THE CHRONICLES OF AMBRE session 31
NICCOLO IN CHAOS
In the course of his [SECRET] investigations Niccolo came upon some information that upset him a great deal. He went to Cloakworld to consult Benedict. A certain Lord of Chaos had claimed to be on the verge of developing a way to contain Primal Chaos and make, essentially, bombs. Benedict thought that the info was alarming but suspect. Some sort of proof would be required. Nic went to Ambre to try to find out more.
DRACO IN CHAOSDraco watched the funeral procession of one of Delwin's victims. He felt a very faint Trump contact -- his mother. She was too caught up in a running battle in Ambre to strengthen the contact. Draco Trumped to Castle Ambre and saw smoke, fighting, panicked commoners, empty guard posts. Civil War. He Trumped five dragons through from Bradenberg and took to the air. He quickly located Deirdre and a few remaining troops retreating from a large number of Ambre soldiers (and a few of the Watch, off on the sidelines making noise and trying to stay out of the actual fight). One pass buzzing them and the pursuers scattered away fast. She and her five men joined Draco on dragonback. Eric, she said, had attempted to arrest her, Corwin and Bleys in the Castle library. They'd resisted. Draco checked his deck: Corwin's was blocked, Octavian's was warm, Bleys' was jammed. Jesse was conscious but still stark, raving mad; Benedict's man, visible and contactable at Jesse's side, suggested she had a long ways to go. Benedict's Trump was blocked -- not too strongly. Llewella did answer. According to her info Eric had Julian, Gerard, Caine and possibly Mirelle on his side. Random was drunk somewhere. Fiona was in her rooms, undisturbed. Consuela was neutral and staying in the Fire Castle; no one was likely to try to get through Benedict's men to take her. Dorothea's position was unknown. Marcus was with Llewella. Ambrose backed his father Eric. Parsifal was neutral. Syric might be with Eric. Octavian was off somewhere. Llew said that Deirdre could claim sanctuary in Erbma. Dee told her she had an army to raise. Consuela also answered a call: she was sitting tight. She had no idea where Octavian had gone. He Trumped Lady Bruda in Hendrakeways and briefed her on the civil war. She said she'd raise some troops. Deirdre told Draco she wouldn't join Corwin without an army of her own. By bad luck, Corwin and Eric had run into each other in the library: instant brawl. She wanted some of Draco's dragons herself and just assumed that Draco would give them to her. She was right.
Deirdre went off to her army and Draco Trumped, sans dragons, to the Golden Circle. Eric moved fast: there were wanted posters up all over the place for Draco, Deirdre, Corwin, Bleys, Consuela, Random, Lord Rein and two other nobles. Draco grabbed some samples. He Trumped Random and found that he was massively drunk or using hallucinogens. In Texorami. Maybe. Draco walked into Shadow Seeking Corwin and, unsurprisingly, went straight to Avalon. Avalon was still ruined. Corwin was happy that Draco had come to join him. Confident that Bleys and Dee would join him, he offered Draco a high place in his army. Corwin also wanted to move his headquarters to Bradenberg, where he could 'help defend it'. Draco resisted the idea. He sent Corwin to one of the places near the border where he'd planted a depot and small army. [SECRET] testing something [SECRET] that worked, with Corwin's help.
NICCOLO IN CLOAKWORLD
Niccolo conferred with Benedict and then got an audience with Raichleach. He asked if she could modify the Cloak to match the new Logrus. She said not. Dworkin should be able to as Loki had adjusted it with little more than a wave of his hand. (Nic boggled.)She'd be happy if Dworkin made it more effective against the Logrus but had no intention of making it less effective against Pattern. Nic said that he felt the Cloak was a badly needed edge against Chaos, much more important with the Courts' time flow so greatly accelerated. She had heard, he said, that after the deaths of Sean, Connor and Emmilian he had said that either the Cloak should be destroyed or all the family should attune to it. Rai had not. He hoped Rai would go along with all of them eventually attuning to it.
Rai brought up Morganthe's depression and the possibility the woman would kill herself or the child. Nic should try to convince Random to do the honorable thing. Nic suggested that Random would suck as a husband.
Nic Trumped Kara and went through. She told him about the ongoing civil war. She had kept the Watch out of it as much as possible; Nic was relieved. He checked Ben's Trump -- warm, probably still at Cloakworld. He asked Kara to go to Benedict and give him the news. She insisted on written orders and got them. The sketch of near-Cloakworld was still functional so she used that. Nic summoned his yamabushi and sent all but five back to Tella lest they make Eric unnecessarily nervous. He Trumped Oriana. She was in her rooms in the Castle as per Eric's orders. There was a guard on her door but no one had taken her Trumps. She wanted to maintain her position in Ambre. She didn't trust New Fiona enough to hang out with her. Nic advised her to Trump out to Tella at the first real trouble. Nic asked after Queen Faiella. Oriana said Eric was keeping his mother safe and well guarded. Faiella had mentioned that she wished to attune to the Cloak. Oriana had no real idea if Faiella could survive the Broken Pattern she had walked herself. Nic signed off with a promise of a nice getaway. He Trumped Faiella and told her he'd look into her options for gaining some personal power. He'd bled for her before and -ahem- one or more of her children was bound to end up angry with him.
DRACO IN SHADOW
Draco Trumped Random, who was hung over but rational. Fuck'em, Random said, and invited Draco to hang out in Texorami. Lord Rein was blocking Trumps. Draco found him in Kashfa. Rein had refused to kowtow to Eric and had been stripped of titles and lands. Draco Trumped him to Corwin. He consulted Rein and the old lord started working on arrangements to swap out a different Trump deck for one of the ones in the Castle library. Draco went to Hendrakeways to draw his cards. Between tedious Hendrake family affairs he made a fake deck in Dworkin's style. All the person Trumps actually linked to Eric. The places linked to Brand's monster shadow. He checked on the Ambre Embassy and learned that Ambrose was the new Ambassador. Draco returned to Corwin's camp and gave the deck to Rein. He Trumped Kara. 'You're under arrest,' she smirked. They chatted. Julian was patrolling. Gerard was with the fleet, just going along. She didn't think much of the chances for peace. Draco found Bleys halfway between Omicron and Graves. Actually, Bleys' scouts found Draco. Bleys wanted him to join up too. Draco suggested a triumvirate. Bleys was skeptical. They arranged for Draco to contact him via his son Laoch, since Bleys was not taking calls. He went looking for Deirdre, who'd stopped taking calls as well, and found her with her army. She had a safe spot for a meeting. He Trumped Laoch and Rein. Their principals agreed. Draco was kept out of the meeting but eavesdropped on the clash of mighty egos. They eventually agreed to disagree about which of them would rule but they would coordinate their attacks. The worried about Benedict interfering. An attack on the Cloak should keep him pinned down for a bit. They were scraping up every cousin they could, including some Draco had never heard of. Possible children of Roland, of Delwin, Raichlings, maybe even... Syric. Dee invited Draco in. Corwin would try to lever Gerard away from Eric; he'd go in with a fleet. Dee had the air corps -- Draco's dragons. They wanted Draco to assault Cloakworld with Chaosian troops and try to make it look like Hendrakes; maybe Eric would attack Roland. Bleys said he had a nasty surprise for Eric. Syric arrived with an army of weres and vampires. Bleys had offered him the best deal.
Draco set his demon Weaver to looking for Raichlings and Trumped to Lady Bruda. She's assembled a smorgasbord of demons and things. They outfitted them with Chanicut and Sawall livery. Bruda wanted, and got, an annoying Hendrake relative set up to be eliminated. Draco even gave Gilbert Hendrake an escape Trump of the Gullet (Brand's monster shadow). Weaver found two Raichlings: Romulus and Remus. Both wanted to walk the Pattern. Romulus also wanted Draco, whom he respected greatly, to adopt him. Bruda hated bugs and was vexed. They submitted to learning proper demonforms fast. Draco Trumped Delwin and let him know about the civil war. Delwin, though contemptuous of his siblings, said he'd return only to defend Ambre if Chaos attacked. Draco mentioned that Caine probably had the Jewel of Judgement. Delwin had no way to detect him -- a good shapeshifter could shift his aura -- and that he wasn't sure he'd win in a Psyche conflict via Trump.
