MADELON'S DIARIES

Madelon was the bastard daughter of Eric (probably), raised by her mother, a moderately unsuccessful actress and dancer in Shadow Murgen. She was brought up speaking a sort of French, worshipping as a sort of Catholic, and dirt poor. She joined a gang and became its leader, what with superhuman speed and healing and all. When Murgen was invaded by demons, or at least non-humans, the authorities scooped up all the undesireables they could find and drafted them, Madelon among them. She avoided being hanged and actually did well in the army, rising rapidly to the rank of sergeant, despite being female and a former gang leader. After the war, Deirdre showed up and shanghaied her to Amber.

Madelon became an agent of the Royal Messenger Corps, Deirdre's fiefdom, specifically as an assassin, legbreaker and spy. She was very loyal to the RMC and was extremely upset when it turned out to be riddled with everyone's agents, decimated, demoralized and nearly destroyed. It didn't help that Deirdre sided with the Big Bad Guy -- Corwin.

Madelon looked like Sandra Bullock if she were the World Kickboxing Champion. I played her as very Bondish, with a wide sadistic streak aimed at Amber's enemies and able to do anything, anything at all, to get the job done. Using the Goblirsch PP System, Madelon started with three levels of Pattern Defense, capable of deflecting small arms fire and keeping 95% of her combat ability with it up, and ended the game with five. She also was a better (faster, trickier, more capable of evading barriers) shadow shifter than Bleys and really good at probability control. Madelon owned a semi-disreputable inn in Amber City called the Curious Hare. She had a policy of not getting naked and sweaty around relatives (let alone sleeping with them) and usually dated using her amazing Shadowshifting and Probability powers to find exactly what she was in the mood for. When around Amber she often hooked up with her regular boyfriend Verril, a Xynoan (Rebman) lordling. (Todd picked the name at random from a baby name book, I swear.)

Other PCs were Marlowe (John Ellegood), Flavian (John Barnes), Declan (Stan Pedzik), Rialla (Noel Chandler) and Ryan (Will Chandler). Madelon got along OK with Marlowe and Flavian, once skewered Declan for mouthing off and was bemused by the mind-linked twin R's. Shadow Vennis was RMC headquarters. High-tech, high-magic and other such useful shadows were barriered away at the beginning of the campaign. As we found out about them we broke the barriers down, with consequences.

 

SESSION 15    

UP TO MY NECK

Well, well, well.

Several things learned today, and some of them might even be true.

Queen Llewella feels fairly secure guarding the maimed King. She says she can take Bleys or Fiona on her own turf, in Xyno. Dee says she thinks she can take Bleys, blade to blade. We, and Oberon, may survive this after all. Dee doesn’t think it will come to a fight. On the other hand, she says Bleys is prone to quick and impulsive action.

I took a shift guarding His Majesty. I had plenty of time to think through my reasons for throwing in with the—ostensibly— loyalist faction. Oaths aside (and they did mean a great deal to me) Oberon’s reign had been good for the Corps. The King’s shitheaded offspring (aside from Dee, maybe) were treating my comrades in arms like worthless pawns. I looked forward to the return of the King. Conspicuous loyalty wouldn’t hurt me either.

Thorndyke and I talked a bit. He claimed ignorance (and I did not disguise mine) concerning what most of the Princes were doing. We did find uses for each other and agreed to trade services. I want him to help me out with finding shadows with specific magical characteristics. He wants me to help rid his Shadow Haaland of some pesky bandit sorcerers. I’m happy to help. Hanging bandits is just pest control. Plus it’s another chance to work with Thorndyke and establish a nice business relationship, or even a degree of camaraderie.

Eric tried to Trump me, but I wasn’t taking any. Eventually he Trumped Thorndyke (merde, everyone but me has bunches of Trumps) who told me, and I returned the call. Eric wanted Oberon. I said NO in as nice a way as I could. Llew and troops ran in to prevent me from shipping the King off; I calmed her down. She was surprised I was not cooperating with the Regent. Eric was furious. I wonder if he is my Daddy. I hope not. On reflection, I can’t think of any of them I want for a parent. Julian maybe. Benedict might be tolerable. Hope to Hell it isn’t that dick Corwin.

Llew—ahem, Queen Llewella—claims that Eric is not likely to send an army against Xyno since a shadow army would then attack Onyx. Strange.

Someone, probably Eric, tried to contact me via Trump. For hours. Everybody needs a hobby.

Oberon’s eyes opened for a couple of minutes, vacantly.

Dee returned and approved of my actions. She says Eric is moody and hard to predict. She didn’t want to fence; we talked instead. She is making a new Corps under her control and will soon be moving out of Vennis. Good. I didn’t jump up and volunteer though. She also answered a couple of questions:

The only way to avoid damaging a subject with a mindrape is to get them to surrender. She said they usually cooperate after you cut off the third finger.

To find Trump Artists for hire—go to Vennis. She has four of them there waiting to be delivered to places Dee wants Trumped. She gave me some idea of how much to offer. I agreed to ferry them around; Dee gave me the locations. She said these Trumps are limited by their "sources". Power sources? Are some Trumps not limited? I didn’t ask her. I will ask them.

Both Thorndyke and the Queen gave me Trumps of themselves! I’m rich! That makes FIVE.

Once in Vennis I received a RMC message from Marlowe. He had found Standish and obtained information concerning who moved Bethel around. He wanted my help to resolve the problem. Standish, Standish—oh, yeah, the agent Thorndyke and Deirdre had asked after. OK, I’ll Seek him out after I drop off the Artists. Given the leaky state of the RMC Marlowe probably meant to broadcast the message. Why?

SESSION 16           

VENNIS    

I found my Trump Artists, introduced myself and showed them my letter from Deirdre. They said they could be ready to ride in an hour. I left them to it and went in to see Perdita. She was seriously spooked, Shields up and ready to draw. The Unicorn knows why. Last time I’d seen her we’d been civil enough.

I apologized for our earlier unpleasantness (beating her up and arresting her) and voiced my chagrin that Kendric had taken me in so thoroughly. I said that I held her blameless for Corwin’s actions, though he had ‘recruited’ me to help recover her from Simmion.

I would gladly help her out so long as Corwin wan not involved. She relaxed halfway and said she hoped we would be able to work together. Asked if Corwin had some particular reason for holding me in disesteem, she answered only that ‘Corwin had his priorities’. Interesting: word for word what Deirdre had told me. Not that I expected Perdita to come out and say ‘Corwin is a jerk’. She probably didn’t believe a word I’d said, but I try hard to never lie to my own side, and Perdita was an established, well-thought of member or the Corps. My Corps, my side.

I chatted with the Trump Artists, three men and a woman, on the way to their stops. They were essentially indentured servants, bought from poor families, tested and trained under Zaine. Zaine was an old guy I’d met before in Vennis, though I’d not known his importance.

I resolved to talk to Zaine.

After I dropped off the last artist I Sought Marlowe to follow up on that message about Standish. I had a good fix on him and was moving rapidly when the fix evaporated. It felt like I’d lost the ability for a moment, then I picked him up again in another direction. I started hellriding, lost my fix AGAIN, and reacquired him back in the original direction. I think he was teleporting. I hadn’t realized he did it that often. Back in Sellhi and Bylo it took a lot out of him. Got to him that time and avoided his barriers and guards out of annoyance to pop right in on him.

