A Bride for Merlin
Session XXIV, 8 December 2000
Shandor goes to visit his sister Alana. Madeline, the "maid" (the bodyguard), meets him. He discusses his sisterís studies briefly, as well as the frustrations of her confinement. She arrives, greeting Shandor with a great big hug and asking how soon they may leave. Since only one of the assassins, of the presumed many, was actually caught, the protective custody shows no sign of changing.
He has brought her white chocolate truffles, which she accepts gratefully.
Alana wishes Shandor would visit more often, and asks about his adventures. She also mentions that Duke Flark has returned to the Logrus. Her own studies are impeded by lack of access to the classroom.
Visiting Duke Jesbyís suite, he encounters Lady Felara. He finds that Flark sought to increase his understanding of the ways of the Logrus, and that Baron Laan, Lady Felara, and (Baron) Feng are overseeing things in Flark's absence. Felara asks how Shandor's friend Gracian is doing, and Shandor says that Gracian is more of an acquaintance.
She smiles, having trapped him into confirming some information that she was not known to have previously. She attempts to trick him into confirming Seonaidís (royal) heritage, but he doesnít bite. She takes a different tack, asking after Seonaid and Fendrith. She feels that they seem to be hiding these days, and mentions the canceled concerts.
They chit-chat for a while, Shandor playing his cards closer to his chest after this.
Shandor goes to track down Feng, but fails. He is told that Feng is "indisposed", and given the general run-around. Unwilling to revisit Fengís shadow without his acknowledgement, he instead goes to his lab to experiment with his reverse-engineered soul gem.
Fendrith, Audrey-Manette, Keliith, and Seonaid are at the Keep of the Four words. Fendrith is feeling much better after his bath in the Fount of Power (at the Keep of the Four Worlds) and the subsequent traversal of a Broken Pattern. He intends to report back to Julia during a visit to Corwinís village.
Seonaid stays with Audrey-Manette and Keliith. As Audrey-Manette practices her trump artistry, first on Keliith and later on Seonaid, the three munch on a variety of yummies.
They discuss the proper form of address for Rinaldo, settling on just that. They discuss concert details, dine, and socialize.
Fendrith knocks on the door at Corwinís estate, asking after Corwin, who arrives forthwith. They discuss Julia in passing, but go on to questions about Pattern Ghosts.
The Pattern in Amber can generate weaker pattern ghosts, and the Logrus seems to be able to do the same for its initiates. Since Corwin was the only one who had walked his Pattern, and the same for Brand and Brandís Pattern, and each inscribed the Pattern in question, the ghosts of Corwin and Brand seem to be correspondingly more real than other cases.
Turning to the matter of Brandís ghost, he broaches the subject of killing a ghost. Corwin claims that while one could be disrupted, it could always be re-created. In the case of Corwin and Brand, the time required would be less than, for example, one of Caine or Eric, from the Pattern of Amber.
And erasing the Pattern is confirmed as the only known way to eliminate a ghost permanently.
Killing a ghost to destroy a Pattern is not thought feasible.
Fendrith is escorted to Juliaís new apartment, set up by Corwin to give her more privacy. In the well-lit room, she is painting, a picture that looks something like Merlin. She covers it when people arrive, washes her hands, and greets Fendrith.
He informs her that the cure appears to have worked, 100%, and that he doesnít believe heís suffered any ill consequences. He asks for her verification, and she brings up something that resembles the Broken Pattern he walked, black with smoky tendrils. She confirms he is marked with the Broken Pattern now, a source of power at his disposal, to use or be ignored. She explains itís shadow walking ability, and explains the dangers inherent in using it for such. She also notes its use in magic and casting.
Julia asks after Seonaid, and that couple Audrey-Manette and Keliith. She gives Fendrith a bundle of cards to give to Keliith.
Seonaid is receiving a trump call. It is Luke. He invites Seonaid to dinner to discuss matters of her upcoming concert. She excuses herself from Audrey-Manetteís company with a quirk in her smile, and travels to Luke on his trump.
She arrives in a small, comfortable room of a castle. Bookshelves, a fire, comfortable chairs. There is a woman present already, and she is introduced as his wife, Coral.
The party is seated, and polite chit-chat leads into business. She turns down the offer of a series of concerts in favor of one. They discuss the concert, setting a date three weeks out, and covering the technical details.
