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Cassandra's Diary.29

Day 80 /Year 22
An Attack While on Vacation

We left Amber about three weeks ago. Our first stop was the beach where DeWinter and I lived for over six months on our honeymoon. Thus far the most exciting thing that happened was keeping the sandcastles from washing away. It was wonderful. I was happy that it was only the four of us because it made the entire trip very cozy and intimate.

I shouldn't have been so at ease. The afternoon Kai-Revere and DeWinter came back from Kai's swimming lessons. He had a few scrapes on his arms and a bite mark on his leg. When I inquired what happened, he said barracudas had attacked them. They're formidable creatures, even against Amberite children. So, I asked how they got rid of them. From the corner of my eye, I could see DeWinter trying to signal something to Kai. Kai is much like DeWinter; that is to say, he didn't notice the subtle signals, which weren't too subtle. Kai jumped up and launched into his story of how they spun around in the water and grabbed the attackers. They didn't have any weapons, so he pantomimed flinging them out of the water and hitting them over their heads. Their own heads. DeWinter sank his head to his chest. I tried not to laugh, if only because Kai would have been hurt, but it was a ludicrous picture.

This evening we were going to make a bonfire. Xhimena and I went to get some kindling. It was then that I got my first Trump in a long while. When the connection opened, I was immediately hit with an attack. Of the other side, I could only see prismatic lights swirling around. Then I felt their minds drilling into my shields. Yes, them. I could tell there were three of them in a concerted effort. My shields were holding up for the moment. I took a chance and whispered to Xhimena to go get her father. She left my sight but was back far too soon. She said she couldn't find him. Well, it would have been too far for her to walk, too much time. I told her to scream, as loud as her brother. She bent over forward until her head almost reached her little feet. As she came up, she let loose a scream I was sure DeWinter could hear. Again! She screamed a second and a third time.

An eternal two or three minutes passed and I concentrated on my defense. Splitting my attention allowed them to start breaking through my shields. But I was fairly confident I could keep them at bay for a while. I heard running footsteps and DeWinter came into my line of sight.

I whispered, "Trump attack. I need energy."

He moved behind, kneeling, and placed his hands on my hips. I felt the surge of energy and used it to shore up my shields and thrust them out. Then I took hold of their attack and began my own. The attack had taken the form of a drill and I could see the three strands. Pushing power through it, I felt it fracture. Suddenly, one of them left the connection. How, I'm not sure. Perhaps I couldn't yet attack three at one time, but I had the other two for a moment. I followed them to their origins and got an image of two men. Definitely Chaosians. One spoke, "'Pella bailed on us." And the connection was severed.

Both DeWinter and I collapsed. We were so exhausted we couldn't even stand. I asked Kai to get us some food and water. He ran off, returning with some fruit and water. It took a while, but we roused enough to limp home.

Both Kai and Xhimena had questions about what happened. We didn't have any real answers. After all, how do you explain invisible mind attacks to a four and a one-year-old, however bright they might be? We did, however, tell them they did a wonderful job. Xhimena wanted to know if she should scream again, but we explained it was only when she was in trouble. We'll see how well she takes that in.

After we rested, I Trumped Simone to see if she recognized any of them. I'd drawn a picture of the two I saw, but they weren't familiar to her. She did recognize the nickname. "Pella stood for Carpelli of House Merquier.

After the children were in bed, DeWinter and I planned what we were going to do. We decided to take the children to DoBlique. She'd watch them as we went after the three. Then we'd let Amber or the Courts deal with them. I'm seriously considering formal charges even though Martin cautioned me that the social ramifications through the Courts could be severe. The act of one House will be seen as a reflection for the entirety of the Courts. It would be a serious scandal. We were both pretty confident that DoBlique wouldn't mind watching the children. She'd see it as our trust in her.

