Ellie, Celeste, and Marrek: Family dinner

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."

Ellie smiles up at her father and says "Probably. At least I might be eating something then. If nothing else, it will be educational."

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.

Ellie smiles warmly at the girl, trying to ease the situation, and says "Hello, Ryoden. It's lovely to see you again.

Celeste quirks an eyebrow at this 'girl's' remark. Looking at both her and the women she was led in by. As their shown intelligence put together could be counted on fingers without leaving the first hand.

She waits patiently, to see if they would even address the most respected of the room with any regard or just ignore that they were present.

Ryoden turns back and smiles. "Hello." She casts a glance at the door. "Marrek! Ellie's in here! This is that dinner she's going to with--" She pauses, and her voice grows quiet, as realization dawns. "The guy who shot Jurt." Her eyes grow wide.

Benedict overhears her comment. "Shot at?" He looks at Corwin.

"Don't worry. It was a minor scrape."

Marrek walks into the room, casting a brief guarded glance at Oberon at the head of the table before walking to stand behind Ryoden and dropping a hand on her shoulder. Stooping slightly, he utters something too low for any but her to hear, eyeing each of the room's occupants as he does so.

She nods and puts her head on his shoulder a moment. "Maybe he won't show up," she whispers.

Corwin takes a glass from Benedict, now looking like he doesn't know who to worry more about: him, or the youth Ryoden.

Oberon motions to the girl. "And who are you?" She licks her lips and moves forward. "Ryoden..."

Ellie watches the scene carefully. She smiles to Ryoden, with a small nod of reassurance. It's bad enough for the new adults here. Ryoden's abilities and intelligence are in no doubt, but Ellie realises wryly, that doesn't alter the fact of seeing Ryoden as a child and the instinctive protectiveness that goes with it. She glances at Marrek with a small smile of greeting then returns her attention to Ryoden and Oberon.

Marrek returns her greeting with a nod before moving to flank Ryoden, standing slightly behind and to her left in a protective stance, paying close attention to the room's door.

Celeste out of habit flips out her palmtop, starting to on the side put down information of what all has happened in the room. Not stepping on any toes of those that have seemed to have drawn up sides of things. She stands in the midst of them but for those that even talking around her she could be invisible.

"You gathered all of us together for a reason ?" Realizing that it was Oberon that must have sent the letter to her father. That their probably were other letters too.

Ryoden moves closer to the old man, almost as if approaching an overactive dog. Benedict nods to her. "Princess Ryoden of Chaos, daughter of Dara. Another of my line."

"Gets longer every day, doesn't it?" Oberon beckons the child to come closer. "Tell me, child, how'd you get stuck with a stick in the mud like him for an ancestor."

She bites a laugh back, and steals a glance at the now grim Benedict, who looks like he's wondering if dinner is really worth it after all.

Ellie suppresses a smile, feeling a twinge of sympathy for the dour Benedict even as she is amused by Oberon's words. /Nothing ventured, nothing gained./ She moves over to Benedict and smiles up, saying quietly "Ryoden does you proud, Uncle Benedict. I count myself lucky to know her."

He smiles, and Ellie is surprised to see it is not filled with irony or coldness, but a slight trace of warmth. "She's not fond of me," he murmurs. "We had words."

Celeste realizing that slowly she is becoming a faceless being in a multitude of others. At least she could uses what she is gifted with to make her self hopefully known in this group. Her ability to think was at least something she had on our side.

"Your majesty, if you would be so gratefully. You seem to have brought us together for some reason. Could we know what that reason is ?" Her soft melodic voice clearly spoke out.

Privately, Ellie wonders what Celeste knows that pinpoints Oberon. Curious to see what will come of it, she waits and listens, watching the interplay too between Oberon and his latest descendant.

Ryoden looks at the straps on his chair, then stands near him so he can inspect her. He seems to approve of what he sees, then looks at Celeste.

"I didn't call you. I'm not the king. He is." He waves a hand at Corwin. "I just showed up for the food."

He left the choice up to her to come here. Where no one would truly see the connection between the brainaic sorceress, and the great warrior of Amber. Just because she did not make it apparent she spent years studying the ways of battle everyone else must see her as some sort of great failure to her father.

She shoved the palmtop into her pocket. It would mean next to nothing to these people that sorcery could aid technology, in a world where technology was not supposed to work. In their eyes she was supposed to know nothing besides what kind of sword stroke could best kill an enemy.

Ellie smiles slightly, watching, then answers softly to Benedict, her voice kind "So find a way to talk. Your descendant has a generous soul. Go halfway and you'll be met, I'm sure."

He shrugs. "Children are not my forte." He watches he girl, and Ellie notes some concern on his face. "I wish this one was. What do you know of her?"

At the chair, Ryoden plays with Oberon's beard and chatters on. He listens and pats her head. Corwin watches, his brow knit in confusion. He shakes his head and refills his glass.

Ellie considers the question for a moment then answers quietly "She can be headstrong and reckless. She's also kind, loyal and far away from the only real home she's ever known." She smiles "Try ice-cream sundaes, candy or jewellery. Something she puzzle out might be appreciated too." Ellie remembers something and grins up at Benedict "Actually, I can think of something else. She very much wants to visit the Grove of the Unicorn and Arden, but none of us have been able to take her yet."

He frowns, not out of displeasure, and watches the chattering girl more closely. "Why that?" He glances at Ellie. "What else do you know, personality aside?" He studies his glass. "She's not a normal girl."

Celeste looks about the room to those that are left not in conversation.

"I take this is a normally family gathering to pick up loose ends then." Celeste politely asks Corwin.

He shakes his head. "It was supposed to be with Flora so I could see her son and talk with her about arrangements for a ball. However, we're a bit early, and your father showed up when he did... We're rather flexible in Amber." He sips on his glass. "I don't know what the problem with Flora is, though-- she's harmless enough."

"At least it is not turning out to be someone's worst nightmare yet. I guess its a learning experience for everyone. Letting everyone know where they stand. Some who appear completely as they fit in as everyone expects them and others that will have to change their thinking a bit."

He drinks his wine again. "I'm assuming you're talking in generalities about something more specific. If you'd care for something to be out in the open, just say it." He reaches over and pours a glass for Celeste. He hands it to her, a red.

"In generalities then." Celeste takes the glass carefully, just in case the properties of this world are truly different from what she is used to.

"Like any one with my specific heritage is supposed to know what a electron accelerator dose, or how to cast a fire spell. The knowledge of the calibre of blades, and weapons it seems holds more respect. As if the pursuit of knowledge is a side hobby compared to knowing the best way to take an innocent life."

He cocks an eyebrow. "Not sure what you're getting at. I'd rather you spit out the specifics." He refills his glass. "Our kind is multitalented. Some are experts at war, some body, some magic. A few know technology well. My son, for instance, knows computers quite well. Some touch arts more arcane, and while I admit finding out Benedict's daughter wasn't a sword slinger, the shock wasn't too horrible." He motions to himself. "I'm still here, after all."

"It also seems that there have been certain groups that have done that. From certain specific descents so to say. They make it seem like some crime has been committed that one not born into that group could have more then just a general knowledge of their subject matter so to say."

He growls. "I play the vague references game with my siblings, not with their progeny. If you have something that's bugging you, try adding a few 'I's and 'he's instead of this vague BS." He drinks deeply and mutters, "This is going to be a long night."

Laughs softly, "I guess I owe you an apology, I guess I have become a little too paranoid. Then I guess that's what happens when the only thing one hears is warnings and lectures since arriving in a new place. Like it was my fault I got trapped in the hall of mirrors for a few days. Ok finding where the pattern was on my own can be blamed on me."

"You said you had a son too ?What is he like ?" She asks sincerely, hoping to get a bit more understanding on what the rest of her family is like.

His face softens a bit and he relaxes. "Merlin is a king also-- a smart young man... He has his passions, but none seem to fit well with being a king. Computers, friends, and lately, his family." He motions to the young girl, now braiding Oberon's beard and laughing. "She's his sister, and..." he thinks a moment. "I suppose you would be her aunt, of sorts."

"I don't know what anyone would consider me, past an annoyance. There are a lot of us then, if Oberon's comments were justified." She asked wondering how many of close siblings she has yet to meet.

He thinks for a moment. "I don't know what Lintra's child was named... that would have been your sister. The first one of his descendants we gained contact with was Dara, his great-granddaughter, and mother to Merlin and Ryoden. If you can call a woman like that a mother." He shudders slightly. "Chaos may be crawling with your nieces and nephews. I never bothered to ask. Benedict's the type that prefers his privacy."

"Is there anyone else like you and father ?"


Ellie shrugs "I don't know why the specific location. She mentioned that it looked nice on the map. I took her shopping and that's what she bought, along with a dessert." Ellie pauses then says "Please take no offence, Uncle Benedict, with what I say. I know Ryoden is not normal, but she is still a child with the same needs as a child.

I don't really know you at all well, so whatever I know or don't know stays with me. My first instinct is to protect Ryoden and I don't have a lot of reason to trust unknown uncles. I don't believe you would harm Ryoden, but you have no reason to extend that to me and I've learned being a niece is no guarantor of safety. Let it be enough please that I do care about Ryoden and think you would both benefit from getting to know each other."

He nods, and she feels the topic drop. "I'll respect that. But she is my grand-daughter."

He eyes her carefully. "How long have you been in Amber?"

Ellie smiles wryly "Over a full day now. I arrived yesterday afternoon and things have been pretty busy since then in one way or another."

He nods. "My welcome, then." He takes something out of his pocket and looks at it a moment, then flips it to Ellie. Without thinking, she catches it, and he smiles a bit more.

"You fence?"

She opens a hand to reveal a strange coin, one with a swan on one side, a sword on the other.

Ellie shakes her head "No, I don't know how to. At least not yet anyway. I used to do some self-defence, but nothing with swords." She hands the coin back adding "That's a nice design of coin, if I may say so. Is it one of the Amber coins?"

He shakes his head. "No. It is of Avalon. A place I kept in memory of your father, and came to love." He waves for her to keep it. "You should try swords. You're fast enough."

Ellie looks thoughtful "Thank you for the advice. I will admit to not having thought of fencing before. What is the best way to go about learning fencing if one has never done any before, Uncle Benedict? Is there preparation that should be undertaken first?"

"Generally, one acquires a sword first." He sips at his wine again. "Something light for your frame." He looks at Corwin, but he's engaged in conversation with Celeste. "Your father is quite accomplished. I'm surprised he hasn't tutored you."

Ellie is quiet for a moment then answers "I don't think my father has had the time to tutor me in fencing. He's busy with everything that's happening right now, I guess."

She smiles and shrugs "Anyway, I'm using the time to find out about Amber. It is a lovely land."

He nods. "There's nothing like it." He face becomes distant, and his eyes move from Ryoden, to Celeste, to Marrek, then Eleanor. "Things are changing."

Ellie watches and queries softly "May I ask in what way things are changing, not having known this land before? Is it because of the influx of my generation?"

He shrugs. "The more layers, the more complications. Your generation is just budding and beginning to take sides. Mine is wearying of the game." He motions slightly to Corwin. "He grows grey."

Ellie thinks of how she has seen Corwin age and nods in agreement. She adds quietly, concern in her eyes for her father "Is there anything that can be done to help him?"

Benedict shakes his head. "You think yourself a shaper of destiny? His is up to him. He chose his path freely, and he has determined to stay to it until he masters it, or it puts him asunder. And to look at him, he seems to have resigned to let it kill him." He speaks plainly, without apology or remorse or, conversely, without any joy.

Ellie replies quietly "A shaper of destiny? No, just a daughter worried about her father. I see someone I care for in pain and my instinct is to help them as best I can."

"I learned long ago a man bent on self-destruction is a hard one to derail." He refills his glass, then offers her one. A dark red, heavy and fragrant. "He wasn't always so. You should visit Avalon to see a glimpse of him in happier times. Avalon was his shadow, and when I thought he was dead, I took care of it in his memory."

The look on his face completes his thought-- if he didn't care, he wouldn't have taken care of his shadow...

Ellie smiles up at Benedict "Thank you. I would like to visit Avalon certainly." She pauses then continues "Hard is not impossible though the change has to come from within I agree."

He grimaces. "No. Not just within. The situation is very complicated. He's hooked chains to his flesh to keep from falling, and now can not do anything." He hands her a parchment. "An example. The letters we received. Not from him, but he is powerless to do anything."

Ellie bites back her suspicion of who did send the letters. Without proof, it's just suspicion. Instead, she asks carefully "Is there any way to give the power back to the King? To give back control of his life? I can appreciate it must be complicated, but the longest journey begins with one step."

Benedict's face grows grim. "I keep out of the affairs of kings, especially the kings of this place." He watches as Ryoden and Marrek leave, Ryoden casting a sour look at him.

