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
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
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
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
"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.