Marrek + Ellie: Abductions in gardens

Not too far away, Marrek spies Benedict and Eleanor with a distraught Ryoden not too far from where Mandor abducted him.

Ah. Wonderful confusion.

/Simply must have a word with my dear brother about abrupt abductions./

Marrek hails the frantic trio (well, duo...Benedict could never be described as 'frantic') with a shout and a wave. "My appologies, Benedict, for the haste of my departure. Before coming to Amber in the company of Ryoden, I was not suitably able to inform various parties in Chaos of my imminent departure. One, a lady friend of my aquaintance, took severe umbrage and took me to task."

Benedict nods. "Find a more demure lady." He replaces his sword and walks back to the castle, tapping Ryoden lightly on the shoulder as he passes. She turns and looks confused.

Ryoden glares at Marrek. "You scared me."

Ellie just behind Ryoden says, by way of explanation "We were told you had possibly been abducted, Marrek."

Marrek smiles. "If you knew the lady in question, you'd find the term to be an apt description." He turns to Ryoden. "Sorry to frighten you, Your Highness, but the matter is resolved, so there should be no other frights from her quarter for the foreseeable future." Looking back up at Eleanor, he asks, "Where is Jurt? I would thought he would accompany you both in my absence."

Ryoden breaks in. "Jurt's in the rooms, resting. He needs to heal a bit more before I put on his foot." Her smile is wicked. "You mind the sight of blood?"

"I have no real problems with it, no." Marrek eyes the little Chaosite openly. "Try not to make him scream too much, ok? We don't want to upset the neighbours."

Ellie asks Ryoden "What if Jurt is knocked out again? Would that help in putting the foot on?"

"Might not be a bad idea."

Ryoden makes a disgusted look. "Of course I'm going to knock him out. I'm not mean!" She starts to walk down the garden path, looking around. "Besides, he'd squirm too much."

She stands on a bench and cranes her neck. "What's Faetan look like?"

Ellie answers "Black hair, black eyes, about 5' 10" tall. Any sign of her?"

Marrek looks puzzled. "Who's Faetan?"

Ellie replies "Daughter of Bleys. It was a possibility that we were meeting here to go out and explore Amber."

Ryoden turns about. "I don't see her. I bet if I could fly..." She smiles sweetly at Marrek and Ellie.

Ellie shakes her head with a smile "No, Ryoden. That's not really a good idea I think. Jurt said no shifting."

"No no. We have enough trouble keeping track of you on the ground, Highness." He looks around for someone matching the given description.

Ryoden pouts and jumps down, then starts picking up some sticks from the ground.

Marrek looks around, and doesn't see anyone matching the description.

Ellie wonders if Faetan might still be involved with Bleys and Corwin...

Ellie says "Look, Faetan may still be involved with Corwin and Bleys. Let's just carry on with what we wish to do next. Ryoden, what would you like to do next?"

"You two have a good time. I'm going to go look in on Jurt. Let me know if you need anything." With that, Marrek heads up the Castle steps and through the huge double doors.

Ryoden watches Marrek disappear. "Good. Jurt won't be alone." She turns and skips down the path a bit, then stops. Turning, "Weren't you saying something about Gerard?"

Ellie and Ryoden in Amber

Ellie walks up to her and says "I was saying we can either explore Amber on our own or call Gerard. What would make you happier, Ryoden?"

Ryoden looks at her stick collection approvingly. "Mmmm -- if Gerard's nice, then him." She looks at Ellie sneakily. "Or someone else in that deck."

Ellie laughs "Alright, let me contact Uncle Gerard and see if he has any time to meet us. Fair enough?"

She nods. Eleanor pulls out her deck and locates the right card. She concentrates like Jurt taught her, and the card grows cold...

Gerardís face animates, and she sees him in the same place as the first time she saw trump being used. He looks up. "Eleanor?"

Ellie smiles brightly and says "Hello, Uncle Gerard. I hope I haven't disturbed you. Would you mind bringing myself and a friend through?"

He smiles and holds out a hand. "Why not? You're doing well in Amber, then?"

Ryoden takes Ellie's arm as they pass through, and Eleanor finds herself on a familiar dock, not too far from the place she first set foot on Amber.

Ryoden's eyes go wide at the ships, and she steps as if to run off. Gerard grabs her by the back of her jacket. "And this is?"

Ryoden looks up, miffed. "I'm a princess." He laughs.

"Big deal. I'm a prince."

Ellie smiles and says "Uncle Gerard, may I introduce Princess Ryoden, Merlin's youngest sister. Ryoden, this is Prince Gerard of Amber." She takes Ryoden's arm and says "We're exploring Amber and thought you would be the nicest person to direct us as to good places to visit, Uncle Gerard."

He smiles at her. She regards him a long time. "Everyone is tall here," she comments.

He pats her head. "Bright one, huh?" He looks at Ellie. "So, what have you been up to?"

Ellie smiles up at him and answers "Learning a little about the family, doing some sketching and getting to know people mostly. There are some very nice people here in Amber."

"Like who? Didn't know all that many were in town." He looks down at Ryoden. "And how'd you hook up with Merlin's sister?"

Ryoden bounces around. "I'm here because someone blew off my brother's foot."

"Merlin?!" Gerard looks alarmed.

"Nope. Jurt." Gerard no longer looks alarmed.

Ellie adds "Merlin sent Ryoden here as a precautionary measure. And while Jurt is resting and recovering, we're going out for some fresh air and a chance to get out of the rooms we've been cooped up in. Where would you best recommend, Uncle Gerard?"

He looks around. "Not here. We're not in the best part of town. How about the shopping district? Kids needs some souvenirs."

Ryoden claps. "Shopping! I want Uni --" She stops herself. "Candy."

Gerard ignores the flub. "You're a little thing. How old are you?"

She counts in her head. "Seventeen."

