Trouble with Trump
We had enough minor delays that we agreed to wait until this evening for our little project. First, I Trumped Rinaldo to see how he was doing. I was a bit concerned about his transformation and that horrible experience, and I wanted to see that he was all right. Actually, I'd hoped to get DeWinter to contact him, but he was strangely unwilling. It wasn't until I got him outside, in the relative privacy of the orchard, that he admitted it was because Rinaldo might still be a woman. Now, I know DeWinter hates to see a woman cry, and he was uncomfortable with some possible outcomes of seeking her out to comfort or lend aid. I can't say I really understand it. I could approach most anyone, I think, if I could help, regardless if they are men or women.
It seemed a strange dichotomy for him, but he pointed out that I have my own prejudices. He remarked that I had a tendency to speak differently to men than women. I tend to soften my voice and seem calmer. His examples included Lord Hendon, who in my opinion is very excitable, and other members of the family. He just attributes it to my matriarchal upbringing. Frankly, I was a bit uncomfortable that I did these things. I had hoped I'd moved further beyond such stereotyping. I think DeWinter was both explaining that I need not understand his reasons so much as he would like me to accept that he had a reason. And that perhaps this is why I have so much difficulty with Evander, who doesn't act emotionally, he's more like a Mycenean woman than most women I meet these days. Oh, this is confusing! I will just try to limit how differently I treat people.
At any rate, I did get a hold of Rinaldo, who was back to his normal form and in the middle of a duel against two thugs. They weren't familiar, really. It took a few moments to see they had some odd spurs on the backs of their hands. A few more moments and I remembered those men that were after Random in Corwin's memoirs. If they were the same race, he wouldn't be able to lose them easily. He couldn't break away long enough for me to pull him through and not get skewered in the process. I suggested he run.
He did so and I concentrated on maintaining the Trump connection. The fellows he was fighting were quite fast, easily able to keep up with him. Lagging a bit behind, I could see an edge? There was a railing, and the ground just stopped. There was no telling how far down it went. I concentrated on swinging my perspective to be in front of him. When in place, he was almost at the railing. I yelled, Jump! He vaulted over the top bar and reached out for me. Unfortunately, he'd slowed down when jumping for the nearest pursuer to grab his legs. Rinaldo's grasp fell short as he twisted to be let free. The last I saw, he was swinging down and his head connected with the wall. Then the Trump snapped shut. I tried for a long while to reestablish contact, but he was apparently unconscious.
Eventually I gave up and tried Dalt. He must have been having his own difficulties, because he was more than a little battered and bruised. Then I noticed the bodies around him. What, were they having Shadow-wide wrestling matches today? Or was this some strange Amber Hunt that many, many people participated in? He wanted DeWinter to come through. I suggest he come through to me and he agreed. I was reaching forward when I saw the door behind him open and some men barge through. I called a warning. Dalt's head whipped to see and the connection was lost. Damn! This was becoming an unfortunate habit.
Since things all around were beginning to pick up speed, DeWinter went to the Castle to see Martin, in the hopes Random told him something of those men that were chasing Rinaldo. I stayed behind in the hopes of reaching either Rinaldo or Dalt. It wouldn't do to bring Dalt through to the Castle no, not prudent. I hadn't gotten either of them in the half-hour when DeWinter Trumped back. I was curious why it took so long to get back to me. He explained that he had to pass through the test at the gate. Oh. I'd forgotten to tell him. He thanked me for that, both annoyed and very mildly amused. The told him they were testing for Chaosian imposters and he ended up throwing three into the moat, before they determined he was really him. That earned him a place in the dungeon. He was currently about to talk with Martin about it and should be back in about three days.
He said he'd get back when he could. Claw came in and asked if I wouldn't like a rare steak. That was an odd question. She shrugged and said since we were planning to have children, it might be desired. When I declined, she said I should have left DeWinter in the castle. That way, he'd be in the dungeon for attacking the guards and I would have to rescue him. I was completely at a loss at this point. It seems that Claw has figured out that if I do something dangerous, we could have another child. She doesn't miss much. But no, I had no desire to explain to the Captain of the guard why I was fighting his men. I wonder if he would believe it, and I couldn't think of any other excuse.
Evander and a Trump Attack
I've still lost contact with Rinaldo and Dalt, the same with DoBlique and Gerard. At this rate, we'll lose the entire family by Yule. I'm keeping busy. It's about time for DeWinter's and my anniversary, so I've set in motion a little surprise. I'm having a small gazebo placed up on Kolvir, overlooking the ocean. I private dinner in town and a private night under the stars should be as nice a celebration as I could get. We usually try to have the evening and night alone together. Claw suggested I set the gazebo on fire. Lady, she'll give DeWinter a heart attack before long! No, we are not doing this. Once it's ready, I'll send a few of the weir up with a portable victrola and some wine, some bedding, the usual. I think I'll have Roskovich and Max act as scouts. That might help DeWinter relax, if he knows theirs a perimeter guard. For a gift, I've put together a number of drawings in full color. Most of them are of him with all of the weir, over time, and some of the Family, and others we've met along the way. I went into town and bought a nice leather portfolio for him to put them in.
This evening, Evander and I secluded ourselves to get the hypnosis to work. After three hours, the man was just not relaxed enough for it to work. I bit of conversation got him to reveal that he didn't think it was wise, for his place of authority in relation to me, for me to see his thoughts. I'm beginning to wonder just how innocent he thinks I am. And, just what authority he has with me. So, we slid into another one of our arguments. He maintains he has the authority inherent in the fact that he is my father. I maintained that he had no authority whatsoever, by virtue of being absent for the first 25 years of my life. That threw him. It didn't go very well. But, somewhere along the way, I realize he was afraid of what I might see. I explained that I would only see what I was looking for. Really? Yes. He agreed to try entering his mind. I got DeWinter to come back from the castle. It was a good excuse, really. He was the spotter in case something went wrong. Martin went along with it, either because he'd punished DeWinter enough, or DeWinter was driving him crazy.
The wards came down slowly. They are very different from mine, not geometric built looked like two hemispheres spinning. When closed, they were locked in place by the multitude of teeth set in at the edges. The opening yawed and I was a bit unnerved. If he froze, or got alarmed, those teeth would come crashing down, eviscerating my mind. Happy thought. When they were as open as they would go, I went in.
It was an odd sensation. I had him go through what he remembered. It was as if I was seeing the film, but from the perspective of his own body, with his perceptions. He sees things much differently, focusing on others details than I might. Still, he is a very good tracker. I told him I was in and where I was. He was a bit surprised that he couldn't feel a thing. Good. That reinforces the idea that he could be unaware of being compromised.
He was in Arden, moving through the trees tracking the nine-killers. He came to a twisted archway, something that did not look natural in Arden. He pulled away some of the vines and saw a blazing on some of the trees. Some sort of signaling device not used by the rangers.
He passed through the vines and everything went hallucinogenic. He even blacked out at one point. When he came to, colors washed over everything and then he was on a bus with other people. No one was familiar. I heard him ask what the next stop was. Grant and Broad Street was the answer.
He got off and wandered for hours, lost and confused. His pockets revealed him to be Evan D. Sanders. He wandered some more and was drawn to a building. A security guard called out, Morning, Mr. Sanders.
He took an elevator, knowing what floor he wanted to go to. He met more people, his secretary, for one thing. By the end of the day, he knew he was a leader in the field of high finance. I could see him coming increasingly more comfortable in his role. At dusk, he went back to the bus, to his penthouse apartment. It all fit with his personality, except for the transportation. I never really considered Father to be the Public Transportation type. All those masses
I followed this for another 6 days. Much of the same. I still haven't seen any sign of DoBlique or Gerard. There was an odd feeling. I was a bit uncomfortable, but realized I was getting a Trump call. I ignored it. Vaguely, I could feel Aegis constricting on my arm. Something was wrong.
