followed until her cure was discovered.
Fendrith follows up with Kagariith Po, finding him at a bar of all places. Joining him for a beer and a cigar.
"How's it going?"
"Fine, I really just came by for the stogie, no just kidding... I wanted to check in and see how things are going. It's been a while since I talked to anyone about the business side of things."
"The pirates, the delays, we're keeping our heads above water." Kagariith Po seems a little worried, but thinks things are looking better. He is a little concerned about Seonaid, he's seen her do several things which taken together are (Flark: Mind blowingly stupid.)... "She is..." (Flark: Pregnant?) "...Taking the Logrus, that I could understand. ...Missing rehearsal, improving an entrance... I could under that. Finally blowing up at her Great Aunt... I can sort of understand that. Taken all together, please look after her."
"I understand. I will keep an eye on her. Tell me something, have we gotten any further in tracking down those pirates."
"Hraalk tells me we tracked down a couple leads, and he's taken care of some low level distributes."
"What have we been doing to the low level guys?"
"Unofficially, they disappear. Basically we squish every little bit of information out of them, and then we kill him; between you me and the stogies, you know."
"You know what's on my mind... I'm wondering if there is any connection between the pirates and the attempts on Seonaid's life. The demand for her work would go up if she were to perish."
"Now that's a disturbing thought." Kagariith Po looks visibly upset.
"Think about it, the price would go up, the body of work would remain small. It would be a very efficient project."
"It's a very very disturbing thought. I think we go talk to the tiger man." He pays for his tab.
The two men go to the security chief and fill him in on Fendrith's theory.
"You hang out with Duke Flark... that Trump artist he's hired... I've heard the word on the grape vine he's been snooping into this, you might want to check in with him."
"Is he involved in any way?"
"I don't know, but you know Duke Flark better than me, so it's more natural for you to talk to this guy without being suspicious. If I talk to him... I might have to make him disappear. You might, just in case, want to clear it with the Duke, first. Keep him away from Seonaid, I think he's a pervert."
"I'll definitely keep that in mind."
"Oh, If he mentions any ugly rumors about Seonaid..."
"I'll burn him."
"It's not what I'd have done, but it sounds good to me."
Fendrith heads back in time to catch a servant handing a message to Lord Flark. Ghislain seems to be done with the trump decks, and is summoned.
Lord Ghislain follows the servant to Lord Flark. Fendrith is here.
Ghislain hands over a suitcase with the fruits of his labor. Four notable entities are not included: Baron Laan, Lady Felara, Lady Charyss, and Feng Jesby. Flark shows them around a little. The backs reminisce on the Julia set.
Ghislain says hi, and asks how Seonaid is. Pleasantries are exchanged, and Seonaid seems much less the ass than she did last time they met.
Flark approves of the delivery, and suggests that he may have future projects for him.
Seonaid mentions that Ghislain should talk to Kagariith Po, and that her troupe may have some work for him as well. Seonaid takes a hesitantly offered trump of Ghislain.
Flark and Ghislain debate the wisdom of such profuse distribution of Ghislain's trumps.
Shandor inquires about Flark's library; he wishes to research shape shifting, and might require the use of a spell-casting laboratory.
After Ghislain leaves, Fendrith asks Seonaid, "You've had a prior meeting with Ghislain."
"Yes, he attended the last show. Something about turning in a bootleg or something."
"Well, Lord Flark you may be interested in this as well. I just met with Hraalk, our security chief. He had some words of warning regarding him. It had occurred to me that these pirates might be connected to the attacks on Seonaid's life."
"Hraalk suggested that Ghislain was poking around in that area, and that I might want to get in touch with him."
"He does seem very interested in you, Seonaid."
"Hraalk thought he might be perversely."
Seonaid blushes. Anakara returns, and cocks an eyebrow at this.
Flark says, "So, should I have him interrogated?"
Anakara asks, "Whom?"
