Flark's (Non-Existent) Diary      21 December 2001

The Barimen's party continued.

Seonid entered, with Keliith and Audrey-Manette both in childs' forms, and dressed in black after the manner of Shadow Earth. I understood this not. Fendrith and a Hendrake bodyguard also entered.

I made my rounds, as such is an essential, if somewhat, tedious part of the great game. I arranged a breakfast meeting with Duke Jendo. I suggested Aksum, but he said that I had hosted last time, and we agreed to meet in the Helgram shadow of Melnibone. He saw Fendrith dancing with a young Barimen lady and made some unpleasant comment about Fendrith's impure blood. I assured him that Fendrith had always been a loyal companion.

Somewhat after that, they announced the arrival of Gilva, the Princess-Apparent, and Merlin, the Grand Duke of Thelbane. Even incognito he chooses to display a title above those of the other Dukes. I find I hate him.

Shortly thereafter that, for it was a night of many arrivals, Despil, the Duke of Sawall arrived. As the king chose to forego his royal title, he could not chide Despil for ignoring the Black Watch. Less amusing was his next action: he brought forward a mirror for Merlin to gaze within. I know not what it showed, but Gilva grew wroth, and withdrew the Hendrake guard from Seoniad's entourage.

Lord Lorgath then spoke somewhat to Despil, and the children annoyed him. I myself spoke to the Duke Sawall, and arranged yet another meeting. He in turn asked if I would be willing to join in a petition for a Court Assembly, so that Despil might be reinstated more swiftly. Such a call would have to be unanimous. He stated that it would be worded as a warning to the King that he could not act without consulting the Dukes. Since I felt I might well be calling on Despil soon, perhaps to seek an alliance if he offered better than Jendo, and since I am also wroth with the King's heavy hand, I agreed that I would sign the document if it were so phrased. I doubted he would get a unanimous voice anyway.

Still later that evening, I spoke to Shandor. My decision about whether to support Despil or Jendo (or neither) depended in large part on whether Shandor had decided to break with his cousin or hold fast to his allegiance. For it seemed to me then that Despil was the more likely to be successful, and if Shandor had made peace with his subservient role, Despil would be the wiser choice to back. I inquired about the matter between Lorgath and Despil, and learned that Lorgath had unwisely threatened Despil, but received only contempt in response. The mighty elephant, I suppose, troubles not over every small gnat that stings it. I made a lunch appointment with Shandor.

The following morning I journeyed to Melnibone with my bodyguards. Jendo's residence there is a rather tacky flying castle on a cloud above the Dragon Isle. On the battlements were staked the heads of dragons of every color but green. The appropriate stake for this color was empty.

He remarked that Merlin's use of the title of Grand Duke was ironic, and implied that in a possible Reign of his own, the Monarchy might be less elevated. We ate, and conversation turned to the possibility of Despil attempting to assume the Throne. We said nothing definite, of course, but I know Jendo wishes it too, and I hinted I might support him. He said that he might well act to prevent Despil from assuming it, if he tries again, and this might force the burden of the Crown upon himself. He also suggested that since Despil's return to grace was inevitable, perhaps it was better to assist it and gain than waste energy and oppose it. I agreed, in part because it would cover any of my overtures to Despil he might hear of.

I then mentioned my choice of heirs. He suggested Feng, citing the loyalty of Feng to Chaosian traditions. One of them, I remarked, however, was treachery. I mentioned my own hunt for a spouse and a natural heir, and he gave me much the same advice as my Uncle: marry outside of House Jesby to strengthen my claim on the Throne; or, inside House Jesby to strengthen my reign over the Dukedom. I mentioned a third possibility, a marriage to make firm an alliance between old friends. This seemed to intrigue him.

Perhaps to demonstrate that I would not be his creature, whatever happens, I mentioned his collection of heads, and told him that I would be displeased if he included Fendrith in his collection. He claimed friends of his friends were safe, and that he could hunt elsewhere, and for my part, I acknowledged Fendrith as a friend.

Well, now, if Jendo could manage to take the Throne, good luck to him if he could manage it; despite his disturbing views on the purity of Chaosian blood, I think he'd be a better monarch that Merlin. Still, the latter make me uncomfortable. I do not wish to see useful semi-Chaosians like Fendrith persecuted, nor do I wish for further war with Amber. The former would be a waste of useful material, the second futile.

I returned to my ways to wait upon Shandor. A contact came but I did not answer it. A message then came by courier saying he would be delayed. The time grew late and I felt a second contact. Still, I did not answer. I will no longer answer contacts and Trumps; they are dangerous. He then sent another message, asking me to come to his Ways.

I went there, and found Fendrith, Lorgath, Seoniad, and Shandor's creature also present. I did not offer any hugs, especially to Seoniad. Shandor told me that Despil had ordered him to kill Lady Rhiannon (Audrey-Manette's mother) and her unborn child, Audrey-Manette herself, and Keliith (my Heir).

This last angered me greatly. It seems Keliith had found and slain Jurt, and Despil was prepared to kill him for it.

Seoniad asked me to join them in disposing of Despil. She also offered to forget my (justified) actions against her. I suppose it cost her a great deal of pride, and I am glad she asked me nothing in return, but the quit-claim was a good offer. After feigning some hesitation, I agreed.

We then held counsel. I suggested that our best asset was Shandor's presence in Despil's confidence. This would not long last if he failed his assasinations, however. So I suggested feigning success and hiding the "victims" inside my null chamber where they would be undetectable. We discussed other alternatives. The Keep, Shandor's creature suggested was bugged. Plus, I doubted we could easily construct a null chamber there. We also contemplated Keliith's Tragolith palace and possible Pattern-universe, but we did not know enough about either to form conclusions. We also inconclusively discussed ways of creating duplicates of Shandor that might withstand a mental inspection.

In the intersterces of conversation I mentioned the matter of Jendo to Fendrith to put him on guard.

I am uncertain now how to proceed. Despil has closed all possibility of alliance now, by his attacks on my friends and relatives, the more so as I feel bound to support Shandor in a reasonable attempt to gain his Dukedom. I think I will still meet with him and proceed with the same politicking I had planned. It will defray suspicion, perhaps even garner useful information.

In the long term there is risk any any such elimination, however, and I have no wish to be executed for murder. Still, I think the King will overlook a great deal that inconveniences his half-brother, and as long as we are not caught overtly, he is unlikely to make much of an invesitigation. I am concerned about Seonid and Lorgath's impetuousness however. They may act rashly. I must make sure my own involvement is never provable.