I began to rapidly back out. This was not the place, nor the time. The Call became more insistent, like I was bathing in a cold shower. Now Aegis was almost severing my arm off. I couldn't tell him I had gotten the message. I couldn't move very fast, without risking damage to Evander. So I moved as fast as I could while holding off the Trump contact as best I could. I was almost out, in Arden, when I saw the black strands coming up from the forest floor. Was this the trap? I could hear Evander tell someone that something was wrong, that I was not answering him.
It was safe enough for a rapid eviction. I pulled all the way out. Now the contact was established. Damn. A few minutes more and I might have kept it closed, now that I didn't have to worry about Evander. It was Twi Gameshan, holding my card. Now we fought in earnest. I was fortunate, what skill or strength I didn't have was off-set by the fact that part of her concentrate was devoted to manipulating the Logrus strands.
I kept up a defensive front. If no one thought to act quickly enough, I'd lose. I quickly switched from defense into an offensive spike. She wasn't expecting it and the shock slammed into her. I kept doing that. Keeping about three-fourths of my attention to defense and letting the rest build up for a spike. She wasn't getting through, and I know I could last for a bit. The question was, how long? Then the world went dark.
I woke later, on the floor, with DeWinter and Evander looking over me, worriedly. They determined to set up a watch for the rest of the night.
I Trumped Fiona. Owen was occupied, at least not answering her Trump. Fiona didn't seem all that unwilling to make sure I wasn't compromised. I had to ask her; otherwise neither DeWinter nor Evander would trust anything I said. And Evander would not let me in his mind again. She cleared me and I asked a few questions about Logrus attacks through Trump. You cannot stop it. By being in Evander's mind, I had already opened myself up for an attack. Nor could I close it while I was inside. The tentacles were black, indicating a physical attack. If it had been a mental one, they would have been red. Like my experience with holding the Pattern Shield, the Logrus can focus the mind. Good. That means that if I didn't have myself open already to Evander, and she didn't have the Logrus up, she probably wouldn't win the next time. A good thing to know, though I won't count out any tricks.
Assembling a Rescue
It took some talking around, but Evander decided to let me try again. I went in and figured out a way for him to access him memories. The gaps, the blackouts were the key. They caused him to leap for any connection, whether it was in sequence or not. That's why his memories were so jumbled and disoriented. So, I used my memories of moving through his mind. In a way, I copied them and placed them as bridges. Once done, I pulled out. He looked a bit surprised and pleased, as he realized it all made much more sense. I thought it best Martin got his support right from him. He agreed and made ready to head to the castle.
Just as he was ready to mount, I tried to get a last word in. I told him that perhaps he shouldn't confuse authority with influence. That made him pause and he got down off the horse. Did I say I would have the last word? Ha! No, we are much too alike in that aspect. So, we had another one of our discussions, though this time it went better. I just hated him to think he's lost what place in my life he thought he occupied. I wanted him to know he did have a place, and influence on me. It just wasn't Authority. I would not take orders, nor blindly follow them, just because he gave them to me. Surely he knew that my now. Not even Mother has that. I think he understood what I was trying to say.
Inside the house, I tried to reach Rinaldo again, with no results. So, I went and found DeWinter. I thought I'd try and see how he'd react to breaking some rules. Needless to say, he not only was not keen on the idea, but also was contemplating whether or not my mind had been taken over. Now I know I usually follow the rules, especially since the Regent said to stay in Amber and not be seen. But I really wanted to retrieve Bitra. She, and her welfare, was my responsibility. So, we'd try the direct approach and ask Martin for our leave.
We Trumped to the castle and passed the guard's test for entering. This time we were given several pieces of papers with some designs drawn on them. We had to pick whichever one was the Pattern. None were, and we passed. I do wonder if Martin will ever stop the guard's testing for Chaosian spies. And if he does, whether he'd tell us. I believe the guards are enjoying themselves. After all, normally their routines are rather dull.
I'd brought Kai-Revere with us and he decided he wanted to walk. So it took quite some time before he made his way to the Regent's office. To our surprise, Random was back and looking just fine. Apparently he's been back for a while but it was only going to be officially announced today.
We talked as he played with Kai-Revere. We filled him in on Gameshan and her plans. Martin had filled him in on most of the details, and we filled in some that he forgot. The political situation could be getting rather ugly. Most of the Golden Circle has heard her rumor that Random is dead. She's apparently introduced more than just the nine-killers into the area. Strange beasts have been brought in and some have asked Amber to defend them and eradicate the things. As a result, trade has slowed amongst the Golden Circle. He did give us permission to try and retrieve Bitra, whom he hadn't known about. In fact, I dare say he was impressed that the Embassy had let her out to help us. One more piece of information, someone looking remarkably like Dalt had cleared out the Treasury in Kashfa. Random asked if we could ask Dalt if he'd done the deed.
We left, expressing how happy we were to have him back. Martin had done a fine job in his absence, but I think Martin was equally happy to have the responsibilities put away for a time. Now he can grow into the role more gradually, now that he has a greater idea of how to prepare for the day when it might be a permanent promotion.
I tried once more to Trump DoBlique and Rinaldo. Nothing. But I did get Dalt.
He was on horseback and arrows were flying by him. He shouted that he needed an army and then was hit in the shoulder. The Trump connection failed and I couldn't resume it.
DeWinter and I planned who might be able to help us find Bitra. What we needed was a mage. Owen didn't answer her Trump. Odd. Stargazer not only answered, but also was willing to help. He was on a ship that was going through the Golden Circle. We arranged to Trump through in an hour. We went to Tiryns and packed a few things. Kai-Revere was singularly unhappy with our leaving and expressed his objects most vocally. It took quite a long time to say goodbye.
DeWinter, Claw and Cutwind and myself Trumped through to Stargazer. We found ourselves on a huge ship, larger than anything I've seen before, even in Mycenea. I was impressed when he said it was his own design. Stargazer said we were about 3 weeks out from Amber and Caladan. We were situated in the captain's quarters surrounded by rich tapestries, warm woods and chandeliers.
Another Shadow Trap
I had a Dream last night. It was of a long ago day when I had met some other children my age flying kites on the coast. It was an exclusive area owned by some of the Older Families in Mycenea. I had asked my Mother if I could learn to fly a kite. She didn't know anything about it but surprised me by hiring someone to do so. Days passed and DeWinter shows up, though he doesn't know who I am in the dream. He gives me lessons for a day or so and my dream-self realizes that I am going to grow up and marry this man. Then I realize I'm dreaming and woke.
It was odd. I got up to find DeWinter had already gotten up and left. Usually when one of us wakes, the other rises within a minute. But he'd risen and dressed without my even being aware of it. I dressed and went up to the deck. I couldn't find DeWinter, Claw or Cutwind, nor my Trumps or Stargazer. When I asked the captain if he'd seen my husband, he gave me a most peculiar look.
I returned to the cabin, wondering if somehow we'd shifted into separate Shadows. I was going to draw a quick Trump sketch of DeWinter but had trouble remembering him precisely. Becoming alarmed, I tried to call up the image of the Pattern and couldn't do it. Then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was twelve years old.
Then I realized I couldn't remember my name.
I screamed again.
