AMBRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD session one

9/8/01

GM: John Barnes

Players: Dave (missing), Noel, Stan, and Randy

 

Your servant, the Log keeper, will take this opportunity to be lazy. Half the session was devoted to getting Our Heroes – Raichleach, Jesse, Niccolo and Virtual (player absent) Fitzcairn to touch the Black Ribbons of Doom Plot Device. A quick synopsis:

Along the way to the big changes, Nic offed an annoying soothsayer in his Shadow Tella. Rai worked on Morganthe’s mental health, Jesse flirted with necromancy, and R & J investigated the Black Ribbons of Doom. They discovered the happy fact that if you Trumped someone and tossed the activated card onto a BRD, that person vanished. Jesse vanished excess Hendrake relatives. Rai vanished some Goatmen. J & R acted neighborly towards Nic and then got him to help with the investigation. Much teasing of Nic by J & R about his unwillingness to commit suicide dicking with Goatmen in the Abyss, and about "blow up doll" Oriana – a reference to pathetic sex toys by experts on the subject that left Nic clueless. They did demonstrate the vanishing trick to Nic. Rai also told Caine. Jesse told Bleys. Nic, the blabbermouth, told Random, Delwin, Fitz, Parsifal, Dorothea, Corwin, Llewella, Benedict, Deirdre, Kara and Draco. (He forgot about Gerard.) Relatives started vanishing. Parsifal managed to vanish himself. Osric was gone five minutes after Dorothea told Fiona about the trick. Ambrose, Eric, Lora, Gerard, Morganthe and Kara vanished – vanished peoples’ Trumps felt odd. Rai and Jesse vanished themselves voluntarily trying to find and rescue Osric. Dworkin Mark Two repaired the Cosmic Bell with Nic’s blood – it doesn’t pay to get too nosy. Nic and Random got stinking drunk to mark the passing of so many relatives and got heaved onto a BRD while passed out.

 

Jesse and Raichleach found themselves in the Primal Realm, but an unpeopled, ruinous version of it. They cleared rubble sufficient to get to the Pattern – intact and Black Ribbon of Doom-less. They walked it and wished themselves to the chamber of the Logrus. Chaos was also in ruins but frequented by wild demons. They checked for Goatman Central in the Abyss and found nothing and no Goatmen but the two they’d vanished themselves. Back to the Realm of Order [not at all sure how they got there] and Cloak. Nothing left there but a small keep and some Iron Age peasants. They Sought Osric and found him roaming the Primal Realm. Fiona had Trumped him… Jesse Trumped her Hendrake cousins and got attacked. She managed to get her message across -- join them or go it alone. One, Livia, came through. Ambre was in ruins but a rather large royal cemetary was intact enough to read some of the monuments. One was a memorial for all the vanished. Lots of names they’d never heard of. The Grove of the Unicorn had a small herd of semi-sapient unicorns in it. Rai thought of the Bell and dug it up. Intact.

Niccolo woke up hung-over in a field. He made his way to Tella and found it utterly changed. All the barriers he’d put up were gone. The population was lower and the technology had regressed to mid Iron Age levels from the baroque (high magic) post-Renaissance. All the vanishment victims got together via Trumps. Osric, Lora, Eric, Julian, Gerard, Random, Ambrose, Parsifal, Kara, Livia, Morganthe (off by herself looking for ways to die), fourteen Raichlings and Our Heroes were here and now. Now turned out to be about four thousand years after they’d vanished. Osric said that Dworkin had to be around somewhere: no Dworkin, no Universe.

All areas containing Patterns were haunted and devoid of humans. Our Heroes investigated the ghosts and found that they were real, some were powerful, all were hostile and determined to possess people and use them to do Very Bad Things. Apparently some King of Ambre had come up with a method of using the Bell for extremely binding oaths. Sworn to defend the kingdom to the death, some had failed to deliver and been cursed to unresting spookhood. Questioning some ghosts yielded the information that Ambre had lasted some 2000 years past the time of the Black Ribbons of Doom before falling to civil war. Loki was known as a devil, Fiona as a boogeywoman. There were no Pattern initiates anywhere but the castaways. The main Powers used now were Cloak, Magic, some sort of military-enhancement power and a dream-spying power.

Eric investigated the high tech region of Shadow while looking for his old base and found that there was no high technology outside of a few relics. Most such shadows were wastlands destroyed by nukes, bioweapons, asteroid strikes, nanotech weapons, etc.

