It's been a wonderful month. It took us a little over a week to get here. Either I took us to a Shadow where everyone remembers us, or these people have a excellent memory. We were welcomed in the hotel and given our previous suite. The children had an adjourning one next to it. When we toured the city, both Kai-Revere and Xhimena couldn't see enough.
Xhimena loved to see the flying carpets going by overhead, so I arranged for her to have a ride. Naturally, I asked DeWinter to take her up. Kai-Revere, like myself, doesn't care for flying or unsecured heights. We occupied ourselves with some drinks and sweets until they returned. When they did, Xhimena used almost every word of her vocabulary to tell us about it. She was so excited; she just flailed her arms as I held her, mimicking the route, even the roll over. Kai and I just tried not to wince. She didn't even notice our lack of enthusiasm. DeWinter did. He just forced his face into strict neutrality.
I did inquire about the schools here. They only go to class between 7 in the morning and noon. Their philosophy is that children should want to go to school and forcing them to go excessively countermands that. It did seem to be too little time for them to learn, but the teachers were enthusiastic and entertaining, and all the children seem well adjusted. The curriculum is very thought out and methodical toward developing children to teach themselves. That is a skill I appreciate. Both of them will have to be prepared to adapt when they shift Shadows. We'll have to think about it. I have little doubt that either Kai-Revere or Xhimena could flourish.
I received a trump from Dalt. He looked very nice in the brown three-piece suit. He said that Delwin is interested in the proposition. Dalt will be doing a reconnaissance of the Golden Circle to see what more he can learn. He'll keep in touch.
I received another Trump call, this time from Evander. It was a very crisp and steady connection. He and Gerard are going to Aes. They were going to see what happened when Tatasha was assassinated. That threw me so completely I could only just stare at him in disbelief and shock. Before I could ask anything coherent or useful, he broke the contact, telling me he'd keep in touch.
I told DeWinter and decided to do a bit of checking myself. I should have given Evander my Trump of Tatasha, but it slipped my mind. That didn't mean I couldn't use it. Within in minutes, the card cleared and I was talking with her. I told her of the message Evander got. She jumped up exclaiming it was probably a trap. I said I'd relay that, relieved she was alive and well. I told her to take care of herself. Then I Trumped Gerard and warned him.
We can do nothing but wait-- so the best place to do this was Paris.
A Return to Paris
Paris was as much of a success as the City of Wonders. Xhimena has a penchant for vehicles. Here, she loved the trains. Perhaps it's the feeling of moving fast. Addicted to speed at one year old? She'll be Hellriding before she's five at this rate. She and DeWinter were on a plane when I received a Trump from Evander. Kai-Revere and I were playing with his toy soldiers in the parlor at the time. Evander was standing there glaring, his uniform torn. First, he said that Tatasha was alive. I puzzled at that. Of course I knew that, I had told Gerard. Oh, Gerard never told him. Fortunately I didn't get a chance to say a word.
Evander told me a bit of his story. They'd been ambushed by about 20 weir. The fact that they could Change, and that they heal so quickly, meant Evander and Gerard were in serious trouble. Obviously he'd never seen Gerard really fight. The fight turned desperate for him. He really thought he was going to die. He was angry and being tricked into coming back, tricked into an ambush, and angry that he was going to die. And suddenly he Changed. Evander wasn't glaring as he talked through this point: he was exhilarated. It'd never happened to him before and he was still feeling it. I told him I was glad he was all right. He was surprised at that and that surprised me. Did he really think I wanted him dead? Perhaps he did. He said he didn't understand me. I didn't think a Trump call was the place to explain anything. I said he should go see Tatasha and see for himself that she was fine. He nodded and signed off.
It was DoBlique's turn to Trump me. She and Nachoth were out in Shadow and had found the ones responsible for attacking and killing the BlackAdders. It wasn't Sebastian. Sigh. Now I'll have to rescind my threat to him or at least apologize.
I tried to Trump Dalt but received no answer. It was time to let Random know what was going on. I wrote up a report and Trumped him. He was busy with something, so all I did was hand it to him. At least it was nice to see that he was back to normal.
We've spent our days going to parks, museums, and art galleries, the usual places. Xhimena likes these. Kai-Revere is more neutral. For him, we went to see historical sites-- especially of old battles. He has an endless supply of questions to which we have a limited supply of answers. At one site, we simple didn't know what happened. We told him he had to find out himself. He spent over an hour walking around the grass and trees; the only remains of a battle won 200 years past. Once or twice he came over to ask for more paper for his notes. When he was done, he told us what he thought happened.
