A Bride for Merlin (Or, "Dude, Where's My Car?")
Session XXVI, 29 December 2000
Fendrith flies through Shadow, looking for Luke on his own. He doesnít seem to be making progress, and Luke seems very well hidden. He keeps passing a particular patch of shoreline, flying around in circles. He decides to land there and take a look.
Finding purple sand caressed by frothy green waves under a very dark blue sky, he mutters, "Well, this is obviously not going to get me anywhere. Maybe searching for Luke is not such a good idea." The bright green sun feels warm on his scales.
"If I were Luke, where would I be?" Luke's mother is Jasra, who is (or at least was) the Mistress of the Keep of the Four Worlds. Luke is the King of Kashfa. And he spent time at Berkeley...
"Hmm, I left some loose ends on Shadow Earth, maybe itís time for a visit. I think I left a car there." He decides to visit the place where he and Seonaid last left the car, as eager students were dismantling it.
Taking to the skies, he executes his new plan, for lack of any better target at the moment. Eventually he approaches a shoreline, passing over a small motorboat. The colors seem right, and he seems to be approaching a suburban area, rather different than the metropolis he visited before.
The boat's crew panic as he flies by, but he spares no concern for them. He looks for a place to land. He sees a three-acre park nearby, and considers landing. Since heís not being chased, he moves in to land. He sees a small child playing in a sandbox who is appropriately awed by the dragon landing nearby.
"Wow, are you a real dragon?"
"No, Iím just a figment of your imagination. Go back to sleep." He changes into a MIB and walks off into the forest. The child, dragging a stuffed tiger behind him, is called off to lunch by his mother. Nearby, Fendrith spies a local university, and inside one of the buildings was where his car was dismantled.
The sign outside says "Massachusetts Institute of Technology". Approaching the building in question, he finds lots of rooms with high tech equipment and boring lectures.
(OOC: The GM, having never been to MIT, hereby disavows any pretense of accuracy in the following descriptions. ;-)
In the sub-sub-basement, and down a hall, he finds the room where he last saw the car. Thereís a skeleton here of what may have been that car, and diagrams of the autopsy in progress.
Thereís nothing here he can recognize for certain as being part of his car, except, perhaps three tires in the corner. The fourth has been sectioned as part of the autopsy.
The door opens behind him, "Dude, what are you doing in here?"
Fendrith answers, "Dude, whereís my car?"
"The one in pieces here."
The grad student replies, "Thatís not your car, thatís my car. My uncle gave it to me. My uncle works for the FBI."
Fendrith bluffs, "Well, I loaned it to him and I never got it back."
"Nah, I can fix this." He takes out a cell phone and calls his uncle. The conversation is brief, and then he says, "Can I buy you a beer?"
"Come on, letís go back to my pad."
"Yeah, sure, why not. Is your uncle bringing any of his FBI friends?"
"He didnít say so, but heíll be there." The two leave for their beer.
Arriving at a barracks-like building, Fendrith is taken into a tiny room filled mostly with bunk beds and tech equipment. Thereís a white-enameled cabinet, from which the guy draws two cans, handing one to Fendrith. Watching the guy pull a tab at the top, Fendrith emulates this and finds the can filled with a weak, pale beer. Fendrith pretends to enjoy the beer.
"Nice to meet you. Where did you get the car? Itís a real sweet thing, weíre making it our thesis project."
"Actually, I got it from a friend. I donít know where it came from originally. I canít tell you much about it. I needed something to drive, and it came my way. I needed something to drive again and was hoping to find it."
"Well, I can loan you mine, itís not as good as yours but it still moves around."
"I might take you up on that," Fendrith admits.
"Iíve got to warn you though, it has a few modifications. Not like yours, of course, but it still kicks ass."
Agent OíSullivan arrives following a knock on the door. He greets Fendrith by name. OíSullivan grabs a Coke from the fridge, "Thank you, Nephew, donít mind if I do."
The agent inquires, "I hear youíre back for your car."
"I had some unfinished business, so I hoped it could get me around."