The door burst open and two men with pistols rushed in. everything grew fuzzy. I told them some spell had been done, I couldn't remember who I was and why I was here. One of the men patiently explained that I was Princess Cassio and I was on holiday. I was taking a goodwill tour of the countries along the coast and Mother was back in Mycenokos. The next port was in Cosmopolita. The official packages and portfolios amongst my things reinforced everything he said. It was all written in a strange language, but I could read them.
Everything he said struck a chord. It was all true. I calmed down and said I had seen something in the mirror. Perhaps the spell went off when I looked into it? They removed it for examination.
Still not entirely sure of myself, I spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around the ship and being a bit of a snoop. There were some boys flying a kite on deck and I made friends with them. They taught me how to fly the kite and I taught them some of the areas they could sneak into. We especially liked sneaking into the engine and radio room.
While I did not remember who I was, quite a bit of time passed before I was back to being Cassandra. I'm going to try and recall just what change of events occurred.
We arrived in Cosmopolita. We docked to the music of a full orchestra. Before I was separated from my friends, I made sure their parents knew I would love for them to visit me at the Embassy. It would be nice to not be a Princess for a short time. I expect, given Mother's itinerary, that I would be very busy playing the diplomat and attending all sorts of functions.
We were taken by limousine to the Embassy and situated in the Royal Suite. I had about three days before any official functions would demand my presence. The first one was a symphonic bash, purely entertainment.
In the meantime, I decided to go shopping.
The local fashion here is horrible. Girls my age all wear flouncy crinoline skirts with white socks and patent leather shoes. I tried some on and thought I looked ridiculous. I may not remember anything, still, but I'm sure we don't wear this sort of thing in Mycenokos.
While changing, I did notice my armband. I felt odd for a moment, but quickly felt fine. I took it off to look at it more closely. On the inside were two inscribed lines. I am created as the shatterer of worlds. There is no fear. I spoke the second set of words, reading aloud.
Inside the little dressing room I heard storm clouds and lightning. Or rather, the thunder. There were exclamations from either side of me. Outside, the sky was blue and clear. I asked my bodyguards, Cutter and Biter where the lightning came from. They came me the Look (apparently this was a silly question) and said it came from me. I didn't ask anything more.
I wandered around for a bit, learning a bit of the city. In my new garb, I blended in with everyone else and it was nice to be nobody. I returned to the Embassy and had dinner. There was any number of celebrities present and I did my best to act grown up. I must have succeeded because the Ambassador to the Embassy said he was impressed with my behavior.
I went to bed early but was pretty restless. Around midnight I decided to sneak out. I slipped down the corridor, in the opposite direction of Cutter and Biter's rooms. If I went past their doors, I'm sure they would hear me. At the stairs, there was a guard and no cover to sneak past. I went down another corridor and found the servant's stairs, which led to the kitchen. There were any numbers of people about, so I still couldn't get past. But I was on the first floor and spent the night wandering through the various rooms. I got to bed around 3 am.
My little jaunt last night meant I was exhausted all day. It was hard to sit quietly during the morning photo shoot without falling asleep. But, I had the afternoon free, so I went back to wandering the city. I spotted a small arcade and went to see what was inside. I even got Cutter and Biter some outfits so their presence didn't scream Bodyguards as loudly. They seemed resigned to going along with this, though they weren't happy about it.
I had the most fun playing with the air pistols. The gun was attached to a cable and I had to shoot the targets as they popped up. It took about half an hour before anyone would let me play. The operator kept reminding me that it was a dangerous game (right, sure) and repeatedly demonstrated the instructions. Eventually, he decided that the little girl could get one shot.
Finally, I got to take the gun and try it. I missed. The front end was heavier than it should be and caused the gun to waver. I tried a snap shot, not letting the weight of the gun have time to throw off my aim. It worked and I got the target. Reluctantly, I think, the operator filled up the gun. I spent the next hour shooting at targets, getting most of them, sometimes all of them. In the end, I won a large white bear and a small crowd of kids. I showed some of them how to do it before I left. The bear was pretty, but I knew I wasn't as good as I should be.
In fact, I knew I should be faster and stronger. I expected it. Something's definitely off.
I went to bed early, just after dinner. I had no problem convincing anyone that I was really not feeling well. My plan was to sleep in early and get up extra early for any sneaking around.
I'm a Hero!
I got up around 3 am and snuck down to the first floor and went out one of the windows. This time, I dressed like some the boys in this city. Shorts (I cut up a pair of trousers) and shirt with a bow tie and jacket. A cap held my hair and I looked close enough to be a boy, in the dark, that I shouldn't get any odd attention.
I wandered around and saw some pretty strange things. I saw a person, capped, flying over the buildings. I called up to her, or him, but my voice probably didn't carry far enough. I ran after it, but lost sight quickly.
I did see some spotlights and followed them to a nightclub called the Grotto. A center lane was cleared to the doors, complete with a red carpet. I was small enough to squeeze up to the barricades along either side. People pulled up and got out of their limousines to walk into the club. Flashes of pictures being taken erupted every time a car door opened. It was kind of nice being on the other side of things for a change. One man got out, looking very familiar to me, with a woman on either arm. A woman next to me fainted at the sight. Who is this guy?
When he passed nearby, I was feeling a bit bold. I said he should stop what he was doing. When he turned to me, I laughed and pointed to the woman. I said he should be more careful. Someone might get hurt. He looked down at the woman and helped her up. She had woken, but passed out again. I continued to make cracks at him and he returned them right back. He seemed to enjoy having the exchange, though his companions were bored with it. They did give me a once-over, but dismissed me as just a kid. That's right, no one important here; just a little girl. I was having fun. I put on an awed expression and asked for his autograph. He gave it to me, smiling. He wrote: Dr. Brilliant. Sheesh! What a name!
By now the throng was closing in on him and I slipped away. I caused a diversion by knocking over a newspaper stand at the curb. He took the cue, while everyone was looking away, to go into the club.
I wandered around, to the back. It was deserted except for a truck at the rear entrance. I first thought it was band equipment or something being unloaded. Except that deliveries didn't usually happen by armored trucks. It was peculiar. I stepped into the shadows to watch. Some men got out, all wearing green coveralls and stockings over their heads. Uh oh. Definitely, not right. Six go inside.
I wondered what they were going to do. Simple robbery? With all those celebrities inside, kidnapping could be the issue. I looked at the truck. Either way, without the truck, they were in trouble. I could hear shots being fired in the club. That made me nervous, but I'd heard that type of sound before. I just wished I knew from where. I probably shouldn't get involved because it was so dangerous. Mother would kill me. But it was also rather thrilling.
Then I thought of the armband. If I could call the lightning, that metal truck would be a wonderful conductor. I said the words and the lightning came. But I was the one that got hit. It was weird, but I wasn't hurt. My clothes had changed, though. I was wearing this little black dress, really short, like a skater's. I had black gloves and black boots.
The driver stepped out at the noise. From inside the club, I could hear screams and one woman yelling, Don't touch my daughter! The driver turned back to get inside. I grabbed the lid of a garbage can and threw it like a Frisbee at his head. He went down. I left the shadows and grabbed his gun, shooting out the tires. Voices got louder. They were returning to the car, so I went back to my hiding spot. They came out. They had guns, with little hoses attached to their belts. They were half carrying two women. They told her to get inside and pushed her into the back. I shot their gun arms. This gun was nice; there was no recoil at all.
Now they noticed the driver on the ground and scrambled to get away. They hadn't noticed the tires. They loaded the girls quickly and took off. My gun was empty and I ran after them. I thought I could see where they were heading. To my surprise, I ran right up to the back of the truck, having no difficulty keeping up with it. I grabbed for the handle, to hang on as I stood on the runner. What I did was yank the door without even trying. Yes, I definitely was stronger.
