NICCOLO'S DIARIES

NICCOLO is 5' 11" tall, dark blond with wavy hair, tanned olive skin, blue eyes and an acrobat's build -- Burt Lancaster circa Crimson Pirate. He has a slight Italian accent. He has easy, confidant manner but can put on faultless courtly airs if necessary. Niccolo's colors are dark blue and gold (or tan), his symbol a gold "sun in splendor" on blue; he doesn't take the heraldic thing very seriously, except when at Castle Ambre, and he does use it on the back of his Trumps. Nic usually wears loose, comfortable pants and shirts, with soft boots (unless riding) but is perfectly at home in almost any costume. He normally wears a couple of rings, sometimes earrings (small gold hoops) and occasionally a gold crucifix. He wears a heavy rapier and a main gauche or sheathed sai and carries three throwing knives.

Tella, Nic's shadow: take Earth and give it a massive influx of magic starting circa 1000 BC. Ortygia = the Canary Islands. Oriana, God-Queen of Ortygia, looks like Mirina Syrtis (as herself, not as Deanna Troi).

 

SESSION ONE (4-5-97)

AMBRE,

--my Boticelli homage "Florimel Rising From the Sea" was half done, going well despite the fact that I've never seen my aunt nude, so the colors were bound to be a bit off. Random walked in with a bottle of something unfamiliar and asked me for some help. A number of his friends in Shadow had suddenly turned up dead, all apparent suicides. He suspected murder. Would I investigate one while he worked on others? Yes. I'd planned to head out into Shadow in a week. The King was in a bad mood and worsening by the day. I seldom saw Grandfather and had avoided the Castle for a while, but a greater distance seemed prudent. I enjoyed Dad's friends, mostly gamblers and musicians and I was angered that anyone would dare murder the companions of a Prince of Ambre. Also, I hadn't investigated a murder since I was 20, it should be interesting. Random opened the bottle--good stuff-- and briefed me with what little he knew. Or would admit to. The dead guy in question was one Carson, assistant to Prime Minister Orkuz of Begma. None of the other dead had any political connection to Carson and had lived in different shadows, so politics seemed a doubtful motive.As he left, Dad said he had forgotten to tell me about the Debutant Ball currently in progress, featuring some young cousins of mine, and handed me a wrinkled invitation. I agreed that they were usually a waste of time. If I did attend, he said, and Mirelle asked, I hadn't seen him, and, gesturing at the painting, that Flora's nipples were larger and darker than that! I remembered that Gerard had said something, once, when we were drinking, about Random having been a peeper in his teens. In Florimel's case, I can't blame Dad at all.

I dressed up in a hurry, interested in evaluating new relatives and rode up to the Castle. The affair was largley over, Flora scolded me and tried to fuss over me in annoying auntish fashion. What a body, wasted on an aunt. Sir Falk, a noted gambler, pointed out the three debutantes and a new male cousin named Draco. Draco was fuly occupied with chatting up the lovely and vapid Lady Belgareth while her husband snored nearby; an interruption would not be welcomed. I was introduced to the debs: Kara, daughter of Gerard (somewhat less attractive than the others but far more vivacious), Dorothea, flame haired daughter of Fiona and Consuela, daughter of Llewella, shy and graceful with green-black hair. I danced with all of them and studied them for Trumps. Consuela seemed to have the strongest mind and Dorothea the least (or better shields). Mirelle cornered me between dances and demanded to know where Random was. I professed ignorance-- true at this point. She bade me tell him she wanted the fifty Royals he owed her, and stalked away.

While chuckling (inside) about Dad and his sister, I looked to Draco again, still occupied, and noticed that Lord Belgareth looked wrong. I walked nearer: bad color...not breathing! Draco glanced at him and saw it as well. He reached over as Lord Belgareth toppled. Lady B screamed, causing a commotion. I approached and sniffed the food before the corpse, then the wine glass still clutched in his hand. Yes, poison. I tapped the glass and said so to Draco, introduced myself. He was surprised I knew poisons by smell; I was surprised he did not--what kind of noble education neglects the basics? I suggested he memorize the scent. It probably couldn't kill a cousin, but it could make him sick.

Captain Danesh arrived and took over. He questioned Draco, who said that Lord B had been snoring when Draco sat down. Danesh questioned me. I told him about the poison, identifying it as a type normalls smeared on the vessel beforehand. The investigation was not immediately productive. Servant procedures made it difficult to target a glass at a specific person. Perhaps a minor Compulsion? More interesting were the banehounds, small ugly poison sniffers, and the appearance of a man I hadn't seen before, unnamed but of some rank and authority, acting in a quiet oversight or consultant capacity. One of Oberon's agents? I was soon dismissed.