There was an old tree off to one side of the clearing. Long ago, it had split down the center, probably from a bolt of lightning. He thought it was from a cannon shot. That being the case, he reconstructed where the defenders stood and were the attack came from. It was quite elaborate. But looking over the site, DeWinter and I could see that it would have been poor judgment of the commanders to place the defenses there. They'd be too vulnerable to attack and would have sustained greater losses. We explained this but Kai wasn't convinced. The best way to find out would be to go to the military archives and libraries.
We went through endless maps of the area. I got some picture books to occupy Xhimena. After a few hours, we were surprised to see that Kai-Revere had been correct. The defenders had expected to face off against a cavalry charge, not the fort. In that light, their placement was correct. Xhimena just looked up and said, The tree won. Kai thought his sister had silly ideas but he looked very pleased with himself.
Kai-Revere has been creating maps of the battles while reading about them. He appointed himself as a captain and Xhimena was his lieutenant. For all his work, he got an allowance, which he allocated some to his sister for coloring in the maps. Then DeWinter tested them. They'd been drawing the maps, but not reading about what had taken place. Kai was disappointed that he failed. We got better books and he started all over again. As interested he is in maps and things, I wonder if he is really interested in fighting. I'm beginning to suspect he isn't. He likes figuring things out: such as the code of Xhimena's baby talk before she could speak words, figuring out what happened at the battles, that sort of thing. It's time to see what else he could be interested in.
Kai did mention that we could ask a shopkeeper nearby who sold military medals as historical pieces. Kai's been making friends with him, to learn stuff. I asked when he saw this gentleman. He said that when he went to the bakery on the corner, he'd make a side trip. And which one of us did he ask permission to see this stranger? Kai saw that he was in trouble and tried to say he really didn't go there, he just knew about it. And how did he know about it? DeWinter saw where I was going with this. Kai-Revere didn't understand our alarm at his traipsing off on his own without us there, or even knowing where he was going. DeWinter took him for a walk.
They were gone for a long while. When they returned, DeWinter entered and Kai followed, his footsteps literally dragging. He didn't say a word, he just went into his room and threw himself on the bed. DeWinter rubbed his chin. I think I overdid it. You better go talk to him.
I went in to see Kai. I sat on the end of his bed. He didn't even raise his head. He said he was really stupid. DeWinter had walked the entire route, pointing out every way Kai could have been killed. Every possibility and every way. From falling roof tiles to being hit by a car to falling down a drain ditch. I could see his mind reeling under the information overload. Knowing a bit how exhaustive DeWinter can be by such things, I felt for the poor boy.
The best thing I could do was put a different spin on things. I told him he should be complimented. He asked how, his face still smashed in the pillow. I said his father wouldn't have told him anything if he didn't think he could learn it. So his father was treating him as if he were much older, which is a compliment. Kai sat up. "Yeah, that was good."
We talked some more and found there were three things he could learn from this. One, no detours. Two, he will make mistakes and can learn from them. Three, he cannot lie to us.
He was much cheered and went to tell his father. He eased up onto the table so go face to face with DeWinter. I added the rule that he shouldn't sit on the table. He relayed what he learned so that DeWinter knew he learned his lessons. He even added a fifth. Lesson: that I explain things better. I really wish he didn't add that one.
Kai went off to his room and DeWinter and I had a little parent talk. DeWinter was having a little difficulty at the idea that either of the children would just go off and do such things. I think he was really worried that we couldn't keep watch over them, take care of them, or that he would be able to anticipate what they were going to do. His upbringing was strict enough that he never broke any rules. I was less worried. I had to confess that while growing up I often slipped out of the Palace to go hunting, or walk around the city. DeWinter just glanced at me, saying so that's where Kai got it from. Yes, and they are smarter than us. I suppose that's why there are usually two parents. We have to have the advantages of numbers to keep ahead of them.
I've been taking Xhimena and Kai to a local bookstore. She loves all the books and was systematically going through each one, deciding which she would buy. Those lucky ones were neatly placed in a pile. After the first time, where she could have spent hours, I restricted them into finding four books in half an hour. I figured we'd then be out within an hour. Kai, on the other hand, rapidly went though all the choices and declared he wasn't interested in any of them. Thinking they were too easy for him, I took him over to a section for older children and let him browse.
I wandered a little myself, keeping them in sight, picking up a few books and a couple I thought DeWinter would like. Kai-Revere picked out a book on raising horses. It was a college-level book. I wasn't going to buy it, but then I thought if he decided to try something else, I'd read it.