One of the Bad Guys inside yelled, Oh no! It's Merry Marvel! Who? I yelled at him to drop their guns and to my amazement, they do. A light was shining behind me. Dr. Brilliant was there, but now he was shining really brightly. He had some sort of staff, with a scarab on top. A beam hits some of the men, and they now had manacles on their wrists and ankles. I grabbed the girls and jumped.
The truck still sped away, to be met by police cars. I gave the women to Brilliant and went the other way from the sirens. It would not be good to be caught.
I got back to the Embassy. Saying the words did not change me back. I snuck in and began to undress. As soon as I removed one of the gloves, I was back in my old clothes. Well, that answers that. It was almost dawn, so I got ready for the day. In fact, I was filled with energy. For some strange reason, I remembered the man in my dreams, the one that taught me how to fly a kite. Why would I remember that?
That afternoon, I went into the Embassy's newspaper archive. In three hours, I was able to find references to odd people, like me. There was Dazzler, who stopped some museum robbers. Black Marvel still reported as missing. He was a very handsome man and I felt like I should know him. We had almost the same name Dr. Brilliant was particularly notable. For one thing, he's always shining. I guess I didn't notice it with all the lights at the entrance. For another, he doesn't bother with a secret identity. He's an archeologist that had found the Staff of Ra. But he is known for being a hero, a Good Guy.
I sent Dr. Brilliant an invitation to the orchestral ball. I included a personal letter with it. 'Sorry your evening had been ruined. But you'll be assured of some privacy. And if it doesn't happen, I'll just create another diversion.
I went to the orchestra. Lots of pictures and shaking people's hands. Routine diplomatic stuff. During the intermission, I did get to speak with Brilliant. He asked if we knew each other. I said yes. There wasn't time to talk, so I arranged for him to come to dinner tomorrow night.
My bodyguards were not happy with this. Brilliant, because he had no secret identity, tended to attract a lot of negative attention. I didn't think I could hide my memory loss for much longer, so I filled them in that I still didn't know who I was. They said that Black Marvel was my father. They were concerned with the situation. I think they wanted to go home right away. Instead, I called Mother. I got her to agree to let me stay and not send any more of the family. If my father is missing, and I have no memory, this might be part of a plot. If anyone else came, they could be infected. We spoke Thari. She said only those with the power of the gods knows how to speak it. She did want to fire Cutter, because I was sneaking out and he didn't catch it. I told her, well I don't tell her anything. I requested that that might not be a good idea. After all, he is one of the few people here that knows who I am and what I can do. I needed the allies. The discussion was put on hold for the time being.
I did warn the Embassy of Brilliant's impending visit, so they could set up additional security.
Brilliant arrived for dinner. Everything went smoothly. I elected to have a cozy dinner in the suite, rather than in the formal dining room. I found out that he couldn't turn off his glow, so it was a well-lit cozy dinner. I explained my problem. He used his staff to shine his light on me. I felt it go right through me. He saw nothing, but it could be because I was not in my Marvel identity. I went out to the balcony and changed. He tried again and assured me there were no spells at work around me. But, he could tell that I was not using all of my memories. Part of my mind was being blocked. In fact, I should have more than three times the memories I have access to. In fact, I should be a lot older than I was. That was a disturbing thought. He tried to find out more, but a bolt of lightning came from my armband and rendered him unconscious. When he woke, he explained that he was testing how resistant I am to spells. Apparently, I am very resistant.
This answered some questions but raised more. If this is my first visit here and I've not appeared as Merry Marvel to anyone outside Mycenokos, then how does people know who I am? So that even petty thugs knew who I was? They knew enough to just surrender. Brilliant was a bit disoriented by the lightning, but was now very curious. The problem intrigued him. He wants to try and use the light of the staff to show him what my memories were of. He'd come back tomorrow. We all agreed. We needed the answers.
This morning I learned that Dr. Brilliant's penthouse had been leveled. No survivors had been found, none were expected. It'd been a twelve-story building! The top two floors were gone. In one of the newspaper pictures, in the lower corner, there was an armored truck. So, someone decided they didn't like our interference. There wasn't much I could do right now, but I wrote a note to the police, linking the two incidents. They did have those would-be kidnappers.
The governor, this morning, announced that they were close to cracking the case on Dr. Brilliant's murderers. They believe it was the work of the Emerald Doom, who is some sort of villain that wears green armor and a black-hooded cloak. He's said to be Evil, with the capital E. His ideology is that manifested people, such as he, are the next stage of development. Therefore they are meant to rule all others. His manifested power is that he can redirect any powers used against him and is highly intelligent.
I was very distressed by the death of Dr. Brilliant. I can only hope he had gotten out and is hiding, but I doubted I would ever know. What I did need was some contact with other manifested people. I required information and help, if for no other reason, than to stop this Emerald Doom and to know whom the other players in this game was.
This night I went back into the city. I managed to attract the attention of the flying man. He landed and I was struck speechless. He was the epitome of Tall, Dark and Handsome. He was also courteous and dashing. As soon as I saw him I knew that I've known him, but the feeling wasn't as strong as it was for Dr. Brilliant.
To my surprise, he not only greeted me, he picked me up and swung me around. This did not please me. And then he called me his granddaughter. What? Was I supposed to know him? I quickly explained my memory problem, hoping that would cover any gaff I've made. He introduced himself as King Marvel.
I spoke with him, or rather, he spoke to me. He's rather taken up with his station and reputation, which he tells me is father formidable. Well, perhaps he didn't say so in so many words, but he came awful close. The truth is-- he's rather pompous and overbearing. To make matters worse, he kept ruffling my hair as if I was a child. Well, I was a child, sort of, but I didn't act like one. I suppose I was used to not being treated like one. I'm not sure what his abilities are, but he did mention something called the Marvel Vision. Where do these people get those names? But, before he flew away, he promised he would look into finding me someone to help with my memory.
I went back to the Embassy and called my Mother. It took a while for the exchange to go through, but she did confirm that he was my grandfather. And that we had similar adjectives. She called him bombastic, though he was supposed to be very, very different in his secret identity. I wonder if I could pick him out of a crowd. He is the oldest, most prestigious hero. She wasn't as awed as she could have been when my father introduced her to him. Since then, they never really spoke or met. I don't think Mother was all that upset by this, but I think she might have been a little disappointed that Father never stood up to him. They argued about where I should be raised. King Marvel gave up and decided to have nothing to do with that side of the family. So I lived with Mother, of which I am thankful.
I did see if I might have this vision King was talking about. I sat and stared at one of my bodyguards. After a bit, I felt a peculiar vibration. I thought it might be some sort of weapon, but the context that King used suggested it wasn't. Then the lighting seemed to become sharper and I could see all his bones. And weapons. I had x-ray vision. That was fun, even though it took a while to start up. It didn't work on objects. I tried it on the mirror and the vibrations increase. Then I could see into myself, though for what purpose, I couldn't tell you.
When I revealed to Cutter and Biter that I was related to King Marvel, they were awed enough for both of themselves and me. That's all right, I suppose, less work for me. I hope they grow out of this soon.
Professor Mental and the Empress Chaotica
I met King Marvel. He had some good news. He'd found someone to help me. My, that was fast. Though, if he is the oldest manifested person, he probably has met them all. He called our ally Professor Mental. Really, these names he did warn me that the professor has some issues that I should be taken note of. First, she's slightly insane. I bit my tongue. Awed, I had to remember to be awed. Or, maybe just respectful. Yes, I think I could do that. He said she sees reality just a bit differently than anyone else, so she might act oddly as a result. Hmm.