BEGMA, 2 DAYS LATER

I used my clout as a Prince of Ambre, however minor, to meet Prime Minister Orkuz and view the body. I seemed to make the Begmans nervous. Carson had died by hanging and there were no marks of violence beyond those left by the noose. I suspected magic and had the First Magus summoned, one Cagliostro. Cagliostro did something with magic, I could feel it, and reported after half an hour that traces on the skull indicated that Carson might have been under some kind of Compulsion. PM Orkuz acted surprised, said that Carson had been despondant over a bad love affair. I asked for the lady's name and Orkuz said he would find it out.Interesting. PM Orkuz and company had aroused my suspicions, but his own court mage had revealed more evidence of murder. Of course, for all they knew I was a mage so subtle that I knew about the traces and was checking up on them. Or, perhaps Cagliostro wasn't in on the plot. Or there really were no traces and they were working me.

On my way to an in I was approached coyly by an attractive lady who knew me for a lord of Ambre and talked me into esoorting her to a shop. She slipped me a note along the way as I kept an eye out for trouble. We parted and I took a room in a good inn and read the note. Don't believe Orkuz - you are in danger here - We are under survellance, so I may not speak openly - meet me at the Casino dining room at 9:00Interesting. I considered my next moves. I didn't want to bother Carson's family, if any, yet. The Casino was a fine one, doubtless one of Carson's haunts, and a high profile would let other people contact me as well as Lady X. And acting the wastrel couldn't hurt.

I gambled from 6 to 9, then chanced to notice the lonely beauty in the dining room and joined her. She flirted charminglyand eventually drew Benedict's symbol in some spilled wine. We left together, I slipped her my Trump, but she developed a sudden dislike at her door and dismissed me with a slap. I returned to the Casino and gambled for an hour, then returned to the hotel. Lady X Trumped me, apologized for the slap, and identified herself as one of Benedict's agents. She said that Orkuz was being watched and that they thought that Carson had found something out and was killed for it. She knew of other murders, which were spaced so that one Conjuror, such as she, could have done them all. She warned me again of my personal danger. Cagliostro was new. I said I would hand around for a while and keep the pressure on. She said she, and others, would watch.

More smoke and fog? I tried to Trump Dad, no luck. I decided to sleep in a safer place, and get some work done, as well; I Trumped to my palazzo in Ortygia.It was fall in Begma and semitropical heaven in Ortygia. I let the servants know I was in and picked up my messages. Aside from a wedding invitation from Count Emilio, already too late, all were from Oriana. Oriana is a beautiful woman, a delightful lover, a good and convenient landlord and an excellent sorceress. But she is high-maintenance and I am gone most of the time. I Trumped her, chatted, advised, bolstered her considerable ego, heard her newest request: she wanted to visit Ambre. Shit. Dangerous. Inconvenient. I tried to put her off, saying maybe soon... she took it as a promise. Oriana is over a hundred years old though her spells and the Spring keep her a physical twenty. For all I knew, she would age a century in a moment and die the second she stepped through to Ambre. Even if she didn't, none of her spells would work until she adapted to the new magical environment. And she didn't speak Thari. Hm. I could hire a teacher who spoke Thari and Eleni or Italiano or Espaniol. Maybe I could hire a tutor-mage from Ambre, as well. I would have to find some diplomatic way of explaining Reality and Shadow. Later.

I made a Trump of a quiet corner of a Begman park, then slept. Got up, swam in the surf, ate an excellent meal, had a luxurious bath and massage. Trumped back to Begma little over six hours after leaving, Begma time. I spent the morning bothering PM Orkuz, ate shellfish near the docks and changed hotels. Returned to the Palace, where they told me they had found Carson's killer, a sorcerer and romantic rival. The man had confessed and been executed, they showed me the body, a big guy with occult tattoos, notably three interlocking circles. I pretended to be convinced and left.

Back at my hotel, I Trumped Benedict and showed him a sketch of Lady X; she was not one of his. He identified her as an agent of Bleys, a sorceress handy with werpons and access to a power source I would be unfamiliar with. !? Rather than try to find her while dogged by spies, I Trumped off to Ortygia again, made a Trump of Lady X, returned and used it. She was nonplussed at being found out. I described the dead sorcerer to her and she said he was a rival of Cagliostro's and would check for links. I tried to work out some way of establishing enough trust to work together, having in mind a Trump-based abduction of Orkuz, interrogation by Compelling in some fast shadow, a quick memory adjustment and return, but failed. I did get my Trump back.