Kai-Revere hasn't given up on his book. At first, he continually asked us the meaning of words. I was just pleased that he could read the words themselves. In the end I bought him a dictionary. Now he only runs out from time to time to ask his father about context. But all in all, he was really trying.
I took Kai-Revere to see a veterinarian on the outskirts of the city. We go there periodically and Kai pelts him with obscure questions using words even I'd have to look up. Saying I'm astonished at what he knows would be the worst sort of understatement.
In the meantime, Xhimena continues to drag me to the bookstore. She goes through her books faster than I thought she would, even when I try to estimate it higher. She, too, is now browsing the juvenile section. The clerk just watches as this girl who can barely walk tries to carry books almost half her size.
At one point I noticed that the clock on the wall had stopped. It took a little bit, but I got it working. It became a point of interest when I noticed it stopped whenever we visited. In fact, I once saw Xhimena look at it and it stopped right then. I asked her if she did anything with the clock. She said that she knew that if she wanted it, her half hour wouldn't be up. Ah. Can an Amberite child affect Shadows like that?
While Kai-Revere will concentrate fully on one subject, Xhimena has a broad interest in many things. She'll learn something about everything while he will exhaust everything on a few. They compliment each other well.
We've been here a long time. We discussed it and decided to try another Shadow. It is still our intention to give them a broad exposure to Shadow. They were a little distressed at the idea of leaving. Well, Kai was. He doesn't take change very well. He thought this was our new home. He was fine after I promise he could take his books. I told them I'd make sure their things would be waiting for them.
After we said our goodbyes to everyone from the shopkeepers, clerks, and veterinarians, we left for Mycenae. I though it would be nice for my sister and the children to visit with each other for a short time. We arrive on a beautiful day and the city was bright and busy. Xhimena wrote her own composition of our travels here. Kai-Revere thought that was an interesting trick and wanted to know more about learning to write. I didn't exactly tell him he couldn't. But I didn't want him and Xhimena to grow up competing with each other. I couldn't say that every child competes with its peers, but it does seem to be a pronounced attribute for Amberite children. Instead I guided him toward mathematics. After all, it is somewhat like a code and will still be very useful.
We went to an assortment of entertaining events. The film industry has arrived here and Kai was dazzled by the stories. However, he has come to the conclusion that the girls here are crazy. He hasn't picked up on the fact that in most places, either the men or the women are seen as dominant, I suppose is the best word. It's there in the weir, to some extent, but not to the point that one side or the other has lesser rights and privileges. DeWinter and I certainly don't show that with each other. At least, I don't think we do. In fact I was uncomfortable about the whole thing. I wonder if that means I've thrown some of that baggage away? I hope so. Explaining it seemed counter-productive, so I just had to hope he'd figure something out.
Kai-Revere did come home with a black eye. He'd won a number of popular games right in a row. It's a sort of hopscotch on stairs. The girls were probably weren't pleased when he said he'd just learned it. When asked to come along to one of their homes, he said he'd ask his Dad. That was seen as cheeky and, bruised egos fresh, they hit him. I had to find out what happened by asking the girls themselves. Kai was genuinely confused by what happened. And probably more than a little frustrated that I have told him not to hit other people. I'm thinking that I should exclude self-defense.
I talked with the girls and the eldest admitted that she knew she wasn't supposed to hit boys. They came over and apologized and all was well, though I think he never felt like he was fitting in.
Xhimena, as usual, was unlike her brother. She didn't care for films. She just couldn't distinguish the fact that they weren't real. She liked the city and when she wasn't playing, she quietly composed her stories and read her books.
My sisters were unusually jittery and tense. In their reckoning, I have been gone for more than 30 years, yet I still hadn't changed a bit, aside from losing much of my Mycenaean manners. The nerves died down after a day or two and I felt it was safe to talk to them about it. They dismissed the question of aging and made small talk. Eventually I did learn they have greater problems to face. The monarchy is in trouble. There are demands for a constitutional overhaul and the assertion that parliament is the way to go. So, many of the nobles and the general population are trying to decide if they want a constitutional monarchy or abolish it completely.
These questions arose just about the time Tremerule had visited. He had asked questions, made comments. When he left the matter faded for a few months and now has become a real political problem. Chryseis wasn't going to talk to me about it, intentionally. Why? Because I don't live here, and I'm not involved with their lives here. I didn't mention the fact that the time flow was different because she wouldn't understand. Nor the fact that for a number of years we'd been caught in a trapped Shadow, for the same reason. But I still resented that she would think I wouldn't care or that I wouldn't want to know. That hurt. I'm going to have to try and juggle three worlds. I simply must get March to show me how to change the time flow here.