NICCOLO IN AMBRE
Nic found Bleys in shadow. He declined to join up. He had an excellent suggestion though. [SECRET STUFF]
Nic Trumped Fiona from Tella and invited her to come through for conversation, lunch and a tour. She did. Fiona was gracious, charming, even friendly. Nic sort of liked it even if his skin did crawl. He told her about the difficulty of dealing with a Chaos that lived so much faster than Ambre did. Fi said that he and Benedict were worrywarts. New Chaos was much more chaotic than before. A delegation of Chaosians had come to see her and lost several members -- the ones born after the recreation of the Logrus -- who spontaneously combusted upon crossing the border. Nic explained about the alleged Primal Chaos bombs. Fiona said that she could think of a way to do it but that it was easy enough to defend against. Simply alter shadows so that the containment failed. Niccolo suggested that editing the Border to present a line of such shadows would be a Really Good Thing for everyone. Fiona admitted that the technical challenge was intriguing. She'd also visit that Chaos Lord herself. Nic took her on a quick tour of Tella, including introducing her to Khrysofylax, Tella's greatest dragon. Fi patted him -- Khrys tried not to twitch. (Khrysofylax told Nic privately that his mystic draconic senses had detected two psyches inside Fiona. One monstrously strong and one even stronger.) Fiona had no way to estimate Faiella's chances of surviving either the Cloak or a Broken Pattern. Only Raichleach, some of her kids and Jesse could really compare the Pattern and the Cloak. Fi mentioned that Queen Moire had announced she was interning Amberites for the duration of the civil war.
Nic visited Raichleach at the Cloak and discussed Faiella's chances. Rai would let Faiella try, but she estimated her chances as 75%. Faiella had more than enough willpower but she was old. Nic didn't think a one in four chance of getting Eric's, Corwin's and Deirdre's mother killed was reasonable risk.
Nic Trumped Llewella and asked about Morganthe. Llew thought her niece was too tough to kill herself. Nic thought maybe a period of debauchery and self-indulgence after the child was born would help. Nic Trumped Random next. Random was looking better. He said Eric wouldn't be nervous so long as Random stayed in Texorami. Nic suggested Random convince Morganthe he wasn't worth it. Random though that fixing her up with a nice shadow of himself would do the trick.
FITZCAIRN IN SHADOW
Fitzcairn fled the Nothingness that had devoured his home, world and family. Eventually the destruction halted. Fitz made his way slowly towards Amber and the presumed cause. Slowly because he vented his rage by blowing the crap out of everything that crossed his path. Someone started following his wake with Pattern. Not his mother Fiona and not Delwin. Fitz found a convenient stand of trees to conceal himself in. A dragon flew over the copse, a big one, with someone riding it. It set down and the rider dismounted. After a bit of dancing around they introduced themselves. Fitz' pursuer was Draco, son of Deirdre, sent to look for him by his her. Draco told him that there was a lot going on.
And Fiona was in Ambre, "More pleasant than ever".
Incredulous look: "We're talking Fiona. 5'2". Red hair."
"She's more pleasant than ever."
Draco lent Fitz a Trump (in a style Fitz hadn't seen before) to contact Fiona with.
"Darling! I've been looking for you for so long!"
Fiona came through and Fitz found himself being hugged and kissed. "Oh, and you have a sister now!"
Something was very, very wrong.
"Draco! Thank you for finding Fitzcairn! Darling, it's safe for you to come to the Castle with me. Draco, you could come too!" Second thoughts. "Better yet, we can have a picnic!" Fiona pulled out a Trump. "I've got someone here I want you to meet! Dress in something nice." Fiona conjured up tables, chairs, snacks.
"OK." Dorothea dressed in something nice. She Trumped her mother and stepped through to a field by a small wood, Draco and another man, a redhead, at hand and a big dragon nearby. Fiona introduced the redhead as her long-lost brother Fitzcairn. "So where have you been?"
"A shadow I like."
Fiona looked distressed. "Maybe we can re-create it. You weren't attached to anyone important, were you?"
Fiona and Draco and Dorothea gave Fitzcairn a disjointed, half-assed description of the events leading up to the destruction of the Logrus and the creation of the new one.
"-- we got it fixed. It's all better now. Of course, Oberon died. And that brings us to Eric's coup."
They ran down the competing claims on the throne, male and female. They listed the cousins, warning him against Syric and recommending Niccolo as a fun guy and the family poison expert. Fiona praised Octavian as her favorite nephew.
While drinking wine afterward Fiona apologized to Fitzcairn for trying to force him into a bad marriage.
Fitz boggled. Dorothea hid her surprise.
Deirdre arrived, obviously summoned by Draco. After the introductions she recommended that Fitzcairn consult cousin Raichleach about the details of the making of the new Logrus. A description of catgirl Rai and her spawn followed.
Deirdre asked Dorothea which side she was on. Still neutral. What side was Dee on? She and Draco explained their alliance. Dorothea said that any of them were better than Eric. Fiona gave Dorothea and Fitzcairn to do as they pleased. Dorothea agreed to gather information for Deirdre -- troop movements and strength, the whereabouts of the Jewel of Judgement, which might be in Caine's hands. Dee said that they had some time yet. She had Draco give Dorothea a Trump of her lieutenant Alexander. Fiona asked Dorothea to show Fitz the ropes. Dee left. Fiona took the remaining group "the fast way" to Ambre. Draco left them at the Golden Circle.Fitz found that Ambre had changed a lot. The castle and city were much larger and grander, despite the battle damage. Eric's troops left Fiona's party strictly alone. Fi arranged for rooms. She said that he'd have to ask Octavian about rooms in the Fire Castle. Fire Castle? Fi pointed out the window to a distant dot. Fitz saw that Ambre's sea, once a mighty ocean, was now a small inland sea. You could actually see all the way across it. Eric appeared, introduced himself and made a pitch for Dorothea's and Fitz' support. He managed to irritate both of them. Fiona insisted that Fitzcairn walk the Pattern, saying something about not being totally sure she hadn't left any compulsions on him. Fitz got the impression she was really making sure of his identity. He walked it and wished himself to the Guardsmen's laundry. He heard the sounds of fencing from the salle d'arms and went to investigate. He recognized his cousin Kara from Draco's show of Trumps, fencing with what looked to be the Captain of the Guard.
Fitzcairn reached the center of the Pattern, caught his breath and disappeared. Dorothea looked at her mother. Fiona said he was still in the castle somewhere. Dorothea went off looking for her new brother and got snagged by Eric. He told her that he'd be requiring oaths of fealty in two days.
DRACO IN CHAOS
Draco and Bruda led her motley troops towards Cloakworld. Once they crossed the border all the young ones burst into flame. A few made it back to safety. They took it philosophically and rounded up some fighters Ambreside who looked superficially like Chaosians. While recruiting, Draco caught scent of a Broken Pattern user. He captured the guy and brought him to Bleys' camp and questioned him. He knew nearly nothing. His unit had been ground to hamburger and he'd been left behind by an unfriendly cell leader. He was more than happy to serve Draco and try to make amends. Back to Bruda and the mercs. They assigned Gilbert to lead the most inept.Bleys and Deirdre disputed the timing of the attack. Bleys wanted to attack in one day, Dee in two. Draco stayed firmly on the fence and sent Remus to Bleys to keep in contact with him. Remus immediately went out of contact; when Draco checked up Laoch told him that Remus had been assigned to a top secret mission. Behind Laoch Draco saw fingermen. Lots of them. And fingermen were best employed as assassins. He told Dee about the fingermen. Draco attempted to Trump Consuela, then went to the Fire Castle to talk to her. He told her about Fitzcairn and strongly suggested she invite all the cousins from Ambre Castle over to her place for a welcoming party. She agreed to do that and sent invitations via Benedict's men. When he got back to camp he had messages from Deirdre and Corwin telling him to step up his attack.
NICCOLO IN AMBRE
Nic Trumped Gerard and, as there was no arrest warrant out for him yet, went through to him on his flagship. Bored with sailing back and forth and angry at the notion of fighting his siblings, Gerard was susceptible to the notion of going out and getting drunk. He Trumped Caine and put him in charge of the fleet for the night. (Nic figured that Eric would leave him alone while he was out drinking with Gerard.) They docked in Ambre port with five ships and went to a dive Gerard knew. Nicco sent orders to his club to expel all of Eric's men one way or another and to triple the bruisers and Watchmen on guard. They did a few rounds at the dive and then moved to the club. Nic kept up with Gerard for a while and tried out his Leone sober-up pills. He and Gerard arm wrestled; Gerard let (insisted) Nic use his whole body to oppose Gerard's right arm and Nic still lost. And was pretty sure Gerard was holding back. Nic blearily calculated his alcohol intake vs. the sober-up pills' capacity and made the professional toxicologist's call that he'd better throw up. Periodically. He couldn't afford to pass out and wake up looking at Eric.
FITZCAIRN IN AMBRE CASTLE
Fitz checked out the local mystic environment. Sorcery worked, though fire spells were dampened by the Castle defenses. He examined those defenses, most of them based on Sorcery. Some heavy duty stuff up on the roof, much of it in Fiona's style. Some of it was older still and drew upon the Pattern itself. Oberon's or Dworkin's work. Some of Mom's recent additions were aimed at blocking... nothing. Nothing he could detect. Cloak? With Fiona's enchantments as a starting point he worked out a Cloak-blocking spell. One of Benedict's men delivered a note: an invitation to dinner at the Fire Castle from his cousin Consuela.