 

SESSION TWO (4-19-97)

BEGMA

My plan was to annoy Carson's murderer/s with my blatant investigation until they did something stupid. I thought I could handle the something and then trace it back to Orkuz or whoever was responsible. Bleys' agent 'Lady X' might help.The first stupid thing occured as I worked at contacting Carson's relatives. It involved three muggers and a lady victim in an alley. I killed two and left one fleeing with a dagger stuck in his ass. I escorted the lady (a plant?) home, accepted her effusive thanks and a dinner date. The second was set in another alley, with a double of Carson for bait. The ambushers were a Lord of Chaos, with a Logrus greatsword (!), and three demon soldiers under orders to kill me.

I had not anticipated this level of escalation. I had never dreamed that some Golden Circle plotter could whistle up a goddamned Chaos Lord to remove an irritant. I would have died, nodoubt at all, had a reacuer not appeared. A very tall and attractive woman walked out of a wall into the fight and took on two of the soldiers --shapeshifting herself into demon form for the combat. We won and introduced ourselves. She claimed to have seen me fighting in a mirror in Castle Ambre and jumped into the scene for the sheer love of action. I, of course, acted as if this ridiculous story was perfectly believable. She said she was a protegee of uncle Bleys and was vague about her ancestry. I mindraped the last demon before finishing him and learned that Lord Corpse was named Cormyn and that the team was from House Kilrae in "The Kingdom" (the Courts of Chaos). 'The Kingdom' is apparently dominated by a number of bloodliines ('Houses') in competition with each other. Kilrae was a minor House that hired out to greater ones. Jesse claimed Cormyn's sword (fine with me, I didn't need a six foot Logrus sword giving me headaches), while I took a button-covered little cube, two Trumps of demonic types (Lords of Chaos?) and Cormyn's head.

I Trumped us to Ambre and took her up on her offer to treat my wounds. While she did a good job I speculated. Her connection to Bleys was likely real as it was easy to check. I had never heard of a magic mirror in the Castle. More likely she was teleported to me at Lady X's direction. They could have meant to save me or it could have been a set up--Bleys eliminates Cormyn (for whatever reason) and scares me off at the same time. Or some other uncle could be behind it, but then Bleys probably would have left me hanging rather than tip his hand. If Bleys wasn't to blame, then Orkuz had something going on that gave him the leverage to call Chaosian killers into the Golden Circle. Orkuz couldn't have that kind of clout. Shapeshifters. Carson, Orkuz' personal assistant murdered. Say that Orkuz wasn't Orkuz but a Chaosian double. A major 'Kingdom' plot would explain Kilrae's actions. A really big plot might not involve only Begma but more of our strategic assets in the Golden Circle! Shit.

We found Bleys and told him the story. He was excited, said that the Hall of Mirrors appeared on rare occasions in various places in the Castle, offering visions both true and false, or even transport to the scenes depicted. Her hurried us to where Jesse had found it but there was nothing there. "Hall of Mirrors"-- bullshit or not? Weird things do happen in the Castle but I wasn't convinced. Not that I let on.

Servants informed us that we were just in time for Lord Octavian's party, held in honor of his having slain a demon. More Chaosian activity! An opportunity to meet Octavian, in any event.I Trumped Dad and filled him in. Congratulations. He said he would contact Benedict-- with Chaosians involved we were in over our heads. I suggested we arrange a murder-by-Trump of Duke Kilrae.This looked like a good opportunity to show Oriana around. I Trumped her, cleaned up and changed, the Trumped her again (hours later in Ortygia) and brought her through. She had successfully modified a language spell to give her Thari in Ambre and had worked something out for the antiagathics. I introduces her as God-Empress of Ortygia (her preferred title) which caused some hidden amusement among my relatives. Despite her airs, Oriana was beautiful, charming, poised and possessed her own aura of power. She attracted considerable admiration, particularly from Bleys.

While mingling, cousin Cara pointed out Lord Fenris, recently arrived refugee from Chaos (!), standing with Draco. I found Jesse and introduced us to Fenris. We showed him the head (had a servant bring it in a covered bucket from my rooms) and he verified the demon soldier's information (or by verifying it demonstrated some truthfulness) and added that Cormyn had been the heir of Kilrae's chief. He said I was now at vendetta--very fashionable in The Kingdom, vendettas-- with Kilrae. SHIT! Duke Kilrae was the subject of one of the Trumps. The box he identified as a quick-teleport device. Oriana took all this in--relatives, the head in the bag, demons, vendetta--with intense interest.We received various suggestions on what to do with Cormyn's head. Gerard thought it would make a good dice cup--why not? (I was bemused by the vendetta.) I sent it to a taxidermist.Draco told me that Lord Belgarath's murder was likely not random. The late lord had been up to something. I gave him a brief version of my misadventure. I found out later that he spread it around more than I thought necessary. Octavian and Julian entered late. The Octavian-killed-a-demon party seemed to be the Princes' idea of humor. Octavian claimed to have nailed the thing with a sword, but Octavian does not move like a pro and the demons I ran into were quite good.