Nic had two working place Trumps: the Lunar Pattern area and Khrysofylax the dragon’s cave in Tella. His Trump of Cerberus still worked; the monster construct still seemed to be on Tella’s Madagascar. He summoned his Pattern sword and found it in an ancient grave.

Osric was still by far the biggest dog in this pack, without argument, but he was acting nicer. He chaired a family meeting that set initial tasks. Eric, Gerard and Kara set out to find a starter base – a fortified place with good natural defenses, out of the way but with access to the sea and a dock. Raichleach and her kids went to retake Cloak. Jesse, Lora and Livia went to investigate Chaos. Osric had things to do at the Primal Realm. Julian and Ambrose went off to scrounge the various Pattern Castle ruins and check out Arden.

They also evaluated their strengths. Eric was king of Warfare, followed by Julian and then Osric, Gerard, Random and Nic in a group. Gerard was by far the strongest. Random had the edge in Endurance. Osric was psyche king. Gerard had Pattern, Cloak and Power Words. Eric was king of Pattern. Random was king of Trump. Osric had all known powers but was least good at Trump. Lora was a shapeshifter, Sorceress and Pattern person. Kara had basic Pattern. Ambrose was a Pattern master. Fitz was another one, and a Sorcerer. Parsifal was a shapeshifter, Sorcerer and basic Pattern guy. Julian was a Pattern master, Sorcerer and master of many toys. Raichleach had some Pattern, lots of shapeshifting, and Cloak. Jesse was a shapeshifter, Logrus initiate, Pattern initiate and Cloak initiate. Niccolo was a basic Pattern, Trump and Power Words guy.

 

JESSE and company departed for Chaos via Logrus. Population density and signs of civilization increased as they neared the middle regions of Shadow. A large troop of mounted soldiers started chasing them through Shadow using Cloak. Jesse & co. couldn’t outdistance them with Logrus until they made detours through airless shadows. The area became quite Real. Lora investigated and reported that she’d found the biggest city she’d ever seen or heard of. Some Power was centered there. They pressed on into what had been deep Chaosite territory. Eventually they found Chaos-type folks – lots of demons, some Logrus Masters – all of whom were hostile xenophobes. They approached a small tribe carefully. Jesse tried to overawe them with a bit of Primal Chaos. The tribal leader matched her. She claimed they were Hendrakes and were laughed at for claiming to be creatures out of fairy tales. They declined to trade sex for shelter and left – but dry-gulched a lone tribeswoman and mindraped her.

most tribes were built around a single Logrus Master (advanced)

people were sent out regularly on quests to gain the Logrus power

they were scared to death of the Empire, the state centered in middle Shadow

the strongest tribe was that of the Hesliks, about three- to four-hundred strong

They located the Hesliks and Lora got them in with Pattern tricks. Jesse agreed to a mind-ream. The Heslik Soothsayer reported that Jesse believed her story – and that J’s mind had been meddled with so many times that belief was not terribly convincing. They were welcomed but watched. Livia did better with lies and seduction. Lora fit in pretty well. Jesse got grunt guard duty a lot. Two days later the Soothsayer summoned Jesse in to the tribe’s library. Checking Jesse’s story against ancient chronicles convinced the Heslik that they were castaways in time – and potentially very useful. She wanted the newcomers’ abilities used to her benefit. She quizzed Jesse about the Old Witchery/Pattern. She answered some of Jesse’s questions. A combined Chaosite and Amberite force had exterminated the Goatmen. Cloak was known to the Hesliks but unavailable to any Chaosite. Cloak was a monopoly of the Empire and the Knights who were empowered with it. The Empire also had a monopoly on the Focus – a power that helped them fight extremely well in groups – and Trump. The Helgrams in a civil war had wiped out the Hendrakes. Roland (Caine) had disappeared in the fighting. The Empire arose in the Dark Age after Ambre’s fall. Rumor said that the Founder discovered an artifact, which he used to create the Focus. The Chaosite tribes had no Trump Artists because they’d all been purged at one point. Jesse said she knew someone who could teach Trump Artistry. Soothsayer was extremely interested. She showed Jesse her few Trumps. Inferior. Jesse Trumped Niccolo and went through to him in Tella. She explained. Nic agreed to go back with her.

