The dinner resolved itself in the ways most dinners end: dessert, and an escort back to her house. Sadly, Ryoden parted with her new companion and returned to the mess of her lab.
The robots had been busy. Her blueprints were rolled up in several traveling trunks, and her journals lined up for her to pick and choose from. She skims through them, picking some of the more interesting ones, then some of the more legible ones (just in case someone might want something to read).
She roams her rooms, picking up oddiments that might prove useful. She comes across a section that appears to be roughy hewn together... she remembers the day a part of her lab was lost to Chaos due to a small but powerful storm. She never did find it, and unfortunatly the piece that was missing was _right_ in the middle of her development area. Good thing they built in side passages to everything, or she might have lost more than a feel machine shells.
Grabbing a tiny infrared emmitter, she thinks back to Keiran's comment on the kitchen. Misplaced it. 'Lots of things get misplaced here,' she thinks idly. Must have to do with the haphazard way the Minobees are. Distractable. She wonders if there are any other Minobees in the ways. All she ever sees were a handful of servants and Keiran. Are she and Keiran the only ones?
She shakes her head, and not for the first time, thinks of her liniage. She had never asked, simply because it seemed rude to ask the one who cared for her who was actually responsible for her. It seems they, too, were misplaced.
She thinks of where she's going, and why. "Continuing peace," the Count had said. That means peace is threatened. The opposite of peace is war. Ryoden knows that an engineer is not wanted to make peace. Her place there is some kind of idle threat.
Her circuit ends back at her entrance, and her eyes fall on a small metal box. She opens it, trying to act casual, but her heart races a bit. The box is full of tiny spheres, about the size of ping pongs. They sport child-like stamps: a butterfly, a cloud, a firework... So harmless. She shakes slightly. War or peace, she'd be caught in the middle. She takes off her jacket and starts carefully placing them in small pockets designed just for them. She fills them all, and hopes they stay that way.
Replacing her coat, she realizes this will be the last time she'll have talk to Keiran for a while. Not that they always talk, but now she feels scared, knowing she'll be so far away from the only home she has ever known. She stands, and decides to seek him out. She has some questions for him.
As Ryoden leaves her lab, she realises that she has no actual idea where Kieran may be. As she ponders this, she sees one of the people occasionally glimpsed in this wing wander by, their attention on a book in their hands.
Glancing up, the young man smiles "Hi, Ryoden. How's life?"
She smiles back. "Hello. It's okay. I'll be leaving for a conference in a few days... I was hoping to find Kieran before I left."
She tilts her head and lifts up the edge of the book he's holding. "What are you reading?" While he answers, she races through her memory, trying to remember his name.
He grins and answers "Applications of the Logrus in the Art of the Shadowmaster." She remembers that he's called Sieran.
He thinks and adds "I think I saw Kieran in the Central Hall, heading towards the Library."
Ryoden realises with a start that she has never seen the Central Hall or even the Library. There was always so much to do in her own workshop...
Ryoden sighs (inwardly) with relief that she can at least recall the Chaosites name. "Oh, good. He's not out then. We have a few things to discuss."
She studies Sieran. A book on Lorgrus is not the tome of a servant... Perhaps he's another Minobee. She laments that _they_ don't have a neat distinguishing mark, like Lord Anthony.
"Would you care to join me in finding him? They rearranged the Ways recently, and I'm not sure I could find the Central Halls. Or the library for that matter." She smiles invitingly.
Sieran smiles "Sure thing, Ryoden." He tucks the book under one arm and politely offers her his other, adding "It was a bit of a nightmare to start with, but the rearrangements seems to be working smoothly enough now."
She takes his arm and allows him to lead her. "I heard we lost the kitchen, though. I rarely used it, but still, its a pity."
As they walk she tries to gently prod him for information about himself. "So what do you do around here? I get out so rarely, it seems I only see light of day during some crisis where they might need a machine or two."
Sieran chuckles "I know the feeling. I normally go over the construction plans for various Ways. And we found the kitchen again just a short time ago. One of the kids stumbled across it by accident."
She chuckles. "We'll have to send him out after a part of my lab. We lost it last spring, and we still haven't found it." She pauses, mulling something over in her mind. "A child... a Minobee child? I didn't know we had any young ones in the family."