Some gossip: Consuela would walk the Pattern tomorrow; Octavian was Corwin's son, Draco was Deirdre's and our newly arrived cousin Syric was Brand's.Octavian discussed demons with me. I mentioned that Fenris' comments agreed with what I'd raped from the demon's mind. I asked if he was a sorcerer (the unspoken assumption being that he hadn't killed his demon with steel) and showed him the teleport device. He said he was. I asked about magical tracing, demon detection and so on. He was working on it.Most of my cousins and I drifted together, along with Fenris, Jesse and Oriana. The conversation took a strange direction, with Octavian, Syric and Fenris showing off pieces of secrets and attempting to assemble them, while Draco suggested they be more discreet.

Revelations:

--Chaosians were executing, NOW, a major invasion of Ambre,--led by Duke Finndo of the House of Hendrake, Fenris' House,

--Finndo was Benedict's elder full brother, falsely thought dead many centuries,

--part of the invasion was to be routed through a 'back door', a parallel but far less extensive continuuum,

--Octavian had gone there via the Pattern in Tir-na Nog'th by wanting to "go to the shortcut",

--ruling and guarding the Fire Pattern in that realm were Oberon's three eldest children, exiled ages ago: King Sean, Connor and Laura,

--Octavian thought they were utterly incompetent,

--one could Trump from the vicinity of the Fire Pattern to (?) the Grove of the Unicorn or the Pattern,

--the time flow near the Fire Pattern was roughly 1:2 or 1:3 versus Ambre,

--there was a barrier between the Microcosmos' realms of Chaos and Order, guarded by "Cerberus".I said I would make Trumps of Over There. Octavian gave me a Psychic impression of the spot, and a headache. Octavian's mind is STRONG. I told him I had a fast place and could work up the Trumps in a couple of days. He was envious--he needed a fast shadow to hang spells in. I invited him to Ortygia and lent him my Trump.

Syric said he would check out Orkuz, alone. If he didn't come back, 'Orkuz' was too strong for him. Is Syric really good, or crazy? (So speaks Niccolo the alley basher...)I talked to Jesse alone, expressing my gratitude for the rescue. I gave her my Trump (I'd Trumped the vault in Ortygia earlier) and promised to make a couple to her order. I told her I'd been thinking about weapons for fighting or slowing multiple demons and was going to have to get and practice with nets, chain weapons, bolas and the like. She volunteered to instruct me. We arranged for a time two days hence. Jesse seemed friendly. Impulsive. Attractive. I hoped she truly was an ally; I would hate to owe an enemy my life. Unfortunately, I had no way to tell if she or Bleys were lying, and what about. Jesse could be telling the whole truth and still have been used by Bleys. Bleys could be tellng the truth and Jesse lying. If the Hall of Mirrors, which seemed to be a real thing, was the source of Jesse's vision and transport then who was controlling it? Oberon? The King barely knew I existed, and disliked Dad to boot. Why rescue me? Dad? I didn't think he had the power. Bleys was the best bet, but what was he up to? I doubted that he was stupid enough to bring foreigners--Chaosians--into a family dispute. My mother's people's history showed how that usually worked out. In particular he wouldn't want to involve an elder brother--Finndo. And where was Oberon?I was as vendetta with a minor (thank the Virgin) House of Chaos. I hoped fervently that Cormyn's Logrus sword was a family heirloom and the only one they had. I knew how to deal with vendettas: kill them all, children included. Unless, of course, that would put me at vendetta with half 'The Kingdom'. Now how was I going to send a letter of inquiry to the King (or Queen) of Chaos' minister of protocol to find out?

 

 

 

SESSION THREE (5-3-97)

-Castle Ambre-

I talked with Lord Danesh while raiding the armory for chain and net weapons--Danesh is an enthusiast and was disappointed that I wanted to take my training in a fast shadow. On demons, he said that they were each unique, so that no were no such things as general guidelines on fighting them. I picked up a couple of good nets, kusari, a set of "loaded sleeves", chain bolas and a manriki gusari and put them in my castle rooms.

I Trumped out to Nis (where I sometimes race) and shadowwalked for a few minutes until I 'found' my sword Falco hanging from a fence post as if I had never broken it on Cormyn's Logrus blade. Then I went back to Castle Ambre and walked the Pattern to break all ties to the old-Falco fragments the Kilraes might have recovered from the alley. Just in case. I wished myself to my Castle rooms, collected my weapons, Trumped to Ortygia and collapsed into bed.