Ellie looks at Ryoden in surprise. At most, Ryoden looks nine years old. Is this another difference in Chaos? Shopping is a good idea, Ellie thinks, but... She smiles and says "Uncle Gerard, may I briefly borrow your Trump of my father, please?"

He takes out his deck and shuffles out Corwin. "Sure..." He stops. "What, you get a stripped trump deck?"

Ellie smiles ruefully up at Gerard and says quietly "Not as such. Dad was really busy and didn't have the time to tell me about Trump or stuff though he said I'd learn at some point. Anyway, a nice relative helped me out and explained it to me and got me a Trump deck, just in case of emergencies or stuff. However, if I use my own Trump deck to call Dad, he'll just fret and get annoyed with me again. If you don't want to loan me the Trump, it's alright Uncle Gerard."

He hands her the trump. "Mind if I ask who the 'nice relative' is? Now, if you act cute and flit your eyes and try to distract me, I'll understand that you don't want me to know, and I'll act like your dumb lug uncle. Okay?"

Ryoden hums and dances around, just bursting with her secret.

Ellie flashes a brilliant smile up at Gerard "Thank you for being so understanding, Uncle Gerard. Consider me having acted duly cute, please."

She steps a short way back and concentrates on the Trump before her...

The image on card shifts and grows real, and she feels Corwin's mind touch her own. He appears in front of her, and she can see he's still in his bedchambers.

"Eleanor? How did you get a trump of me?"

Ellie smiles and replies "Hi dad. I asked Uncle Gerard if I could borrow his trump of you and he agreed. That's how I have a trump of you. How are you feeling?"

He looks behind her, and doesn't answer her question. "You're on the docks?" His face grows serious. "You're not in the best part of town. Do you have anyone with you?"

Ellie nods "Yes, I'm with Uncle Gerard and Ryoden is also here with me. We're getting advice on good places to go in Amber to visit. It's alright, Dad, honestly."

He nods. "Stay close to him, then, a keep a tight reign on the girl. Was there a reason you called?" He thinks a moment and looks confused. "None of the other Chaosites are with you?"

Ellie shakes her head "No, Jurt's resting and I think Marrek is keeping him company. Were you expecting either of them to be with me? As to why I called, Uncle Gerard recommended shopping for Ryoden and I, but I don't have any Amber money yet. May I borrow some money from you, Father?"

He smiles. He takes a ring off of his finger and hands it to her through the contact. "Show them that, and tell them to bill the castle. Gerard can help confirm the authenticity." He looks relieved that it was such a normal request.

Ellie smiles warmly at him "Thank you, Dad." She grins and says "I promise not to bankrupt you." then adds more gently "We can chat when I get back if you like."

He nods. "We did get interrupted, didn't we? Have fun." He thinks for a moment. "Buy something nice to wear. I'd like you to have dinner with your Aunt and I. You can meet one of your cousins."

Ellie nods and answers "Formal dress. Alright, Father, that shouldn't be a problem. May I ask which Aunt and which cousin I am to meet? Or is that for later?"

"No reason for it to be secret. Flora and her son Mathonwyr. I might have mentioned her before." He looks to the side, as if hearing something. "I have to go. I'll see you later tonight." And abruptly, the connection is gone.

When Ellie looks up, Ryoden is sitting forlornly on a half-wall. "He said to stay here, or he'd throw me in the water." Gerard is nowhere in sight.

Ellie nods and takes one last quick look around. Hopefully things will proceed smoothly enough that Gerard will not need to be called upon. She turns to Ryoden and smiles "Well, as long as we stick together, we should hopefully be fine. Apparently though, this isn't a good area for us to be in." She holds out her arm to Ryoden "Shall we go shopping then and leave this area?"

Ryoden pouts and folds her arms. "He said the water's cold, and I can shift all I want, it'll be cold, and he knows where I'm staying." She kicks the wall with her heel. "A man came up and got him, and they were talking about people coming out of the water." She looks at the ring and smiles. "What's that?"

As Ellie slips the ring onto a middle finger, she replies "My father's ring. As long as I show it to the shopkeepers, we can bill the Castle. We may need Gerard to back that up though. I hope everything is alright."

Ellie adds with a smile "I've been told to get something nice to wear in addition to anything else. What do you want to get apart from candy?"

Ryoden shakes her head and stands up on the half-wall. "I can't see him. He's gone. Forgotten us." She jumps off the wall. "There isn't a ball or anything, is there?" She makes a face of pure disgust.

Ellie shrugs "I don't know. Corwin wants me to attend a dinner with an aunt and a cousin though hence wearing something other than jeans."

Ellie smiles and continues "Alright, let's go then. Remember to keep close or I won't be allowed to take you out on my own again. Which shop would you like to go to first?"

Ryoden looks around, then eyes Ellie's clothes. "Um, when did Mandor make those for you? They're fading." She quickly adds, "Not much, just a bit."

Ellie looks down at her clothing then back up and says "A few hours ago. I guess we better get moving." With a grin to Ryoden, Ellie says "Alright, shops first.". With a last look round, she and Ryoden then head off into Amber.

Ryoden skips off, casting a glance back now and then to ensure Eleanor still follows.

The town gets better after a few blocks, and more suitable stores start to appear. Clothing, food, books... Ryoden runs to one store and peers at something in a display. She pulls out one of the items and shows it to Eleanor.

"A map. I think we need one of these." She smiles sweetly.

Ellie replies "That's a good idea, Ryoden. Let's get it and then head in there." indicating a nearby shop. Its display shows clothing of good quality, tending to the simple rather than the extravagant. Ellie smiles then pauses, thinking for a moment, and asks Ryoden "How are you doing for clothing, Ryoden? Would you like some more too?"

