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Cassandra's Diary.50

Day 237/33

DeWinter and I settled down to work on how we were going to talk with the girls. A dry run, if you will. We both agreed that the girls are very independent. Between their Amber heritage, influence from the Weir, and what the two of us had brought to the mix, has all contributed to it. And, their independence was quickly becoming arrogance.

DeWinter was really nice, and…delicate about his ideas. Basically, he broached the idea that what I was really mad about was that they didn't do as I wanted…that circumventing the Imasadhi was what I was really upset with. I was going to protest, but I had to really look at what he was saying. And admit that was a part of it. I was hurt. In the beginning. But now, I was angry. Angry by what they were doing and how they were doing it.

DeWinter believes that their “confession,” what Mosi, Ekaterin, and Devi told us was very deliberate. He's not sure what they were up to, but their admitting to what happened served to have us react as they were hoping. It wasn't a comforting thought. We always knew that when they grew up, and if they banded together, we could not out-think them. I guess the time has come.

But, what could we really say to them? If we take over and “fix” things, they really wouldn't have learned anything. But, it would be very hard for me to just step back and take an observers view. I'm not ready to do that.

Instead, we gathered all the children. To Devi, Ekaterin and Mosi, we told them they were on their own. We outlined the situation as we saw it, with all the potential problems. Then, we told them we were always available if they wanted our help. I could see the rest of the girls processing what we were saying. They new the three could get into a lot of trouble. I'm hoping they would avoid similar mistakes…especially if they saw how difficult it could get to make things right.

That was it. Everyone filed out with much to think about. Kai did tell us he wouldn't be going to Amber for a while. He feels strongly that he should stay and help protect the girls. From what, he couldn't say, but he was sure of it.

Day 238/33
Playing Hooky

This morning, I dragged DeWinter out to have brunch. I said we should play hooky. He said he'd think it was a great idea if he knew what hooky was. I thought he just didn't know the term, but I should have known better. He'd never skipped classes, or snuck out of the house, not once, while growing up. It actually made me giggle. He looked surprised and what was really odd was that every man's head in the café snapped around to look at us. DeWinter looked around and pointed a finger at me. “You don't do that twice in one place.” It almost made me laugh again.

I brought the conversation back to hooky. He thought it was an interesting idea. I and ask what he wanted to do.

He wasn't sure. We ended up wandering around and found a little carnival just outside town. Inside the gates was a lovely little carousel. One of the horses was a unicorn. Behind it was a tiger. He had us wait until the unicorn was unoccupied and swept a bow and I got on and he rode the tiger. We rode it for a while and I don't think he saw the imagery.

We went and had wine and dessert and wandered the streets some more arm in arm. We ended up in front of an old hotel. So old, even in 2027, that it didn't have an elevator. We got a room on the fifth floor. It might have once had a view but the area had built up so much all we saw were neighboring buildings. Not that we spent much time looking out the window.

Twenty minutes later we were interrupted by the manager, who was also the bellhop, knocking on the door. DeWinter was annoyed enough, he just got up and went to the door. Yes, he's been around the weir. I had just enough time to draw the sheets across myself before the door opened. An annoyed, and nude, DeWinter was more than enough for the manager to hurriedly offer us the bottle of champagne and leave with apologies. We finished the bottle over the next few hours.



Day 239/33

I woke up as DeWinter came back to the room. It's been a long time since one of us could leave without waking the other. We had breakfast in bed, planning what we were going to do. We thought we would take a week or two for a vacation.

On impulse, we went to the airport. I thought it would be interesting to see New York City. We could have gone out into Shadow and back in to the city, but I didn't want to. I may never get over my dislike of flying, but I didn't feel like having it rule how I traveled. At least, not today.

The trip took about 12 hours and it was much nicer that the last time I flew. For one thing, they were using “jet engines” instead of propellers. So it was both a faster and smoother ride. The seats even flipped, so we could face each other. For another thing, there were “stewards” and food. As long as I didn't look out the window, it wasn't that bad at all. DeWinter had only one warning…I wasn't to giggle.


Day 240/33
New York

We arrived in New York. It was both refreshing that no one knew who we were. Granted, it made finding a hotel difficult, but we managed. Well, the cab driver managed…he was very helpful. At the hotel, I checked in with Claw by Trump. Everything was fine, though she was a little miffed about being out of the loop. I told her we could only feel comfortable leaving because we knew she and Vis could handle anything. She growled at me, but I think it made her feel better.


Day 244/33

The city is so very large. We did a lot of the tourist routes, though I managed to have us avoid the Statue of Liberty. I wasn't taking any chances. We shopped…Tiffany had some lovely things. I had pieces sent to everyone. The museums were wonderful, though none of the art museums were a match to the Louvre. But the others were amazing. We even caught some of the Broadway shows.

But the city is much different than Paris. They are both big cities, but Paris isn't so…oppressive. And the crowds…I know DeWinter didn't like them at all.

I told DeWinter it was his turn to choose the destination.

He went to the library.

He brought back picture books. He thought the alligators looked interesting. Yep, he was Kai's father.

So, we caught a plane for Florida.

Day 237/33
Florida

The first impression I could make was that it was both hot and humid. We found a hotel and we began to try and find out how we could learn more about the creatures.

On man told DeWinter about the “alligator tours” for hunting alligators with knives. I could see that the man was setting us up for a joke. He was more than a little startled when DeWinter started asking for specifics, such as what sort of boat is used, what sort of equipment, that type of thing. It didn't occur to DeWinter that these people might not actually hunt these creatures, at least not with knives. When pressed for an actual date, the man backpedaled and said it took at least a week to arrange. Later I told DeWinter that I thought the man would never contact us, or he'd just take our money and run. He was a little miffed.

Instead, DeWinter started to do his own preparations for finding them on his own. He threw himself into outfitting us. He is so Kai's father.





Day 242/33
Alligator Hunting

Well, we were ready. DeWinter had determined that the best time to hunt these creatures is at night. All of the people he had gotten the equipment from had demanded entire payment up front…a certain hint that we were crazy.

I was to man the lights and boat, mostly because I know boats. We wandered down a river, when I spotted a few alligators along the banks. One in particular was pretty large, from what I could see. When it left that bank and came to investigate, I warned DeWinter that one was coming. I caught it in the headlights.

What I didn't expect was DeWinter to up and jump into the water to meet the thing.

It was hard to keep the light on them, there was a lot of movement and splashing and then they both went under. Especially when I was trying to keep tabs on the ten or so alligators that were becoming quite curious about the goings-on and were coming to investigate.

The water was just starting to settle when DeWinter re-emerged. He gave a grin and patted the creature floating next to him. I said he did a great job, but could he speed this up. He was just about to have company. Right.

He went under the alligator, came up and heaved.

The alligator made a lovely arc and hit the deck, directly in the center.

And went down through the bottom.

I managed to dive off the boat as it sank. Fortunately, the confusion drew the alligators off a bit, enough for us to move out of the way. DeWinter pushed his capture in front of him.

Fortunately, there was a moon. Slowly, through the muck, we made our way upriver. It took most of the night to find a landing site that wasn't infested. On average, we killed an alligator for each mile we traveled. The river did meander a bit, so it was a longer trip.