They coordinate efforts. Eventually turning to security, and Seonaid making mention of the shadow assassins, and then to Brand. She is shown a trump lineup, and is asked a bit about Brand. She reveals an attack on her person, rattles off a list of important people who know about things, and continues with the pretense of including it as just another detail to security. Coral looks surprised and concerned, and when a pause is reached, Luke mentions talking to Merlin about the matter, and then asks if Random was there.
She says that he was there. He asks if his name came up and she says yes.
Fendrith calls Seonaid, after a moment resisting, Luke asks what has her attention, and then tells her to go ahead and take the call. He mentions returning to the Courts of Chaos, and asks how things are at the Keep.
"Iím not there." she replies. "Last I knew Audrey-Manette was working on trumps with Keliith." She arranges to call him back.
Ending the exchange with Luke, she trumps Merlin and leaves.
Seonaid brings Merlin up to date, ending in a hurried trump call to Luke, which he does not answer.
Somewhere in shadow, someone is standing atop a crystal blue hill, and is moving aside a boulder. As the boulder is moved aside, a voice cries out from the hole thus revealed, "It's about time!"
The one who had moved the boulder aside calls down, "Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?"
The other calls back, "I donít know, but somebodyís going to bleed for this!"
The first replies, "Get the hell out of here!"
As the person down below moves towards the egress, they each catch a glimpse of the other, and simultaneously exclaim, "Hey! Don't I know you?"
A gunshot is heard.
A body falls.
Shandor returns to the edge of Chaos, and seeks with a tendril for a place strong in magic, with intelligent beings with souls, and where necromancy is studied.
He arrives in a rather bland place, all in dull whites and light grays. He finds himself in a small town, with three-story high buildings. Seeking a crier, he finds none, nor a newspaper. Approaching a market square, he studies the people. He blends in, obtains some bland, tasteless food.
Renting a room, he searches locally for spell books, and drags them all to him, leaving the tracer spells intact. Some shadow-mages are going to have a rude awakening, but this is not his concern as he packages them for transport. He leaves evidence that the books were in this room, and then pushes them off into a place closer to Chaos, following along.
He discovers much that might help him within that shadow, and concludes that if he actually experimented with the technique there, he might learn much he could take with him to apply in Chaos.
He takes another day to rest, and then returns to the bland shadow. The entire town he returns to is now a smoking ruin. He notices movement to three compass points, and considers. One seems to approach, an ominous black cloud that portrays multiple faces screaming in terror and anger.
Raising the Logrus, he notices the simplicity of the cloud, and with deft skill, he could apply a little Primal Chaos, and dismantle the apparition.
He does so, after detecting a guiding force behind its actions. He seeks the guiding force, which seems to be deep underground.
Considering the other points of movement. One is a mob of hyperactive ghouls. The other is a cloud like the first, made of writhing body parts.
He takes a moment to contact the mind of the first guiding intent. He deflects the competent but meager defenses. Dropping this connection, he defers to dismantle the other two apparitions. He feeds both a little Primal Chaos and they are easily rendered moot.
Left with no controlling ties to the latter two phenomena, he returns his attention to the first. He has moved, but he continues to try to resist. Slapped down, his mind is now an open book to Shandor. He was still alive, of a sort, though left non-corporeal, occupying certain prepared vessels. Selecting the choice bits of knowledge, he learns things he can apply here. Choosing a vessel, he places the mageís soul in it, and destroys the other vessels.
He keeps this last vessel on his person. It turns out to be a ring, which he places in a pouch on his belt.
Seeking the signatures of the mages whose books he examined, he finds a trace of the fourth mage. This trace seems to be "stealthed", and he begins working a trace on it. This soul seems to dispersed over a large area, avoiding a single focus. He contemplates contacting the mage, and decides against it. Discovering that this mage is in the process of taking over the shadow, decides this is a very bad thing, and undertakes to stop him.
This mageís spirit is merged with various power points within the shadow. Of course, severing these would alert him quite quickly. Shandor begins anyway.
After several go, he detects a sense of menace. Assuming a demon form, Shandor prepares to defend his body. Using the Logrus he pushes out to create a buffer-zone, then continues to sever nodes.
A focus establishes a coalescence of this entityís presence. Still within this shadow, Shandor sends tendrils to begin encasing him, and continues severing. Within time, he brings this intelligence into his midst, still contained in his Logrus shroud.
A contact is made, and a conversation begins. This being claims the entire world, and all its power, for his own. Seeking to be the ultimate power of this universe, and to control it. Turns out heís consumed the other two necromancers and was searching for the third before Shandor so rudely interrupted.
