A Bride for Merlin
Session XVI, 28 July 2000
Flarkís dinner is interrupted by his chamberlain, who is bringing in Flarkís formal robes of state. TíLon escorts a royal emissary into the room. Flark is told by the emissary that the Crown has ordered all nobles to assemble for an immediate emergency court of judgment.
Flark dons his robes. In limps Baron Laan in his own formal robes. Laan's arm is in a sling, he is pale, and he has lost much weight. He tries not to lean on his niece, Felara, who is with him.
A dozen soldiers escort Flark and Baron Laan to court at the Grand Hall of Thelbane. Keliith, Keliithís Nanny, and Kalto are here, surrounded by four Royal guards. Feng is here, also surrounded by four Royal guards. Jendo Helgram is here, wounded, and surrounded by six of his own and six Royal guards. Dara is there, unwounded. Duke Despil Sawall is here, with his brother Jurt. Jurtís wife, Julia Barnes-Sawall, is absent. Other representatives from the great houses are here. Mandor stands to one side of the throne, and Lord Kalten Hendrake stands on the other. (Lord Kalten is the commanding officer of Chaosís military.)
A sparkling, twirling mote hangs lazily above the throne of Chaos. After the nobles arrive, Merlin enters, and the mote settles about Merlinís shoulder. When Merlin waves his hand, Mandor calls the court to order.
Merlin begins, "There have been numerous assassinations and attempted assassinations in the past few turnings. We are not amused. This will cease and desist immediately. To this end, all Nobles in Chaos are hereby placed under the Black Watch immediately."
After this pronouncement, Galina, Duchess Barimen asks, "What about those who are incapacitated." Merlin indicates that arrangements are being made. Most nobles are... upset... by this announcement.
Merlin continues, "However this bring up two things that must be addressed. The houses of Helgram and Barimen have been without leadership for far too long. We have no choice but to reluctantly conclude that Istvan Barimen and Arioch Helgram are no longer capable of fulfilling their duties, and have no likelihood of regaining such capacity in the foreseeable future. We hereby declare that these offices are vacant. Lord Hastur Barimen, present yourself." The Eldest son of Istvan Barimen is sworn in. Galina is now the Dowager Duchess of Barimen.
Merlin continues, "Jendo, Lord Helgram, present yourself." Dara is noticeably pissed, her eyes are literally glowing, and she begins to shift into battle demon form. Merlin swears in Jendo as Duke of Helgram.
Merlin is not done yet. "Dara, Dowager Princess of Chaos, present yourself for judgment before the Throne of Chaos." Dara, surrounded by a dozen Royal guards, moves before the throne. "You are hereby found guilty of insurrection, and are sentenced to permanent arrest here at Thelbane for the remainder of your mortal existence."
Mandor seems pale, which is the most reaction anyone has seen out of him for quite some time. Dara seems to be having difficulty maintaining her human form. Baron Laan is very amused, as is Flark.
"This concludes this court of judgment. You are excused to your prepared quarters here in Thelbane."
Flarkís suite is suitably opulent. But itís a gilded cage. Here he finds that 20 of the 50 candidate girls are dead; there have been attempts on all the Dukes, except those hospitalized. There was an attempt to poison Alana, Shandorís sister.
The gossip is that Prince Corwin is around, and has been escorting Dowager Princess Dara. This was imposed on Dara, and is without her consent.
Jendo invites Flark to tea. Jendo seems to be having a grand old time, the tea starts with tea... but it progresses to Cognac, with toasts to Merlinís wisdom and health.
Special agent Alex Aziz wakes up in a hospital swathed in bandages. Heís been stitched up all over his arms and legs. He recalls bagging a finger of the demon that attacked him, and he ordered a police officer to send it to one of his contacts in the FBI.
Sullivan comes in on crutches, his head is bandaged and he has a leg in a cast. "I see youíre back among the living." They discuss a little what had happened. As they are just getting started, Spinner walks in. They turn on a TV, and catch the headlines of a massive auto accident and explosion in the nearby underpass. No sign of the demon is on television. Spinner prods Alex for information, saying he hasnít been able to identify the corpse Alex left behind.
Alex asks to be signed out of the Hospital, and Spinner says heíll see what he can do. After Spinner leaves, Sullivan gives Alex a package. "Itís the lab report from the hotel examination. The woman is a match for Baby Jane Doe. The man is completely unidentifiable, he is not a species known to modern science."
