After quickly tapping on the door, Rax opens a door and ushers

Teremko in. Two women are within. Rax turns to the elder of the two,

a woman with black hair and eyes, dressed in red, black and white,

with an athletic build. With a small half-bow, he says "Lady, this is

the messenger." and then retreats.

A young woman, lanky and tired looking, sits in one of the chairs.

She wears a lab coat and wrings her hands nervously. Her brown hair

is slightly dissheveled, and very unstyled. Her eyes scan constantly,

and she seems to be thinking about close to a million things at once.

Ryoden: tickerer, conjurer, Minobee underling. She nods at the


Teremko smiles, flashing pearly white teeth in a wide

set of full lips. She has dusky skin and strong, firm

limbs...the build of a dancer apparently. Placing one

ankle behind the other, she performs a graceful

curtsy, the ornaments in her flaming red, curly hair

tinkling with the movement as do the gold bands on her

arms decorated with tiny bells. "Good to meet you

both," she grins, looking at them with flashing, black

eyes, and straightens confidently. "Might I present

my friend Lotus," she gestures to the mostly-pink

demon at her side.

Ishmaela nods to both with a smile and says "Welcome to my club. I

understand you have a message for me."

"I do," she nods. "Mind if I sit down?" she asks,

while pulling out a chair. Obviously the answer is

yes, so she proceeds to do so. "Right. I got sent by

some guy named Ferden. He's actually the one that

wants to meet with you, but couldn't get down here

himself." She shrugs. "Don't know why. Something

about wanting to start up trade again?"

Ryoden sits cross-legged in her chair, studying the pink demon

curiously. Pink. Huh.

Her eyes move to the stranger... Trade? Exactly what does Ishmaela do?

Ishmaela replies cautiously "This Ferden, where does he reside? Are

there any more details you can give me?"

Ryoden thinks over their past conversation and chuckles. Details?

Wasn't she warned about that? Sigh. A complicated place this is.

"Wish there were," she sighs. "He was pretty vague

about the whole thing, only mentioned that you shut

down trade between your cities. Afraid he picked a

pretty clueless messenger for the job."


Ishmaela is quiet for a moment, thinking, then she asks "Why then

were you sent as a messenger? For what reason do you do this?"


"Lotus," she coughs into her hand, and looks serious.

It's clear she doesn't want to go into it...she

doesn't normally run errands for the sake of others,

she would lose her reputation of being hard and

unreachable otherwise! "And that's all. I delivered

the message...up to you if you want to make contact or not."

Ryoden raises her hand quietly. "Um, excuse me, but what's being


Ishmaela replies quietly "Information." She goes to say something

else then stops, her eyes growing distant. She turns back to Ryoden,

Lotus and Teremko and says "If you will excuse me, there is a Trump

call I need to take. Please feel free to talk amongst yourselves."


Teremko blinks, and looks at Lotus. "You familiar

with a trump call is?" She's never heard of such

things before, but it's interesting to watch Ishmaela

look so spacey.

Lotus replies "It's a form of magic used for communication and

transport. Generally reserved for nobles and magicians."


"Weird." She shrugs, and grins at Ryoden. "Hi.

How's it going?"

Ryoden starts at the sudden attention. She fixes her pince-nez and

smiles nervously. "Hello. Going? I suppose well. I keep busy." On an

inspiration, she pulls out her small trump deck and shows Teremko one

of the cards sporting her visage. "A trump. They can take all sorts

of forms, but usually they're cards. Easy to carry." She considers

the pasteboard. "A little big though." She starts wondering how big a

trump has to be to work... She really _must_ study that one day.

She shakes her head. "Ah. And how are you?"


"Pretty good." Teremko sports an amused look, and

glances at the card. "I take it you're a sorcerer, then?"

Ryoden looks suprised. "Sorcerer? Oh, no, not me. I mean, I know

some, but I've never picked it up. I have a book or two on the

subject, but they're collecting dust as we speak."

She looks at her hand, concentrates, then brings a handful of flowers

in to being. She holds them out to Teremko. "I make things," she

says, as a way of explanation.


Teremko lifts an eyebrow, looking at the flowers.

"I'd say that's sorcery, wouldn't you?" she grins.

Ishmaela looks up, returning her attention to them, and

smiles "Conjuration actually. Something which Ryoden is extremely

good at."

She smiles and says to Ryoden "Looks like I will be attending the

conference after all." She then turns to Teremko "What are you going

to do next?"

Ryoden grins broadly. _Another_ ally there. Better and better. "Oh

good. And wh-" She stops herself, and rethinks asking any

reasons. "That's good," she reiterates.