Fendrith replies, "Ghislain seems to know something of Seonaid's pirated recordings. He even turned one in."
"That was helpful of him," says Anakara.
"At least if he's obsessed he's channeling it constructively."
"I'm not sure he's following our best interests, in fact I'm not certain of anything about him right now," Fendrith admits. "For this reason, I don't think it best you keep that trump on your person."
Flark wonders if it could be used as a weapon, and points out Ghislain could make a trump of Seonaid anyway. "Why don't you just ask him, he hardly seems like a drooling maniac."
Anakara's other eyebrow rises.
"I'll get in touch with Ghislain and work with him to track down the pirates."
"Thank you, Fendrith." Seonaid adds. She offers Fendrith the trump of Ghislain.
"Why don't your ring for him?" Fendrith asks Flark, who does.
Ghislain is retrieved from bureaucracy hell, to return to Flark's presence. He recognizes Anakara immediately, and makes all the appropriate honorific acknowledgments.
"Fendrith here," Flark introduces, "is a member of Seonaid's security staff and wishes to speak to you."
"You work with Hraalk, I may contact you soon to talk with him..."
"Actually, I think I know what you wanted to talk..."
"I'm sorry about the posters?"
"It's not about the posters?"
"They've all been doshinji, they've all been single issues... for various clubs..."
Fendrith cuts him off, "That's not what I wanted to talk about, actually about the pirated music."
"These people have made a travesty of her artwork. I've been able to track their complex networks." He asks Seonaid if she's heard any of them and offers her three, which she takes.
Ghislain tells the tale, and Flark asks for a briefer summary. "There are three types of alterations, three fairly competitive... factions dealing with the bootlegs. Each with different flavors... one is supporting a traditional house-oriented view of society, with only lip service to the King, slanting things in favor of the Dukes. The second faction is very religious, and pro-Serpent. It alters things so that it says that the power belongs in the priesthood. It's very subtle. The third seems to wish that the minor lords have an equal power to the Dukes."
"So someone is manipulating popular sentiment," Flark asks.
"I'm looking for the artist who could alter music in this way..."
Flark considers this. He feels the pro-Duke line would most strongly benefit Jesby and Chanicut. Of the pro-Religious material, this would benefit Amblerash if it benefited anyone, but most it would help the priesthood. The third version might benefit Duke Despil Sawall, who has built a reputation for championing the lesser families. He spells this out to Ghislain and those present.
Ghislain points out that any of this could be used to discredit these parties. He addresses the lines of his research into production and publication, and his current progress in looking for artists who could direct such an effort.
Flark asks Anakara about how many students could do this. She says from a dozen to a hundred could do the work, graduating every year. Many of which would have no problems doing this. It's rather simple work.
Fendrith says, "Ghislain, Hraalk has assigned me to find these pirates. We want to find the sources."
"If I find something I cannot handle quickly..."
"You may contact me, I may be able to bring additional resources to bear."
"An interesting thought... It might be interesting, Seonaid, could you create some 'altered' recordings yourself that are pro-King. We can seed these out and see how the other factions react. She could deny all knowledge of them."
Flark suggests, "She could also release a normal new song, and see how the three networks pick it up, trace them."
Ghislain notes, "The distribution networks are like shadow itself, copies just seem to fall out of nowhere."
"What are your personal motives in this?" Flark asks.
Flark wonders, "Can this fandom network collect information in a coherent manner?"
"They are hardly... coherent."
"Maybe with plants within the network."
"It doesn't work like a normal organization... rumors fly faster than any spy network."
"What if you could induce fans to become your agents?"
Ghislain says, "That's what the posters are for, fans have their own currency."
Fendrith mentions, "If you were seen as being too close to Seonaid, as an ongoing employ, you may become suspect in the underground circles." Fendrith thanks Ghislain for the information. They discuss ways to stay in contact, and Ghislain demonstrates his knowledge of the Logrus. "So I propose we investigate in our separate ways, and please keep in touch."