Then he picked me up and off we went. Time is of the essence? I didn't need my stomach anyway. Perhaps my manifested power will grow another one. We went very high up and it felt very, very wrong. The longer he was in the air, the faster he went, but I never got cold, or the slightest windburn. Even the clouds became a blur.
He landed us neatly on a small island in the Pacific. I wondered if he created some sort of bubble to protect himself and his baggage. I was just tucked under his arm like a great big purse.
We walked up to a little palace made of diamonds and gold. It was what it looked like to me. We passed through a garden with lots of life-sized statues of athletic men. Their pain-filled expressions made me very nervous.
There was no staff but King Marvel seemed to know the way, at least he showed no hesitation about entering. In a small grotto, we met a very beautiful woman with long white hair that trailed along the ground. She greeted us and told King Marvel to go away. He wasn't willing to leave me there, which reinforced my trepidation. They locked stares, he to demand that he stay and her to insist he leave. After a few minutes, he got a glassy stare and wandered away. She bade me to come closer and I did. Slowly. She smelled like a flower shop.
We had tea with her stuffed animals. I looked at them, amazed that a grown woman would play such games until one of the bears talked. I could hear him ask for help. I tried not to whimper. I guess the statues in the garden weren't much fun and she'd graduated to stuffed animals. Gulp.
I was very tense and she asked if I was angry? No. She was delighted when she realized that I was afraid of her. Bully for her. She ran her fingernails over my scalp and I wondered how far I could run before she got me. She said, yes, there were many memories here. She called me a naughty girl? Huh? What did she see? She showed me.
I saw myself in a circus, dancing a wild sort of dance. Wow. I never thought I'd do that. And there was a man, fighting along side me, with enemies all around. He was the man from my dream and I was most definitely sleeping with him. I'm pretty sure I should remember that. Then I see another man, slight of figure and naked, hitting people with a sword. There was blood all around. I got a sense of who I was, much older, perhaps three or four times as old as I am now. How could this be? Am I going to be stuck like this until I was fifty? No, I was a fully-grown woman. There was yet a third man, very fit and naked, fighting hordes of armored soldiers. He was familiar, but not like the first one. Wherever these men come from, they sure don't think they need clothes to fight. The visions of dancing came back. I was wearing many veils and cymbals on my fingers. I was dancing for that first man. Then I got visions of him while we were intimate. Oh, this is frustrating. As far as I know, I don't know how to do any of that. The last I saw was myself running through a forest and a horn came from the center of my forehead.
Then I was back at the tea party. I wondered why she stopped when I saw a woman standing in the door and Professor Mental was not looking too please at seeing her there. In fact, she was hissing at her. This new woman was waif-ish and slender. Not really scary-looking. She was blond with large blue eyes and a nasty smile on her face. I backed away and grabbed the bear. If he was alive, he could get hurt since he couldn't walk away. The visitor was floating about 6 above the floor.
The professor said she was not welcome here. The woman replied that she came to see how she was getting along. Then she looked at me. I backed away further. With a cruel smile, she backed out and left. After a moment I followed. What if she found King Marvel? If he hadn't come to his senses, she could hurt him. I didn't trust any of them and was thinking this would be a good time for us to leave.
I found him and the woman. She was doing something to him and it looked painful. I tackled her. I caught her by surprise so she went down. Black spiral tentacles came out and tried to grab me. I hit her several times in rapid succession. When my arms were caught I began to kick her. Eventually, she went unconscious and the tentacles went limp. King Marvel woke up and the woman just faded away.
We checked to make sure that the Professor was all right. I was told that was Empress Chaotica, a very unpleasant woman. She is said to live in the Paths of Darkness, a different world from ours. The professor was very distraught and asked us to leave. I made some attempt to see if she might left me take the bear, but it was clear she wouldn't allow that. It would be rude to break her hospitality with kidnapping the doll, but I felt very badly that I had to leave him there. King Marvel made to reassure her. There is no need to fear. I was afraid he was going to complete the rhyme, but didn't. Professor gave me a look and I shot her one back, 'Yes, yes, but you gotta love the guy.' We smiled and King Marvel took me back.
We agreed to meet tomorrow night. I did try to make some more connections with my memories, but it just gave me a blinding headache.
Tracking down Heroes
King Marvel did not show up. This does not bode well. I checked further into the news archives. I was looking for the people from my memories. I found three. The first was someone called Sinbad the Magnificent. Usually considered a Good Guy, though he often acted outside the law. He was located along the equator. The second was the Burning Hunk, and he was the one I was supposed to be intimate with. His power is that he has a strange charm over women. Harmless flames surrounded him and were attributed with mesmerizing women. He'd never broken any laws, but a number of upset suitors and fathers did not like him very much. Closer to home was one called Hellrider. This was a woman with a black burning skull where her head should be. She wore a leather jacket with the name Hellrider stenciled on the back. It was vaguely familiar. I wondered if she and the Burning Hunk were related. She was often seen in a nearby city and liked to race her motorcycle along the highway. That seemed to be the extent of her crimes, though she'd caused a number of accidents.
I convinced the Embassy ambassador that I wanted to get out of the city for a bit, an actual vacation. Since I was very tired with all I was doing, and it must have shown, they agreed that this was a good idea. Having filled Cutter and Biter in, we got a car to drive to this city. It is the closest and I'm not sure how to approach the other two. Sinbad was too far away and I was nervous should the Burning Hunk remember me. What if he expected me to be who I was supposed to be rather than who I am? Did that make sense?
It was my idea to challenge the Hellrider to a race. The problem is the only way I have to contact here was to use public advertisements, which brought the police. So I went to them as Merry Marvel and they almost instantly agreed to lay low and let me handle this. The name alone seemed to cause immediate compliance. There was a bounty hunter, I was warned, that was looking for Hellrider. They couldn't promise me he wouldn't show up, but they thought they could delay him. He's called Captain Kangaroo. There they go with those names again. I could only surmise that he can jump great distances. I saw a picture of him and he, too, looks familiar. One hero at a time.
BC and Captain Kangaroo
Nothing. She never showed. Not with all the on-lookers. I waited until the crowds gave up and left. Perhaps she would come afterwards? No, she didn't, but someone else did. She was as tall, lean, and black-furred with a cat's head and wearing only biker's boots. I couldn't say I recognized her but she thought I was familiar. It is so strange that we all seem to know each other somehow, but have never met. We passed the time and raced. She won on the motorcycle and I won when we ran. We were just getting down to some talking when a spotlight hit us. It was Captain Kangaroo and he called for us to surrender. Damn. I needed for us to be free if I were to track anyone down. I told my new acquaintance to get going and that I would handle this guy. She got on her bike and sped away, but not before getting shot once with a tranquilizer dart. She shouted about a club where I could meet her later and kept going.
As for the Captain, he neither cared who I was, nor about what I had to say. He just tried to catch me in his net. I tackled him and we fought. I did subdue him, but he got to his radio and called for backup. Fine. Let the police handle it. They arrived, asked for my autograph and quietly told me they would keep the Captain busy while I tried to salvage the situation. I left before the Captain gave me too many more problems.
I found the club. It was a strip club and I could only guess that my thin costume convinced them I was of age to enter. Inside I found the cat-lady at the bar. She introduced herself at BitchCat. I was a bit uncomfortable with calling her that, so I shortened it to 'BC'. She liked that and we chatted. She'd arrived hoping to race with Hellrider as well. She was interested in the other two and decided she could try and help me find the other two.