Most of the next day I spent in decadent indulgence--glorious meals, sybaritic baths, massage...bliss. I put some fear into Oriana's people, dragging Poitiers, the biggest jerk, to a slum shadow and leaving him there for a few days; the rest thought I'd killed him. I made two Trumps of the Exile Pattern chamber and one each of Octavian, Draco, Jessie, Syric and me. Jessie came over and spent a couple of days training me on the new weapons and enjoying the amenities. She didn't seem to be accustomed to luxury. I brought Octavian over for his spell work; he hung spells lounging in the surf drinking beer. I took one of my stockpiled golden statues--an art deco dancing nymph--and visited Khrysofilos, the hundred-foot-long dragon who lives three islands over. He really liked this one and was disappointed that it came from a techy shadow where he wouldn't last five minutes. He agreed to spread the word about intruding demons and Chaos lords but didn't take the threat seriously--feh! Snacks! As a favor, I removed an annoyance, a fourteen year old girl left by ill-informed villagers as a sacrifice weeks before. The poor kid--Aretta-- was half starved and filthy and hysterically grateful when I Trumped us to my palazzo. I put her in my steward Coyo's capable hands to be trained in something or other. I've found that returning sacrifices to their villages never works. They probably wouldn't take my word, the word of some foreign sorcerer, over their myths and legends concerning the wishes of dragons. Besides, Aretta, or her parents, had most likely offended a headman or priest.

I joined Draco, Octavian and a hundred of Julian's troops in Ambre for our recon of the Otherside. As advertised, the Trumps only began to grow cold near the Castle or the Grove. We chose the Grove, Trumped over and met Sean, Laura and Connor. King Sean sent Connor with us. Several days shadowwalking took us to a high transshadow cliff pierced by a cavern. We had to leave the horses and Draco's dragon. Connor led us in past the three-headed super-elephantine 'dog' Cerberus chained at the mid-point of the tunnel, cuffing it into submission as we passed. Connor was about as fast as Julian and stronger than anyone but Gerard--or Sean; according to Octavian the brothers had arm wrestled for the throne.

Several more days of careful (sneaky) shifting saw us near the Abyss in the wild heart of Otherchaos. We observed (using my telescope) a small army gathering at the only settlement. Connor said it was three times the total population there, previously. We laid low and waited for an ambushable small patrol. No luck: a regiment passed near us, impressively ordered and outfitted, sent out some sort of black tendril or pathway and rode it into Shadow. We had no idea how fast they would move in that mode. I suggested the strongest Psyche among us (Octavian) try to Trump us to Seanburg. Draco had gone off somewhere on his own without consulting us; Otto barely managed to get the rest of us across.

Sean's guards said we had ben gone less than an hour, not over two weeks; Connor was not surprised. Apparently the time flow at each pole and at Cerberus' cavern is near Ambre-normal but vastly faster everywhere else. Draco Trumped Octavian from the cavern, prompting a quick plan: try to stop the enemy at the cavern bottleneck with what Sean could throw together, plus Julian's troops.

Three days later the enemy manifested in massive changes--instant war camp--on the Chaos side of the cliffs and we realized we were badly outclassed. I Trumped to Ambre and informed Fiona, Eric, Corwin (deep in battle in Avalon and distrustful), Deidre and Dad. I couldn't reach Benedict or Bleys. Random and Deidre agreed to come, Eric sent Gerard and Fiona recruited Llewella. Octavian Trumped over to talk to Corwin (his father). Sean drafted Laura by force.

Meanwhild Draco was all alone parleying with Uncle Finndo, Duke of Chaos, who seemed to be an honorable chap who told Draco that he would be sorry to kill him. Draco deployed his forces in an arc on the Chaos side to avoid the effect of blasting spells in a confined space. We joined him and Dee took charge with Connor in merely nominal command. She and Octavian led the sorcerer corps, the rest of us took places in the line. We were outnumbered at least six to one.

They attacked. We shrugged off Logrus tentacles with Pattern. Gerard was caught by Trump and frozen psychically. I freed him with a Word and took a light arrow wound. My kin drove in like juggernauts... Then Finndo finished sizing us up and struck. He hit Dad and Llew first, skewering him and taking off her right hand. They staggered into retreat, barely able to defend themselves. Finndo cut through our men like they were smoke to reach Gerard and Draco. He ran Gerard through but Gerard smashed Finndo's right arm and held him in a deathgrip. Draco's attacks slowed Finndo for a moment until but Finndo put him down. I charged in, hoping Deirdre was on her way and reached him as Jessie--late but welcome--did. Finndo, slowed by wounds, concentrated on me and Jess ran him through the side with Cormyn's Logrus sword. This forced a retreat but he was mindlocked in mid-stride and both Jessie and I were merciless.