I went out into Shadow and collected history books. I explained a little about Shadow and that there were different Mycenaean worlds. I'm not sure Chryseis understood it, but she listens when I told her that these histories would not necessarily work here, that there could be fundamental differences that could not be foreseen. She nodded, but I'm not sure she would even read them. Barring my trying to take over, I just have to trust she can handle it.
We've left my home Mycenae and traveled to the future shadow of my home. I'm hoping it illustrates that Shadows can look the same but be very different. We stayed in the apartments I had before and will begin another round of sightseeing tomorrow.
I received a Trump call from Evander. Apparently all is well. He just wanted to tell me---
That was when the contact ended. Sensing trouble, I immediately Trumped Tatasha. She answered. When I asked if anything was wrong, she just looked at me, puzzled. Thinking that I may not get another chance to Trump Aes, I asked her to pull me through. If everything was alright, I'd just go back. If not, I'd bring DeWinter through.
I asked her where Evander was. She said he was probably in his rooms. Gerard was out of the city right now. We went to look for Evander. The first clue something was wrong were the sleeping bodies just outside her door. We made a side trip so I could pick up a blade. The only place nearby was in the practice room. There, too, were more sleeping bodies, except for one, who had been cleanly decapitated.
Now, it was getting nasty.
We hurried through the corridors. We were just entering another wing of the castle when Tatasha stepped through a door before I could get her to allow me to go through first. She fell immediately.
I heard a whirring and dodged inside, hoping they were anticipating I would run. I immediately caught one with my blade and knocked out another one. Both fell and I secured the area before examining them. They were Chaosians, of that I am certain. They were wrapped in black silk lengths. One was still holding a three-pronged device that I assume rendered the people unconscious. The other had a coil of silk. I took both before I Trumped Gerard.
Thankfully, he answered and came through immediately. I took him to see the men I had stopped. He identified them as Chaosian guild assassins. They tend to work in groups of nine. Now we just had to find them and get Evander back. Gerard picked up Tatasha and we made our way to Evander's room. There was still some chance that he was just unconscious.
Well, he wasn't there. We had two choices: search the castle for the Chaosians or search the surrounding area because they might try to leave the Shadow. Since some were still here, he was assuming that they were after Tatasha as well. To hide her while she was unconscious, he tossed Tatasha above the canopy of Evander's bed.
I did try to Trump DeWinter. The contact was beginning when I felt a strange sensation. Gerard reached over and flicked the card out of my hand just before the contact was becoming painful. Whatever had been occurring, it left my ears ringing. In fact, I could barely hear anything else. Gerard mouthed the word spell and I understood. I retrieved the card and fell in beside him.
Then we began to search the area. I could only hope my hearing would return. We moved through corridors, only encountering more sleeping weir. At one point we were entering a long corridor. It was situated perfectly for an ambush. Gerard put his finger to his mouth, indicating silence. He gestured that I should go forward. He moved to a corner and down to the other side of a door. With an amazing display of strength, he levied himself up to the ceiling. Agreeing to be bait, I opened the door. Two came out, charging me. Two others came out of the door directly underneath Gerard.
I pulled back, defensively striking while the four of them zeroed into my position. Then Gerard dropped down. For such a large man he was amazingly quiet. If I hadn't seen him drop, I'd never have heard him. The Chaosians' heads were cowled, so they didn't hear him either. Two were surprised as he caught them and I quickly dispatched mine.
We killed all but one. At my suggestion actually I was insisting, we moved to a side room so I could watch over Gerard as he began to get what information he could from the survivor. Using a hand to their foreheads, Gerard went into their minds. It was more than a few minutes that he worked. I was more than a little jumpy. At best I could hear a few sounds, but I couldn't know if it was near, or just my imagination.
Then he emerged to say that there was a hidden tunnel under the Castle. "Two have already gone with Evander's body."
I didn't like how he phrased that last bit. I asked if by body that meant Evander was dead. He said that this Chaosian didn't know. Two were still in the castle. I wanted to get help. Gerard said that one of them was wearing a talisman. That was what was preventing us from making any Trump calls. It works only with in certain proximity. We have to get it further away, or to where something, such as the castle walls, will block its effects.