Day 83/22
Sesfra

We arrived at Castle Black. There were new guards, so we had to fight them, as they didn't know us. Actually, DeWinter did the fighting, keeping up an engaging commentary for the benefit of the children. Kai was riveted but Xhimena couldn't watch; she just hid her eyes behind her hands. This was an excellent time to observe her. No one was going to get seriously hurt (DeWinter wasn't trying to kill these fellows) and I could see a bit more of her temperament. I think she'll be less inclined toward fighting and I have to take that into consideration when deciding where we'll end up in Shadow.

DeWinter finished up and then two ogres came out. I told them to get the Captain of the Guard. Surprisingly, they did this. An alligator-headed creature came out. Sigh, not the person that was here before. The captain was as little help as his men had been, refusing us entry. This time I fought, though my commentary wasn't as snappy.

When I'd won the contest, I convinced him to let us in. It was either that or he'd be taken personally to his Mistress. He opted to open the door. Inside we met a woman coming down the stairs wearing a spider silk dress over ebony skin. She introduced herself as Sesfra, DoBlique's seneschal. DoBlique wasn't here right at the moment.

We quickly established who we were. Apparently DoBlique filled her in enough (that's unusual) to realize we were her relations and her demeanor rapidly transformed from suspicious to welcoming. She saw us to some rooms and went to have some food prepared.

In the meantime I tried to Trump DoBlique but got no response.

After dinner, Sesfra told us that DoBlique had left for Shadow Nerlana and was due back within the week. Her arrival was overdue by about two weeks. She'd gone there to arrange a meeting with Tremerule.

I spent the remainder of the evening trying to reach her. Either she was out of reach or she was in trouble again.

Day 84/22

DeWinter left to go look for her. WE agreed he'd call me each day. This was good. We'd have to get used to one or the other having to leave from time to time. We've had over ten years to get secure, so I won't worry too much. And I know I'll never completely convince myself of this. It will become an issue sooner or later, so we might as well try to deal with it now.

In the meantime I Trumped and received Cutwind and Scar. Cutwind was excited about being here until he saw it was just the children and I. Apparently I'm not as entertaining and fun as DeWinter. It bordered on being insulting. The only reason it wasn't was because I chose not to acknowledge it. Still…

Day 85/22

DeWinter's fine. He'd only run into three bandits, but no rain.

Sesfra was trying to run the castle on little to no money or resources. We spent the entire day looking for DoBlique's treasury to hire a competent staff. Kai-Revere thought it was great fun looking for a secret room. Xhimena watched as I carried her. Oh, and Sesfra turned out to be a vampire. Quite a rare type, according to her. She had been such a horrible person while alive that the transformation to a vampire turned her toward good. I wasn't sure about that, and I know how much DoBlique hates vampires, but she did nothing alarming and Aegis didn't give me any warnings.

I let it stand. Where was DoBlique?

Day 86/22

We found the Treasury. The only thing in it was an abundance of paintings, furniture, and sculptures. Not a coin was to be seen.

DeWinter called in. No bandits this time-- only a minor flash flood. We talked a bit about shadow walking. Gerard had told him how to avoid these things, but I suspect DeWinter hadn't much time to practice this.

Sesfra and I are now trying to find DoBlique's papers or deeds and that sort of thing. Perhaps the land could be rented out to bring in some finances. Her staff was working on the agreement that they'd get paid at the end of the year. We didn't find much and DoBlique's lab was warded. I say 'was' because we did manage to disable the system. Unfortunately, in the process of that, I think it might have killed Sesfra. When she tried to bring down the wards, she was hit with a lightning bolt. I felt no pulse, but I wasn't even sure she needed one. How do you tell whether a vampire is really dead? She didn't crumble into dust like the last one I destroyed. I ended up placing her in a bedroom, hoping DoBlique could do something when she got back. I went and found a mountain of loose papers in the lab. Hopefully, they'll yield something.

Day 87/22

DeWinter was just fine. No rain, no bandits, no floods. Currently he was staying in a hostel run by a convent. He'd help them fight off a tax collector and in gratitude allowed him to stay the night with board.

Day 88/22

DeWinter is in a city. He thinks he's getting close to DoBlique.