She beheaded him --just in case-- while I looted Finndo's longswords, picked up Gerard and beat a retreat. Finndo or no, the Chaos army was rolling over us. Draco had Trumped out, Dad and Llewella were through the entrance and Connor had disappeared under a big pile of demons. Deirdre and her Amazon berserkers covered us through the caves, where Draco cut Cerberus loose to better kill Chaosians.

I Trumped to Seanburg, Octavian Trumped me and started sending the survivors through. Syric collapsed the Patternside cliff behind them. Dad Trumped Fiona and sent us through to the infirmary. Gerard, the Family's best and most trusted doctor, was nearly dead and at the head of Fi's line. Jessie and I reported to Eric, taking Finndo's head along (this was getting to be a habit) as, what? Proof? The report was quick--I was starting to feel numb as the enemy's poisons worked in me. Everybody was poisoned, except the sorcerers and (maybe) Lucky Jess. Draco came in and reported having rescued Connor, live but mentally reamed. I stayed in bed in the infirmary for two days.

Octavian told me what had happened with Finndo. Deirdre took down Uncle's magical defenses, Octavian made contact by spell and mindlocked him. Finndo Cursed someone, weakly. Does that make a difference? Octavian thought it aimed at someone other than him. Draco said that Finndo claimed that Oberon had tried to kill him for having an affair with Queen Faiella. Eric might be Finndo's son. I tried out Finndo's longswords: one Pattern and one Logrus.

I gave the Logrus blade to Jessie because I couldn't use it -- it burned regardless of the insulation, she had saved my bacon again and I couldn't think of any reasonable place to stash it where a good shapeshifter couldn't get at it.

When I could defend myself again I Trumped to Ortygia. Oriana was pissed off about chancellor Poitiers so I dug him up, got him out of prison (damn) and returned him. She was irritated, he wanted to kill me. Next time I do something like that I'll put my victim in a humane but annoying insane aslyum.After six days of sybaritic convalescence Kilrae sent me a formal notice of vendetta: a gauntlet and a black rose in an engraved box. I had hoped that I was harder to find than that. Jessie asked someone about Chaos vendettas and Kilrae for me. Vendetta meant that he could strike at me and children and retainers (Oriana might qualify), that we did not have to act in person, that Kilrae had no more children and that he was known as the most vicious bastard in The Kingdom. Shit. I told Oriana to be alert. Then I started the process of taking Control of Shadow Tella. I had to turn the place into a demon trap and Hell for Chaos lords without disturbing the flows of magic.

I convinced (bribed) Octavian into trying to cheap Kilrae through his Trump. No luck.

I Trumped to Ambre to check on Dad and the others and heard from Danesh that a Begman fleet was rumored tobe on its way to attack us. What the hell? I Trumped Syric, who had gone off to investigate Orkuz, and went through to him on his flagship--he has his own fleet. He said he had fouled the Begman fleet with Pattern Master tricks. We Trumped to Begma and checked with his embassy there. His chief spy claimed that some of his men had been replaced by doubles. Syric probed one with Pattern and discovered that it was a magical construct, made to spy on the embassy and then report to anybody at the Palace, and then die or turn off, a one-shot. Anybody--they were all constructs or imposters!

We decided to grab "Orkuz" and interrogate him. Syric negated (Froze? Turned off?) magic in the area while I  entered the Palace through the sewers. Once close, I Trumped Syric through with five of his men. I garroted two guards on the way, raised the Pattern for defense and entered the Prime Minister's apartments. A dazed and unkempt Orkuz drooled in a chair with little lights orbiting his head. I touched Finndo's sword to the lights which swarmed to me and died on my Pattern. Orkuz started to wake up. We grabbed him and returned to Syric's flagship. Orkuz remembered nothing of the last two months. Syric mindprobed him to confirm his innocence. I Trumped Benedict, he answered (!) and questioned Orkuz. Benedict said he would mount a punitive expedition, then broke contact. Orkuz wanted to go back and fix things. Syric and I discussed methods of neutralizing constructs wholesale.