We had two options because there were two ways to leave the Shadow. Someone would have a Trump gate anchored somewhere, or someone was leading them out. The former would use the tunnel; the latter would be riding from the castle. Do we split up, or do we pursue one choice? I admit to being a little surprised at being asked, but I offered the opinion that it would be best to cover both options. Gerard pointed out he was a faster shadowrider and could cover the ground. I remember how Marduk traveled with the Logrus. Though Gerard assured me that these Chaosians wouldn't have Logrus, I thought they might have someone near-- able to help them leave the Shadow. And Gerard is very good at tracking. It was most important to find them. I would take the tunnel.
Gerard said he'd give me the information he got from the Chaosian. With a slight touch of his finger to my forehead, I felt as if a train had hit me. All the information crashed into my mind, like a room full of dishes. The last few plates were still falling when I realized Gerard had already gone.
Before I went below, I made one stop in Tatasha's room to change into one of her outfits. For one thing, it is much easier to fight in the short tunics. Second, if they don't know I'm here, they might think I was Tatasha and underestimate me. Hopefully, that would be to my advantage.
It took a bit longer to find the tunnel. All I had time to do was a quick sort through the information and images Uncle Gerard has left me. It was rather like putting all the pictures of maps in one corner, all the people in another, and sifting through the remaining images and thoughts for anything about a tunnel. I had to sift three times before I found it. It was dark. I cursed my stupidity because I should have anticipated needing a shuttered lantern. Instead, I had to settle for a torch. I wasn't pleased about the possibility of telegraphing my position, especially when I saw how straight the tunnel was. But I couldn't afford to waste the time to go back for something else.
All I could do was move fast, so I ran. After 100 yards, or so, the path suddenly sloped downward. It was a drain area, so that the lower level wouldn't flood all the way to the castle and out the secret door. The water at the bottom-most area was still moving. I headed along to find wet footsteps. It was too dark in the flickering light to determine just how many, they must be traveling single file. But there were at least two, and they were carrying Evander, or something else rather large.
I moved even faster. There were no air currents to speak of, so the water had been disturbed very, very recently. I began a hard charge. Ahead I could see a flash of red. I dodged, but nothing happened. I continued to run.
Ahead I saw a rather bizarre scene. The tunnel ended into a room. Wood paneling went half way up the walls. Red velvet draperies hung from the ceiling. A thin black-clothed figure stood in the glowing doorway. As I moved closer, I could see it was a portal.
The figure raised his arm, sighting along it. I had only a few seconds to decide what to do. If I stopped, the portal might close. If I continued, I could get shot. Since it is my habit to get shot it isn't too surprising I kept going. It was more important not to lose the destination. I only hoped that I could reach Gerard or DeWinter once I got there.
I threw my dagger. It hit him in the chest. I was close enough I could hear that it broke a rib. He fired at almost precisely the same time. The red light flashed into a beam, hitting me low in the chest. I felt it go all the way through.
Then I was through the portal, diving under the table that rested in the center. It was as good a shield as I could manage. I had intended to lift it, but it was about fifty feet long and I was in no condition to do any heavy work. From my vantage point I could see a number of shields on the wall. I had enough of a view to see that I was in Mycenae. Now I was thoroughly confused.
Near me, on the floor, were two bodies, with their heads detached nearby. I rolled to the other side and felt my lung painfully collapse. A quick view of Chaosian black-clad legs told me there were assassins here. One of them was behind me, the one in the portal. With my knife in him he managed to gasp, The High Mother is in the room!
As I got my bearings I heard metal rasping on metal. Then I saw two others on my side, with a woman nearby. I heard the strike and saw the body fall. It was Chryseis. Everything spun for a second, in slow motion, and I was charging. On the floor were Evander and his sword. I grabbed it as I rose. There was a woman standing as if in a trance. One Chaosian faced me, the other was about to decapitate the entranced woman.
I opted to take them both out. As one raised his arm for a shot, I let out the harshest, loudest scream I could muster. I positioned my blade in front of me and managed to deflect the red beam. I was gratified that my blade deflected it, actually absorbing most of it. I threw it at the one about to strike the woman and it was a good solid hit. He fell forward, missing the woman. I delivered the hardest kick to the remaining one and I knew he died before he hit the floor. The remains of my broken blade were on the floor. It'd broken at the point where the laser had struck the metal. He got one more shot out with his weapon and most of my knee cap disappeared. Then he died.
I got a strip of black silk and bound my knee while checking on Evander. He was still alive, though deeply asleep. He had huge bruises everywhere.