 

RAICHLEACH and her brood approached Shadow Cloak. A farmer told her that the structure over the Cloak itself (she could feel it there) was a keep of the monk-knights. No one was allowed to get too close to it. She and her kids got cautiously closer and were challenged. The soldier she shouted back and forth at was incredulous that she didn’t know already that they were the Templars, holding the place for the Empire and Emperor Justinian, the Empire that controlled all the worlds but a few infested with the fiends of Chaos. Rai could feel that all the Templars were Cloak initiates with Cloak-weapons, new ones. Some, including the speaker, had the other power too. Rai had a kid Trump Eric in under cover but the Templar felt it anyway. She had to frog-tongue him. The Templar knew all about the Focus: it increased battle efficiency, provided some group shielding and some sort of probability control. Emperor Justinian really did rule all the realm of Order and 1/3 of Chaos. The Empire’s structure was complex, dominated by several powerful secret societies, like the Templars, the Trump Guild, a spy society, something of a Sorcerer’s guild, and others. Sorcery was not uncommon, Conjuration more rare. Eric suggested via Trump that they take the Templars over and use them. Kids reported that there was subterranean stream access to the Cloak chamber. Rai and company retreated but set up to block messengers. She and her toughest kids went underground to the Cloak Chamber. Rai jumped the Templar Master and just barely out-psyched him. A Raichling shifted to take his place and the Templar was sent to Osric for a full mind-ream and attitude adjustment. After that taking all the others was easy. Raichlings got the Cloak weapons. More questioning: Lots of Broken Patterns were non-functional or heavily modified in this era. The imperial family was corrupt. A padishah who collected taxes for the Empire managed each shadow. The Empire offered cross-shadow trade in turn. The capitol was named Emprus. Templars constituted much of the Imperial Guard. The Emperor’s personal bodyguards seemed to be Fingermen.

 

NICCOLO tried to conceal his reaction to Soothsayer’s hideous form but may have failed. She courteously shifted to something more half-human. She wanted, naturally, dozens of Trumps as fast as she could get them. Nic explained the practicalities and offered to train three Trump Artists. In return: information on the Empire, possibly some military assistance, art supplies, aid for Jesse’s and Lora’s projects. Soothsayer wanted to plant a Heslik colony on the other side of the Empire. Nic said he’d pass that on to their King for decision. The prospective students were fine artists already; Nic selected the best/most amiable three. He spent a couple of days there, schmoozing and sizing the Hesliks up. A couple of them were near Eric’s level of martial expertise. Nic never drew Windfall but they could feel it was something very nasty. Jesse arranged for regular training. They learned that the Hesliks had no idea anything like Shadow Editing was possible. Nic took his students to Tella via Trump and located a nice, isolated villa. He killed the owners and terrorized the servants into compliance with the three ‘devils’. (The students were instructed to not abuse the servants unless absolutely necessary.) They learned quickly and were eager to please. He started teaching them elementary human customs. They gradually adopted more human forms.

 

Eric, Gerard and Kara found a suitable tower on a navigable river near a good bay. Most of the family moved in. Osric called for volunteers among his offspring to take the Pattern. Two took him up on it. He also offered to teach Sorcery to anyone in the family who wanted to learn. Osric agreed to a Heslik colony, saying it was a fine opportunity for Compelling them. Osric declared while liquored up at a family gathering that he meant for them to rule the whole of the universe. Parsifal and Nic checked out Rebma’s ruins and found the Hall of Mirrors but declined to enter it.

 

session two

9/22/01

Players: Noel (phoning it in), Dave, Stan, and Randy

 

The Raichlings got names!: Rowena, Leax, Binte-Leila, Abd Al Qadir, Nairi, Vartan, Catalin, Adiran, Kerttu, Teppo, Casidhe, Padruig, Emira, and Dagon

 

FITZCAIRN grew himself a Fingerman from his sealed sample, programmed it and named it ‘Flanges’. He took it along to Ambre as a bodyguard. A couple of days and Fitz had a good avoidance spell worked out and tested. Then he and his minion cleaned off a path to the Pattern. Fitz had to clean rubble off the Pattern himself while walking it. Exhausted, he Trumped to Osric and the Tower.

Fitz returned to Ambre to pick up Flanges and try to Seek out Dworkin. No luck with Dworkin. Ambre City’s ruins showed that it had grown much larger before being destroyed by violence.

