session 34



Dorothea started the day with a bracing Pattern walk, having spent entirely too much time with her mother the previous day. No compulsions. New & Improved Mom was different. She cleaned up and went to break the news to Maximum Leader Om that there was only room for him -- no servants -- at the coronation. The flunkies didn't want to wake Om up but Dorothea prevailed. She disabused him of his notion that she'd reconsidered his offer of marriage and did some more skull work on this particular personality. Om remained cheerful. He offered to help expunge the traitors in Deiga. He had gifts for Dorothea, an Om suit and a satchel charge. She accepted them gracefully. She asked about medical charities in Xedara. Om told her that there was no disease in his realm. He'd weeded out all the weaklings.



Nic Trumped Cerberus away to the monster-infested island of Seilan in Tella and told him to have fun and stay on it. Back in Ambre he had the joy of assigning places and some duties at the coronation. He placed ML Om and Queen Evania closest to Delwin, on opposite sides. Orkuz, a sensible fellow, got stuck next to Om but got easy-to-look-at Queen Zora on his other side. He stuck Parsifal and Draco with carrying Delwin's train and acting as bodyguards. Nic opted to carry the Jewel of Judgement on its pillow himself. Ambrose got to swing the censer. He learned at the last moment that more Chaosians had arrived: Kelson Helgram, Lady Guirrel Chanicut, Mandor Sawall and Jesse Hendrake. Roland denied sending for them. Delwin told Nic to assign them to minimally honorable places.



Rai declined to go to Deiga and miss the coronation. She walked the Pattern in Erbma with Roland, returned to Ambre and schmoozed with the dignitaries. Orkuz in particular sucked up to her. He had this nephew who was an excellent candidate for the Cloak. She asked him to host a state dinner for all the cousins in return.



Mildly displeased with his coronation assignment, Draco spent the morning setting up air patrols and checking out the festival in Ambre City. Some foreign -- Kashfan? -- puppeteers were running popular shows lampooning the Ambre royals. He himself was portrayed as an absent minded bumbler. A crone thrust a card at him. He examined it carefully. It was a tarot, the Prince of Pentacles... the face seemed vaguely familiar. He couldn't find anything to match in the Feldane library.



Octavian returned to the Fire Castle and learned of the new Chaosian guests. He informed Nic via Trump. Nic told him about Mandor's claims concerning Primal Chaos bombs. He worked on containment spells based on Pattern Defense for a while. Dorothea showed him her satchel. Octavian disarmed it and sent out a locating spell for more -- several in Om's rooms. He put on another ward to detect the things being made. An hour before the ceremony he was called by guard's to Nic's room to see the black rose of seething magic on the door. He called Nic. Nic made a sketch of someplace out in shadow while Octavian had the door taken down; they shoved it through.



Dorothea got some amusement from watching Nic do the family placement suggestions. Syric and Caine on opposite sides of the room. Fi and Random -- the shortest -- up front where they could see. The recent factions separated as much as possible. The ceremony started well. Nic noticed that Oriana had not appeared; he suppressed an impulse to throw Windfall through Mandor. Draco found out that the man on the Prince of Pentacles was Mandor Sawall. Then someone was trying to Trump him. Benedict crowned Delwin -- SNIKT -- blood ran down Delwin's face from under the crown. Draco cut the crown off with his Pattern sword. A dozen spikes had skewered Delwin's brain. Benedict pronounced Delwin dead. The Chaosians had vanished. Octavian checked the crown. It was a good conjured job. But as far as anyone knew, Delwin had been taking care of the thing personally. Benedict kept track of those who left the area, then ordered everyone to their rooms while he investigated. He shrugged off Draco's suggestion that he was himself a suspect. Nic tried Trumping Oriana -- nothing. He told Ben about the black rose and Oriana's disappearance. Half an hour later they were summoned to the throne room to see a living Delwin. He announced that the first test of security and loyalty had failed. Benedict and Octavian were relieved of their security duties. Sand took over. He said he had secret evidence that a family member was behind the attempt on his life. Oriana was considered a suspect. Niccolo offered, gritting his teeth, to let Delwin scan his mind and establish his innocence. Delwin did. Nic remembered nothing of the probe itself. Delwin declared Nic cleared and hinted that others should follow his example.



Rai took Roland and Circe to the Lunar Pattern (by Trump?) and rested a while before walking it. Roland went on for some time about his claim to the throne, then about Ambre's deficient security. Circe was examining the crew building a small fortress out in the vacuum.



Draco let Delwin scan him. Delwin commented, rather approvingly, on Draco's ruthlessness towards his treacherous lover, Lady Dragon Chow. He Trumped to the Lunar Pattern intending to walk it and found Rai, Roland and Circe there. They still seemed to think Delwin was dead. He broke the news. Rai asked about the double -- shapeshifter or Agate creature? She told Draco they were on a mission from Delwin, walking all the Patterns. She wouldn't say why. Draco walked the Pattern and tried to zap to the Cloak. He ended up two shadows away and was quickly picked up by Deirdre's scouts. They wouldn't let him in. He'd need either Deirdre's or Rai's permission. They did tell him that Delwin, Raichleach and some other, hooded person had left the Cloak together the day before. Draco thought that had to have been Agate-Delwin. He Trumped Deirdre and told her that he wanted to talk to Raichlings. She said the important ones (the ones who'd walked the Pattern) were in Ambre. He went through. The Raichlings were willing to talk. Raichleach liked to keep them in the dark. They thought that if she was up to something it was probably at someone else's behest. They kept in touch with each other, even the escapees. Draco was on their 'good' list. He offered them sanctuary should they need it. Rai was making them nervous by constantly testing them for readiness to take more power. Some were dogging the tests as they were happy with Cloak. Next Draco visited Fiona. She was doing autopsies but willing to talk.

"What's the significance of walking all the Patterns?"

"Bragging rights?"

"Maybe I should try it."

"Why don't you do it for me and tell me the results?"

Draco asked his wife about Rai and Roland. She knew that they'd been spending a lot of time together, and that Rai had been a frequent visitor at Hendrake. He sent a note to Delwin mentioning this rash of Pattern walking. Somewhat later one of his air patrol commanders Trumped him with disturbing information. The troops on Draco's island installation in the Inland Sea were gone. He Trumped there and found it completely deserted. Gone without warning by the evidence. Draco Trumped Octavian asking if he was up for an investigation. He said he was still busy with departing dignitaries. Draco tried Dorothea next. She stepped through and sent out feelers. Strong -- STRONG -- echoes of Pattern, Sorcery and Conjuration. The power residue centered on a spot where (judging by the tracks) two booted humanoids had Trumped or Teleported in, walked around a bit and popped out again. Dorothea Trumped Fiona to have a look. Fi washed up and Trumped over.