Today was really upsetting. The morning headlines said that King Marvel had been found on the West Coast. He'd been turned into an iron statute. I think I know who was responsible for the statute on the island. I don't think it was the Professor. If she wanted to do that, she could have done it one the island when he first approached her and no one would have been the wiser. There were also telltale spiral patterns on the iron, probably from the Empress' tentacles.
BC contacted me. I went to see her. When I got there, a news bulletin was being broadcast. Captain Kangaroo delivered a press release. He was clearly furious. He said he'd identified the renegade known as Merry Marvel. On the screen flashed the picture of a young girl, not me. Then he did the unthinkable. He told the world the poor girl's address. I got on the phone and used by status as Princess Cassio to hire bodyguards and a lawyer for the girl and her family. Already, the police and the media were surrounding her house.
BC said she sent some revealing pictures to the Burning Hunk. They must have been something interesting to behold, because he was flying in to see her. We go to the airport to meet him. When we got out there, a second news flash came over the television. The Empress had kidnapped the girl! We didn't have much time. To say I was furious at the Captain's irresponsibility would be a gross understatement.
The Burning Hunk disembarked with two stewardesses on each arm. I got this warm, fluttering feeling just from looking at him. Yes, it was he, the man from my dreams. I shook his hand and could feel myself becoming enthralled. That was his power. A short conversation later, and I learned he can't turn it off. It must be pretty terrible to never know if someone cares about you with the power. He seemed very, very lonely. He did seem to think I was familiar. I explained our current situation. I hated to rush things, but I felt I really had to help that poor girl. There was no telling what the Empress would do to her, especially once she figures out the girl was not Merry Marvel.
The Burning Hunk was not willing to go along for this. He had no offensive power. Fine. I could understand it and at least he was honest about it. I left and reluctantly BC followed. She hadn't touched him, I made sure of that, but she was still feeling the effects of that flame. But, I needed someone with a clear head.
We went to the police. We outlined the situation and the police asked if this was a Marvel Emergency. Yes, they spoke in capitals. Not entirely sure what that meant, I said it was. They went off and returned, saying the call had been made. What call?
I found out later when a tall woman came into the station. Her outfit was almost identical to mine, though she looked better in it. A man followed shortly after. He wore black, relieved with a silver chrome-like cape. Marvel Girl and Silver Marvel. Silver listened to what I said. He agreed that we needed to save the girl and avenge King Marvel. Then he said I should stay behind. Why? Both Marvel Girl and I demanded. He seemed a bit taken aback by this and didn't pursue the issue further.
Then Burning Hunk entered, and volunteered to help. I asked him what changed his mind. He said that no one ever walked away from him like that, and was willing to help, to get time to figure me out. Okay, I wasn't about to argue. I told him to try and picture me a lot taller and grown. He frowned in concentration and lifted me up to kiss me. That was very nice! Marvel Girl had to interrupt us to go about out business. Damn.
Silver Marvel's vision was a bit different from mine. He took a few minutes looking around in every direction and then stopped. He knew where the Empress was. I bit back a retort. If he could find her that quickly, why hadn't he taken care of her before now? It's not like her reputation was the least bit ambiguous.
Silver wrapped us all in his cloak and flew off with us. Marvel Girl will meet us with us after collecting Professor Mental. It felt right that we should all be together. And, if the Empress could have hurt the Professor, I think she would have done it by now. That meant she might have some power that might be of use to the situation.
We let down near a castle. BC got us past the giant cats at the drawbridge. They were male and she wasn't. Putty in her hands. Silver Marvel just bashed in the thick iron doors and we were through. With all the noise, I didn't think we had much time.
Indeed, we came right into the room where the girl was being held. The Empress hit Silver Marvel with her tentacles. I could see the girl hung from a metal frame, her arms and legs stretched to am impossible length. I had this sudden feeling I knew what the girl was going through.
Silver Marvel was down, coiled in the tentacles. Marvel Girl entered, rushing past me. She got the Empress' attention while I ran past and around to hit from behind. Not the bravest thing, I admit, but, hey, I'm a kid. I missed and the Empress was up in the air, keeping Marvel Girl coiled now. I ran about 25' to the far wall. As I'd hoped, my speed let me run up halfway to the ceiling. I used the momentum to jump out and knock into the Empress. Her costume is definitely alive. I punched, kicked and clawed, causing her to fall.
She fell right into Burning Hunk's arms. She turned her attention to him and was hooked. She gave a little gasp and just lay quietly. Even her costume relaxed. He didn't move. He told me to get the girl. I couldn't get her free but when Marvel Girl got out of the tentacles, she helped me free her.
The professor was waiting in the corridor. Reluctantly she entered. When she saw that the Empress was cooperative, she placed her hand on the Empress' head. Strangely, Chaotica started to shrink and shrivel until she was just a little doll. This trick unnerved Burning Hunk to no end.
Much later, we'd gotten the girl to the hospital. Silver Marvel assured me that the family would make sure she got all the care she needed. I knew her recovery could be very long and expensive, so I went on the air to ask if the people would help in her healing. The phones started ringing within minutes.
I went back to Mycenokos. Mother wasn't all that thrilled with the idea of the Burning Hunk, but once she met him thought he was very nice. Of course, with his power I had little to worry about on that score. I think this could be a nice long vacation.
I did get to talk with Professor Mental. She said her mind was already starting to clear. Her insanity was because of the Empress.
The long and short of this was that the Professor was Farris. The bear was Rinaldo. She didn't want to lose him in the Shadow, so he became a bear, where she could keep an eye on him. Strangely, this makes sense. With Sandalahar, alias Benedict, all of us were led out of the Shadow. BC was Simone, Burning Hunk was, of course DeWinter. Captain Kangaroo was Sebastian. That was also strangely fitting. Even Dalt was there. That was a surprise.
As he led us home, Benedict explained that the Shadow had been Logrus-crafted by the Empress, who was Gameshan. Random might be pleased at her fate. Gameshan had set it up so that her peculiar rules applied to everyone entering. She had some safeguards from being affected herself, except that when she trapped Farris in there, Farris had managed to make sure that Gameshan was trapped as well.
We were heading back to Amber. When Dalt made to leave, Benedict made a simple statement that we were all going to Amber first. No threats, no commanding tone of voice. For once, Dalt gave no argument and just followed along. Will wonders never cease?
Returning to Amber
We've adjusted to being back to normal. DeWinter was very disgruntled about the whole affair. He wished that if we continue to be trapped in Shadow, that we could at least do so where we would have our memories. I'm thinking that is a very mixed blessing. While it would certainly be nice if we knew who we were, it would cause more problems. For instance, in the last Shadow, how could we have explained to anyone that me, to all appearance a 12-year-old girl, was married to him? And knowing we couldn't get out, and that we had a son that we couldn't see, would make any stay more difficult. It's not like we've had much success getting out of these traps.
Simone doesn't remember much of her time there. During our stay, I felt like we were becoming good friends. Now, it seems like we have to start over, at least from her point of view. I did ask her if she was going to stay in Amber for a while and, if so, she could stay at Tiryns for a bit. She liked the idea and immediately agreed. This did not make Sebastian happy at all. He reminded her that she had other responsibilities. Simone tried to explain that this was a visit and she hadn't seen anyone of the family in a long time. True to his nature, Sebastian couldn't see that Simone really wanted to make some other connections. It took me a while to recall that she hadn't been in Amber for a long while, perhaps as long a five years, Amber time. Who knew how long it had been for her, in Shadow time. And she'd only been in Amber for less than a year before Sebastian spirited her away to his Shadow. I kept my council, though. Sebastian would not welcome anything I had to say. I dare say, it would only hurt Simone's cause.