Next Fitz set out to infiltrate the Empire. He worked slowly towards Emprus, the capitol, learning modern Thari and how things worked. He encountered an Imperial tax collector that traversed Shadow via shapeshifting. He found a local sorcerers’ guild – the Brotherhood of the Star – and joined it. The real test was walking a weak Broken Pattern. The Brotherhood was mostly a service organization on call to the local baron. Imperial wizards were disliked as power mongering Gestapo. Fitz burrowed into their library:

 

RAICHLEACH studied the Templar organization. Most of them were stationed along the border with Chaos in small forts with one real Templar and a number of soldiers. Reports of Jesse & Company’s passage came in. Rai sent orders back to tighten security. Osric took four Raichlings off to try the Pattern. Abd Al Qadir died but Leax, Teppo and Casidhe made it. Osric still hadn’t found Fiona’s body. Historical records indicated that she disappeared about a century after the Black Ribbons of Doom came and went. Rai sent Rowena, Binte and Nairi to recon Templar forts. She pitched having Niccolo infiltrate the Empire to Osric. He liked Parsifal better for the job. Raichleach Trumped Nic and learned about the Chaosian Trump students and Osric’s plans for a Chaosite colony. Nic accompanied Rai to Cloak and asked for volunteers to learn Trump Artistry. All seven present volunteered as it looked like a fairly safe job. Nic picked out the two with some talent. Rai convinced Nic to help her infiltrate the Empire – after he took care of a couple of day’s worth of errands. Rai took Emira and Adiran, the two Trump Artists to be, with her to visit Morganthe. They found her in ruined Rebma. Morganthe wasn’t having any trouble with the ghosts; even they couldn’t stand to be around such a depressing person. Morganthe seemed to be enjoying the ruins and her misery. Rai asked after the Hall of Mirrors. Morgy pointed her to it but claimed to have not entered it. Rai thought she was lying. The Hall of Mirrors looked like it had been anchored there for a very long time. Rai and the kids cleaned off the first few dozen and found that each Amberite had one focused on him or her. Psyche barrier rings did not seem to help. Disturbing. Rai and the kids left for Shadow Tella. Along the way she Trumped Parsifal and asked him about infiltrating the Empire. He was amenable to the idea.

 

NICCOLO made Trumps (the students, the villa), taught the Chaosians and planned what to do with his shadow. Raichleach Trumped him. They exchanged information and he agreed to go with her into the Empire in a couple of days. He visited the Tower and coordinated Trump priorities with Osric and Random. Eric selected the place for Tower Trumps. Osric chose Ambre’s Pattern as the one they’d be using; Nic Trumped Fitzcairn for an image near it. He touched bases with Gerard and Kara. Random asked him to scare up some creature comforts for the Tower. Osric held a formal dinner to "meet the Chaosian art students". Nic had briefed them on manners and protocol. Osric, Eric, Gerard, Kara, Random, Nic, Leonardo, Rafaello and Donatello attended. Nobody took offense at Donatello’s wolf-head. Osric compelled the three Chaosians during dinner without Nic noticing a thing. Nic and the students Trumped back to Tella in time to welcome Raichleach, Adiran and Emira. Nic assigned the Chaosians to teach the basics and settled himself in to transform Tella. Rai poked into things and got bored. Shadow Tella became more of a prosperous Renaissance-era world though gaps remained in areas where Nic wasn’t really familiar with details. He’d have to bring in artisans and help spread the techniques. Luxuries like fine wines, beer, liquors, smoking materials, silks, massage techniques, cleanliness, good plumbing (Roman or better), erotic technique, furniture, etc. got considerable attention. Nic didn’t neglect to resurrect cataphracts and yamabushi, professional spies and toxicologists either. Nic was not king or a god, but definitely the boss.

 

FITZCAIRN worked his way towards Emprus The City, digging through ever-larger libraries as he went. He found nothing whatsoever about the origins of the Imperial family. At one point he noticed he was being followed. He confronted the man and was told that his Fingerman bodyguard had been recognized. The man had deduced that Fitz was an incognito royal and wanted to suck up. Fitz sent him away. The Fingerman got a nice illusory makeover into an attractive geisha and Fitz became an aging rich man. (Later he got Osric to shapeshift it into a bimboform.)

 

RAICHLEACH AND NICCOLO finally went out into Shadow. Rai took a version of her Iago form. Nic dyed his hair black. They hired a Navigator to take them and a wagon of goods (mostly liquor) to Emprus. They learned modern Thari and customs, especially those having to do with baksheesh and bribery. They acquired papers. Rai subtly pressured the Navigator into being talkative. The Navigator moved them through Shadow via a Shapeshifting trick. It was slower than using Cloak but Cloak Navigators tended to lose an unfortunate percentage of their customers and were, as a result, a small minority in the Guild. Navigator credentials were not just hard to fake but the people checking them had instant access to an Empire-wide database. Fitz happened to see them and made contact. They exchanged information. Rai mentioned Morganthe and her probable possession of the Glitterball, the artifact that controlled the Hall of Mirrors, since the mirrors were focused on them.