We had a crowd as we pushed our catch in front of us, a bit worse for the wear. We'd been using them as a sort of barrier as we moved. They didn't quite believe that we had killed seven of the creatures, but they did help us out of the water. We were covered from head to toe in mud, and I was getting chilled. But, I made sure I got a picture of DeWinter with the alligator. Then we arrange to have it stuffed and sent to the house, specifically for Kai. He'll love it.


Day 243/33

We've rested but were a little restless. It was my turn to choose something to do. Since DeWinter hadn't much experience with boats and I've missed being on them, I suggested racing catamarans. It doesn't take long to figure out, but can take years to be proficient. We could do it once or twice and leave it for something else, or we could do it for a while.

DeWinter was amenable to the idea. The only place on this continent that had racing was in California. So we made arrangements to travel by train. We weren't in a real hurry.

But, we'd been gone for some time. And I didn't doubt everyone could do fine without us, but I missed Duncan. I'd missed too much of his life already to want to miss more. DeWinter was willing, so we Trumped Paris to ask him if he wanted to join us. Claw relayed the message to get it to Duncan. While we waited I talked with Claw. I told her to expect a very large box, probably with an odd smell. I assured her we had sent it. She assured me the house was still standing and there were no major scandals.

There was a minor one, though. Ekaterin has been dating the man who had proposed. I really need to get his name. The weir are unimpressed. They don't think he's good enough for her.

Duncan came running. He said he wanted to come but he wanted to bring his friend. I gave a curious look to Claw, and she said that Duncan had rescued a cat. Oh, well, that's fine. Duncan went to get his friend. Claw said the cat was skinny, miserable, dislikes almost everyone except Duncan, and will piss on anyone he doesn't like. And he follows Duncan everywhere.

Duncan came back and through the Trump. He sported a traveling backpack, like a miniature military pack. He even wore a beret with a red, black and silver badge. In his arms was the skinniest, broke-tailed wretch of a cat that I have ever seen.

I flicked the badge with my finger. What's that from? He said that Monad had one and he liked it. He asked for one and Monad gave it to him. Hm. I'm going to have to speak to Monad about that.

The cat's name was Demon. Oh, I hope it's only a name, not a description. He said that Demon's eyes glowed in the dark. Hm.

Day 248/33
California

It took five days to get to California or Nueva España as it's called here. . The trip was uneventful, but this is an amazing country. It seemed that everyday there was something new to see: a new terrain, new culture, and new architecture.

The women of the train took particular delight in Duncan. Even though I'm biased, I could see why they thought he was adorable. He was very cute and charmed his way into their hearts without even trying, much like his father, now that I think about it.

He spent much of his days with his face pressed against the glass, looking at the passing scenery. He speaks mostly French, though he has a tendency to intersperse words in Thari and weir. His French accent, though, went a long way to further charm the others on the train and they began teaching him American English. So, we all began to learn the language together and made certain he knew important phrases; such as how to ask for police if he's lost, and our names.

We settled into a hotel and looked around a bit. The Spanish influence is very strong here and we didn't engender much notice being foreign, as we did in Florida.

We did pick up the rulebook for the season's races when we signed up. It was about two inches thick. DeWinter handed it to me stating that since I was a judge, I could read the rules. I suspect a pattern is starting here.

We spent the remainder of the day looking at various catamarans, finally choosing one that appealed to me. It was used, but in fine shape. There were new vessels made of strange materials, which I'm not familiar enough to gauge. So, the one we settled on was of a nice wood, and a familiar design. DeWinter didn't have an opinion, since this was new to him. We both are looking more towards learning to race rather than expecting to win.

That's the beauty of what we're doing. We can put aside the idea of winning and work towards gaining or improving out skills. And, our strengths and natural physical abilities would stand us in good stead, but only so far. The true skill is working with the elements and learning to work as a team.

We had a little crow's nest made for the tallest mast, for Duncan to use. It should keep him out of the rigging and safe. We briefly thought we should put a tether on him, but I'd rather not have him dragged beneath the boat should we capsize. At that height, he should be thrown clear if that happens. Another first, will be to teach him to swim.


Day 252/33

We've gotten found out, though I'm not sure how. True, we gave our names in the hotel, but no one here has made any sign that our names man anything in particular to anyone. Nevertheless, we made the society pages. I wish we could have managed to avoid it a little longer, but we decided to ignore it unless it became a problem. Thus far, all they've said is that a pair of eccentric millionaires has entered the races. That, and the fact that we have no training, no experience and, therefore, no hope of even placing in the competition.

Day 254/33

Today we had some test races, taking out the boat and testing our limits. Duncan enjoyed being high up. He brought Demon with him. He'd padded his knapsack so Demon could sit inside and look out over his shoulders. We did pretty well, though we didn't place. Apparently, we did well enough, even though we made a number of mistakes, that it disturbed some of the others.

Duncan helped more than he knows. The wives of the other team members thought he was terribly charming. They opened up enough to give us a few tips, which we dutifully noted. DeWinter spent the afternoon looking into the special coatings we could put on the hull wood.

Day 314/33

We've enjoyed amazing weather. Even in Mycenae, we didn't have such lovely weather; we tended for more storms and squalls.

We've kept in touch with the house. Everything is fine, with no curious happenings. The only thing of note, that Claw relayed, is that Kitty has firmly declared that she is not “seeing” Kai-Revere. Kai, declined to comment on it.

Day 316/33
First Race

The first official race was today. The first of five races. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we made the top ten. We only place when we get to at least eighth place. Our competitive natures were starting. We all really want to place. I don't expect any better than that—it wouldn't be realistic. I have quite a bit of experience, but we don't have it as a team, which is the most critical aspect of catamaran racing.

At the end of the five races, the one with the highest score wins. We'll just have to see.


Day 11/34
Second Race

We spent days continually working on maneuvers and skills. And lots of researching. We're looking into different rigging, materials and alternate crew assignments. Usually, a catamaran our size would have three of four people as crew. We're working only with us two. The trick is to figure out how to best use our strengths while minimizing each of our weaknesses. Not as easy as it sounds. As we improve, the dynamics are changing, so our tactics must change with it.

There's a race every six weeks, or so. With the first race behind us, everyone's activity is increasing as we all get into the spirit. In some ways, that's our fault. Everyone is fairly well mannered and sporting, but there is a rather good-natured desire to not let the “novice crazy French couple” beat them.

We had the second race, this time placing ninth. We're definitely “cranked up” getting so close to making points.

Demon is still getting a handle on moving around. As we were practicing, he'd make another attempt at walking along the slick surface. It's a common occurrence to hear the pitter-patter of his claws on the wood, followed by a cat's cry and then a splash. It actually helps us, since we have to tack around sharply to pick him up.


Day 13/34


We're preparing for the third race. It's my thought to weigh down the catamaran a little, to force us to push our skills to gain speed.

We're pleased that those in the top five are not mocking our efforts, to try and throw us off. Of course, they're skilled and experienced, so we don't offer much of a threat. But still, we appreciate their good natures.