DOROTHEA IN AMBRE CASTLEDorothea soon tired of watching new brother Fitz lose himself in sorcerous contemplation. She went about her own business for some hours until she received her own invitation to Consuela's party. She rode out with Fitz and Parsifal at an easy pace, talking as they rode. Parsifal was an interesting guy, practically a redhead in his outlook. He was relieved for an excuse to get away from Castle Ambre. Kara rode by them at a gallop, either in a hurry or letting off steam. They were nearly there when a lot of magick went off in Ambre, shockwaves and the Castle defenses turning on full. The three stopped, looked back and then carried on. Fitz activated a sorcerous shield. Kara passed them going back the other way, cursing vilely. Consuela welcomed them in and had the dinner moved to the big balcony with a direct but distant view of Ambre and the incipient fleet action.
"Nice timing Cons," Dorothea commented.
"Not my doing. A little bird suggested I invite you over."
Servants passed out spyglasses. Dragons were buzzing the City as parachutists tried to land on the Castle roof.
Someone Trumped Dorothea. She resisted.
Consuela noticed, smiled and tapped a ring, "These are so handy."
Fireworks --- burning parachutists -- lit up the Ambre sky for fifteen minutes. Lightning struck again and again at the naval engagement.
Fitz scanned the Fire Castle defenses. Not nearly as good as Ambre Castles and the work of two people. One better than him and one not as good. Octavian and Consuela? Fitz spelled the air into a giant, high-power telescope and the partiers switched off looking through it three at a time. Black-clad superfast guys were ripping the hell out of the defenders; ten minutes later they entered the Castle. At the naval battle ships were being smashed by giant whirlpools and a selective storm. They could just make out a red pulsing light on one flagship. In Ambre City the dragons retreated. A big group of troops fled the City towards the Fire Castle -- Deirdre's. Dorothea suggested Consuela send out medics to help Deirdre's people. Consuela gave the orders, then Trumped Llewella and pulled her through. Llew examined the situation and opined that the battle would last for some time. She thought that Bleys might have backstabbed Deirdre.
Alexander, Deirdre's lieutenant was brought up to Consuela. He was suffering from magic-induced burns. He said that they had been doing fine until some of Bleys' fingermen turned on them and on Bleys' people as well. Some of the fingermen were ringers. Deirdre had called off the attack. Alexander got separated from her and both their Trumps were being blocked. They told him about Caine -- probably Caine -- using the Jewel of Judgement in the sea battle. He tried to Trump Deirdre to tell her that. Mirelle had joined in on Eric's side. Kara had told him that she was looking for her boss. They had come in via a Trump Gate; he wasn't authorized to say whose. He mentioned that Raichleach's son Remus had died in the fighting.
About 4am a large army of Julian's entered the City and moved towards the Castle. Dorothea Trumped Laoch to inform him and Bleys of that. She also told them of the Jewel of Judgement's use in the naval engagement. Bleys cursed. Was she sure? Whirlpools. He thanked her, hesitated and pulled out a Trump. Jesse's.
DRACO AT CLOAKWORLDThe assault went as planned. Gilbert died to Bruda's glad cries and Benedict's men munched the odds-and-sods in a few minutes. Draco felt someone Editing the shadow. He headed in with Romulus and Weaver. There was a gap in the defenses near where they had attacked. A hint of Logrus in the air. They passed paralyzed Bugs and Spawn. Strong stench of Logrus-- and Primal Chaos! Screams. CLOAK. The Primal Chaos and Logrus disappeared. They smelled burning flesh. Weaver's stomach growled. They found Raichleach, several bugs, a demonformed sort missing the top half of his body and a captive humanoid. Rai called Draco over and asked if he recognized the captive. The man had both Pattern and Logrus; he'd Edited a way in and his associate had called up Primal Chaos. He had items from two different Houses of Chaos on him but no Trumps. The bugs had been frozen in something like temporal stasis by the dead guy. The live one was a former Charybdite and a merc, one of three who had used the Torc to walk the Pattern. He said the deader was a Chanicut. Raichleach said she was going to kill him and she wasn't worried about Blood Curses. Draco took 20 static bugs to Hendrakeways where the effect soon wore off.
Draco Trumped Deirdre. She was angry because some of Bleys' fingermen had been double agents. Bleys was still stuck in the Castle. She hadn't heard from Corwin but suspected his naval action had been merely a feint. Draco Trumped Corwin's aide Ganelon and was told his commander was unavailable. Ganelon asked if Draco had any experience with technological warfare. Draco Trumped to Dee and her main army, two days march from Ambre. He told her about the attempt on the Cloak. She considered trying to pin it on Eric and then went to Cloakworld to try to get in on the interrogation of the ex-Charybdite.
NICCOLO IN AMBRE CITYNic was sober enough to notice Julian's army marching through town. Most of the nobles, hookers, sailors and Watchmen in the club were passed out. Nic was barely able to manage a Trump call: he tried Parsifal. Parsifal told him he was at the Fire Castle with half the cousins -- come through. Nic agreed, then looked himself over. He stripped off his stained shirt, but the pants were no better and where the hell were his boots? He picked a Watchman with a reasonably clean uniform who was about his size and ordered him to give up his clothes. Nic dressed, washed his mouth out with whiskey and went through. Along with Parsifal there was Llewella, Consuela, Dorothea and Fitzcairn, to whom he was soon introduced. They showed him the air-telescope, told him about the fighting. He told them that Gerard had been with him for the last twelve hours and Caine had been in command of the Fleet. So Caine had the Jewel. No surprise. Talk turned to whether or not Oberon -- and Brand -- were really dead. Nic confirmed Brand's death and pulled the shinflute out of his Trump Closet. He was too drunk to notice the stares. The subject of New Fiona came up and Fitzcairn revealed that he'd felt two Psyches in her. Nic said there wasn't much they could do about it. No one could handle Fiona let alone something stronger. Nic told them about the new, improved, self-combusting Chaosians.
Talk turned to the succession. Nobody could stand Eric. Nic had a sudden, drunken inspiration: Julian for king. He ran it down to them out loud. Ben didn't want it, Eric would kill Corwin or vice versa, the uncles flatly wouldn't back any aunt, Bleys had Jesse for an heir, Caine wouldn't be king as the job was too exposed. Delwin was practically a foreigner. Random -- you know. And Julian could get more support than Gerard. If Caine (with the Jewel) would support Julian they might be able to convince Benedict to throw in. Maybe Dorothea and Fitzcairn could get their sweet mother to help. Caine, naturally, wasn't taking Trump calls. Nic volunteered to go ask Julian if he was interested.
RAICHLEACH IN CLOAKWORLD
During the attack Rai discovered that she could use all the known Cloak abilities while in the source's chamber. Finally, another benefit from being the icon.
Rai thought the psycheverse infiltrators might be being 'recycled' as fast as they were killed. She changed the standing orders and had them all sent to a boring prison shadow (blocked to Trump, Pattern and Logrus) instead.
OCTAVIAN IN SHADOW
Octavian tried different approaches to reaching the Primal Plane, Dworkin and Osric. None worked. He eventually checked in at the Fire Castle and learned of the civil war. Told of the visitors -- Llewella, Parsifal, Niccolo, Dorothea and Fitzcairn -- he went up to visit them. He shook hands with Fitzcairn (gaining a Psyche estimate) and shanghaied the drunken Nic to help him on his quest. Nic Trumped them to a cave in Chaos and insisted that Octavian guard him while he slept his drunk off. Octavian summoned his dog and waited impatiently. Nic snored away for several hours before Octavian woke him up. Octavian explained that Osric was the Unicorn's choice for King. Nic was a little dubious, having seen that Raichleach's iconic status hadn't done much for her infallibility. Nic cleaned up and helped Octavian fail to get closer to the Primal Plane. The point farthest from Chaos turned out to be the little island in the new Circle Sea. Draco had established a depot and small garrison there which left the two pretty much alone. Attempted shadowshifting from the island went nowhere, and Fiona wasn't answering her Trump.
FITZCAIRN IN THE FIRE CASTLE
Fitz and the others watched Octavian and Nic dick around aimlessly on the little island. That soon palled and Fitz attempted to Trump Fiona. No luck. He made and sent some sort of inquiring spell to her at Ambre Castle. She soon Trumped Fitz. She was fine despite the dreadful noise. She said that Bleys had left, Bleys' troops were retreating before Julian's and held only the dining room and the entrance to the Pattern. Julian held the throne room and most of the city. Eric held everything else in the Castle.