 

JESSE sought out Julian and talked him into tracking down the Unicorn. They found Her in the Primal Realm. Jesse contacted Ambrose – as the likeliest virgin Pattern initiate in the family -- via Trump and talked him into coming through to help without telling him why. The Unicorn was not pleased to see Ambrose; She skewered him and tossed him aside. Julian calmed her (Jesse’s Logrus was displeasing to Her) and learned that Ambrose had helped Brand do things that, 4000 years later, still angered Her. They talked. Next, Jesse Trumped to Lora and found the Serpent in the Abyss – and got mind-reamed and compelled. The Serpent rather liked her ruthless pursuit of power, and Jesse was able to beg a scale off of It. Jesse made much of the Scale of the Holy Serpent among the Chaosites. She convinced the Hesliks to start cleaning up and restoring the vicinity of old Thelbane. As they saw their fortunes rising and this would only enhance their prestige, the Hesliks didn’t take a lot of persuading.

 

RAICHLEACH AND NICCOLO went through three major cities before reaching the monstrous city of Emprus. Nic made raids as necessary into Shadow, mugging rich people for gold and moderate-value gems. Niccolo, worried about the Guild of Trump Artists, popped off to Tella and had some small bags made up of the Trump-sense-negating fiber for himself, Raichleach and Fitz.

A patrol with a snifferhound (shapechanger–detector) would have caught them if not for the presence of the Navigator.

 

JESSE asked Osric about the Jewel of Judgement. He hadn’t found it but hadn’t looked to hard either. Jesse said she’d do it. She walked the Pattern of Ambre and wished herself to the Jewel. She materialized next to Emperor Justinian, who was wearing it on a necklace, surrounded by twenty Praetorians. Jesse recognized Fingermen and dodged away, pulling out Osric’s Trump. The Emperor shouted, "Seize her!" Praetorians nailed her to the floor by one foot, the hand holding the Trump and her side. But she made contact and ripped herself up to go through, leaving a tenth of her flesh, and the Trump, behind. Osric helped her stop bleeding and immediately donned a Psyche defense ring. Jesse asked him for directions to a fast shadow. She went there and assumed the form of a herbivore in a lush field of grass and began eating to regain her mass. First though, she Trumped Niccolo and warned him about the Emperor and got a replacement Osric Trump from him.

 

NICCOLO, FITZCAIRN AND RAICHLEACH checked out Emprus. Fitz hit the libraries. Nic and Rai rented a large townhouse and obtained licenses for an import-export business. Emprus had:

Nic and Rai brought in lots of goodies from Shadow Tella. Nic acquired an inn in which to showcase them. The inn had had a sideline of child prostitution before its owner died suddenly. The kids disappeared (to kindly people in Tella) and the customers who came looking for them all died of mishaps: fevers, choking on food… Raichleach arranged the baksheesh and got her kids Leax and Rowena into the Navigation Guild after their week spent exploring and mapping the city sewers in bugform. Fitzcairn decided to acquire a brothel. Nic considered gambling clubs or casinos. Nic suggested Gozerian & Sons for the name of their company.

 


*Raichling report: Rowena & Leax -- Navigator school, explored sewers;
Adiran and Emira -- met Morganthe, saw Rebma and Hall of Mirrors, Trump
Artist trainging in Tella; Binte-Leila, Rowena and Nairi reconned Templar
forts; Abd Al Qadir -- DEAD; Leax, Teppo and Casidhe -- walked the Pattern
successfully; Vartan, Catalin, Kerttu, Padruig and Dagon -- nada.

 

session three

10/6/01

players: Rey (new!), Noel, Stan, Dave & Randy

 

KADIM was accosted by Dworkin and given a weird Key and the mental image of a place to take it to. He didn’t argue what with Dworkin being the Creator of Reality and all. Kadim sailed off in his ship – Kadim was a piratical sort – and fought his way through the uncanny storm that blew up. The ship emerged from the storm nearly intact and missing only one crewman. But the site Dworkin had indicated wasn’t there any more. Seeking it produced no ‘lock’. Kadim checked his Trumps. All the useful ones were warm, but a group of Trumps, those of the family who disappeared on the Night of the Long Knives forty years previous, were now cool.