She looks at Teremko. "Sorcery is a bit different. I'm more of an

engineer. Machines and such. What do you do?"

"Sorcery, conjuration...same thing in MY book,"

Teremko pulls her hair back and dismisses the subject.

"And I don't do much. Dance, sleight of hand,

y'know...usual gypsy stuff."

Ryoden's eyes glaze as she runs over her tomes mental.

"What's a gypsy? That's a new one. I don't think we

have any of those in our house." She thinks back to

the scene in the grand hall. Well, maybe they had a

gypsy or two, but she really didn't think so. "What

house is a gypsy house?"

Ishmaela smiles slightly and answers "There isn't one. Gypsies are a

type of people found throughout Shadow." She looks at Teremko "So

what are you going to do next now you're here?"



"Try to find my way back to where I came from," she

waves her wrist in a slow circle. "And not explore

any more ruins," she says with a wry grin, glancing at Lotus.

Ryoden studies Teremko. "You're from shadow? Any one in particular?

High tech or low tech?" She pauses. "And what happened at the ruins?

Did you hurt your wrist?" She tries to see if there is any reason the

gypsy made that odd motion.


Teremko blinks, and chuckles. "Talkative, eh? Don't

know what 'tech' is, high or low. The ruins...long

story. But I'm betting Ishmaela is familiar with

them, by the sound of it. And no, my wrist is fine."

Ishmaela chuckles "I'm familiar with a lot of ruins. Ryoden, will you

tell Kieran the schedule has been stepped up, please. The delegation

will be gathering at the Thelbane tonight at the beginning of

Bluesky." She then turns to Teremko and Lotus "If you're willing to

wait for a short time, I have an offer that may interest you."



"Shoot, we're not going anywhere," Teremko shrugs.

"If your offer involves a trip home, I'll listen."

Ryoden struggles internally. She wants to know what the offer is, but

knows it most likely isn't any of her business. She bites her lip

then sighs, and leaves her chair.

She exits the room and pulls out her untested trump of Kieran, then

focuses on it.


Kieran's face comes into view, his expression kind "Hello, Ryoden.

How did your meeting go?"


"Fine, I guess," she replies. "I'm not sure I got all the reasons I

was there-- I mean, there were the practical things, engineering and

what not, but she just kept--" She pauses and thinks over all the

tumult of conversation. "I think I'm in trouble where I'm going."


Kieran holds out his hand with a smile "Want to come through and tell

me more, little sister?"

Ryoden looks back at the room containing all the new players in a

game she didn't know she was in, and wonders. Is this a breech of

ettiquite? Should she stay to gather information? She sighs, and

concludes she's most likely not equipped with the finesse she needs

to get anything of use out of them without stepping on toes.

She takes his hand and steps forward, her face drawn and serious.



Kieran looks patently relieved to see her in one piece and his eyes

scan her for injuries "Are you alright, Ryoden? What's worrying you?"

Her earlier frustration returns for a moment, and Ryoden takes a

moment to steady herself. "I've had a rough two days," she finally


"What _exactly_ is this conference for?"


Kieran regards her for a long moment and answers "You didn't hear

this from me. It's to keep peace. The current treaty has been broken.

We're proposing to work together and come up with a new treaty."

She purses her lips. "Treaty between who and who? And who did the


Kieran replies quietly "A treaty between the Courts and Amber, sealed

with an exchange of hostages. Unfortunately, our hostage got killed,

thereby nullifying the treaty." He shrugs, pacing a little in the

quietness of his rooms. "The conference is to keep the treaty going

or devise a new one."


Ryoden's eyes go wide as her voice shrinks to a whisper. "Killed?

How? I mean, why? And why would hostages be a part of a treaty? That

doesn't seem civilized..." She wrings her hands. "Why can't you go

with me?"


Kieran shakes "I don't know how he was killed. Hostages though are a

traditional part of treaties and I believe, at the time, things were

particularly tense." He sighs and hugs his little sister "I'm needed

here. Otherwise, I would be going with you."


"I don't like that idea. Hostages." She hugs her arms about

her. "What if I end up a hostage?"

She shivers, and starts going over the past day in her head,

collecting the slivers of information together.

Kieran shakes his head "You won't be. No offence Ryoden, but you're

not high enough up the ladder to warrant being taken as one."

"That's some relief," she sighs, "But I don't have to like it..." She

eyes him warily. "Is the new treaty about some new prisoners? What

happened to the ones Amber has?"

