being a summary of the great events of AmberCon 2001

Ancient Calling
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Our Player Characters, as we left them at our last episode

  • Jubilee -- back a few steps to one side near the Empress
  • Rahki -- with the Empress
  • Suzzarre -- near Arlan, from whom he had just retrieved a message
  • Arlan -- near center of room, having just 'delivered' his message
  • Archard -- still in the throne room w/ the Door.
  • Koppernica -- trying to help Sandromel and aware that it's going poorly.
  • Arbonne (NPC this session) -- in the throne room waging a one woman battle with the strange Trump.
  • Hargrave (NPC this session) -- started in throne room, stayed there in conference with LATW-- later pulled into side room by Door & Suzzarre
  • Poe -- way out in Darrheabarr


~ * ~ - ~ * ~ - ~ * ~ - ~ * ~ - ~ Private Quarters ~ - ~ * ~ - ~ * ~ - ~ * ~ - ~ * ~ -

Empress Lora whispers, "We've been betrayed." To Rahki just as she collapses.

Lora's vital signs begin to sink.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Darrheabarr: the prison ~ - ~ * ~ -

Poe is with the Magistrates investigating the death of the Trump Artists and reviewing the post-mortem (report?) when the news comes in that the murderer has been seen. By Poe's house, no less.

Poe devises a strategy to herd the killer and trap him in a wealthy neighborhood with its own guards. Poe remains at the office to help coordinate the effort and keep things organized. Reports come in as they're pursuing him, and then chaos reins when they corner him in front of Poe's house. The battle lasts an hour despite 50:1 odds. The magistrates have men down, but they finally take the murderer into custody.

The justicars return with a very large individual who is distinctly out of proportion and, when Poe gets a look at him beneath his cloak, very clearly not human. He is already regenerating and struggling to get free of the ropes that bind him from shoulder to ankle. One of the magistrates, a magician, goes into the cell --taking the risk of opening the door --to try to put him to sleep. They relock the door and send a message to the Palace that the murderer has been apprehended.

Poe uses the Gleaming to look at the prisoner and the cell that holds him.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Private Chambers ~ - ~ * ~ -

Suzzarre examines the Empress as she collapses, informing the assembled group that her life force is wavering. Arlan orders Argent to intervene, and after a moment's debate with the ring convinces the Device to stop another attack against Lora.

Jubilee hauls the Empress onto her divan with help from Rahki. Jubilee can tell that someone has turned on a Tempest power, it doesn't take her long to pinpoint Arlan and Argent. Jubilee and Rahki get the Empress breathing again and Rahki sends Suzzarre for a healer.

Suzzarre enters the throne room, sees members of the LATW and grabs one of them.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Front Gate ~ - ~ * ~ -

Archard, standing with The Door, receives a note that a delegation from Chaos is at the front gate demanding to speak with the Empress. Archard goes down to meet them, is challenged and introduced to Mandor Sawall (and two Chaos Lords and a priest of the Serpent) who attempts to hand him a declaration of war.

"I don't have the official capacity to accept this document," says Archard, calmly.

With a little more discussion Archard gets them into the Palace and shuffled off to the "Pearl Suite" to wait, but not before Mandor gives a demonstration that the 'weapon' they are seeking leaves a trail that leads directly into the Palace and then into the Throne Room itself.

It appears Chaos has a legitimate claim.

- ~ * ~ - ~ meanwhile, in the Throne Room ~ - ~ * ~ -

Koppernica investigates just what exactly is afflicting Sandromel and manages to get the Heir into the private room with Lora.

The LATW individual Suzzarre enlists turns out to know very little about healing. In fact, he faints at the sight of the Empress laid out.

"I have a volunteer." Suzzarre announces, referring to this person for protecting the Empress from further harm. Jubilee exits at a sprint to go get "real healers."

- ~ * ~ - ~ Darrheabarr: the prison ~ - ~ * ~ -

From the rear of the prison where the killer is currently held, Poe hears a roar of frustration --the magic is not working. In fact, it isn't having any affect on the prisoner at all and he has thrown himself onto the cell cot to work on busting the ropes that hold him.

Watching the prisoner struggle, Poe recognizes the Gray Lord from the sea voyage attack on Jubilee. Examining the shark with the Cursed Gleaming reveals that he is being goaded by nasty black harpoons that make the Cursed Gleaming look benign. The Gray Lord is resisting, but is losing the battle.