Duncan was invited to a birthday party. We had to explain what they're all about. He doesn't remember his own, being a bit too young, but he didn't think we had it right. Why should he give gifts to the child when it's the mothers and fathers that have done all the work? In the end, we just let him pick out gifts for both the boy and the parents.

The papers have focused a little on Duncan. They're not dwelling on any possible danger and no one in the race, or associated with it is filling them in. There were a number of pictures of Duncan in the crow's nest pointing out where the other boats are, to avoid collisions. That was his duty as second mate.

Day 14/34

I got a Trump from Aurora asking if we were going to Yule? Oh, I had forgotten all about it…again. It's the time differential. Yule in Paris isn't for a number of months yet. I said we would like to. Would she be willing to Trump us a day or two beforehand, so we could be ready? She was agreeable to it and I Trumped the house to let them know about it.

The next day, we got a Trump from Kai. His opening line was “You guys are the best parents ever.” He had the alligator tucked under one arm. It's safe to say he was pleased with it.

The papers have not let up on reporting our progress. We haven't done much to discourage it because it also served to bring in bigger crowds; this makes the racing committee very happy.

Day 15/33

It's the day before the third race. Each race is in a different part of the west coast, each further north than the last. So, after each race, we ship the vessels to the new site and we take a train up to new lodgings. It's to ensure that each course is different.

Duncan has established his own routines in the morning. Neither he nor Demon is fond of litter boxes. So, first thing each morning, he rushes out of bed to get dressed. Then, he gathers Demon up and races down to the lobby and out the door in order to let Demon out. The staff looks at this as charming and tend to hold the doors open. We've spoke to the staff and they take a special interest in making sure that nothing happens to Duncan-- keeping him in sight.

This morning was a little different. He came back with Demon, and a man. He was of average height and wore a white jacket and a crumpled hat. Duncan said he helped with Demon, though we're not certain how. We are certain that he made friends with Duncan in order to get to us. He's a reporter and wants to have an interview.

DeWinter took an immediate and intense dislike of the man. It was underhanded of him to use a four-year-old boy for his own purposes. The man said he was a film director and he wanted to do a story on us. We are a famous historical couple, after all.

DeWinter didn't give the man a chance to speak further. He took the reporter by the arm, marched and dragged the man to the door and threw him out. I spoke to the staff, warning them of the intent. They assured us they would make certain that no strangers talked with Duncan.

I also checked the man's identity out. He was Alberti Vitroleo, a representative from Lion Head Studios. I sent off a letter to the studio, protesting their methods.

We recovered our good humor and went to the docks. Our humor didn't last long. All the rigging on the catamaran had been cut. All three of us were mightily upset. Perhaps Duncan most of all, because it was so unfair.

It didn't take long for the other competitors to learn what happened. As we set about ordering lines to replace the old ones. Most everyone came by to pitch in and help. This made no one look good. Their reputations helped light the fires underneath those who we needed to supply us. Privately, I think it was Vitroleo…he'd been angry when we threw him out. Perhaps angry enough to do this? Possible. One thing I do know, whoever did this, did it out of anger, but not with any knowledge. If he really wanted to cripple us, he'd have damaged the housings for the lines. By just cutting the lines, it just caused us to lose a day, but nothing more. It was a petty thing and I'm guessing it has nothing to do with the race itself.

We weren't taking any chances. I went and hired a guard for the evenings and nights.

Day 16/34
Third Race and Sabotage

Today was the third race. DeWinter went down to the docks before dawn to make sure nothing else happened to our boat. It was fine; the weather was not. There was a dark line along the horizon heralding a storm.

Nevertheless, the race was going to proceed. As we started, the winds were already 25 knots. Some of the others competitors came to talk to DeWinter, offering tips on how to handle the storm.

The storm hit us at the top of the race. The whole catamaran shuddered with each impact of the waves. We yelled for Duncan to hold on tightly.

In the first fifteen minutes, three boats overturned. We made certain that rescue personnel picked up the crews before continuing on.

Duncan was earning his place. He alerted us to what was up ahead; many of the sails of the other boats blew out. They were hitting a dangerous blow. We barely managed to avoid it. He kept calling out where other boats foundered as we were completely occupied with keeping afloat and moving. We just managed to avoid colliding with anyone. Behind us, motorized boats were picking up the crews.

We were dealing with a great deal of chop and wind. We were like skipping stones across the tops of the waves. I had a choice, to risk the boat or move off course and forfeit the race. I gave a look to DeWinter he said it was up to me; I know more about this than he did. I took the chance to continue as DeWinter manned the sails.

Just then, one of our lines snapped. DeWinter leapt forward to catch the line and anchor it. I managed to catch the wheel, but not before we had swung around to face the opposite direction. It took a bit of doing, but we got turn back rightly to continue on.

I had to try and ignore Duncan as he yelled at us, “Hey! We're going to wrong way!” DeWinter was just cursing…nothing I can write here.

Then disaster struck…literally. The storm was completely engulfing us by now. Lightning came down and struck one of our rigged lines.

Above, Duncan moved to catch a very alarmed Demon, who had leapt out of his bag. Both lost their footing, though Demon used his claws to embed them into the wood. Duncan was thrown over the rail. He tried to catch the sail, and ended up sliding down it, his preserver serving as sufficient drag to slow him down. The winds helped as well. DeWinter leapt away from the wheel and did a “baseball slide” until he was under the mast, catching both Duncan and a broken line.

DeWinter swung around and got near the small storage hatch. With a deft move, he opened it and thrust Duncan inside, ignoring the indignant protests from our son.

Up ahead was the course-turn buoy. Only one boat was ahead, still on course. We saw the rudder turn and one of the lesser sails blew out. As we passed, the crew was picked up safely.

We were the only one to finish the race and no one was seriously injured. We got the seven points for first place.

We have six weeks until the next race. But first, we intend to rest for a few days.

Day 18/34

While there were no fatal injuries, there were a number of people with broken bones. So some crew had to be replaced. Six boats sustained heavy damages and were forced to withdraw from the race completely. And even though we won the race, we did have damages to our own boat, which took days to repair.

Day 21/34
Yule in Amber

Aurora Trumped to tell us that Yule was tomorrow. Wonderful. We promised to see her as soon as we could collect everyone.

I Trumped the house. While the girls were getting ready, Claw came through. She'd stay in America while we were gone. That way, we'd have no difficulty getting back. She looked like she was ready for or some fun. She wore denim shorts and a linen shirt and sunglasses. Thinking of all the men at the beaches, she'll have some fun while we're gone.

In Paris we collected everyone and went to the drawbridge in Amber. Winter is gentle in France, so Duncan was enchanted with the snow. It took several attempts to stop him from doing the cartwheels through the drifts.

Kitty was taken a little a back by the scene. The winter scene below, of City Amber, struck her. It was a lovely scene, with the snow on the roofs and smoke curling from the chimneys and icicles hanging from the trees.

Even though we've only been gone for six months, it seems that everyone has gotten taller. Especially the boys.

We ushered everyone upstairs where they wanted to exchange gifts. They wanted to hear about what we were doing. Unfortunately they asked DeWinter. He said, “We did a little hunting and riding on trains. A bit of sailing.” And that was it.