"Well, since it was abandoned, we... took care of it..."
"...well, yes," OíSullivan admits.
"I donít suppose we could get enough pieces to put it back together again," Fendrith asks.
"Well, no... we already auctioned off most of the less important things on eBay. Whereíd you get it from, if you donít mind me asking."
"A friend got it for me, I donít know where it came from originally. Oh well, I may need to borrow a car. I think Iíll have a walk about first."
The kid says, "You can borrow my car, hereís the keys. Just bring it back with a full tank of gas."
Fendrith wonders briefly what could be meant by a "full tank of gas".
"I need to find a friend who attended Berkeley..."
John helpfully notes, "West Coast school? Itís about two thousand miles that way. You might need a plane, not a car..."
Fendrith asks, "Could you point it out on a map for me?"
"In the interest of interdepartmental relations, I could escort you there," OíSullivan suggests. He asks his nephew, "Do you have that new module in the car yet?"
"Um, we havenít fine tuned it..."
"...Does it work?"
OíSullivan turns to Fendrith, "Well, we could drive there then..."
Fendrith asks, "Testing out new equipment, are we?"
"Not exactly, something from the car you left behind. If we take the car that far, Iíll do the driving."
Fendrith replies, "I have some business to take care of here first, how about tomorrow? Ten-ish, at the front of the campus?"
"In front of Administration then? Okay. How about some breakfast?"
"I donít think Iíll have time for that, but Iíll see you tomorrow then. Thanks for the beer."
The nephew asks, "I have one question for you, if you donít mind Uncle. Are you really from the KGB, Mister Fendrith?"
Fendrith takes the badge out of his pocket, and looks at it. Unable to read it, it doesnít use the characters used by the local alphabet. "Isnít that what it says here?" The dragon tries to bluff, badly.
John replies, "I donít know, I donít read Swahili."
Fendrith chuckles a little bit, then leaves post haste.
Outside, Fendrithís stomach rumbles. He remembers a sweet steakhouse from the last trip and considers finding it again. As he walks down the street, a great big vehicle comes alongside him, tall with a sliding door on the side. The door opens and the driver calls out, "You getting on?"
"No," Fendrith replies, and the bus moves on without him. Moving off toward the cover of some trees. A large paved area is nearby filled with vehicles. Beyond the road there are some large buildings that look like shared dwellings. Moving off behind a building, he sees a bunch of people using radio controlled devices to smash into other people's RC devices. A large sign reads, "Battle-Bots Preliminary Tournament".
Walking off campus, he eventually comes to a restaurant called "Steak and Ale". The vehicles outside look noticeably better than those at the student center. He flips through his wallet, and has lots and lots of pieces of paper with peopleís images on them. Money, as he recalls, and he eats a good lunch, ordering four of their largest steaks. He does leave a large tip for the shocked waitress.
Behind the restaurant, he changes into a dragon, restoring a Chinese coupleís faith in the tales of their ancestors. He takes off into the skies of Massachusetts. He searches for signs that Luke has been within this shadow, not shifting at all.
In the Courts of Chaos, within the palace of Thelbane, Flark awakens amid the rooms reserved for the Duke of Jesby. Flark has a nasty headache, undoubtedly caused by the sudden return of the majority of his faculties and memories. It feels that the entire martial forces of Hendrake are conducting field exercises within his skull.
Finding an analgesic, he attempts to make as little noise as possible while getting dressed. The Logrus aggravates his headache as he fetches breakfast, and by the time it arrives he is no longer hungry. He forces it down anyway, despite itís awful taste, and then goes to find Baron Laan.
It has taken much longer to eat and dress, and he walks slowly down the hall. Eventually he reaches his study, ignoring the extreme pain as best he can in favor of his pride.
Baron Laan arrives, and his voice only seems to be thundering to Flark, as he says, "Good morning, Nephew. How are you today?"
"Just fine," he replies, barely avoiding wincing. "How are you?"
"Doing quite well?"
"Did you manage to arrange either of those appointments for me?"