Poe enters the prisoner's cell while the officials are debating with each other and establishes mental contact to get a better look at exactly what is happening and to try and interfere with it. He discovers a mental image of Jubilee and a third presence driving the shark to the point of volcanic fury with threats that he will never have Jubilee if he doesn't kill. Poe's arrival startles something. The shark is surprised to have help, but the real shock is from the Attacker.

The Gray Lord turns on the newest arrival to the inside of his head demanding to know "Who the hell are you?" and insisting "No one helps me." Despite everything else going on, he wants to know "Where is Joy?"

Poe tries to show him [what is being done to him?] and it is transformed into an attack by the third party. The shark blanks out in a white hot rage and as the harpoons start over Poe can hear the Unknown Attacker laughing. Poe also hears the sound of a rope snapping.

"Don't even think of messing with me." The Darkness hisses at Poe. "I have left you alone. I am you. I am what you left behind in the darkness…." It names family members Poe liked and warns him, "Stay out of this."

Poe argues and takes a black harpoon through the back. But for all the pain, he is stronger, not weaker for the affliction. The Voice is not aware of that detail and presses on.

During the struggle the Cursed Gleaming reacts to the other dark power and becomes visible to others. Causing the Magistrates to be as afraid of Poe as they are of the Gray Lord. Poe tries to reassure them, but hears his words coming out as something other than what he said, in a voice that is not entirely his.

The justicars go white with fear.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Private Chambers ~ - ~ * ~ -

Sandmorel faints, but Jubilee is already out the door for healers and doesn't know to get more. Kopper works on reviving her.

The Door, Suzzarre and Rahki discuss Suzzarre's plan and the need for a volunteer. The Door volunteers more than once, but is considered too valuable to risk.

Arlan and Argent defeat some attempt to teleport directly into the chamber.

Hargrave steps forward to help while Rahki has the remaining academics thrown out of the throne room and then out of the palace itself.

Hargrave and Arlan discuss the rings they have been working with and decide to work jointly thereafter once everyone is safe.

In trying to help Sand, Kopper discovers that Sand has an external 'kaa' connection that is pouring pain into her that stretches invisibly out of the palace. Sandmorel's psyche wards are also completely gone, leaving her mentally naked and vulnerable to any further attack. Kopper gets permission from Rahki and Trumps her family, Morgalantis, for help.

They promise Kopper to send someone as soon as they can communicate with their experts at home.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Throne Room ~ - ~ * ~ -

Archard returns to the throne room, discovers Arbonne still struggling with the Trump and goes to aid her. Leads her back into the private chamber where everyone else is already gathered.

He suggests that Suzzarre and The Door go deal with the Chaosians while he helps Arbonne.

Suzzarre and Rakhi consult and agree.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Darrheabarr: the House of Ashes ~ - ~ * ~ -

Jubilee races to the House of Ashes and makes a bee-line for an older Doctor she feels confident of. She tells him that he needs to pick someone to help him back at the palace because… because… it's really, really bad. She doesn't want to tell the universe that Lora is down, but the old guy takes her seriously, ropes a younger man named Timone into helping him.

On their way back to the Palace Jubilee explains to the healers what she knows of the attack, what Suzzarre told them and what she's seen so that they are fully up to speed and set to "Do" when they get there.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Private Chambers ~ - ~ * ~ -

Jubilee arrives with the healers who immediately go to work.

There is another knock on the door and they are informed that there is a diplomat at the front gate. Rahki tells Jubilee to go get The Door, but Jubilee refutes that. "Why don't I just go see who it is?" The Door is already dealing with Chaosians.

Rakhi nods. Jube leaves.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Darrheabarr: the prison ~ - ~ * ~ -

The Gray Lord still very emphatically wants to know, "Where's Joy?"

Poe goes after the Darkness --the magic ink/squid who has made promises to the shark about getting Jubilee. Also discovers that the shark has been following Jubilee for a very long time and that –until the intervention of the attacker—he was content to watch from a distance.

Poe seems to be able to interfere with the attack on the Shark.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: the Pearl Room ~ - ~ * ~ -

Suzzarre and The Door meet the Chaosian delegates. Mandor, a High Priest of the Serpent, the Warlord Hendrake and Count Ritter. They are all very serious. Suzzarre and The Door make an effort to stall them.

