A Bride for Merlin (Or, "Six Degrees of Shandor" or, "Shut Up, Youíre Not There!") :-P ~~~
Session XXI, 27 October 2000
At the Keep of the Four Worlds, Keliith, Fendrith, Audrey-Manette, and Seonaid are at breakfast. Fendrith has an idea, to get rid of Brandís Pattern and Brand at the same time. Keliith mentions killing some demons outside the keep. Seonaid muses about importing subjects, though Audrey-Manette suggests the environment is too volatile to support them outside the Keep.
Audrey-Manette is quite concerned about Brand being in the keep's library. Investigating it, she finds no evidence of his presence. She sets about studying the second initiation to the Fount and tales of madness. Instead she considers furthering her understanding of her current powers.
Seonaid mentions establishing a cover story for whoís in control of the Keep. Keliith says that heís already told Anakara that Audrey-Manette is conducting a high-tech research experiment here.
Fendrith volunteers to stay, and Keliith volunteers to stay with Fendrith. Audrey-Manette has some information for Corwinís Ghost, and will be returning to the villa with Seonaid.
Arriving at the villa, they find Gracian, Ghislain, and Shandor eating breakfast with Corwin's Pattern Ghost. Audrey-Manette requests some time alone with Corwin-Ghost. Audrey-Manette wryly taunts Shandor with her presence.
In the library, "Mr. Corwin--"
"Okay. I think you might find this of interest to read." Audrey-Manette hands him Jasraís diary regarding Julia and the Emerald Lady.
"I think she should see it first." He indicates Seonaid. She takes the book.
Audrey-Manette also shows Corwin the Trump of Clarissa, giving Seonaid a chance to see this as well.
Shandor and Ghislain discuss their plans to visit the Iron Wastes. Ghislain seeming to have a Trump, they depart the villa to leave the Shadow, discussing necessary preparations. Before leaving they become armored demons suitable to this particular destination.
Once there, Ghislain still has a funny feeling about being here in "Kh!". Something here resonates with him. Both bring up the Logrus and begin analyzing their surroundings, Shandor using his gem to check for resonance. Ghislain asks to borrow the burned-out soul gem from Shandor, considers it, and -- eyes bugging out from the bad feeling it gives him -- hands it back to Shandor. "Donít give me this again."
They depart to investigate Fengís baronial keep.
Corwin identifies some of Audrey-Manetteís Trumps. [Audrey-Manette had these Trumps: Jasra; Luke; Victor Melman (defaced); UC Berkley Dorm; Lukeís apartment in San Francisco; Julia Barnes (as a college student); the Blue Crystal Cave; a Blue Sphynx; a Junkyard Forest; (other unspecified Trumps of Doom); Dara; Clarissa; Sand; Delwin. Corwin identified Luke, Clarissa, Sand, and Delwin. Everyone already recognized Jasra, Julia Barnes, and Dara.] The style of the last two Trumps is different than the style of the rest, and he presumes that Brand did these, not Luke (who did the rest).
Seonaid asks for a few minutes with "her Grandfather." She departs directly for the Keep.
Alone with Seonaid, Corwin identifies "the Emerald Lady" as one of the powers behind the scenes in House Helgram, and goes on to identify her as Clarissa. Helgram was (of course) divided between Dara and Jendo, and Corwin does not know which side Clarissa supported.
Corwin asks if Audrey-Manette is to know that Jasra wonít be returning. Seonaid offers to tell Audrey-Manette this based on information Corwin gave her.
He asks Seonaid to wait, going to a desk and retrieving a deck of cards. "This is Random, and this is Gerard. You may wish to expand your areas of interest."
"I should contact them?"
"One or the other... I would think long and hard about it first though."
"Well, of all my family, I think those two are the least likely to involve you in the family games, but itís not something I can entirely rule out. Since Random is the king, he may try to take a more official tone with you, whereas Gerard is perhaps the most trustworthy of us all."
"I suppose I shouldnít wait until Iím in trouble when I contact them..."
Seonaid thanks him, and returns directly to Audrey-Manette.
Once Audrey-Manette and Seonaid are gone, Fendrith and Keliith take the opportunity to look around the Keep. They both go to investigate Brandís appearances in the laboratory. Fendrith discovers the place where he assumes Jasra died, but finds no trace of anything that could be identified as Brand.
Investigating the battle outside in the courtyard of the Keep, Fendrith discovers hints of the presence of Jasra and Julia and himself from the battle.
Nothing gives him any hope of tracking Brand.
They eat lunch. Fendrith looks for something to read. There is nothing very interesting in the laboratory. He looks specifically for a book on magical creatures... on dragons... he finds one concerning the disgusting and grotesque abuses one can do with dead dragons. His anger singes the edge of a few pages, but it would be impolite, he decides, to actually destroy it. Exploring further he fails to find the draconic Kama-Sutra. He does find a copy of "The Book of the Unicorn", but itís dragon content is a tad light for lunchtime reading.