Day 89/22
Misadventure While Rescuing DoBlique

DeWinter thinks we now have a problem. He thinks he's found her. She's in a Church of the Sacrificed Unicorn that has a new shrine to his mother, Deela. The statuary bears an uncanny resemblance to DoBlique—not Deela. He thinks she's been turned to stone. His plan is to try and steal the statue. To say this made me a bit uneasy would be unnecessary, but there was little I could do. Offering to help would both leave the children unguarded and it would insult DeWinter. I took comfort in the fact that he has been in trouble before and gotten out of it. I did remind him to disguise himself. He gave it a moment's thought before nodding. Next, we determined that one hour here was one and a half hours there. Reminding him to be careful, I signed off.

And waited. A few hours later I received a Trump call. It was Tatasha. I got her off the connection as rapidly as possible. She understood I was waiting for an urgent call and signed off without any fuss.

About an hour later, DeWinter Trumped again. There's a problem. The statue had an anti-theft spell of some sort attached to it. As soon as he touched he, he became stuck to it. Now he's trapped and when dawn came-- the Church would find him and still being outlawed by them… an unpleasant confrontation was sure to ensue.

I signed off and Trumped Tatasha. "Do you have trustworthy mages?"

She recovered from the surprising question and said 'yes.' She sent for one and we chatted while we waited. I could have Trumped anyone in Amber, but I didn't know how DeWinter would feel about that. If given the choice of capture or feeling a little foolish in front of someone in the family, I'm sure he'd take the help of almost anyone. Still, I was going to try another option.

The mage arrived. His name is Dian and he's of the Ice Rat Clan. Someday I'm going to have to learn all the clans in Aes.

Putting that off for the moment, I brought him through. He's a bit elderly which I hope means extensive learning. I quickly filled him in and Trumped DeWinter who was becoming a bit concerned with the time. He answered immediately and I sent Dian through. This simple act prompted our next problem.

Passing someone through Trump—when you contact someone and prepare to exchange, you clasp hands, then allow another party to "walk down" the arm of one person, past the handclasp and "up the arm" of the other side. Dian moved into the Trump connection but where our hands clasped-- he stuck fast. Now the connection was being kept open because I was trapped along with them. Apparently, DeWinter had 'conducted' the spell to me, and touching our bare hands had conducted it to Dian.

Well this was a fine mess. Dian tried to dispel the spell through the connection. The power backtracked through us with considerable feedback. All I saw were stars and….

We were all in the temple, still connected. With one hand, I got out my Trump. Through Trump, I told Cutwind to get the children back to Tiryns immediately.

I rapidly went through our options and Trumped Rinaldo. He was one of the last people I knew wouldn't laugh at our predicament. True enough, I reached him though his card surface was black. He said he'd help if I promised not to tell anyone about it.

Since I'd rather not have anyone know about this, I easily agreed. I tucked the card into the creases of our clasped hands and used my free one to bring him through. As soon as Rinaldo came through, I understood his caveat. He was dressed in a rabbit suit complete with mitten-gloves. What passed through my mind is best left unwritten but I did recall that DeWinter has yet to pick out his Yule gifts. DeWinter just stared and Dian unsuccessfully muffled a laugh.

Rinaldo examined the statue. It had been placed on a ley-line and could draw as much power as it needed to keep the spell intact. He wasn't sure he could override it without attracting a lot of attention before it was done. And it might take too long. We explored a few options, none that seemed workable. I was thinking out loud when I wondered if we could move the statue off the ley-line. Rinaldo thought for a second and began a new plan.

His idea was to move the statue along the lines, shifting shadow as we moved. The problem was that we were indoors. He'd have to blow out a wall. DeWinter was not happy about this since it would attract a lot of attention and I believe the damage to a temple didn't sit well with him.

Dawn arrived just as Rinaldo finished building his spell. We all climbed onto the statue and I pulled Rinaldo up and held him while he worked. The room began to warp and soon we were moving. Just before we hit the wall, it blew out in front of us.