Parsifal asked Fitz to go with him to check out the new, improved, exploding Chaosians. He wanted to go capture one and try it out. Why not? They headed out into Shadow. While passing through Begma they noted that there were wanted posters up everywhere for much of the royal family of Amber minus Eric's supporters. And that the Begman army was mobilizing. Later, well out in Shadow, they noticed that someone was Seeking them, or one of them, out. They waited around to see who it was with teleports ready just in case. Parsifal nearly panicked when he saw their two pursuers -- Fingermen! Fitz hit on the idea of levitating the Fingermen high and leaving them there. It worked to a point, the point coming when the Fingermen aimed crossbows at them. Parsifal went down with a bolt in the gut. Fitz got a defensive shield up first and bounced a bolt. Parsifal was down and bleeding a lot but still levitating his target. Fitz made a big sphere of acid between him and the Fingermen, then teked it towards them. One bolt shot on a high arc came within inches of skewering Fitz and then they were dissolving in acid. Very. Slowly. Parsifal wasn't too badly hurt (he mentioned keeping his vitals someplace else); he was mostly concerned about who sicced the Fingermen on them. Deirdre? Corwin? He didn't know how to gain control of a fingerman. Syric might know and Fiona definitely did. Parsifal healed himself within a few minutes.
DRACO IN THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
Deirdre rejoined Draco as he moved her army into Begma, having failed to find Raichleach. They found a Begman army waiting for them. Draco Trumped into Begma City to see Prime Minister Orkuz who was nearly an old buddy. Orkuz told him that he'd signed an agreement with Prince Eric -- like most of the Golden Circle rulers -- and had been called upon to interdict any of Eric's foes armies. Draco got a copy of the document and returned to Deirdre. She thought that there was probably some blackmail involved as well as the favorable trade agreements. Draco made a sketch of Orkuz and tried it out. Orkuz' mind was stronger. Draco made preparations to try to bypass the Begman army while Deirdre went off to check on things. She returned with the news that Bleys had captured Caine and taken the Jewel of Judgement from him. He had attuned to it. Negotiations ensued.
RAICHLEACH IN CLOAKWORLD
The former-Charybdite prisoner didn't know much. He'd been approached by a Chaosian claiming to be a Chanicut. Some of the troops that had died in the external assault had carried Chanicut items as well. Frame-up. He'd paid in promised access to the Logrus and with two high-quality artifacts. One enhanced the user's psyche to Raichleach's own level and the other raised the user's endurance to a level considerably better than hers. Otherwise, the guy knew that Loki had been working with the Charybdite leaders and that two other Charies who'd used the Torc to walk the Pattern were still alive. Rai got impressions of them.
Fiona wasn't answering Trumps. Rai drugged the man and dragged him along to Ambre. There'd been fighting. Soldiers sporting Julian's black hawk on white were all over the place. Rai was an object of immediate interest and concern but they let her pass into the castle. Her escort told her that they were not assaulting the castle but preventing Bleys' escape -- or at least his soldiers'. And that her father Caine was Bleys' prisoner. Julian's man handed her over to Eric's people who tagged along to Fiona's room. Fiona was not alone. She introduced Rai to her long-missing son Fitzcairn. Fi had Raichleach put the drugged Charybdite on a table to wait for the drugs to wear off. Piles of notes and esoteric equipment indicated that Fiona had been working on a project. She said that it was something for warding the border. Caine was, Fi thought, in a Castle dungeon. Fiona was blithely unconcerned about the fighting. She and Benedict would make all the important decisions anyway. She claimed to have stopped using Fingermen. She knew nothing about the Agateverse infiltrators. Rai left and tried to get to the dungeons but Eric's men wouldn't let her past their lines.Raichleach went to the Fire Castle and arrived prior to Octavian. She heard about Nic and Gerard's drinking contest and made snide Like Father Like Son comments. Rai went to the Pattern room and walked the thing, then wished herself back upstairs. She talked to Llewella about Morganthe. The girl was torpid now. Octavian and Nic showed up (Nic now showered, shaved and dressed properly) so Rai talked to them. Octavian let on that they were trying to get to the Primal Plane. They had decided that one of the Patterns, probably an odd one, might allow access. Rai mentioned the ones that she'd tried, and that she'd walked them all when compelled by the Dworkin of the fourth Tir-na Nog'th. Nic hadn't heard of other Tirs. Rai and Octavian explained. Nic looked at them like they were insane, especially Rai who'd gone to the fourth one looking for a Dworkin. He advised her to seek help because mind-melding with Jesse was obviously warping her notions of reasonable risk. Rai dismissed this as chickenshit nonsense. She'd got useful things out of Dworkin most of the times before. Nic mentioned Russian Roulette. Octavian walked the Fire Pattern. Nic Trumped away somewhere else.
OCTAVIAN IN THE FIRE CASTLE
Wishing himself to Dworkin took Octavian instead to the Ambre Castle Pattern room. Jesse greeted him happily as 'Bleys'. She was still insane -- much more than usual. Laoch was almost morose. Bleys' soldiers were preparing for a breakout attempt. Nic's Trump didn't work. Jesse said that Trumps were blocked but still worked in the sea caves. Just in case Dworkin and Osric really were in the area, Octavian scryed for them. Nada. He resisted the temptation to mindrape Caine. Actually, he couldn't think of a way to do it safely.
FITZCAIRN IN SHADOW
They found a Chaosian. He burned prettily. Parsifal seemed to be tempted to do this a lot more but instead asked Fitz to help him find Delwin. Fitz agreed. In the process of getting a good psychic impression of Uncle Delwin, Fitz learned that Parsifal was psychically stronger but considerably slower. He seemed to be a nice, straightforward guy. Parsifal told Fitz his personal history along the way. One of Finndo's sons raised in Chaos he'd wanted to take the Pattern rather than the Logrus and was quite open about it. After many years in prison he'd been released and joined his relatives in Ambre.
Chaos was far more Chaotic than before. Parsifal scouted ahead far enough to warn Fitz what kinds of environments to prepare spells for. Delwin found them and surprised them. He seemed to be happy to see Parsifal. Introductions. They briefed Delwin on current events in Ambre. He said he'd heard some things from a couple of their cousins. Fitz told Delwin that Fiona had mentioned him as someone she might support. Delwin considered. He said that he would need solid promises of support from both Benedict and Fiona before he'd take the throne. They discussed other things. Delwin said that the Courts were more disorganized than ever due to differences in time flows between different Houses and even within a given House's holdings. They told him about the exploding Chaosians. He'd heard of that but wasn't sure it was universally true. Delwin gave Fitz his Trump and said he'd answer it. He suggested they contact Llewella after Ben and Fi. Sand would probably support him as well.
They parted company. On the way back Parsifal pointed out that Delwin had been carrying Werewindle, Brand's Pattern sword. He gave Fitz another version of the destruction of the old Logrus, Brand and Loki. It agreed more or less with the others, though all the versions were speculative as only Caine and Raichleach had -- probably -- been eyewitnesses.
Fitz picked a region and found a near match to his destroyed personal shadow. Parsifal was some help with designing the barriers and such. The place was amenable to both sorcery and moderate technology. Fitz gave himself a small manor house.
DRACO IN BEGMA
Draco did something [SECRET]. Next he Trumped Corwin's aide Ganelon who brought Corwin into the contact. Draco told them about Bleys and the Jewel. Corwin said that Bleys was no longer cooperating with him. Draco went through to them and saw Corwin's new troops. Furry guys armed with odd weapons. 'Automatic rifles' were not really familiar to Draco. Corwin and Draco discussed the tactical situation. Corwin suggested they acquire pliable Agateverse duplicates of all the Golden Circle leaders. They decided to get a duplicate of Eric as well, then have him contact the leaders via Trump and order them through. Corwin offered the position of Grand Marshall to Deirdre and had good ideas for rewarding Draco. He showed off the rifles, said they would function in Ambre and wouldn't say where the ammunition came from.
Draco Trumped to Deirdre. She agreed to go along with Corwin despite strong suspicions that he'd screw up. He returned to Corwin's camp and was there when, he Trumped Octavian and asked him to get Raichleach away from Cloakworld for a time. Octavian told his father that Rai was coincidentally off on a mystical mission for Ambre. He had his doubts concerning the wisdom of summoning Agateverse creatures but he only expressed them to Draco. After they broke the contact Draco told Corwin he wasn't sure Octavian would actually go along with it. Corwin was sure Octavian would. They left.
Octavian Trumped Raichleach and told her she should be on the lookout for intruders at Cloakworld. She went straight there.Corwin got them into Cloakworld past Benedict's patrols. They -- barely -- subdued the guards on the cave containing the transcosmic access point and ran into the magical wards. Crap. They stepped out for a moment and saw that they were surrounded by Benedict's troops. Lots of them. About 200. Back into the cave. Trumps were blocked. Corwin squeezed off a round -- bang! Draco assembled his rifle. Outside, Rai heard the loud noise and probed for power use. Nothing. Corwin thought that they could take all 200 men out... but it would really piss off Benedict. Maybe Draco could surrender and negotiate for him? Draco had other ideas.