Ryoden instinctively hugs her jacket to herself. "No! I like my clothes." She looks around, distaste colouring her face. "I don't like towns like these. It's all tight and skirts and lacings... I like shadow Earth stuff." She proudly tugs at her shirt, displaying a pair of feline eyes and the word CATS etched across it. "Theirs are much neater."

She gets her map, and after accounts are settled, walks over to the clothing store. She finds a place to sit on the floor and proceeds to look at her map, making interested noises.

Ellie picks out a selection of clothing in greens, blacks and creams. As she does, she says "How about this then? We get you some clothing here to satisfy the court and when I can, I take you to shadow Earth and we get some more clothes there that you like. I wouldn't mind picking up some more jeans either." Ellie smiles then adds a simple and elegant gown in cream, saying "Have you ever been to France?"

Ryoden looks up from her map, indignant. "I don't need new clothes. Jurt didn't say." She looks down. "I won't be doing court stuff here." She's silent for a moment, then folds her map back up. "No, we didn't go to France. I've been to Florida and New York and California, but that's it."

Ellie nods "Alright, I know you don't need new clothes. It was just a thought to stop people questioning the fact that you're a princess. Unfortunately, most people tend to judge by their appearance." She purchases the last items, smiling and complimenting the attendants on their  service, and continues "So would you like to go to France? I'd be more than happy to take you at a later date."

Ryoden smiles and stands. "Sure, I'll go. Jurt going too?" Her face is neutral as she studies Eleanor. "Where now? Do you need more things?"

Ellie shakes her head "No, that's me finished. They're delivering to the Castle. As for Jurt, I don't know. I was inviting you, Ryoden, for your own sake. How about we go get a couple of sundaes before we do any more shopping? What would you like to shop for?"

She taps the map in her pocket. "I have what I want. Did you get walking shoes?" She turns and exits the shops. "Sundaes... Sundaes..." She looks around, searching. She spots something and smiles, heading off.

Ellie smiles, shaking her head a little, and heads off after Ryoden. Catching up with her, Ellie replies "Got walking shoes and a change of clothing. What's your idea?"

Ryoden jumps up to a counter and sits on a barstool. Eleanor can see that the case to her left holds a number of sweets. Ryoden studies a menu on the wall while handing Ellie the map. "Just a place I heard about. Supposed to be nice."

She orders something involving brownies and caramel, then looks at Eleanor.

"Grove of the Unicorn."

Ellie orders a strawberry dessert and pauses before answering "That does sound like a nice place, I agree. However, you would be better off going there with Jurt." She shrugs apologetically "I'm afraid Arden is kind of off limits to me at the moment. Sorry, Ryoden. It should be fine for you and Jurt to go though."

Ryoden looks confused. "Why? It's just some trees and stuff." She smiles. "What's _really_ there? Is it neat?"

Her dessert comes, then Ellie's, and she digs in, but keeps her appetite in check enough to listen to Eleanor's response.

Ellie answers honestly "I don't know what's really there. I've never been to Arden. Julian and Dad don't get on in some ways, so I'm kind of in the political crossfire I guess, hence Arden being off-limits." She pauses then changes the subject, saying with a smile "You know, just because I like Jurt doesn't mean I can't like you for you as well."

She pauses for a moment, and appears to study her whipped cream. "I didn't say you couldn't. Neither did he." She licks a gob off her spoon. "Are you coming to Chaos when we go home?"

Ellie replies quietly "I would like to visit certainly. What would you say Chaos is like, Ryoden?" She pushes away the remainder of her dessert and orders coffee for herself then turns to Ryoden "What would you like to drink?"

Ryoden looks up sharply, her hand flying to her pendant. Without a word, she vanishes in a rainbow trail.

Ryoden looks up sharply, her hand flying to her pendant. Without a word, she vanishes in a rainbow trail.

Ellie quickly pays the bill and makes her way back to the Castle, trying to trump Jurt as she does. From Ryoden's touching of the pendant, she guesses that is where the problem is. Worry wells up within with her for the two people whom she has come to care about as family and more. She readies Corwin's trump in case the first contact doesn't get through.

She feels a faint contact with Jurt's but feels as though he's trying to shrug it off. She grasps Corwin's trump, and gets contact almost immediately. He looks at her calmly, then worried. "Ellie? What's wrong?"

Ellie replies quickly "I think something is wrong with Jurt, Dad. Ryoden vanished, back to him I think. I'm on my way back, but you're already there. He's not taking Trump calls either."

Corwin reaches out without a word and grabs her by her arm, pulling her into his chambers. He turns and grabs his sword off the wall, cursing. "Every day," he utters and runs out of the room.

Without hesitation, Ellie runs after her father. At least it's a short distance, she reflects as she runs, careful to keep out of her father's way and give him room to act.

Corwin throws an arm back, stopping her as an explosion goes off. He pushes her back. "Stay."

Ellie stops immediately then nods and waits patiently, saying to Corwin "Be careful, Dad, please. Remember you matter to me too."

She watches as Corwin approaches the door to Brand's room. He listens a moment, then sighs and opens it slowly. "It's Corwin. What happened?"

Itching to find out what has happened, Ellie nevertheless manages to stay where she is as instructed. She continues to watch and listen keenly though for anything she may see or hear.

Jurt exits, looking dishevelled, pushing a crying Ryoden. He closes the door. "It's okay, Ryo. You didn't hurt him that bad, okay?" She shakes and puts her head in her hands.

Jurt sees Eleanor out of the corner of his eye, and smiles weakly at her. "Exciting afternoon."

Ellie nods and moves over to comfort Ryoden as best as she can, surreptitiously scanning for her any injuries. Quietly, she asks Jurt "Are you alright? What happened in there?"

He stops Ryoden with a hand on her shoulder. "We should discuss this somewhere else." He looks back at the room. "Soon."

Ellie nods and answers "Alright. I'm just very glad to see that both of you are unharmed." She takes out a handkerchief and gently wipes away Ryoden's tears, adding with a small smile "Besides, I still owe this young lady a milkshake or something. Don't I, Ryoden?"