Kieran shakes his head "No, prisoners aren't being used in

negotiations this time round. And it was Amber's prisoner, one of our

people, who was killed. Not by them I hasten to add. He was

apparently quite popular with them."


Ryoden stares at him a long time, then starts to pace. The pieces--

there are so many, and just as she's beginning to fit it together,

they all fall apart again.

Count Anthony spoke of other powers besides Amber and the Courts. Her

siblings alluded to stirrings in the demon realm. Ishmaela talked of

being neutral, but her actions sounded more like someone making her

own side. And then the gypsy girl, talking of trade...

She stamps her foot, and with a yell, kicks a wall. "I need a year to

sort this out! At least!" She trembles. "There's bad things happening


Kieran replies quietly "Ryoden, there are always bad things happening

everywhere. It is because Lords of Chaos and their Houses deal with

these bad things that the Courts of Chaos exist at all. Very rarely

is ample time given to understand them. Instead, we do the best we

can with whatever resources we have in the time available." He

asks "What in particular is upsetting you?"

She waves her hand. "By all means, pick one, anyone." She crosses her

arms and continues pacing. "Let's start with Lord Anthony, and

finding out war is coming and that there's something that's out there

that may or may not be a threat... Then we move along to me

discovering a family I never thought I had, never looked for, that

never looked for me. They tell me all about how demons are being

mistreated and that there's something going on there-- Then along

comes Ishmaela, and she tells me about how I should trust anyone, and

how she's trying to be neutral, which sounds to me like she's making

her own side in the matter. They tell me they want to hire me,

everyone does, but when I ask for information, they refuse it! Here,

build me a bridge. Why? I can't say. For what? You'll find out later.

How long. I'm not privy to that knowledge." She kicks the wall again

and winces, but tries to cover the pain by turning to the door.

"Remind me why I get out of bed at all."


Kieran shrugs "Because you're one of the best at what you do. Being a

superb engineer though doesn't make you privy to the secrets of your

employers. If somebody you didn't fully trust came to do some work in

your lab and asked to take away some of your blueprints, what would

you do?"

Her face grows red. "People _do_ do that, Kieran! They may hire me,

but still, once I make something, it's out! And for my giving up my

secrets, my talent, what do I get? Huh? Do they even bother to tell

me what I'm making things for?"

She turns away from him. "Why am I going to the conference? Not ONCE

did the count mention me actually making anything, and I'm not

exactly a diplomat, so there must be something planned for me. I'm

not as... _mechanical_ as one of my creations, okay?"


Kieran replies "Evidently not. Put simply, Ryoden, you are hired to

make things. Knowing the whys and wherefores take you into other

Houses' business. Not something that is tolerated for long, even by

Minobee. We all have our secrets. They are the oil that smooths the

wheels of Chaos. Information is given on a need to know basis for the

most part. Right now, you're going to the conference because the

Courts _hope_ we can persuade the Amberites to include you in their

game. Even that isn't certain at the moment."


She moves further way from him. "The secrets game works really well,

doesn't it? I mean, we're facing a war on three fronts, so it must be

doing a bang up job of keeping everything together." She

fumes. "Houses can't trust each other. Chaos can't trust anyone. We

have stupid ways of doing alliances. I certainly hope one of our foes

doesn't actually do something crazy like band together and take us

on. We'd be too concerned about a few baubles of information to

defend ourselves." She turns and levels a glare at Kieran, putting

all her anger into it. "What if I had guarded some of my inventions

the way others guard their knowledge? I've made things to save lives,

and to cost lives. One's that kept Chaosians breating and ones that

caused our foes to stop. Is that what it is to be a Chaosian? To look

to one's self and house before anything else?"


Kieran replies quietly "To work for the betterment of one's House

certainly. The self must sometimes be subservient to that. This is

not to say that there aren't other concerns, but House loyalty is one

of the top priorities in The Courts. Trust is a luxury, Ryoden. Not a

Serpent given right."


Her look cools, and now only disappointment shows in her eyes. "We

could be so much more, Kieran. What's a house? A collection of nobles

pinned by blood and marriage. Can any one house stand all on it's

own?" She puts a hand to her forehead, as if trying to steady her

dizzying thoughts. "A crisis looms, and not one, but many houses

respond. Why only during a crisis? Why only then do we think grand


She shakes her head and goes to the door. "I'm on the wrong side, I



Kieran shakes his head, an amused look on his face "Such definitive

statements from one who knows so little of the Courts. To begin with,

there is a Council of the Houses Major. We don't just co-operate

during crisis, Ryoden, but you've been so busy demanding to know

what's hidden that you've never asked about what's not. Then there is

King Swayvil, whom we all honour and obey, but of course he's not

hidden either so is of little interest. And then we might go into the

numerous alliances, organisations and untrumpeted co-operation that

goes on, but that's all out in the open too so is probably completely

useless to you." Kieran is quiet and adds softly "Before you

completely condemn our way of life, you may wish to actually look at

it in its entirety."