Marlowe said I’d just missed Corwin. Darling Uncle C had come by to interrogate Standish as part of a campaign to clean up the remnants of Simmion’s organization. I mirrored Marlowe’s skeptical expression about that. Destroy the evidence, rather. The message had been a ruse, to see who showed up. He didn’t actually need me for anything. Before I left he mentioned he was taking over Bethel; Unicorn knows why.

I did a quick hellride to Xyno and found the palace in an uproar. Deirdre told me that Llewella had found that Oberon was a fake, a very strong shadow of Oberon, enchanted to his eyeballs and a Broken Pattern Master We couldn’t figure out when a switch could have succeeded (not while I was talking with Eric: I asked) so he must have been a fake from the start, a very successful bit of misdirection on Bleys’ part. Unless the switch was still earlier and Bleys was taken in. I pretended to believe them. I guessed that there was an even chance they had switched Oberon for the shadow while I was gone. I participated in the farce of handing the fake over to Gerard via Trump. Thorndyke and I practiced bland, jaded expressions on each other.

A servant handed me a RMC message from Lord Ryan and Lady Ryalla, who wanted to meet with me. Never heard of them and neither had Thorndyke. I sent a message back saying I’d be pleased to, later, in Xyno.

Thorndyke told me that Flavian was trying to reach me. I begged the use of Deirdre’s Trump of him. He was in Caramon and wished to speak privately. Thorny was willing, so Flavian pulled us through to the Department of Public Morals. We acquired horses and rode out, shifting Shadow. I Trumped Dee and returned the borrowed card. At a conveniently deserted place, Flavian, apparently in High Paranoia mode, had Thorndyke guard his Trumps and other suspect items (I did the same, what the hell) and steered me off to talk. He had a plan to remove Oberon into OUR keeping, since he suspected none of the Princes had the King’s well being high on their list of priorities. I broke the bad news, and my doubts. I also passed on Marlowe’s news of Corwin. He asked about Marlowe’s character. I said he was a nice enough fellow, and highly inquisitive. Flavian thought perhaps he should mindrape Marlowe but gave that up when I informed him that Marlowe seemed to work some with Benedict. I sent him the image of Marlowe’s last location.

Flavian was now at loose ends and asked what I was up to. Thorndyke’s affairs, I said. Thorndyke was glad for more help, though, and filled Flavian in. We discussed the goals—kill them, recruit them or what. Flavian, uncomfortable with the notion of facing a lot of strong mages, suggested we get Marlow to turn the magic off. Thorndyke paled: NO. His palace would fall down.

Once in Haaland, Thorndyke assembled a force of brutish fighters and shamans. We located the first group and captured them easily. Their guards were not well trained and were posted poorly. I ghosted in and knocked them out with a sap. We hog-tied them and kindly Father Flavian led the questioning. Some had been caught in shadowstorms during periods of research into moving through Shadow. Most agreed to take service with Thorndyke. Surly ones died. One recognized us as Onyxians and insulted us thinking he was dead anyway. Flavian did a mild mindrape and liked what he saw so much he hired him and took off to find his homeworld. (Shades of Nigel. Shiny, shiny, shiiiny.) Thorndyke and I finished off the unwilling invaders. I killed the cruelest offenders—I asked the captives—by nailing them to trees with fire-hardened spears. Call me weak and womanish, but rapists annoy me. This let Thorndyke be the Good Cop and let the vagrant sorcerers know that we were serious.

I Sought out shadowstorms in the area (there’s a trick to it) and found a previously unnoticed Path to Haaland that seemed to parallel the stormtracks the sorcerers had come in on. I left Thorndyke organizing his new acquisitions.

I returned to Xyno and met Ryan and Ryalla. They claim to be cousins and are accompanied by five nasty, pony-sized, trained wolves. They wanted to know all about my ‘researches’ into the crabmen. I hoped they were inquiring for some elder patron, that someone knowledgeable was finally taking an interest in the damned things. I told them all about it—and Llew and Dee too, since they were present. I’ll have to find out who their patron is and speak with him or her directly. R & R seem awfully young, but suitably suspicious. Maybe they’ll last. I slept secure in Xyno.

I Sought out Zaine and convinced him that making Trumps for me, Deirdre’s protegee, was a good thing. I wonder if shadows of Zaine would be any good as Trump Artists.

I was at loose ends and decided to scratch an itch I’d felt since Bylo. I found a shadow with sophisticated automobiles, affluent and not currently at war. I found a suitable professional race driver, cute, unattached, good in bed and Very interested in me, and learned to drive. Then to drive FAST. Then to drive fast off road. I felt it was likely that sometime it would greatly enhance my odds of survival to know how to do this. Plus, driving fast turned out to be a real kick in the ass.

 

SESSION 17               

SELLHI, ANDRETTI

I had to go to Sellhi and examine a vehicle before I could find a proper shadow for driving lessons. Driving is nice, driving fast is very nice. Flying vehicles next.

VENNIS I made arrangements with Zaine. Apparently Deirdre had guaranteed me four Trumps, something she had not made clear. Treats for the tame doggie, eh? What the hell. I couldn’t get a lock on Marlowe, so I Sought out Flavian. He seemed to be on a barred island, but sailed off while I was working my way in and I managed an easy interception. He introduced me to Isham, one of Thorndyke’s unwanted guests, now Flavian’s ‘staff sorcerer’. Flavian wanted to take a T artist off with him and did a poor job feigning ignorance of either fast shadow’s location, or the technique for reaching them.

Very well, scratch that.

One oddity. The ship we were on was equipped with radio, like in Bylo and Sellhi, without any other unusual tech. The captain was upset and amazed that it quit as we traversed Shadow towards Onyx. Flavian and company—he had a total of five impressive looking men-at-arms with him—debarked, but I stayed with the boat and then shifted it back to its home port. The functional radio region is quite large. Picked up a book on tactics to get grasp of how radio changes warfare.

VENNIS

Deirdre showed me the time rate adjustment technique, good up to about ten to one. Faster shadows are barred. What a surprise. She is not moving the Corps from Vennis, just moving the short timers out. She says Eric has reluctantly accepted the new system: he tells her and she directs the Corps. He hasn’t calmed down.

I was playing with Shadows when Dee Trumped me with a mission. A group setting up a hospital in a well-positioned shadow (well-positioned for what, I don’t know) stopped sending messages and several squads sent after them disappeared as well. I went in with fifty of her best commandos, NOT using her Trump of the place, and found a nice ‘back door’. No sign of our people, or graves, but the human-looking enemy were there, two dozen of them. They carried no missile weapons at all. They were sloppy, no proper lookouts, but they did see us and reacted damned fast. We wounded two with arrows, clubbed them, then ran off with them through Shadow. I had to use a prairie fire to cut the persuit.

The interrogation was a wash. Both had recovered unusually quick, palmed knives and cut themselves free. The first spit in my face rather than answer a simple question (What happened to our people?) and stabbed me THROUGH my armor, a ragged cut in the side. I broke his wrist; he ignored the pain and kicked me. Stronger than me, dammit. I went to take his arm off and he impaled himself on my sword, and died. Merde. We clubbed the second one back into unconsciousness, searched him properly, and tossed him (via Trump) to Dee with an explanation.