The nurse brings Alex a notepad and some pens. Alex discusses taking a leave of absence. Sullivan offers to take convalescent leave with Alex to help. Spinner comes back and says that Alex is checked out and cleared to leave.
Outside Alex, Sullivan, and Spinner go to have a beer in the park. He describes the blue gargoyle. Spinner shows his own sample. "Itís alien, but itís different from the first alien." Spinner says that the carcass of the gargoyle ought to be destroyed before someone else gets ahold of it.
"What kind of report do you want?" Alex asks.
"It would be most convenient if you have no recollection of this, because of the trauma. If you have ethical problems, you can tell the truth and wind up committed... I think you should have this." He hands Alex the report on the gargoyle's DNA analysis.
Meanwhile, back in the hotel. Fendrith has gotten the hang of Television. Heís been trying to absorb the completely fucked up culture of these people. He encounters the news piece the big nasty accident.
Fendrith is hanging around because of the guy that was real. And what he was following that was Ďof Helgramí. He decides to track down the "real person" while waiting for Seonaid to return. He goes cruising in the Lincoln and arrives at a park, where he spots the two cops and a third guy drinking at a table. He corrals his vehicle in the parking lot, right next to another black car with dark tinted windows. He likes that effect, something to ask Seonaid for later. He gets out.
He takes a walk around the park. A family nearby is having a picnic, their little version of Keliith running about. The kid tosses a Frisbee to with his dog; a flimsy version of Keliithís weapon. The two cops and their friend continue talking and drinking something.
Fendrith, conversant, IDíd, and armed with the knowledge of police procedure, approaches the three. He approaches and flashes his badge.
A MIB approaches the picnic table, reaching for his ID.
"Iím special Agent Fendrith." He flashes the badge quickly. Spinner asks to get a better look at it. Fendrith complies. The badge is written in Cyrillic, with English subtitles, and identifies Fendrith as an agent of the KGB. Spinner shows Alex the badge, and says, "So, Comrade, what brings you here?" He fights back a vicious grin.
Alex says, "She has big hands" in Russian, to which Spinner says, "Dah." Fendrith has zero reaction. Sullivan looks to Fendrith and says, "Iím not one of these Spanish speakers either."
Fendrith realizes heís out of his league and tries to fake it. He replies, "Iím looking into certain biological anomalies that have occurred in this area. I understand you are interested in these as well." He looks at Aziz.
"Would you like a seat? A drink?" Aziz asks.
"Sure." Fendrith joins the three. Aziz notices that Comrade Special Agent is unarmed as Sullivan hands Fendrith a beer. "Itís not exactly Whiskey..." Sullivan says.
Fendrith drinks. It seems okay. Aziz notices that there is no body hair on Fendrithís skin, beyond the obvious required patches. Fendrith begins, "I was hoping we could share some information."
"Maybe I could set up a meeting, you could come down to my office..."
"Thatís not exactly what I had in mind."
Sullivan adds, "Weíve just been in an accident, our files are at the office."
"I did hear about a terrible accident on the freeway yesterday."
"That was us." Sullivan acknowledges.
"There was an explosion..." Fendrith remarks.
"...It wasnít our fault," Sullivan adds.
"Let me give you my card," Aziz says. "It would be best if we both get approval from our superiors."
"I suppose, though sometimes things are best handled informally."
They exchange cards, and Fendrith gives Aziz the number at his hotel in lieu of one. "If Iím not there, I will leave a forwarding address so you can track me down, if it becomes necessary."
"Nice meeting you," says Aziz.
As soon as Fendrith is out of earshot, Spinner asks, "Just us, or with backup?" He takes out his cell phone, ready to make a call.
Alex replies, "So far he hasnít been hostile."
Sullivan says, "You notice that is the same hotel we raided yesterday."
Seonaid hones in on Anakara, arriving in Thelbane. In a room that is part of the House of Jesbyís suite. The Royal guards present level their weapons at Seonaid.
She remains still, and Anakara explains that this is her daughter. They exchange pleasantries, and Seonaid asks to speak with her parents privately.
Kalto and Anakara proceed into another room. Seonaid asks her mother if this is secure, and Anakara indicates negatively. "Would you like to go back home?"
"Do you mind?"