SESSION FOUR

Draco Trumped Syric and convinced him to help out on a silly (I thought) search for Draco's grandmother Faiella, dead in childbirth many centuries ago. I tagged along to watch Draco and Syric in action. Surprise! Draco HAD found her and, working together, we broke through a shadow barrier to a Trump-dead, shadow. I had the winds take our ship to Faiella's isle and birds lead us to her castle. We got her out (she was more than happy to leave) but Syric and I were carved up in the process by her secret jailer, a humanoid out of Shadow who was as strong as me and as skilled as Deirdre. We fled the jailer and the shadow, Syric by his own methods, and went to Draco's Shadow Bradenberg. Draco was trying to work out some sort of advantage from keeping Faiella of Karm secret. Faiella said she wanted to meet her children; that sounded like a good idea to me. If we didn't tell Eric, Corwin or Deirdre, and if Faiella died or vanished on us (more jailers could have been on our trail even then)... I didn't need the grief. There was also the possibility that Draco would quietly hide her while I was being doctored. ("Faiella? Are you on drugs?") I Trumped Deirdre in because she was neutral between her brothers, was Draco's mother (and less likely to lock us up while F was hidden), and because I like her better than the others. Dee went off to talk privately with Faiella while I told Draco that it had been pure CYA to bring in his mother.

I accepted a Trump call and had my head raided for my and Tella's locations before Draco could block Trump in the area. SHIT. Another Trump call, better prepared--Jessie. I went through to her in the infirmary of Ambre Castle, checked on Syric and limped off to see Eric. She followed. Just after I'd told him of Faiella, in clear because he was not catching oblique hints, Corwin Trumped me to say SHUT UP! Too late. Syric and I talked Jessie into being our bodyguard for a few days while we sailed in Syric's ship to his shadow. Jessie was hot to get Kilrae, who had attacked her mother's home. Chaosian tradition demanded she kill him in some showy, inventive and amusing way but we were not enthused. The Ambre tradition, based on Benedict's teachings, was to kill with maximum efficiency.

Draco Trumped me during the journey and was cut off by some large scale Trump disruption. He got back to me: Faiella was... somewhere safe, Eric and Corwin were at each other's throats and Deirdre was disgusted with both her brothers.When we arrived at Syric's Shadow Omicron he cut off Trump for a time. Omicron is a fast-time, high-magic AND high-tech (!) place full of vampires and werewolves and the like. Friendly enough, though. Syric had a (Faiella's) Jailer finger joint tested. It was regenerating and could, maybe, grow a new Jailer given time and nutrients.

Once healed, we fenced. Syric wasn't very good. Jessie and Draco were slightly better than I, about as strong, and Jessie edged both of us in stamina. Syric told of his hobby, collecting gods. He had the five surviving gods from Shadow Earth (!) and had found more in Faiella's prison world. He said that Osric's torc (?) had eliminated magic on Earth. This led to a discussion of the origins of Ambre and the Pattern by Oberon's father Dworkin (!!). The Pattern Dworkin made is a sort of Master Pattern rempved from Ambre, Erbma, Tir-na Nog'th and the Otherside Patterns. Draco seemed to know all of this beforehand. Apparently, Dad neglected parts of my education.

Healthy again, we decided to do good and look good by smashing as much of the Cult of Charybdis as we could, especially as Kilrae was an ally of theirs. We wiped them out in Begma (leaders, at least) and moved on to blockaded Xedara. Draco Trumped in flying and swimming dragons, which were mildly effective, as were Maximum Leader Omm's suicide bombers. We ran Kilrae out of the capitol where he had been contending, Logrus versus Pattern, against someone off-site. I chased Kilrae (hoping he was very tired) but he was faster. I got ahead of him by Trump but cut his Black Road too soon (loved thad sword) and he escaped. Benedict, Eric and Bleys finished smashing the Charybdites. Bleys had been the one opposing Kilrae. Evenly. Bleys was tired. BLEYS. Not good.

 

SESSION FIVE (6-7-97)

MY PALACE, ORTYGIA, SHADOW TELLA

The staff had glimpsed an intruder days before. I checked thoroughly (I thought) but found no traces of him. Later, I Trumped Oriana to arrange a date and found her in Ambre, lunching with Fiona and Flora. Is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? My lover is making friends, Good. Fiona is scary and Flora annoying, Bad. Maybe if they like Oriana it will extend to me. We arranged to meet later. Much later, given the 10:1 Tella : Ambre time rate.

I filled part of the wait with a card game with Dad. He hadn't fleeced me in a while and was eager. I am very, very good with cards--Dad made sure of that--but he usually wins. He brought two bug burly players and one small young one, Iago, whom Dad had billed as "something special". During dinner I discovered what the intruder had been about. My oyster fork turned into an assassination device, extending the tines and running them through my tongue and cheeks, and partway through my palate before I could slow it with a Word and rip it out. (SHIT!! But no screaming in front of Dad.) Everybody else put their forks down.