"Her memory is elephantine."

Ellie returns Ryoden's friendly wave and replies to Benedict "For good memories too. Just give her some." She looks up at Benedict and says "The politics of this place isn't something I want to get involved in if I can help it." She shrugs, her face open and honest, as she adds "No offence intended." Ellie glances at her father and adds softly "I'm just worried about him."

"It is the fact of the matter that concerns me, not what she thinks of me," he says, nodding to the direction of the vanished Ryoden. "I've known others like her."

He puts down his glass and takes another coin from his pocket, this one a coin of Amber, but not holding a face Ellie recognizes. "I was both shunted from the game, and willingly retired. I have little interest here as well. I came back to investigate that." He motions to the royal decree in Ellie's hand. "And to show my daughter the way of things here. Nothing more."

Ellie hands him back the parchment and answers with a smile "Well, I am glad to have met you, Uncle Benedict, and to have learned of Avalon, whatever your reasons for coming here. Thank you too for the advice." She asks, indicating the coin "Who is that on the face side of the coin, please?"

"Finndo," he replies. "My brother." He regards it a moment, then puts it away. "Deceased. He was my elder."

At the table, Oberon looks sour, and stares at the door, as if willing the food to come.

Ellie answers softly "I am sorry to hear that, Uncle Benedict." She pauses then says "This probably doesn't mean much, but if you are ever in Paris, I'd be happy to show you around. It can be a lovely place to visit." She grins "Anyway, it has been nice talking to you. Thank you.

"I know Paris. The shadow Earth is popular. Flora stayed there many years." His face grows grim and he looks at the door, as if dreading her entrance.

Ellie asks carefully "I take it you don't relish the thought of this meeting? I've only met Flora briefly so far."

His face grows darker. "This may not be a pleasant dinner."

At the table, Oberon laughs, and Ellie realizes that he's been listening in for a while. "What's wrong, boy? Afraid she'll castrate you again? It's hard to do with words, you know." He pounds his mug on the floor. "Besides, you've bred enough."

Ellie looks between her grandfather and her uncle, then says smiling "It may not be a pleasant dinner, but the pre-dinner chats have been nice and interesting enough. Wouldn't you agree, Oberon?"

Oberon chuckles, but Benedict looks as though he wishes less of the conversation were geared to mocking him.

"Ignore him, dear," rasps Oberon, "He just loves it, you know. Still the sullen child I sat in the corner as a toddler..."

Benedict puts down his glass, his eyes dark. "I think my appetite has waned." He turns sharply and heads to the door.

Ellie says quietly "Uncle Benedict, please stay for dinner. I for one would value your presence here."

He pauses, then turns, facing Eleanor, but looking briefly over her head at Oberon.

"The company, excluding yourself, is somewhat lacking."

"Don't worry, dear," chuckles Oberon humourlessly. "He's just doing what he does best."

Benedict's eyes narrow.

Ellie says softly, with a shake of her head "I begin to see why you're not here more often, Uncle Benedict."

"Then you're not blind," he whispers. "I'm relieved." He glances at her, then exits to the hallway.

Ellie shakes her head a little then goes to Oberon with a polite smile "It has been nice to meet you, Oberon. I wish you a good dinner."

She then glances to her father, still deep in conversation with Celeste, and adds to Oberon "I would be grateful if you would relay my apologies to my father, please." On an impulse, she leans forward and whispers "I'll visit you tomorrow, Grandfather. Take care."

With a polite curtsey in the king's direction, Ellie quickly rises and leaves the room.

Ellie: Benedict and the past

In the hallway, she finds Benedict studying a carving of the Unicorn, his expression stony.

He touches the sculpture. "I saw her once," he says. "In the Grove."

He pauses.

"Then at the Abyss."

Ellie looks at the sculpture "She's beautiful." She turns to face Benedict "What happened at the Abyss, if you don't mind me asking? I've heard only snatches of family history so far and nothing complete."

"A war." He looks at her. "He didn't tell you?" Seeing his answer, he continues.

"Brand... Brand was my brother, driven mad by hunger for power. He sought to destroy the universe, and our hunt for him led to the rim. He tried to kill us all, but only took Deirdre to his grave."

His hand falls. "She dropped the jewel at our feet, and Corwin used it to keep us safe with reality fell apart and was reformed."

He continues down the hallway. "My father was reduced to what he is now when he repaired the pattern."

Ellie is quiet for a few moments as she walks along beside him, considering his answer, slotting it into the emerging picture of the past.

She asks "Is there any way to heal Oberon?" then looks abashed. "Sorry, silly question. I suppose if there was a way to heal him, it would have already been tried. I just felt sorry for him."

"He sacrificed so that the realm would thrive. Don't belittle that sacrifice with your pity." They turn a corner, and he stiffens as he sees the woman Ellie knows as Flora looking up expectantly, as if she heard their voices and was waiting for them to appear.

Ellie thinks quickly and smiles wanly at Flora, saying "Good evening, Aunt Flora. I'm afraid I am feeling a little unwell. Uncle Benedict is kindly taking me to get some fresh air though so you will excuse our not lingering, I hope."

Benedict catches the cue and takes Ellie's elbow. Flora smiles, but a glare sits somewhere in the back of her eyes. "I can forgive many things."

Benedict whisks by her, and quickly leads Eleanor to a set of stairs. He pauses at the bottom, looking back. Seeing she doesn't follow, he nods and seems relived. "She's not fond of me either."

Ellie nods "I gathered." She adds quietly "You're right. Oberon's sacrifice isn't a thing for pity."

Shrugging, she then smiles at her uncle "So where do you suggest next? I don't know about you, but I am actually hungry."

He catches a servant and gives a few quiet orders. The man nods and hurries off.

Benedict walks on. "It is a fair evening, and I tire of the castle."

Figuring that he could just as easily have dismissed her, Ellie catches up to Benedict and asks "Uncle Benedict, may I ask you something?"

He pauses and waits for her. He nods silently.

Ellie asks "What are the Courts of Chaos like? I've heard two opinions that differ quite a bit. You seem to be more balanced so I thought I would ask you."

He puts his hand over his mouth in contemplation, and after a moment, Ellie sees a wry smile emerge. "One would think I'd know more. My line resides there. But, for the most part, I have allowed them their peace there, and stayed in shadow. My stays were brief." He thinks back. "It is a wild place, sometimes, and other times placid. Why do you ask?"

Ellie smiles back "Well, I've been invited to visit Jurt and Ryoden there when they return. I thought I should at least find out more about the Courts, regardless of whether I go or not."

He nods. "There are a few books on the subject. It is chaos, so the opinions will always vary." He continues, and casually glances out a window as he passes it, but then stops and looks out again. He sighs.

"Hello, Martin," he says to no one.

Ellie glances out of the window and sees Faetan and an unknown young man sitting in a Japanese garden. They seem to be talking animatedly, their faces bright and alive.

Ellie smiles up at Benedict "I'm glad to see Faetan has found someone to talk to. Is the young man the Martin you mentioned?"

"That is Martin." He sighs as he sees them devouring a set of meals, presumably the ones he had ordered. "Who is Faetan?"

Ellie smiles "Bleys' daughter as I understand it." She smiles "Tell you what, Uncle Benedict. I know a nice place to eat and I have credit from Dad. Want to give it a try?"

He looks mildly displeased as Faetan strikes a suggestive pose, and Martin responds very positively. "I'd hate to disrupt them," he mutters darkly. He shakes the mood and nods to Eleanor. "Very well. My garden seems to be taken."

Ellie nods, turning away from the window, "It's not very far away as I recall. And it's a nice evening for walking." She smiles "I used to go for walks on nights like this back home and it was always worth it."

As they walk on, she muses "Sometimes, silence and being by oneself is the best way of getting fresh inspiration, I find. Scraping off the barnacles, my foster-father used to say."

They leave the castle, and Ellie gasps involuntarily. She had seen sunsets before, but this... Her fingers itch for her watercolours.

Benedict doesn't seem to notice it as he nods to a few guards. "I've been away from the castle most of my life now. I return in times of crisis..." He looks back over his shoulder. "Or impending crisis."

Ellie is quiet for a few moments then asks "How bad is it going to get, do you think?"

He looks back to the steps in front of him, his hair falling to hide the expression, if any, on his face. "Did you pack black?"

Ellie asks quietly "Do you think it will be my father to die? Is there anything that can be done to make the situation better?" She adds very softly "I don't want to lose another father."

He stops on the stairs and looks at Eleanor beside him. He pauses, not moving, just searching her face.

"He is your father, but he is a king first. He has made his own mistakes as a king, and will pay for them eventually. He took the crown willingly, and once, almost destroyed Amber to get at it. He would have killed his brother to get it, and willingly deceived me and used me. However a father he is and was, he has not been wise as king."

His voice is low, and strangely intense as he talks.

"You are too green for plots. He was wise in hiding you, and foolish in bringing you here."

Ellie nods "I know, but he had no choice. Others discovered me and threatened my safety." She shrugs "The only thing I am certain of is how much I do not know. So I learn as fast as I can for I know that even with me, his hands are bound. If anyone is to look after me, it must be myself."

He touches her shoulder and moves her further down the steps. "Who threatened your safety?" He doesn't looks surprised at the fact that she was attacked, only resigned.

He takes out his deck and hands her a card. "Avalon. It will be open to you."

She smiles "Thank you." and slots the card into her own Trump deck. As they move on and down the way to Amber, she replies "Julian."

She is quiet for a moment then asks "Would you consider teaching me how to fence, please?"

He responds almost absently. "Fencing. Yes..." His eyes move out to the forest in the distance, and he shakes his head, finding the last of the stairs.

"He wasn't always so. He has never been kind, but wouldn't stoop to hit a young woman. He has grown dark in recent years."

Ellie listens, then answers as they walk on "Dad thinks it may have been on Fiona's orders to show that he can't keep secrets from her."

She pauses then says "You care about Ryoden. That I can see. The day after tomorrow, she, Jurt and I will be leaving Amber for a time. We'll be going to Kashfa. I didn't want you to worry."

Any emotion that had been showing on Benedict's face withdraws suddenly, leaving him stony and quiet. Eleanor can see why Corwin seems so intimidated by him.

"She's of my line. I have to watch her. The others I knew of too late. I never even knew Lintra's child."

"Tell me of Jurt."

Ellie replies without hesitation "He's a good man. I think he'd give his life for Ryoden if needed. He's not very diplomatic, but he's honest and sincere in what he cares about."

She takes a deep breath "Uncle Benedict, what would you be willing to tell me about House Hendrake? I do have a good reason for asking."

He sits on a retaining wall and looks distant. "A war house. I know little of it, besides it was Dara's house, and that my line descended through there." He smiles briefly as something, some dusty memory surfacing. "I'm sure your reasons are good."

He looks back at the castle. "I find him an odd choice for surrogate, but I think I understand."

Ellie sits beside him "He cares. Who would be the best person to ask about Hendrake, do you think?"

He motions back to the castle. "One of its kin, but I don't think they know much of the art that Hendrake uses. Mandor says the girl is untrained." He thinks. "Or Gilva. Merlin should know her. I met her once." Again, that half smile.

Ellie looks at him "You like Gilva."

He nods. "A pleasant young woman about Merlin's age. Good with the sword. It made me glad that she made it out of Patternfall unscathed."

Ellie smiles "She sounds nice. Do you think she would be willing to talk to me?"

He nods. "If I knew where she was. I neglected to get a trump of her while she stayed at Avalon."

Ellie rises with a smile "I have an idea, but let's go get some food first."

He nods. "Where's your restaurant?"

She looks round, getting her bearings. "Next street on the right. Luke introduced me to it. We all went there for lunch."

"The Pit." He leads the way. "What is your idea?"

She grins "Yes, that's it. Well, Merlin may have a Trump of Gilva and according to Jurt, I'm his latest favourite sibling at the moment."

They enter the Pit, and it's a bit louder and rowdier than the last time she was here. Benedict finds an empty table at the back and sits. "Most likely he does. But he is also a king."

She nods "True. I generally ask people first though if they have time to talk. It's only polite to do so."

He nods, conceding. A waitress passes by, and he orders some obscure fish dish, then looks at Eleanor.'

Ellie orders one of the chicken salads and some coffee, with a friendly smile to the busy waitress.

He looks at Eleanor after the waitress departs. "Why the interest in Hendrake?"

She shifts uncomfortably then concedes "Dad wouldn't like to know I'd been asking about them, but I think it's necessary for me to do so."

"That's not a direct answer. The question was."

She says quietly "My mother was a Hendrake."

Benedict puts his hand to his mouth and seems to run something through his mind. "Dara?" he asks quietly.

Ellie shakes her head "No. Dad said my mother was dead. And that Hendrake thought me dead too."