Everyone stared at him, knowing there had to be more to it, but knowing, also, he wouldn't elaborate. Instead, he got everyone up and out the door to go downstairs. We formed a queue so that everyone could say hello to Vialle and Random.

It was nice to see everyone. DeWinter and I got to talk with Gerard about boating and DeWinter got to ask for a few pointers.

While we were talking, Rinaldo took Duncan off for some sort of game. When Duncan came back, he was about two feet or so taller. Rinaldo had fashioned stilts for him. He'd even give Duncan his cloak.

Duncan came up behind us and clear his throat. In a low voice, trying to sound like an adult, he said, “Hello.” DeWinter turned and eyed him up and down.

“Hey, I think I saw you with my wife!” He grabbed Duncan by his collar.

In his normal voice, Duncan piped up, “No! No Dad, it's me!”

“Oh! Well, you better be careful. You really fooled me.”

“Really? Wow.”

Around us, everyone was trying hard not to laugh.

Duncan showed us his stilts and chattered on about how Rinaldo made them for him. DeWinter said that was nice of him. “It was a very generous gift.”

Duncan was very swift indeed to see where his father might be going. If it was too generous a gift, he might have to give them back. “No, Dad, it's not, really.”

DeWinter caught sight of Rinaldo and gestured him over. The two began a long and involved ceremony. It was along the lines of, “It's too fine a gift for such a young boy,” and “I take great pleasure in the making of it, sir.” All the time, Duncan was squirming and shifting back and forth, hoping his father didn't mess this up. They were too much fun to have to give back.

In the end, much to his relief, Rinaldo and DeWinter concluded their performance and he was allowed to keep the stilts. Just to keep him from falling in to anyone I took him upstairs to stow them with his things, on the pretense that they would unlikely get taken away from him should something happen.

Rhiannon came in wearing a lovely green dress with long gloves. The front was quite demur, but the back was lace, looking like a spider-web. I asked her how her Ranger duties were faring. She said she was on a “dangerous sabbatical.” And what was that? Apparently, it involved hypnotic cobras, armored aquatic purple bears and other such dangerous creatures. She really is an odd girl. Entertaining, smart and pretty, but still odd.

Benedict finally arrived and Dastard finally began to enjoy the evening. He went over and the two began talking.

Kai came by and said the he, Eidolon and Tremerule all have an appointment to see Random in the morning, to petition to walk the Pattern. DeWinter and I put smiles on our faces. Well, I did. DeWinter kept his usual neutral face.

The rest of the evening went pleasantly. Random and Martin played music while most of us danced. I even put aside my nervousness and played with them I think Random was a little surprised. I didn't inflict myself on the others for long, only a couple of songs.

Day 22/34

In the morning, the three boys went to talk with Random. DeWinter and I lingered over breakfast, waiting to hear what the answer was. By their faces, as they came into our suite, someone hadn't passed. It was Tremerule. He was obviously miserable. To make it worse, though it wasn't intended, both Kai and Eidolon decided they would walk the Pattern when he could. I know it embarrassed him, because he's so much older than the other two, but he'll get over it. The three of them, regardless how sometimes might drive each other crazy, is still, all for one and one for all, as they say.

We took Duncan out to play in the snow. Hm, most of the children hadn't seen much snow over the years. I had a bit of an advantage, from my years in Shom Dao. I managed to hit most of the with snowballs before they rallied.

Then, it was war.

Hours later we were thoroughly soaked and chilled, so we went inside to eat and warm up. Eidolon took the opportunity to get me alone and ask me if there was anything wrong with asking Kitty out on a date. He finds her “interesting.”

Well, Kai has made it vocally clear, if not truthfully, that he has no intention of being in a relationship with Kitty. He can be unhappy with Eidolon seeing her, but he's made that bed, so to speak. And Kitty has reciprocated. It might get him to realize he likes her. Or not, as the case may be. But, right now, it seemed more important that Eidolon was showing an interest in someone. I told him, that I had no problem with it, but Kai might. He'd already figured that out. Well then, it's fine. He is not in the wrong.

We ushered everyone back together and went back to Paris. Everyone got settled in and went to take a nap. Most of them were up rather late and had risen early, so they were still tired. DeWinter and I took Duncan and switched places with Claw. She had a lovely tan. By her grin, she had some fun, but didn't feel like talking about it.

Later that day, Eidolon Trumped me. He'd asked Kitty out and she said yes. Kai argued with him about it. It started out with “Oh, you are in such trouble,” and ended with “I never said you could.” Eidolon reminded Kai that he had denied any relationship with Kitty, so he had no say in the matter. So far, that's all that happened. Eidolon was clearly pleased that Kitty said yes. He hadn't decided where the date would take place, but he'd think of something.

Day 35/34
News of the House

Claw caught me up on the happenings in the house. Ekaterin's “boyfriend” is clearly enraptured with her. She is not so inclined. But, she's handling the situation.

Mosi was served papers for assault and promiscuous behavior. Byslamia and DoBlique went to speak with the lawyer. Claw thought it best I talk with them myself. So I returned the Paris.

DoBlique explained that the lawyer had tried to "shake them down." Effectively, he was blackmailing us for half a million francs in return for keeping Mosi's reputation intact.

DoBlique got a little annoyed, fancy that. She said, “I will show you what I think half a million francs is worth.” She drew the lawyer to the window. “Look at all the pretty birds. It is a wonderful part of the Parisian landscape. This is the city of lovers. And part of that landscape is disagreements between boys and girls. No one says, 'Let's get rid of the birds…or stop sex.' It would be a bleak world if that were so.” And then all the birds in sight dropped from the sky and their perches, dead. Just to make certain the lawyer understood this was no fluke, she did it once more as he stared.

By this time I had my head in my hands. I was torn between being upset and being angry. I was more inclined to be angry.

DoBlique was happy to announce that the boy came and apologized to Mosi, because his parents had hired the lawyer. The kids sort of made a peace pact.

Now, I know they have no real case here. She was technically underage and he had hit her first. I doubted it would even get to trial. But, it could still damage Mosi's reputation. I thought it showed some maturity that he was willing to take the steps to make amends.

I tried asking why they hadn't contacted DeWinter or me. We would have told them that we had left so that Mosi could take care of the situation. In some ways, the situation had gotten worse. We've always downplayed our differences with the population. Birds dropping from the skies over Paris wasn't what we had in mind for dealing with situations like this.

But, no matter how upset I was by what had happened, it was clear that DoBlique was only trying to help. And, I really didn't want her to think she was intruding. When I didn't yell and just explained the situation, Byslamia began to relax. I realized then that Byslamia was more worried by how I was going to react, than what they had done. Well, no, I think she was just concerned all around.

I gave DoBlique a hug and thanked her for helping.

Then I went to see Mosi. I told her what had happened…they hadn't kept her in the loop. I put the situation back in her hands, suggesting she hire a lawyer herself. I also suggested that she go talk to DoBlique, perhaps to ask her if she would help if Mosi needed it? It would tell DoBlique that no one is angry with her, and it would give Mosi another person standing behind her.