 

NICCOLO consulted with Osric and got a rock-solid feel for Cloak so that he could turn it off in Tella. Osric told him that Trump Defense would not hinder Cloak at all. The king tasked Nic to work on replenishing the poison supply. Nic went looking for Random and found out he’d gone to Emprus City, what with the new family inn, wine import business and brothel. Nic Trumped there and attended to business. A commotion started up outside. Nic watched from the roof and saw squads of Imperial soldiers working their way down several streets impressing unfortunates into the army. He informed the family members in town of this.

 

RAICHLEACH listened to reports from the kids mapping the sewers. There were a surprising number of magical defenses scattered about. Rai suspected the existence of a thieves’ guild. She worked on a new shape, an older, respectable looking fellow, for infiltrating the guilds. Templar reports came in: they were being called up to destroy an ‘ancient evil’. Rai consulted Osric. They set plans in motion to put some patsies in place in Ambre. Nic Trumped her with information about the press gangs. More reports: Emprus’ criminals were going into hiding from the press gangs and the Emperor might be going nuts – all the hubbub was about the mythical Witches. Osric said he’d have Fitzcairn sacrifice the Brotherhood of the Star at Ambre. Rai went to Cloak and picked up more rumors. The Emperor had felt the danger of the Witches via Dreaming. Rai Sought the Talisman of the Mirrors and felt that it was moving about frequently in instantaneous jumps. After twenty minutes she couldn’t detect it at all. Rai went to Rebma and the Hall access. There was a new face in a mirror, a very tall, black, perplexed-looking fellow on a ship at sea, building a puzzle box. Morganthe didn’t recognize him either. Rai tried for a subtle contact.

KADIM felt a Trumplike contact as he was about two-thirds done with making a puzzle box to contain the Key. He answered. The mind was unknown to him. He stood and drew his cutlass.

"Who are you?" Rai asked.

"Someone who doesn’t know your voice. Who are you?"

A slight hesitation. "I am but a mere servant of my lord Niccolo of Tella."

"Alright. My name is Kadim. Do you have a message for me?"

"I’m just trying to figure out what your significance is."

"None. I am a messenger."

"To whom?"

"No one."

"To where?"

"Nowhere. I’m more of a courier. I bid you good day."

Kadim called for Battle Stations. There was something wrong with the gunpowder. It was white. He ordered the cannons loaded anyway. He finished the box.

Rai watched. She Trumped Niccolo and explained things. Nic went through and then stepped through to Kadim (with a Trump ready to bug out) and made amiable contact. Nic gave Kadim a quick rundown of the situation, presenting it as a family courtesy. Kadim had Trumps of them, so making contact would be easy. Nic warned that the Empire was huge, powerful, alert, possessed of a Trump Artist guild, lots of sorcerers and shapeshifters, had access to Cloak and a new power, Focus, that enhanced group military performance -- and was apparently aware of their presence. He invited Kadim to visit.

Three biremes advanced slowly on Kadim’s ship. He ordered the guns test-fired – the powder was inert. Niccolo offered to supply an avenue of retreat for Kadim and his men via Trump and left.

Kadim tried to shift to the Key’s destination or a close a match as possible. He followed a feeble lock to a small island. Kadim sent the cabin boy to reconnoiter for water. The boy found some. Kadim went himself with seven men. He set off by himself and found a small stone building, possibly a crypt, reeking with magical wards and sigils. It felt right. He followed stone steps down a ways to big, stone double doors with a hand-shaped depression in the stone. He pressed it and the doors opened. Inside was a glowing, oblong glassy box – a coffin? – with three elaborate locks. Four Fingermen – inanimate – guarded the room from the corners. Kadim couldn’t see past the glow. He opened his puzzle box, took the key and tested it on the locks. One made it grow warm. He inserted it; it clicked and couldn’t be moved after. "My work here is done." He went back to his ship.

JESSE was mostly healed up if a bit short. She Trumped Niccolo and asked for a Trump of the Emperor. Nic took the image and agreed to make one for her. Jesse Trumped Raichleach and was told that they might have a new playmate. Jess went through eagerly and watched Kadim leave the building. They merged into ‘Master Blaster’ as a 350 LB, 7 foot tall Llewella and stepped through to Kadim. He covered his eyes.

"We’re here to help you!"

"I’m done here."

"What were you doing?"

"A thing. We have to run now. Ships."

"OK."

On the ship, Big Trouble offered to get rid of the enemy ships. Kadim accepted. She/They sent two Logrus tendrils at the third ship – and a Cloak master warped them back to their source. She/They cut it off, talking to each other/themselves as they did.