"And you have no name for her?" He pulls back into the shadows of the bar, obscuring his expression.

Ellie shakes her head "No, but I got the impression I would be recognised by some in Hendrake so maybe I look like her. Dad says she was kept away from most people. It can't be Dara otherwise Mandor and Jurt would have recognised something I think." She shrugs "It's not much to go on is it?"

"It never is," he sighs. "Perhaps you should visit Chaos. There aren't many of your mix. Merlin and..." His voice trails off.

She looks at him, curiosity writ large in her green eyes "What is it?"

He chuckles. "I almost made Flora's mistake. Conjecture."

She smiles "Anything that might be helpful though? Even indirectly?"

He shakes his head. "Some say Lord Grimble never had any children by Dara. But that is conjecture and gossip."

Ellie bites her lip "I hope that's not true."

He eyes her curiously. "Why do you care if he was cuckolded? He was old when he married Dara. It's more likely she had her children by someone more vital."

She blushes "Well, um, it's just that Jurt and I are sort of starting to get to know each other better and everything is new and uncertain as it is." She looks abashed "I'm sorry if that's selfish."

He taps his fingers on the table. "He roomed you together. It was bound to happen. How far has this gone?"

Ellie says quietly, her blush deepening "Not far at all. We've only kissed."

"Then conjecture becomes important," he mummers. He taps a few more time, and the waitress stops by with the food. He barely notices it. "My father forbade brother-sister unions, although he never gave reasons. I would recommend you ask Jurt of his parentage."

Ellie nods "I will. Do you wish me to ask right now?"

"Yes. I would not have you dabble in things that may be dark."

Ellie nods "Neither would I if I can avoid it." She pulls out her trump of Jurt and concentrates.

The connection is fuzzy at first, and dimly she feels Benedict reach out and touch her arm, and his mind adding to the force. The image of Jurt stirs, and he sits up, rubbing his eyes. "El--?" He looks tired.

She smiles "Hi Jurt. I need to ask you something."

He sits up. "Okay, what?"

She looks uncomfortable but presses on "Don't take offence alright. I wouldn't ask this if I didn't have to. What is your parentage?"

He looks confused. "I told you that. Dara and Lord Grimble. Why are you asking?"

She answers "Benedict thought I should check. Want some dinner?"

His face darkens. "Oh. That. What did you tell Benedict? I thought we were going to keep this quiet for now." He looks mildly hurt, but suppresses it.

Ellie replies quietly "There was a good reason, Jurt. Benedict thinks I should go to Chaos too." She smiles "Come through and have some dinner, please. Marrek and Ryo were off getting dinner last I saw and I'm here with Benedict at the Pit."

He sighs. "Fine. But I'd like the reason." He holds out his hand to her.

She takes his hand and pulls him through, saying softly "I was finding out about House Hendrake and the subject got onto Amber/Chaos mixes. I got worried."

He glances over at Benedict, almost a glare, but more intimidated than anything else. "I know who my father is."

Benedict nods. "I'm sure you do. But do you admit it?"

Ellie watches both men, for the moment saying nothing and hoping Jurt isn't mistaken. Or lying.

Jurt takes a deep breath and sits. "I don't care to talk about it. What made you so concerned?"

Ellie says quietly "Because I care about you, that's why."

He looks down, but seems to feel Benedict's eyes bore into him. "I'll not have my niece bedded by her brother," says Benedict, almost in a whisper.

Ellie feels rooted to the spot by the same stare, her heart in her throat.

Jurt sighs. "She isn't going to be. I'm not Corwin's son." Benedict doesn't move. "Look, you want a DNA test? There's not much else I can say."

Ellie says quietly "I believe him.", her hand finding Jurt's.

He takes it and seems relieved, but Benedict still doesn't look swayed. Jurt frowns. "Fine. Know the way to new Avalon?" Benedict nods.

Ellie listens intently, gently squeezing Jurt's hand in reassurance.

"Then we can go there." Benedict nods and begins to eat and motions for Eleanor to do the same. Jurt orders, and the dinner continues, Jurt and Benedict eyeing each other.

Ellie eats, relishing the food anyway. If nothing else, her hunger is being taken care of. She asks "So what is new Avalon like?"

Benedict breaks his stare at Jurt to glance at her. "Mostly nature. It hasn't been built up." A bite and swallow. "Your father's pattern resides there."

Ellie nods "And we're going there why?"

Jurt looks uncomfortable. "Only Corwin's children can walk it. Anyone else, it refuses to let on."

Ellie sees at once "That should prove it, shouldn't it?"

Benedict nods, casting a doubtful look at Jurt, who seethes. "Are you prepared if it does not refuse you?" Jurt glares. "It will. Don't worry."

Ellie takes a deep breath "Well, either way it will be settled." She finishes the salad and pushes the plate away, sipping her coffee, her eyes shadowed.

The rest of the dinner finishes in an uncomfortable silence. Finally, Benedict pulls out his trump deck and shuffles out a card. He throws a few coins on the table and heads out to the street. Jurt stands and winces, and Ellie realizes he's without his crutches. She remembers the foot, and sees it is indeed attached now, but obscured in wrappings.

She stands quickly next to him, saying softly "Lean on me as you need to."

He shakes his head. "I'm fine. Just feels odd." He studies her for a second, looks at the door Benedict just left through, then impulsively puts his arm around Ellie's waist and kisses her.

She looks up at him with a smile "Come on then and let's get this over with."

He sighs and nods, then takes her arm and leads her out to the street, where Benedict waits, still holding the card. Seeing them, he concentrates, then takes Jurt's arm and pulls them forward.

New Avalon... Benedict was right. The scene is pristine, not the slightest show of anything human. It is fall there, and there is a bite in the air. Jurt holds up a hand briefly to shield his eyes from the noon-day sun. About 100 feet away, Ellie sees the pattern, more flowing and spontaneous that the one she walked.

She walks closer to the Pattern, finding it's start point, then moving away so as to get a clear view of what is to come.

Jurt walks before Benedict, trying hard not to limp. He stares at the pattern a long time. Finally, Benedict moves forward, stooping, and waves a hand over the blue line. A spark jumps out and catches him, and he draws his hand away quickly. He looks back expectantly at Jurt.

Ellie finds herself holding her breath as she watches Jurt.

Jurt steps forward and waves his hand over, the same way Benedict did. A spark jumps out and catches his fingers. He jumps back and sucks at them, and Ellie can't tell if he's relieved or worried.

Ellie lets out her breath "That's it, right?"

Benedict nods. Jurt straightens up, his face dark. "See? I told you," he whispers.

"Then Lord Grimble is your father?" inquires Benedict. Jurt doesn't respond, but turns and heads over to Ellie. "My bastardage is none of your business."

Ellie steps over to beside Jurt, her arm going round his waist.

Benedict stops. "Then you do know." Jurt looks back at him, and Benedict proceeds more carefully. "Are you and Ryoden full blooded siblings?" Jurt tenses.

"We aren't," he whispers. "Happy?"

Ellie says quietly "It's as I said, Uncle Benedict. Regardless of the degree of kinship, Ryoden has no better brother than this man here."

He shakes his head. "I would not question that. My question is about her lacking pattern." Jurt looks at him questioningly. "Mandor told me there's not enough pattern in her to walk it." Jurt nods.

"Her father is the man I called father." Benedict looks sceptical, but Jurt simply sits and stares at the pattern. "Trust me. She was."

Benedict nods and sits on a near-by boulder.

Ellie thinks for a moment then says "Is it likely that she will try to get access to the Pattern?"

Benedict waves back at her father's pattern. "It would reject her, so no real harm could come of it." Jurt purses his lips. "Something?" Jurt nods.

"There's a chance she wouldn't want to get near it anyway, even as curious as she is. She has trouble with contact with pattern things.

She talks about stinging. Even people with pattern blood."

Ellie looks at Jurt "That's not usual for Chaosians is it?"

He shakes his head. "She's hyper-sensitive. We think it has to do with her logrus."

Benedict puts a finger to his lips. "She acquired it young, did she not?" Jurt nods.

Ellie asks "Will the sensitivity decrease as she gets older?"

Jurt shrugs. "She's a special case. We don't know. It's not horrible. After all the rest of us..." He looks at Benedict sharply.

"The rest of you?" inquires Benedict.

Ellie looks curiously at Jurt too "What do you mean?"

Jurt cringes. "Despil, Merle and I. We're all half breeds." Benedict furrows his brow.

Ellie asks gently "Chaos-Amber?"

"There aren't too many other combos," replies Jurt.

Benedict crosses his arms. "Now, I must insist."

She looks up at Jurt and says gently "Whatever you say, I'll still be here."

Jurt clenches his jaw. "I'm not Corwin's son. That's all you get." Benedict's face darkens, and Jurt smiles. "Why's it matter, anyway?"

"Because not many of my siblings have been into Chaos," replies Benedict, and he frowns as Jurt nods in agreement.

Ellie asks "For the new amongst us, which siblings have been into Chaos?" She shrugs "I'm just curious."

Jurt stiffens, and now it is Benedict's turn to smile. "I don't believe you've met any of them. Is that your true face, Jurt?" Jurt pauses, then nods.

Ellie throws up her hands "I give up. Ask a straight question and get games."

"Welcome to Amber," mutters Benedict. "Did you know him?" he asks, looking back at Jurt. Jurt shakes his head. "Then it is not important, is it?" Just lets out a breath Ellie didn't realize he had been holding.

Ellie takes his hand and squeezes it, saying "Maybe we should all head back to Amber." She smiles "By the way, Jurt, do you have a Trump of Gilva?"

Jurt looks surprised. "Yes. How do you know about Gilva?"

Benedict looks out at the pattern. "Staying here for the moment is not a bad idea. It is relatively safe and private."

Ellie nods "True. Especially for any answers that may come."

Jurt continues to look at her, not taking out his deck. "How do you know about Gilva, though?" Benedict clears his throat.

"I told her about her." Jurt shrugs. "Okay, how do _you_ know Gilva?"

Ellie smiles slightly, remembering Benedict's half-smile. /This I want to hear./

Benedict shrugs. "She stayed with me and trained after Patternfall for several months. Part of the peace process." Jurt raises an eyebrow, but Benedict ignores it.

Ellie answers "The reason I want to contact her is that she may be able to help identify my mother. I'm looking into my Chaos side."

Jurt nods and takes out his deck. He flips through, then finds one of a young woman, dark-haired with tawny skin and dark eyes. She holds a sword in her left hand, and has her right placed on a dagger. He concentrates, talks a moment, then pulls her through.

She nods to Jurt, not warmly, but not coolly, and begins a bow to Eleanor when Benedict clears his throat. She spins, and seeing him, smiles.

Ellie stands back a little, watching the interplay with fascination.

He hops off his rock and bows. She returns the gesture. "Gilva of Hendrake..." She waves a hand. "No more." He looks puzzled. "You married?" She shakes her head.

"No, I am houseless."

Ellie is unsure of the ramifications, so instead opts for politeness. Stepping forward slightly, she smiles to Gilva "Thank you for coming here."

Gilva nods, and Ellie notices her stance is somewhat stiff, like that of a soldier. Benedict touches her arm. "Hendrake shuns you?" She nods, and some sort of silent conversation goes on between them, ending in her whispering, "Yes, that," and him nodding.

Ellie steps back to stand beside Jurt and waits. /Shuns is not good. I wonder why?/

Jurt looks as confused as Ellie does. He shrugs at her. Gilva turns and addresses Jurt. "I heard of the attack on your sister. Is she well?" She speaks with a slight accent, Ellie notices, almost lisping.

Jurt nods, and motions to his foot. "I was the only casualty of that incident, fortunately." Gilva lowers her head and smiles. "I told you you need to be quicker, your Highness."

Ellie remembers Jurt's earlier comments about his brothers' abilities compared to his. It would seem they're shared.

Jurt shrugs. "I'll live, as you see."

Gilva looks at him. "Now, what was the reason you couldn't give over trump? I was busy with your king." Jurt looks at Ellie.

Ellie smiles at Gilva "The reason is me, or rather my ancestry. My mother was of House Hendrake. I know she's dead, that I may resemble her and that I'm also believed dead. Or at least, the baby I was is."

She shrugs apologetically "I know it's not much to go on, but can you help please?"

Gilva pauses, then looks back at Benedict. "This was after my time, I think. They must have tried again." He nods.

"I thought as much. You know of no one else?" She shakes her head.

Ellie looks to Benedict then Gilva, a mixture of hope and caution in her eyes.

He notes it and smiles. "No. You are not mine." Jurt crosses his arms. "I get the feeling we're not getting the whole story here..."

Gilva looks at Benedict briefly, then lowers her eyes, a slow flush reaching her cheeks. He pats her shoulder, then tosses Jurt a card of the castle gates. "I'll let Gilva explain." He leans in and mummers something in her ear, then disappears in a rainbow swirl.