I moved the woman to face away from the carnage as she began to come to her senses. I must have looked a sight, because she looked more afraid of me than the fact that she had no idea what was going on. I said that someone in Mycenea was working against the throne and had thrown themselves in with them. By the look in her face, she was party to this. Whether she had anything to do with the assassination of my sister, I'd find out soon enough.
I turned her roughly so she could see the results. She fell in a dead faint. There was no satisfaction in that. But I did think that Mycenaean women were growing soft. Especially when they were going to hire assassins.
I searched the bodies and found the talisman that stopped Trump contacts. I had to get it out of range.
I stepped out into the corridor. That caught the guard's attention. I was bloodied, only partly bandaged, wearing a shirt that just reached my thighs and hose. This in a country where the dresses still reached the floor. I was virtually naked by their standards.
I called a guard. A lieutenant Simmis responded and even believed me when I told him who I was. I instructed him to take the talisman outside and hide it. Then I asked for a contingent of guards to secure the corridor from having anyone come inside. Then I told him to get I almost said Chryseis. I had to think, to try and keep control, before I could remember Portia. She would be next for the throne. Then I stepped back inside.
I Trumped Tatasha. I needed help getting Evander out of here. I woke her; she was still in Evander's room. She sat up abruptly, hitting her head on the ceiling. If she was still asleep the chances were good that so were the rest of her personnel. She wanted to know what was wrong and I didn't have the breath to talk.
Finally she saw the shape I was in. Even my mouth was leaking blood. That I kept the contact was short of amazing. She reached forward. I thought she wanted to come through, but that wouldn't have been a good idea. I was going to have a hard enough time explaining this.
I must have been fading out because she managed to take my hand. I felt the surge of energy hit me and it felt wonderful. I felt my lung heal and clear, my knee became whole, and I felt great, physically. All in one minute. I thanked her and told her Evander was fine and I will get him back to Aes as soon as possible.
Then I Trumped Random. I explained the situation as quickly as I could. He said he'd get a diplomat to handle the situation, probably March. Then he signed off. I had to Trump him again to remind him that given that Mycenae is a matriarchy, March might not be the best choice.
"Oh, yeah." He signed off again.
I removed the bindings since it was cutting into my newly healed leg. Outside I found a Colonel Jetney waiting. She was almost hostile. I didn't need that. I explained the delicacy of the situation and she ordered the guards to arrest me. Damn it! I did not need that right then. I leapt back into the room and locked the door.
I Trumped Random. I needed someone to come through and get Evander out. I was busy bracing the door that now had a few guards pounding into it. Random said he'd help me but he kept getting interrupted by Trump calls. I didn't appreciate the levity.
He sent two guards through and they carried Evander out. By now the guards outside had something for a ram. The Amber guards went back through to Random and I followed.
Random was slapping Evander awake. His first question was to ask where he was. I explained his ambush and the subsequent kidnapping. That astonished him. Him? Ambushed? Impossible, he declared. Really? Then how did he explain now being in Amber and his bruises? He tried to stand and then realized just how bruised and stiff he was. He was starting to believe it. Random asked me if they managed to kill Tatasha? Evander went pale at that. I said no, we hid her but they did get my sister. Evander looked relieved. I wondered if he had even heard what I had said. Probably not. He did wonder why I bothered to go after him and I acidly responded that if he had nothing more productive to say, then I had best be going. He looked confused for a moment and said he didn't mean that. Then he said, as is his pattern, that he didn't understand me. I said we'd already established that as the one thing we both agreed upon. I just wish he'd try.
I Trumped DeWinter. I asked him to get the children and come through immediately. Unlike my less-than-enlightened father, DeWinter knew right away that something was very, very wrong. He came through with them. They said hello to Random. They chatted back and forth a bit, Random being distressingly calm and pleasant. Though I suppose he had no reason to be upset, really.
I sent the children to Tiryns. Xhimena didn't want to go, but Kai jostled her along. Within a minute of being in the room, he knew something was wrong and wasn't about to disobey right then. I reassured them we would be along in a little while. When they were gone, I told DeWinter what happened. When I mentioned Chryseis, he immediately held me. It was the first sign of compassion I'd gotten. I held myself together and said we had to go back. I had to explain what happened to the rest of my sisters. I just couldn't leave them to think that I, or Amber, had anything to do with this.
We left Evander to Random. In fact, I think I didn't say anything to either of them before I left. I really can't remember. We changed clothes and Trumped back to Mycenae. I wasn't sure of the reception so I had him leave and find out what he could of the situation. If I was going to be arrested, I needed him free to Trump me out to find the rest of them. All of them.