Octavian and Consuela were the last Family left in 'their' castle. They spent some hours changing the wards back. He then invited her to go virus hunting with him. Her Pattern abilities in that regard were on par with his own, so he Trumped Niccolo. Nic agreed to help after a small detour. They went through to Tella (where Nic altered the locations of all the Tellan place Trumps Oriana had), then out in to shadow where Nic found two suitable messengers, made a sketch of one and sent the other through with it and a message to near Sawallways. They headed out and found some promising flora -- magic producing moss -- near the borderlands. They found two suitable (fast, Ambre-like) shadows to test them in and were pleased. The moss was slow but it worked. They estimated it would take a month to fix the damage to the Castle. Octavian and Consuela spread it around the afflicted areas and explained themselves to the guards and then Sand. Afterward, Octavian Trumped Raichleach and asked her to pass on a message to Osric, that Delwin invited him to return to Ambre.



Dorothea saw Maximum Leader Om off then went to visit Syric. Syric was sure that Rai had sent the demons to attack him. He suggested they form an alliance against her and invited her to Shadow Omicron to plan. Dorothea asked him about the Agate creatures, like the one used to assassinate Drusus. Syric told her that you got what you wished for. The assassin-creature would have been based on some existing shadow creature. She told him Nic thought there had to be more gates to the Agateverse. Syric knew of only two, the one in Cloak and the one destroyed by the wave of annihilation. Syric attributed his injuries to a lack of fighting support during the battle and his survival to faking death. Dorothea left him with the knowledge that she wasn't entirely uninterested in his proposition.

Dorothea Trumped Fiona and went through to her at the island. Fiona announced that Dworkin had been there. He'd probably consumed the troops magically to power a spell. She couldn't tell what Dworkin had done, only that it looked permanent. Dorothea suggested Draco re-man the place. Draco hesitated to throw more men away. Dorothea brought up the assassin creature. Fiona hadn't encountered such a thing herself but wasn't overly impressed by it. Magical wards would stop it. It had possessed a physical form -- they weren't in for an attack by ghosts. Likely it had been in Drusus for some time. She thought that its master and the demons had been working together. Fi thought that the dead Delwin had been an Agate double and that it was the real one they were dealing with now.

Dorothea borrowed a Trump of Sand, used it. Sand pulled her through. Sand was concerned about Om. Dorothea explained that Om was normally weird. Sand didn't know where Dworkin was either but wanted to.

Feeling the need to get the taste of Om out of her mind, Dorothea went looking for a party. The festival in the city would do. She went down to drink and mingle. She saw that Nic's club was partially open, providing food and drink. The puppet shows included one in which Om panted after Dorothea. It took her a while to calm down. The commoners were betting on which Royal would get tossed in the dungeon first. The top five, in order, were Random, Gerard, Nic, Ambrose (rumored to be a wild and crazy guy, go figure) and Syric. Dorothea found she wanted a peer to hang with. She checked on Kara. Kara was game for a party, a living testimonial to Dorothea's skills as a healer. Kara teased her a little about Om.



Niccolo visited Fiona and told her how to get to the Primal Pattern -- and what Dworkin had said about it being the only place of any importance. She was very interested. Still no reply from Mandor. It had been over a day. Depending on where in Chaos he was as much as three or four years could have passed. Did Mandor want a war of extinction? Nic found himself thinking more and more like his Borgia relatives. He Trumped out into Shadow and went seeking Agate gates, picking up a troop of trollish sorts along the way. He easily got a lock on the one in Cloak and moved on to find a different one. The trace took him deep into Chaos, to a shadow containing an immense fortress. This was beginning to feel like old times, hunting Charybdites. He Trumped Draco and Octavian and convinced them to join him. They moved in carefully with the sneakiest ten of the trolls. A captured farmer revealed that the area was an efficient and brutal police state controlled by the master of the castle. Nic's spyglass gave Octavian a good enough view of a guard on the battlements to contact him with a spell. Octavian searched the man's mind. He didn't know much. The King was an impressive figure in black armor that hid his face, known to be a master of the sword. Octavian puppeted the man (with Draco riding along) and moved him into the fortress. Alarms went off as they entered the doorway. Puppet-boy went down in a wave of attackers but Octavian switched to another man. The alarm wouldn't stop. Octavian realized that the wards were detecting his spell, not the guard's entry. He pulled out and Draco with him. Nic insisted they leave immediately. He may have been right to worry because only eight of the ten trolls returned from the perimeter to Trump out with them. Nic got a bead on another Agate gate from the border. They went together and ended up in a shadow corresponding to the one where Octavian, Rai and Nic had assembled the destroyed gate. There was no Gate, as such. Rather the whole shadow was a Gate. Harder to use than the other one but really hard to guard. They couldn't get a line on any others.



Rai and Roland finally made it to Dworkin's castle. Rai made the introductions and Dworkin took Roland away, leaving her alone with Osric. She started to tell him about current events but he already knew. He'd wanted to make the coronation but was busy helping stabilize the universe. Just a few minutes later Dworkin returned with a shaken, pale Roland. Roland went to wait by the Primal Pattern until he was rested enough to use it. Rai asked Dworkin how the Agate Gate was made. He said the agateverse creatures had pushed the stones out and some idiots disobeyed orders and put the thing together. Roland asked Rai to send Circe home and zapped directly to the Courts from the Pattern. Osric , informed of Delwin's invitation, followed Rai to Ambre. She reported to Delwin while Osric looked around. Osric joined them after a bit. He seemed mellow, he and Delwin greeted each other cordially. Osric asked for rooms at the castle. He inquired after his belongings and decided to let Syric keep his mace. He wanted a Trump deck; Rai recommended Random, Draco or Nic. Osric borrowed a Trump of Draco.