Ellie looks at Gilva and says softly "I do appreciate this."

Gilva sits by them in a nervous crouch. "This has little to do with you, I'm afraid, but it touches some of the plotting I feel may concern you." She pauses for a few moments, then starts. "After Patternfall, I was ordered by my house to be a part in a project similar to that Dara took part in." Jurt's eyes widen. "Your brother wasn't eager to take the Amber throne, so perhaps another would."

Ellie remembers what Corwin said, that the girl had been in a shape to please him and he was the King of Amber. She nods to Gilva, attentive to her words.

She touches the blade at her side nervously. "My target was Benedict, as Dara's was Corwin. I stayed with him at Avalon for several months, as a diplomat, but..." She looks down. "I couldn't. Well, we couldn't. He was involved at the time, and I'm no Dara. I was too cowed to do anything."

Ellie replies "And in my case, my mother targeted Corwin too." She smiles "Thank you, Gilva. This does help."

She nods curtly. "I'm sorry. I have to go. Merlin could only spare me briefly." Jurt eyes her carefully.

"Anything I should know about?" She shakes her head. "Only caution, your highness."

Ellie smiles "Well, I thank you for your time, Gilva."

She nods, and casts a curious glance at Ellie. "I would we had more time." With that she takes out a trump and fades away. Jurt puts his arm around her. "I'm sorry there weren't more answers."

Ellie leans into him "Me too, but it's a start."

He looks out at the pattern. "Do you think you'll walk this one? There aren't many that can, you know."

Ellie looks back at it. "I don't know. There are a lot of things I need to learn and do." She smiles up at Jurt "Benedict said I should take up the sword."

He rolls his eyes. "Benedict says that to everyone. It's what he knows. I think he'd tell a man with no arms to take up the sword."

Ellie laughs "Well, we'll see. Pattern first I think." She looks at him "Still hurt feelings with me?"

He shakes his head. "I was just surprised. But I guess if anyone was going to know, he wouldn't be the worst of choices. And I can kind of see how he would wonder. Oberon had a thing about incest."

Ellie nods "Yes, he said that to me too." She grins "I am very glad you're not my brother."

He laughs, relieved. "So am I. I was fairly certain I wasn't, but there's always a moment of doubt."

She shakes her head, her expression serious though her eyes dance "Now you tell me. After I've decided I quite like you after all."

He chuckles. "There really wasn't a place to bring it up. 'Hey, I might be your brother.' Just would have been awkward. And I wouldn't have done anything too serious until I knew for sure."

Ellie smiles "Thank you. I do appreciate that. So what do you want to do now? I don't have a dinner to go to anymore."

"What happened?" He lays back and looks at some clouds passing overhead.

Ellie sits down beside him. "Well, Oberon and Benedict got into an argument. Benedict left. I followed. We then met Flora and I feigned nausea with Uncle Benedict taking me out for some fresh air and we two made good our escape."

He nods. "I was wondering how you went from dinner with your father in the castle to The Pit with Benedict." He touches her back. "What do you want to do? I've had a nap," he grumbles, "Thanks to Ryoden."

She looks at him "How's your new foot feeling?"

He lifts up his head and looks at it. "I don't know. I can't really 'feel' it. I can feel the metal jabbing into parts of me, and it's a bit uncomfortable. Better than the alternative, though."

Ellie nods "I guess so. And it is only temporary." She smiles, stretching a little against the hand at her back "Will you be able to dance tomorrow, do you think?"

"I think I can manage it," he mummers, scratching her back lightly. "I'm not terribly fond of it though. I had a horrible time learning."

She smiles "That tickles. I like dancing, I will admit. There are a lot of festivals in Brittany."

He laughs. "Chaos too. Dancing is as required as sorcery or reading there." He makes a face. "Unfortunately we're short on females in my family, so it was Mandor that taught me."

Ellie laughs "I can see what you mean about your lessons then." She turns to face him, green eyes sparkling "I'm actually looking forward to this ball, believe it or not."

He smiles. "Then I'll be there." He sits up and holds her close. "We're going to Kashfa after, right?"

She nods "Yes, we are. Dad is more than happy for me to go."

He shakes his head. "He must be up to something. He was so dead-set not so long ago..." He looks at her. "Sorry, don't mean to bad talk him."

Ellie shrugs "He's still not keen, but he thinks I'd be better out the way, being so green and all. Though he didn't actually say that." She smiles "Anyway, this is what you wanted, isn't it?"

He nods. "A bit more clandestine though. I would have rather no one know where we were."

Ellie shrugs "Well, just in case, I told Benedict where we'd be. If nothing else, he'll look after you and Ryoden."

He frowns. "Benedict I don't care about. He's careful. Corwin, I worry. There's something dark going on around that throne." He hugs her close.

Ellie shivers, remembering Benedict's words, and says "I know." She moves closer into Jurt's embrace "I'll be glad to be in Kashfa."

He kisses her forehead. "If he thinks we're going to be in Kashfa, and we're worried about him or someone who can get things from him coming after us, then why not go somewhere else?"

Ellie looks up "Like where?"

"Anywhere," he replies. "Here, even. I know a few places, and I'm sure you've got something you want to see. Maybe Marrek will have an idea."

Ellie nods "I guess so, but I still need to learn how to use Pattern."

He touches her hair. "We'll find someone for that. How hard can it be? Too bad you took it before knowing about Chaos. Could have gotten Logrus." He touches her dress. "You still look wonderful, by the way."

She smiles "Thank you again." reaching out to lightly touch his hair. "I much prefer you without crutches, if I'm honest."

He chuckles. "Trust me. Me too." He studies her. "You don't mind running off with me?"

She laughs "I've done worse trust me. I still think it would be a good idea to visit Kashfa at some point though."

"Really? Worse how? Some poor guy with no feet?"

Ellie shakes her head with a chuckle "Don't be silly. And I'm not going to tell you. At least, not yet."

He looks hurt. "And why is that? What horrible things have you done." He laughs. "Trust me, I can beat you. I've done worse. I'm older.

She pauses "Actually, how old are you?"

He pauses back. "Promise you won't be upset?"

She nods "I promise."

He smiles ruefully. "I'll hit fifty next year. Martin has 70 or so years on me. Mandor we don't even bother to ask."

Ellie replies with a smile "Fifty huh? You're aging well. Anything this mere child shouldn't do? Wouldn't want to upset an old gentleman like yourself."

He looks down. "I'm not that old. I mean, okay, if I as just some shadow guy I'd be a dirty old man, but..." He nudges her in the ribs. "Besides, if I'm so old, you should respect me more than to tease me, shouldn't you?"

She laughs "Yes, but teasing's funnier."

He tickles her ribs. "You like to laugh, huh?"

As he finds a ticklish spot, Ellie's laughter increases "That's not fair."

He wraps his arms tightly about her. "Ah-hah! Now you _have_ to tell me. After all, you know all sorts of my secrets..."

She shakes her head with a smile "I don't _have_ to do anything, you wretch. You win. You're older, done worse, etc." She smiles "Happy?"

"Nope," and with that he attacks her ticklish spot again. "Worse how? Keep company with some tattooed biker? Date a lawyer? What?"

She laughs "Punk in a Paris subway. With tattoos as well. Enough. Had a very nice manner though. This isn't fair of you. I don't even know if you're ticklish."

He stops, but keeps his hands around her waist. "That's the worst? I'm glad you put me above him. How long were you with the horrid punk of the subway? You didn't get any tattoos, did you?"

She shakes her head, her eyes still merry "No tattoos and a couple of months. And he was a very nice punk, I told you."

"No tattoos?" He looks disappointed. "I was hoping to set mom off one way or another. She screamed when I got mine." He thinks. "But, then, considering your father, I don't think I'll have to work hard at that, will I?"

Ellie shakes her head "Probably not." She smiles "So, you know what happens now?"

He shakes his head. "Nope. Are you about to tell me?"

She smiles "No. I show you." and she launches into a retaliation, her fingers searching out any ticklish spots on his ribs.

He grits his teeth and catches her hands. "Oh no. I saw that coming." He kisses her fingertips. "No tickling me. I might start shifting if you're too good."

Ellie nods "Alright, no tickling." She smiles "That feels nice."

He pauses and looks at her seriously. "I'm not sure where to go from here. It's such a surreal situation... My house is under attack, Ryo and I are on the run, something weird is going on in Amber, and then I meet you."

She returns his serious gaze "How do you feel?"

He shakes his head. "I don't know. I'm confused. Every time I think I get to breath for a bit, something else comes up. I wish I knew." He licks his lips. "You?"

Ellie answers honestly "I'm running to catch up and knowing I might never make it I guess. I'll try anyway though." She looks at him "I care about you, Jurt, but you already know that I hope."

He nods. "I do. And you'll catch up. Trust me. Even gods get their rest. I know Mandor's gone decades without anything terribly important happening to him. That's half the reason they plot. It's something to do." He sighs.

Ellie nods "I heard something like that." She shrugs "I don't know where we go from here. Where would you like to go?"

He strokes her hair. "How do you mean? Where as in getting up in going somewhere? Or where as in where do we go from here?" His voice is only a whisper, and his face reddens.

A faint pink blush rises into her own face as she whispers back "Either. Both. You brought the question up."

He laughs. "And what would you rather address now, and what do you want to put off for a while?"

She smiles, the blush still in her cheeks "I see I don't get both answered. Well, since we'll probably be heading back to Amber, the latter."

"Oh." He looks disappointed, but tries to hide it. "And you want to head back now?"

Ellie looks at him with a slow smile "I didn't say we had to head back right now. Here is nice. And you're avoiding the question. I asked for a where do we go from here now answer."

He looks at her wryly. "I'm a red-blooded male. You get three guesses."

Ellie grins "We go back to being just good friends?"

He shakes his head. "I'd hope not."

Ellie nods in agreement "We continue flirting with the occasional kiss?"

He bites his lip and shakes his head, suppressing a laugh.

Ellie suppresses her own laughter "We have a massive argument and never speak again."

He sighs and kisses her. "You are out of guesses. You are a young 'un."

Ellie smiles "Young, but willing to learn."

He pauses. "Um, this is going to be a silly question, but you do have some experience, right?"

Ellie blushes "Yes, it is a silly question. And yes, I do."

He waves his hand. "Okay, I'm sorry. I had to ask, though. Don't want to take advantage." He sighs. "Should we be getting back, though?"

Ellie shrugs "As you like. First this, though." and she kisses him, a lingering gentle kiss.

He kisses back, first gentle, then somewhat more urgent. He holds her tightly. "Who says I like?"

Ellie smiles then returns the kiss again, her hands moving through his hair.

He kisses her neck and groans. "You're not making this easy on me, are you?"

She whispers "That goes two ways." Pulling back with a sigh, she says "Maybe we best continue this back in Amber."

He nods. "Okay." He steadies his breathing, then stands and brushes himself off. He helps Ellie up, then regards the card in his hands. A moment, and they stand at the doors to Amber castle.

Ellie pauses for a moment, collecting her thoughts, before moving forward. Going back to the dinner isn't really an option. On an impulse, she turns away from the doors. She glances at Jurt "Feel like a walk?"

He looks surprised, but nods. "Okay." He tests his foot a few times, then bends down and redoes the wrappings. Ellie's stomach turns briefly at the sight of raw flesh and bone merging with metal, but he covers it before her reaction gets too severe.

"Where to?"

Ellie thinks and replies "The Gardens?" She shrugs "I just don't wan to go back inside right now. If you like, we can even just find somewhere to sit."

He nods as he leads her around to the side of the castle. "Any reason? Avoiding something? Or someone...?"

The gardens are lit now only by magic, small orbs of cool light occasionally hung from a tree. Ellie can make out a few familiar flowers and trees, but most are just slightly alien to her.

Ellie shrugs "Not as such. I just don't feel like going back in. I don't know. Maybe just time to think. It's like the garden here. I see a few things I know, but the rest is just slightly strange, just the other side of what I know."

She smiles "Silly huh?"

He shrugs. "You can't expect to be blase about it in just a few days. What's bothering you?" He studies the lights for a moment, and scans the shadow filled garden. As he does so, Ellie notes something odd about his eyes. They seem to glow a dim red...

She is quiet for a moment "Evaluating options I guess. Thinking about where I go from here. Maybe a bit of just not wanting to be cooped up again. On a night like this, I'd have been out walking or just maybe meeting up with friends. Just doing whatever I felt like doing."

Ellie asks curiously "Why are your eyes glowing by the way?"

"Infravision. Habit."