OK, no more fucking around. I circled the target shadow raising a storm and bringing it with us. Careful shifting put six lightning bolts in their wetted camp (and none on us) over about two minutes. The enemy were not bothered by them. One shrugged off a direct hit! So much for charging down after the barrage softened them up. They charged us, and we retreated firing arrows. Their leader was as good as me, maybe better. The dead enemy at the back, those down for a while, STOOD UP AND REJOINED THE FIGHT. The few who had been hacked up rather than shot stayed down, possibly for good. I killed the damned leader twice personally. They were too good, and their ‘dead’ too far back for me to zip in and behead the ‘dead’ and wounded. After their leader, a handsome devil, got up the second time I called a real retreat. They pursued and got an avalanche, then a flashover forest fire that cut them off. I wonder if they can die by fire or crushing or freezing. We Trumped through to Dee and debriefed. These guys are news to her.

I asked her to hold the interrogation—and experimentation—for a few hours, grabbed the Trump artists Cecilian and Austin and went to a ten-to-one shadow with a wonderful hotel. I healed up, luxuriated and had two Trumps of me made. C & A enjoyed the unaccustomed luxury.

Of course, this means that the jerk who spat in my face and impaled himself is up again. This will never do.

 

SESSION 18

One of my uncles (or aunts) is a dishonorable piece of shit. What a surprise. The treatment given these Skotlanders is foul. Hell, it’s monstrous. Flavian wouldn’t give a damn. I might not either had I been taken into the family and indoctrinated. But I’ve been a soldier for most of my life, not a goddess. Disheartening that Dee could think of only one or two of her sibs who wouldn’t do it.

The Skotlanders are nearly useless to me as they are. I need adaptable soldiers, not berserker shock troops. And not any troops burdened with Compulsions. And if Wallace is lying, well.... Dee wants blood.

Dee seemed to be testing me by following my lead.

Where the hell did Bevon—or whoever—get a tame Trump Artist?

Maybe the ‘escape’ is a crock.

I’ll need Marlowe to scan for contraband and teach me about Broken Patterns. I could experiment with the BPs, but that means either running criminals through one (and maybe empowering them) or calling for Skotlander volunteers. NASTY criminals, perhaps. Kill them after.

About time I made inquiries about returning to Onyx. Maybe through one of the Princes... Caine seems to be relatively decent, to judge by his standards of interrogation.

Who is working on the Crabman problem? Ryan and Rialla seem to be the kind of weasels that would demand an arm and a leg for the information.

Too bad I missed that party.

 

SESSION 19

Aha, so it’s Caine who is investigating the crabman plague. And, to judge by the dead ones, he’s not responsible for them himself. Maybe I can at least save my staff at the Hare. Maybe more.

Flavian knew about the ‘immortals’ and Skottland. He actually has a five-man bodyguard team of them. BUT he tells me to kill Wallace and Co. off. Marlowe scanned them for contraband and said they were clean, though. If Benedict and Deirdre are exterminating the other immortals, and their shadows, I should probably tell Wallace and Co. to wear and fly my colors... no. That won’t work. Dee might leave them alone, but I would have to make an arrangement with Benedict up front. If I want them, I’ll have to hide them. Merde.

Flavian really does play Brand and Bleys off against one another.

And gets away with it. Amazing.

Three Chaosian Houses:

Sinclair, headed by one Trudair

Hellgram, now seriously reamed

Abbot, Bleys’ "allies", whom he wanted killed after the battle despite their admirable performance

Patrick fights very well but has a big mouth.

Laws of magic are not so malleable as I had hoped.

Fiona is more alert than Bleys when it comes to intrusions. What kind of alarm? It certainly wasn’t magical. Trump?

I’ll never top this one. Eric tells me to find Oberon and two days later I carry him into the Castle. Sure, Benedict was involved (probably with Eric’s approval), and Bleys, and the others, but I carried Oberon in.

Nice gear. Bleys made noises like it was useless for him to reclaim the stuff, that we could find our own after studying it. Surprised that Dworkin wasn’t right on our asses as Dec and I fled Chaos. Were I Dworkin, I would have chased us. Were I Bleys I would have let Dworkin go, followed, and hit him from behind as he dealt with Dec and Del. I didn’t want Bleys to get his hands on the King, either.

Oberon badly hurt. He has a DISEASE. Glad I was wearing armor and didn’t actually touch him. Fi says he was mindreamed as well. Having his Pattern glitched (a horrible feeling) could, I suppose, interfere with his healing. Does Ygg/Osric do that automatically, or can It/he choose? Can he reverse it?

All this cosmic crap is way over my head. Which came first, Chaos or Order? Is the Pattern—the PRIMAL Pattern (eight ‘rings’?)-- flawed, damaged or just fine and Dworkin messing with Reality? Messing HOW? This influx or spread of technology? Did the Unicorn impale and speak to Declan, angry about excessive ‘editing’ near Onyx? What can, or should, I do about any of this? Glad I was drinking during the conversation, but I was not drinking enough.

Chaosians burn prettily when you kill them.

Bleys’ Skottlanders went into a directed berserk against the Hellgrams. (If they were Hellgrams—we have only Bleys’ word for that.) So, is that an inherent Skottlander trait or a compulsion?

Dworkin dead? Details, I want details. From Patrick and Marlowe in particular.

 

SESSION 20

Oberon-sitting with Eric went better than expected. He wanted me gone, but not enough to assault me. He even answered some questions. He was surprised and annoyed when Oberon woke up, asked me in and sent Eric out.

So everything we do, aside from sitting in Onyx and breathing, increases the general level of Chaos. Especially Editing. How nice—he wants the Princes to give up their favorite toy. What

does he want Brand for? Mine is not to reason why... I spread the word as best I could. For all the good it will do. Ryan and Rialla tagged along to help. I agreed to Seek out Flora and someone named Ida for them, after. It gave me a chance to check them out. Interesting. They seem to know one another’s thoughts most of the time. (My skin crawled.) Ryan is a Trump Artist—Very useful—and Rialla is a shapeshifter who can shapeshift others as well. Eek. Ryan is used to—counts on—her shapeshifting him. Almost casually. They gave me Trumps of the two of them; I got the impression I can get more in trade for my services... and that I should write no blank checks with them. Ryan’s Trump of Brand showed him as a demon—but it worked, I think. Brand rejected our calls. They ride their wolves. They offered to let me do the same; I declined.

We met Flavian and Marlowe on the way to Brand. Private business. I told everyone about the King’s ‘No Editing’ desire, and Brand about his summons to the royal presence. Brand seemed uneager to make the trip.

Off to find "Ida" then. R&R told me that Ida is one of Fiona’s henchwomen and gave me this ludicrous story about Ida "raping" him during an orgy—she cut into the queue of women waiting to ride him. (Hookers? Huge? Lustspells?) He took fatherhood seriously. I’m not sure if he meant to kill Ida to negate his presumed fatherhood, or kill her and take the fetus—I suppose Rialla could do something like that. I was interested to see what they would do and how they performed under pressure.

Seeking Ida took us through some very interesting shadows, notable for excellent medical knowledge and very small machines. I slipped us through several barriers but ran into an intractable one. We backtracked, acquired weapons and returned to the barrier. At this point I was more interested in how we would be attacked and how R&R would react than in actually getting through. The guards were unarmored but projected a mist of micro-machines that pacified the wolves. I killed most of the guards with a huge gun, a lovely weapon, suitable for hunting dinosaurs. The backup was airborne and armored. I lost my nifty new halberd in its windscreen, dammit, and we had to bug out.