Sebastian pulled her aside and they had a long argument. At least, I think it was an argument, from the way Sebastian paced and gestured. He was growing increasingly angry and Simone was becoming more upset, but resolute. In the end, she returned to the group to say she would be staying in Amber for a bit. She said that her father's project in his Shadow was his project. She would return after she'd visited Amber. Sebastian just glared at me. I suppose I will be given the blame for Simone's rebelliousness.
To my surprise we even found Bitra along the way. It was rather a long train of Amberites returning to the city.
We got through to Amber. While everyone scattered to attend to things before reporting to Random, I returned Bitra to the Chaosian Embassy. The Ambassador said she'd just given up hope of getting her property back. I restrained a wince at the rebuke. It had taken too long to get it settled. I would have told her of my efforts to retrieve her, as a gesture of good faith, but I suspect that my losing her in the first place would show my incompetence. I kept silent and thanked her again for her assistance.
I went back to the castle. Gameshan had taken my Trumps so I had to walk. Still, I got back and cleaned up in time for our debriefing with Random. We all assembled in his office and he listened to our story. Except for Sebastian who had inexplicably absented himself for this. Dalt stayed quiet except when Random asked him about the robbery in Kashfa. He denied having anything to do with it and Farris supported him by saying she did not believe he'd been involved. Probably a shapeshifter or some such trick. Random was satisfied with this and let the matter drop. He was pleased with Gameshan's fate but decline to say whether he will leave her in that Logrus Shadow or not.
Since Simone had been gone for so long, and hadn't met most of the family (I believe), I decided to have a family gathering. Something informal, I think, that would allow her to feel welcome and see everyone relaxed. I set the date for five days now and sent out casual invitations to any Amberites in Amber. Gameshan still had my Trumps, so I couldn't contact anyone else. Not that most of the family was accepting calls yet.
Claw and Cutwind were still missing. I'll have to speak to Benedict about whether or not they could have been trapped as well. If I am lucky, they are still on the boat, though I hesitate to think how they must have upset the crew and the ship in general searching for us. I might just have to make a Trump sketch of them to see if I can contact them. I'm thinking I'll probably have to go back to Caladan to see if I can retrieve my Trumps.
DeWinter and I decided to get back to Tiryns. Random had extended an invitation to Dalt to stay, as a guest, at the castle. Dalt refused, but was rather polite about it, for him.
He did however agreed to come visit his nephew. I was anxious to see Kai-Revere. We'd only been gone for a short while, so I hoped he was well. We rode in and were greeted by the weir. Then the front doors opened and some children ran out. We sat in our saddled stunned to realize that one of the children was Kai. Oh, we'd been gone for much longer than a month or so. Guessing by his growth, we'd been gone for a year!
He was still holding a wooden sword as he ran up to us. I could barely find anything to say. He seemed happy to see us. I was still adjusting to the fact that not only was he running around, but he was speaking! He chattered about his sword to DeWinter. He'd just gotten it from Eidolon. Yes, he was there, also more grown. The two seemed to get along well. I embraced Kai, making sure he was healthy and whole. Oh, I've missed so much time! DeWinter was just as stunned. I wished someone had seen fit to tell me how long we went missing.
Mother and Byslamia were there. I few words with them aside and I found we'd been gone for a little over 14 months. We went inside for refreshments. I watched as Kai-Revere and Eidolon assaulted Dalt. The three of them wrestled and Dalt seemed to really enjoy it. Kai was really quite athletic for his age. Of course, Dalt easily overmatched them. Feeling a bit mischievous, I got some of the weir children involved. Nine came in and joined the fray. Dalt set-to with enthusiasm. DeWinter gave the children pointers. While they played, we filled the others in the general tale of our latest adventure.
Just before dinner, Shapir surprised us with a visit. From the way Kai and Eidolon welcomed him, I suspect this hasn't been his first visit. He was happy that we had returned and stayed for dinner. It was really nice to be back. When it was time for the children to go to bed, Kai and Eidolon begged Shapir for a story. Eidolon was calling himself Eido, now. He felt he wanted a weir-sounding name.
Shapir went upstairs and I followed to listen. He settled them in bed and began a story involving Arden, the rangers, and some very dangerous animals. From their manner and questions I realized Shapir has probably been a very frequent visitor. I'm very gratified that he had taken so much time with them. They couldn't have a better influence in their lives, should anything happen to DeWinter or myself.
Shapir finished the story and came downstairs to ask our leave. Now that we were back, I asked that he not think he would not be welcome anytime he chose. He said there would be little reason for his visiting, so I said I'd just have to make some reasons, would a party be a good start? He smiled and said yes, he would be there. When he left, Dalt also said goodbye. I think he'd rather not stay here, especially since the King knows he's there. I suspect he'd rather sneak in from time to time.
Now that the house was quiet, I asked Mother about Kai. She said he'd been fine. She's not know how much fun boys are. More fun than daughters? Absolutely. Evander had told Mother when she was pregnant that he thought I would break the 'trend' of daughters, but Mother thought I had turned out rather well anyway. Oh, she's been seeing too much of Evander, that much I could tell. I bit down on any retort and went to bed.
I dragged DeWinter, Kai and Eidolon into town for supplies for the picnic. It seemed the best thing for a casual gathering. It was full summer and the weather was wonderful, too nice to be shut indoors. And if it was held during the day, most of the family in Amber, including the children could attend. I was concerned about all the children. I thought it might be wise to prepare should many of them attend. Bored children, en masse, were not a pleasant thought. So we took a wagon into the city. Eidolon supplied us with all sorts of information about the trees and fauna along the way. Not having much knowledge about trees, and DeWinter just shrugged to say he didn't know either, we just listened. Apparently both Kai and Eidolon were Ranger-mad. At least, highly enthusiastic about the subject.
I had set the party to begin around one bell. It would be a good time for people to arrive and have a mid-day meal, with plenty of time to enjoy the sun. I thought people would wander in or Trump during the course of the day. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Perhaps it was the restriction on Trump, and maybe, as a result, people haven't seen each other for a while. But, at one bell the Trump calls started. The first, to my surprise, was Queen Moira, wearing a lavender bonnet. She came through with two handmaidens. The sun seemed bright for her eyes, so I was glad I thought to include the temporary pavilion. She chose the highest chair and I got her settled. Then I got a call from Moran. He's eleven now. He asked me what color the sky was. I said it was a cerulean blue. And the clouds? Mystified, I said there were only a few scattered cumulus clouds in the distance. How bright was it? Quite bright. He called out to the side, careful not to break contact, It's okay, Mom, she's not a Chaosian. I had to struggle not to laugh. Of course, Chaosians don't like open skies. Vialle appeared and I brought the two through and settled her with Moire. Then I quickly got Mother and Byslamia to help. Their plans were disarrayed by people Trumping in. They had arranged to have Byslamia greet people as they rode in. I hadn't expected two queens. Well, I anyone could see to their comfort, it was Mother, former queen herself.
Flora and Carmella were next to Trump in, followed by the rest of the family. I was receiving a Trump called every minute or so. Well, it's nice to know I could probably help evacuate the city if I needed to.
Julian and Vivant, always considerate, rode in with Rhiannon and Shapir. Their arabesque horses were beautiful. I didn't have time to greet them properly, having to deal with all the calls. In fact it was becoming almost an assembly line. Trump someone through, point to the refreshment area as I move a few feet to the side for the next guest. I was never happier that Amberites do not need pandering. They just took themselves off and prepared to enjoy themselves.