"Sieran, Sieran..." She sounds out his name. "Sounds like Keiran's name. Any relation?"
Sieran grins "Younger brother actually. And yes, we have a whole host of little ones."
Ryoden looks surprised. "I didn't know he had a brother! Did your parents have all your names rhyme?" She looks around the halls. "Where do they keep everyone? I never noticed anyone around but a few servants? And I certainly never heard any children."
Sieran smiles "No, it's a tradition for twins' names to be linked. And you're in one of the quiet wings. Trust me, there's a lot more of us."
She pouts, but it's only in play. "Appearently my invitation to the family reuinions got 'misplaced' too." She studies him. "A twin, huh? Identical? You don't look that much like him. But with shapeshifters you never can tell, can you?"
He shakes his head "No, non-identical. And we just drift in and out. Nothing so organised as a family reunion."
Ryoden shrugs. "Well, that fits with the family, I guess." She grins. "And who says this wing is quiet? You must have been away during my experiements with the more explosive compounds." She looks at him. "So, if you're Kieran's brother, what does that make us?"
He chuckles as they reach a set of doors "Trust me. This is a quiet wing. And I'm not quite sure. As I recall, you were one of the little ones in the creche. You seemed to have trouble interacting with the other kids, so Kieran took you under his wing."
She nods, and for a moment, looks a bit sad. "People are complex things. I'm good at complex things most of the time, but people... you can't test people. You can't prod them or look at their innards. It's one big guessing game. And even if you get one guess right, that doesn't mean you'll be right the next time. So no, I'm not good with people."
Sieran grins "Well, here's your second chance. Ready?"
She looks at him, confused, then wide eyed. "Where are you taking me, again?"
He smiles "To the Central Hall and then the Library as you asked."
"But, but," she stammers, "who's there? People? Minobees?"
Sieran answers "Minobees. Maybe some guests."
Ryoden tenses a little under her jacket, but forces herself to loosen up. "Sorry, just a surprise. Haven't been around more than 3 or 4 people at a time in years." She eyes him. "Guests?"
Sieran says softly "Hold on to my arm. You'll do just fine."
Ryoden nods, tightening her grip a bit. "Okay." She sighs. "I guess I better get used to it-- there'll be a bunch of people at the conference, I suppose. Are any other Minobees going?"
He shakes his head "Just you."
And the doors open. Beyond is a wide cavernous space, filled with light. People of all ages stand around chatting, examining devices, reading. Children chase each other in and out of the adults, laughing. Fountains and intricate clockwork abound, the chimes and the sound of water faintly musical. A second melody is woven in with the soft murmur of so many voices talking. And the Minobees thmselves are diverse. Some in human form, some in demon form, some in other forms. All though are unique.
Ryoden forgets her fears for a moment, and looks at the delicate balance that is her family. Her eyes dart from machine to machine, from person to person. Her face is filled with awe. Without realizing it, she steps away from her guide and into the fray. "Oh my..." she whispers.
Sieran says nothing and just lets Ryoden gaze on it for a moment more. An elder Minobee notices the young woman and signals her over.Ryoden notices him after a second and cautiously walks over, examining him openly. She tries to remember his name, and resolves to make a machine to store these kinds of things for her.
The old man, white haired and beared, looks kind. Not someone she knows. He smiles "Young Ryoden isn't it?"
"Um, yes," she replies. "That would be me. How do you know me?"
He smiles "I'm Duke Herish. I make it a point to know all of my House."
"Oh." She looks a bit intimidated, but curiousity seems to be overriding that. "I was wondering about all the other Minobees. I, um, I don't get out much. So you know Kieran?"
He nods "Yes, Kieran is one of my sons. So what do you think of your home?"
She looks up and around. "It's very busy. I like it. I wish I had come here earlier." She studies him again. "Kieran's father... we never talked about family. We talked about me being more careful with some of my compounds, or about research, or the like, but not family. I didn't know he had a father." She pauses, looking at him. "Mine were misplaced."
He frowns "Who told you that?"
She thinks. "I dunno. It's just what I think when I think about them. Whoever they were. Things get misplaced. I suppose they'll turn up one day." She looks at him. "Once, I lost a part of my lab. I might find that again one day too." She looks troubled, but attempts to shrug it off. "I just never talked to anyone about it. I really, really meant to, but..."She trails off.