Devi was having the least trouble of the three. At first, she was insulted that her date had snubbed her. But now that she's seen what the others are going through, she's realizing she got off lightly.

Kitty, for her part, was walking around in a daze. Her cheeks were flushed and she had a perpetual smile. She had gone out with Eidolon and it went well. He'd just sent her flowers. She went through six outfits, just to decide what she was going to wear for the day.

Kai had taken the time to tell me that Eidolon was getting into serious trouble with Kitty. I assured him we were keeping a careful eye on the situation. I think the situation was getting difficult for Kai. He couldn't even entertain the possibility that he had feelings for Kitty.

That night, DeWinter and I took him to a club, to get him out of the house. And to avoid the fact that Eidolon and Kitty had gone out.

The music had gone through a lot of changes. But, late in the evening, we tried a few jazz clubs. Apparently, there was some sort of jazz revival. It was clear that the musicians didn't really understand it. They just played the songs as they knew them. After a while, I couldn't stand it. I asked if I could borrow a guitar. I picked a song that I liked to play. The whole point is to take a song, any song, and really know it. Then, you change it; put your stamp on it, making it your own. I don't claim to be an expert, but I do know that.

Kai pulled his chair closer to listen. Now that I recall, he's probably never heard me play before. The others listened and then started to join in, tentatively putting their own variations in. It was easier because I was not sticking to the song, except in the most basic fashion. There was nothing for them to hang onto, nothing to draw them back into rote playing.

After an hour or so, I returned the guitar and went to dance with DeWinter. Our dances were long forgotten, but we learned some new ones and taught our own. The new style is okay, involving a lot of standing alone, but dancing with a partner. Not as satisfying as having a partner in your arms. I think we've gotten a few people to enjoy our style.

Kai, on the other hand was acting very oddly. Throughout the night, he made a point of dancing with other men's dates or wives. He'd mix several dances together, leaving the woman breathless. Some of were of middle age, but he invariably made them look good.

And just as the date or husband had had enough, Kai returned the woman to the table and managed to avoid any trouble or fights. I really feel for him, but there was nothing we could do about it. He had to figure this out on his own.

Tremerule has set upon himself a serious set of exercises. He's determined to be able to walk the Pattern and not have Kai and Eidolon wait upon him. At this rate, he'll be ready in the not too distant future.


Day 36/34

Kitty was in high spirits this morning. Kai was so disgusted; he went into town for breakfast. Eidolon was solicitous of her, holding out her chair and fetching her things. Later, I talked with him. I asked that he be sure of what he was doing. I didn't want Kitty hurt because I could see she could easily fall for him. He said he didn't know where it was going, but he was being honest with her. But, he did say he thought she was a really sweet girl.

The girls, on the other hand were standing behind Kai. Hm, Kitty was becoming an outsider again. I told them that perhaps it would be a good idea to research more into Kitty's past. Perhaps in the newspaper archives?

They immediately went into town. They came back, vastly more understanding. They had found all the articles about Kitty's trial and situation. By the evening, they were acting with a little more charity towards her.

There wasn't much more we could do. Before we stepped into things too much, we decided to go back and finish the races.

Day 37/34

Only a couple of things happened today, as we were preparing to leave. Henri, Mosi's ex-boyfriend I think I should call him, came to talk with her. While he had stopped all legal proceedings, it seems that his parents hadn't. They had found a lawyer to take the case, whether he wanted them to or not. It was clear they were hoping for something. They might want to put a black mark on our family (one of the old bankers, a severe conservative man I had opposed was one of their ancestors). Or, they may be looking for money. The family was comfortable, but no longer as wealthy as they were.

Mosi listened to this all, getting quieter and quieter. Oh, she was getting really, really angry. I know the signs all too well. Henri finished his story by offering to testify on her behalf. Hm, he really does like her.

Mosi said she'd talk with a lawyer, now that the lawsuit is back in motion. She'd get back to him about what is going on.

The other thing that occurred was that Ekaterin finally broke up with her boyfriend, John-Paul. She said it was very difficult, mostly because he was willing to become anything for her. But, she just didn't feel the same towards him. She gave the relationship a chance, but it wasn't going to be anything more.


Day 38/34

We're back in California, taking up our practices again. Since the storm, Demon hasn't wanted to get onto the boat. I can't say I blame the poor creature. We had been too busy dealing with the storm to get him off the mast. He'd had to ride in the rain, terrified, the whole way into port. We found someone that would watch over him when we were on the boat.

DeWinter started off by researching ways to improve on what we have. Different rigging, perhaps some simple modifications on the hulls. I did research on possible new designs. There were a number of experimental craft designs out there. I didn't think there was much we could do with our present boat, not in the time we had left.

To understand the new designs, I bought every book on fluid dynamics I could find. It was a complicated field, but I'm enjoying the challenge. Fluids are interesting. Water followed certain rules, but the element of the unexpected, the chaotic, was fun to try and anticipate.

While we did our work in the late nights, we were out on the waters each day. We were doing really well now. We were finally acting as one, working together without having to worry. DeWinter has caught on faster than I had hoped. It wasn't that I doubted him. It's just that this can take many years to learn all the little things to do, all the permutations. And to seamlessly move to cover everything while the other does their share in perfect conjunction takes years. We we're completely there, but we were doing very well.

Day 76/34
Fourth Race

Today is the fourth race. The crowds were becoming larger as the season was drawing closer to the end. I took the liberty of doing a bit of public works. I decided to sponsor one of the world's children's charities. By doing so, I put up a sail with the charity's logo. I thought it couldn't hurt and might do some good.

We've still managed to avoid the reporters. Largely because many of the others run interference. As long as the news people are interested, the more they are going to pay attention. And that means larger crowds and everyone benefits.

It was a good run. We placed seventh. I suspect that is as good as we can expect. Our boat is just too old and heavy to do better against the modern fiberglass models. Still, we are enjoying working against the odds.

One last race is left. We have a lot of work to do yet.



Day 137/34
Final Race

Today is the day of the final race. We barely slept, trying to prepare. DeWinter got new sails, a much lighter silk than we've been using. We spent the last few weeks learning to accommodate them.

The crowds were huge, overflowing to every spot that could even partially see the waters. DeWinter took snorkel gear in order to check over the entire hull. As he worked, he had Duncan perform a checklist. Duncan was very happy to be able to help. DeWinter told him to check that the boat's name was still there. They had to be able to identify us. Then he had Duncan check that the all the lines were really attached.

It was Duncan's idea that we should keep the boat as light as possible. His suggestion was that he should leave his life vest behind, since it weighed a lot. DeWinter didn't buy into that idea, to Duncan's disappointment.

We started off. I was happy to see that we moved into the top half right away, starting at ninth place. We were having such a good time, DeWinter was grinning from ear to ear. I was laughing and Duncan was jumping up and down, yelling for all he was worth.

This was a more difficult course. By the first turn, some of the leaders had been blown off course and were out.

About halfway through, something brushed the bottom of the boat. I took a second to glance over the side. There be whales here. By the time we were moving in to the final stretch, almost all of the boats ahead of us had moved off course. Something was very wrong.