Matters continue to become tense.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Private Chambers ~ - ~ * ~ -

Archard and Arbonne win their fight with the mysterious Trump and Arbonne finally collapses with exhaustion. For the Imperial Family, that's three down, three to go.

After making sure the mysterious Trump is destroyed, Archard brings up the issue that the Chaosian delegates have brought with them --namely that a weapon --a ring --has been stolen from the Courts and brought to the Empire. It is a silver ring they are seeking, not gold like Hargrave's. Arlan's ring, Argent, is silver. Arlan protests that it is his and that he found it here in the Empire, only to have his finger chopped off in the Courts so that Count Ritter could take it from him.

Rakhi questions whether this can really be so. Arlan doesn't seem convincing. All wonder why the Chaosians would mistake a small magical device for an important Chaosian weapon?

The healers say that Lora's condition is deteriorating, so to protect her they put her in stasis. Wrapped in a little cocoon of energy she can heal safely. Their task done, the two leave and return to the House of Ashes.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Front Gate ~ - ~ * ~ -

Jubilee arrives at the front gate to find a single envoy with 50 porters carrying 50 bags that look like they may well all be clothes. Jubilee lets herself out of the gate to talk to him. The Envoy is here representing the Loathsome Prince. Jubilee escorts him to someplace not on the Palace grounds and selects a little jewel box of a house for him (such as is used for visiting heads of state). Introduces herself and discovers that it is the Loathsome Prince himself. He invites her to dinner, she accepts.

Jubilee returns to the palace to inform Rahki, Archard and the others that the Loathsome Prince is here, representing the Loathsome Prince and "I have a dinner date." With that, not wanting to face questions, she executes a military about face and leaves again.

- ~ * ~ - ~ back in the Pearl Room ~ - ~ * ~ -

Things are getting heated with the Chaosian delegates. They begin a discussion similar to the one they had with Archard about a stolen weapon and the trail leading to the Throne Room.

Suzzarre and Door make valiant attempts to put any discussion off for another day. Lora can't see anyone, after all, but they don't want to mention this.

Though the delegation appears to be listening with some willingness, Mandor decides he has had enough and instructs the soldiers with him: "Kill them."

The Door draws a sword he had hidden and stands his ground to give Suzzarre time to get away and sound the alarm. Suzzarre races back to the Throne Room exclaiming, "We're under attack!" at an amplified volume and pitch, unmistakable and exclamatory.

Twenty Chaos guards swarm over the Door.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Darrheabarr: the prison ~ - ~ * ~ -

Poe continues to try and help the Gray Lord. Discharging the Cursed Gleaming breaks off the attack and startles the third party. The shark can finally relax. Guards rush in and attack both of them as soon as the visual display is over. Though he does more or less forgive Poe for the unintentional attack earlier, he can smell 'Joy' on Poe's clothes and isn't pleased. Now he knows that Poe knows where Joy is.

Both of them subdued, Poe is placed in shackles and dragged to a separate cell.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: in the halls ~ - ~ * ~ -

The Chaos attack quickly boils out into the hallway.

Legionnaires respond quickly, battle is joined.

Chaosian soldiers are cutting their way through Legionnaires. Suzzarre has gone to warn the others and Jubilee is staring at the scene in horror. She turns and runs back to the Loathsome Prince. After a brief discussion he tells her that she must invite him to help her. With no vampire references to warn her, Jube does: "Will you help us?"

And the 50 bags fall open and strange distorted men begin leaping and springing out of them. These men are naked and have large hands and teeth.

Soon, there are a thousand 'goblin-men' moving about on hands and feet.

The vision of this horde swarming into the Palace and the legionnaires thinking they are under attack from yet another direction, causes Jubilee to cry out. She explains her concern that "intentions may be misconstrued" and the Prince holds the army in check so that they arrive with Jubilee --who can explain their presence.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Private Chambers ~ - ~ * ~ -

Kopper arranges to take half of Sandmorel's pain. Allowing the other woman to function. Sand makes a good show of it, she asks some questions, then hands Archard Merlin's card, directing him to call the King.

Suzzarre, in the meantime, has returned to the battle in the halls and discovers that Chaosians are not who they seem. There are phantasms in place, and when the Vox removes the illusion, two of the attacker's real identities are revealed: Mandor is really the Amblerash Count Ritter and the one who appeared as Amblerash is the woman Tava --the woman who aided Arlan's escape from the Courts.

Suzzarre is stunned and furious.