I found my sisters in their suites; already the mourning was setting in. I could not allow that, not yet. Portia said that the Prime Minister said it would be best if they waited in the Palace during the investigation. This wouldn't do. I badgered her a bit to take a more proactive role. If she was going to be Queen, she'd have to start immediately, or she'd lose it all. Mycenaeans tend to fall apart quickly when someone dies. It can be quite exhaustive and intense but, sad to say, Portia didn't have that luxury. If she didn't move decisively, others would gain the upper hand and control the government. She couldn't be seen as weak.
I convinced them to go to the Parliament building where the killing happened. I found Lt. Simmis and learned that the colonel was just now reporting to the Prime Minister. Simmis had been told that Chaosians had done the killings and that they were shape-shifters. Obviously because I was too young, I had to be an imposter. Portia verified who I was and the young man went pale. That they so quickly recognized that Chaosians were there struck me as odd I asked for his hand, which he gave over. I then looked inside his mind. I told him to think about what happened since I left.
I saw Colonel Jetney barking insults at their stupidity in believing such a patent lie as to my identity. She went over to the bodies to examine them. She spoke to Simmis. She knew about the Chaosians from what little Chryseis knew-- their general appearance and their abilities. Jetney quickly put the scene together and realized that enemies of Amber were responsible.
As a group we all went to the Prime Minister. Portia had been quiet most of the time, listening to what Simmis and I had to say. When we got there, we found Colonel Jetney shackled to the chair, under arrest and being questioned.
When the prime minister saw me, he immediately ordered my arrest. I knocked two guards out before Portia screamed at them to stop, confirming who I was. I told her that both the Prime Minister and the colonel had to be examined for Chaosian influences. The Prime Minister laughed at the idea of such superstition. He protested far too much. Portia didn't argue with him, she just removed him from his office. In a fit of pique he left. I immediately Trumped DeWinter and brought him through. I hurriedly explained what happened and asked if he would follow the Prime Minister. With luck, he would lead us to some of his confederates. He grumbled something but did as I asked. I suppose I wasn't being too coherent or calm.
The colonel did allow me to examine her. Her first thought that I encountered was: 'I can't believe I'm letting this barbarian do this clap-trap idea.'
I responded that this barbarian had abilities they would need. That caused a mental double-take. She began to think of everything she didn't want me to know. That she found me attractive, even though I was a barbarian, or that I might be a witch. I suppose far too many of my manners have deteriorated to ever be civilized in their eyes again. I asked her to think about the investigation. That allowed her to focus on what I needed to learn. Much of it I already learned. Her assumption, while correct, was largely a few leaps of intuition. But it was accurate and that was the important part. It was reliable and her mind was untouched by any controls.
Portia demanded that I examine her also. I did, and my sisters as well. By the time I was done, I had been relegated to status of witch, but I was on the side of good so it was all right. Each of them got fairly spooked by the idea that I could go in their minds and learn their secrets. I doubted they'd believe me if I said I really didn't want to know them, so I just traded a secret for anything I learned from them accidentally. That reassured them. I only hope they'd understand me a little better.
It was early in the morning that the Baroness Aldea, the one nearly killed in the council room, was able to see anyone. Portia said that Chryseis had gone to a meeting with some of the dissenting factions to gain a vote of confidence for her next Parliament appearance. When I examined her mind, the last thing she remembers is the sound of breaking glass and a strange smell. The next thing she remembered was me shaking her.
Portia said that I do not know what Fortune played so that my sister could save your life, but will you allow her to examine you?
She was reluctant, but she agreed, believing I was examining her for signs of poison.. I learned that while she did not necessarily support the pure monarchy, she wasn't part of the plot to kill Chryseis nor did she have any knowledge of it. Nor was she under anyone's control.
But I realized all of the factions that weren't directly and forcibly against the monarchy were in that room. They were all supposed to die. Aldea was a walking target. She would be safe if she resigned from the party, refusing to take the leadership role which was now open to her, but it would be guaranteed that someone else would step up and it would have been as good as if she had been killed. When I was done, I said she was fine, for now. The Baroness misunderstood the last part and fainted once more.
Linea did note that the Prime Minister wasn't at the meeting. She was looking at his appointment book. He knew of it and it would have been logical for him to be there, so why wasn't he? It was further proof that he might have been influenced. Just then DeWinter returned, carrying the body of the Prime Minister. He looked every inch the barbarian they thought him to be. Fortunately he is a very handsome barbarian, so my sisters just smiled.