He takes her hand. "Let me tell you something about being in the game. You are never truly free again. Even back when I was a kid, no logrus, no connections beyond my babysitter, my hands were tied." He waves at the castle. "Ryoden, too. We're all born with a plot in mind, some grand plan. We're a puzzle piece." He looks down. "Sad, but true. You play or get lost. And if you're lost, you can start looking into discount cemetery plots."

Ellie nods, considering his answer "I guess I play then." She pauses then says "The question is where and how." She squeezes his hand "Thank you, Jurt."

She looks at him "How do you play the game? What would you advise for me now that you know more about me?"

He looks down. "Stay out of the way of the big players. You can't avoid duty when it comes calling, but if they don't see you..." He motions to the castle. "That's what Ryo and I do... Try to stay out of sight. Merlin did too, by staying on shadow Earth, but that just bit him on the ass when Dara and Mandor did all the nasty work for him."

"That's why staying here is a bad idea for you. I know you want to help your father... Trust me. Been there. But he's a big boy. He'll be fine on his own."

Ellie says quietly "Staying here is a bad idea for all of us. I don't think my dad's future is all that bright either. Even he wants me out of here."

She is quiet for a moment then adds "I don't think I can help my father and survive, if I could help him at all even. Is it selfish to want to survive first?"

Jurt shakes his head. "How old are you? In your twenties, right? Your father is millennia old. You have a whole life in front of you. I'm just sorry it had to start this way, though."

The stars shine, and Jurt watches them with an odd kind of curiosity. "We don't have stars in chaos. Fitting, somehow." He looks at the moon. "How close would you say that is to full?"

Ellie looks up "A day or so away I think. Why? And for the record, I'm twenty-two." She looks round "So what is the sky like in Chaos? I'm assuming there is a sky."

He laughs. "Well, generally, whatever is 'up' is considered 'sky.'The sky is plain in chaos. No sun, no stars, but more of a colour show... changes every hour, and it's kind of an informal time piece."

He smiles. "We may be able to see the ghost city on our way out. Course, we'll have to keep Ryo on a tight leash to keep her from going up, but I've heard it's a sight to see. Merle even went in once."

Ellie smiles "Chaos' sky sound like a painting by Dali. I'd like to see it." She pauses to sniff a nearby rose with a smile "This I recognise. Please tell me you have roses in Chaos." She looks round with a grin "And a ghost city?"

He shakes his head. "Not really. Smelling the flowers can get dangerous there. Nature..." He thinks for a minute. "In Chaos, you're sitting on a pot of energy that's always changing. The Ways are stable, because they use the Shadows to keep consistent. You can't walk through Chaos without being able to change to accommodate for climate, toxins, gravity..." He looks at her. "In the Ways you'd be fine, though. Some even have indoor gardens, imported, of course."

He looks at the stars again. "It's a brutal place, but not as bad as it sounds."

He pauses for a long time, humming a bit, perhaps thinking of his home at the other end of the universe.

"The ghost city... Well, that's how Merle described it to Ryo. Has some other name, but I forget it. Supposedly a ghost amber pops up over the bay on the full moon. You can go in and see all sorts of vague things about the future and past and present. Like a flashy way of fortune telling."

Ellie smiles "That could be interesting. I'm tempted to try it out."

Her smile widens "I think I have a safe place for us to go by the way. Benedict gave me a Trump of Avalon." She hesitates then asks "How would I know if I could shapeshift or had the potential to do so?"

He looks around and moves in closer to her, his voice lower. "Well, if you turn blue when we walk outside, I'd say no, you don't have the ability. But you and Merlin are identical in make-up, so I'm sure you'll be okay." He laughs. "Better start thinking of your demon form. No shifter is complete without it."

Ellie smiles, remembering and thinking of possibilities "Can be the demon form be anything I want it to be?" She moves a little closer, her voice soft "I have a few ideas."

He looks around quickly. "And those are? I've never seen any limits on it, myself." He looks intrigued.

She smiles, green eyes thoughtful "Well, I used to date this sculptor and he did a few works of me, including some which were slightly more fantastic in nature. That's giving me some ideas for this demon form. I'll sketch them later when we return to the rooms."

"And when are we doing that?" he mummers. "Are there more gardens you'd care to see?"

His voice grows slightly louder, more conversational. "Extravagant is good. Other worldly, too. Anything flash is smiled upon."

Ellie chuckles "Extravagant, fey, flashy. I'll remember that. No, I don't want to see any more gardens right now." She smiles "Thank you for walking with me for a bit."

He shrugs, and starts to lead her back inside. "What else was I going to do? Bug Marrek? I'm sure he's having loads of fun with Ryo." He touches the necklace, smiling, but it fades quickly. "She's not happy about something." He stops and concentrates for a moment, his eyes down. "Mandor... Mandor's back?"

Ellie wonders what has brought the Chaos Lord back. She opens the door "Come on then. Best see what he wants."

He follows and looks around. He pulls out his deck and touches Mandor's with a frown. "Blocking." He looks around. "Guess it's the long way. The rooms maybe?"

Ellie nods in agreement, moving forward to the rooms. "Seems the most likely option, I agree." She glances at Jurt "How are you bearing up?"

He grimaces. "More painful than crutches, but a hell of a lot more dignified."

The make their way to the rooms, and casually, Jurt goes to open to door. A look of confusion crosses his face as it doesn't budge. "What the..." He pushes harder. Finally giving up, he takes a step back, bears down on his good foot, then lunges. The door shatters.

"I'll have Ryo make a new one," he says, making his way in.

Ellie shrugs and follows him in, looking around for any sign of the others or anything amiss. As she does, she asks "Would painkillers be of any good?"

"Nah. I'd just process them out of my system. One of the downsides of being a shapeshifter. Really fast heal time, really bad time during it."

He checks the rooms. "Nothing. Not here." He frowns. "And I want to know why he's back up here before he runs off again." He paces a moment, then sits on the couch. After a minute he takes out a card and concentrates. He talks a moment, then looks over at Ellie.

"Fancy a trip to Sawallways? Despil is up to date, but time differential is killing the connection."

Ellie grins "That would be lovely. Preferably in an area for non-shapeshifters. Is there anyone you want to leave word with?"

"Ways are normally fine for non-shifters. Shifting takes energy, and you wouldn't want to tire your guests."

He takes her hand and steps forward...

The change crackles this time, and Ellie fancies for a moment that her hair raises up a bit. The room that forms around her... she experiences a moment of vertigo. The angles are all wrong. A series of columns line the room, two at top, three at bottom, an illusion she saw often in paintings by Escher, but never in real life. In real life they shouldn't exist...

The lighting is nebulous, diffuse, and directionless. She and the others in the room are well lit, but everything else seems to sit in a dim gloom. Odd shapes sit still in shadows, and she wonders at what she would see if the lights were normal.

Jurt takes the hand of a man, perhaps not too much older than he, and shakes it formally. The man is dressed in formal attire, but it seems out of place on him. He looks like he would fit better in Jurt's t-shirt and jeans rather than in his silks and velvets.

He nods to Jurt, then looks at Ellie, intrigued. "Hello..."

Ellie curtsies politely then smiles "Hello. I'm Eleanor, but please call me Ellie." She smiles as she looks round the room "This is a wonderful room. It reminds me of some works by Escher."

Despil looks about. "Yeah, dad liked him." He waves a hand. "His design, not mine."

Jurt sits, and Despil takes a moment to admire Jurt's new foot. "And she said zoology and anatomy classes were a waste of time." Jurt shrugs.

"Mom'd her rather just wave spells around all the time, but that's mom for you. Now, what's been going on?"

Despil sits across from him and motions Ellie to a chair. "It's been slow. Mandor's taking the lead on the searches. He found another bomb recently, deployed." Jurt curses. "Yeah, he was of pretty much the same mind."

There's an awkward silence that follows, where Jurt stares at some nebulous green field, and Despil chews a fingernail.

Ellie hesitates then says "Given that I don't know the full situation, may I ask is it possible to tell when the bomb was placed if not by whom?"

Despil laughs. "Now, why didn't we think of that? We should take Mandor off the job and put her on." Jurt glares.

"She's trying to help, Despil. She doesn't know how that stuff works, yet."

Despil looks at Ellie, pitying and intrigued all at the same time. "It's very hard to get a signature on something that's blown up. Our sister left very little evidence for us to sift through. She's damnably thorough."

Jurt cracks a knuckle, and another uncomfortable silence ensues. This time, Jurt breaks the silence. "And how are things... here?"

Despil sighs. "Enjoy your vacation. I'd give my left arm to be out of here."

Ellie asks quietly "At the risk of asking another foolish question, what is the situation here that has you so concerned?" She smiles to Despil "I know I'm a stranger here and not family. If you don't want to answer or would like me to leave to let you and Jurt talk, that's both reasonable and easily enough accomplished. All you have to do is say so."

Jurt looks down. "The 'situation' has to do with Chaos in general, and my brother and his king making, specifically."

Despil sighs, and spins an odd little kinetic statue on his desk. "Swayvill ruled longer than Oberon did, so of course there are a few growing pains with Merlin taking over."

Jurt doesn't say anything, but looks away. Despil notes it. "There will always be problems. Putting him on the throne was not supposed to simplify our lives."

"No, just endanger them."

Ellie looks from one to the other and says "Growing pains are understandable, but I get the impression these are problems of a different magnitude."

She hesitates for a moment then asks "Who has the most to gain from putting pressure on Merlin? Or has he done something recently to engender revenge attacks? Nothing happens without a reason, no matter how obscure. How does my brother rule?"

Despil stares at her a long time while Jurt chokes on his words.

"Brother?" he says quietly, then looks to Jurt.

Jurt bites his lip and nods, obviously cursing a blue streak in his mind. "Corwin's."

Despil looks at Ellie again. "Thank the serpent it isn't too apparent. Mother's been in lately."

"Oh, I think we'll avoid her."

Ellie casts an apologetic glance at Jurt then turns to Despil "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Yes," frowns Despil. "If you see our mother, lie. Profusely."

Jurt shakes his head. "Your father's name is pretty akin to a curse down here."

Ellie nods "Alright, I'll remember that."

Despil looks at the door, then back to his two guests. "Another topic. Merlin. Yes, he is a good king, if you consider that he isn't dead yet. He made some mistakes early on, and considering the mess it made, he's been somewhat successful at patching things up."

Jurt eyes him, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"But there are still dissenters," finishes Despil.

Ellie is quiet for a moment then says "I won't ask who, but do you think any of these dissenters would have reason enough or the requisite contacts to stage these kind of attacks?"

"Power," shrugs Despil. "You need any other reason? And all the houses are fairly well-to-do, even the ones hit hard by the war. And with no war, there are plenty of assassins about, unemployed."

Jurt looks unhappy. "He should have stayed on shadow Earth."

Ellie replies with a wry smile "Like me you mean?" She then turns to Despil "With Jurt and Ryoden up at our end of creation, what's likely to happen next?"

"Not like you," mummers Jurt. "He has the power to move around, at least." His face is dark.

Despil shrugs. "Most likely the rest of us have huge crossbolts aimed on our foreheads. No one's pulled the trigger yet, however. I think the operation against Ryo took some time, and now that we've tightened defences, the enemy will have to regroup." He puts his chin on his fist. "How is she, anyway?"

Ellie smiles "Very well, last time I saw her. She had just finished braiding Grandfather's beard. They appeared to be getting on just fine. Ryoden and Marrek then went in search of dinner I think. I also took her shopping with me and that went well, more or less. She misses her home though."

Despil sighs. "Great. Dress up with Oberon. So much for playing it low-key."

Jurt rolls his eyes. "For her, that is low-key. She's been running Marrek ragged. Be a guy and let him steal something nice next time he's over."

A soft click clack filters into the room, and Jurt's eyes go wide. He and Despil stiffen slightly, and turn to an adjoining hallway Ellie hadn't noticed before.

A woman enters, tall, slim, and the picture of grace. Her hair is short and a dusty blonde, and if it weren't for the look of age in her eyes, she would seem quite young. She looks to Jurt, obviously not surprised at him being there.

"You would visit your brother before your mother?"

Ellie watches Dara without saying anything, trying to not draw attention to herself and getting her cover story ready just in case.

Given that she may need to talk to Dara later in connection with the other side of her bloodline, Ellie decides it would be doubly foolish to offend this woman. A fleeting doubt crosses her mind. What if Dara did know her mother? Best include that possibility in making up a cover story just in case. A politely neutral expression on her face, she waits quietly.

Jurt rises, and bows slightly to the elder Sawall. She smiles tightly, then lets her eyes settle on Ellie.

"Jurt. You brought home a friend."

Jurt does his best to look neutral. "Yes. This is Eleanor, mother. She's been a good companion to Ryoden and I."

Ellie smiles politely and curtsies, her face carefully neutral too. As she rises, she says quietly "It is an honour to meet you, your Highness."