- ~ * ~ - ~ Darrheabarr: the prison ~ - ~ * ~ -

The Gray Lord, proving his intelligence now that he is calm and no longer under attack, constructs a plan to free himself and Poe. He breaks the remaining ropes that hold him, bends the metal bars that separate his cell from Poe's and then proceeds to pry the bars out of the window in Poe's cell. Poe places the bars quietly on the floor as the shark hands them to him.

They talk about 'Squid', the DarkBeing that Jubilee refers to as 'Squid Piss' and 'Inky' even though the Gray Lord is very direct in his desire to find Joy. Poe tries to create a buffer that will protect him from the harpoons.

"I'm your best chance…"

"What's chance?" asks the Gray Lord.

"…an opportunity in the hunt."

And they understand each other.

The discussion winds to an end with the shark commenting that, "Joy hate Squid." He acknowledges the simple fact that he will not be free from Squid for long and will again be forced to do things Joy doesn't like.

[Poe makes some discussion here about Joy never being his as long as Squid is part of Shark's driving reason to find her.]

~ * ~ - ~ Palace: in the halls ~ - ~ * ~

Suzzarre is the witness to Jubilee's arrival with the Loathsome Prince. Returns to the private room off the throne room with the news that "We are saved! Our hero Jubilee has arrived with a goblin army!"

Jubilee manages to point out the four individuals not dressed like soldiers to 'keep' safe from attack. The goblins get the rest and the sight of goblins ripping up Chaosian soldiers nearly turns her stomach. Many goblins die, for the Chaos soldiers are mighty, but Chaos cannot stand against the selfless numbers thrown at them.

Jube tries to envision what her mother would do, and gives clearly defined orders to the legionnaires: the four surviving prisoners are to be taken to the prison and secured in separate cells with no opportunity to talk amongst themselves.

At the same time however, she can't look down the hall. The fight is bad enough, that they [the goblins] play with the body parts is too disturbing and the Prince walks Jubilee out into a garden for some calm.

~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Private Chambers ~ - ~ * ~ -

Archard (only with massive Trump energy from Arbonne) Trumps Merlin in Chaos. Merlin is informed of the attack and the individuals responsible. A deal is made to extricate the guilty… though there are somewhat fewer survivors than they might be thinking.

"My, my… When Jubilee cleans up, Jubilee cleans up." -- Rahki, upon seeing the mess in the hallway that used to be the Chaosian force.

~ * ~ - ~ Palace: Garden ~ - ~ * ~ -

A goblin approaches the Prince and while the Chin is foreign and difficult to understand, Jube makes out that the creature's message is that "9,000 are through." Realization hits and Jubilee turns to watch the creatures scurrying through the shadows under the bushes.

"Could we maybe get all of your people in one place?" Knowing that others are going to be disturbed. The Prince realizes that Jubilee understood something and finishes his conversation with his man in sign language.

"I understand that you did not realize that this was an invasion." He pats her hand.

"You're breaking off our dinner date?"

"Not at all…"

"You are if you're invading. I can't possibly have a dinner date with you if you're attacking the palace."

"Very well then, we will invade at dawn," he smiles.

Dinner is set for 7 since the Prince likes twilight and while he returns to the guest house, Jubilee drifts back towards the palace, horrified that she invited an invasion in.

~ * ~ - ~ Darrheabarr: the prison ~ - ~ * ~ -

Poe and Shark have a conversation after moving away from the prison.

alarm that prisoners have escaped is sounded. Once the Gray Lord has set off on his one-shark crusade against Squid, and once Poe concludes that he has had time to make good his escape, Poe walks back into the prison. He is arrested (again) and shipped off to the Palace for more secure incarceration.

~ * ~ - ~ The Palace and The Loathsome Prince ~ - ~ * ~ -

Wrapped in her healing cocoon, Lora is returned to her private apartment.

The Door is Dead and replaced by the Excellent Hands. Long live the Door.

The Justicars face Jubilee at the gate. Jube asks Poe what happened, then insists that the Justicars remove the manacles before she dismisses them. To keep them from arguing that she can't go with a prisoner alone she takes one of the legionnaires to walk her back to the palace. She sends him back to his post while she and Poe find a quiet place to sit and talk.

Poe explains what happened with the Gray Lord, Poe's fight with Inky and his success at freeing him. Explains the Gray Lord's true affection for Jubilee and how he went to wage a one-shark battle against Inky. It's all very sad from Jubilee's perspective. It would work so much better if they could fight Inky as one united front and not go down fighting him one by one. She also just genuinely feels sorry for what the shark suffered.