"Not at all dear." The three tendril to Anakaraís workshop.
Seonaid passes the photo of Julia Barnes-Sawall to Anakara and Kalto. "Who is this?" Anakara asks.
"Oh shit," Kalto says.
"Weíve never made it a secret that you are fostered to us." Anakara begins.
"Do you know who the father is?"
"I have my suspicions, but no proof."
Kalto says, "There are two candidates. Julia has been married for 50 years, and you were given to us by Aunt Ellionis 25 years ago." He asks, "What do you want to do about this?"
"I donít know, given one of the candidates, I fear for my life. Iíve been unable to ensure my personal security and this will only make things worse."
"How do you feel about remaining in Thelbane under the Black Watch?" Kalto asks?
"About how Iíd feel about remaining at home under Aunt Ellionis."
"Um, Seonaid, Aunt Ellionis has been assassinated."
Seonaid blanches. "We were unable to recover the bodies of the assassins; they burst into flame." Seonaid blanches more.
"Why were you at Thelbane?" Seonaid asks.
Kalto explains the situation. "Open warfare rages between the Houses, the likes of which we have not seen since Swayvillís death."
"Can we rule out a candidate as my biological father?" she asks.
"I would not know how to do so. Because Ellionis gave you to us 25 years ago, it's possible Jurt was your father. If you were kept elsewhere, your father may be Merlin. Ellionis may have been able to help, that may be why she was killed."
"Iím going to go back and see what else I can find out."
"Is that place safe?"
"Is any place safe?... We never discussed this." Seonaid states.
Kalto takes the photo, "I can put this where nobody can get to it."
"I am canceling my concerts..."
"...That reminds me, the Duchess of Minobee paid off your contract, you are no longer under obligation to Sawall."
"Do you know why?"
"She was concerned over the attempts on your life, and wanted you to have the freedom to go under cover and be out of the public eye."
"I think Iíll go do that. Thank you. I love you both."
Seonaid returns to Earth, sending a tendril to Fendrith.
Bren has been in hiding. Most of his contacts are dead or "disappeared". Jarek, his contact to Flark, is still around though. He is a wanted man; two outstanding contracts now that he failed at the Barimen Ball.
He has just heard that the nobles have been called to a court of judgment in Thelbane. He considers pumping Jarek for information. A meeting is established.
Flark has asked Jarek to track down Bren. Flark is well aware of Brenís fuck-ups.
Bren receives confirmation of his meeting at the Chapel of the Serpent at white sky. He arrives a little early, and he waits to the appointed time. Nobody shows up, and his danger sense starts itching.
He decides to flee, climbing to the roof; he sees that there is nothing beyond the chapel. A gray-black nothingness that looks something like the Abyss, closing in on the Chapel from all sides, even above and underneath.
Bren sees it consuming the dirt as it approaches the foundation of the Chapel.
Bren is not seen again.
Flark receives a reply from Jarek. It is but one word, "Apples".
Ghislain, now resident in house Jesby, things are strangely quiet here. Seeking Flark, he is told to go to the Jesby Suite at Thelbane. He arrives at the courtyard, following protocol. At the suite, a lackey in Royal uniform greets him.
Ghislain is announced to Duke Flark. Flark asks if his uncle would like to depart, and then sends word for Feng to join him. Ghislain is shown in and offered a seat and a drink by Duke Flark.
Quote: "I found my independent life so tedious." -- Flark
A page returns with a note for Flark from his Uncle. "I deeply regret to inform you that Feng insists that he is indisposed."
"Maybe we should go visit him in his sickbed," Flark muses.
Ghislain makes his pleasantries and thanks, and explains his progress both in assignments and in hobbies. Flark and Ghislain discuss tutoring Keliith.
Keliith arrives; offers of drawing places he visits pale to the things he brings home, including this neutron grenade. He remains unconvinced, but will join in to alleviate the boredom of Thelbane.
Ghislain departs to work on his hobby.
Ghislain networks with his bazaar contacts. From various conversations he probes for rumors of Seonaid, and the confinement of the Lords of Chaos. He tries to suggest that Seonaid be added as a candidate for Merlinís bride, planting new rumors and threatening to start a riot. Twice. Twice he uses the Logrus to escape.
He resumes following the distribution of the bootleg recordings, wondering about the market saturation. He goes shopping in alternate identities with shape shift. There seems to be no change in this black market.