DOROTHEA IN THE FIRE CASTLEParsifal and Fitzcairn got together with Dorothea, Llewella and Consuela. They had an alternative to Eric: Delwin. Delwin had long been absent from Ambre (trouble with Oberon, what a surprise) but had spent centuries for Ambre in direct action against the Courts. Dorothea thought that meant war with Chaos for sure. No, she was told, the Chaosians hadn't known he was there. He was that good. Llewella sent Consuela to help Parsifal find Benedict while she herself saw Lora. Dorothea Trumped Fiona, who answered right away. Fiona had a lot of odd things on one work table and an unconscious man on another. Fiona said that she was working on a replacement for Ygg. Mending the border was necessary and Niccolo, in one of his occasional good ideas, had brought it to her attention. Dorothea broached the idea of King Delwin. Fiona said she'd have to talk to him herself. At the border in two days. For one thing, she wanted to make sure it really was Delwin. Fiona still hadn't explained the unconscious man. Fine, I'll bite. Who's the guy? A Charybdite. Fiona showed Dorothea the unremovable identifying tattoo and told her that the man was a Pattern initiate. He should be useful for something but she didn't know what just yet. He could be compelled to never get near the Pattern... Fiona said she'd give him to Dorothea for a pet. She cleared the Trump block completely from her room (her own card had already been freed up) and Dorothea Trumped out to Parsifal and Consuela.
The search for Benedict picked up real speed when Dorothea took over and they soon found him with a huge army. Really huge. Moving with that trademarked Benedictine efficiency and speed. Parsifal dragged Dorothea and Consuela along for moral support. Benedict rather liked the idea of Delwin taking the crown as he was seriously angry with Eric, Corwin, Bleys and Deirdre. He agreed to the proposal in just a few minutes. They contacted Fitz via Fiona and pulled him through, explaining things. Benedict told them that this particular army was only part of his forces. If Fiona didn't agree to back Delwin he, Benedict, would put him on the throne whether he liked it or not. Fitzcairn Trumped Delwin and told him Benedict and Llewella were on board. He offered to assign some of Benedict's troops to guard Delwin's meeting with Fiona. Delwin agreedDorothea skipped a few shadows away and Trumped Bleys. He answered, off with an army in Shadow. She offered information for attunement to the Jewel of Judgement. He wanted a bit of service as well -- sorcerous help in the upcoming battle. She wanted payment in advance. No - maybe; he'd need a sample. All right: Benedict is on the move. Benedict was taking a position. He's putting his ENORMOUS army to use. Bleys agreed, stipulating that she'd contact Benedict for him. Dorothea went through to Bleys. He Trumped them to the sea caves of Kolvir and led her to the Pattern room. He handed her the Jewel and explained the attunement technique. You concentrated on the Jewel until the Pattern image within came clear, then walked the Pattern while concentrating on both. He warned her to not teleport away with it. Dorothea walked the Pattern and attuned successfully. When she'd caught her breath she told Bleys that Benedict had found a candidate he could support whole-heartedly. Delwin. She tossed the Jewel over and disappeared.
FITZCAIRN IN AMBRE
Fitz told Fiona that he wanted to be there when she met with Delwin. Fine, she'd wanted to show him the new barrier anyway. Fitz mentioned the Fingermen trying to kill him and Parsifal. She'd look into it. Fitz got a tutorial on how to control Fingermen. Wresting control away from already-programmed Fingermen was possible if their master had been sloppy. With good work only a stronger psyche could break the controls. One Fingerman at a time. She showed him her plans. The border wards were made to disrupt Cloak and the magick used for Primal Chaos containment -- she explained about that. Fitz explained Ben's position. Fiona maintained her primacy of decision. Fitz held the captive Charybdite down while Fiona did terrible things to the man's mind. She didn't really thing Dorothea needed him but she'd promised. Half an hour later the man was a happy servant.
NICCOLONic tried the Moon Pattern first. He Trumped there and walked it, then wished himself to Dworkin. Ordinarily one couldn't go to people but he thought Dworkin would be the exception. He ended up at the Erbma Pattern. He Trumped to Tella to rest. After a sweet and sweaty with Oriana in Castle Ambre he returned to Erbma via a Trump sketch and walked it. The wish took him to Tir-na Nog'th. Octavian was there walking it. When he reached the center Octavian said that they'd probably have to walk all the Patterns to get to the Primal Plane. Nic groaned but it made sense. It would keep out all but the most determined annoying grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Nic Trumped to his Chaos cave with five yamabushi to guard his sleep. Back to Tir-na Nog'th. This time he ended up at the Star Pattern. He rested there and walked it. Ambre Pattern. Jesse was there and obviously, completely nuts. Nic tried to make her sleep via psychic contact. It took five minutes for the walls to stop moving. He popped off to Chaos again and back. Jesse walked the Ambre Pattern first, leaving barely enough room for the two of them in the middle. Nic tried to leave her behind but they both ended by the Fire Pattern. At least she wouldn't be leading any desperate affrays while bonkers. She wandered off and Nic did his 80:1 sleep in Chaos trick again. The yamabushi were starting to give him odd looks. Back to the Fire Castle and its Pattern. Wishing to Dworkin led Niccolo to.... redwoods. In a Place that felt like Ambre but moreso. He walked through the woods and found a Castle. THE Castle, like Ambre's but idealized, of white stone and perfect angles and curves. Nic entered and found Dworkin and Osric standing at a worktable (a perfect worktable -- you get the idea) on something esoteric. "What are you doing here? Never mind, make yourself useful and give me some of your blood."
Again. Great. Osric looked the same as before. Intelligent, crafty, cruel. Crap, Dworkin hadn't changed him. Niccolo started to make vague noises about Ambre's troubles while bleeding into a cup. A rather large cup.Dworkin interrupted, "It doesn't matter. This is the only place that matters." Nic agreed. He just wanted out. He handed the full cup to Dworkin and bound up his wrist. Then Octavian walked in. Nic intercepted him and made psychic contact. Osric hasn't changed. Forget it. Octavian went off to do something with the deadly duo while Nic was told to wash the dishes. Months of dishes, all different. Probably conjured and forgotten. Nic didn't mind. He hadn't washed more than camping gear for a century but this was getting off lightly. Dwokin could just as easily want Nic's spleen. Osric might want to turn him into a big roach. And, what the hell, if the dishes stayed dirty Here it might affect dishes throughout Creation. When he was done he'd rested enough to walk the Primal Pattern and leave.
DRACO AND RAICHLEACH IN CLOAKWORLD
Raichleach ran tendrils through the soil into the cave. Corwin chopped them off. Ouch. Corwin shouted threats, demanded to negotiate, wasted time. Rai tried again and lost more fingertips. She sent for her children who had learned sorcery and had them lob spells into the cave. Corwin jumped out and mowed them down with his battle rifle and was back in before they could react. None of Benedict's men were hurt as they had taken cover after the first test fire. Rai could feel that Draco was still inside. She left and went looking for Benedict. She found him easily enough, him and his big-ass army. But Ben liked Corwin just where he was and wanted her to keep him there. Rai Trumped back and went to the Cloak Chamber, exerted her powers. Nothing. Corwin and Draco weren't using any power she could corrupt. She went back to the siege and could tell they were gone. She searched the cave. They had tunneled out through solid rock. Benedict was not happy when she told him.
Rai went to the Grove and talked to the Unicorn. The Unicorn said that she'd been compelled by Dworkin to not tell the method of getting to the Primal Pattern.
Lots of Pattern walking. Rai can do two in a row but she did not cut her rest time by going to fast shadows. The Fire Pattern was warded against her and she had to talk to Octavian. She told him about Corwin's escape with an unknown number of Agateversers and that he was using firearms. Octavian let her into the Pattern room and Rai was soon at the Primal Plane. It had changed. The white castle was new. She entered and found Dworkin and Osric working on a huge Bell and particularly on the clapper. A model of the new cosmos? Dworkin wanted some of her blood, too. Too? Nic and Octavian had been there earlier. They needed blood with Cloak essence. What would it do for the Cloak? Keep Dworkin from getting rid of it. OK. They were going to move the Cloak to the Clapper, making it less accessible. It would just move around at random. Rai helped, keeping her distance from Osric. Osric was amused. They completed it and levitated it up to the Bell. Dworkin said they needed a Rope. Someone to be the rope. Rai suggested Eric. No. Bleys -- close. Syric -- completely inadequate. No, no, no... Roland! Dworkin told Raichleach to fetch Roland. Rai walked the Primal Pattern and wished herself to the Courts. She checked on the asylum. All her children were long gone. Quite a lot of time had passed in that area. She went to the royal palace and got her audience. Roland said that Dworkin was welcome any time. Rai said Roland was to go to Dworkin instead. King Roland was not happy with the idea of haring off for years, Chaos-time. He said he'd do it if Caine impersonated him in his absence. Rai thought Caine was in prison. Not anymore, said Roland.