Jurt nods, and heads away from Brand's room, talking quietly to Eleanor. "She landed the four of us -- Merlin, Mandor, Despil and I, I mean -- in the hospital with a more tuned up version of what you heard go off. Ever since --" He looks at Ryoden, still shaking.

They turn a corner, and he spies a small alcove. "Here." He sits on an available couch, and Ryoden curls up onto his lap. He pets her head.

"You know Marrek is back there lying for you, right?" She nods. "So, who cast the spell?"

"Marrek."

He hugs her close. "Good girl."

Marrek, Ellie, Jurt and Ryoden, impromptu pow-wow

Marrek seats himself on a convenient couch, and quietly summons a glass of a much needed brandy. "You father's been mollified," he tells Eleanor. Turning to Jurt he adds, "He took our little visitor and trumped off somewhere, presumably to find Florimel. That's something to keep in mind, by the way. That guy is her son. The two of us are not likely to be popular with her for a while."

Ellie nods and replies "I trumped Dad to help out when I couldn't get Jurt." She looks upwards, muttering something under her breath then adding quietly "Flora and her son. This is going to make life interesting, especially in the short term. Shall we all go back into the room now?"

Jurt nods and gets up. "So, Marrek, heard Kashfa is beautiful this time of year." He grabs his crutches and heads back, a tearful Ryoden beside him, calming down, slowly but surely.

As she passes Marrek, she looks down and whispers quietly. "Thank you..."

Marrek looks Ryoden in the eye and gives her a sombre nod. "Any time, Your Highness," he says softly. "Call me and I'll be there."

Marrek rises and falls into step behind Jurt. "Kashfa," he says in a lighter tone, "is definitely looking better and better."

Ellie falls into step beside Marrek and says "Luke said to give it a couple of days, but I'm sure he'd be fine with the rest of you going on ahead early as circumstances warrant."

Jurt shakes his head. "No. I'm not leaving you here alone. This was not a good example of Amberite behaviour, and I'm not leaving a novice to the games to herself."

Ryoden hits the room first, entering and making a beeline for her room. She pulls out a pack and rifles through. Finding a box, she opens it and starts snacking on the contents.

Ellie replies quietly "I'm more concerned about keeping you, Ryoden and Marrek safe. Now, want to fill me in on what happened? I'm supposed to be going to dinner later with Flora, her son and Dad."

Marrek turns away, struggling to keep a straight face. /An interesting dinner indeed./

He stands and helps himself to another glass of brandy. "With Corwin there, I don't think there will be any trouble. Hopefully, the fact that you weren't directly involved will keep the conversation civil." He smiles, "Besides, they may have something else to occupy themselves."

Jurt stares sullenly at the wall. "I don't think there will be dinner. At the least he'll have a headache." Eleanor, following his gaze, sees the broken bits of stone and masonry and gasps. It looks like a truck hit the wall. He looks at Eleanor. "Perhaps I'll get you for the evening. There's a package in your room, by the way." He looks back at the wall. "He shot at me. Just... shot! I mean, okay, I called him an asshole, but please. You don't _shoot_ people over that."

Ellie asks "He actually shot at you? Over that. That's just..." She shakes her head and turns back to Jurt "The package is probably the new clothes. Dad asked me to get something nice to wear for tonight. It was fun shopping with Ryoden too."

She looks at the dent in the wall and asks "So what actually happened before that point to merit the exchange?". Turning back to Jurt, she adds softly, a small smile on her lips "I am so glad all of you are unharmed."

Marrek speaks up as he takes a seat on the couch. "I think Mathonwyr expected these rooms to be empty; when they weren't, he took umbrage. Then Jurt invented a new definition for 'undiplomatic.'"

Marrek pauses long enough to sip at his brandy. "Of course, Mathonwyr turned right around and reinvented it himself..."

Ellie nods "It seems a fairly extreme reaction to shoot someone, I agree." Ellie smiles and adds "On a more positive note, Ryoden has been as good as gold while we were out in Amber. You would both have been proud." With a nod, she then walks to her own room.

Jurt watches Eleanor leave, then turns back to Marrek. "Diplomacy's for my brothers. My temper's a bit too hot to handle it." He sighs. "Not that it's a virtue. Just a fact." He looks at Ryo and smiles, then adds quietly. "I'm glad she blasted him, in a way. It's not good for her to fight at this age, but still-- there's a small satisfaction in seeing him knocked out."

Ryoden gets up and brings her box to the couch. She curls up next to her brother and continues to eat. He pets her hair. "Better?" She nods and offers the box to him and Marrek.

Marrek reaches into the box and pulls out...candy? Giving a mental shrug, he pops the small bits of peanut butter and chocolate into his mouth.

"I'd say he had it coming," he tells Jurt, "and maybe he learned something from it." /Like looking behind him before he tries to blow someone away./

"He's an Amberite, and he's young from the looks of it. Anyone with those two qualities is bound to be owed a lesson or two." He cringes. "Same goes for Chaos, too."

He pulls out a candy himself and munches. "Reeses Pieses. Funny little candy from Shadow Earth. She made a never ending box of them for travelling." He rolls his eyes. "Don't as me how it works. One of those things. Must have picked it up from Merlin or Mandor. They make odd things all the time."

******

Seeing the package, Ellie smiles and then closes the door behind her before carefully opening the parcel.

She smiles as she finds the dress she ordered, pale and simple. She wonders if she'll get to wear it after all. Things in the castle are likely to get complicated, and Jurt seems set on not leaving without her.

As she puts the dress and the rest of the clothes away, Ellie wonders what can be done to ease the situation. At least for the moment. Ryoden needs may need Mathonwyr and Jurt to be kept apart somehow. Maybe finishing the talk with her father may be a good idea after all.