Returning to his studio, Ghislain contacts Hraalk via Logrus. Hraalk has no further information about the bootlegs. He reports the strange occurrences of the near riots.
Back on Earth, Fendrith does not immediately return to the hotel. Heading out of the city, he finds a steakhouse with a challenge. "Eat a 72 oz Steak and itís on the house." He goes to investigate. He places his order, raw. They serve it rare, with a potato and salad. He eats it all. "That was pretty tasty." It was really a good, light meal. The manager takes his photograph. Fendrith asks for another steak. The manager is willing to go double or nothing, but Fendrith asks just for the second steak. He gets a second photograph, with the entire staff.
Aziz and his colleagues discuss the odd KGB man. Sullivan notes that heís met a KGB agent, and the badges are not printed in both languages, just Cyrillic.
Aziz discusses with Spinner the two officers who were mind-raped.
Spinner is unassigned, and Aziz and Sullivan are on leave. They decide to work together. Spinner suggests dinner. A steak dinner at a little place he knows of.
The steakhouse still offers the 72 oz. eat-it-all deal, but now it's "limit one."
At the steak restaurant, Aziz catches sight of a Polaroid of the new Double Steak Champion, Mr. Fendrith, the date and the time. Fifteen minutes before their arrival.
He points it out to his companions. Spinner says, "Shit." Sullivan says, "Damn." Sullivan summons the manager and flashes his badge. He requests one of the two Polaroidís for his investigation, and the manager complies.
The three eat. After the meal, Sullivan gets a call. "The DNA from the MIBís beer bottle matches that from the bed. Itís the alien."
After his meal, Fendrith drove off into the woods, leaving his car at a corral. Shifting into natural form he seeks the scene of the accident. He takes care not to be seen, flying low as he searches. Finding the site, he resumes his MIB form nearby, and walks back to the freeway.
Crossing an overpass, he drops himself down onto the median. Investigating, he finds a residue of quicklime eating a spot in the gore area.
He jumps back up to the bridge, landing he nearly causes an accident, but the driver speeds away. Fendrith returns to his vehicle, finding a phone booth, he calls Aziz.
Aziz and Sullivan are riding back to their hotel in Spinner's car when Aziz gets a call on his cell phone.
"This is Special Agent Fendrith."
Aziz tells the others it's the alien, and Spinner calls (on his phone) for a trace.
"I was investigating the vehicle crash. Someone has tried to cover something up there."
Spinner gets the location from the trace, and speeds up.
"What can you tell me of these anomalies you are investigating?"
"Iím looking for illegal aliens."
Aziz gets quite an expression on his face. "Any particular nationals?"
Spinner continues driving.
"Iím not really certain. I think these particular aliens have some rather unusual talents..."
"Talents? Perhaps we could meet at your office..."
Spinner slows, shutting down his headlights. He pulls off the road and puts the car in park.
"I donít have an office. Iím on an away mission."
"Can we contact your superiors? What part of the bureau are you in?"
Fendrith hangs up the phone, leaving the booth and heading off into the woods.
"Do we stay here?" Spinner asks.
"Iím thinking of going in."
"Youíll need backup. Sullivan, will you stay here?"
"Aye, since I wonít be walking very fast." he says, pointing to the cast on his leg.
Spinner and Aziz leave their car.
Fendrith hears two people following him, about 100 yards back. He gets a contact. Fendrith starts running, as fast as he can. Spinner takes off, but loses ground to the dragon. The call goes through without resistance.
"Fendrith, Iím done here."
"Now is not a good time."
"Shall I bring you through?"
Seonaid brings Fendrith through.
Spinner says, "Where did he go? Where the fuck did he go!" They return to the abandoned car. Sullivan has turned off the ignition and is leaning against the trunk of Fendrithís car. "Notice the license plate?"
The license plate and VIN plate have astrological symbols instead of letters and numbers. Under the hood is a fusion drive with a full tank of liquid hydrogen.
"What do we do with this car? If we turn it in as good government servants, who gets the rights? You youngsters have longer to retirement than I do."
Spinner gets a look, "I know a few people that can help us out here."
Aziz insists on doing their job, writing reports, and passing it up to his bosses. "I think we need to let the powers that be do their jobs."
Sullivan and Aziz take Fendrithís car, and Spinner returns in his own.