He smiles gently "Ryoden, I think we should have small talk."
She looks a bit abashed. "Okay. About what?" She studies the floor.
The Duke smiles "Your parents."
"Okay. Do you know them?" she asks in a small voice.
He takes her arm "Come with me."
She nods and follows him, casting a goodbye look back at Sieran. Sieran smiles enigmatically and takes a seat. obviously preparing to wait for her. She casts him a small nervous smile, and looks to see where the duke is taking her.
The Duke leads her into a small, quiet sitting room and says "Please take a seat, my dear." She does so, placing her hands in her lap, looking like a lost school child. She doesn't speak, but waits for him to start.
The Duke looks vaguely abashed. "Well, you weren't getting on with the other children, so Kieran asked to put you in one of the quieter, faster wings, see how you got on with things. I agreed, but then..." He smiled ruefully "Well, we misplaced you and the wing. When Kieran found you, you had aged much more than we thought."
She giggles. "So I had it backwards? I was misplaced... For how long?"
He chuckles "A few months."
She nods. "Ah... I don't think I remember this... So then what happened?"
He continues "Well, you were very young and you seemed happy enough, so your Mother and I decided to let it alone, knowing you would emerge when you were ready."
The look she gives him is one of pure shock. She sits, stunned for a few seconds, then looks perturbed. "He never said he was my brother!" Then the look changes to one of quiet amazement. "You're my father... how long has it been since I was born? I mean to you?"
The Duke smiles "A few years. I told you it was a faster wing."
She thinks. "Then where's my mother? Is she a Minobee? Well, she should be, anyway." She adds to herself.
He nods "Yes, your Mother is Duchess Melinda Minobee. Would you like to meet her?"
"I think that goes without saying."
The Duke smiles "I thought so too, but I can appreciate that this is a lot for you to take in all at once."
She looks pensive. "Yes, but I should get it done before I leave. There might be a war, and I might not be back right away."
The Duke says quietly "If there is a war, you will be back with us. Do you really think I would let you walk into danger?"
She thinks. "No, but you never know. Things happen. And I'm looking forward to meeting some Amberites. And some other Chaosians." She pauses, chewing on her lip. "I'd like to see Castle Amber. Heard it's very neat."
He smiles "Come then. Your mother will be very glad to see you."
"Okay." She gets up, then pauses. "Sieran pretended like he didn't know I was his sister. Says I was just one of the kids running around. Why would he do that?"
He chuckles "You were one of the kids running around, and I suspect Sieran may have been trying to introduce you gradually."
"Ah." She nods. "So do I have any other siblings?"
The Duke nods "An older sister too, Elisa."
She grins. "No twin though? Too bad. How much older is she? How about Kieran and Sieran?
He leads her through a small door "Kieran is the oldest, followed by Sieran then Elisa then you."
She follows. "What do they do? I mean, I'm pretty much an engineer... is anyone else?"
The Duke nods "Many of us are, as many of us are also Shadowmasters, weaving Shadow into new Ways. Architects if you like."
Thinking back to Sieran's book, she asks, "Is Sieran one of those?"
Herish smiles "Yes, one of our better ones at that." and opens another door. "You first."
She enters, first ducking her head in cautiously and looking around. She walks in, taking in the room and its contents. The room is quietly luxurious, elegant, a small study. The woman within the room is regal, poised with Ryden's looks and colouring. She smiles "Hello, Ryoden."
Ryoden puts her hands behind her back, suddenly very aware of her dissheveled state. She chews her lip. "Hi."
The woman moves forward and hugs Ryoden "You are lovely and clever. I am so proud of you."Ryoden blushes. She receives the hug stiffly, not used to human contact. "Thank you..." she whispers.
The woman smiles "Come. Would you like some tea?"
"Umm... yes. Tea would be nice." She wonders inwardly, though, at what in the world tea could be.
The Duke follows in as the Duchess leads Ryoden to a seat beside a smll table. Taking a seat of her own, the Duchess lifts a china teapot and pours three cups of a steaming, golden-brown liquid. She smiles "You may like this, dear."