Draco told Niccolo he was getting a call from Osric. They readied themselves as best they could and Draco took it. Osric wanted a Trump deck and was willing to negotiate payment. Draco asked what he'd been up to. Osric told him about stabilizing the universe. He expressed regret that Dworkin had used Draco's soldiers for his spell. Draco asked about agategates. Osric hadn't known about the third one. Worse, he suspected they might cast shadows themselves.

Raichleach Trumped Octavian and asked if he'd join a mission to the Abyss. Octavian declined, saying he'd found a solution to the magic-draining effect in some magic-making moss. Rai tried Jesse next. Jesse was game. They detoured to steal moss samples from Octavian's garden, stash them and then headed through Chaos and into the Abyss. Deep into the Abyss. Into the bad neighborhoods that Jesse had been trained to stay away from. They encountered something. Big. Really big. HUGE. That came for them. Cloak, it turned out, was worth shit in the Abyss. Shapeshifting was just keeping them alive, Pattern too slow. They ran. It pursued and kept up. They made it to the edge of the Courts and it couldn't follow them there. Its maw was fifty yards across. It looked hungry, and pissed. They couldn't dominate it -- barriered. They couldn't tell what its means of locomotion was. Rai got inspired, bled on a rock and beaned the leviathan. Big burst of flame and an earth-shaking bellow. Rai tossed more rocks. It batted a house-sized rock at them. Jesse contributed some blood. It convulsed and spewed a flood of caustic, disgusting stuff at them. It burned. They fled through shadow and found a place to clean the muck off. Their Trumps were ruined by the acid, their armor was ruined too. Rai collected a sample in a clay crock. They shifted back to Ambre the slow way.

Fiona was nowhere about and a borrowed Trump of her was warm. Rai went to Cloak a new way, via the island in the Inland Sea. There was a roaming contact point out in a ring of Shadow but Roland, who was one with the 'rope', wasn't letting Rai find it.

Cloak was fine. She returned to Ambre and found that Fiona was still gone. Osric told her that Dworkin would never admit to flaws in his creation. Rai told him about Loki and what he did to the Cloak. Osric suggested that Loki was an agate creature. Rai wondered if that meant Dworkin was originally an agate creature. Quite possible. Everything on this side of the Gates was a construct, including the family. Rai reported to Delwin, saying the mission with Roland was complete. She asked about the Abyssal leviathan. Delwin said that they were natural and native to the Abyss, sometimes trained to be guardians or pets. He'd had to flee them a couple of times himself.



Draco reported to Delwin and discussed Rai. Then he ordered new troops into the island. Next he visited the Lunar fortress and had the plans changed due to Circe's spying. He went to Hendrakeways with Lady Bruda and spent subjective weeks making Trumps for Osric. He delivered them and in return Osric cut his ties to Enforcer, Draco's Pattern sword. They discussed recent events, the Eric-Corwin feud, the machine guns -- Osric was a bit irritated that Corwin had succeeded where he had failed. Osric denied responsibility for the goatmen. He said that he'd deliberately destroyed the Charybdites while using them. He intended to track down the remaining Cloak-initiated ex-Charies and deal with them. The Goatmen's powersource was held by a secret society that periodically sent forays against Ambre. Benedict had been a baby last time it happened. Osric thought that they could lose half the family trying to take the demon city. He wasn't too concerned about Chaosians. Their new tendency to die burning Amberside balanced the family's general lack of shapeshifters. Osric himself would be returning to the Primal Plane. Dworkin had appointed him King there. He was recruiting subjects -- Dworkin would deliver them. They'd needed Roland to be part of the controlling mechanism of the clapper on the Bell. As a result Roland had some control over it. They'd also tuned the Cloak to match the new Logrus -- the Cloak plane's mobility was part of that. Roland was Compelled by Dworkin and not even walking the Pattern would remove it. Osric said that the agate gates couldn't be closed without remaking the whole universe. The new one had probably come into being as a result of the old Logrus' destruction. Osric asked Draco if he wanted his children, when he had some, raised at the Primal Plane. Safer there and they'd have a stronger bond to the Pattern. Draco went off and discussed it with Bruda. She dragged him off for sex.



Octavian went to report to Sand and learned that she was leaving for Corilane. He considered ways of avoiding getting his old position back. He told Osric that the Unicorn had named him the rightful king. Osric said he was king, at the Primal Plane by Dworkin's order.



Dorothea discussed their project. They were stocked up again in Ambre and could consider distributing supplies elsewhere now. She checked on Octavian's moss. She rather liked the flux of raw magic around the garden. While there she talked with her bodyguard. He didn't remember much of his former life but was starting to show signs of new or reawakening personality.



Nic sent another messenger and monitored via Trump. The man got stuck in a superslow time trap around Sawallways. The first messenger was there too. He Trumped Deirdre and got her to attempt to find Oriana via Cloak. No luck. He contacted Jesse, who searched with Logrus tendrils. Jesse found something, then attacked him. It took a while to subdue her without hurting her much. Oriana had been prisoned inside a metal sphere -- eyeball-sized -- of Mandor's. She'd tried to drag it away and he'd taken her over. He wasn't in Sawallways.

Nic calculated the odds of getting Oriana back sane as very low. Mandor evidently had odd ideas of how to treat valuable hostages.


log 35



Dorothea nursed a moderate hangover while picking up the morning's gossip. Oriana had been kidnapped and Nic was storming around. Delwin had things more or less under control. Syric was pissed off at everyone. Gerard dropped by and reminded her that they were sailing to Deiga. Dorothea tracked Draco down and quizzed him about Deiga. He said that the embassy had apparently sailed away after presenting an ultimatum and the Deigans thought that they were at war with Ambre. He suspected the Charybdites or whoever was behind the Goatmen and the assassination attempt on Delwin. He advised disguise and caution. The harbormaster might have noticed something about the ship the ambassador had taken.

Dorothea took Bosworth with them on Gerard's favorite ship -- he didn't think much of low profile. She whipped up an illusory disguise for him. Eight hours sailing saw them in Deiga, where they were immediately tagged as an Ambre ship, boarded and impounded. Dorothea talked Gerard into merely a token resistance. Shackled, disarmed and packed into a single big cell, Dorothea took moments to free them and teleport out with Bosworth. .