Later, I contacted one of the Mer. It seems that the whales heard Duncan's shouts. He'd been yelling for us to go faster, we had to win, that sort of thing. They had been charmed; perhaps literally, they wanted to help and had pushed all the other boats off course.

DeWinter and I felt terrible. We really wanted to earn our standing. According to records, this has happened before when a school of whales had passed under a race. It was all part of the risks. Nevertheless, we didn't take the trophy. Duncan was astounded.

Instead, we suggested we re-do the race. The others crews agreed to it.

We would go out tomorrow.

Day 138/34

During the night, I had gotten a hold of one of the local Mer. He relayed a message to the whales to please not interfere.

The race went along the same lines. This time, we placed third. Duncan was upset that we didn't win this time. But, DeWinter and I were very pleased. Everyone celebrated with champagne and drinks. They even gave Duncan a champagne flute filled with a lime fizz. We made sure to exchange contact information so we could keep in touch.

When all was said and done, we packed our things and stowed them on the boat. Transporting it around the world seemed silly, so we sailed west and into Shadow.

Day 139/34
Returning to Paris

I was aiming for Kai and Xhimena. I felt the Shadow shift as we entered the France's waters. Immediately, the boat changed its colors and the registry number changed by one. That wasn't good. It meant we were never in the same Shadow during our west coast vacation. What bothered me most was that I hadn't shifted. So how did we leave? Kai had gotten the alligator, so it must have happened when we were traveling by train to the west coast.

So, did I do it? Or, more disturbing, was the veil between the Shadows becoming thinner? It was confirmed later when everyone in the house said they'd been watching the newspapers and no mention of us was ever apparent. Sigh. I'll have to figure that out, probably soon.

Well, next time we'll make sure to do it here. But, the races in California were all for yachts and the wealthy. What's the sport of that? There were two spots, though. One was in the Gulf of Mexico and there were some in the Mediterranean. I'm inclined for the one in Mexico. We could bring everyone this time, giving him or her a chance to see more of the world. And, neither of us knew the waters. Another point is that we wouldn't have the fuss of “Annette Libertè” entering the race. No one over there would know who we were, at least not for a little while.

We went through customs. The officer was very happy to see us, giving us hugs and kisses on each cheek. DeWinter didn't like that at all.

Everyone was waiting for us. Our cars were now “classics.” We exchanged much more satisfying hugs and kisses and stowed everything into the cars.

We got the boat into dry dock. We still haven't decided if we were going to get a second one or not. I did get the opportunity to speak to a number of engineers. I'd brought the experimental designs back with us. They were still “new” here, because the entire focus has been on engine-powered crafts.

Day 142/34

It's fall and the weather is gorgeous. The colors of the leaves make the city so lovely this time of year.

Mosi told me the arraignment papers had been served. She gave me a copy to look over. The charges are for “pain and suffering due to public scandal” which is a laugh. No one knows what happened. At best there was minor talk about the incident in the park. But, it is a harder charge to defend against.

That afternoon, we got some terrible news. Jon-Paul had jumped off a bridge. Fortunately, the bridges here aren't very high. He wasn't hurt, but he's in the hospital, under observation. Ekaterin feels absolutely horrible. I spent the afternoon with her, consoling her. I didn't have to say that she did have a part to play in this. But, the boy wasn't hurt and may well come out of this all right. It's a harsh way to learn to deal with the consequences of our actions, but it could have been much, much worse. The doctor's will not let her see him, though.

Kai is still upset about Kitty and Eidolon. He told Vis to send bodyguards with Eidolon. Vis relayed this to Eidolon. Eidolon asked the guards how close they were going to be. They said a couple of blocks should be fine.

Day 144/34
Etienne the Snake

Mosi had asked Monad for a recommendation for a lawyer. She had gone off to see this fellow.

I went to visit with Nachoth. I was hoping she would know the people who can make this remain quiet, publicly. She didn't know off-hand. She hasn't kept up with the social circles. She went to call Monad, but he wasn't there. She put down the receiver saying, “He's up to no good.”

“Monad?” Yes. He left the house, taking his pistol with him. He doesn't do that everyday.

We decided to look for Monad, under the guise of shopping. Well, it was a guise to me. Nachoth had a fine time looking in the windows.

Along the way, we stopped by to see Eidolon's gallery. He's currently setting up the lighting. He didn't arrange for a permanent gallery. Instead, he set up glass partitions in front of a row of stores. People would walk under the overhang, along the temporary corridor to view the artworks before going into the stores. It was an interesting idea. I thought it would work well. But, I was a little concerned about security. I said so, suggesting he ask some of the weir to help guard the art. It wouldn't do, to have them stolen.

We continued on, with still no sign of Monad at any of his usual haunts. But, we found some nice things to buy. When our packages got a bit unwieldy, Nachoth would find a street boy and pay him to take them back to the house. Then she'd pay for a cab to send the boy on his way. The cabbies thought she was too trusting, but it didn't occur to us to think they'd steal the packages.

Eventually, we went back to her house. Monad was there. We said some pleasantries and got down to business. So, who was this lawyer he recommended to Mosi? He calls himself, Etienne the Snake. Oh, that sounded promising. He's supposed to be ruthless and smart. Hm.

I really wanted to meet this fellow. Monad said that he couldn't give me his address. The street where his office is has no name or number. Ah, charming. He'd just have to take us.

I Trumped DeWinter ostensibly for different clothes; the neighborhood we're going to doesn't sound like Chanel. He passed them through. While I was changing, I filled DeWinter on what was happening. He was not happy about this; he wondered what Monad was thinking, recommending a guy like this. He passed me along two really nice knives. He wanted to talk with Monad. I was sure Monad could hold a Trump contact after all this time. All I could hear was Monad giving vague directions. DeWinter got back to me and said to move slowly. He wanted to try and meet up with us. I said I would try.

We left after Monad collected his gun again. I told Nachoth I would look after Monad, who protested that he had the gun. Hello? He was doing the protecting. Nachoth just looked at him and said he would be the protected. She gave each of us a kiss on the cheek and went into the bedroom.

I did try to walk a bit slower, if nothing else to keep my bearings. I didn't see DeWinter at all. The area was very dark; there were no streetlights at all. The only illumination came from the ambient light from the city, and what fell from behind window curtains and bar fronts. Still, there was a lot of people moving through the street.

We got to a nondescript door. Monad rapped on it and a woman wearing some sort of costume opened it. She had on a gown, reminiscent of Louis XIV, complete with wig. She said there was a man with Etienne right now, but we could wait. She showed us into a run-down parlor. Some care was taken with the place. It needed a lot of work, but it was clean and neat. I sat down, thinking DeWinter might already be here.

Well, I was half right. As I sipped my wine, a shot rang out overhead, from the room upstairs. From the sound of it, it was a shotgun.

I raced for the stairs. Monad was closer, so he got there first. Thinking Nachoth would kill me if he got hurt I went in front. The stairs were too narrow for both of us, so I ran up the rails. Really, I just did it in reflex; I would not have thought to do that otherwise. Duncan's influence, I suppose.