DRACO IN THE GOLDEN CIRCLEThe substitution plan went off without a hitch. Now the Golden Circle armies joined theirs and marched on in three great armies under Corwin, Deirdre and Draco. Bleys Trumped each of them at the edge of Arden and advised them that it would be unwise to attack just then. He wouldn't give a reason. They went forward and Julian's forces fell back before them. Messages reached them as they neared Ambre City, purportedly from Benedict. CEASE HOSTILE ACTIONS OR FACE MY WRATH. Draco Trumped Benedict and got right through. Ben confirmed the message and ordered them to disarm their armies and stand down. They complied and moved the armies two shadows out from Ambre. Draco Trumped the automatic weapons out to Bradenberg. Draco, Dee, Corwin and their lieutenants went into Ambre and found that Eric was unaware of Benedict's actions.
FITZCAIRN ON THE BORDER
The meeting was unexciting. Fiona decided to go along with Benedict.
EVERYBODY IN AMBRE CASTLE
Benedict ordered a family meeting and everyone but Sand, Lora and Roland showed up. Eric had a black eye. Ben announced that Delwin would be King. They could swear fealty or go into exile. Ben swore first, on the spot. Eric and Corwin went next. Then the big rush. No one chose exile.
Benedict took Corwin off to discuss bringing automatic firearms into Ambre.
Niccolo found that the Watch had been half wiped-out when Julian impressed them into the army. His casino had been looted during the fighting.
Raichleach told Caine of Roland's offer.
Niccolo discussed Mandor's experiments need to be killed with Delwin and was given the assignment. Nic, not too surprised, asked for advice from the Master of the Art of Chaosian Elimination. Delwin suggested Mandor be appointed ambassador to Ambre. Hendrake was not friendly with Sawall.'
Delwin tasked Draco the Dragon-man with founding the Ambre Air Force. He was to start by arranging air patrols over Arden.
Delwin said he was disappointed by Gerard's performance during the crisis -- drunk at a critical time. Gerard was put in charge of the infirmary.
Random was appointed Ambassador to the Courts of Chaos.
Delwin asked for recommendations.
Octavian was named magus for both castles, not Fiona, as she would be needed everywhere. His immediate security problems would include the coming mass of Golden Circle potentates. Delwin anticipated assassination attempts, duels and lots of spying. Octavian was also to search out former Charybdites and either recruit or kill them. Octavian got Nic assigned to help. He told Delwin about the Unicorn, Osric and the Primal Pattern. Delwin was concerned. He said he'd offer Osric amnesty, since he couldn't stop him from doing whatever he wanted. Consuela was made Octavian's assistant and, as head of security, he could call on any of the cousins he needed.
Niccolo and his paramour Oriana were made co-seneschals of the Castle. Nic was to concentrate on preventing poisonings after he took care of another job.
Fitzcairn was named Random's assistant and spymaster, as Lora had been for Draco. Delwin promised him a full Trump deck.
Corwin was to command the Castle guard. (Lord Danesh was retiring, having lost an arm in the fighting.)
Llewella was ambassador to Erbma.
Dorothea was given a choice of battle or healing sorcery. She chose healing and was made Gerard's lieutenant. She checked with him and found that Gerard was not too happy about his assignment.
Raichleach was tasked to make the Cloak more secure -- Rai said there was something in the works -- and to occasionally assist others with Cloak. Niccolo might need assistance in the near future. Unofficially, Rai was to control Jesse. Jesse was appointed Rai's assistant. Del told Rai to lure Jesse in, to create shiny baubles for her to chase. Rai showed Delwin her new toys. The Endurance booster would work just fine. Benedict couldn't tie himself up guarding the Cloak forever. Delwin assigned Deirdre -- Raichleach trusted only Cloak initiates -- to oversee the Cloakworld's security.
Bleys became admiral.
Parsifal was put in command of the cavalry.
Ambrose was made seneschal of the Fire Castle.
Syric became Ambre's jailer.
Most of the cousins were also assigned a delegation of Golden Circle potentates to ride herd on.
Dorothea got Maximum Leader Om of Xedara and King Maximilian of Rogma.
Nic got Queen Evania of Seleene, the drug center.
Fitz got King Parvis of Pergamon.
Draco asked Nic what he and Octavian had been up to on the island. Nic told him, but didn't mention his eventual success.
Nic introduced Oriana to Delwin. Later he told the king-to-be about the crimelord and former Charybdite Shadow.
OCTAVIAN IN AMBRE
Octavian worked on the castle defenses. Among other things he examined some Green Fungus -- Niccolo had some -- and worked out how to detect it magically. He briefed Delwin on the changes and had to show him the backdoors he'd built in.
DRACO IN AMBRE
Draco worried about the Golden Circle potentates. Were they the originals or not? Next, as per orders, he started work on an aerie for the dragon patrols atop Kolvir. He located a nearby shadow for feeding them. He decided to add a griffin-riding patrol. While setting that up Bleys hit him up for a few sea-dragons. Draco acquired some from a shadow of Bradenberg. His GC assignment, King Maximilian or Rogma, arrived. Draco's inquiries revealed that King Max had no heir, his wife had disappeared some time ago and that he'd brought his two daughters with him and was keeping them secluded.
RAICHLEACH IN AMBRE
Caine declined to double for King Roland in Chaos. He disliked Queen Circe and doubted that he could fool her. Rai conveyed this to Roland who decided to bring Circe with him to Ambre. She'd stay in the castle while he met with Dworkin. Caine accepted. Rai checked on Jesse -- still in the loony bin. Rai discovered Fiona's Cloak-disrupting barrier along the border. Roland and Circe made it quite close to Ambre before being detected. Delwin met with Caine, who then disappeared. Rai brought in all her Pattern and Logrus initiate spawn to Ambre for the coronation, housing them at the Fire Castle.
NICCOLO IN AMBRENic oversaw repairs to the Castle and tapped his GC agents for reports on the political situation. Maximum Leader Om was universally seen as a lunatic. King Gustav was thought to be a lackey of Eric's. PM Orkuz was generally neutral but known to dislike King Maximilian as part of the old Begma-Rogma rivalry. The Fellswith lower classes were discontent with PM Drusus. Queen Evania was reasonably well-liked but not trusted. Kashfa sent a deputation, trying to get GC status against the wishes of the Begmans. Delwin told Nic to keep them around for leverage against the Begmans. Nic researched the more mundane poisons likely to be used by the guests and briefed the kitchen staff on recognition and prevention. He stocked up on antidotes. Delwin said that Queen Moire might show up and had Nic reserve the best guest suite for her. Nic got hold of Random and offered help with toxins, antidotes, supplies of food and drink; Random was way ahead of him. Nic checked with Octavian about getting decent wards on his rooms. Octavian was already doing that for everybody's rooms. Kara was Sheriff. Nic cut a deal with her, keeping a hand in and renewing the arrangement by which much of his Club's profits went into the Watch. Kara said she'd restrain her skimming to reasonable limits.
FITZCAIRN IN AMBRE
Fitz did a little research and found that his charge-to-be, King Parvis of Pergamon, was mainly threatened by his own people. Specifically his security chief, a mage reputed to be very good and his chief general, a political sort with delusions of being the real thing. Fitz consulted with his mother. Fiona had just finished the barrier and was basking in the glow of a job well done. In regards to Parvis and company, Fi suggested she simply duplicate the king's party. She'd need hair samples. Still bemused by his mother's idea of 'simple', Fitz traveled to Pergamon to meet Parvis and the rest and arrange to escort them. Both the mage and the general were weasels. Fitz finessed his hair samples while sidestepping the general's pimping of his sister. He Trumped to Ambre and delivered the hair to Fiona, then consulted Niccolo about methods of ambushing the party and making the substitution. Fitz decided on a stealthier, more magic-intensive approach than Nic's military notions.
DOROTHEA IN AMBREDorothea inquired about her assignment, Maximum Leader Om. The answers were not pleasing. She whipped up a flower-casting effect and readied it. She looked up Gerard and asked him about starting an Ambre Peace Corps. He had no objections. They were short on healing herbs and antidotes. Dora found Niccolo in the kitchens. He gave her the names of the firms that kept the Watch's infirmary stocked. She brought up the Peace Corps idea to him. He thought it was easier to find some effective, locally admired and under-funded GC charities and hand them impressive amounts of gold in well-publicized ceremonies. That's what he had done in the wake of the Charybdite character assassinations aimed at himself, Draco and Octavian. He pressed Dora into accepting two of the biggest, scariest looking palace guards as bodyguards and dignity-enhancers. Many foreigners didn't take women seriously. He himself hadn't until Deirdre adjusted his attitude by breaking several bones.