She changes quickly into a cream silk shirt and black breeches with a short pair of black boots. On an impulse, she unbraids her hair and ties it back simply with a green ribbon, the black hair falling to her waist.

She quickly checks her reflection and nods. Presentable anyway, she thinks. Alright, she considers, a check on Ryoden first then to see if there's any way to cheer Corwin.

As an afterthought, she tucks the necklace inside the shirt before heading back into the room.

Ellie: Talking with Corwin

She exits her room, and Jurt looks over. He smiles. "A good trip." Ryoden looks up, and while her face is still a bit red, she seems to be calmer. She lays against Jurt's side, and munches on little round candies.

Seeing everything is well with the Chaosites, she exits and makes her way to Corwin's room. The door is still open, and he is looking through a set of papers as she enters."Eleanor. Please close the door behind you."

Ellie does so and walks over to her father. Quietly, she asks "How can I help, Father?" Looking down briefly, she adds "I am sorry if my trumping you was a bad idea. It seemed the most sensible option at the time though. How is Flora's son doing?"

"He'll live. He was beginning to stir when I came back up here." He doesn't look up from his papers. "Trumping back was fine, the best you could have done in the situation." He shuffles a few things, then finally meets Eleanor's gaze.

"Tell me what happened in the city."

Ellie nods and replies "Alright, Dad. As Ryoden and I were going to Amber City, I remembered what you said about Gerard being trustworthy. So we went to see him first to ask for advice about where was best to go. That's when I trumped you the first time. Gerard then had to leave to deal with a matter of his own so Ryoden and I went straight out of the docks area and did some shopping. We were having some food and chatting when Ryoden left. After that, I made my way back to the Castle, trumping you for the second time. Are you alright, Father? You seem uncomfortable about something."

He nods. "Yes. I am worried about something. I don't think I'm protecting something. I think I'm harbouring it." He eyes Ellie. "There's a subtle difference, but it's those that can kill you."

He leans back and folds his hands, looking at her through hooded eyes.

"Tell me about the girl."

Ellie is quiet for a time before answering "That's just it, Dad. Whatever else she can or cannot do, Ryoden is still a girl, a child even. She's not an adult yet, but a little girl loyal to her brothers, Merlin and Jurt most especially, and missing the only home she's ever known. She may be dangerous, I don't know the surety of that, but if she is it will be to any who try to hurt Merlin. She also responds well to kindness as I have found out." Ellie pauses before continuing "If you really don't want her here, I have a solution, sort of. Luke has invited Ryoden, Jurt and I to Kashfa in a couple of days if we wish to take him up on the invitation. That would keep the Chaosians out of your hair wouldn't it and at least minimise any problems."

His eyes narrow and features darken. "Out of sight is not out of mind, Eleanor. Children grow. I'm not a monster, but I am still a king." He shakes his head and his features relax. "That came out wrong. What I mean is I have to be on my guard. She may literally be an adult tomorrow. It was only a year between the time Merlin was conceived and when I met him as an adult. Some places in shadow run faster than others, and Chaos, at the time, was extremely fast."

He pauses, then smiles slightly. "Normally I would try to put off you going to Kashfa. But perhaps things are a bit too hectic for you here right now. How would you feel about going in a few days? Day after tomorrow, perhaps?"

Ellie nods and replies "The day after tomorrow should be fine, Dad." She is quiet for a moment then adds "I know you have to be on your guard. It's just that I worry about you too. Even though I may not always agree with you or even take your advice, that doesn't mean I don't love you. Sometimes, I need to make my own mistakes. I'm also learning and making friends as I go, or at least getting to know people, learning which ones to be wary of and which ones I can work with." Ellie pauses then smiles and adds "And I do follow your wishes most of the time. I got nice clothes, as requested. Would you like your ring back, by the way? It came in very handy, thank you."

He smiles and takes her hand. "No. Keep it." He looks at the window and the setting sun. "Give your cousin an hour to recoup. He'll be fine. I've seen my brothers get blasted through walls and still go out on the town that night. Sisters too at times."

He releases her hand and paces to the window. "You're at a disadvantage. Making mistakes isn't as much of an option here as it is elsewhere. When I was growing up, Benedict still nicked himself. Fiona stumbled over her words. Eric and I hurt ourselves more with swords than each other. We weren't as dangerous." He touches the window, and he pauses, lost in an unspoken memory. "Now... I don't know what's going to happen to your generation. You're kittens batting at lions."

Ellie considers his reply then says "The obvious answer would be not to bat at the lions, but I guess my generation may have no option if the lions come looking for us. By your words, I'm guessing that it's not just me who's in danger." She thinks for a moment then continues "This may be a silly question, but behind any attack or threat, there's usually a motive isn't there? So who or what would have something to gain by it?"

He shrugs. "Why did Eric and I try to kill each other for a few centuries? Why did Oberon play us off of one another? Why do any of us do anything we do?"

"It's something to do."

Ellie nods "I guess so, but wouldn't it invite retaliation against one's own children if one was to harass others' young?"

He shrugs and puts his back more fully to her. "You'd have to know who did the harassing to go after them. And if one of you is harassed hard enough, then you won't be around to tell the tale."

He leans against the sill. "There's an infinite number of ways to kill someone. Most you can do without a trace of evidence being left behind. We're old. We've had time to think awful thoughts."

He looks back over his shoulder, and his face sits in shadows, outlined by the setting sun. "You should go change, should you not?"

Ellie nods "I will. Where would you like me to meet you for dinner, Father? Will it still be with Flora and Mathonwyr?"

He nods and returns to the desk. "It should be. Flora would drag him to dinner if his arm clung to his shoulder by a string." His hand falls on her shoulder. "If you go to Kashfa, all I ask is that you keep in touch."