Ryoden cautiously sniffs her cup, then takes a small sip. Making a face, she looks for some sugar. The Duchess indicates a bowl of sugar and a small jug of milk "Try two lumps and some milk perhaps." She adds some lumps, tastes, then adds a few more. At around 8 lumps it becomes sweet enough. While she stirs, she studies the room, looking for books, inventions, anything to indicate further her family's talents.
The room's walls are a mixture of lined bookshelves and hung with delicate watercolours. The books cover a variety of subjects and the taste is eclectic. An intricate jewelled egg, open to reveal small clockwork figures sits on the large desk."Ooo," she whispers, putting down her cup. She gets up and picks up the egg, looking at the mechanisms.She sees the egg's mechanisms are tiny, intricate and detailed like a dance of perfect little brass wheels. As they click into place, small images form and change, the whole enchanting and magical.Ryoden plops on the floor and starts taking mental notes of the thing, playing with it to get different images, apparently oblivious to her family.
The Duke and Duchess exchange an amused glance and let Ryoden examine the egg as she wills.
Ryoden's head snaps up after a few minutes. "Ack! Sorry!" She puts the egg down (somewhat regretfully). She moves back to the table. "I have a question... what do you know about Amberites? Specifically, their blood."
The Duchess looks curious "Why do you ask, Ryoden?"
"Well, the count Anthony said pattern was in their blood, but he didn't say how... I mean, can you see it, or something?"
The Duchess answers "I would think it would be more a quality of the blood, as we have the capability to take the Logrus."
Ryoden looks disappointed. "Oh. I was hoping you could see it somehow. Maybe through logrus or something."
The Duchess smiles "Well, one can with the Logrus Lens."
Ryoden thinks back to her logrus training, seemingly so long ago. "The logrus sight? Or is it different?"
Melinda nods "The Logrus Lens is the summoning of a Tendril through which one observes."
"Huh. That's neat. Maybe I should have paid more attention during my training..."
The Duchess smiles "It is advanced learning, dear. It probably wasn't covered."
She frowns. "Oh. I'll look into that one day. Maybe when I get back. I've not done a whole lot with logrus... been concentrating on engineering and conjuring."
Melinda smiles "There is plenty of time, dear. Few attempt advanced Logrus."
Ryoden smiles and takes up her tea. "I bet. But I like things like that. But that's in the future. Way, way in the future." She sips. "Now, where is my sister?"
Melinda thinks then answers "Probably in the Library."
Ryoden brightens. "That's where I was heading!" She pauses, then looks confused. "Forget why, though." She thinks and clicks her tounge. "Oh, yeah. Kieran. I remember now." She looks at her mother again. "I'm the only Minobee going to the conference... Do you know anyone who's going?" She glances at her father.
The Duke answers "Duke Richard Hendrake will be there as will be Margrave Mandor Sawall and the Lady Eleanor Chanicut. There may be others."
"And don't forget Count Anthony!" she adds. "I had dinner with him. He's nice. I like him. But he's leaving after the talks, apparently." She pauses. "If he's leaving after the talks, and I'm not, what will I be doing? Who's leading this whole thing? I thought it was the Count, but he said it's not him."
The Duke answers "Mandor Sawall, most likely. As to what you will be doing, that depends on the negotiations."
Ryoden looks nervous. "I hope the talks go well. I really do. I'm not find of making hurting things. They give me dreams. I've done it, and can do it again, but its not my favorite thing. I like making trasportation things, or robots, or computers... or pretty things. But I'm not as good at those."
The Duke nods "Whatever you are asked to do, if it is not to your wishes, come home. Nobody will think any the worse of you."
Ryoden nods. "I know. I can be stubborn. I think. but I am looking forward to leaving, though. The last time I went out to shadow I got shot at, but that isn't likely to happen with bunches of people around."
The Duke shakes his head "No, that is unlikely though not impossible."
She smiles. "I'll be okay. I'm good at ducking. Things blow up all the time, so I get lots and lots of practice." She studies her tow newfound parents. "Do either of you build?"
The Duchess nods "We both do, dear, amongst other things."
She cocks her head. "Like what? Paint?" She looks at the watercolors. "I mostly build." She thinks reflexively about the minibombs in her pockets and cringes a bit. She changes the subject. "Are there any trumps of you around? I don't have any." She thinks. "Do you have one of me?"