Keliith inquires what Fendrith is after. Fendrith mentions looking for books about Dragons in general. Keliith orders the Captain of the Guards to join them, and then demands that he and Fendrith be escorted to the library. The guard indicates there are more than one, and that a book regarding Dragons may be in Master Brandís suite. They are escorted there.
Standing before the door of Brandís quarters, Fendrith considers this as the first moment of the rest of his life. The guard stops a good distance away, indicating the path before him.
The detect-o-matic spell Fendrith uses gives him a mild migraine from the feedback loop it initiates with whatever is warding these quarters.
Keliith stands behind the guard.
Fendrith decides not to open the door.
Down the hall, at the door to her personal chambers, Audrey-Manette appears. She approaches, and asks them what they are up to. "Brand used to live here," Keliith says.
"So why are you here?"
"Iím looking for some books on Dragons. I was considering going in but I thought better of it."
Audrey-Manette doesnít have any on these topics. She probes the door and discovers bad magic here.
Seonaid arrives, approaching the knot of folk in front of Brandís door. She pauses half a pace behind and to the right of Audrey-Manette. She uses Logrus-sight on the door. Logrus, and something familiar, similar to her Pattern but not the same.
Shandor and Ghislain have entered the Baronial Keep of Feng. The seneschal approaches, knowing their names, he informs them that Feng is "in residence in Thelbane attending His Majesty."
They inquire about the library, and are escorted there to begin their research into people here, including Robaird, Nethozhen, and Cjereg. They find a large gap in the record covering the period that includes these specific lives and neighboring Shadows. Researching back, they obtain the names of a dozen Shadows that ceased to exist during this gap in history. Most belonged to Nethozhen, some to Cjereg, and one to Vnu Elricson-Melmibone (current Lord High Master of the Guild of Sorcery). There is no reference at all to Robaird.
They seem to have participated in a land grab in order to secure space to do whatever they were doing.
One of these Shadows is simply burned out, not imploded, and it is the one that belongs to Vnu (of House Helgram). It has legends surrounding it that make it sound like a Bermuda Triangle.
Shandor, looking through his Logrus lens, notices there is now a connection between this Shadow and another that has only recently been established.
Shandor asks about what Ghislain saw in the Gem. Ghislain asks again for the Gem.
"I thought you didnít want it any more."
"I was wrong."
Shandor holds it up, and Ghislain touches it. He then touches Shandor and shares his feeling of how very very wrong this Gem is. Shandor understands that if he had a stronger psychic connection he could understand more of the feeling.
Shandor, lacking excitement in his life, decides to establish just such a contact with Ghislain. There is a corner of Ghislainís mind that is shrieking in terror at the presence of this Gem.
In addition to feeling the terror, Ghislain senses Shandor trying to enter further in to the sharing. Ghislain attempts to withdraw within and release the Gem.
Shandor notices the retreat. Shandor presses the intrusion. Ghislain flanks the advance to enter Shandorís mind. They both withdraw at this point.
Ghislain releases the Gem and steps back. "Donít ever..."
"What is going on in your head? Youíre afraid of yourself for some reason."
"No, itís the Gem..."
"No... itís you."
Ghislain asks that Shandor use the Gem as a Trump.
Shandor focuses into the Gem, trying to imagine it as if it were a Trump and getting nowhere.
"There is nothing special going on inside this Gem."
"Yes, there is. Letís go somewhere else, some of the nearby shadows. What are you looking for in a shadow?"
"Iím trying to find Nethozhen or Cjereg. Thereís always a path when someone goes from one place to another."
They trump to a nexus between shadows and are slammed unconscious.
Everyone in front of the door realize that Keliith has vanished.
The door opens.
"Itís not warded, if you open from the inside. I came in through the window."
"What, he didnít ward the window," Seonaid asks, "What kind of guy puts this much work on a door and not on the window?"
Keliith squirms suspiciously.
Everyone goes in the disused apartment. There are lots of books here, covered in cobwebs.
Audrey-Manette casts a spell to clean up the cobwebs. A blinding flash occurs and all are momentarily blinded. When they see again, most of the books are still there... some are now ash.
Keliith disassembles some furniture and finds some Trumps, which he insists on examining first. Everyone else looks over the books as Keliith finds a ring (a spikard, though nobody realizes this just yet). A mad race ensues searching for stuff.
Seonaid, using the Logrus, discovers the cards exude power, as does Keliithís ring.
Seonaid negotiates for the Ring, and Keliith offers the cards instead, which she accepts. He begins to deal them out so all can see and shows them off. [Seonaid gets these Trumps: (all of the Elders of Amber); Brand; Bleys; Fiona; Clarissa; Oberon; Dworkin; a small dell in a floating topped mountain and a blue sky, with a blue aura radiating from a cave nearby (i.e., the Primal Pattern of Amber, but they don't realize this yet...); Jasra, a young red-haired boy (unidentified; it's Luke when he was much younger); Arioch Duke Helgram; General Duke Larsus Hendrake; Istvan Barimen; King Swayvil; Dara; Martin (unidentified). Fendrith gets this Trump: a dystopian metropolis.]