I bugged out by Trumping to Flavian; R&R made the same choice a couple of minutes later. We helped Flavian move Bleys’ immortals (from the raid in Chaos) to ‘Vacationland’—Bleys’ Rest and Recreation center. Excellent hotel, beaches, bimbos, booze. Very nice. Flavian took off.

I shifted to a nearby resort of similar quality with R&R—I explained to R&R that I do not sleep or get naked at any shadow belonging to a relative. Marlowe followed. I got a room, a bikini and a surf board and hit the beach. The waves washed the damned gritty micro-machines off of me, the surfing was first rate and there were a number of attractive men to choose from. Work hard, play hard; that’s my motto.

Besides, we might none of us have many more opportunities to make love to people who don’t change species every couple of minutes. As we do the same. Many of my relatives are brilliant—individually. As a group, I don’t really believe they could organize and execute a trip to a wine shop. Brand, Bleys, Marlowe, etc NOT EDIT? Dream on. We could probably maintain the realm if the Pattern masters did regular maintenance on the various barriers and refrained from the big stuff: moving Shadows and so on. Sure. Me, I’m going to enjoy myself while I can and store up memories for the dark and disgusting times to come. (And hope I’m wrong.) I suppose we’ll all get used to it, but... ugh.

R&R&M interrupted my surfer-boy stalk to talk about going after Ida again. Marlow had found Flora without leaving his beach chair; good trick. She was off in Shadow handing out flowers to strangers, and had been doing so for days. Marlowe suspected she had run afoul of Fiona.

I told R&R that good barriers were often watched and that I didn’t want to offend Fiona. I helped monitor Rialla with Ryan via Trump. Rialla found that there was now a swath of terrible destruction leading through the ruins of the barrier. What was this? I armored up and joined her, then hellran along the path (also the path to Ida) until I lost lock on her and couldn’t reacquire. Target gone and major destruction likely to attract an annoyed Fiona; I Trumped to back to Ryan. I didn’t want to hand out flowers for days or months. Or something worse. The mind boggles.

Too late to surf. Dinner, dancing, drinking, lust.

Roasting the bandit on the LP-5 (five ring Lesser Pattern) demonstrated the folly of shortcuts. I suppose I could find some strong-willed, high endurance monks that worship me and have them walk it. (They might have other uses as well.) Instead, I located a person who had walked it and questioned him concerning its uses and the success rate for those attempting it. All he could do with it was play with probability concerning people’s actions. LP-5 walking ran in his family—his very healthy and long-lived family—but his two brothers had died trying. Roughly 50% success in his bloodline.

I found a LP-3 that a cult had turned into its holy of holies. A senior priestess gave me nothing but religious babble. I talked to a shifty underpriest and found that few of those called to the higher ranks were ever heard from again. 10-20%? And I had assumed the the LP-3 would be weaker than the bigger ones. More research later.

Bevin was visiting the Wallacites and I recognized him as a former RMC officer, obviously planted by Bleys. He recognized me as well. Wallace reported a successful defense against troops WEARING BENEDICT’S COLORS. Merde. I told them about the provoking raids by escaped Skottlanders; Bevin claims the raiders are not his people. Maybe so, but what to do? If those dead troops were Benedict’s, then more will Bevin does not want to re-up with Deirdre. On reflection I don’t want her to have them. They would probably end up fighting for Corwin. Damn damn damn.

R & R Trumped me—I went through to Onyx. They talked to Oberon a bit flippantly. Yes he is convalescent and acting strange, but he still has teeth! Big ones. I distanced myself from them.

My turn: should we make the Shadows stronger?

No, that wold only move them towards Onyx.

Renew the barriers to extreme Shadows?

Yes.

(OK, now we’re getting somewhere.) Can barriers be found?

Ah, the old question: do we find Shadows or make them?

(No shit, you old buzzard—answer the question!)

Penetrating the barriers weakens them. Tell Marlowe.

What? Do you mean we must re-bar all the fun places?

Yes. Balance must be maintained.

How do you bar a whole region?

Bar the most extreme Shadow and the others will reflect it.

OK, a field test. I went out to the most extreme radio-happy shadow I could find, then found one with barriers similar to the ones visited yesterday. Then return: any improvement, any shrinkage in the radio region?

No. It was worse. Merde.

 

SESSION 21

I went out searching for sources of equipment as good as that I got from Bleys. Finally got to separate shadows for arms and armor, about half as good as what I was looking for. Didn’t want to bust through in the current, overly-Chaotic, environment, so I went no further. Picked up 200 arrows and some throwing daggers. Stashed the stuff at the Hare; not very secure, but then what is?

Threw a bash at the Hare depleted most of my Onyx cash, but it was worth it.

Off then to Wallace’s camp, where I convinced him to move his people (and the peasants: he’s possessive) away from the path of Benedict’s likely ire. Bevin stayed put. I set the Wallacites up in a nice barony in a Shadow surrounded by boring, uncomfortable shadows. Does that constitute a Barrier? Bevin later tried to stick me with some of Bleys’ ‘specials’, whom he did not trust at all, suggesting I use them as subjects for Lesser Pattern initiation. I declined, not wanting to empower spies.

Off to the high tech medicine zone to investigate. Doctors there are capable of reattaching freshly severed limbs, and other medical wonders. I shifted to a Shadow with a useful banking system (as well as the medicine) and set up a huge account at several hospitals. Need to have a Trump of the place made. By Ryan, possibly. He seems to be reasonably wary of angering me. Better, by a shadow of Zaine, if I can find a good one.

Noted that tech (automobiles) was spread all over the place. Told Oberon, who advised/ordered me to tell the Princes to be good. I went to the Hare and killed a bottle of Glynvidhikh whiskey. Tell my elders to behave themselves, my ass. Went to sleep.

Nest morning the guards challenged me at the castle gates. I had to swear allegiance to King Oberon and the Unicorn. Fine. Bleys explained what had prompted the sudden need for loyalty oaths. Osric, no longer a tree, had popped into the infirmary and tried to assassinate the King. Eric prevented that but got badly skewered in the process. Osric fled before the guards arrived. Osric was (said Bleys) Eric’s superior with a blade as well as a great Pattern master. Lucky us. Oberon was wounded and unconscious, Eric was a casualty and Benedict was missing and out of Trump contact.

Not good. This tactical analysis took about one second: both Corwin and Osric could beat anyone left standing. I told Bleys I would look for Benedict. He wanted me to stay and help out, that no one was in charge. I suggested he, Caine, Gerard and Fiona could fight it out. Bleys hated THAT idea. He decided to call Julian in and suggested that I could command the troops in Arden. I declined. Not against Corwin or Osric. We needed Benedict. He agreed (not that it mattered) reluctantly.

I got the best horse available and rode out into Arden. As soon as I could, I started shifting, hellriding. I couldn’t get a bead on Benedict, so I just headed for Chaos. He had been spending much of his time there, hunting Corwin. One day from the border (or former border) I ran into a shadowstorm that stretched across the whole region. It slowed me down. Still no bead on Benedict. I shifted to find a nice cave to bunker down in and rest. Took care of the horse, ate field rats and slept for a few hours.