Shadows flew past us and within seconds we were tumbling airborne. We came to an abrupt halt, about twenty meters above the ground-- DeWinter hit a tree that stopped my own flight. I could feel the bones in my fingers crush as he held me against my momentum. I landed heavily and it took a few minutes to regain my breath. We climbed down and began to look for the others. DeWinter had dislocated his shoulder and I reset it. This didn't do my hand any good.

We then looked for Dian and Rinaldo. Dian was also in a tree. A branch from a limb had impaled him through his thigh. I broke it off and carried him down. Once he touched the earth I removed the remaining piece of wood and he began to Change, thus healing himself. Rinaldo was a bit battered but otherwise he was fine.

I Trumped Aes and got Vis to get some of DeWinter's clothing for Rinaldo. He appreciated that and with our thanks he Trumped to Amber's drawbridge. Dian was a little amazed and pleased that Rinaldo really wasn't really a rabbit-magician.

Dian elected to go with us as we looked for DoBlique. He thought he'd have a much more exciting time than if he went back home.

Uh huh, he's a weir.

We started shifting, DeWinter leading us. Within the hour we were back in the same city as before. We left and I led, again ending up in the same place. Doing this for a bit, we were able to triangulate to DoBlique's closest position.

We continue to refine her positioning ending up in a stockyard market. On the last shift out and back I made sure we got plenty of funds and heavy cloaks. We wandered through the streaming crowds of customers and marketers. DeWinter looked for DoBlique and I looked for slavers. It seemed to be a possibility.

Off to one side I noticed a Chaosian. Actually, he stood out plainly from the crowds. I circled around, moving in slowly until I was next to him. DeWinter saw where I was heading and moved in to the man's blindside. He couldn't get too near. DeWinter was large enough he might attract too much attention and scare him off before he was trapped. Dian stayed far back, as if he were not with us.

I drew my knife and stepped up to his side. He went still and we commenced to talk. His name was Kelket. That was pretty much all he was going to say until DeWinter stepped up and we began to offer other incentives for him to talk. He eventually asked if this would be a privileged conversation-- no one else to know of it. Hmm, I could only agree if it did not compromise my obligations to Amber and family. Since that included just about everyone I know, it seemed a safe bet.

He admitted that DoBlique was here but… not conscious. He'd been sent to infiltrate House Merquier who'd been responsible for her capture. Merquier had inserted themselves into the Church. They were holed up in the north side of the city in the wealthier district, on a large estate. It was protected with a large abundance of spells and watchers.

He wouldn't name whom he was working for. At the time I thought he was a Black Adder working for Nachoth. He took out a mirror, which he could use to track DoBlique's current position. We pricked DeWinter's hand for a drop of blood, which was the closest link to her that we had.

We followed the mirror-map to a series of enclosures. The map worked with directional only, so we had to triangulate once more. Everything said she was there, in the middle of a large crowd but we couldn't see her. We continued to circle, talking very little. Kelket made some comments about the fact that he did not want to anger us, that he knew the consequence. Since much of what I've done has been largely behind the scenes I doubted I had much notoriety. Well, maybe he picked up something while infiltrating the Merquiers. But that didn't explain DeWinter. When DeWinter pressed him on it, he said he knew we were Kent and Owen.

Sigh.

It would have made things easier to let him go on being afraid of us, but I didn't want to wrongly implicate either Kent or Owen in anything we might do. So I told him he was wrong. Before I could tell him who we really were, Kelket jumped to the conclusion that I was Fiona. Before I could say anything, DeWinter said he was Bleys. Now Kelket was terrified.

We were still walking, trying to narrow things down. I stood by myself for a bit and walked the Pattern in my mind. Hopefully DoBlique's imperfect Pattern would show up. Sure enough, it did. She'd been transformed into one of the pigs in an enclosure. I could see a magical tether keeping her confined.

Kelket was unwilling to do more for us. DeWinter said that if he helped us rescue her, he'd not only leave alive but with his thanks. Kelket's eyes widened at the implications and agreed. I'll have to tell Fiona and Bleys to refer any obligations to us.