At the door to the room, I saw three men. One was elderly and clearly dead, lying on the floor. In his hand was a cane. The second was a weasely-looking man standing next to a desk, facing me. He had no weapon. The third was DeWinter, crouching just outside the window. He is so amazing.

DeWinter came inside. He said that the man, pointing to the dead man, was about to shoot
Etienne. Etienne, the weasel man, said he was not. I looked at the cane as saw it was a one-shot pistol, good only for short range. It was loaded. When he saw that, Etienne said he had no reason to believe the man was going to kill him.

DeWinter went over to Monad. “Can I talk to you outside?” Monad shook his head, “No, that's going to hurt too much.” DeWinter put a hand on his shoulder and they went out anyway.

Etienne would tell me nothing, acting under the client-privilege benefit of being a lawyer. Monad came back and told Etienne that his friend, indicating DeWinter, wanted to ask a few questions but would rather not break any pieces and parts. DeWinter had on his stone-cold face. All Etienne could, or would, say was that he was baffled. He had no idea why the man was going to shoot.

I checked the man's pockets. In the pocket was his identification, along with his Interpol badge. Oh, this keeps getting better and better. We might as well deal with this out in the open. I called Interpol. It would take a while for them to find the place. In the meantime, the landlady (the one in the fancy dress) was calling up to ask how much damage had been done to her carpets this time. DeWinter just raised an eyebrow at Etienne. I replaced the dead man's wallet.

Interpol arrived, finally, after about 45 minutes, and they immediately cuffed Etienne. The inspector in charge said, “I knew you'd slip up some day.”

After Etienne was taken in for questioning, the inspector turned to us. He gestured to DeWinter's gun.

“Do you have a permit for that thing?”

“Doubt it.”

That caused eyebrows to rise. He gestured to the dead man. “Do you know who this is?”

“Nope.”

“Then let's see who it is.” He retrieved the man's wallet and showed us the badge. “A policeman.”

“Oh. Darn. Third one this week.” Oh! DeWinter was having fun.

“And why did you shoot him?”

“To stop him from killing the lawyer.”

“Was he aiming at the lawyer?”

“No.”

“So, you just knew he was going to shoot?”

“Yep.”

“Are you in the military? You have some experience? Some hotshot general?”

“Yep.”

He looked at me. “And what are you doing here?”

“To see a lawyer. I'm with him,” pointing to DeWinter.

“Not anymore, honey. We have to take him in.”

“Are you charging him?”

“I'm not sure yet, depends if he's going to keep on being so helpful. Why? You going to do something about that?”

“I'm not sure yet. But I used to be a judge, so I expect proper protocols.”

His eyes shifted back and forth between us. I could see him putting things together…ex-general…ex-judge…familiar faces. I swear I could bell ring when he figured out who we were. Then he started to swear under his breath. “I still have to take him in.” DeWinter held out his wrists. The inspector got a sour look on his face as he contemplated bringing this particular person in.

They took DeWinter to their car. I promised to follow shortly.

When they were gone, the landlady came up to assess the damages. It seems this happens from time to time. Still, I could see she had a fondness for Etienne. Not enough to stop her from helping me search the place.

The first thing I found was four passports, from four different countries, with four different names, all with Etienne's picture. He's definitely not what he appears. There were some guns in a case, none were being maintained. It was the bed that gave up the most secrets.

Under the mattress, in a hidden compartment was a lot of loot. Jewels, gold coins all foreign, a gold Aztec calendar which was very beautiful and a Rembrandt. Wrapped in a cloth was a beautiful sword. I had to hold it to the light to make out the inscription along the blade, “Whoever pulls the sword from this stone is the rightful King of all England.” Either this is an expensive prop, or the legend is really history here.

I called Monad who had gone home, thinking I had gone with DeWinter. He'd been asleep. I asked him if he would get into any trouble if I told the police about Etienne's extracurricular activities. He said no, he wouldn't. But I was misjudging Etienne. Perhaps. We'll see.

So, I got Interpol to come back. They collected everything. And, I was arrested for unlawful searching. At least, if Monad is right about Etienne, the lawyer can't have this used against him. That's why I didn't put everything back. At least the stuff will go back to its rightful owners.

I spent the night with a pair of ladies of the evening. It was rather enjoyable, in an odd way. They were tickled pink at the idea of sharing a cell with Annette Libertè.


Day 145/34
Still in Jail

After six hours a Cardinal came to see me. He seemed to have somewhat of a distaste for my presence. He asked me obscure questions like, “do I believe the royal line of England to be false?” And “What connections do you have between the sword and the royals?” I just kept saying that I didn't know, or didn't understand what he needed to know. It finally dawned on him that I didn't know what he was referring to.

He had me taken to a private room. My two cellmates protested this, but I assured them I would be fine. I went in and sat down. The Cardinal had a clerk with him. The first question he asked, threw me off a bit. “Are you a descendent of Morgan Le Fey?” No, I'm not. He relaxed a bit at that, which surprised me. If I was, why wouldn't I lie if it were a bad thing to be her?

Any rate, I wasn't going to question it, since he was starting to open up. He said that what he was going to tell me had to remain between us. I didn't say anything. But, since I have a history of being in good standing with England, at least the former King, he would tell me what I had gotten involved with.

Just then, Etienne came in and closed the door. He didn't sit down. He just leaned on a wall somewhere in the middle of the Cardinal and myself.

The story was a bit convoluted, at least how he explained it, but I think I have it now. The Royal Line of England is legitimate, thanks to the sword. (It's not a legend here, it's history). The sword was drawn centuries ago and the King was chosen. The sword was given into the keeping of the Druids of England. Queen Mary, to show her faith to the Church, passed it on to them for keeping. Some years ago, the sword was stolen out of the Vatican and thought to be lost. Etienne managed, somehow, to retrieve it. The Church was trying to send someone to collect it. But, anyone they sent came back reporting that they were being followed. They could not get close enough to it without giving its location away. Since the others were in the dark about where it was, they were letting it be for a while, at least until they could devise a more secure way of transporting it.

It seemed to me that Queen Mary should have left the sword with the Druids, but I said nothing. He asked me if I would help them get it back. I said I didn't know. He didn't like that and the cleric was looking worriedly at the Cardinal, who had the look of a man who often wrestled with his temper.

He said he wanted a lock of my hair. Etienne broke in and asked what it was for?

I was about to continue, but loud voices traveled through the door. I recognized DeWinter's voice immediately. I stood up and opened the door just as DeWinter got there. Interpol police, who were trying, unsuccessfully, to push him back down the hall, surrounded him. He said the charges against him were dropped. Ah, well, good.

I turned to the Cardinal and flatly said no to his request. He thought for a moment. He would be willing to drop the charges if I were under his personal authority. Hm. I was thinking that the Church and I have had no real difficulties over the years, but between Amber, the nonsense our family gets into, and Fey stuff, I really couldn't promise anything. What I said was, No.

For all I know, he'd try and make me bring back the sword to him. And, if it was a Fey creation (the whole thing with the Lady of the Lake is making me think of the Mer), I'd have to see where it truly belonged.