"The throne has not yet answered. Lady Anakara and Lord Kalto will call on you later this turning. Iíve entered it in your schedule."
Returning to his chambers, Flark contacts his secret sources that he did not recall before, now able to fulfill the Baronís suggestion. Trusted servants send out the appropriate messages requesting reports.
Eventually, information starts trickling back to Flark. One of the physical means for recording music is a pocket mirror, which when viewed correctly you can see an image and hear the music. Numerous bootlegs have appeared recently that seem not to be modified significantly. Simple piracy, with only errors in the copy, it seems. He obtains a few copies for further investigation, and has them sent to the magic lab.
Also, Sawall and Helgram are fully mobilized for the war, though their official status is stated somewhat more conservatively. Jesby and Chanicut are mostly mobilized, publicly and otherwise. Barimen and Amblerash are also mobilized.
Feng has not given Flark the full details, but an aide has liberated certain information. Ghislain is not Ghislain, it seems, seems to contain something of his dead elder brother Robaird, who was an apprentice of Nethozhen and Cjereg. It seems the three were working on a project to build a construct in the Iron Wastes. All of the inhabitants would have been consumed by the device, and their life forces would have empowered the construct as a spell energy battery. They planned to build an array of these to take over the Courts of Chaos. The device did consume the entire shadow, but the storage device wasnít strong enough for the power-load, and an explosion occurred. Ghislain and Robaird were both mortally injured, and Nethozhen combined them into some sort of composite entity, before running off to hide. Cjereg did the same.
The body of Ghislain is in Flarkís control. Flark transfers the somewhat living body to his lab, and releases Ghislainís quarters. Flark requests Ghislainís possessions from Feng, who gives them to him in a plastic bag. Feng says he never touched them, and found disturbing thoughts in Ghislainís mind, especially about Flarkís foster niece.
Tea is served for Kalto and Anakara. Flarkís headache has reduced but is still a disturbing presence. Going to meet them, he fakes good health. The servant that serves the tea turns out to be Jarek, the assassin, who catches Flarkís eye.
Flark, confident that Jarek would not poison him, drinks the tea. He assumes Anakara and Kalto will look out for themselves. He keeps an eye on Jarek, who stays, so must have information for him.
Initiating conversation, Flark begins with small talk. "I think we need to discuss Keliith."
"Oh?" Kalto says.
"Yes, for example, he has an open invitation to meet with the Duke of Minobee at any time."
"Oh I can explain that," says Kalto.
"Would you care to do so?"
"Certainly," Kalto replies.
"I notice youíre stepping around my verbs here. I put it another way, Iím concerned personally about your child, and professionally as my heir."
"Duke Minobee was offering advice to a potential young duke. Neither Anakara nor I have found anything untoward in this relationship since our awareness of it."
Flark notices that Anakara is warded. This is not normal for her. Kalto is simply very capable.
Flark realizes in passing that Minobee has a high number of diplomats out on the Amber side of things, more than Jesby even, and Kalto is a merchant explorer.
"Well, from my point of view I find this disturbing."
"Minobee is a house of merchants. Consider it a competing bid."
"Well, his competing bid might put his loyalties in question, should situations change."
Kalto says, "I am reasonably confident Keliith will always remain reasonably independent."
"Have you given any thought to his future education?"
Anakara says, "Theyíve been seen to."
"By the Duke of Minobee?"
Kalto replies, "In some small part, but it was arranged by Anakara and I."
"Speaking of family," Flark diverges, "Have you heard from Seonaid recently?
"Yes, sheís doing quite well," Kalto says.
"I had a feeling she might be up to something dangerous in Shadow."
"No, sheís planning a concert soon in Kashfa."
"My, do they listen to our sort of music?"
"I think weíre about to find out," Anakara smiles.
"There have been so many unforeseen circumstances befalling our family recently. If you need anything, you have but to ask and Iíll see what I can provide."
The conversation returns to small talk, and eventually, tea-time passes.
After tea, Flark meets with his assassin. Jarek pours himself a cup of tea, and sits.