Fendrith appears in Anakaraís lab. She asks him to bring her up to date. Her father shows him a baby photo of Seonaid and the one that Julia Barnes-Sawall that Seonaid gave him. Fendrith confirms his initial perception of Julia.
"I think the evidence I need to confirm my biological father is back where we found the photo. We need to go back."
Fendrith suggests updating Flark.
Flark has a Logrus tendril attempting to contact him. He informs his guards to be at the ready and they point weapons at him, on stun.
He takes the call. It is Feng. Before Flark can say, "stun me", Feng offers a note, which Flark takes, and Feng cancels the contact.
The note reads, "I would be willing to entertain an armistice, or a truce." Flark sends a servant with a reply, which was accepted by a servant.
Flark is told that Seonaid arrived in Thelbane, and then quickly departed with Anakara and Kalto.
Flark gets another contact and readies the guards. Lord Jendo is offering an invitation. It is for a ball to celebrate his advancement. Flark confirms his attendance.
Flark gets yet another contact, and the guards are ready. Duke Hastur Barimen offers an invitation. It is for a ball to celebrate his advancement, at the same time and location as Jendoís ball. They will be in separate areas, and Flark confirms his attendance.
One more time, he notifies the guards of another contact. This time it is Seonaid. He starts picking through her troubled surface thoughts.
"We were just passing through, weíre on our way back."
"What is going on?"
Her surface thoughts are "Iím not telling you," but what she actually says is "Iím returning to follow up some leads." He asks if something is wrong, and she says, "Yes." He then gets a shifting image of two sets of parents, Kalto and Anakara, followed by two unidentified people. The second image seems to have some association with the essence of Julia Barnes-Sawall.
She asks Flark for information, he mentions meeting with Julia Barnes-Sawall, and that on Shadow Earth she should seek an "emerald lady" who might be associated with the assassins.
He prods about Julia. "Is there anything I should tell her about your activities on Shadow Earth?"
"No, were not even there." Her mind gives a flash of her and Fendrith in MIB uniform.
"Have you located the Helgram agents?"
"No." Her mind flashes an old man, an older version of the man in the second image, and an image of someone else, someone real.
"If you need anything, just ask."
"I will, I just wanted to let you know where we are and that weíre still working on things."
"I will say nothing to Julia. I would like a fuller report, when you return, if possible."
She says goodbye, and breaks the contact.
Laan and Felara are playing chess. Flark joins them, saying, "I have arranged a meeting with Feng in the near future. Am I being unwise? It seems to me that Feng is pretty much alone now, with no one to back his claim to the seat of Jesby. He is gifted in a number of arts that may be useful to us."
"You donít propose to trust him?"
"No, I was thinking land and title concessions in exchange for a quit-claim on the seat of Jesby. If he did not commit further abuses, I would allow him to assume a seat on the council. It wonít be what he wanted, but it may be better than what he is now able to accept?"
"If he makes a quit-claim to the succession, once gone it can never be reestablished. If her were to publicly acknowledge his lesser claim, would that satisfy?
"I can pursue that. Or I could pursue this vendetta. That doesnít seem productive."
"You can declare, as head of the family, that you find him guilty."
"Do we have agents that can traverse shadow?"
"How far should they traverse? None of our agents can go past Ygg."
"Not even those capable of Logrus travel?"
Laan considers, "We have family that we can influence."
Flark brings Laan up to date with what he knows of Seonaidís discoveries. Two images, one of Anakara, Kalto, and a baby, one of two shadow people and a baby, and the thought or feeling that Julia Barnes-Sawall is linked to this second image. They also discovered a person with something of reality, able to resist her mind attacks. He creates an image spell to present what he has learned from Seonaidís brain.
Laan asks for an image of Merlin and this Real Man. Then he requests an image of Prince Corwin. Here he feels heís found a relationship. "Should we notify the Duke of Kolvir?"
"Lets find out who he is first, as much information as we can gather before we decide to market this." Laan suggests.
"What about telling Seonaid this?"
"If they havenít deduced this for themselves, what use are they as agents?"
Flark says they need an agent in this shadow. Felara volunteers. "I donít want to alienate Fendrith and Seonaid," he reminds her. "Donít kill them unless you have to."
He also mentions the Emerald Lady, a power behind the scenes of House Helgram. This person has had agents in Shadow Earth.