I found the border a couple of hours after setting out again, a vertical plane from which storm winds howled in both directions. I left the horse and set out into Chaos, going with the flow and maintaining my air, temperature and so on. I soon got a lock on Benedict and shifted in that direction, watching for any indication of how Benedict was being held. I felt the time rate slow steadily, instead of the usual random fluctuations. Ah, a temporal trap. That had to be a severely unnatural change in the stuff of Chaos. I slipped around the edges of it and worked on the probability that it would fail—success!

Benedict rode out on Glendemming. He had been working on the trap from the inside, said it had been sprung on him too fast to evade. I told him about Osric. He tried one Trump, no go, tried one of Fiona and got through. After his update on current affairs he took me along with him as he picked up some demonic mercs and headed for the border. We found a battle in progress just beyond the storm-wall, centered on a stable clearing and a twisted little tree. Six members of the Family were concentrating on the tree with various powers while someone I didn’t know (my new, to me, cousin Patrick) ran the battle against a demon horde. Pat was good, but the enemy commander was better. Benedict beat them in ten minutes, crushed them in twenty. I helped, and looked for officers to kill but they were not present on the field. Smart of them.

I introduced myself to Patrick and arranged to share a drink later. We joined the group at the writhing tree. I asked where it came from. Marlowe said that Random had volunteered and then changed his mind. Right. Rialla and Florimel seemed to be holding Random in the tree shape, while others helped subdue him mentally, cast spells, or Edit the place. Others being Marlowe, Caine, Bleys and Ryan. They wanted more help with the psychic pressure. Benedict, Patrick and I just looked at each other and moved further away.

Benedict decided to return to Onyx. He gave me his Trump and command of the remaining troops. Patrick raised no objections and helped me arrange the demon mercs, Julianite regulars and dozen remaining immortals. We questioned the few demon prisoners and found that they were Hellgram soldiers, sent hastily and ill-prepared, and led by commanders who had concealed their identities.

The others finished up with poor Random (who had "volunteered" by being drunk in the Castle when the urgent need for a new Tree came up) and loaded both him and the area with Pattern, Trump and magick alarms. Marlowe moved the Tree shadow to the border. Declan made a tech-free path from Random to Onyx for some reason.

Back in Onyx, I asked Benedict about the renegade immortals. He said he didn’t want to lose such useful troops but wouldn’t rely on soldiers with Bleys’ hooks in them. Best if Bleys took them back.

So, what had Osric done to warrant eternal imprisonment?

 

SESSION 22

Bleys gave me some pointers on the technique of re-fixing shadow barriers one has penetrated. Simple, actually.

I was going to walk the Pattern and wish myself to the border—Random—and hit a number of places on the way back. It was not to be. I stopped to look in on Oberon and Julian, the bodyguard on duty, shanghied me to zigzag through Arden and check on things.

OK. I ran upstairs to burn off my unjustified irritation, grabbed a horse and rode out fully loaded—armor, warbow, lance, etc. I like Arden, actually, and the job was necessary. I rode around to the outposts I knew about and got reports of huge, firebreathing griffins from several of them Interesting. I’d never killed any of those.

I used Pattern to find a griffin. It was flying fairly low, so I put two arrows into it. The results? I barely slowed it down, and these were my new enchanted shafts. I had found another, lower-flying one when I got Trumped—Rialla. She asked me if I wanted to go griffin hunting. I pulled her through, along with a pack of those wolves of hers, about the time the griffin made an attack run. Defense UP, put an arrow in its right wing joint. Rialla was busy shape-shifting and made an easy target, so I moved in front of her and nailed Big Ugly in the guts. It flew slowly away, Rialla followed in eagleform, the doggies followed her and I followed them. I picked up a big steel net along the way. They were on the ground in a clearing, Rialla wrestling with the griffin’s head while the wolves bit at it cautiously. It bled fire, which pained them but did no real harm. Rialla broke its neck and it went right up in flames.

We discussed how to capture one reasonably intact. I wanted one to mind-probe and Rialla wanted one to study and dissect. Rialla Trumped to her shadow home for tranquilizers while I found another net. (Harder this time. The odds against there being TWO big steel nets lying around there were extremely low.) I found a wounded one and netted it. The tranqs were useless. (I wasn’t surprised after my long, fruitless search for a cross-shadow truth serum.) I entered its mind, no problem, and brought Rialla in to help make sense of it. (About all I’ve done with animals is calm horses and kill watchdogs.) The griffins were following a migration path through Shadow to Onyx. We got aerial images of the route, so Rialla sent the brute through a Trump and we set off.

We followed the Path, Ri in the air and me riding below with the doggies. It was old and faint for a long ways, then a new, strong spur took us to a broken Barrier and the Land of Fabulous Beasts. Groups of beasts were leaving constantly. I Trumped Julian and was told to put a patch on the Barrier. I Trumped Marlowe with a borrowed card and asked him to come and do a permanent job. He was initially too busy, moving a "Pattern-dead" crater. Rialla recognized it as one of Fiona’s blown Barriers.

Rialla and I did a Barrier patch. As we finished Marlowe showed up, laughed at our work and made a good one. Then he started wiping out the Path. Declan appeared and helped. It looked to be a long job; Ri and I left.

I talked to Rialla about wanting to find Osric, wondering if he could be persuaded to a more reasonable course of action—that is, doing what we wanted him to do. Ri said she had an old Trump of him. Really. I studied it and got a good impression for Seeking, demonic visage and all. Rialla received a Trump—

Osric(!) she said—and went through with the doggies. I rejected the notion of jumping through.

I Sought Benedict and headed towards Vennis. I wanted his opinion of Osric and the usefulness of talking to the man. Yes, he attempted to kill the King, but he had a legitimate beef. Ages as a tree would upset anyone. On the other hand, ages as a tree would drive most people insane a dozen times over. Near Vennis Rialla Trumped me and came through. She said Osric had proposed they find and free the Unicorn, which was being held prisoner, but she had had no ideas on how to do it. I wondered what the real story was and had it been Osric at all. Why would he want to deal with Rialla? Where would he get a Trump of her?

We found Benedict in Vennis. He said Osric had betrayed Order by allying with Dworkin. He was adamantly against attempting to cut a deal with Osric. While we were talking Rialla said something trivial about Finndo that indicated she had current information about him. Benedict caught it and began to question Rialla closely. He didn’t like her answers—they sounded like stream-of-consciousness lies to me—and sent her to Fiona via Trump. (NOTE -Benedict trusts Fiona in this matter.) Then he questioned ME. I gave a precise account of what we had done and why. He was far more interested in the wounded griffin than I thought it warranted. He took us to the Castle Onyx stables by Trump.

Benedict did not let me in on the interrogation, which was held in Fiona’s rooms. Flavian Trumped me as I paced the halls. Over a rather poor connection he told me that Patrick requested my presence at a Pattern walk. Patrick did not trust Flavian. Fine. In the Pattern chamber Flavian told me he thought Patrick was suffering from a Compulsion imposed by Fiona. Apparently he was wrong, because Patrick walked it without trouble and reported no sudden revelations or changes in attitude. Four Pattern ghosts appeared during Patrick’s ordeal, which surprised the hell out of me. Flavian said they were Fiona’s work, culled from unsuccessful initiates of the Lesser Patterns. Very suspicious. I told Flavian about Rialla’s ongoing interrogation. He said that Finndo had supposedly been shape-shifted and imprisoned like Osric. I invited Patrick to have that drink with me at the Hare. He accepted and vanished.