"So what brings you around," Flark begins.
"Those forces around Fortress Gantu keeping an eye on Princess Dara... Theyíve taken up residence around and within Thelbane."
"Do the royal parties know of this?"
"If they do, they have concealed such fact from me."
"I suspect Duke Sawall or Duke Helgram are either the director or target of such forces."
"How is it possible to detect them?"
"In these times of turmoil, it would not out of question for a Lord of Chaos to use the mystic arts available to him on a more frequent basis."
"Have they penetrated the suites of individual dukes?"
"I do not know. They are concentrated around the suites of Sawall and Helgram. In other news, I suspect that Duke Sawall has some interest in these latest batches of pirated recordings of your foster niece Seonaid, but I have not yet been able to fathom any reason why. Based on my experts' analyses, he is almost certainly losing money on these recordings."
"Are you aware Duke Sawall backed Feng? Youíve given me a lot to think about, Jarek."
It is Jarekís turn to diverge and he addresses the issue of war. "Have you given any thought to who will command Jesbyís remaining forces when you go to battle?"
"Well, Iím not giving it to Feng."
Jarek says, "On the one hand I assume youíll want someone competent left in command, but then again, youíll want someone sufficiently expendable in command. Thatís a dangerous balance."
"Is this a way of asking for a promotion, Jarek?"
"No." Jarek instantly replies.
"Were you be so gracious, I would not be so foolish to accept. No insult intended."
"It didnít seem something Iíd think you interested in. Do you then have a candidate in mind?"
"Regrettably, no, I do not."
"Well, Iím sure to think of someone."
"I would hope you value me more than to think of me as an expendable asset?"
"No insult was intended."
"None taken, Your Grace."
Flark summons a servant, and request Baron Laanís presence.
"I have spoken to my sources, are you aware that there are some of the things that tried to assassinate my Niece here in Thelbane? Perhaps within our very suites?"
Laan is visibly upset.
"I think it time to call the wizards."
"Should I double the guard?" Laan asks.
"Yes, but only around myself. Iím not sure I want to alarm them before we discover them. Weíll begin a surveillance."
Kor interrupts, "I have not seen any of these creatures in your presence, but I have seen traces left behind from those who have found better concealment."
Flark takes a piece of paper and writes upon it. "Take this to Jendo," he tells a servant.
Shandor stops in to visit his sister on his way to check on Ghislain. Once there, the maid tells him that his sister has a visitor. "Your aunt, and another candidate, Lillias." She appears to be rather young, but then what is age to a shape-shifter?
Shandor wonders silently if she knows where her brother is.
He is shown in, "Aunt Lillias, how are you?"
They exchange pleasantries. "I was talking to my niece about how we are rivals for the same honor."
"I see, I was passing through and thought Iíd say hello to my sister."
"I understand youíve spent a lot of time with my cousin Ghislain," she leads. "How is he?"
"Iím not certain, and that is what I came to Thelbane to check on. He is ill."
"When you find out more, you must let me know." She politely excuses herself to let Shandor talk to his sister.
Shandor politely spends some time with Alana and then excuses himself. From there he goes to visit the Jesby suites, where last he left Ghislain. On the way he notices lots of things with his Logrus vision. Alarms, surveillance spells, a niche that might have been occupied by an assassin, a booby trap attached to an alarm.
He goes to investigate the niche, something about the residue left by whatever spent time here seems familiar, and he takes note of it. There are dozens of spots like it nearby, but he cannot draw any firm conclusions from what heís found so far.
He notices the servants around him, and many of them are tagged by similar spells as those heís observed. A tagging spell here, someone occupied by the total of a spell there.
He stays alert for more.
Arriving, he asks a servant about Lord Ghislain. He is shown to a waiting area, and watches for more signs of assassins, finding traces of three more.
Baron Feng comes to see Shandor. "What a pleasant surprise." Feng makes small talk.
"I came to check on Lord Ghislain."
"Still quite the vegetable Iím afraid. I fear his condition is beyond my meager powers of restoration. I turned the entire matter over to my elder brother."