"And you," she replies, but her tone is cold. "And what are we discussing?"

"Chaos, the Amber set-up, normal things," says Despil smoothly, trying to regain his mother's attention. "Mandor's off somewhere briefing Marrek, so Jurt's getting caught up here."

"Then, perhaps the serving girl Jurt is so taken with can wait in another room?" Jurt's face goes red, and he moves to protest, then realizes the trap a second too late. Several, actually.

Dara smiles at Ellie, and Ellie feels her skin tingle. "So, who's is she?"

Despil silences his brother with a stare, and Ellie can see him run through a mental catalogue of Amberite faces...

"Julian," he states finally.

Ellie says quietly "As Jurt said, I have found the company of your son and daughter most pleasant. They do you credit, your Highness, and are a refreshing change from that of my kin."

Dara looks unimpressed. "Jurt, this is still a matter of security. Can your new paramour walk home? I can show her the exit. Trumps have been disruptive down here of late."

Jurt swallows. "Um, well..." Despil gives him a subtle, yet still worried look.

Ellie replies "I'm afraid that my father has not seen fit to instruct me in the uses of Pattern. However, if you would show me to an area where I can trump from, I will of course leave."

Dara raises an eyebrow, not only at Ellie's confession, but at the darting look Despil gives Jurt. "How neglectful," she mummers. "Jurt, if you would take the girl to your room, I'll instruct her once we're done." Jurt couldn't look more surprised if she had shoves a beehive over his head and crooned 'Copa Cobana' to him.

He jumps up and grabs Ellie's hand, nearly dragging her from the room.

Ellie hurries along with him to his room, surprised as he is. Letting caution take the better part, she whispers "Anything I should know?"

He takes her to a side room, this one more... normally decorated.

"Yes. Never trust my mother, and never assume you know what she's about. I've seen how she operates for half a century, and still don't get it." He kisses her. "And who knows why she's being nice. That frightens me."

Ellie shrugs "Maybe it's not so much as being nice to me as being nasty to Amber. I don't know. I'm just guessing. I could certainly use the tuition though."

"You do. You do." He squeezes her hand. "I better get back to them. Don't leave the rooms... Ways are very tricky."

He rushes back down the hallway, and Ellie notes he's gotten more comfortable with his new foot.

The room, now that she can look around, is obviously not decorated by the casual and modern Jurt. It's thick with greens and blues, and gilt occasionally in bronze. The style is rich and exquisitely balanced. She has a hard time imagining Jurt there comfortably.

Ellie thinks on this /Either he lives elsewhere or he is different to what I think. Either is possible./

Not knowing how long the wait may be, she settles down in a chair to rest and gather her thoughts. Her eyes grow distant as she thinks about all that has happened in the last couple of days.

How clear cut loyalties seemed when she arrived, Ellie reflects. With a wry smile to herself, she also remembers how quickly that was thrown into doubt, not least by Corwin's own actions. Now the desire to aid her father is tempered with her own will to survive. And what of Chaos, she wonders.

/It may well hold the key to understanding the other side of my heritage, but at what cost will that knowledge come?/ Ellie thinks. She shrugs to herself. Whatever the cost, this isn't something she can ignore and neatly file away never to be looked at again. It has to be faced.

Ellie's face darkens a little as she thinks on this. By his words, Corwin likely had something to with her own disappearance, but what of her mother? After speaking to Gilva, she wonders how much of Corwin's description of her is accurate and how much is designed to keep her away from the courts. With grim clarity, Ellie wonders if her father killed her mother. She sighs, rubbing her face. /Following Hendrake's orders to conceive a child by Corwin may have been wrong by Amber standards, but it can't be stated to be evil./

She smiles ruefully /Benedict may have the right idea about staying away from the whole situation. However, I don't think that is an option for me. At least not yet./

Ellie thinks for a moment on the man whose room she sits in. To get involved with him is to get embroiled into the Sawall clan's politics. She likes Ryoden admittedly and Despil seems nice enough. Mandor would be a good teacher, but like any mentor he would shape as well as tutor. Merlin is interesting and would be worth getting to know more about. Marrek's connections are uncertain, but again he's interesting.

And what of Dara? Ellie admits she doesn't know enough of her to make any real judgements. Respect though comes to mind and Ellie acknowledges that. Whatever one's view of Dara, she is someone to be respected.

A thought comes to Ellie. What if Dara has recognised Corwin in her?

Given Corwin's wishes and feelings concerning Dara, would it not be a form of revenge to teach his daughter the uses of Pattern, knowing he is like to take it badly? Ellie hesitates. On the other hand, she does need this learning.

Ellie settles back and waits, calmer within herself. For her own survival, she must take teaching wherever it comes from. What is they say about not looking a gift horse in the mouth...

After several sets of minutes go by, Ellie begins to wonder if she's been forgotten... or if that much has really happened in the courts.

Just as she starts to get worried, the door opens, and a grim looking Jurt lumbers in. He doesn't look at her, but furrows his brow at the floor, obviously lost in thought.

He goes over to a couch and collapses with a sigh, and proceeds to look at the ceiling.

After a moment, Ellie moves to sit on a chair near the sofa and quietly asks "So how are things looking? Anywhere I should be?"

He sighs. "You know, one of the problems with vacationing in Amber is the time difference. It's been a few months down here..."

He cracks his knuckles, a habit, apparently, and continues to study the ceiling. His tone is flooded with irony. "Chaos is none-too-stable right now, oddly enough. My brother's enlightened form of tyranny has sent a new kind of rebellion through chaos, and now it's not house against house, but every house against itself."

He covers his face with his hands, rubbing his eyes. "Of course, Despil and I were getting all sorts of nasty looks in there from mom, seeing as how it's pretty much our generation rebelling."

He drops his hands and looks about. "Oh. She redecorated. Lovely. Great to be missed." He looks up at Ellie, his eyes a bit red. "And where do we put our stray Chaosite? Damned if I know. We can go wherever you want. Mom'll be here in a few. She's hashing some things out with Despil."

Ellie nods, a concerned look on her face. Softly, she says "Get some rest. We'll leave later and head back. After that..." She smiles "Well, we'll talk later. I promise a place to catch your breath in though. Alright?"

He shakes his head and sits up. "No. No rest for the wicked. This would be a great place to catch up, being so fast, but I can't say I'm all that comfortable in Chaos yet." He rubs his metal foot and winces. "The memory is still a bit too fresh. Plus, the longer we're out, the more likely Ryo is to know we went to Chaos." He sighs, but a small smile works its way out. "You want to see a temper tantrum..."

The door opens, and Dara enters, and she eyes Jurt's new foot. "I suppose that's the girl's?" He nods, and she looks pleased. "I'm glad to see she doesn't grow dull up there."

Jurt shakes his head. "Oh no... she's kept busy."

Ellie smiles inwardly at the thought of how busy indeed Ryoden has been. She watches Dara with a neutral expression waiting to see what Dara will say or do next, wondering what is to come.

Dara motions for them to follow her, and Jurt stands, taking a moment to help Eleanor to her feet.

Dara and Jurt talk over idle things, mostly local politics that fly over Ellie's head. A few times, Jurt turns to explain something, but then stops, realizing that he'd only have to explain a million other things.

Dara finally turns her attention to Eleanor once more. "I didn't know Julian had a daughter. You don't seem quite the cold thing I would have expected."

Ellie smiles wryly and replies "Julian and I share very few qualities. We're not exactly close."

"Hardly surprising. I've known a few Amberite males, and they're mostly of the lower end in quality of the universe." Jurt says nothing, but she shares a quick look with him. "Isn't that so?" Jurt grunts.

Ellie now understands why Jurt told her not to wander. She realizes they aren't so much walking around the ways as the ways are moving around them. Hallways appear where blank walls once stood; pictures turn real as they approach. Statues silently note their passing with trace amounts of movement. Jurt studies his surroundings, making notes.

Finally, they reach a stable, plain room, and Dara takes out a trump. She concentrates, and a gate opens. Without a word she steps through it. Jurt takes Ellie's arm and follows, whispering to her as he does so.

"The ones Ryo and I live in aren't nearly as odd. I think she's added in some new controls since I've been out."

Ellie nods, whispering back "I can see now why you said not to wander. It is very interesting though." She then looks back to see where they have arrived.

The field is plain, just a lolling mass of short grass, yellowed. The sun burns brightly in a greenish sky. The wind blows Ellie's hair back, and she shivers. Jurt puts an arm around her and glares at his mother. Ellie can feel his body grow warmer on her back.

"Picturesque. Don't have anywhere warmer?"

She sniffs and appears unaffected by the sudden shift in temperature. "It's a blank palette, Jurt. This is where Suhuy and I experimented after my exposure, so I'm sure it's good enough for the girl."

Briskly she turns and motions Jurt and Ellie to follow. She starts instructing Ellie in the Pattern: bringing it up, imposing her will on the environment, pitfalls... After about a half-hour of instruction, she finally stops.

"Now, let's see how quickly you learn. Walk."

Ellie nods and sets off, bringing up the Pattern as taught. She smiles as a destination comes to mind. /Sky first./

Clouds scud across the leaf green sky like a unseasonable gale stripping away spring leaves. Green clouds billow and dissipate then reform becoming grey and stormy, rain clouds. A light drizzle then the shingle grey skies of an Atlantic coast.

Yellow cornfields becomes greener and shorter changing to a tough grass underfoot sprinkled with small, occasional flowers. Bright spots of colour battling against the elements and yet flourishing.

The sound of surf and waves crashing against a rocky shore becomes evident. A hard, perilous coastline, full of unseen crevices and secret caves. Moonraker country. Clothing becomes more modern though of the same quality and colours.

The sky clears to reveal a rare sunny autumn day and the waves crash against the nearby shore, shallow enough for a small boat to be beached. Indeed, one is pulled up onto the shingle. A view similar to one painted once on a small canvas with a few differences. Ellie feels for the key in her pocket and smiles. Money, a deed and cards sit comfortably in the other pocket of the now green skirt and white silk blouse.

Ellie stops, breathing deeply of the salt air and listening to the harsh cry of the seagulls wheeling far above. She turns round and looks to Dara and Jurt. "Is here far enough?"

Dara looks around, and Ellie can't tell whether she's impressed or bored. "You show promise. Do come calling again." She looks at Ellie with what might be as close as she gets to warm, then disappears in a green blast of flame.

Jurt relaxes and runs his hand through his hair. "Nice. I don't get to the beach much. Now what was it we were going to talk about 'later'?"

Ellie smiles "Anything you want really, but I was thinking about safe places to take Ryoden." She heads up to the cottage eagerly "Want some coffee and a snack?"

He follows. "I see she skipped that chapter. Not every shadow is safe. From what I know of shadow, you can just think of someone and walk to them, and provided someone hasn't spend a few hundred years shoring up defences wherever they are, you'll eventually end up at their doorstep."

He takes her hand. "But it would be good for her to get out, get a change of scenery. I can call her in a bit, if you want."

Ellie smiles "That would be nice. I'm fond of Ryoden. I also think you could do with a rest though."

She adds thoughtfully "I suppose if we are going purely for safety, Avalon is an option though. Where else do you think would be safe?"

Opening the door to the cottage, she pauses then steps inside. Taking in the appearance with pleasure, she grins happily and asks "So would you like some coffee and a snack?"

He nods, and moves to explore a bit. "Avalon... I don't know. That would be safe. And Benedict is about as good a guard as you're going to get. But she's not find of him, or the 'story-book' setting. She's a modern one, like me." He opens a book and browses through it. "I don't know. After the ball, something may suggest itself. It may be I'm thinking about this wrong." He closes the book and reshelves it.

"So, what did you dream up for us to eat?"

Ellie smiles and moves to the cupboards and freezer and begins taking out ingredients. As she begins deftly chopping with a nearby knife, she replies "Is a pasta dish alright? And this place has something that might interest Ryoden."

"Really? What's that?" She notes his hand goes to his pendant and he nods.

"Pasta is fine. I could use the carbs." He slips an arm around her waist. "How long are we staying? Marrek'll have my head if I'm not back soon."

She smiles "It won't take me long to cook this up. Why not invite them along if you wish? There's plenty for everyone. As to my idea, it's a short train ride from here in Brittany to Paris and from there to Disneyland, Paris. I thought it might be a nice treat for Ryoden after being cooped up."

He hugs her close. "Later. Not now. I feel like being selfish." He chuckles drily. "The only time I'm not playing at being her father is when one of my siblings took her so I could get some crash course lessons with Suhuy. I'm about 20 years behind anyone else my age, education-wise."

"And Marrek will be glad when I can give him all the latest from the courts, so I at least have something to barter with."

Ellie nods and relaxes into the hug for a few moments before pulling back and setting the meal to cooking. She looks round and says "Well, there's wine in the corner there or coffee for the filter to the left. Your choice which."