Ellie smiles "I will, Dad, I promise. Now, I best go get changed." She gives Corwin a brief hug then leaves hurriedly to go to her chamber and get changed into one of the new dresses. She smiles to herself. If nothing else, Flora sounds interesting to meet.

She enters, and walks in on Marrek and Jurt sitting, apparently in the pause of conversation, Jurt looking troubled, Marrek looking thoughtful. Jurt takes a second to notice her, and he seems conflicted. "How'd it go?"

Ellie smiles "Well enough. I'm leaving for Kashfa day after tomorrow, with Dad's say-so and am going to dinner with him and guests shortly."

She pauses then adds seriously "You may want to be careful though. Things seem to be... tense right now." She smiles gently "Are you alright, Jurt? You seem troubled."

Marrek smiles wryly at Jurt. "Nothing a good night's sleep won't cure." He stands and straightens his shirt. "If you'll excuse me, I have one or two things to consider." With a polite nod to Eleanor, he begins to retreat to his bedroom.

Ellie nods "And I have to get going too. It was nice to meet you again, Marrek." then she slips into her own room to get changed into one of the new dresses, a dark green velvet one this time in a simple and flattering style. She glances at her reflection, untying her hair to let it hang straight down her back as she does so. A final check then she heads back out, hoping that things will go well at the dinner.

He smiles as she enters. "A very successful trip. Running off right away?" He motions for her to sit. "Don't know when you'll get back from dinner. Heard these Amber things can run kind of long. You'd think we never left Chaos."

Ellie smiles and sits beside Jurt, saying "No, I just don't want to be late that's all. I'm glad you approve of my dress sense. So what are dinners like in Chaos?"

He rolls his eyes. "Long. Political. Pointless. Everyone with their latest demon form on. No pretty dresses. Ryoden being as unrefined as she is, I don't get to go to many." He puts an arm around her waist and kisses her neck. "You won't be late."

Just as he moves in, a knock sounds at the door. He straightens up and tenses. "Um--" The door opens, revealing an elegantly dressed woman enters and regards the two with interest. "I-- didn't say you could enter."

"I know. Pity." She holds out her hand. "Flora."

Jurt cringes.

Ellie rises, smoothly disengaging herself from Jurt's arm still around her waist, a faint pink colour in her cheeks.

She curtsies gracefully to Flora, taking her hand, then straightens and releases Flora's hand. Smiling up, she says "Good evening, Aunt Flora. It is such a pleasure to meet you. I'm Eleanor and this is Jurt."

Flora blinks at the word aunt, but says no more about it. Her gaze focuses on Jurt. "Your highness. I'm terribly sorry your party wasn't more lavishly welcomed. I wasn't aware Corwin had opened his doors to a delegation."

Jurt shrugs. "It's not really business." He struggles up and takes her hand, kissing it briefly. The gesture doesn't fit him.

The door behind them opens, and a small head pops out. Ryoden eyes the newcomers with interest, then moves out in full view.

Jurt motions to her. "Princess Ryoden of Chaos. My full sister."

Flora's eyebrow shoots up.

"My, the line gets longer every day. Maybe getting his arm ripped off was worth it," she almost mutters.

It is Ellie's turn to blink at that statement, but she says nothing and stands politely to one side while introductions are being made.

Marrek + Ellie: A welcome, finally

Flora regards Marrek somewhat more approvingly. Jurt motions back. "And this is Marrek of House Aida. He's keeping us company."

Ryoden comes to the back of the couch and leaps over, but manages to keep her mouth shut while studying the new Amberite.

Flora nods to Marrek, a small smile emerging as she looks at his manner of dress, then she moves to study Eleanor. "And who do you belong to...?"

Ellie replies with a polite smile "I'm Corwin's daughter, if that's what you mean."

"Perceptive." She tilts her head. "Short, for Corwin's daughter. At least you're well dressed." She casts a small disdainful look at the somewhat ragged Jurt and Ryoden. He catches it and glares, but Ryoden appears unmiffed.

"We'll have to redress the two of you for the ball, however. You didn't happen to bring anything besides your house dressings with you, did you?"

Ryoden's eyes widen. "A ball?" Her face grows dark. "Great," she mutters.

Ellie smiles reassuringly at Ryoden then asks Flora softly "May I ask when the ball is to be?"

"Tomorrow," she replies. "At least it should be. This whole note thing has taken us all by surprise... but we were overdue anyway. The nobles' bank accounts we getting too fat." She touches Ryoden's hair and grimaces. "A princess? Really... I met Dara once. She didn't seem the type to breed a street urchin."

/That street urchin, dear Florimel, levelled your precious son with a mere thought. I'd keep that in mind if I were you.../

Ryoden's chin goes out defiantly, and for a moment, ripped jeans and all, she looks every inch of royalty. "I like my clothes _as they are_."

Jurt pulls her close. "And she isn't Dara's charge. She's mine."

Marrek gives a mental wince at Jurt's words. /Go ahead, Jurt. Hand her the ammunition./ Marrek finds a convenient wall upon which to lean and crosses his arms. "So to what occasion do we attribute this grand ball, Lady Florimel?"

Ellie backs up Marrek, saying gently "Indeed. It would be most helpful if we were to know this. After all, one would hate to arrive at a birthday party with nothing for the guest of honour, for example, or a masquerade without a mask."

Flora takes out a small book from some place on her person. "We're celebrating a glorious snafu in the human resources department which has made me an aunt a few times over. Now, how many in your delegation?"

"Three," replies Jurt, "But Ryo and I won't be going. Marrek can go if he wants." Ryoden nods, and sticks her tongue out at Flora.

Flora cocks an eyebrow. "Really?" she breathes to Jurt. She puts the book away and walks over to the petulant Ryoden, smiling. She strokes the child's cheek and purrs.

"There'll be sweets..." Ryoden's eyes light up and refocuses her energies on Jurt. Flora smiles at him. "Three, then."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world."