OCTAVIAN IN AMBRE
Octavian's group arrived. Emperor Itus of Andelore's court mage was a lich. Light contact revealed that the undead wizard's mind was stronger than anyone in the family but Octavian and Fiona. Itus himself was a four hundred pound over-decorated cloth-of-gold eyesore. The mage wanted to know where the other guests were staying. Octavian declined to say. Visits could be arranged through him. Next came King Gustav of Luviar, a supporter of Corwin. Then Queen Evania of Seleene -- Octavian sent for Nic -- who seemed to be maintaining her looks with magic. Queen Zara of Karth arrived. Octavian's attention was drawn to a young sorceress with something undefinably odd about her. Barriered against psychic contact. He tried worming around the blocks while explaining the wards to her and was detected. She agreed to lower her shields enough for Octavian to check against Compellings. None. He asked where she drew her power from. She was forbidden to say. He gave her pointers on improving her shields and asked for an invitation. If he was deemed worthy, he'd be contacted. Roland and Circe arrived unexpectedly and demanded the best suite, the one reserved for Moire. Octavian called Raichleach to attend her guests and the Chaosian royal couple ended up in Jesse's rooms, formerly Florimel's. King Clement of Solimar showed up next, notable mainly for not having mages in his party. King Parvus came in with Fitzcairn. His mage was a nothing despite his formidable reputation. Fitz took Octavian aside and explained the switch. Prime Minister Drusus of Fellswith arrived with four mediocre wizards. Maximum Leader Om's circus slowly proceeded through the town as PM Orkuz slipped in ahead of him.
DRACO IN AMBRE
Draco met privately with Corwin to discuss the doubles. Corwin had them safely off in Shadow except for Gustav -- the real one had died and the double had replaced him. Draco wanted to be ready to bring in the Maximilian double should the real one get snuffed. Corwin was agreeable. Maximilian arrived and Draco wasted no time sticking his nose into Rogman affairs, bugging the king about the need for an heir and suggesting lords of Ambre or Bradenberg as suitable husbands for the mysterious daughters. King Max seemed to be of the opinion that nobody was good enough for his daughters.
RAICHLEACH IN AMBRE
Faiella met with Raichleach and told her she wanted to become a Cloak initiate for it's presumed longevity. Rai OK'd the request and asked Faiella to keep Circe entertained in return. Faiella said she'd known Circe long ago and they'd got along fine. Rai also wanted Faiella to try to get the Agate creatures back from Corwin. She had to explain what they were. Faiella agreed to try. Next Rai checked in on Roland and Circe. They were not entirely satisfied with their quarters and Roland had the idea that he should be named Delwin's heir. He and Rai set a date to view Tir-na Nog'th later. Rai told them about the Agate-creature infestation. Roland said he certainly didn't want any more Jesses about. Rai revealed that Syric was responsible for the Jesse double that had plagued everyone for a time.
NICCOLO IN AMBRE
Niccolo approached Roland with half-truths about Mandor and his Primal Chaos In a Can project. The altruistic, for-the-good-of-Everyone approach backfired and Roland seemed set on promoting Mandor to his inner circle. Nic consoled himself with the vision of hundreds or thousands of PC devices trashing the Courts as he kicked himself for even considering the pseudo-altruistic tack; that never worked.
FITZCAIRN IN AMBRE
Fitz happened to be looking out a window and saw Maximum Leader Om's grand parade through town. He Trumped Dorothea to tell her. She rushed out and spread flower petals in front of the procession. The lunatic had over 200 retainers with him. Fitz asked Fi what the odds were he could bribe Draco to have a dragon crap on the gong-ringing zoo. She glanced out and suggested Draco might do it for free. Fitz Trumped him and asked but Draco chickened out, worried about causing a diplomatic incident. Meanwhile, the two monkeys who had been Parvus' security chief and top general tried to keep out of Fiona's way. Fitz got his Fingerman samples in sealed containers. She said they'd take about a day to grow to full size. He left them with her for safekeeping. Later Delwin spoke with him a bit about his job as sorcerous attache to the embassy in Chaos. He'd be expected to aid Nic's efforts to eliminate Mandor Sawall.
DOROTHEA IN AMBREThe Maximum Leader's procession moved slowly. She was running out of flower spells. Dorothea had already consulted with Niccolo (who talked to Octavian) about Om's oversized entourage. They wanted no more than a dozen in the Castle -- as many or more than anyone else. The overflow could stay at Lord Feldane's town house. She haggled with Om's representative and got them down to fourteen; this got the unfortunate man either beaten or killed. Om generously stabled his elephants at the townhouse rather than at the castle. Om entered with ten litter-bearers and four guards. The guards carried naginatas, pistols and satchels that radiated a faint magic. ML Om, a little unworldly looking gent, gave a speech in Xedaran at the Castle gates before entering. Octavian appeared and subtly nullified the satchels as the guards entered. Dorothea got them settled and invited ML Om to the state dinner that evening. He accepted. She left as the servants put big ML Om posters on the walls outside his suite. Dorothea found Octavian and consulted. He told her about deactivating the bombs. She asked him to do the ones at Feldane's as well. Next she talked to Oriana about getting more beds for Om's rooms. Oriana was greatly impressed that Doro'd talked Om down to 14; she'd been expecting anything up too 100. Doro's other charges, the Deigans, still hadn't shown up.
THE STATE DINNER
Delwin kept things relatively informal as he hadn't been crowned yet. The Chaosians, Roland, Circe and Bruda, expended some effort keeping their Logrus auras on low. Parsifal sat as far away from Roland as possible. Om was serene and inscrutable despite the evident dislike of all the other potentates. Rogmans and Begmans showed their mutual dislike; ditto the Kashfans and Begmans. The Seleenans and Karthans displayed a similar antipathy.
Fifteen minutes into the banquet Octavian felt an alarm tingle. He sent guards to deal with it. Ten minutes later the guard captain came for him personally. Octavian left as quietly as possible. One of Queen Zara's servants had been found dead outside the Castle walls. Nearby a section of the Castle walls was discolored and the effect was spreading. Octavian probed. The discoloration was dead to magic. He stopped its growth by draining the magic from a circle around it -- a firebreak. He ordered a search and two more, bigger discolored areas were found, amounting to a third of the whole Castle. Corwin came out to see. The guards found strange, goat-like tracks near the damaged areas. Octavian ordered that everyone in town with goat-feet be arrested.Meanwhile, Fitzcairn endured Parvus and Drusus sniping at each other verbally for some time. Then Drusus seemed to snap and threw a butter knife at Parvus. Fitz noticed signs Drusus was compelled -- then Drusus started growling and frothed at the mouth. Fitz made psychic contact and felt something eating Drusus' brain! Something stronger than Fitz. Fiona and Raichleach hurried over. Rai made contact -- it was stronger than her, too, but occupied eating Drusus. She whispered to Fiona, "Kill it! Kill it now! It's an Agate creature." Fiona made contact and Drusus settled down. Fiona had Drusus sent to the infirmary. Niccolo asked Octavian what was up and was told that someone was turning the magic off. More detailed responses made Nic think that someone had used magiphagic bacteria on the Castle. Octavian was put out that Nic hadn't mentioned such a thing to him. Nic said he'd got the impression -- from Fiona -- that it was common knowledge among mages. Fiona (summoned by Niccolo) examined the effect and informed them that it wasn't the bacteria. She'd seen the effect before, once. It was as if the area had been Edited free of magic. In Ambre it would be awfully hard to Edit it back to normalcy. Fitz gave it a try and regained a few cubic inches before running out of juice. The guards reported that the goatman tracks stopped suddenly. Traces of Trump energy lingered there. One of Draco's griffins had noticed that the shade around the Castle had deepened for a while. Draco and Corwin discussed Drusus' death and agreed to eliminate the false one, just to dismiss the possibility he'd get loose and reveal the doubles' existence. The autopsy of the dead Karthan girl (performed by Dorothea with lots of kibitzing by Fiona and others) showed that her brain was gone. Not teleported. Fiona detected faint Trump-like energies. Draco mentioned the stasis effects produced by one of the attackers at the Cloak. Fiona said that the leader -- user might be more accurate -- of the Moonriders of Ghenesh had displayed this power. Only Brand would have more information.
Octavian brought in the strange, young Karthan sorceress. She said that her order had enemies that used this power. One of Queen Zara's ancestors had angered a wizard and ever since they had occasional problems. Their (her order's) theory was that the power channeled inherent ambient magic for effects, leaving the magic-dead area as a side effect. They often used it to vanish brains or hearts. She had no way to detect it. She liked the idea of an alliance with Ambre in this matter a lot. Nic asked Draco to bring in Circe for consultation -- she owed Draco a favor. She wasn't familiar with the power but liked the effect and said she'd enjoy duplicating it with sorcery.
Delwin ordered the transfer of the potentates and government to the Fire Castle. The magic-null areas had been clustered around the throne room and the visitors' quarters.
Raichleach checked with Llewella about Morganthe's mental state. Little change.