Niccolo awoke in a cold rage, settled himself and tried to Trump Fiona. No luck. He Trumped to Ambre, tried again (nothing) and checked his rooms. Someone had put an illusion of Oriana hanging by the neck from the rafters there. He reported this distressing gap in castle security to Sand. Nic decided to test the theory that people at the Source could be Trumped from that little island between the Castles. He Trumped there and stalked towards the center of the island, more or less ignoring Draco's Bradenbergers and their fortress-building activities. Some talked to him, then yelled at him. He ignored them until two tried to stop him physically. He cut them down with Windfall. He got to the center and tried the Trump. Fiona was within range, but not taking calls. He pulled out a Tella Trump and Draco showed up with a squad of soldiers.

Draco: What the fuck are you doing?

Nic: They got in my way.

Draco: Of course they got in your way, you’re an intruder.

Nic: I wasn't aware you’d been granted personal control of the island.

Draco & Co. were too close for Nic to Trump out. Draco rushed him, going for a grapple, his men close behind. Having nothing against Draco beyond being in his way, and knowing that a death curse would not help his situation, Nic hit Draco hard with the flat. Things went downhill from there. Nic woke up being carried down into Ambre's dungeons, fought his way loose, ran upstairs for his rooms and got zapped by Sand.



Crossing the border her precious Worm Puke caught fire and she rushed it back to extinguish it. A little experimentation showed her that she could stabilize it with Cloak, and she was able to transport it to a world with good labs and chemists. The boffins were delighted with the stuff. Along the way she'd noted that the shadow where Syric and Jesse had been imprisoned, that had later vanished, was back. She Trumped Jesse to tell her.

Rai slogged through Shadow to Ambre (all her Trumps being sludge mixed in with Worm Puke) and talked with Osric. He answered her questions concerning the making of Pattern- and Cloak- powered items. One needed the advanced form of the power and Conjuration. Hypothetically, different people could combine powers for the process. He mentioned that he'd never made anything without hooks. Moving on, Osric told Rai he wanted half their spawn. Rai said sure, if they agreed. Osric: they'll agree. He asked about the missing ones. Rai's answer was somewhat evasive.

Oz: Any time you want more...

Rai: Maybe a different niece.

Oz: It wouldn't be the same. If you feel bad we could make it official and get hitched.

Rai: <shudder> Thanks for the information.

Rai went to see Delwin and found him listening to Sand's complaints about the younger generation's lack of discipline. She'd had to clean up a mess and Niccolo was in the dungeon. Rai perked right up. Delwin said the kids were no different from them at that age. Rai picked up the gist of what had happened -- Nic killed a couple of Draco's guards, lost a fight and was dragged in, got away, ran around the castle and was recaptured. Rai suggested some punishments for Draco's carelessness; Sand suggested she not tell Delwin his job. Rai Trumped Jesse (supplied by Jesse and currently Rai's only Trump) from her room and told her the news. Jesse thought Nic would make Trumps for them if they sprung him. Rai mentioned she wanted one of the Primal Pattern area. Jesse, learning that Rai knew how to get there immediately wanted to go herself. Rai explained about having to pay off Queen Moire and possibly Draco as well. Jesse decided to claim Tir-na Nog'th. Jesse came through, Rai took some Worm Puke, and they went to see Nic. If he was not inclined to come out they'd tell him that Syric was scheduled to be his defender. They reached the dungeons, found Nic's cell and looked in.

Nic wasn't happy to see them: My torment begins.

Nonsense, Rai replied, and the girls filled the cell metaphorically waist deep with bullshit.

Nic wasn't having any.

Rai and Jesse left, moderately offended that Nic hadn't trusted them. They decided to visit Mandor.

Rai: Think Mandor would give us something for our help?

Jesse: Sure. What? Trumps? Toys?




Draco had Bruda attend to his black eye. She tsked at him for indulging in bar fights. He found another engineer for the island keep at a higher rate of pay. Moving on, he found that the other forts were coming along according to schedule. The Lunar crew had lost a couple of workers mysteriously. He ordered increased patrols. The Lunar soldiers had made some progress in low-gravity fighting techniques; Draco sparred with them, learned the tricks and made up some new ones.

Back in Ambre Draco tried to Trump Fiona. Nothing. He talked with Deirdre about Nic. Dee thought that Mandor probably had done something to Nic. They visited the prisoner, who told them something of the Rai and Jesse Show. They called Syric to open the cell and escorted Nic to the Pattern, mentioning their notion that Mandor had done something to him. Nic walked the Pattern; from the center he said: Mandor is one nasty son of a bitch. Vanished.

Draco Trumped Llewella and recruited her to close the Agate Shadow. She Edited it closed and pulled out some sort of Guardian, leaving at a run. She didn't say just what she'd come up with. Niccolo rode up to them mounted on Cerberus. He said he was there to pick up some weapons against Mandor. Llew said that she couldn't open it up again; sorry. Nic developed a temporary facial tic. To Llew: You didn't know.

To Draco: You did.

Draco: What?

Nic, disbelievingly: With Mandor on my plate, it never occurred to you I'd come here for weapons.

Llew: It's for your own good.

Nic glared.

Draco: Obviously the Pattern walk didn't cure you.

Nic: Have you ever been in love, Draco?

Draco looked confused.

Nic: I thought not. -- Nic Trumped out with his monster.

Draco: Obviously insane.



Closer study showed that the thaumagenic moss only covered over the dead areas, it did not penetrate. On the other hand, magic couldn't penetrate the dead areas. Back inside, Octavian heard the rumor that it was now easier to Edit Ambre. He consulted Osric and learned that it was a side effect from moving the Primal Pattern farther away. So all things were less Real -- aside from places Primal to begin with. This caught Octavian's interest. Dworkin had drawn the Primal Pattern on a Primal Plane. Osric knew of others and controlled one. He gave Octavian a psychic impression of a different one, a nice Ambrelike place. Osric said the only way to change such a place was to inscribe a power source on it. Cloak was not Primal as he'd wanted it to be more malleable. Osric also mentioned he was taking half the spawn with him.

Octavian gathered some food, some Magic Moss and some Psychometric Goo, walked the Pattern and wished himself to the Primal world.

-- he claimed to be an envoy from an island kingdom far, far away, that wanted trade but not the usual client relationship with the Empire.