Ellie, watching how smoothly Flora has changed the situation, suppresses a smile. As unknown as she is to Ellie, the young woman nevertheless likes her. She's interesting indeed, Ellie decides. As for the ball, if nothing else it will be instructive and dancing is always fun. How many cousins constitute a few?...

Marrek's thoughts mirror Eleanor's own in one respect, though neither know it. A few cousins. Add in the Elders who will certainly make an appearance, the mysterious wanderer of the Castle and one or two unknowns and you've got the makings of a security nightmare. /Tomorrow promises to be an exceptionally long night--if we're still here, that is./

Even as plans begins to form in his mind, Marrek wonders how long until Jurt can be back up on his feet...

Having conquered the child, Flora looks back at Eleanor. "And where has my brother been hiding you, dear?" She seems to size the young woman up. "You do know how to dance, don't you?"

She looks back at Marrek. "Aida... a new house?" She taps her lip. "You look... familiar."

Ellie nods "I have lived in a number of places. And yes, I do know how to dance. Indeed, I like dancing very much."

Marrek straightens and waves a hand nonchalantly. "Relatively. A consolidation of several lesser Houses."

"Hmmm... and your original house was? I assume this new house has something to do with our recent war, no?" She smiles. "Always some new upstarts looking to fill the vacuum."

"Was of little consequence." Marrek's eyes gain a momentary dangerous glint before being covered quickly by wry amusement. /Give it about an hour, Dear Florimel. Then you'll know much more about upstarts getting their due./

She eyes Jurt's foot. "I guess _you_ won't be dancing, will you?" Jurt goes to reply, but Ryoden breaks in eagerly.

"Oh, no! I made him a foot! He can dance. Mand--" Jurt pulls her back, breaking off her sentence.

"Gee, that dinner's probably getting really cold, isn't it?"

Ellie smiles and adds "And in addition, I'm sure there is much we have to discuss before tomorrow, Aunt Flora. As well as my father does, I am sure there is much about Amber and its ways that you could fill me in on, the correct manner in which to behave for example, if you were so willing. Having dinner while we talk would be so much more pleasant and civilised."

/I wouldn't put too large a wager on that, my dear Eleanor./ Marrek glances out a window at the setting sun. "Isn't it getting on towards dinnertime now, Lady Florimel?"

She smiles. "I'm well aware of the time. I just wanted to stop by and give my welcome to the Chaos delegation. I'm sure we'll have time to chat later."

She spins, and goes to leave, but as she gets to the door, she looks over her shoulder and winks at Jurt. "My son sends his regards." With that, she disappears around the corner.

Jurt scowls. "Let him try and send them again."

Ellie says quietly "Don't let yourself be goaded, Jurt. The only person that's hurting is you. And be as ready as you can be just in case. Ryoden, if you want, we can get you something to wear tomorrow and take you for more sundaes." She smiles "Now, I have to get going. I'll be back later."

With that, Ellie hurries out of the shared chambers and onwards to the dinner meeting.

*********

Ellie wanders for a while, but after cornering a few servants, she finds the correct dinning room. Small, but still terribly formal.

She enters, and at the head of the table, sees an old man smiling at his surroundings bemusedly.

Ellie smiles and walks up to the old man. She curtsies politely then smiles and says "Good evening, sir. I'm Eleanor. I don't think we've been introduced yet."

He waves his hand. "I'm never introduced." He studies her, then pats the seat to his right. "You're a pretty girl. Not a servant, though. Where'd you come from?"

She sits down to his right as he indicates and replies "Thank you. My father Corwin brought me to Amber, sir. So how should I address you?"

"Corwin's your father?" He leans back. "I suppose it could be. You have the colouring." He puts a wrinkled finger under her chin and lifts it a bit, turning her face from one side to another.

"Nice features. You have the family structure." He releases her and smiles.

"You can call me Oberon."

Ellie smiles "Please call me Ellie. All my friends do." She pauses then asks "Please excuse my not knowing, but where do you fit in to the family? I've heard your name a couple of times, but that's been it. Are you one of my uncles too?"

"Uncle?!" he almost roars, but then goes into a coughing fit. After a few minutes he composes himself again, then looks at her with a scowl.

"Ungrateful little shit... not you, Corwin. I'm your grandfather." He mutters a few more things Ellie is somewhat glad she can't hear.

Ellie hesitates then smiles warmly at Oberon, saying "Well, I'm very glad to meet you, Oberon. Don't be angry at Dad, please. He's had a lot on his mind lately. I'm not helping him either. I go off and do things on my own that he doesn't always agree with." She smiles ruefully "Still, I'm learning. And I'm also rambling. Sorry." Her smile widens "It is nice to meet you though."

He plays with his fork idly. "You sound like the rest of them, then, though you do have an honest face." He glares at his empty mug, then turns his attention back to her. "So, what sort of things did you get into?"

Ellie asks innocently "The rest of who? And is there any way I can cheer you up? Make you feel better?"

He laughs, the shadow of something that might have been hearty at one point. "The rest of my progeny, little demons they are. And I think I'll feel much cheered in a few minutes."

A serving girl enters and regards the old man nervously. She fills his mug and he takes it, grunting. "Aren't we supposed to be eating soon?"

Her hand shakes, spilling some of the pitchers contents. "Sir, are you sure--?"

"Goddammit, yes!" he yells, and slams the mug down weakly, but strongly enough to send the girl running from the room.

Ellie watches then replies "I haven't met many of my uncles so far and only one aunt." She smiles wryly "They're a mixed bag. And I'm much too honest, I think." She shrugs "C'est la vie." She asks "So what do you do here in Amber?"

He takes up his mug. "I rot." He drinks and his eyes grow distant. "The golden age is over. I've put puppies at the helm."

Ellie is quiet for a moment then asks "Oberon, forgive me if this is a silly question. However, if you're not happy with the way they run things why did you put them there to start with?"