We called Dian over to look it over. He thought he could break the spell-tether. Kelket moved away to draw a diversion away from us. Dian started working. DeWinter moved away and the next thing I was aware was that he was in a fight with about ten people. Then I heard a very loud scream of rage that could only have come from DoBlique. She was standing n the middle of the pen without a stitch of clothing on and covered in dirt. Yep, she was outraged.

I called for her and she turned to me. She was attracting far too much attention. She bolted out of the pen and I threw my cloak over hr. I told Dian to get her out of there and I went to get DeWinter. I got a few of them off him, enough to throw the others off and duck out of the fight. We ran just as shrill whistles sounded around us. We ran faster.

As soon as we got out of the immediate area, we found Dian and DoBlique. I Trumped Tatasha and we got out of that place.

Day 90/22

We've had dinner and a night of rest and recuperation. DoBlique was happy we got her out of there and was anxious to get home. Knowing what she would find, I had to confess what had happened to her "white vampire," the correct term for the rare seneschal. To say she was now distressed put it mildly. I wasn't sure why. I saw a vampire go from being a virtual skeleton and still come back. Sesfra wasn't nearly that far gone when we'd left. DoBlique wasn't that optimistic, but that is a family failing.

We started our journey back, thanking Dian before we left.

Day 92/22

Traveling has been fairly uneventful. About the only thing that has occurred so far is that there was a storm on the horizon, but it never caught up with us.


Day 96/22

The storm is gone. Since we are pretty much backtracking to get to DoBlique's castle I'm wondering if we started a Shadow storm when we escaped from the statue.

In the meantime we got DoBlique's story. She'd arrived in Nerlana a while ago. She managed to meet with Tremerule by finding him at a social event. It was a casual meeting. Her first clue that something was wrong was that he didn't remember her. She followed him home. When he was asleep, she got in and examined his mind. He had been altered and it wasn't a particularly skillful job. That sounds like Merquier's work. They're not too…precise. The mental work had knocked out some of his memories. She'd assumed that it was Dastard's doing; that he was deliberately keeping a breach between her and Tremerule.

So, she went and confronted Dastard and they ended up arguing. Little surprise there.

Her second clue that something was wrong was when Dastard accused her of…something rude. It was the manner of his speaking…it was wrong, somehow. She said his voice was accented, as if he were a different person, when he insulted her. She followed him home but the security was too competent. She mimicked his accent and we recognized Chaosian inflection.

DoBlique has so little experience with Chaosians.

She went back to see Tremerule at night while he was asleep. Somewhere between three to five men came in through the walls while she was inside his mind. They got her easily. She woke up one time. Alarms went off and everything went black. The second time her mind was quite foggy and the third time she was in the pen. I'm glad she had no recollection of her imprisonment.


Day 97/22

We discussed the situation. It would be best if we could get to either Tremerule or Dastard. Both would be preferable. Unfortunately the security around Dastard was too tight. I suggested we bring in Dalt as he could actually get an audience. Surprisingly, neither she nor DeWinter opposed this idea.

Day 100/22

We arrived at Castle Black. DoBlique immediately went to see Sesfra. The white vampire was looking very desiccated and old. Under DoBlique's watchful eyes, we carefully carried Sesfra to her coffin in the basement. DoBlique stayed with her as we returned upstairs. She met with us later very despondent. It was no good. Sesfra was not feeding. I suggested that if Sesfra required blood, to give it to her. I small cut might be all that is needed. Put it in a bowl so that she will not take too much. DeWinter just glared at me. Ah. Perhaps I should have kept silent.

I Trumped Dalt. He was busy, but he agreed to meet with us.

Day 102/22
More Imposters

Sesfra responded to the new treatment and is doing much better; DoBlique was hopeful.