-- the Empire had blast furnaces, limited steam power and printing presses but not gunpowder; they weren't very good at magic

-- the Empire was fairly cosmopolitan, had five or six client kingdoms and was ruled by a powerful emperor backed by a senate and a lower house

-- very efficient police, fine public works and a disturbing lack of beggars; they used indentured servants, not slaves

-- lots of cults but no strong state church; a strong merchant class

-- the oceans were far away and they didn't use the rivers for transportation or commerce

-- the typical lifespan was several centuries; the emperor was over 500

Octavian planned a river-based trading operation. He shadowwalked off and found a suitable ship carrying a variety of spices, and pirated it, killing only the captain. He shifted it back to the Imperial Capitol's river and made a modest fortune selling the stuff with the help of the harbormaster's cousin Luigi. The city's merchant houses became concerned.



Dorothea consulted with Gerard via Trump and then weakened the a wall of his cell with magic. She and Boz walked around listening to people talk. The war with Ambre was the number one topic. People were near panic. She altered their clothing appropriately and went to the palace, claiming to be envoys from Queen Zara of Karth. They were admitted to see the foreign minister. A little magic convinced him he'd seen their credentials. They were given sumptuous quarters and an audience with the

Chancellor. The Deigans were desperate for allies. They told her that the Ambre ambassador had demanded they dissolve their government and accept rule from Ambre. The Ambrans were thrown out. Assassins struck at the Chancellor that night. They attributed the new Ambre attitude to the upheavals in Ambre. Erik had made outrageous demands and the tyrant Delwin was worse. Dorothea suggested the ambassador could have gone mad or been working for someone else. The Deigans thought Ambre would have contacted them, despite the difficulties, were that so. Dorothea said that Karth's spies had detected no signs of Ambre moving against anyone in the Golden Circle. Chancellor Mercan remained adamantly opposed to meeting with any Ambrans without abject apologies. Dorothea ended up agreeing to try to get Queen Zara to act as an intermediary.

Dorothea briefed Gerard via Trump from her rooms. Maybe they really should go to Karth and try to work something out. Her conversation was cut short by a yamabushi-looking guy who burst into her room. Dorothea dodged away and readied a spell. Bosworth took two shuriken for her was shoved out of the way. Her Flaying Alive spell hit but the assassin was a shapeshifter, healing almost as fast as the spell did damage. Boz knifed the man in the back -- the shifter's blood caught fire in the air -- and got knocked down. Dorothea drew her sword and defended frantically. Half a dozen palace guards rushed in and cut the assassin down. Dorothea made psychic contact -- the man believed himself to be an agent of Ambre; he'd been compelled by someone far stronger than she. Dorothea caused a stroke. The Deigans blathered on about Ambrite spies. Dorothea checked on Bosworth who was succumbing to poison. Her first aid kit with it's array of antidotes had what he needed. She told her hosts she'd find her own quarters for the night and shooed them out. Gerard Trumped her and learned what had happened. Dorothea was torn between staying on as assassin bait and going to Karth. Gerard voted for Karth. Shortly thereafter Caine Trumped her, said Gerard had asked him to help out. He came through, listened to the details and declared it strange that a Chaosian could be convinced he was from Ambre. He assumed Bosworth's form and went with Dorothea to view the body. Caine told her the man's gear was genuine Niccolo yamabushi stuff. He suggested Mandor had sent him. Why? Probably aimed at damaging Nic's reputation. No way to tell yet if Mandor was involved in the destabilization of Deiga. They agreed that she would leave as the Karthan envoy while Caine arranged for Gerard and his men to be freed by one of Syric's Omicron ships.



Nic wished himself to Shadow Tella from the Pattern. He replaced all the antidotes and poisons he was carrying and examined his Trumps carefully. Everything seemed to be fine, but paranoia was life these days. Dorothea Trumped him and told him about the yamabushi impostor. He thanked her and told her about Mandor. He couldn't see why Mandor would be messing with Deiga but wouldn't put anything past him. He returned to Ambre and an audience with Delwin. Delwin had been in Nic's head and understood his rage perfectly. Nic got a very mild chewing out. Delwin told him that nothing official had been said about the island and Draco's fort -- and wouldn't be until the fort was complete. Nic told him about the Agate Shadow. Delwin suggested that Nic could find anything he really needed in Shadow. Nic visited Shadow Leone and ordered mass production of Green Fungus, the manaphage bacteria and various toxins, plus research on vectors of all kinds for all of them. Unsure if the chaotoxin worked as well on Chaosian initiates of the new Logrus, he crossed the border and found some luckless Chaos lords to test it on. It worked fine.



Jesse found a servant of Mandor's and Rai mindraped it. Sawallways had been turned into a trap for Niccolo. Mandor was not there. He turned up in the royal palace with Roland and other major players. Mandor assumed that they were acting for Niccolo. He told them that an abject public apology would cancel the vendetta. He told them the kidnapping and all were merely a way to fight his boredom. He claimed that he hadn't sent the black rose. They made an oblique offer to help Mandor out. He asked for specifics. They had none. He did want personal access to the Cloak. Then he started playing with his balls and scared them off. They sadly agreed that anything they got from Mandor would likely have all kinds of hooks on it.

Rai went to Draco's Island and waved at the troops. She Trumped Niccolo.

Nic: I've talked to Delwin and the truth is not in you.

Rai: I saw Oriana.

Nic: The odds of me getting Oriana back are vanishingly slim. It's down to vengeance now.

Rai: Mandor seems to be happy about the size of the vendetta.

Nic: Then he should be happy indeed.

Rai visited Delwin and asked about Mandor. Delwin described him as a Fiona Of Chaos wannabe. Someone he wouldn't mind seeing dead. Rai asked after Fiona. Last seen going to the Pattern room. Rai suggested she was at the Primal Pattern. Dworkin sometimes rewrote people.... what would be the implications of getting the old Fiona back? She mentioned meeting Mandor and said that Oriana seemed to be OK.

Rai: Are you going to rein in Nic's rampant lust for destruction?

Del: No. Much as I hate Chaos I can't bring myself to do that. He has carte blanche so long as he doesn't commit an act of war against Chaos. How's Jesse doing?

Rai: She's fine. Back to normal.

Del: That's an improvement.

Rai: Anything I or Jesse can do for you?

Del: You could look for Fiona. If you don't want to do that there's a disturbing report of one of Syric's ships was seen near Deiga. Dorothea was investigating there.