"Has anyone ever told you that you have a fascinating internal monologue?" Kadim asked, then shut up as he felt Primal Chaos forming nearby. As if that weren’t bad enough, the rudder broke and seams popped in three places on the ship. Some sort of Probability effect – Focus. Big And Green lost control of the Primal Chaos but managed to snuff it. Kadim attempted to shadowshift away through the interference. B&G did something with Logrus tendrils that went immediately awry. They She/They Cloaked away as they dove into the ocean. Kadim ordered the crew to abandon ship, then tried to Conjure repairs. It worked. The powder worked now – too well. The cannon blew up and a crewman lost a hand. Kadim reinforced the next cannon magically and ripped one ship's sails with chain-shot. The enemy got close enough to fire their ballistae and bows. The first volley fell short. The second volley scored hits with every missile. Kadim used solid shot next and felt someone make it miss. He shot at the guy with a reinforced musket and wounded him in the leg.

Big Trouble attacked a ship in fish-form. She/They felt the Cloak interference stop -- the wounded man was the Cloak Adept. Master Blaster grabbed him with Tendrils and mindraped him. The flotilla – and hundreds like it – had been sent out to hunt down and kill Witches by the Emperor. She/They wanted to send him to Osric. They tried Trumping Eric first, but he was out in Shadow. They declined to give him to Eric and sent him to the Tower.

Kadim slowly escaped the uncrippled ships, conjuring repairs and gathering in crewmen.

 

FITZCAIRN helped with the patsy recruitment. He found sacrificed he liked less than the Brotherhood of the Star (he had plans for them) and sent these suckers through to Osric for compelling. He went to Ambre and retailored the wards there. Fitz grew a squad of nine more Fingermen and tailored their forms. He now had five ‘males’ and five ‘females’, all nondescript. He arranged for 4 to be impressed in various places around Emprus. He never heard from any of them again and couldn’t find them with Pattern. He informed Osric that the Empire was doing a good job screening its recruits. Fitz got Random, who was horribly drunk, out of their suspiciously quiet neighborhood in Emprus.

 

NICCOLO readied his palace and capitol for an influx of visitors. He anchored a boat – a pleasure-barge – in the river and kept in contact with Raichleach/Master Blaster (he shuddered) about the naval engagement. He planned to Trump Gate the whole ship through if necessary. Fitz brought Random through to him from Emprus, saying that the Imperials were moving in on them.

 

RAICHLEACH AND JESSE approached the enemy boats and saw they’d been reinforced. Now there were six. Rai detected one Cloak user. They tried to slash him with a Logrus tendril but only succeeded in scaring him away --- he Trumped out. She/They holed the ships with bits of controlled Primal Chaos and then bugged out as enemy shapeshifters hit the water looking for them. They found Kadim via Logrus tendrils.

 

KADIM’S crew had suffered forty per cent losses. The ship was fixed enough to be reasonably seaworthy when he felt the stench of Logrus. Oh crap! Big Green showed up and put forth the notion that Kadim & company provide a distraction so that they could grab a Focus master. He should Trump Nic… Niccolo and Fitzcairn joined the expedition, Nic in full armor with a bow, arrows and jars of poison.

Kadim’s ship charged the enemy flotilla. The Imperials liked the 6 to 1 odds and accepted battle. Stupidly. Kadim’s cannon worked now. Master Blaster attacked the Focus master, keeping him busy. Nic and Kadim shot anybody who looked important. Fitz teleported a gunpowder bomb into one ship’s hold and fireballed another. Jesse opened up hulls with her Primal Chaos crowbar. They killed everyone but the Focus master and mindraped him. Focus—

Nic and others got good fixes on Focus so that they could turn it off in their shadows.

The Imperial armies, led by Generalissimo Orcanthus, got to Ambre damned fast. The poor bastards there as scapegoats died like gnats in a firestorm. Imperial soldiers were a lot better than imperial sailors were. Imperial engineers buried the Pattern and the ruins in concrete.

Fitzcairn scryed the Imperial forces. They hit a bunch of Broken Patterns as well, using the same scorched earth tactics. Osric made and distributed Pattern-detector foils. Kadim made a Focus detector.

Fitz reported that the Imperials seized Rebma and killed Morganthe. Nic thought, "Oh fuck! The Hall of Mirrors!" He frantically made a Trump of the Hall – with Gerard standing by as bodyguard, along with a squad of his own troops. Nic was 2/3 done when eight Imperials Mirrored through around them – he was knocked out instantly. Nic came to in the Tower, wounded in a dozen places, next to a wounded (including a missing ear) but smug Gerard. Gerard had killed all eight.