Jubilee momentarily considers trying to catch the Gray Lord, but Poe is pretty sure he is quite gone. From how far can sharks smell blood…? But she lets that thought go.

Jubilee excuses herself, races back to her room and Trumps Bleys. He won't come through to help, but he tells her to check Lora's little ring and say the name and help will come. He also offers if things really do get worse to call him again.

She returns to Poe and tells him her side of the story, mostly about the Loathsome Prince. He's interested, proud of her, and very amused. No invasion until after her "dinner date". Jubilee appreciates the absurdity of it all. These things simply don't happen to other people.

Jube finds comfortable quarters for Poe in the Palace and then takes an adult-proof path to Lora. She arrives at Lora's apartment via a nearby window, peeks around and sees Lora, Kopernica and Sandmorel. She tells Sand what recent events she is familiar with.

"What happened to the delegation?" asks Sandmorel.

"Which one?"

Jube tells Sandmorel that the Chaos delegation is "quite, quite dealt with, and I have a dinner date with the Loathsome Prince at 7 and we're being invaded at dawn."

Sandmorel is looking out the window at the Brood creeping around, Jubilee slips Lora's ring from her finger and onto her own, then she excuses herself.

"Since I bought us time with a dinner date, I really shouldn't be late."

She exits.

Sandmorel speaks of many things with Kopper. The events swirling around the palace seem like a bad dream. The attack methods still puzzle her.

Who can their real enemy be?

Jube returns to her room, takes the ring off and says the name out loud --rephrasing it to try and make sure she is pronouncing it correctly. Nothing happens and she gives up, heading down to the kitchen to get a seafood dinner for herself and the Prince.

It turns out to be a lovely dinner with a charming host (if you can forget the whole invasion thing). He is fascinated by Jubilee's stories and wants to go surfing. She grabs a couple of boards and takes him down to the beach. Lessons ensue and after she fishes him out one or twice to make sure he doesn't drown (and leave her with the Brood) he starts to get the hang of it. She points out that what he loves most about Darrheabarr will get destroyed in the invasion. It isn't a thought he likes, but his people don't know how to fight any other way. He wants Jubilee to get Lora to surrender.

The discussion meanders with Jubilee trying an "it's not broke, don't fix it" theory. Let Lora and Sand do the work since if he's King/Emperor, he'd have to do it and he could just run around and enjoy the good stuff. Doesn't quite work. He even offers to marry Lora so he can be Emperor. Maybe an honorary King? King for a day with his own holiday? Lots of vacations that way… but he has to sell the idea to his people too, which is a problem.

Once she's worn out surfing, Jubilee returns to the Palace and gives Sandmorel the news.

~ * ~ - ~ The Palace: In Hallways ~ - ~ * ~ -

Arlan and Suzzare, searching for the Second Advocate, come upon Rakhi and Archard looking for them in turn. Arlan and Hargrave are perturbed at still being detained in the palace without any word of when they might be released. Rakhi agrees that the two shall be free on their own recognizance, but are strongly encouraged not to leave the palace grounds. After Arlan leaves the scene, the Vox Ambassador, Rakhi and Archard discuss the mysterious sorcerer and his ring, and his insistence that the Lady Tava could not possibly be a willing part of the Chaosians' plans. It is finally agreed that Archard shall escort Arlan to see Lady Tava in Prison, and report on what transpires between the two of them. Rakhi and Suzzare confer further on private matters, as Archard tracks down Arlan and makes plans to have them visit the captured Chaosian.

~ * ~ - ~ The Prison 2: The Chaosians ~ - ~ * ~ -

Archard and Arlan arrive at the prison and are admitted to see the Lady Tava. A grill like affair separates the room where she is held, and the room where Archard and Arlan can speak to her. Tava is very curt and unresponsive to Arlan's questions, claiming that she was ordered to come on the mission and that she loathes the sorcerer. She finally asks Archard if this is an official interrogation, and upon learning that it is not, she refuses to answer any further questions. Archard and Arlan depart, and debate the situation. Arlan is certain that Tava's mind has been altered, while Archard, unaware of the details of the case, warns him that it's certainly possible that her affections for him in the past could have been duplicitous and false. Archard heads toward Lora's apartment to report the situation to his sister, while Arlan returns to his new quarters.