Rai and Jesse went to Deiga, Rai as Iago and Jesse as a dominatrix on a Kashfan ship. They approached the harbor as one of Syric's black ships fought it's way out along with Gerard's favorite ship, sinking two Deigan ships in the process. They learned that Syric's ship had busted some Ambreite spies out of jail and liberated their ship as well. Syric might have been involved in the attempted assassination of the Karthan envoy as well. They got a room and gathered rumors:

-- Ambre's fleet had been sunk by a joint Golden Circle fleet

-- Niccolo would lead an Ambre invasion fleet against Deiga

-- Pirate Syric took the Ambreites as hostages

They followed a particularly active rumormonger and discovered that it was Caine. He explained things. He said it was likeliest a Chaosian operation as the Charybdites were dead or disbanded. Rai and Jesse helped spread rumors.



Draco got a report that Raichleach had been at the island fort. He brought in some dragons and formulated policy. His family should be asked to stay out of the construction but not physically accosted. Spell casting to be reported to Draco. Mortal nobles to get a short tour of the island.

Draco consulted the Hendrakes about the Big Fortress. They knew it was there but all efforts to investigate or infiltrate had failed. Nobody ever returned. They hadn't sent an emissary -- no one would volunteer. Draco volunteered. He camped out within sight of the fortress and sent in a messenger. The man returned shortly and attacked Draco -- and was faster. Only Draco's armor saved him. The man was killed but nicked him under the right arm before he died. The arm went numb. He Trumped Bruda for help -- none of their antivenins worked. Draco Trumped Dorothea and borrowed her kit; two fit the symptoms and one of them worked. He was nauseous for a couple of days. When he'd recovered he went to see King Roland and was let into a meeting with Random and Fitzcairn. They discussed the fortress. Roland's experiences had matched Draco's. Roland lacked the resources to attack the place, especially when they hadn't made any hostile moves as yet. Draco suggested Green Fungus or Primal Chaos. Roland said PC was no good -- they had Logrus Masters there; he was sort of hoping Benedict would take it out eventually. Mandor was in the palace, bragging up his vendetta. Others had crossed Niccolo and died but Mandor had him so outclassed he was toying with him. Draco asked Mandor what had started the vendetta. Mandor said Nic had cut a deal granting titles and land in Ambre, signed by Eric -- forged. In return Mandor had tried to destroy the Cloak. Eric said he knew nothing about it. Mandor wanted a public apology and begging for forgiveness. He wouldn't release Oriana unless Nic gained the upper hand. She was useful. Draco tried to negotiate for her release but had nothing Mandor wanted. Mandor claimed he had a good idea who was the master of the big fortress.

Next Draco Trumped Deirdre and told her about the fortress. He asked who would be the best Cloak initiate to infiltrate the place. She thought Osric, then Rai, then Caine. He Trumped Caine and explained matters. Caine agreed to look into it when he finished up in Deiga.

Draco Trumped through to Corwin in Avalon. Corwin agreed to lend him some riflemen. Draco asked about Eric's contacts in Chaos. Corwin thought he didn't have any. Corwin thought that the Goatmen were a leftover Brand plot. He asked Draco if he'd seen Octavian -- roundabout he got Draco to Trump Octavian since Corwin didn't like doing it himself.

Draco Trumped Octavian.



Octavian too the Trump call. It was Draco, with Corwin standing behind him.

Oct: Hi there.

Draco: Corwin wants to talk to you.

Corwin: I just need help fixing up Avalon, if he could get around to it.

Oct, privately to Draco: Tell him he's ungrateful for all the help I've given him -- just kidding.

Octavian Trumped Corwin. All C's sorcerers were dead and he wanted a couple of months of Octavian's time. And he wanted Octavian to get married, have kids and send them to help their grandfather. Maybe he should show Octavian how? Octavian called Draco back to thank him.

Octavian bought a villa and cut deals with two major merchant houses. He learned the markets and started bringing in a ship a week. The sailors from the first ship were learning the language and starting to talk. Octavian hired them back for five times their old pay. He acquired a Senator for a patron. His alias, Augustus Zirconius, became famous. At his request his patron arranged for AZ to meet the emperor. That took two weeks. In the meantime Octavian made a psychometric ring and used it everywhere. When he met the emperor he found that several of the court had Raichleach-level minds. The emperor was somewhat weaker than that, his court advisor stronger. Octavian Trumped Niccolo and inquired about shapeshifter detection. Nic sent him a couple of the leg-humping variety of shifterhounds and agreed to make a Trump of the villa. He was interested in the place. Octavian presented the dog to the emperor; it didn't hump the advisor's leg.

Octavian checked out the fortunetellers with his ring. One, a blind girl of 14 or 15, was very near Fiona's mental strength. Street rumor had it that she was training to be an Oracle when she went blind. The Oracle was stronger. The girl was successful at her trade and didn't want his help.

Octavian returned to Ambre and consulted Osric. Osric thought he might want some of these people for the True Ambre. Osric agreed to teach him how to create his own Source. He'd have to learn Conjuration and increase his endurance.

Octavian went back to the Empire and scanned people with his ring until he found a ten year old kid 80% as strong as himself. He bought Cornelius and took him home to the villa.



Experiments with 'Trumpy' shadows went nowhere.

Dorothea told him she didn't know how to program fingermen but that Fitz did. He found Fitzcairn at the embassy in Chaos. Fitz told him that Mandor was spreading the word on why the vendetta started -- he seemed to be questioning Nic's judgement. Nic indicated obliquely that Benedict had approved of the project. Fitz agreed to program fingermen in exchange for Trumps. Random was getting pissed off at Mandor's bragging, but he and Fitz thought Mandor wanted Nic to attack him in Roland's palace.

Nic got an audience with Roland. The King of Chaos explained that if Nic did a big, damaging attack in his palace he'd have to kill him. On the other hand, Roland was a Barimen too and he was really tired of Mandor's bragging. Roland suggested Nic talk to Mandor's heir in House Sawall. Also there were his cultists --- apparently some Chaosians worshipped Ambreites and Nic had a few fans. If Nic managed to kill all the Sawalls it would be quite a sensation. Roland knew something of Mandor's metal ball artifacts. They could grow to huge size, forty feet across, and were items on par with Finndo's sword. Not something Roland wanted thrown about in his palace. Nic explained that Oriana was, effectively, dead and not a viable hostage -- hence his extreme feelings. Roland said Delwin had warned him of Nic's willingness to employ mass destruction.



Draco sent in agents. The first died immediately. Draco found one with 360 degree vision and monitored via Trump. Benedict!