Dalt arrived. He's a bit skeptical about the whole thing, preferring to allow the church to heal itself. Ideally I had to agree but they might not have the expertise to fix such a problem even if they recognized there is one. Kai-Revere and Xhimena came through and got to play with him for a while before he left. He'll be going to check on whatever he can find out.

Day 102/22

We've spent two days relaxing. DoBlique really likes having the children there. They really like exploring about the place and seeing all the strange creatures and people that inhabit her castle. DoBlique is resistant about the idea of having a truly self-sufficient, functioning castle. Rather firmly, in fact. She didn't come right out and tell me to stop interfering, but I got the idea.

Dalt arrived, spending a few minutes greeting the children. Later when we asked what he learned, he was confused. It quickly became apparent that he had no memory of our previous meeting. Could he have been compromised? And how could we find out?

We decided on an ambush. For all there bickering, they do tend to trust each other. We had dinner and DoBlique used a potion and a spell to knock him out quickly. His shields were formidable. I didn't want to harm him while trying to help, so DoBlique gently "sang" to him until they relaxed. Inside we found…nothing wrong. This was worse news. Who had we spoken to?

We woke him. He was disoriented at first. One minute he was at the table at the end of a meal, the next he was lying on a couch. Rather than prevaricate, I told him what we'd done. Both DoBlique and DeWinter winced at this. He wasn't even ruffled. He really is sensible. We meant no harm and it was a reasonable precaution. Getting angry wouldn't do anything for anyone. He did point out that it was foolish not to have checked to ensure the first Dalt was the real one. I hear the sounds of more codes being thought of.

At least we figured out what happened after talking to Dalt for some length. Dalt was delayed by a 'damaged' bridge and a chasm he had to work around through shadow. We all figured that this delay had not been an accident.

I Trumped Nachoth to see if she could shed any light on what the BlackAdders were about. It was dark on her end. All I heard was her weakly asking me to help. I pulled her through. She had a chain and weight on one leg and she was very weak. She'd been captured by Sebastian!

I Trumped Sebastian. I asked if he was still raiding the BlackAdders. He said, of course. He doesn't even think it is possible that any Chaosians or BlackAdders could not hate Amber. He readily admitted to hunting them, capturing and interrogating them before executing them. I felt ill. He seemed so dispassionate about it. It wasn't as if he were hunting particular individuals who had hurt him. He was hunting people indiscriminately. I know I have learned to mistrust Chaosians, if only because they think differently than I do; their ethics are not in alignment or, at least, their priorities. But I simply cannot imagine committing willful extermination. Right then, he represented everything I've heard complained about Amberites. Before I signed off, I told him if he hunted those BlackAdders I considered friends, I would hunt him. I closed the contact at his shocked face. No doubt he'll think I've either become a traitor to Amber, or I'm under some sort of mind control.

Day 104/22

Nachoth is doing much better now. In a few weeks she should be fine. She did say that Kelket wasn't one of hers. Interesting. Who could he be?

Dalt returned. After looking around, he suggested we get a neutral party to help. He suggested someone named Delwin, an Amberite I've never even heard about. He's a son of Oberon who left long ago. Ages past Dalt had tried to recruit Delwin in his fight against Amber but Delwin refused. He's as neutral a party and we could get.

The only thing they passed on about him was that he is part of the ruling party of the Empire of the Gleaming Banner. He'll have to take care in meeting with Delwin. Apparently, Amberites are not strictly welcomed there. I was concerned about the possibility of Delwin getting captured or taken over. Dalt said that the Empire had had a battle against the Courts and won. House Merquier would think thrice before alienating such a powerful entity. Fighting a war on two fronts is always a Bad Idea.

Day 106/22

The four of us left to continue our vacation. We would have stayed until Nachoth was fully restored, but she and DoBlique assured us that they would be fine. In fact, they were so insistent I think they were trying to get rid of us. I admit to being a bit insulted by it but I couldn't very well say anything about it. Tomorrow we'll head for the City of Wonders.



| Cassandra Diary 25 | Cassandra Diary 26 | Cassandra Diary 27 | Cassandra Diary 28 |
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