The Cardinal was really angry now. He had me taken back to my cell. I gave DeWinter a cheerful smile and a kiss. Oh, what lascivious behavior, I know. I really wasn't worried.

Mosi came to see me, bringing Etienne. She'd hired him for on my behalf. I wasn't so sure whose side he was really on. It must have shown on my face because she explained that he already knows what's going on. No one else could get clearances. Ah. Then she gave me a look as she asked just how I got mixed up in this. Oh, I knew where she was going. I had been interfering in her life, even to check out her lawyer. I didn't bother to explain what she undoubtedly knew; I just apologized. She laughed and said she'll try and arrange bail. She was vastly amused at the idea that she had to bail her mother out of jail.


Day 146/34

Had some news today. The Pope has made the charges into an international incident. That destroys any chance of bail. Somewhere along the line, I suspect that they don't like some “uppity” woman running around. Of course, I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

Etienne came to see me. He said DeWinter is really, really annoyed with all this. He asked me if there was anything to stop DeWinter from killing the Pope should I be convicted?

Well, I didn't think he'd go and do that. But if he wanted to, no, nothing would stop him. But, I was thinking DeWinter needed to let off some steam. I asked Etienne if he could arrange for me to get solitary confinement for a night. He thought I was crazy, especially when I wouldn't explain, but he said he'd see what he can do. I told him if it works, to tell DeWinter we would Trump over all adversity.

Later, he went to see a psychiatrist. He told the doctor that he was having really bad dream..demons, lots of death…people having sex with me, like the Cardinal. It was highly graphic and more than a little disturbing. For protection, though they didn't say for whom, I got my solitary cell. A few hours later, DeWinter Trumped me and we had a conjugal visit. He had a lot of energy built up; I was exhausted when the morning guard delivered my breakfast. DeWinter was gone by then.

After I ate, I had a visit from the President of France. The Druids have been sending telegrams protesting on my behalf. It seems they still have some significant influence in England. He handed me a vellum package. It was a written history of the Blood Druids…the enemies of the Druids of England and the most likely suspects in the sword's disappearance. I could read it at my leisure.

He also arranged to get me release on my own recognisance. I was grateful for that at least. The food is awful.

Once home, I immediately told Xhimena we needed to talk with the Ravens. We needed answers. She went off to summon them. Eidolon cornered me with shocking news: he and Kitty were engaged! I was flabbergasted. It was so sudden…and unexpected. I managed to congratulate both him and Kitty. They said the wedding would be next year. Thank the Lady for small favors.

I tried to find Kai, but he wasn't around anywhere. Vis had some weir find his tracks and follow them. They called back to say that Kai was in town, getting very, very drunk. They'd stay and watch over him.

The Ravens arrived and were willing to negotiate. They were a little distraught at the mention of the sword.

"It didn't have roses incised along the blade, right? "

Actually, it did. They grew a little glum about that.

Turns out this Sword is part of the Challenge of the Mong Hu. The Mong Hu are Fey ghosts that took exception to Corwin jesting at them in the distant past. So, in response they destroyed Avalon. King Corwin was unable to defeat them.

Touchy folks, the Fey.

But, in return for the location of the sword, the Ravens wanted a very high price. One I was unwilling to pay. They wanted all of my hair. I just didn't want to think about what they could do with that. Even Xhimena looked a little daunted at the prospect. We said we'd think about it and get back to them.

I invited Splurghi over. When I mentioned the Mong Hu, she winced. She asked if the words on the blade were in English? Yes. She relaxed. It is probably only a Shadow of the Mong Hu Sword.

What did it mean in this Shadow? That the lives of the Royal Family of England were numbered. Their enemies will know how to use it against them. If we should find it, we must not touch it. It destroys the will and brings about Destruction. Even leather gloves will not suffice unless I harvest the leather myself. Since I doubt I had that much time to hunt, skin, cure and shape the leather, I asked about an alternate. Black rubber gloves might do fine. I still have my outfit from Toweropolis, so that should work well.

We called the Ravens back. Since we now know it's not the real blade, which relieves them to no end, they are willing to re-negotiate. We now only want to know of the person or persons who have the sword. They confirmed that the Blood Druids have the Sword.

They did give us a little more information, for free. Personally, I'm thinking they don't want the Mer to make them look bad.

They said that Sr. Theresa Thomasini worked in the telegrapher's office in the Vatican for many years. She was a spy in a unique position to get information before most anyone, including the high echelon. She's one of the Blood Druids, probably one of the leaders. Three people run the Blood Druids and twelve guard the sword. They don't have any inherent magical ability. They store magic, over a period of time, into talisman's and amulets. That's good. It means that numbers might work against them, if we can make them discharge what they've build up.

I called in Bison. Could we track the sister? He said if he knew her, he could track her. The ravens started to laugh and I realized my blunder. Good joke.

Would the Ravens tell us where she was? No. How about the twelve? No.

When did they arrive in Paris? They're not in Paris. Then the Fey realized they gave away information.

How long was she pretending to be a nun? For about 30 years. Damn, that's a lot of information she could have gained.

Will they tell us what country they are in? Only if DeWinter will fill a beer mug with his urine. He answered that, “Absolutely freakin' not!”

I took out the vellum history of the Blood Druids and went through it again. Everyone dispersed while I continued to read, hoping for a clue.


Day 147/34

There's an old stronghold was a ruined castle on the Isle of Man. Could they be there, even now? It was a stepping-stone to get to England from there.

Then I got the morning paper…the British Queen Mother died during the night. I guess the Blood Druids weren't wasting any time.

I sent some weir to go and get DoBlique pronto. We're going to need her expertise, especially if she can track the magic. She's been here long enough to have a feel for how it works here.

Then I called the President to ask if I could meet with him. I got there and immediately outlined what I knew, avoiding any mention of magic using on our part. I needed two things. First and foremost, will we have his backing if we go after the sword? He asked if I have decided to work with the Church. I said it will be returned to its rightful owner. Whether that's the Lady of the Lake, the Royal Family, or the Church, it doesn't matter. All right.

Second, we might need to get to England. I'm having a few details being run down right now, but we might have to get there immediately. He said he'd have a plane made available immediately. And he knew of a test pilot would could get us in fast, safely, and under the radar.

I appreciated that, but I would rather have a real pilot who's already taken his tests. He laughed and explained what a test pilot is. Oh. I didn't like the idea, but I bet Xhimena will. The weir…that's an open question.

Lastly, the Church can't know what we're doing. I told him about Sr. Thomasini. If there is one spy, there could be more. She's sure to still have contacts and I didn't want to give our hand away. He didn't think there would be a problem with that. He could explain it after the fact.

But, he said, there might be some problems if they learn I'm leaving the country. I said by the time they figured it out; it'd be too late. Did I want commandos? I said he should come to the house for tea, consider this an invitation. My house is full of commandos.

Did this mean I had his backing?

Will it stop you if you don't?

Hm, probably not. But it would lessen any potential international incident.

He had a gleam in his eye. It could also heighten any incident.

True.

He smiled and sighed. Let me know what you find out, and then I'll make my decision. But, in the meantime, I should get my “commandos” down to the airport. I smiled and headed out before he changed his mind.




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