Keliith gives the Metropolis trump to Fendrith, telling him itís not safe for Seonaid. He contemplates scouting it and Seonaid tries to snatch it from him, failing.
Fendrith continues to insist on exploring, and Keliith suggests they get a Trump of him first, which Seonaid produces, with a Trump of Minobee. He goes off to prepare.
Seonaid, miffed at her foster brother, and slightly miffed at Fendrith actually, turns her back on them and, draping her arm around Audrey-Manette, says, "Letís let them explore," and they leave the room.
Fendrith takes [4 teleports, 3 heal, 2 communications, 3 stasis] on his rack. Keliith opens the Trump Gate using his new ring, and Fendrith departs.
Arriving, he finds the city full of cars and motorcycles, with taller buildings and more people than Shadow Earth held. The place is steeped in a feeling of imminent menace that is growing more pronounced during even this small amount of time. The buildings are so close he could not fly between them in his natural form.
He has appeared in a slightly burned-out industrial area, looking toward the center of town, where the menace emanates from, a real, tangible menace.
Suddenly a man in green and black with a crossbow appears before him. He levels the crossbow, "What are you doing here?"
"Just looking around..."
"Iíve upgraded this since we last met," the man threatens, and the menace grows.
Fendrith teleports to the top of the building, taking a crossbow bolt to the shoulder. It hurts horridly, and his arm is useless. He reaches for the Trump of Minobee. Brand reappears, and Fendrith teleports again. Once he appears he moves through the Trump as the pain spreads.
Appearing in Minobee, he consumes a healing spell to no effect. Summoning a lackey as the burning enters his lungs and heart. The lackeys rush to his aid, and one runs for Lord Kalto. Feeling quite weak, his last action is to cast a Stasis spell on himself.
Shandor awakes, sort-of. Something wards him off from most of his powers and he is being mind-probed.
"What were you doing there?"
"Looking for my brother. Who are you?"
"Now that thatís clear, whatís your next question?"
"The shadows he used to frequent have been deleted, and I was looking for the closest match."
"What information do you hold for your friend Duke Flark?"
"I donít really have any information for him?"
"What other information have you recently uncovered that might be of interest to Duke Flark?"
"That could be anything and everything, knowing him."
"What information would Duke Flark prize the most."
"Is that you, Feng?"
"His Excellency is unavailable at the moment, I am handling this investigation instead."
"You are a guardian of this shadow?"
"That is correct. You still have not answered my question. How many centuries would you like to be on hold."
"I am a personal friend of Duke Flark. It is a part of House Jesbyís holdings, and though it is presently controlled by Feng, it is still of Flarkís domain."
"You are not a member of House Jesby."
"Why should I tell you, instead of Feng or Flark?"
"To avoid any damage when I open your mind."
"I thought you worked for Feng?"
"Why do you care what Flark would want to know?"
"Because it is in Fengís interests to know, the better to serve the Duke."
"Of course. Tell you what, I can take you to the place I found this stuff?"
"Tell me where it is."
"Are you mobile?"
"Tell me where it is."
The inquisitor does sound like Feng to Shandor, but seems to be an approximation, almost mechanical.
"The answer lies at Corwinís Pattern."
"What is the answer?"
"I can tell you if we go there."
"You will tell me now."
"Are you the Crown?"
"Then, by order of the Crown, you do not have access to that information."
Time blurs, and then he awakens. Shandor is in a bed and attending him is Feng and Flark.
"What am I doing in Thelbane?"
"You accidentally encountered some counter-intrusion measures I had installed," Feng says.
"Did you get that conversation?"
"It was given to me when I was informed of a situation that could not be resolved."
"What I said was true."
Feng and Flark exchange glances.
"Was there anything you needed from that shadow?" Flark asks.
"Ghislain and I were trying to find paths to our brothers."
"Robaird is dead as far as I know."
"I did not see that with my own eyes, Ghislain didnít either and we both have reason to think otherwise."
"You will be requesting full access to this shadow," Flark asks.
"I expect you to give it to them," Flark tells Feng.
"Yes," Feng replies.
They take Shandor to Ghislain, at Shandorís request, but not before Shandor retrieves his Gem from the nightstand.
Ghislain is fastened to a bed and is raving, shifting in the restraints. He has been like this for a turning, and seems to be improving; heís not screaming anymore.
Feng leaves to get the key to his guardian for Ghislain and Shandor. Flark remains.
Ghislainís facial features shift between his own and those of someone else. [Robaird's, but no one there realizes this just yet.]
Flark asks some questions. "Was Merlin there at any time? Heíd have to have been to give you notification of this being crown secret..."
"Well," Shandor dissembles.
"Was a stranger there?" (He describes Gracian)
"Yes, I encountered this individual, a pathetic individual... what was his name... something inconveniently long... Gracian something... of somewhere... some Shadow where heís from."
"Who showed up at Corwinís Pattern?"
"Shit, who didnít? I think this rather falls under Merlinís order..."
"The list of invitees and attendees? Something really interesting must have happened?"
"There were... events. I can tell you the food was good and the library was excellent."