Flavian accompanied me to the Hare. Patrick was not there. He had downed twelve shots and staggered off alone. Flavian and I had a couple of drinks mulling over current events, then returned to the Castle. Alarms went off as we crossed the Great Hall. We rushed down the spiral stairs to the infirmary. I bounced in acrobatically but we were far too late. Our guards were finishing the last of some intruders, none of whom allowed himself to be captured alive. Bleys was down with a sword through his chest, a sword that radiated nasty essence of Chaos, but still breathing. Oberon was dead, his skull cut in half horizontally. Bleys gasped out that Osric had popped in, skewered him, grabbed the Jewel of Judgement, killed Oberon and popped out. Shit. So just what did this Jewel do?

I began first aid on Bleys. The room had filled up fast: Marlowe, Fiona, Benedict, Julian, Flora, Caine, Gerard, Declan with Rialla in tow, and the guards. Rialla tried to shapeshift Oberon, saying he could be a shapeshifter himself, capable of hiding his brains elsewhere, but he was truly dead. Marlowe suggested she work on Bleys, which she did, with Gerard monitoring through an iron grip on her shoulder. I pulled the sword out and cleaned it off. Benedict, Fiona, Julian and Marlowe left. Rialla said that the wound was resisting healing. The sword should be returned to Osric, I thought, vertically through the head, torso and groin.

I asked the remaining group: who knew much about the Jewel of Judgement? Declan suggested Bleys and Fiona. Could it be traced? Declan Trumped Fiona for an impression of the Jewel. Then he, Gerard and I took off the try to Seek it out after Declan gave Rialla over to Ogden’s custody. Declan shared the impression with Gerard, but not with me, then led us to a temple in the Golden Circle. With a big idol featuring a big ruby in its forehead. Gerard killed his way through some priests and pried it out. Not it. Declan finally consented to BLAST the impression into my head, which hurt. Quite a bit. (Later, you little prick.) I don’t know what Declan’s parameters were, but I concentrated on the gem and its overwhelming reality and picked up a trace leading towards Xyno. Halfway there it disappeared and did not reappear. Declan Trumped Llewella, though he is at odds with her and Gerard and I are not. She told him that no one had walked her Pattern—Declan accused her of collusion with Osric. Denials, end of the conversation. Declan claimed that Llewella had long coveted the Jewel.

Just to be thorough, we Trumped (Declan’s) to Random. Random-Tree bitched at us. I stepped over the border and Sought the Jewel. Nothing. I noticed that there was no barrier effect such as Ygg had produced. Then Rialla Trumped in and ran towards Chaos. I chased her while Declan Trumped her and eventually bored through her defenses. I carried her back to the Tree.

Marlowe Trumped me. We went through and briefed him. He scanned Xyno and found a barrier around it that would block Seeking.

Hm. I haven’t seen Verril in weeks.

 

SESSION 23

I couldn’t get the Logrus sword checked out. Fiona was gone and Bleys was not up to it. Julian agreed to keep it in the armory, in "special storage". Something Logrus resistant? Useful.

I could not get into Xyno by the Faiella-bionin or shifting in from farther away. On the other hand, shifting, per se, was easier, as if my abilities had suddenly increased. Trumping back into Onyx was harder than usual. Strange.

I decided to walk the Pattern and wish myself into Xyno’s Pattern chamber—but not at the center. No idea whether I could get out again and Llewella might be doing things in the center. The ghosts around the Pattern were not transparent any more. They seemed to be nearly solid.

Simmian started talking to me so I tried to throw Baksheesh through him. He deflected it and continued talking, trying to set up some unnamed deal with me.

On reflection, my hatred of Simmian had cooled over the months since he died. Besides, Simmian was not the real target. Corwin was. I could consider dealing with him.

We didn’t get beyond exchanging some information before the Pattern flashed sun-bright and GREW another circuit. The cavern grew, too, thankfully. Simmian reported getting instructions from the Pattern itself.

Something Osric and Finndo had done? I started walking it anyway. One third of the way through, Simmian floated down to me, smiling. "You may not believe it, but you’re stuck."

Somehow, I believed him. Something was... off, just a little.

"I could help you."

"For a price. I imagine the top of your list would be for me

to agree to not run a Logrus sword through you."

"You would not survive it."

"I don’t have to be holding it."

"You would still die."

"Well, one of my relatives will be down to get me off this

thing any time."

"You can’t turn your head, but one is here already."

"Probably one of the weak ones. So. What do you want?"

"Independence. Freedom from Fiona and the Other."

"The Pattern Itself? You said It talked to you."

"Yes. I assume you will try to put things back. Do your best to free us and we will help you."

Pause. It was ‘us’ now, but still... "Reasonable. I agree."

"We’ll work out the details later." Simmian and the others

started swirling about, which supposedly helped me. Ghosts free and embodied were ghosts who could not help OR HINDER me on the Pattern and were, moreover, killable.

Marlowe had come in at some point and was talking to the ghosts. I reached the center and called out to him. He confirmed that I had, indeed been frozen on the Pattern. Great.

Ghosts helping, I WISHED.

I was in Xyno’s Pattern room, Llewella was doing something arcane with a red, glowing jewel in the Pattern’s center and Flavian, Thorndyke and MARLOWE(!) were running into the chamber. No Osric or Finndo. Thorndyke said Llewella had been stuck for some time. Hours had passed while I was between. I shivered.

Llewella joined us. She said she had not seen Osric or Finndo, and that she had sworn not to reveal who had given her the Jewel of Judgement, something she had wanted for centuries. The barrier was there to prevent Eric, Fiona and the others from interfering. She intended to make Xyno more real. I had no objections to that.

Marlowe and Flavian told us they thought the Patterns would grow another ring.

I hellrode to Random-the-tree in under an hour. He knew nothing. Then Declan Trumped in.

"Do you know...?" I began.

"Of course."

"Have you learned anything interesting?"

"Yes. "

"But you won’t share it." Zhezu, what a prick. "Bye."

I made it to Onyx in forty-five minutes flat.

Eric and Bleys had healed overnight. Was that due to increased regenerative abilities, the influence of the enhanced Pattern, or both?

Flavian tried to give Fiona a key from ‘Delwin’—another lost uncle. He thought Oberon was alive and had faked his own death. Marlowe agreed with him. If that was true... Oberon stabbed Bleys... and gave the Jewel to Llewella after denying it to her for centuries. Why?

I joined a group outing to the ‘Primal Pattern’. Big deal. I saw the Ten-Pattern (and one of Benedict’s men time-frozen near it) and the big purple griffin and the cave. It was three steps beyond the maximum REALITY I could have imagined a day ago. It time-slowed people down yards from its edge. The others had a hell of a time dragging the frozen guy out.

I tried to shadowwalk further with no effect. The others were amused but it seemed to me that these changes had to be coming from somewhere... higher up. Fiona said she thought the changes were coming from Tir-na Nog’th.

So back we went. People in Onyx told us that Tir had stayed in the sky much longer for the last couple of days. We trudged up to the peak and climbed the stairs to Tir. Guards there greeted us by name—a first. Pattern ghosts flitted about. Trumpets sounded and guards (real-seeming guards) escorted in their Queen. She greeted us as kinsmen and introduced herself as Mirelle. Flavian questioned her. She said she and her realm had been made unreal by Oberon as a punishment. Flavian briefed her (poorly) and we introduced ourselves.