"Might I see him?"
"Ordinarily yes, but he is entertaining guests."
"Would it be possible for me to see Lord Ghislain?"
"You would have to take that up with my brother."
"Are you privy to his calendar for the day?"
"His public schedule, at least."
"When would he have some time for me?"
"In a while, we could entertain ourselves in the meantime. For example, I hear youíve had some interesting forays in Shadow recently, found a new royal, or two? Gracian and his niece?"
"Gracian, yeah he was that guy I saw for a few minutes. He has a niece though?"
"Yes, someone who spent quite a bit of time at Corwinís corner of the universe with you, Gracian... Ghislain... Fendrith... and my Brotherís heir. I even have a trump of his niece..." Feng holds up a trump of Seonaid, in Ghislainís style.
"Thatís a trump of Seonaid isnít it? Youíre trying to tell me Seonaidís a royal?"
"We both already know the answer to that. Iím just wondering what you intend to do with this information?"
"Thatís an interesting thing to ponder isnít it? Tell me, what do you intend to do about the assassins that are in Jesbyís suites here in Thelbane?"
"I think you should refer that to Tlon. Itís more his area."
A servant comes in and hands a message to Feng. "Oh, my Brother is ready to see you know. I enjoyed our conversation, and my best regards to your lovely sister."
Shandor is shown into Duke Flarkís study.
Shandor begins, "I came to check on Ghislain... Your beloved brother tells me his situation has not improved."
"Indeed. We will take proper care of him," Flark assures.
"May I see him?"
"Certainly. Send me word immediately if Lord Jendo arrives; I shall take Shandor to the lab," Flark instructs his servants.
In the lab, Flark gestures to Ghislain's comatose body, "As you can see, he remains inactive."
Ghislain does not look the least bit restful, frozen in a grotesque pose.
Flark begins to excuse himself to deal with other matters.
Shandor asks, "The Assassins?"
Flark pauses, "Which assassins?"
"Ghost images where Assassins may have been at one time."
"Yes, that would be one of those things. It is being taken care of, but I might appreciate your assistance later."
Crossing the lab, Flark asks, "What do you make of this?" He tosses Shandor the recording of Seonaid. "What would Despil have to do with these?"
Shandor notices that not only is this a recording, but also a receptor for a teleportation spell. A teleport anchor.
"Where did you get this?"
"Apparently they sell them on the street. I havenít had the chance to examine it yet."
"Maybe you should."
Flark examines it, and not only is it an anchor, but it could be used to spy. He takes the time necessary to take it apart and understand all of its abilities. He finds it involves use of a power outside his and Shandorís knowledge. Much magic involved, but with such a flavor that it must be a new variation of power or a totally new power. It doesnít seem to resonate with the creepy evil feeling of Pattern.
Flark summons a servant.
"Yes, Your Grace?" the servant says upon arriving.
"Buy me more of these, and place them in the null-chamber." He hopes they will be rendered inactive there. The servant returns quickly, and brings some to Flark and Shandor.
Shandor, with Flarkís consent, traces the spell back to its origin. Its path is something heís never seen before, traveling in a way he doesnít understand, and heís unable to nail it down. Itís a manner of shadow completely alien to his understanding. Still, heís heard rumors of a "mirror realm", and that might apply here.
Shandor recalls, for one thing, Despil likes mirrors. For another thing, Merlin ordered all mirrors removed from the Royal Suite of Thelbane? He thinks of Shroudlings and Guisels. Merlin would know more of this than Shandor.
Shandor thinks about how much to share of this with Flark. He contemplates the connection between this and the assassinís residual traces. They seem to be a match. Instead of tracing the magic, he tries tracing through the mirror with the Logrus, using it as a transport. With a little more power, he thinks he can activate the conveyance.
"Have you heard of Mirror Realms, Shroudlings," Shandor asks. "This is a mirror, yes?"
"Merlin got rid of all the mirrors from the royal suite."
"This has some kind of conveyance to it. If I push hard enough, I can open it up. It seems to match that of the assassins' traces as well," Shandor adds.