As the pasta cooks, Ellie chops up some herbs and quickly adds them into the cooking meat and sauce. As she stirs the mixture, the aromatic fragrance rises up into the kitchen. With a smile, she adds "The snack won't be long."

He nods and goes to make coffee. "I could use the stimulant. Mom sucks the energy out of me. I think she's a vampire."

He watches the coffee perk. "So... what did you think of your first Chaos experience?"

Ellie leans back against the counter, replying truthfully "It was interesting. I can see that shapeshifting would be necessary, but the feel of the place was good." She smiles "What did Chaos think of me if I may enquire?"

Jurt suddenly becomes rather uncomfortable. "It's Chaos. Mom gave me a few pointers that I promptly ignored, and I got a few speeches. At least Despil didn't join in." He sulks for a moment, the wounds still fresh.

The coffee finishes and he pours himself a cup. "Want some?"

Ellie grins "I'd love some, thank you." She thinks for a moment then asks "Would your mum go any easier on you if she knew I'm half-Chaosite?"

She walks across and hugs him "Hey, we knew this wasn't going to be easy. Trust me, if Dad ever finds out your lineage, the last thing he's going to be is happy." She smiles up at him "I on the other hand am quite happy right where I am. How about you?"

He holds her tightly and pets her hair. "Oh, my mom was as close to ecstatic as she gets when she found out you were an Amberite. It's all one big plot. I get a holding up there, that means she's finally figured out what to do with me."

He lowers his voice. "You figured out my lineage, huh?"

Ellie nods "I was listening at New Avalon and watching what wasn't being said." She is quiet for a moment then adds "From what I have heard of him, I don't agree with his actions. You're not him though. You're your own person, Jurt." In a near whisper, she continues "Neither of us are just the product of our Amberite parents."

He laughs drily. "Doesn't seem to matter, though, does it? We're still up to our necks in it." He pauses. "What he did-- it isn't as frowned upon in Chaos. There were-- are a lot of people who figured a pattern drawn by a lesser person, in other words not Dworkin, would be better sitting over our heads than the one that is now." He shrugs. "It's a philosophical debate that went political. The worse kind."

He releases her and pours her a mug of coffee. "In a way, I am the result of Amberite parents. My mom, remember?" He smirks. "She's at home up there. Times were, she was supposed to marry Corwin."

Ellie takes a sip of the coffee then goes back to the meal and drains the pasta before serving up the rest of the meal. As she works, she asks "So what happened?" She pauses "No offence, but I'm glad you're not my step-brother."

He takes a plate and sits at a small dining room table. "Trust me, I'm just as glad." He takes a bite and expresses his approval, then launches into his history lesson.

"Well, you know how Merlin was sired by Corwin, right? The original plan was that Corwin would get the crown up there, marry my mother, and already have a male heir in tow."

He takes another bite. "Problem was, Corwin killed a guy by the name of Borel during Patternfall in a less than fair fight, and so my mom wanted nothing to do with him, he wasn't all that keen on her, and Merlin declared he didn't want to rule Amber. So, a whole lot of deaths for nothing." He shrugs. "But that's war."

Ellie nods "That's usually the way of war I agree." She eats for a few moments then asks "So I came from the second attempt I guess." Her face darkens for a moment as she recalls an earlier thought. "Opportunistic I guess, but hardly a major sin." She shakes her head slightly, as if clearing the thought out of her head "Anyway, one thing puzzles me. From what I've seen, the guys tend to have more clout in general, apart from your mother and my aunt of course. So it seems a bit odd that they chose a female child for their next attempt."

Ellie looks down "And I'm assuming things again. I just thought if shapeshifting was involved, it would be easy enough to control the gender of the child."

She smiles at Jurt "And I'm also rambling on here. What do you want to do when we get back to Amber? This is nice coffee by the way. Thank you." with that, she falls silent as she sips some coffee.

"I think guys have more clout because there are more of them. Just look at my family. Before dad died it was five against two." He takes another bite. "And as for determining sex, it wouldn't have been possible, because the father wasn't a shapeshifter. If he had been, then sure, picking the sex would have been easy. Now, if the Chaosite been a male seducing a female..." His tone trails off, and his eyes go wide. "Oh, god no..."

Ellie watches and says quietly "I guess you and I would count in that regard, if you want to look at it that way. What exactly do you think they would have planned? Some thoughts spring to mind, but I'd like to hear your take on this first."

"No! Not us!" He puts his hand to his forehead and looks for all the world like a stunned animal. "Chaos sent a representative to Amber after the war, one that got friendly all over Amber, especially with one of the princesses... Rumour has it they did more than play cards late at night..."

He looks at her. "Mandor."

Ellie nods, seeing his reasoning "Who was the princess concerned?"

As she waits for his answer, she tries to ignore the heat in her face. /Oh boy, was I ever wrong./ Failing, she takes her empty plate and quickly moves over to the kitchen, facing away from Jurt.

He follows with his own plate in one hand, his deck in the other. "Fiona! God, if there's ever a spawning I _don't_ want to see, it's that one. I mean, I know he's my brother, but... Mandor shouldn't have kids. I mean, the fact he has a brother that favours him so much scares me."

He puts his plate in the sink and goes to continue, but then sees Ellie's crimson face. "Um, you okay?"

Ellie nods sharply without speaking, then says softly "Ah...I guess I must have put too much spice in the meal." Too late, she realises he was there when she put only herbs in.

She adds quietly "You head back to Amber if you like. I'll catch up in a short while."

He stops shuffling through his trump deck. "What, did I offend you?"

He puts the deck away. "Something about Mandor?" He takes her chin and forces her to look at him. "I thought the spices were fine." He smiles.

"What is it?"

Ellie replies quickly, rushing through her words "No, you didn't offend me. And I'm more worried about Fiona than Mandor. I just got a bit embarrassed at being so wrong. Silly really. All done and explained, see. And since I cooked, you can do the dishes. How's that?"

He looks at her a long time, and Ellie feels the blood rush to her face once more. He looks at the sink of dirty dishes, holds out his hand a moment, and she watches as the dishes disappear.

"There. No more dirty dishes."

He leans his back against the sink. "Your guess wasn't a bad guess, Ellie. For all you know, that could be an alternative assignment of mine. Bed the first open minded third-gen Amberite I can, and get my own ways or some such nonsense. But I'll tell you the truth... if they were looking to do that, I'm about the last guy they'd put on the job, since I would normally have nothing to do with regular Amberite females, and you are hardly a regular Amberite female."

Ellie nods "Alright. Time we headed back then." She turns away then pauses "You're right, I'm not a regular Amberite female. I don't lie very well, trust people too much and don't even really like arguments."

She adds "I'll be back down in a minute." heading quickly out of the room and upstairs. In the spare bedroom, she pulls out a pair of jeans from a chest of drawers and examines them critically. /Good. That worked. They should be about the right size./ She folds them up carefully and heads back down.

She smiles politely "I'm all ready to go now. I have a Trump of Amber. Anything you want to get or do before we head back?"

He moves to say something, but then thinks better of it. His face a bit sullen he shakes his head. "No, we can go back if you want." He moves to where she is. "Are you actually worried that you're an assignment?"

Ellie sighs and looks up at him "No that wasn't it at all. I thought I might be and then on reflection, decided that the idea wasn't totally reprehensible given the company and..." She smiles wryly "You know you can interrupt and stop me digging myself any further into a hole. Just tell me to shut up or something."

He laughs. "No, no, please, dig away. I'm enjoying this." He looks at the card in her hand. "Are you sure you want to go back so soon? As soon as we do, Ryo and Marrek and your father will be all over us." He takes her hand. "Plus, there's the ball, and getting ready..."

Ellie looks up, surprised "I thought you wanted to head back quickly though. I mean, you took your Trump deck out and I assumed from that..."

She smiles "Alright. No assumptions. Would you like to stay here a little longer? I can't promise any further digging though."

He laughs, but it's troubled. "I was going to call Mandor, but I'm thinking maybe I should just talk to Marrek instead. Mandor would just be testy to be called away, and if I'm right, he'll deny it, and if I'm wrong, he'll just laugh at me, then bounce those toys of his off of me."

He kisses the back of her hand. "Now, if you _were_ an assignment, how would you rate me? I did the dishes." He motions to the sink.

Ellie nods and smiling, replies "Very true. Doing the dishes definitely gets points." She thinks of something and adds "If you do speak to Marrek, he can give Ryoden these."

She hands him the jeans "I thought these would help cheer her up a little so I put them in this when I was sorting out the cottage we're in."

He looks at the jeans. "You're a braver person than I-- I just let her make her own. But she likes you. She'll smile." He puts them under his arm. "Of course, she finds out we went back to Chaos, these could be diamond encrusted, and she'd still be spitting fire."

He sighs. "And, being a shapeshifter, I mean that literally."

Ellie nods "I can imagine." She hesitates then says "You're right though. This is the last time we'll have in a while to be alone together, what with the ball and everything and everyone else. Maybe rushing back isn't the best idea." Ellie looks up at him, green eyes wide and focussed on him "What do you think?"

He folds the jeans and puts them on a nearby chair. "I think that's an excellent idea. Now, did you buy a boat with this house, or do I get a grand tour?"

Ellie smiles and replies "There's a boat out front, but the seas are a bit choppy this time of year. We can go for a walk on the beach though if you like or stay inside. Whichever you prefer, Jurt. You're my guest after all."

He laughs. "And I was a great host at Sawallways, right? the scenery doesn't matter. We're not in Amber, and we have privacy. That's about all I ask for. We could be in a tent, for all I care, although having a well equipped kitchen is a plus."

Ellie shrugs "Well, Sawallways is an exception." She puts her arms round his waist and smiles "It is nice though to have some privacy and be away from Amber for a time." With a mischievous grin, she reaches up and kisses him on the cheek "Very nice indeed."

He drapes his hands on her shoulders, and kisses her lightly. He moves his lips to her ear and whispers, "You didn't happen to build a bedroom into this place, did you? Feel free to say no."

Ellie whispers back "Three actually. I modelled it on my home. Rooms for guests and all that." She sighs softly, enjoying the sensation of his lips against her ear "Jurt, you are sure? I don't want you to get hurt."

"Hurt?" He sounds amused. "You're a tiny thing. What are you planning on doing to me?" He nibbles her ear lobe, and lifts one hand to take off his necklace.

Ellie smiles "Just giving you an opt-out clause." and catches her breath at both his actions. She nods, her smile widening "Yes, that is a good idea. Especially if you keep doing what you're doing."

He tugs on her hand and places the necklace in his pocket, checking it briefly first.

"C'mon. Grand tour time."

Ellie nods and leads him upstairs, the house around them comfortable and safe. On the landing, she indicates two doors. "Those are the guest bedrooms. The door behind us is the main bedroom and the rest of the doors are a study, cupboards, that kind of thing." She looks up at him, green eyes darkening, and smiles teasingly "Back downstairs now for the rest of the cottage?"

He chuckles and draws her close. "I'm not done up here." He kisses her fiercely, but then pulls back. "You're sure? You know what you're getting involved with here?" He touches her hair. "It's me that should be asking you about getting hurt."

Ellie answers "Yes, I'm sure, Jurt." and raises a hand to gently touch his hair. "I probably don't know everything I'm getting involved with. I know though that this feels right."

He opens the door behind him and draws her in...


Later, downstairs, Jurt hums and collects Ryoden's jeans from the floor. He throws Ellie the occasional smile as they get ready to go back to Amber, but doesn't say much. There isn't all that much to say.

He leans against the wall, Ryo's jeans under his arm and watches her. "I'm afraid we have to go back sometime."

Ellie nods, smiling slightly "I know. Shall we call Marrek or use the trump I have?"

"The one you have," he grins. "A bit more of a delay." He puts on the necklace and flinches. "Oh. Ouch. That's not a happy camper."

He moves to her side. "I think coming in somewhere where she isn't is a good idea. She's likely to be seething."

Ellie nods, concerned, and takes out the Trump of the Castle "Alright. Mine it is." and concentrates on the image of the gates, seeing them grow real......

They stand before Amber, and Ellie blinks several times. When they had left, it was evening, and now, the sun was just beginning to hit the city. Jurt looks around, then stops a passing guardsman to ask the date.

He turns back to Ellie. "Well, we lost the night, but at least we didn't lose any days." He takes her hand and pulls her to the castle. "And I think she's realized we're back."

Ellie nods as they come to the shared chambers and replies "And I think I'm also going to have to go and face my father. If nothing else, apologise for missing the dinner. I'll be back shortly probably."

With a smile to Jurt, she pulls back and heads off to knock on the door of her father's room before trying the throne room next.