Mirelle let us know that Delwin had visited her, looking for help of some kind. His realm, that of Fire, was separated and hidden, a repository of ancient knowledge. He had "found someone to take his place." Say what? She let me study a Trump of Delwin and get an impression; everyone else followed suit.

Trumping Julian or Eric from Tir did not work, and I could SEE Onyx from a window. I walked back to Onyx and briefed Eric (in charge again), passed on impressions of Mirelle and Delwin, told him about freezing on Patterns and so on.

Off to Xyno next, but I was Trumped on the Stairs by Dee. Six hours before her forces had been slaughtered by immortals capable of Pattern Defense. ALL of them could use it. Aha. They must have imprinted a Lesser Pattern—a former Five—and the changes had boosted their powers. No one had informed Deirdre of current events. Typical. She came through and I briefed her on most things (Mirelle, Delwin, Pattern growth, freezing on Patterns) while walking down Faiella-bionin. Dee wa amazed. She went back up—she’d had a falling out with Llewella—and Trumped to Eric. It worked for HER.

I talked with Llewella again and told her some of what was going on. then I traded info and impressions of Mirelle, Delwin and the Primal Pattern for a chance to attune to the Jewel. She helped me through the Pattern (I couldn’t tell HOW) and I projected my consciousness into the Jewel. After, I popped out and used it to enhance my Seeking ability. I located (generally) Corwin, Delwin, Osric and Finndo. Not Oberon, though.

I went to Delwin. Delwin’s Pattern was in the realm of Chaos. It really was full of fire, but breathable, transparent fire. Rather like Xyno’s seawater was to normal seawater. I had to keep up my Defense to prevent my clothes and hair from igniting. Delwin was affable enough, though annoyed at Mirelle for blabbing. He told me that the Pattern expansion was natural, a function of the number of people Imprinted with it. The increased powers we were currently enjoying were those of all Pattern users in the early days. The Unicorn’s purpose was to suppress the Patterns’ energy output. Delwin mused that he should acquire a wife or harem to repopulate his realm. Not sure why he told me. He didn’t seem to be giving me the eye, but maybe he’s out of practice. Still, it’s a good thing I didn’t let my clothes burn off.

He accompanied me to Random-the-tree and talked to him/it.

I left.

I’m fed up with the Cosmic Shuffle. I’m going to see if Benedict and Dee want to go out and kill immortals. Maybe Bleys can help. And I can find Bevin.

 

 

SESSION 24

The Pattern escalation is getting out of hand. Half an hour from Randomtree to the Golden Circle and then TWO DAYS to get to Onyx.

Benedict was not interested in going after the immortals. He said it was much more important he watch his brothers. He said he trusted none of them. Joy. I went down to retrieve the Logrus sword I'd stashed in the armory. Eric and Osric were there, Osric holding 'my' sword, with energy crackling around his hand and the hilt. Shit.

What the hell. "Mind if I use that on the immortals?" I asked. Osric looked amused. "I left it here after I pulled it out of Bleys."

"We'll not use the weapon that slew our Father on your petty problems, young one."

"Oh, of course! A thousand enemies with Pattern Defense ARE a petty problem, O Wise One." The sarcasm flew right over his head.

Eric winced. Osric laughed and tossed the sword into the stone at my feet. The stones groaned. I tried cautiously to pick it up, with and without Defense up. Up was best and still felt like thrusting my arm into boiling water (energy flared up to my elbow) inches from touching it. Osric laughed and picked it up easily. What a dick --it's not like I wanted to use it in Onyx. I stalked off before I could say something Uncle Ego actually understood. I went to the Hare and crashed.

I set out the next morning for Vennis, Trumping Dee when out of the Untrump Zone. I volunteered to help kill/recruit immortals. She'd separated them into two camps; Bevin's neutrals and her enemies/potential recruits. Dee, Perdita and I kicked ass and finished them in a few days. I recruited a company for myself and acquired (bought) a base, a fortified mansion in Eregnor, just beyond the Golden Circle. I left 50 there to work on it (improving the fortifications and spiffying the place up) and took 50 with me to check on the Wallacites. They were fine and uninterested in Pattern walking, fully involved in their barony.

Eric Trumped me on the way back to Chez Madelon. He was standing on the stairs of Kolvir just beyond the UnTrumpable Zone. Behind him, workmen were widening the stairs.

"Eric! So, is Osric King yet? He seemed to be moving in that direction."

He was taken aback by this opener. "No. I'm still Regent. He is the eldest child of Oberon, though."

"Oh Yes, primogeniture is so popular among Shadow folk that we MUST emulate them. How does Benedict feel about this? He didn't seem to be too fond of any of them."

"He's been spending a lot of time with Osric."

"Presumably they'll work it out between themselves... one way or another. What can I do for you?"

"Do you know how Deirdre has been occupying herself? By the way, she resigned as chief of the Corps"

A pause while I digested this. "Nobody bothered to tell ME. I've been helping her and Perdita clean up the immortals. Neither of them mentioned it."

"Perdita? She's in charge of the Corps now."

"Perhaps she felt the emergency justified working with her. Dee recruited quite a few of them. I picked some up myself."

"I am concerned about Perdita's true loyalties. Would you go to Vennis and check things out?"

"Well, Dee and Perdita did use the same phrase to describe Corwin when I brought up his character flaws."

"And what phrase was that?"

"'Corwin has his own priorities.'"

"Chief of which is conquering Onyx."

"Yes. As to the Corps, I've found I'm a poor administrator."

"I don't want you to take over, I want to be sure of Perdita, one way or another. I give you full authority to arrest her or kill her as you see fit."

No, thank you, no Blood Curses for me unless the target is truly worthwhile. "Very well. I don't think she'll be fooled about my intentions, though. By the way, how big is the Pattern now?"

"Ten circuits."

"I did a Nine. Llewella helped somehow. How do you help each other through?"

"The ghosts help. You should keep current."

"Fine. I'll do that now --pull us through, will you?" Eric was slightly put out when he realized I meant all fifty-one of us, but he did it. "Do all those Patterned immortals count towards the growth of the Patterns?"

"Osric says he doesn't know."

"How about Finndo?"

"We can't find him."

"Hm. Maybe I could, if Llewella will let me use the Jewel for five minutes. Who knows, she might go for it."I sent my troops down to the Hare with two directives: stay fit for duty and respect My inn and My staff. I went to the Castle and down to the Pattern room. I found Simmian to be nearly solid, capable of shaking hands with some concentration. He said the solidity seemed to be linked to Pattern growth. They helped me again. This walk was different. At several SEVERELY PAINFUL mini-velis, I sensed specific relatives, as if their personalities were bonded to those areas of the Pattern. Osric, Finndo, Oberon, Delwin, Benedict, Corwin and others. I have no damned idea what that means.

I rested for a while in the center, then popped down to the top of Faiella-bionin and started down. Llewella's soldiers let me through but stopped Marlowe, who came by a couple of minutes behind me. I went back to talk and learned that Rialla had escaped again. Llewella deigned to see me, declined to let me touch the Jewel but did tell me that Finndo was currently on high with Mirelle in Tir-na Nog'th. Then she dismissed me. Too bad the Trumps were blocked. Marlowe didn't want to take the message so I ran up all the way to the Castle. Eric was closeted with Benedict, Osric and Delwin (having a loud four-way argument) but I bullied my way through the guards and entered. The shouting stopped as they all stared at me.