- ~ * ~ - ~ The Palace: Lora's apartment ~ - ~ * ~ -

Sandmorel and Suzzarre discuss the cipher and what the different lines mean. Sand wonders if the Prince would marry her instead of the Lora (since Lora isn't awake to ask) and Jube points out the Sandmorel is also a third daughter. After a bit Jubilee tries to tell them that she's going, but no one is paying any attention to her, so she slips out again.

Jubilee pops into Poe's room to tell him about the poem message because she doesn't think he knows about it, and he should since he's mentioned. Poe has a chess board and he's playing by himself, currently sitting at black. Jubilee sits down where white is and moves the pieces where he tells her to since it obviously isn't a normal game.

Sandmorel Trumps Jubilee and she goes through with Poe and his chessboard. Sand sends Jubilee and Poe to go talk to the Loathsome Prince. They don't want to surrender… but they don't want to hand him an empty win either (with everything destroyed).

Sand also wants to send a delegation to the Courts (Archard and Kopernica) to see Merlin. Sandmorel determines (after Arlan finally says the message is from the Thousandfold) that the message is from Delwin, the long-lost twin!

Jubilee also tells Sandmorel that the Door is dead (apparently the Most Honored missed that detail, she seems fuzzy on many details since the mind-blast earlier) and Sand sends Suzzarre to examine his body. Jubilee offers to try and aim the Prince at their enemies in Chaos if that will help rescue Delwin.

- ~ * ~ - ~ The Palace: Suzzarre ~ - ~ * ~ -

Upon examining the Door's body, Suzzarre discovers an open Trump. The card begins to disintegrate… Suzzarre closes it with 'mockery'. The Trump is another of the strange 'spatter Trumps' that were found on the man who attacked Lora in the throne room.

- ~ * ~ - ~ The Loathsome Prince ~ - ~ * ~ -

Jubilee and Poe return to the Prince's temporary abode. Poe notices a halo above the head of Jubilee that she is blissfully unaware of.

The Prince and Poe size each other up and chat while Jube is up getting something…

"Are you here in case I say no to everything?"

"Yes, I think so," says Poe, smiling behind his mask.

- ~ * ~ - ~ The Palace: Lora's Quarters ~ - ~ * ~ -

Sandmorel Trumps Bleys and passes him the menacing splatter Trump that Suzzarre found on the Door. She asks that he study this and make sure it is not dangerous.

He is pleased to hear from her. He agrees.

Sandmorel asks for Hargrave and Arlan to defend the Palace at all costs with their rings and magicks. Hargrave agrees, but Arlan says his help is contingent on the safety of the Chaosian, Tava.

Sandmorel asks clearly, "Are you telling me that your aid in this time of need is only given on conditions?"

Arlan prevaricates, he wants 'consideration' for Tava. He 'knows' she is not responsible for what happened. He wants the Empire to show 'mercy'.

Sandmorel explains that Chaos Law provides no mercy for such crimes. That the Empire would have to hold Tava here to keep her alive.

Arlan thinks this should be so.

Sandmorel tells Arlan that she will accept this on condition he pledges ten years of service to the Imperial Seat.

Arlan agrees.

It is so.

Sandmorel directs the Trump call to Merlin be made. Archard makes the second call to Chaos within a day only with the amazing Trump energy that Arbonne seems to have.

But Sandmorel cannot expose her mind to Merlin, Archard negotiates the matters needed, with Sandmorel prompting from the side.

They tell the King of Chaos that Delwin must be in Chaos, because Ritter was here as a result of the information in the cipher from the ThousandFold.

- ~ * ~ - ~ The Courts of Chaos ~ - ~ * ~ -

Archard convinces Merlin. Merlin agrees to let a delegation from Darrheabarr enter Chaos looking for Delwin. They immediately do so (Archard and Kopernica.)

Merlin needs to return to his court, so Merlin pulls the real Mandor through to help the Imperial rescue.

But having arrived now in Chaos, Kopper realizes she will be dead if she lingers in Chaos longer than an hour. The Realm here has properties that will kill her this quickly.

Merlin therefore gives Mandor thirty minutes to rescue Delwin.

The Rescuers follow the trail that Kopernica sees and Mandor plans the attack without backup. Mandor moves them through many strange ways, obviously secret, and also allows them an overview of a huge cold black boulevard. Kopper does see the trail leading to a holding.

Kopper looks up, following the trail of 'kaa' out of the Courts.