Niccolo suggested they had to search out any other Agateverse gateways. Rai's gate was well-guarded but someone was using the creatures as assassins. He made a quick Trump trip and brought in both sample magiphage bacteria and a big canister of anti-magiphage virus. The bacteria was viable in Ambre. Octavian coated both castles with the virus.
Draco reported sightings of nine foot tall goatmen who disappeared before dragons of griffins could confront them.
Nic contacted Julian and asked him to bring in some ranger commandos for an ambush of the odious goatmen.
Draco got a panicked Trump call from a griffinrider wing leader. The Unicorn was fighting demonic goatmen in her Grove. Nic whipped out a Grove Trump, "Who's going?" Draco, Dorothea, Random, Llewella and Octavian went through with him. The Unicorn really didn't seem to be in much trouble. The Goatman she was fighting wasn't all that fast and She was quicker than any of her would-be defenders. The Goatman summoned six more like himself when the Ambreites appeared. Draco shot the one by the Unicorn with an arrow. Nic rushed one, threw a poisoned dart into it and parried its haymaker with Windfall. The Pattern-sword lopped off the arm but the force of the thing bounced Nic twenty feet and out cold. The arm and the demon went up in flames. Dorothea Trumped Benedict. Octavian spell-froze the demon fighting the Unicorn. She gutted it. The contact revealed little more to Octavian than an overwhelming hatred of Ambre and its royals. Two rushed Dorothea and were intercepted by Random and Llewella.
Meanwhile, at the Fire Castle, Fitz got a Trump call from Delwin telling him to round up everybody he could to deal with a problem at the Ambre Castle. Fitz heard the sounds of fighting in the background. 'Everybody' ended up being himself, Sand and Parsifal, leaving only Ambrose and Consuela to guard the guests at the FC.Benedict came through to Dorothea, took in the battle in a glance and killed the demon fighting Llewella before Dorothea could blink twice. He and Llewella split up to take the next targets. Draco was dodging around his foe avoiding its attacks while cutting it to burning pieces. Random was taking more damage doing the same. Draco got a Trump call. He resisted it for a moment. Octavian paralyzed his opponent and he cut a leg off it while avoiding the rush of flame. The call was Parsifal telling him of a bigger attack at the Castle. Draco Trumped to the gates, saw dead guardsmen and more of them engaging a bunch of Goatmen. He Trumped in his ready squad of griffin-riders and their mounts to the courtyard. A demon pointed at him doing something. He felt a Trump-like effect and raised Trump Defense which blocked something, then nailed that demon with a knife, closed and skewered it. Draco and his troops fought their way in. The guards weren't doing too badly, mobbing the demons and killing them with silvered weapons. Parsifal scattered some goatmen with a spell and was knocked out. Fitzcairn blasted the arm off one with a spell. Draco made efficient use of time and effort by killing demons engaged with guardsmen from behind. Carnage. Two demons were left in the area when one started to twist off a horn -- Draco cut its arm off and two guardsmen jumped it; one screwed the horn back. It burned up quickly. The remaining demon was subdued. Parsifal came to. Draco suggested he mindrape the captive. Parsifal kicked it in the balls a few times before doing so. He learned nothing of interest.
Niccolo regained consciousness as Fiona showed up and directed the hunt with great precision. Nic pulled his warbow and forty special arrows out of a Trump closet and set out with Dorothea to nail some goatmen. Octavian mindraped one and got more solid information. They had been compelled to hate Ambre more than formerly and trained in Shadow for the assault. Their information was curiously out of date. They didn't know about the Fire Castle and were there to kill Oberon. There had been a hundred of them total. Twenty at the Grove, twenty to the castle and sixty somewhere else. Their own leader was named Kalos and 'the Mighty One' had recruited them. He Trumped Draco and told him, then Trumped Deirdre, achieving a light contact though she was too busy to answer, being in the midst of heavy fighting in the caverns below Ambre. Octavian Trumped to Corwin and the guardsmen in the dungeon/Pattern room hall. Big fight. The invaders had partially erected some arcane device in the Pattern room before being forced out. Corwin, Octavian, Fitz, Draco and Parsifal fought into the caverns. Fitz nailed four demons at once with a levitated, whirling starburst of silvered swords -- convenient that the demons were so tall. They found Kara and Syric beaten to hell, unconscious or dead. Draco Trumped them upstairs. Draco found himself facing two demons at once, one of whom frog-tongued him in the face. Draco nailed them both but felt his face going numb. He Trumped Poison-boy. Nic finished killing a demon then answered. Sounded like some kind of neurotoxin. Nic Trumped his medical T-closet and picked out three injectors, handed them over and recommended which ones to try first. The first one worked fine.
One got away from the caverns, none from the upper castle and five from the woods. Lady Bruda identified them as being from an area of the deep Abyss that the Lords of Chaos scrupulously avoided. Dorothea healed the comatose Kara sorcerously and quite as thoroughly as Nic's high-tech shadow could. Only Draco had been poisoned; all the goatmen were a little different and apparently poison was unusual. Draco got an impression from Octavian of the demon's leader Kalos. He made a Trump of it, gave it to Octavian and he got Fiona to help. They burned through, popped Kalos' mind and ran his body as a drone. The goatman home was a huge rock in the Abyss covered with Demon City. There were probably a lot of rocks just like it. Octavian grabbed blindly for Draco and brought him into the link to get impressions for Trumps. Fiona was tiring so they broke it off. The demon home was airless, presenting problems for attacking it. Fiona had a good impression of how the Trump-like power worked. It drained ambient magic to power its sorcerous effects -- drained it dry in a small area. She felt that it might be possible to adapt the power to convert Pattern or Logrus or Cloak energies the same way.
RAICHLEACH IN AMBRE
Rai got up the next morning and learned what had happened and that no one had thought to Trump her. She tried to contain her vexation. The Unicorn was unharmed. Syric, unfortunately, was still alive. He was in a lot of pain though; that was something. She got Roland going on the Pattern circuit, starting with Ambre's. He had to stop after just one, the wimp. Later she took Llewella to the Cloak for initiation and told her of the addictive side effects -- afterward. She borrowed a Trump of Moire from Llew and contacted her. Morganthe was the same. Rai asked permission to use the Erbma Pattern and had to go through and tell the queen why. Moire granted the request and told her that, in the future, there'd be a toll. Rai went to the Fire Castle and schmoozed with the dignitaries.
DOROTHEA IN AMBRE
Delwin called Dorothea in for a private conference. A delicate matter had arisen. Maximum Leader Om was enamored of her. Fortunately, Delwin had no intention of ordering her to marry Om. She suggested they give him a shadow of her. Delwin agreed to keep it secret and refrained from cracking up until Dorothea had left the room. Dorothea consulted with Octavian about Fiona. While they were in contact Fiona and her 'guest' had cooperated efficiently, even happily.
DRACO AND OCTAVIAN IN AMBRE
The Deigans still hadn't shown up. Draco Trumped Councilor Mercan. Nothing. He used his Trump of the Ambre embassy in Deiga to go there with Octavian monitoring him via his own Trump. It was deserted and had been stripped of everything useful in an orderly fashion. Draco slipped out and listened to the people talking in bars, read the newspaper. The Deigan government expected an invasion by Ambre at any moment. They were making frantic preparations to defend themselves. Reportedly the Ambre ambassador had issued a declaration of war. The Deigans refused to surrender and the Ambre embassy staff left the country. Draco sent flying spies to survey the borders and beyond. No invaders, just the Deigan defenders. Draco tried to talk to the harbormaster to learn more of the ship the embassy staff had left on but was recognized and Octavian had to pull him out. Niccolo ordered his chief agent in Deiga to investigate quietly.
FITZCAIRN, DOROTHEA IN AMBRE
Fitz was invited to talk with Maximum Leader Om. ML Om wanted him to support his marriage plans with Dorothea. Om offered his own sister as Fitz' bride. Fitz found his sister outside Fiona's rooms.
"If this gets out, brother, I'll kill you." She looked like she really might do it.
He offered support, "Screw 'em. Ben can mop them up fast."
Fiona told them what she'd learned of the demons and how difficult it would be to attack them.
Dorothea told her about ML Om's intentions. Fiona laughed and said she'd back her up even if she did marry the 'little toad with delusions of grandeur'. Fiona suggested she give Om a gift when she turned him down -- these monkeys. Nothing special or important about them.
Dorothea's meeting with Om went well enough. She managed a quiet psychic contact and learned that Om really was otherworldly. He'd developed an aesthetic infatuation with Dorothea based largely on her being the first redhead he'd ever met. Lust didn't enter into it and was, in fact, foreign to him. Dorothea turned his chief female attendant's hair red and tried to redirect his infatuation towards her. It was made more difficult by Om's unusual mental fragmentation but seemed to work pretty well. Dorothea finished up with Om eyeing the servant, gave him the monkeys and exited gracefully. She briefed Delwin. He approved and asked if she wanted Om to be reassigned.