LOG 36



Draco checked on his various castle building projects. The Lunar one was fine. He cleared up a supply bottleneck on the Island. Raichleach hadn't interfered with his toll fortress on the road to the Cloak; he sent in more workers to speed construction.

Draco found a decent army of Hessian-like mercs out in Shadow and hired them. He trained with them a bit, mostly along the lines of increasing discipline.

He went looking for intelligent rat agents with an eye to sending them into Fortress Inhospitable. He found something better: a man named Radagast with the ability to dominate and control rats remotely. Lots of them. Rad was a saboteur and spy for hire, easily hired. Draco left him hidden a few miles from the Fort with 2000 rats. When he returned two days later Rad was gone. Draco hunted him down, bringing a slimeyhound on general principals. Radagast was not a shapeshifter, according to the dog, but there'd been a lot of shifters around searching for him. The Fort folk had caught on fast and sent in predators of their own. Only a hundred rats made it back to Radagast. Intel amounted to a few images, mostly of food-storage areas, a rough map of the place, and a good idea of where the Gate had to be -- where rats had seen two Draco-twins leave the place. Plus confirmation that Vader was a chaosian and a rough, rat-filtered image of him -- and an excellent scent-memory of him. Making a good Trump from it would be iffy. Draco took Radagast home and tipped him liberally.

Draco Trumped to Bruda, got jumped. Apres sex he asked her if there were any Chaosians famous for their knowledge of scents. Yes there was, a fellow named Percy the Pervert. Percy was easy to find, too, as Roland had him in the royal dungeons. Roland gave Draco permission to talk with he miscreant. Percy lived up to his name. He'd help, but he wanted a couple of hours with Bruda. Chained to his wall. Or Circe. Or some young Chaosite. No demons. Jesse wouldn't do -- he'd had her already. No, no, no, no. Draco consulted Roland. They ruled out torture as unreliable -- Percy would enjoy some of it. Compelling was out as nobody would venture into that cesspool of a mind. Roland wouldn't consider freeing him. Percy was only alive because he'd been Swayvill's real heir back when Jesse was Royal Decoy. Bruda eventually suggested they addict Percy to something and withhold it. She acquired a supply and Roland had it put in Percy's food. Four days later they stopped putting it in. Two days later Draco went to talk to old Pers. Vader was actually one Karlos of House Kakatal, one of the new generation who had disappeared near the Abyss some twenty years before. Karlos hadn't been known to be a Logrus master at the time. Kakatal was of the Pentacle faction which opposed the Swords -- Hendrakes included.



Nic made some preparations. Among them he acquired some nasty, partially- razored metal boomerangs of the trick-shot design and practiced throwing them in variable gravity. He coated them and all his blades -- rather a lot of blades -- with antimorphia on one side and chaosbane on the other. While out in Shadow, Nic felt someone Seeking him out. He slipped away to Leone and eventually the feeling followed him there. Monitors at an entrance to Leone showed him Draco with a company of heavily armed soldiers. Nic Trumped Draco, who answered from a background inconsistent with that in the monitors. Draco confirmed that he was not visiting Leone with troops. Nic had the fake killed with energy weapons. Big ones. Faux Draco and company still managed to kill some Leone soldiers. Nic didn't feel any blood curse settle on him. Next, Nic got Parsifal to put a couple of teleport spells on him in exchange for a suit of fine armor. He made arrangements with Random to be ready to block Mandor's Trump at certain times. Random was happy to help as Mandor had been ragging on Nic and the Amberites in general for some time.

Nic went to the Chaosian Royal Palace and met with Circe, receiving an invite to dinner, without Mandor, and permission to stay for a while. Dana Hendrake showed him around for a while but left when one of Mandor's metal balls, large enough to fill the corridor, started chasing them. Nic scrunched in a corner and whacked it with Windfall as it passed --- illusion. Laughter all around. He found a gallery of paintings and studied them with half his attention. He struck up a conversation with a Chaosian lady who introduced herself as Lintra. Despite her partly-demonic form Nic found himself getting aroused. A lot. A whole lot. He inserted nose filters (Leonean) and his sudden ardor drained away. Lintra's demeanor gave him no clue as to whether the pheromonal cloud had been deliberate or was just part of her makeup.



Romulus, Draco's protege Roachling, thought he was ready to walk the Pattern. With as many relatives (especially jealous siblings) on hand to watch as possible. Draco preferred to do it quietly at the Lunar Pattern. They compromised on the Star Pattern. Draco had to walk the Lunar one first, zap to the Stellar and Trump Romulus in. Romulus made it and zapped off to Ambre to brag. Draco got Delwin's approval and formally adopted Romulus. He briefed the king on what he'd learned of the Fortress and Karlos. Delwin thought he'd killed Karlos' father. Romulus got a family dinner in his honor and started training with Lord Danesh the next day.

Caine had not returned from The Fortress.

Draco Trumped to Random. Random told him about his agreement with Niccolo. Draco exchanged information about Karlos and House Kakatal. Random said he'd press harder on infiltrating Kakatal. Random decreed it a perfect time for a poker game and called in Fitzcairn to play with them. Random edged Draco out; Fitz got fleeced. Draco returned to Ambre and got jumped by Bruda. Later he tried to sell Romulus on the wonderfulness of humility. Rom wasn't buying. He had Rom spread the word among the Roachlings that internships were available at the Ambre Embassy in Chaos.



Nic had wanted the dinner without Mandor and with lots of witnesses to give his foe the assurance that he was pinned down for a couple of hours. Plenty of time to go out and get sucked into a Shadow of Destiny. The meal itself was marred only by an annoying assassination attempt, and made intriguing by a servant warning him that one would be made. Nic stabbed his chair-demon before it could quite shove a spike up his ass. Circe looked mildly apologetic, like one of the servants had been a little slow refilling his glass. [Nic hates Chaos.] After the dinner (good quality for Chaos but Nic's chief chef in Tella would have killed himself had it come out of his kitchen) Nic met with Mandor's heir in House Sawall, a man named Clytus. They conversed amiably but made no agreements. Nic mainly considered it another opportunity for Mandor to get caught. No luck.