Something attacks her through her eyes. She successfully resists. The assault continues, but Mandor intercedes, "killing the Hunter".

Mandor has all the bases covered, but time is running out. They all confer and elect to try a head-on assault. They crash into the Ways of Amblerash, where Kopper continues to point the way for Mandor, who uses strange silver balls to cripple any resistance they meet.

They deal with demon guards and hidden magics.

They descend deeper and deeper into Amblerash.

- ~ * ~ - ~ The Loathsome Prince ~ - ~ * ~ -

Jubilee and Poe have their tea with the Prince. Jube takes one small time-out to Trump Sandmorel and get a status report. Basically --do we have another enemy or not? Sand doesn't know. It's all a lot of very polite conversation.

But no word from Chaos.

- ~ * ~ - ~ The Courts of Chaos ~ - ~ * ~ -

Archard, Mandor and Kopernica find Delwin's head sustained by strange magical equipment within the Ways of Amblerash. Archard makes mental contact with Delwin to ask him what he thinks they should do about this rather gristly scene.

Delwin is in constant pain, he is the source of Sandmorel's torture through the 'kaa' connection.

Despite his suffering, Delwin gives them instructions. An arcane engine encloses a special ring. This ring turns out to be the Thousandfold. Archard opens the device with Delwin's instructions and they put the ring into Delwin's mouth. Immediately, they all make a mad teleport back to Darrheabarr with the apparatus that is keeping Delwin's head and psyche alive.

There is no one in Darrheabarr who has the expertise to help Delwin with this, but Kopper can keep the equipment functioning for at least an hour.

Archard suggests to Rakhi--- he knows someone who will help, he asks her to let him take Delwin to Glantri, a Shadow where a great hospital exists that can work many varieties of magic.

She agrees.

Archard Trumps out with Kopper and Delwin.

Once in Glantri, Archard uses a secret Trump to ask for help from Owen, the Court Physician of Amber. She arrives to whisk them to the hospital.

The Glantri physicians are aghast at Delwin's condition, but they immediately move to assist.

Perhaps things will be all right now.

- ~ * ~ - ~ The Loathsome Prince ~ - ~ * ~ -

Jube acts upon an intuition and asks the Prince if he was behind all the other attacks: the dead Trump artists as well as Lora. He confesses he was and Jube nods and goes back to her tea. She just "wanted to be sure."

The Prince thinks that's quite wonderful and turns to Poe. "I like her." There is a twinkle in his eye.

After more spiraling talk (Jubilee offers to adopt him into the family and everything) Jubilee gets what Poe is hinting at and offers the Prince the position of "Defender of the Realm" or "Imperial Champion" (which ever one he likes the sound of better). The Prince decides that would be marvelous and helps Jubilee find paper to write the contract out on. The Prince and Jubilee sign it with Poe signing as a witness.

The invasion is off.

But the Prince decides he has to fight the current champion and that Poe must be it and that it must be decided now, before dawn. The thought of having either of them dead horrifies Jube and she steps between to insist that it be to first blood.

"Is that normally how it's done?" asks the Prince.

"Well… normally we don't allow duels… they're only for the … um… most serious things, and then, only to first blood."

The Prince agrees and starts his duel with Poe.

They begin with slow measure of each other's talents. The Prince seems to have every advantage. He is obviously very fit, very confident, and very sure who will win. Poe is cautious, and obviously not the physical threat that the Prince is.

The fight goes on and on through more than an hour.

The sun comes up.

The Prince's men do not fight, but they begin to stand and move from hiding, gathering to watch the fight; watching their Prince battle this lean, wrecked man of the Empire. They seem to sense that this battle is a substitute for the planned invasion and they wait for the outcome.

So does Jubilee.

Poe wins, landing a slight blow to the Prince's arm. The Prince is stunned, not from the wound, but from his loss to Poe.

Trying to keep the scene as chivalrous as the Prince seems to like things, and to keep him from maybe getting upset that he lost, Jubilee runs over and bandages his arm with a strip torn from the bottom of her dress.

The Loathsome Prince packs up his creatures and goes, but only after making certain that he can communicate with them again soon.

"It is so?" he asks.

"It is so." Jubilee isn't entirely sure what she agreed to, but saying no didn't seem like a particularly wise option.

And everyone then has time to marvel at the near escape.

The golden sun of Darrheabarr rises slowly over the beautiful city.