"My contacts spoke of Despil and these things in the same voice. Letís take these into the null-chamber."
In the chamber, they know they cannot be activated here.
"Iím afraid Iíll be having a visitor soon, Lord Jendo. I have reason to believe he may have once been connected with these creatures, when he was allied with Despil. I believe Despil has hostile intent toward me, therefore I think the assassins are not Jendoís."
"So you want these set aside for now, I take it?"
"Let me speak to Jendo, then I might be up for an adventure, though I donít think I should leave Thelbane."
"Well, depending on how the door swings, we might bring stuff to us."
Flark notes, "Iím also on the Kingís agenda, perhaps we can give one to him, see what his toy makes of them?"
Flark writes an executive order banishing recordings of Seonaid from his entire household. He also orders the mirrors removed from his personal chambers. Shandor plans similar changes when he returns home.
In Merlinways, Merlin and Seonaid are getting to know each other better, talking over a light breakfast, having talked many hours the previous evening.
Seonaid muses aloud what to do with her day.
"Oh, I gave some thought before bed last night. I think it would be best for you to announce me."
"Do you want to be in the line of succession? That will make things a bit more difficult."
"We should make an announcement before the rumor-mill has a field day, succession or not."
Merlin thinks that since he will be in court today, and Seonaid is there, then perhaps it should be done today. But a problem, Julia being Seonaidís real mother is married to someone else. Seonaid states some problems, state her as heir and have problems, do not state her as heir and not have problems, or do nothing and have problems. However, if Seonaid is shown as Princess, sheíll be noble and under the Black Watch. He cannot make her a special case, then heíd have to do it with any one else.
"Iím willing to stay under the Black Watch. Or I could take off on my own, as Iíve shown I can, and you can give some pursuit. But I have no idea what my next move is. Iím willing to stay under the Black watch; I have nothing to do for now."
Merlin asked what she wants to do about her concert. She wasnít sure because of Luke. He said that he would be okay, heíd snap back easily. He asked her why sheíd do it, and she replied that sheís a performer, itís what she does. But he said, youíd be Princess; itís what you did.
"Well, I would have other options, Iím sure, but Iíd like to keep up. I have fans, obligations. Even Kashfa is an obligation, I need to see it through."
She admits, though, that if sheís announced and put under Black Watch, she would be all right with that. She would postpone the concert. Merlin says, letís go get you recognized.
Seonaid is given a dress by Merlin, a dark blue dress that suits her nicely. Seonaid also recognizes that heís using a spikard. She changes in her quarters, and then goes to wait for him. Once they met up, heís in royal attire. He hands her a tiara as well. She will wear it when she enters.
Meanwhile, in the suites for Jesby, Duke Flark, Baron Laan, and Baron Feng are leaving to go to Court. (Neither Jendo nor Merlin have replied to Flark's messages.) Shandor is still with them. Shandor is invited along with them to the Courts. They keep their eyes peeled.
Back to Seonaid and Merlin, she stops.
"Wait, if this is happening, I need to invite people. Audrey-Manette and Fendrith, and my family. I would like Julia, but sheís stuck at Corwinís Pattern."
Merlin agrees and shuffles out some cards, as does Seonaid does, but she pauses, he faces her.
Some where in Shadow, Fendrith gets a contact. Heís in a motel room, where he checked in for the night. He accepts it, no doubt. He realizes it is Merlin, and they greet each other. Merlin tells him Seonaid needs him, for a public announcement of such, and would like him there. Fendrith shifts to dragon-man form, and Merlin pulls him through.
At the Keep of the Four Worlds, Audrey-Manette is having dinner with Keliith. She receives a contact, pauses, and looks at Keliith. She tells Keliith she wants him in reserve, and accepts the call. Itís Seonaid.