Back in the Palace, Roland gave him permission to kill a few walls and maybe trash Mandor's suite. Nic marched to Mandor's quarters and hacked through the walls with his Pattern sword. Mandor was gone by the time he stepped in. Nic threw things at the mirror maze he found inside and took the time to destroy everything in the rooms. He Trumped to the Embassy when he was done and Random attacked him. Nic was hampered by the fact that he really didn't want to kill his father, Random by the compulsion he was under. Random was winning. Fitz looked on with horror as Nic retreated and shouted for him to help. Windfall broke Random's sword and Random skewered Nic with a long knife, piercing the armor and taking out a kidney. Nic's Neural Disrupt staggered Random and Nic kicked him in the crotch with an armored boot, and Fitz knocked them both down. Random looked like he was about to say something as Nic hit him in the head with Windfall's hilt. Nic pulled the Leone Emergency Room Trump out of his right gauntlet and was gone.

Nic regained consciousness in a med-bed, the kidney mostly regrown. After patting himself on the back for acquiring a high-tech shadow, he tried Random's Trump from one of the (heavily guarded) spots where they worked. Warm. Fitz's was the same. Nic Trumped to Ambre as soon as he could. There he learned that a Roachling had been there in the embassy and was accusing him of doing away with Random and Fitz in a fit of rage. Nic allowed Delwin to probe his memory, again. Unfortunately, the spawn also believed his story wholeheartedly. They had to wait for either Fiona or Osric to return to be sure. Osric got back first. Nic was cleared. As he'd anticipated having to make a deal with Uncle Osric to get Oriana safely out of her mystic prison anyway, Nic approached Osric for help in getting Mandor into the Hell made for him. Honor of the Family slighted by the abduction of our ambassador, Osric's brother and Osric's nephew an so on. Osric made Nic an offer: he'd take care of everything in return for Nic's oath of fealty to him. Niccolo weighed his options, his chance of catching Mandor, his need of Osric's services regardless... and accepted with the understanding that Osric wouldn't send Nic to kill any relatives. Osric had a fair number of fealty documents all written up for people to sign in blood on hand. Nic signed his. Osric said he'd not be interfering with Nic's routine too much and then left. Nic drank wine in a sitting room. Three hours later, Oriana, Random and Fitzcairn showed up in the Castle. None had been tormented and their perceptions of time while in the metal balls had been slowed to near stasis. Oriana's subjective imprisonment amounted to five days. Random and Nic kidded each other about their fight. Nic spent the night with Oriana and then went off to deal with Mandor whom Osric was to have delivered to the hell made for him. Oriana declined to join in.

Nic found that the over-enthusiastic devils had already trashed Mandor's hands and feet. Mandor tried desperately to make eye contact with Nic --- who ordered Mandor's eyes burned out. With advice and help from local professionals, Nic skinned Mandor alive and had the hide irradiated, tanned and mounted in a Leonan armorglass case. He ordered the devils to see to it that Mandor would not die, and Mandor was tough enough to last. Nic returned to Ambre for a time and met with Draco. They settled their differences. Nic agreed to pay compensation for the dead soldiers and threw in the offer of Leonan medical treatment for any of their relatives who happened to be crippled, sick or even old. Draco was surprised that Niccolo hadn't questioned Mandor while he could. Nic, who'd felt as if he were coming out of a fog of rage since Oriana returned, was mildly embarrassed he hadn't. He returned to Mandor's hell and learned a few things via judicious use of pliers, fire and caustic chemicals.

- Mandor had sent the fake bushi to assassinate Dorothea

- He'd sent word to The Fortress that Niccolo was investigating them.

- He suspected that 'Vader' was Loki.

- He'd tried to set Syric against Nic.

- He named his agents in Roland's palace and his allies within Sawall.

- He'd Trumped to Random via the Blocking contact, taken him over and hid in the closet, then compelled the roachling after Nic Trumped out.

- He didn't know anything about who was behind the Deigan situation.

Nic found that as Oriana had not been tortured, he was rapidly losing interest in tormenting Mandor. He finished him off with a few hours of hammer, knife and acetylene torch work. He beheaded the corpse and had the skull cleaned off and out. Nic took the skull with him to visit Roland. Nic had lost a lot of style points in the Courts by sending Osric in to do the work. This Nic considered a good thing overall, figuring that stylish chaosians would be less inclined to engage in vendettas with him out of boredom. He'd lost most of his cultists as well. Osric's stock had shot up. Nic told Roland the names of all Mandor's agents, then sent word to Clytus naming Mandor's supporters in Sawall. Random hadn't returned to the embassy and was in fact going on a vacation. Nic took the skull and the cased skin to Tella, then returned to Ambre. He and Oriana planned a trip.



Draco recruited demons out of the Abyss to infiltrate House Kakatal. House K got word of his interest and sent him a message asking why he was interested in them. He heard rumors of trouble at the embassy and went there. Nobody there. Blood stains that burned his demons -- Amber blood for sure. Draco Trumped to Delwin and reported the findings. Delwin sent Eric to reopen the embassy -- he'd been driving him nuts anyway. Draco had no luck contacting Niccolo. He accompanied Eric on his initial inspection of the embassy. No traps had been installed. A broken sword --- Random's. Random's Trumps scattered around; Draco gathered them up. Eric and Draco went to see King Roland. Roland had already told Delwin about the incident in Mandor's chambers. Also, Mandor had disappeared a few hours previous. Draco attempted to Seek Mandor and picked up a trail to Sawallways. He left watchers there. Draco returned to Ambre and learned that Niccolo was back and talking to Delwin. Nic was released half an hour later. Rumors circulated detailing Nic's and the roachling's contradictory stories. Delwin was said to be trying to summon Fiona or Osric to get to the bottom of things. After a while Osric did show up. Nic's story was supposedly true and the roachling compelled. Osric left soon after. A few hours later, Random, Fitzcairn and Nic's girlfriend were back, none the worse for the experience --- or Osric had come up with some really good duplicates. Draco had his talk with Niccolo and got his wergild for his men and an apology. Nic seemed to be reasonably sane again.

Draco checked around The Fortress. Their patrols picked up on his presence faster than ever before. Shortly thereafter he got a Trump call from Bradenberg. They had a plague of rats in the castle and surrounding region. Draco returned and Edited them out. The crop was lost though. He contacted Syric and learned that Omicron had not suffered from a plague of rats. Draco tried to Trump back to The Fortress' shadow and learned that it had been blocked to Trump. He went to his Island castle-under-construction and tried to Trump Fiona from the center. She wasn't taking calls.