She crosses her arms and slumps to the floor. "I've seen a rather

nasty underbelly, and I'm not too pleased with the fact that I'm

rather old, and yet the five-year-olds of other houses are probably

more educated about the courts than I am." She huddles her neck into

her shoulders. "I think the request for what I'm walking into is a

perfectly normal request, Kieran. I think knowing why I'm going is

perfectly normal too, and hardly out of place. I think knowing the

enemy without having to drag it out of people is normal. I think if I

just went where you pointed without question or interest, you'd have

cause to worry about me."


Kieran laughs "Oh my dear sister, if you think that what you've seen

is the nasty underbelly, I really must take you to some other parts

of the Courts." He nods "True enough. If you were that blindly

obedient, given your nature I'd worry. Let's just say that Amber is

believed to be embarking upon a multi-discipline project. We want

some of our own people there, engineers included. As to the details

of the project, that's for the people heading the project to tell

you. Not I, I do not know."


She looks at her fingers, cringing slightly at his laugh. She knows

he doesn't mean it, but she feels like he's mocking her, like where

she's going to go, people will mock her. She smart, but all she's

heard for two days is how she's a fragile innocent running into a den

of wolves.

"Fine. How hard was that, Kieran?" She keeps some edge to her voice,

letting him know he isn't going to laugh her out of her bad mood. Her

nerves sit on end.


He shrugs "However you feel, you still need to get ready. The

timetable has been stepped up somewhat, so we'll be leaving soon. Do

you have everything you need packed?"


She shrugs. "I guess. Blueprints and journals and what not." She

absently touches the spheres through her jacket. "Et ceteras."

She stands, but doesn't look at Kieran as she leaves. "Just yell when

we're heading out." She takes the doorknob in her hand and hope she's

somewhere where she knows how to get to her lab.


Kieran nods "I will. If you have no objections, I'll accompany you to

the place where the other delegates will gather."

He adds "From here, the way is short to the Central Hall. Just head

right. From the Central Hall, the way back to your lab is clear,

going through the green double doors."


She leaves wordlessly, and she notices an ache in her chest as she

closes the door behind her. All those years she spent, just whittling

away in her little lab... She could have been in the middle of a void

for all she knew about the world outside. She thinks about her

siblings, and the complex world of human interaction. So many levels

she can't even begin to understand.

She wonders why they left her, but finds she doesn't have the heart

to ask. She wonders if Ishmaela had the same problem so long ago...

She bites her lip and stiffles a cry. Why did they take her out? She

was happy there... Alone, but never lonely. Now she finds herself

among an infinite number of possibilities for interaction, and yet

she feels so isolated she wants to scream.

Ryoden walks to her lab and keeps her eyes on her feet, praying she

doesn't meet any of her new found family on the way. She doesn't know

what she feels for them yet, even Kieran.


Somehow, she makes her way back to her lab, without ebcountering any

of her siblings.

As she enters her lab, she feels a nudge at her ankles. The rogue

plutonium looks to have escaped again, but this time, is waiting

patiently at her feet...


She stoops. "No bites this time?" she whispers. Gently, she picks it

(her, him?) up and wonders how you pet an element.

Softly she talks nosense things to the thing and touches it

lightly. "Maybe I wasn't totally packed. You'll come with me, right?"

She looks at her robots, buzzing and humming, creating a life around

her and she smiles, almost sadly. "I wish I could take them all..."

She holds the plutonium and sighs, and knows that she can't do that.

She can't take her life, her comfort with her. Even if it was

possible, she knows she needs this... The distance, the newness, the

lack of security.

She needs to grow up.

The rogue plutonium nestles in, making small odd sounds that sound

almost like chirrups. It then moves to sit on her shoulder, giving

her room to work away.


She takes a last look at her blueprints and books, making sure

they're secure in their cases. As an afterthough, she adds a lock to

each of them, and silently curses that she doesn't have the ability

to ward them.

Taking a deep breath, she squares her shoulders and works on her

transport device, waiting for Kieran's call. He won't dismiss her. He

won't pretend like she's nothing. She sets her jaw, and cranks at the

nuts and bolts determinely.