I Trumped Oriana and asked, mentally, for some help. She pushed her shock aside and came through. Oriana spelled most of the toxins out and stopped the bleeding. The game broke up by common consent. I considered my options and went to Castle Ambre. Gerard was kind enough to come in and exercise his surgical skill with his usual flair. I spent three days swollen like a chipmunk, smoking various recreational substances, resisting Trump calls and listening to gossip. Notably: Faiella was now living openly in the Castle; Draco had cut some kind of deal with Lord Karm that left both of them happy and Draco riding a fine Karmese warhorse. What's going on with Karm?

Random found me and told me that Jessie was trying to contact me. I Trumped her and she said she had arranged a trustworthy, Ambrian-friendly route through to Kilrae's stronghold. I agreed to go, but had serious doubts about this route. Dad agreed to monitor me via my Trump as he shared my misgivings. I Trumped Octavian and Syric happened to be with him. Jessie contacted Draco. All agreed to come.We Trumped to Tella and shifted shadow from there to Ygg, the Tree that marks the border of Order and Chaos. Draco brought three dragons and fifty magic resistant berserkers. I popped back to Tella and made two Trumps of Ygg. I returned and we set off on the Road Jessie had promised, riding tame griffins the others had gathered. Three days of travel took us to the edge of the Kilrae

domain. Jessie had no secret way inside, a fact she had not mentioned to us. We decided not to suicidally walk into Kilrae's Barred, Guarded and boobytrapped home ground. (Though Syric was tempted and Jessie was very enthusiastic about trying.) We left, Octavian leading the way.

We went back to scout Chez Kilrae out, mostly because we hated to admit to wasting four days work. We were immediately spotted and a human-seeming herald--attired according to Ambrian custom--rode out to parley. Lord Kilrae, he said, wished to talk to us and guaranteed our safety in, there and out. The others were easily convinced. I insisted we have the promise from Kilrae himself. The herald smiled, shifted into KIlrae, contemptuously turned his back on us and ride towards the keep. We followed. I went along only because most of them were here because of me. Dad, still in contact via Trump, promised me a nice funeral.

Kilrae's keep had been altered for our comfort and oddly dressed demons saw to our needs. Syric questioned one about its origin (the Abyss, like most demons) and the details of its servitude. More collecting? Dinner was formal, with added guests Kolox the Charybdite and Lord Remm who was one of many competing to be adopted by Kilrae.

Kilrae said he had realized that I might not understand the ins and outs of the Chaosian rules of honor and vendetta. Regardless of who had started the conflict and my argument that it was part of a war, honor required him to kill the slayer of his son. I told him, truthfully, that Benedict had indicated he would avenge me. Kilrae claimed that his honor was more important than his life. In recognition of my unknowing involvement he said he would use the slow vendetta protocols: he would limit his attempts on my life to one a year. As the junior partner in the vendetta, I was not so limited. Kilrae moved on to talk to the others; I ignored what was said, brooding. I wanted it over and, face to face, I thought I had a good chance of winning. I challenged him to a duel, one on one at Ygg. He was, I think, surprised. He said he would consider it. "Dinner" (I ate and drank nothing) petered out and we left unmolested. I agreed to make a Trump of Kolox for Syric in return for a favor to be named later.

Back in Castle Ambre, I rested and then went to the Pattern room. I was curious about Pattern weapons and how they were made. I drew Finndo's sword, which I had renamed Windfall, and looked at it for a time, trying to empty my mind into an open meditative state, and stepped onto the Pattern. After the Second Veil I started to get impressions of its making mixed in with the rush of my own memories. A Pattern initiate's blood was in it, and master-class Conjury, and Pattern Mastery. Then the Pattern took all of my strength and attention.

I talked to Llewella about her hand. I had been thinking about the Jailer's finger that Syric was studying for Draco. Symbiont or clone prosthetics made for humans were far too weak and slow and fragile to be of use to the family, and neither spells nor biotech regenerative techniques worked very well on us. Something with a mix of Jailer and subject DNA might work. Llewella was interested (though she was using a metal hand Draco had found for her) and we talked to Syric who still had the hand and said that it had been fully analyzed. She went to start looking into it while I begged off to take care of some business.

I went to Tella and started making Trumps, some for me and some to pay off debts. DRACO and OCTAVIAN for Jessie. KOLOX for Syric. The GROVE OF THE UNICORN for Octavian. And for me the CAVE OF CERBERUS, the GROVE and the Flipside GROVE, BRADENBURG, OMICRON, CARA, CONSUELA and DOROTHEA. It's a damned good thing I enjoy making the things. Plus I lounged, indulged, made love, practiced with weapons and worked on Control of Tella.