The Duchess nods "I do." and fishes out three Trumps "Here you are, dear. One each of us both and one of the Minobee entrance ways."
Ryoden studies them, making sure she doesn't do so _too_ hard, then puts them away. "Do you need one of me? I don't have one, but maybe one can be drawn up."
The Duchess snaps her fingers "Foolish of me. I completely forgot." And hands Ryoden another five Trumps, all of Ryoden. Ryoden is shocked.
"Where'd you get these? I don't remember sitting for any! I thought you had to sit for trumps. Like a painting."
The Duchess nods "That is the normal method, but I remember faces well."
Understanding dawns on Ryoden's face. "So you paint? Did you make those?" She points at the paintings. "When did you see me? I didn't notice you..."
Melinda smiles "Yes, I painted those. And I saw you as you went to a meeting once."
Ryoden raises her eyebrows. "You're quick then. That's neat... Maybe I'll look at trump one day, too. But I'm not very good at drawing." Idly, she traces a design in the table cloth, the one on the butterfly bomb.
The Duchess smiles "I think you may surprise yourself yet. Now, would you like to meet Elisa?"
Ryoden brightens. "Of course! I hope Kieran is there too... I have words for him."
Her parents rise and the Duke smiles "It will be my pleasure to escort you both."
Ryoden smiles and takes the Duke's arm. "I have to remember all these places. I'll be back..." She pauses. "Maybe I can move my lab the next shuffle."
He smiles "We can move your lab sooner than that if you wish."
She smiles, allowing him to lead her. "That would be nice. I guess I don't need to be in a fast place anymore, do I? Just make sure it's pretty sturdy. So what's my sister like? Does she paint?" She pauses. "You know, I've known Kieran all my life, and have no clue what he does. Besides make sure I'm not blown up, I mean."
The Duke replies "Your sister also paints and resemble Sierans more than not. Kieran is a diplomat and trader."
Ryoden raises her eyebrows. "Really? What does he trade? Who is he a diplomat for? Shouldn't he be going with me then? I would think he'd be very good. He was the one who introduced the count and I."
The Duke answers "He trades our services and he already has a full plate of work."
She nods in response. "I suppose I'm one of the services? What do we get in return?"
He responds, smiling "It varies. Architecture is our main trade though."
She nods. "Ah. Have you seen Sawallways? They're pretty. So's the inside of the house. Food's good too."
He nods "Yes, Minobee helped with its design."
She smiles. "Then they did a good job. It's an interesting house, isn't it? From what I hear we do a lot of this service stuff. Maybe I'll start putting more things out. Publish a book or something. I have lots of stuff if we can find someone who can read my handwriting."
The Duke grins "We have other methods of publication, including secrataries to transcribe. For now though, let's concentrate on family."...
Ryoden notes the hallways they walk through, and any interesting paraphanalia that happen to be about. "What do you mean, other methods? What do you use? I only have my books... and well, some computers that hold data, but most of the time I use them for their intelligence and not storage. Seems like it would be a boring way to live."
She wrings her hands nervously.
The Duke replies "Well, there is mass publication for a start, lectures, and so on. There are many ways to disseminate information. I personally use Logrus transferral."
Ryoden's ears perk. "Logrus transferral? What's that? Sounds neat?" She looks around. "How far are the libraries anyway? I didn't know the Ways were this huge."
The Duke patiently explains "Logrus transferral is the simultaneous transfer of information through many tendrils to receiving parties. It can be very useful. And yes, the Ways are quite large. We like to experiment with space and time."
Ryoden thinks over all the interesting things one can do with a Ways. "Are there blueprints anywhere? I'd like to look over them... Sounds intersting." She thinks back to the room where she met her mother. "Who made the egg? What does it do? I mean, besides pictures. I saw that."
The Duke thinks for a moment "There are blueprints for various parts of the Ways certainly. They will be in the Archives."
The Duchess answers "I made the egg. It has music too, various melodies. It's purely a toy."
Ryoden smiles. "I make toys too, from time to time." She reaches in her jacket and takes out a Butterfly bomb. she holds up the sphere. "See? I would use it, but it makes a mess." She gives it to her mother.