Seonaid is grinning, and Audrey-Manette asks why. Seonaid says itís a surprise. Audrey-Manette motions about Keliith, who is also invited, and they are taken through. Once through, Audrey-Manette realizes she is undressed and changes hurriedly. She changes to a nice rose dress suited to match her lavender hair. Keliith shows up as little boy, dressed for Court. Audrey-Manette says sheís never been the Courts, and Keliith will show her around. He says heíll give her the latest gossip, and she makes a comment on how heíd be more interesting if he was like this when he was older. Shortly after, the rest of the Minobee family shows up, as well as Fendrith.
"Weíll be attending Court shortly... See you there." Seonaid says. Audrey-Manette seems to be tagging along with the Minobee family. Seonaid hugs Kalto and Anakara, whispering to her mother that she loves her. Anakara kisses her cheek, returning the sentiment.
(For once, weíre ALL in the same place! Wow!)
As soon as Seonaid finished with her family, they split up and Fendrith pulls Seonaid her aside, and asks if she had any luck finding Luke, and she says she did. He had been shot and is recovering nicely. Fendrith asks if we know who shot, and Seonaid says that it was Jurt. Fendrith returns a blank look. Doesnít mean much to Seonaid, either. She explains that Jurt is Juliaís husband, and Fendrith thought Merlin was Juliaís husband, but she sets him straight on the whole idea.
One last question from Fendrith, what is he to do? Bodyguard?
Seonaid replies, you are here as my friend. Fendrith decides dress appropriately and Seonaid moves on.
The groups move to their various positions in the Royal Throne room of Thelbane. The minor lords and ladies of Chaos are already assembled. Then, the petty nobility arrives.
Then come the more important nobles, the various masters and mistresses of the Guilds, the lords of the various Families (minor houses).
After these have assembled, the eight Dukes of Chaos and their retinues arrive, and then, finally, the King and his party arrives.
Flark arrives with Shandor as the one of the Dukes of Chaos, Shandor keeping Logrus down and his short sword. Audrey-Manette, Fendrith, and the Minobees were told to wait behind the scenes with the rest of the royal party.
When the Royal Party arrives, Seonaid is escorted in with Merlin, where a royal tiara. Clearly, Flark sees this, and smiles, as does Shandor who no longer has to deny anything. Kalto and Anakara, then the Twins, then little Keliith and Audrey-Manette followed by Fendrith. Shandor recognizes his cousin, and Flark is made aware of it.
Merlin announces the crusade against the Pattern of Brand, the Mad Prince of Amber, will start next Turning. The loyal forces are expected to be ready by then. Then he says he has one other important announcement to make. He makes a formal acknowledge that Seonaid is his daughter and henceforth shall enjoy the privileges and responsibilities as a Princess of Chaos.
The crowd responds in different ways.
Dara is not there, nor does she have anyone representing her. Suhuy just nods. Clarissa is not there. No Amberites attended.
Flark is not surprised. Despilís eyes look hard. Jendo was not surprised, but looks offended, like Despil. Dukes Amblerash and Barimen look surprised. Duke Chanicut looks possibly surprised. Duke Hendrake just nods; he doesnít really care. Duke Minobee is actually surprised; he looks as Keliith, and gets a momentarily upset expression.
Audrey-Manette hears Keliith mutter something about being retired after that.
The Court is dismissed to prepare for war.
(End Amyís log.)
Seonaid checks with Merlin, decides that she shall say she is not yet privy to any military questions if she is asked, then turns to her Family as Flark deals with Merlin.
Anakara makes it clear that Seonaid is still her daughter. She hugs Kalto again, and even Keliith.
Keliith says, into the hug, "We need to talk when you have a moment."
Seonaid whispers, "I saw Duke Minobeeís reaction, if youíre looking for a job."
"I have a feeling Iíll be freelance soon, if not already now."
Seonaid smiles, "I think I might be willing to pick up your contact, if it should become available."
Audrey-Manette quietly bubbles in her turn, "Now you really are the Princess of Pop!"
Seonaid bursts into good-natured laughter with her friend. She adds, "I will get out of here and return home, come by and visit me when you get the chance." Seonaid gets a little teary. "I canít leave, Iím under the Black Watch now, like the rest of the nobles. Come visit me!"