I looked at Eric. "I found that information you were interested in."

"Finndo? Do you have the Jewel?"

What, did Eric think I had Llewella wrapped around my finger?

"No. Llewella says he's up in Tir with Mirelle."

"Very good. You should take a troop up and fetch him."

I blinked, and started backing out. Maybe they'd been drinking. Heavily. "Most amusing, O Regent. Your sense of humor is, as always, most acute..." Fetch him my sweet ass. I almost made it out the door.

Osric said, "I'll go with her. Then I'll deal with this Random situation. Madelon can go with me and make sure I come back." He looked at me and grinned, "Perhaps you should take the Logrus sword?"

Creep. I bowed in my best courtier style. "I'll be glad to accompany you, Sir, just for the pleasure of seeing you in action." Whhizzz, right over his hea again.

Osric gathered a few guards (I was not going to use mine. They might get killed for no good reason and they would slow me down if I had to run.) More stairs. Mirelle's men let us in and I got to witness more argument as Osric tried to roll right over Finndo and Mirelle. Mirelle was quiet and seemingly malleable. Finndo was outraged that Osric was going to do it to them again. I stayed by the door at parade rest, ready to bail should the disagreement heat up.

Then Declan and Patrick were escorted in. Declan announced that Wixer said the family needed to forswear our conflicts and cooperate with one another. Osric tried to twist everything Declan said into support for his own plans. Declan persisted, saying that we would all cease to exist if events proceded in their current direction. Finndo said that was an old and ridiculous argument. Declan asked for Osric's forgiveness of Dec's efforts at blocking his release. (I boggled.) Osric granted it, offhandedly. Dec and Silent Pat left.

Thoughts:

- How trustworthy are my immortals?

- Is my commission from Eric a flattering sign of trust, a sign of expendability or a sign of desperation?

- I MIGHT survive walking an Eleven-Circuit Pattern. A Twelve? I doubt it.

- Eric is under a lot of strain.

- I'm under a lot of strain, or I wouldn't be baiting Osric. His egomania blinds him to sarcasm. Damned good thing, because I can't control it.

- Was that Declan or a really bad fake? The Poster Child for stupid, suicidal vendettas ASKING FORGIVENESS? In public? Taking orders from a purple griffin?

- If we have to forgive, forget and live in harmony, we're dead.

 

SESSION 25

Our merry cavalcade rode off to Random-the-Tree to watch Osric convince poor Uncle Woody to do a good job. Finndo watched Osric, Benedict watched both of them and Flavian, Marlowe and I watched them all. My troop of immortals watched all of us with interest. (These bozos ran the universe?) Finndo's assassination of Oberon came up somehow and Finndo was very offended. He didn't like the idea that he was being accused of something he hadn't done. Yet. Osric calmed him.

Flavian pontificated on the necessity of not using Pattern tricks against one another. Finndo laughed to the point of tears. Osric launched into another of his election speeches: he declared he would convince everyone, including Corwin, to cooperate. I stayed behind him and made faces, which caused Finndo to lose it again. Everyone but me discussed Pattern theory, stable circuit numbers and so on. I would have felt ignorant if they could agree on anything. Flavian preached some more, blah, blah blah. He emphasized to me that I couldn't kill Corwin, as if there was much chance of that happening. I'm not to try, and the others agree that we can't even plant the bastard in Random's place.

Apparently there are limits to Compellings. Dammit.

Flavian says that we can't even afford to be angry at any key people. I told him that watching Corwin try to swallow his bile would be a better revenge than any I could manage on my own. Quality entertainment for centuries to come. Flavian wants to try to force Corwin's cooperation by holding Perdita for ransom. Frankly, I think Uncle would kill her himself, then us.

Marlowe played with his Pattern Lens at a stop. After a while he announced that Oberon was unconscious and was being taken from Xyno. He Trumped Brian (! Trumps that work in Onyx) and went through.Later on Marlowe Trumped Benedict to summon me to help chase Oberon. I didn't understand what he needed me for but went through, with my troop of immortals. We got a boat and set out. Apparently you need a lot of shadowwalking expertise to cross over to Xyno's shadows these days. More than Marlowe has. I would have thought he could have finessed his way through the interface with some other Pattern trick. We did an unnecessary mind meld --it takes technique to cross over, not raw power-- in which Marlowe gave very little, the tight-ass little git. (Easy for me to talk; I don't have many secrets.)

Anyway, me, Marlowe and Brian went sail-ho into shadows with far too much water mixed in with the air. I had to cough water out of my lungs every few minutes. After a day or so we were joined by five sealed ships painted in Bleys' colors. We ran, they chased. Their leader, probably Bleys himself, was about as proficient at naval maneuver as I, but couldn't shift shadow as quickly. On the other hand, there were five of them and they soon showed us they could dive underwater. Marlowe saw to our water speed and I shifted us through some shoals at speed. We lost them.We went UNDER Random-the-Tree through some sea-caves and Marlowe Pattern-teleported us, ship and all, to beside the other. I recognized the place: Delwin's realm of Helios.

Marlowe, my troop and I debarked and entered the Maze. It CHANGED, but between us we got through. I KO'd guards who got in our way in the palace and down to the infirmary. Oberon was there, brain-damaged again --recent and deliberate, Marlowe said. Not movable. I could feel the Jewel in the Pattern room. Declan was carrying it as he walked the Pattern --no, it was Parnell --no, Thorndyke --no, Delwin. The person on the Pattern would shimmer into the next in the sequence. Marlowe and I looked at each other, clueless. Marlowe called for Simmian, who promptly glittered into existance before us. We asked what Wixer thought of the proceedings. Wixer was against it. (That's right, when you want the expert advice, ask the purple griffin) The only thing we had that could affect them was my Jewel attunement, and all I could do was slow them. Which slowed everything, the whole world, according to Simmian. Sgt. Dunmore ran in and said that Oberon had stopped breathing. Marlowe ran off to deal with it. I started slowing only Delwin, when he cycled in. No one showed up to take over. They finished and Declan collapsed into the center.

The world shook. The world MOVED. It flew off like a beach ball pulled by a tether through a tube or a funnel, bouncing 'lightly' off the sides. I flew around the chamber, blessing my time with the FenShuYan acrobatic troop, landing mostly on my feet. (I wonder what happened to WenShei, such a talented man...) Then the place started accelerating in earnest. This one would be bad. I got to the door and braced myself against the ring. Something slowed us a great deal before a massive impact, then a lesser one. I bounced off the Pattern's dome, the roof and the floor. Broken arm, lots of bruises, maybe a concussion. One hell of a ride. Damned fine armor. Marlowe took care of things.

Onyx' Pattern is now a Thirteen. One good result is that I healed in little over a day. Helios transvected to the valley of Garnath and has transformed it into a volcanic hellhole. Only one of my troop died permanently. Word is that Flavian died trying to protect the Pattern; no details. R&R showed up looking for Rialla's things. Apparently Declan kept them. Sad to see a prince of Onyx sink to petty theft. They say the delegation talked Random into doing a proper job.



THE ONYX CAMPAIGN ENDED AT THIS POINT. GM BURNOUT.