Aurora, now nine, and her mother Celsienna came through with Altair. I think he's 5. Aurora has an incredibly strong Trump connection for her age. Listen to me. I sound like well anyway, Richmond arrived with three strangers. A large man wearing a sort of uniform with large brass buttons. I later found out he is Captain Grimswald. The second was a man called Jeremiah and the last was a Professor Blakely.
Owen arrived and offered to help with the calls. I gratefully shunted a few her way and things moved more quickly. March came through wearing his naval uniform. It entertained the children who seemed to be all military-mad. Random came through, almost last, with Simone. I was distressed to see her so stiff and formal again. What had happened now?
For the next hour, I took in Trump contacts. If anyone wanted to attack me, I was ripe for a takeover. By the time I was through, virtually the whole family was here. I had not expected this turnout. We could count the missing people on one hand. I was quite lightheaded after this. DeWinter was amused as I wandered, glassy-eyed for a few minutes, even waving his hand in front of my face to see my response. He got me a drink and I took a few minutes to refresh myself before I made my way around and properly welcomed everyone and saw that they had what they needed.
Eido, Tigh and Ergian approached me. DeWinter had sent them to me, since I was in charge of security. I suspicious glance showed he was hiding amidst some of our young female guests. He was having a joke on me. I returned my attention to the boys. They had a list of security issues and they wanted to make sure I had made contingency plans in case any Chaosian spies were amongst us. The first question was about the extra latrines behind the house. I kept my face straight and said, no, I hadn't checked the latrines. So the self-appointed security detail went off to check it out.
It just didn't seem to make sense to stop them.
It was well into the afternoon when I went in search of Kai. I hadn't seen him for a little while and I admit I was a bit nervous letting him out of my sight for long stretched. I could turn around and find him entering college. I found him, all right. The weir children had formed a human pyramid against the side of the house, with Altair second from the top. Of course, the top had Kai, perched precariously. I was alarmed, estimating that he was just shy of 20 feet from the ground. I pitched my voice to be casual, not wanting to scare him. I asked what he was doing. They were practicing a siege. 'That's nice, but come down now.' It was then he realized he didn't know how to get down. I was afraid of that.
Rhiannon poked her head out of the window to my office. Apparently she had been first and had gotten inside. Kai's fingers fell far too short from the sill. Kai was getting a bit nervous and I told him to relax. To my horror, he did. He simply let every muscle relax and toppled from the top. I managed to catch him. I talked Altair into climbing down. Kai just laid in my arms looking at me with absolute trust. Oh, I didn't like that. If he trusted me so completely, there was no telling what he would do, trusting we would be there. I don't know what I would do if we weren't. Who the hell gave me permission to have a child? Isn't there some school course I can take for this?
I think my tone was more harsh than I intended, but I told the weir to go off and play. In a second, they were gone. Altair was upset and asked if he could 'relax,' too. I told him to go tell his mother what they had been doing. Apparently, he did, because there was a scream and I saw Celsienna faint. Julian moved forward and picked her up. I went ahead and set up a couch in the house for her to rest on. I asked Owen if she would look after Kai for a few minutes. She agreed and I went to find DeWinter.
He was surrounded by a number of the young ladies. I don't blame them, but I dragged him away. He looked at my face, which I suppose was still a little pale, and asked what was wrong. I said I wanted to tell him about his son. As we went inside, I told him what they were doing. He shook his head, 'we are so much trouble.' We got ourselves a couple of drinks. Some of the weir children ran by and Kai tugged at my pants leg, obviously wanting to join them. After a moments hesitation I said, 'no climbing.' He repeated it back, agreeing to the demand and I let him go. Julian and Owen listened to what happened. Julian made the observation that each generation, it seemed, became increasingly precocious. Owen agreed that she hadn't been such trouble as a child. I'm beginning to understand the strict discipline the Courts have with their families.
We left Celsienna to rest and went outside. Later, Julian brought Rhiannon to accept responsibility in what had happened. Apparently, she had set up the pyramid exercise. I really didn't expect her to realize how dangerous it was, but Julian seemed to want her to learn. Right now.
Rhiannon burst into tears and said how sorry she was. It was all very genuine. She was upset with endangering Kai and for frightening me. I reassured her and said I appreciated her apology. I glanced at Julian to see if he was satisfied. He gave a small nod and I dried Rhiannon's tears before sending her off.
The only other incident was with Professor Blakely, Richmond's guest. He'd tried the Black Bottom Beer, about an ounce or two, and he'd passed out. I put him in another salon to rest. I entertained putting up a 'women' and 'men' on either salon for those who wanted to go unconscious, but decided against it. If they were passed out, they wouldn't care where we put them.
Dusk fell and the party was still going strong. We brought out lanterns and made sure there was still enough to eat and drink. There was laughter everywhere. I admit to being rather pleased at how it turned out. Everyone really seemed to be having a good time. I even spotted Evander off in the orchard with Mother.
Queen Moiré was still sequestering herself under the pavilion. She had most, if not all the young men around her, telling tales of battles around Rebma. She was in her element, surrounded by young boys and men who hung on her every word.
Simone had spent most of the day under the pavilion. It did hide most of the open sky, which served its own purpose. But she didn't seem to be really enjoying herself that much. I got her alone to ask if anything was wrong. It took a bit, but she admitted that Sebastian, (he so-loving a father), had given her an ultimatum. If she didn't leave Amber with him that morning, she shouldn't bother to go looking for him, ever.
How dare he! To force her to choose him over the entirety of the family, never letting her even see them for the briefest of visits. There was no cause for this, other than his vanity. He wanted absolutes. Absolute fidelity, absolute loyalty. Not that he ever earned it. No he was determined to separate he and his daughter, from the rest of us.
I kept my opinions to myself, I hope. Owen would be proud. But, Simone was clearly unhappy. This really wasn't the time to talk to her about it. There were too many interruptions. I hope that when she stays here, and she said she was still planning on it, we could talk. We are very much alike. She, too, feels like she has no place. But, I've had time to make a small one for myself, and had the time to grow into myself, thanks to Shom Dao. Perhaps I could tell her she's not alone. That I've had a similar experience. In fact, I daresay, many of us have had that experience. It will have to be put off for later. I tried to cheer her a bit, with little success.
The evening brought out a few people with instruments. DeWinter came and fetched me for a dance or two. The youngest were beginning to fade. Kai had fallen asleep near Moire and Owen had taken him up to bed. Moran was glassy-eyed and the rest were doing their best to stay awake. Random had asked Moran if he was tired and he said 'no, are you?' Random shook his head and asked if he wanted a beer. Moran said sure, his face lighting up at the offer. It took one drink and he was ready in three minutes to fall where he stood. Random and Vialle took Moran home.
Owen collected my valiant young security detail and brought them over to say goodbye. Tigh and Ergian thanked me for the day. I couldn't resist. I asked them if I might have a copy of their security list, so that I might catch any holes in our security for the estate. Tigh got a look of consternation before pulling Ergian and Eido off to consult. After the briefest committee meeting, then said they would be having a staff meeting soon and they would dispatch a copy of their list. Owen kept her face absolutely straight. I felt safe enough to smile my thanks and let them go.
It was well after midnight before everyone had gone. The weir and the rest of us tidied up a bit and retired.
| Cassandra Diary 20 | Cassandra Diary 21 | Cassandra Diary 22 | Cassandra Diary 23 |
| Cassandra Diary 24 | Cassandra Diary 25 | Cassandra Diary 26 | Cassandra Diary 27 |