Keliith gets in a big hurry for a moment, insisting he leave. Borrowing Fendrith for a shield, he trumps out on one of his cards. A guard approaches, looking for Keliith, and Audrey-Manette feigns innocence.
Meanwhile, Flark and the other seven dukes all make a beeline for the royal dais, all arriving at about the same time. Everyone defers to each other, nobody wanting to be second yet no one quite ready to be first. While no one speaks, Fendrith taps Merlin on the shoulder.
"I donít think Iíve mentioned this, but Iíve battled Brandís ghost on occasion."
Merlin thinks, "We should discuss this in private, it should be very interesting. Meanwhile, I think I have some nobles who want some of my time." He turns to the crowd, which is backed by various minor nobles and hangers-on who wish to catch what they can of conversation.
Flark asks for a meeting in private with Merlin, then seeks to congratulate Seonaid. Merlin waves, granting him permission to ascend the dais and address her. She smiles, friendly and still herself. "Iíve seen so little of you, since the Black Watch, but it seems Iíll be seeing more of you now." She smiles.
Merlin whispers to Flark, "Meet me in the antechamber, Iíll speak to you after this is through."
As Flark moves to leave, Jendo asks for a moment of his time. "What is it you wanted to talk to me about," he whispers.
"Have you been watching the comings and goings of entities about your suites? Iíve noticed that some intruders have come as far as the antechamber of my own."
"Have you alerted them to your knowledge?"
"But they are the self immolating kind of guests."
"Ah, the kind that at one time made attacks upon your foster niece? Your royal foster niece?"
"Well, considering your proximity to those events, I thought they might be yours, and if not, that you might want to be aware of them."
"I claim no responsibility for them, and I thank you for this timely warning, and I hope that I may repay this favor in kind someday," Jendo says, bidding Flark good day.
Later on, Flark has been waiting for a fair amount of time, and Merlin arrives. He has changed clothing, in comfortable garb. "What is it you wanted to see me about, Flark?"
"There were several things, the list is shorter now. I was to ask you what I should prepare my forces to face when we begin this crusade? There are thoughts that are troubling me, and I may not be adept to evaluate threats properly. The strength of a power increases with your proximity, and this Brand creature is a product of this Pattern we seek. How many Brands will we be facing?"
"I think one at a time."
They discuss the metaphysics of fighting a Pattern war with Logrus, far from the Logrus itself.
"I expect military and mystical support from our cousins at the other end of the Universe."
"Will there be ground forces to face, or will the troops merely be a buffer to absorb magical attacks? May they just be an encumbrance? If my troops are decimated, it would have severe repercussions on my house. Iím concerned of our avenues for retreat should we be overwhelmed by the power of the Pattern."
"I have given this much thought. Strategies are being devised that we will use to achieve our victory. I share you concerns, and I assure you that this gambit is absolutely necessary, and worthy of the risk," Merlin says.
"I accept that. Oh, have you done any shopping for recordings of Seonaid lately. I think you might find them interesting?"
"In what manner?"
"There seems to be a profusion of high-magic artifacts being distributed under the guise of recordings of Seonaidís music."
"Iíll have my people look into this."
"And last, when will you be lifting the Black Watch?"
"Certainly not before the successful conclusion of this campaign. I regret the inconvenience this is causing you and the rest of the nobles of Chaos. I assure you this is for the best."
"I am not entirely comfortable remaining in such close proximity to... well, everyone you wouldnít want to remain in close proximity to. Have you walked the hallways with your magical sight?"
"Yes, Iíve seen traces of spies everywhere, I expected that."
"Well, particularly traces of assassins that sought to kill my niece and your daughter."
"I shall look into this."
"I donít want to remain in their vicinity."
"Then you should lead your troops into battle, youíll still be protected by the Black Watch, but wonít be within Thelbane."
"How much latitude will our troops have?"
"The high command will give out your general orders and objectives, and each house will have discretion over the specific and exact orders they give their forces."
Merlin excuses himself, and Flark departs.