While I was pretty certain the Chaosians were probably gone, I did want permission to go after them. Unfortunately, Mycenaean law would not permit me to do anything. It is rather hard to press charges for a crime no one believes in, such as mind control. But they would accept a request for extradition from Amber, whom they are allied with. Perfect. Within minutes after a quick Trump call, I had one written from Random. He also gave me a letter to someone called Smokey, claiming I was collecting a debt that was owed Random. Hm. I'll keep that.
I did see the Baroness once more. Portia didn't want to allow it, since the woman is terrified by me, but I promised to behave and put on my best Mycenaean manners. While she and Portia do not have to agree on politics, they had better become allies. Unless they wanted to see Mycenae fall under a foreign control. Within an hour, we had an understanding and she wasn't afraid of me. I think she wrote off my behavior to seeing the death of Chryseis.
She had no idea.
Before I left, I made sure Portia found Chryseis' Trump of me and learned how to use it. I even secretly gave one to the colonel. She's in a perfect position to see much of everything and attract little attention. Chaosians traditionally wouldn't even notice she's alive, much less anyone important.
Then I went home to break the news to Mother.
At first Mother didn't believe I was telling the truth. It took a few minutes for her to realize this wasn't some part of a long story where everything turned out right in the end. We just sat quietly and held each other for a long while. Byslamia, on the other hand, broke down quickly and completely. It was harder to console her because I had nothing to console her with. I just couldn't mourn. It isn't time yet.
It's been a horrible few days. The children knew something was wrong, but just don't grasp it. I explained that their aunt was gone and Kai understood that to mean she lost a battle. In a real way that was correct. What I didn't anticipate was where he would go with that thought. He took the intangible and made it quite tangible. The next day he asked if his father could lose a fight. I knew immediately where he was heading.
How do you explain death to a little boy. Or girl, for that matter.
I could not bring myself to lie, not with something as important as that. Because if we ever failed, he may only remember the lie. But I so did not want to let him face such a grim reality. It was too soon. Perhaps he'd adapt to it, perhaps not. All I could say was that we all work together as a family so that we hardly ever lost and his father was one of the toughest men I knew. But Kai wanted a real answer. He wanted me to tell him DeWinter would never lose. And it broke my heart because I just couldn't say the words. All my careful composure was cracking.
He left and went and found his father. I followed slowly. I saw them out in back. I arrived just as Kai-Revere started to yell and scream. Apparently DeWinter wouldn't lie either and Kai did not like this at all. He screamed and hit, trying to make his father take the awful words back. It just is not right that he had to learn this in this way, not this young. DeWinter just let Kai work it out, not bothering to try and stop him. When Kai was exhausted and crying, he picked Kai up and they went into the orchard to talk it over.
Then I realized that Xhimena was next to me. She asked what was wrong and I told her Kai was just a little upset. Why? I gave her a vague answer. Xhimena sat for a few minutes thinking. After a while she just curled up with her head in my lap, crying. I knew with a frightening chill that she had somehow figured it out. She knew why Kai was upset and she was just as unhappy. All I could do was hold her, because there are no words to make this easier.
That was a few days ago. The children have settled down a bit. We've stayed so that some of the shock could wear off. And it was more than enough time to let my anger build. I was tired of House Merquier. They'd now stooped to assassination and destroyed a little part of our children's innocence. I respected reality, but my children didn't need it quite this early, nor quite this harshly. I'm angry at Merquier for doing this, and angry at myself for not having some way to cushion it for my children, if only a little bit, for a little while longer.
We have plenty proof of their attacks on us, on my family, the hiring of assassins
they've done more than their share to break the treaty. If this is embarrassing to the Courts, so be it. Merlin will just have to deal with it. DeWinter and I leave tomorrow. We will hunt down those responsible. I have no intention of killing them. I want them all alive.
We left the next day. We stopped by Castle Black to enlist DoBlique's aid. The Merquiers have a nasty habit of employing those with magic and we need some ammunition on our side. She readily agreed to help. I made it clear; I was not going to take them back to Amber. They'd then fall under Random's sphere and he'd just find a way to stop me from pursuing my case. She understood the ramifications and to her credit, bless her, she didn't hesitate. She packed a small trunk with what she needed, loaded all on a lizard-like mount and we left.
I was tired of this House having the freedom to do whatever they liked, under the belief that no one would do anything to upset the status quo. I refused to live like this any longer. I may not be able to protect my sisters, but I can, and will act in retaliation. I will find those that are responsible.
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