The Duchess' eyes light with pleasure and the madness of the Logrus Lens as she examines it. Smiling, she hands it back "What a lovely construction, Ryoden. I like it. We must share notes at some point."
Ryoden beams. "It's one of my favorite types. I have bunches like it." She puts the ball back in her pocket. "Another of my pets is my transport machine-- I'm trying to make some kind of engine that'll work across most shadows." She snaps her fingers. "That's right-- can't forget to take samples to test in Amber..." She takes out a pen and writes a note to herself on her hand. 'Amber- pack- combust'
The Duke smiles and says "Those double doors take you to the library. Unfortunately, your mother and I have a prior engagement. House business."
Melinda nods "True. I'd forgotten all about it." and turns to Ryoden and smiles "It has been so good to see you at last. I'll see you soon."
Ryoden sadly says goodbye, embracing each parent in turn.
She turns to the doors, takes a deep breath, and opens them.
The library within immediately reminds her of the central hall, being a round cavernous space, filled with light. Here though, the walls are lined with books, scrolls, discs, data crystals and various other storage devices. There are a number of Minobees working away in this quiet environment. The whole is like a grand temple, devoted to knowledge.
She sees Kieran sitting at one of the tables chatting to a young woman with looks similar to herself though with paler hair, near blonde. Kieran looks up, smiles and beckons Ryoden over.
Ryoden walks over, puts her arms akimbo, and glares at Kieran. "You never said you were my brother!"
Kieran grins wickedly "You never asked. And now you know." The young woman across from him frowns at him and then turns to Ryoden "Ignore Kieran. He's an idiot. It's lovely to meet you, Ryoden."
She nods at the woman. "I agree." She looks back a Kieran. "It's polite to inform people that you're related to them!" She sticks out her tounge, then regards the woman again. "Elisa, is it?"
Elisa nods and smiles warmly at her younger sister "It is. Please, pull up a seat. You have no idea how nice it is to have a sister at last as opposed to idiotic and irritating brothers."
Kieran rolls his eyes as if this is a very familiar complaint.
"It's a nice thing to have a family," remarks Ryoden, sitting. "Are they both this way..." She trails off, then jumps up. "Omigod! I left Sieran at the Main hall!"
Elisa shakes her head "Don't worry about it. Kieran dear, make yourself useful."
Kieran nods and draws out a Trump. Within a few moments, Sieran too stands in the library.
Elisa comments wryly "You know, this is the first time we've all been in one place. Security will have a fit. What say we go somewhere and celebrate?"
Ryoden smiles. "We should. We may not get the chance to scare security again for a while. I'm off to a conference. Kieran knows all about it. He got me into it." She nods at Kieran. "He was really nice, by the way. The Count, I mean. We had dinner and everything. He's going too. I wonder if..." She cuts herself short, as she realizes she justa bout rambled too far. "So where are we going?"
Elisa smiles "Have you ever been to a jazz club, Ryoden? If not, I can suggest an excellent one."
Ryoden laughs. "I've barely left the ways. What's Jazz? I'm not a music person. disrupts some of my instruments. Is that where we're going, though?"
Elisa directs a scathing look at Kieran and replies "My dear sister, you are in for a treat and yes, that is where we are all going." She smiles gently at Ryoden "If you want to that is."
Ryoden looks from Kieran to Elisa, then back again, trying to figure out the root of the look Elisa cast. She gives up. "I'd love to go... I didn't know there were clubs in Chaos-- read about them a few times when the cleaning staff got my book orders confused, but those were out in shadow."
Elisa smiles "Good. That's settled then. I will endeavour to make up for the deprivations visited upon you by our eldest brother." Smoothly rising, she takes Ryoden's arm and the four leave the library. Elisa says "Would you prefer to walk or Trump there, Ryoden?"
Ryoden thinks. "Trumps. Normally I'd walk to look around, but I've been walking all over today." She looks at Elisa quesioningly. "Why was Kieran left to raise me?"
Elisa shrugs "Ask our parents. I don't know. Alright, Trump it is." and she withdraws a Trump showing a scene of a small, dimly lit alley. Sieran and his twin link arms with their sisters and soon, all four stand in the alley, the beginnings of Purplesky above them.
Next: Ryoden at 'The Edge'