"I didn't," he spits. "They made their moves before they should have." He drinks deeply. "I thought their failure at playing at kings the first time would have calmed them down, but no-- everyone has a _better_ way." He frowns deeply.

"Should have drowned the lot at birth, all the good they've done me."

Ellie replies "Well, why not just be king again? And they have done you some good." She smiles at him "You have a grand-daughter who likes you for a start. And if you don't want to be king, there are a lot of other things to do."

He pats her hand, then motions to his legs. She realizes the only reason he sits now is due to a combination of well hidden straps and supports. "You should have seen me in my glory, child. I've had too many things ripped out to be king. I wouldn't be a good one now."

Ellie gently squeezes his hand "I'm sorry you've been injured. Is there anything I can do to help?"

He shrugs. "Turn back time. Besides that..." He looks at the door angrily. "How long are they going to keep me waiting? If they've warned him..."

Ellie hesitates then says "Oberon, I have an idea that will help both you and my father, if you want to hear it that is. Why don't you advise my father? Nobody could deny you that post after all. And it would give you something to do. I don't doubt you were a great king so why not let that experience benefit others?"

He watches her for a moment, then sighs. "There's more to running a universe than politics. Do you have pattern yet?"

Ellie nods, her attention focused on her new-found grandfather  "Yes, I have Pattern. Why do you ask?"

Ellie and Celeste: Family dinner

He goes to respond as the door opens, and the man that Ellie has only seen in cards steps in. Benedict, the master of arms, and the one that caused Corwin so much concern.

His eyes widen slightly as he sees Oberon. "Father...?"

"So your mother says," replies Oberon.

Corwin steps in behind him, and visibly pales, then reddens. "What are you doing here?" he asks, his tone harsh.

Oberon finishes off his mug. "I'm tired of eating in my room."

Celeste enters last, and finds her father in a rare state of surprise, Corwin worse off, and the two of them staring at the table containing a faded old man and a young dark haired woman in an elegant green gown.

Celeste in surprise of seeing her father in surprise drops the palm top. Looking quickly to those gathered here before quickly kneeling to retrieve the dropped object.

Ellie looks from one to the other then smiles hopefully to Corwin saying "I have been chatting away to my grandfather here who has been kind enough to put up with my ramblings." She grins to her grandfather "Now you get some better company than I." She smiles to Celeste and Benedict "Good evening, I'm Eleanor."

Oberon grumbles, but seems slightly pleased at disturbing his sons. "I'd hardly call those two better company."

Corwin motions to Eleanor quickly. "My daughter, Eleanor." Benedict looks at him, another neutral glance than Corwin seems to read more into. "We all have surprises."

Celeste retrieves her palm top, and upon straightening notices Oberon staring at her. "Another one to add to his line... Are any of you keeping score?"

Ellie rises, making way for her father, and smiles "I'm sure somebody is." She then moves to the next seat down and smiles at Celeste "A palm top? Do they work here?"

"Not normal ones, I had experimented with a technology sorcery mix. It luckily works almost anywhere." She says with a quick smile.

Then with a neutral expression turns towards Benedict to see if he would happen to introduce the newest face that has not been introduced. Curious to who her own father called father, besides her grandfather. There is more to people then a family title.

Benedict seems to have momentarily forgotten his daughter as he counts the chairs. "Were you expecting us?" Corwin shakes his head. "Then who else is coming?"

"Flora and her son Mathonwyr. Oh, and some Begman girl Math's attached to."

Benedict stiffens slightly at the mention of Flora's name. "You should have told me."

"I didn't know it was a problem."

Oberon winks at Ellie and Celeste. "You like food fights, girls?"

Ellie grins back at Oberon and replies lightly "I throw with the best of them. For a custard pie in the face, I'm your woman." She leans closer to her grandfather and adds with a smile "Is it always like this?"

Celeste smiles, at the thought of her father covered head to toe in particles of food, and throwing it at the likes of the Blond that she had eavesdropped on earlier.

"It would be a deviation from the norm."

He waves at the frowning elders. "It could be much, much worse. They're just getting warmed up."

Across the room, Corwin continues his confused look. "What's the problem with Flora? She's harmless enough."

"An argument," replies Benedict, and by the look on his face, he doesn't care to embellish.

Ellie watches, interested, then turns to Oberon and Celeste with a wry smile "We do actually have dinner though, right?"

Oberon chuckles. "We'll get dinner. What else will they try to kill each other with. Glares just aren't what they used to be."

Benedict avoids another question from Corwin by moving to Oberon's side. "How did you get here, father?"

"You know the unicorn, right...?" replies Oberon, smiling widely at Benedict's glare. "I thought I explained this all a long time ago, boy. And looking at the line you've seeded, I thought you understood."

Corwin sighs and looks at the ceiling pleadingly, as if begging it to collapse on him.

Celeste hides a smile from Benedict, knowing that unless its the science of war that Benedict is the equivalent of clueless or acts so.

Ellie looks at Oberon then grins at her father "You weren't kidding about the unicorn then?" She walks over to her father and says quietly "It's just dinner, Dad."

He puts a hand on her shoulder and sighs. "You're going to be eating those words in about an hour, especially when Flora shows up. I didn't know she would ruffle his feathers like that."

Benedict, seeing no further progress with his father, moves to a sideboard and starts pouring the wine he brought.

Ellie and Celeste turn their heads as the door opens again, expecting to see Flora, dazzling and bright. Instead, however, a small brown-headed girl familiar to Ellie pops in, looking around with interest.

She wanders in and spots Ellie. She skips over. "We put on Jurt's foot. He's sleeping and we got hungry and..."

Benedict turns and regards the girl. She senses him and turns, watching him leerily. "Oh. _You_," she says, disgust dripping from her voice. Benedict actually looks slightly surprised at her tone.