An olive branch soundly rejected, Shandor continues questioning the bound consciousness. The book is discovered to have been a long forgotten artifact of this mageís material existence. Eventually a détente is reached, and the mage offers up a copy of his knowledge, in exchange for his existence and reconnection to this world.
This offer accepted, Shandor tosses the powerful mage the ring containing the soul of his erstwhile rival, and goes off to return to his studies.
Fendrith walks back to Chaos, trying to use the Broken Pattern. Having to travel some 30 or 40 miles before it kicks in, he finds a place where he can begin shifting shadow with his new tool. Crossing mountains and forests, he eventually returns to humanoid form and begins using his new power.
He finds bogs, under a dark sky. Bugs are present, and a fog settles about his travels. It is icky and nasty and smelly to humans, and is not easy traveling. Very unpleasant.
Eventually the fog clears to thunder and lightning. The severe storm begins to attack nearby trees as he squishes his way over the boggy ground.
As he moves, the bog passes into wasteland. Dry and gritty, he crosses a dust storm over a cold, rocky desert.
Passing a day of travel, the ground becomes sandy, the dust storm settles, and a shoreline appears with a small boat and paddle.
Fendrith considers that this sucks, and becomes quite tired of it. He departs by faster and more pleasant means.
Back at the Keep, Audrey-Manette has been sketching and chatting. She begins to wonder what is keeping Seonaid.
Striking conversation, she asks about the life of a spy.
He mentions lying in a field in the rain waiting. He mentions meeting interesting people with a wink. He says that, ever since Duke Flark acknowledged Keliith as his heir, Duke Minobee placed him on "inactive duty", perceiving this as a conflict of interest.
His opinion of Flark is that he is one of the five most dangerous people in Chaos. He enumerates Flark, Jendo, Mandor, Despil and Dara.
She asks if any of them might come after her.
Mandor might, just because of her play for Merlin. Dara for the same reason. Jendo probably not; he wants to kill Merlin and take over. And Flark, probably not, to him youíre a tool. Jasra would, if only to get the Keep back in her possession.
Audrey-Manette mentions that it is odd that Jasra hasnít shown back up yet.
Keliith dissembles on his knowledge of Jasra, saying it would be violating a dear friendís trust.
She asks about traveling, and he thinks it would be a fantastic idea if he were to invite her to leave and go dancing with him.
Audrey-Manette mentions she was rather thinking of going with Seonaid to her concert.
Keliith notes there that there will probably be dancing there too.
She ribs him for a bit about not dancing with her at an earlier opportunity, and he pleads he was "under cover."
Keliith charms her into a dance lesson. He imports musicians and begins teaching her the Tango on the spot. A little flustered with the attentions of this new face on an old friend, she learns quickly but lacks a certain comfort with her partner.
Seonaid looks quite upset as Merlin cannot contact Luke by Trump or Logrus. He sends Ghostwheel to search for Luke, and returns nothing. They try Coral. She says he must take care of some business, and that heíd be away for a while. Heíll be back in touch.
He gave no note of where he was going, but left shortly after Seonaid left.
She hopes she has done nothing irrevocable, commenting that she was looking forward to the concert.
Fendrith arrives in Minobee. Greeted by a servant he asks after Anakara or Kalto. Lord Kalto is in residence, and Fendrith is brought to him.
He talks about the Broken Pattern, leading to explanations of the nature of this construction. He relays what he knows, and seeks Kaltoís insight. Unfortunately Kalto has little experience in matters of the pattern. But he does suggest House Sawall, because of Duke Despilís study of the Pattern.
Fendrith mentions Shandor (a cousin to Duke Despil) in passing, and contemplates contacting him. Or Anakara, who is in her office. He mentions using it to travel, and considers that it is slow and impractical compared to his usual means, and may be of little relevance.
Fendrith takes his leave and decides to head to the Academy.
Seonaid returns to the Keep of the Four Worlds to find Audrey-Manette and Keliith dancing the tango. Approaching, she makes her presence known, and the two take a break.
Keliith swears in regard to the situation with Luke. He offers to try to locate him. Seonaid reluctantly agrees to go with Audrey-Manette and Keliith, and the group goes looking for Luke in Shadow.
Epilogue: Seonaid owes Fendrith a call-back, slipping this in on their journey.
Fendrith offers to help search for Luke, when appraised of the dealings. He hands a packet through to Seonaid, who gives it to Keliith. Keliith opens the packet, and distributes Trumps of himself to Audrey-Manette, Fendrith, and Seoanid.
Both parties go on their ways, to contact each other when he is located.