Fitz was in Tella with 10 Fingermen around him. He lost three.

Jesse and Rai fled to an inhospitable shadow and had to fight four shapeshifter assassins. They won but were wounded seriously.

Kadim was on his ship. His old crew piled right on the five assassins but the new crew (shadows of the old, provided by Fitz) held back. Kadim captured four, took three serious wounds and lost 30 men. Kadim was much stronger than any of the assassins. He Trumped Fitzcairn to have the captives mindraped.

Nic told Gerard they had to get away. He Trumped them to Tella and turned Pattern off in the shadow. He surrounded himself with a regiment and finished the Trump. Yes – Nic’s mirror was dark. He told Gerard to spread the word and passes out.

Everybody assembled at Tella.

Kadim told them about Dworkin’s Key. Jesse and Rai got the image of the place and left to check it out – and were hit by assassins as soon as they left Tella. Twice.

Niccolo gave the seventeen big (50 to 150 ton) dragons the ability to teleport within the shadow and instructed the air elementals to inform the dragons of non-Family intruders. He brought Cerberus to the palace grounds and introduced him to the family.

Fitz and Kadim made bombs set to work in Rebma. Fitz grew and programmed a bunch of Fingermen.

They waited for Nic and the other badly wounded to heal up to about 80%. Random opened a Trump Gate and in went the bombs. Gate closed. Opened. Eric led with the Fingermen, then everybody else, including Niccolo’s best Tellan regiment. They fought to the Hall of Mirrors and killed everybody they found. Parsifal went down. Fighting Focus-supported troops was hell. They fought out into the castle, taking bigger corridors – but still not big enough for Cerberus. Kadim found the Focus master and tackled him, knocked him out, but took a lot of damage doing it. The tide turned and they reached the Great Hall. WHOOSH! Cerberus Trumped in next to Niccolo, dog-paddling. Cerberus attacked. Osric grabbed the Focus master and compelled him. Now the Focus advantage was on their side. They pushed the Imperials out of the castle. Gerard patched Kadim up.

Raichleach and Jesse Cloaked their way quietly out of the Rebma castle and out into Shadow. They reached Kadim’s island and investigated. It was definitely Dworkin’s work. The Keys were not duplicable. The wards were set against non-Amberites. Next, they went to the Primal Plane and questioned the Unicorn –

Rai and Jess went to Ambre, flying, and entered Tir-na Nog’th. The first iteration was rubble. The fourth was pristine and reflected the distant past. No sign of Loki. Dalt was a baby in Laoch’s care. At the third, Dalt was a rebel. No Glitterball or Loki. The second was unreachable – moon not up? They hung out with the ghosts. Octavian had declared independence. Queen Fiona had issued an edict banning personal shadows. Dworkin was nuts – and he’d never fixed the Black Ribbons of Doom. He wanted them to volunteer flesh to fix the universe – rotate it into a 4-D version. They left via the Pattern to the second iteration. It looked like the Fall of Ambre was in progress. Benedict was the only familiar person.

"Can I have your sword?" Jesse asked Benedict.

"No. Have you been keeping up your lessons?"

"I thought you were a monk."

"Why would I be a monk?"

They found Draco – one-armed at last – and exchanged insults. They went to the first iteration where the Imperial campfires were numerous as stars. They dove off the stairway to the sea – speedy griffins narrowly missed them on the way down. Off to Rebma. Their Trumps were jammed.

EVERYBODY ELSE was stuck, short of using the Mirrors. Their Trumps were all jammed by relays of Imperial Trump Artists and Rebma was beseiged by as many as half a million men. The captured Focus master had turned out to be a royal, a found of information. Relays of family members watched what Jess and Rai were up to. More Mirrors were cleared off and found to reflect the doings of all the Imperials. The Emperor’s Mirror showed that he was normally in the throne room with 20 Fingermen. Rai and Jesse made their way through Shadow almost to Tella, where none of their powers would let them in. Nic stepped through Jesse’s Mirror and let them in. Later, Eric Mirrored through and set off to destroy Imperial armies en route with Shadows of Destiny. Fitz grew and programmed 60 Fingermen over five days. Nic killed a couple of the Trump Artists jamming him but there were always more. The family readied themselves to attack the Emperor via the Mirrors, compel him and escape via Trumps used by Raichlings.