Ellie + Imogen: Morning meetings

In the King's chambers, Corwin embraces Imogen warmly, for the first time his hands sure, not nervous or filled with passion.

A knock sounds at his door.

He groans and pulls away from Imogen, grabbing the robe she discarded and heading for the door. He opens it...

His eyes meet Eleanor's, and she notices he looks strangely flushed, his eyes almost a bit wild. for a brief moment, Ellie wonders if he even recognizes her.

He shakes his head and attempts to smooth his hair. "El-- Ellie."

Ellie looks up at her father "Are you alright, Dad?" She adds quietly "I came to apologise for skipping out on things last night."

"Skipping out?" He puts a hand to his forehead and frowns. "What are you talking about? I don't remember..." He shakes his head. "I'm... I'm fine." He looks at her strangely, as if only half remembering her face.

Ellie's concern shows in her face "The dinner last night, remember? Benedict and Oberon argued and Benedict left then I did. Are you okay, Dad? You look as if you barely know me."

He steps back, shaking his head. "I'm having trouble..." He stares at nothing. "I was... in the ball room. I don't know why. I didn't remember dinner..."

On Imogen's chest, the rose begins to warm again.

Ellie looks seriously worried now "Dad, what kind of trouble are you having?"

Hearing the voices at the door, Imogen tugs at the upper sheet to free it. She could attempt to dress in the bedraggled woollen dress she had worn the night before - but it is little better than a rag. Besides ...

Besides ... if her presence in Corwin's chamber is remarked ... and the inference obvious ... then she will be much harder to dismiss...

She gives a little shiver. What if the woman whose voice she hears at the door is a beloved mistress? Even his wife? She has no way of knowing.

No - the man whose arms she lay in the night before is not a contented man, happy in his private life. His pain was all too real.

She moves to the looking glass and views her refection. Perfect. Her shoulders are bare, with her golden hair tumbling down in tousled disarray - but the silken sheet makes a more than respectable covering ... it even looks elegant. She takes a step forward, and a shapely leg is revealed ... but not to excess. She smiles a little wanly at her reflection, and then moves softly towards the door.

As Corwin moves back, Ellie and Imogen see each other for the first time.

Corwin sits, holding his head. "Remembering. I can't..." He sees Imogen enter, and watches her with an odd look in his eye. He seems to forget Eleanor's presence, and simply eyes the silken sheet.

Ellie looks again at her father and shrugs, her own face becoming masked, then turns to Imogen "Good morning, I'm Ellie. Do you know if my father had an accident or something? There seem to be memory problems."

Imogen shakes her head slowly.

"No," she says.

She moves to beside Corwin and kneels beside him, taking his hand and smiling up at him.

"Corwin, my love, Ellie is worried. You should reassure her."

She turns and smiles at Ellie, a warm smile with no hint of self-consciousness at how she is dressed or what it reveals.

"My name is Imogen. I'm your cousin."

He touches Imogen warmly on the cheek and kisses her softly. At the mention of his daughter's name, however, he looks away from her and at Eleanor.

"Imogen... This is Eleanor, my..." He frowns, and touches his forehead.

Ellie says quietly "Daughter. I'll see you both later." With a nod to them, she then retreats to the shared quarters, drawing out her Trump deck as soon as she enters and Benedict's card specifically.

After a few moments though, she realises she's not getting through. Trying Gerard yields the same results. Belatedly, she looks around and sees Marrek and Jurt "Hi. Do either of you know a good person to call if there's a problem in Amber? Benedict and Gerard are both busy."


As she leaves them, Imogen feels a cold touch of fear. She knows what Ellie is doing - hell, in her place she would do the same thing. Corwin's daughter has gone to get help.

She lifts his hand to her lips and kisses it passionately.

"Corwin ... listen to me. Ellie ... is worried. She thinks ... something is wrong." ~And so do I~ she thinks, but she cannot stop to question it now. She only knows, with a sickening dread, that if she loses him now, it could be for all time.

"Corwin ... they are going to try to take me away from you. You are going to lose me ... like you lost Mother ... unless you can stop them."

There is desperation in her face now ... perhaps even a little of the terror that was his last sight of her mother. For Imogen feels an abyss of her own yawning beneath her.

"Corwin, my love, help me!"

He shakes and takes her by the arm. "Why..." He looks at the door, and Imogen gasps as the rose nearly burns a hole in her chest. "My daughter?" He groans and holds his head, and Imogen can see veins pop out on his forehead.

He manages to look up and point, and Imogen realizes the pain in his eyes this time isn't emotional, but physical. "Trumps," he grunts through clenched teeth.

"What?" she says, bewildered. His pain is so intense that she seems almost to feel it herself. She looks desperately around - and sees a deck of cards similar to the card she had earlier.


She runs across to the chest, almost tripping over the sheet - she needs clothes, damn it - and hesitates, remembering the power of the card she had found. But a groan from behind her steadies her resolve and she seizes them and runs back to him, dropping to her knees once more and caressing his face.

"Here," she says, handing them to him.

He grimaces as he shuffles through them, and bites his lip-- a line of red runs down his chin as his tooth cuts the skin.

The rose actually begins to glow and he drops the deck with a yell of pain. The door opens, and a small red-headed woman dressed in green and gold silk enters, and observes the scene with a frown.

"Who _are_ you?"

Imogen drew a swift breath. This was not the stranger ... but there was a distinct likeness.

"I'm Imogen," she says steadily, although inwardly she feels sick, both at Corwin's suffering and the consequences of what has happened.

"Corwin told me last night ... that I'm Deirdre's daughter."

She keeps her arms around him ... almost as though she is protecting him.

Fiona eyes her for a moment, and she nods. Swiftly she moves to Corwin and kneels in front of him. "Corwin. Corwin!" She touches his temple and pauses.

"He's being attacked." She closes her eyes and concentrates, and his cries quiet, although the tenseness doesn't leave his shoulders and neck.

She shakes her head, then raises her fist and brings it down sharply on the back of his head. He collapses in a heap.

"What are you doing!" shouts Imogen, shocked and angry. "He's hurt... You're making it worse, not better!"

She tries to push the woman violently away, and to move back to Corwin, to hold him.

"Corwin ... please," she begs, "please ... be all right for me."

She's conscious of tears on her cheeks - and is inwardly shocked. To plan her revenge was one thing - but it shouldn't be like this. Not this appalling pain and confusion.

For one thing - it reminds her all to vividly of another death.

Ellie rushes in the room at this moment, her father crumpled on the floor at Fiona's feet, Imogen wide-eyed and wrapped in her sheet.

She hears Jurt enter behind her and grab her arm. Dimly, she feels the presence of another in his touch, and realizes he's holding a trump contact open.

Ellie asks Fiona quietly "What is wrong with my father?" She holds Jurt's hand as she looks at Imogen. She says nothing to her cousin, the look in her eyes masked.

Fiona looks at the tearful Imogen haughtily. "He was being attacked mentally. One who is unconscious cannot be attacked."

She allows Imogen to sit near Corwin, moving with a shrug to Jurt. "Close that." Her eyes fill with steel, but Jurt glares at her. With a sigh, she utters something, and Ellie feels the connection go dead.

"This is not something I want getting out. Now. What has happened, young lady, and why have I never heard of you?" She stares at the ill-clad Imogen.

"I don't know why you never heard of me," says Imogen .

She wipes away the tears from her eyes with her fingers, nothing else being available.

"I only knew I was adopted when I was young ... on another world. I think ... you call it a Shadow."

Gently she lifts Corwin so that his head can rest in her lap, and strokes her hand gently along his face.

"I came to see him last night," she says. "I was brought here yesterday when I found one of those ... cards." She gestures to Corwin's scattered trumps. "I had met Flora... but she didn't know ... although she was sure I was an Amberite. But Corwin... when I saw him with Flora ... he seemed to know something. So I came to the throne room. And he told me then."

Her voice is flat ... and filled with a great weariness.

"He seemed ... a little confused. But not much - and I thought it was just the shock of seeing me and realising ... who I was. But this morning ... when his daughter came ... it suddenly became much worse."

She bends forward, and the pendant is clearly visible, swinging from her neck.

Ellie's voice is level and quiet, though Jurt can feel a slight tremble in her hand, as she asks Fiona "Do you know by whom or what he is being attacked? What can be done to help him?"

Fiona thinks. She closes her eyes, then reopens them, a peculiarly distant look in them.

"That. What is that?" She bends down and takes up Imogen's rose, then narrows her eyes at its bearer.

Imogen's back stiffens as she feels something racing through her mind. She's forced to remember the events of last night-- her college years-- her dorm room at school-- the pattern walk-- her father, laughing-- then her mother...

Fiona hold's the young woman's gaze for a moment, then stands, her hands on her hips.

"So you are her daughter... Her death hid it well." A smile appears on her lips. "Curiouser and curiouser..." She taps on the rose. "Where did you get that?"

Imogen shakes her head slowly, and there is a look of anger in his eyes, resentment at the intrusion ....

"If you can do that to me, lady, then you know the answer to that question. Perhaps you know it better than I do - for all I know is that I found it around my neck when I came to this place."

Ellie replies quietly "Why so angry, Imogen? You are not the one who is being attacked or who lies unconscious." She then asks Fiona "What is the significance of the pendant, please?"

Fiona ignores Eleanor's quietly heated words and keeps her eyes locked on Imogen. "I was looking for your mother, not your choice in jewellery. But very well, if you insist."

The attack is twice as strong this time, and now Imogen begins to get an idea of why Corwin was in such agony. The images come too quickly for her to breathe, and once the pressure lets up, she collapses over Corwin, weak.

Fiona touches her hair. "It would appear that the trinket was, indeed, places on Imogen unawares." She touches it. "Things such as these take time to decipher, but I believe it has a hold on your father." She eyes Imogen's sheet. "And _your_ lover."

She examines the rose and frowns. "I don't like this. But I think the magics are fading."

Jurt slides an arm around Ellie’s waist, and she can feel his other hand move to his amulet slowly. Fiona turns and glares at him, and his arm drops again.

Imogen looks up, her eyes dazed as she sits up once again, careful not to disturb Corwin.

"Is this the cause of what happened?" she asks, a little incredulously, flicking at the pendant with her finger. "Then I should remove it!"

She looks down at the face of the man resting in her lap.

"Should I leave him?" she asks quietly. "Will he even know me again?"

But even as she asks, perhaps without her even realising it, her hands tighten on the material of his dressing gown as though she could not, would not be parted from him.

Ellie suggests "Perhaps you would do better to see how my father feels about you when he wakes." She pauses then adds "You appear to care about him and that is something he needs." Ellie's face though remains neutral as she looks at her cousin.

Fiona eyes the charm and test the chain. "No clasp. And strong. Short of beheading, I don't see how it will come off." She looks at Corwin ironically. "Destroying a sword that pierced him would not heal the wound. Any damage done last night will still be there regardless." She smiles cruelly at Imogen. "I'm sure he'll have quite a clear memory of what passed between the two of you, so don't worry about that."

She presses her fingers to his temple again. "He's being blocked, and I can see he was fighting them." She looks at Eleanor, and her knees go weak for a moment. "Mostly fighting the block on you."

She looks at the rose again, then at Imogen's face. "You are quite the herald, are you not? Not even a day in Amber." She turns. "Get dressed. The sheet does not become you, child."

Corwin stirs on Imogen's lap, and his eyes open. Fiona notes this and makes a motion about the pendant. It burns, but this time, Corwin doesn't react.

"Imogen --" He winces and puts his hand to where Fiona hit him.

"Corwin," she says softly, and with some relief.

"I'm here. Don't worry. You were being attacked. And ... Fiona stopped it." She looks up at her aunt. "Fairly forcefully," she added drily.

She draws a deep breath, and suddenly the relief that Corwin seems to be all right makes her lips quirk into a ironic smile. This, she thinks grimly, is going to see her totally humiliated in front of these three strangers.

"As for clothes," she says, a little defiantly, "I have none. None that are fit to wear, at all events."

Ellie asks coolly "Where is your room? Do you have any clothes there that you wish fetched?"

Fiona bends down and looks at Corwin. "If you've dallied with your niece enough, brother, you're needed downstairs. Flora is having fits, and I'd rather not lower myself to the station of interior decorator." She turns on her heel, and heads for the door.

As she exits, she looks at Jurt. "And how is your brother?"

He bites back a snappy response, but then smirks. "Merlin? Oh, he's peachy." She shoots daggers at him, but leaves, letting it drop. Jurt whistles lowly. "Glad I didn't use the line about Mandor playing with his balls..." he mutters.

Corwin pulls himself up and looks at Imogen, then Eleanor. He glances at the window and the rising sun. "Pity it's too early to drink."

~You and me both~ thinks Imogen wryly.

She pulls back into herself, drawing her knees up to her chest.

"I don't have a room," she says flatly.

~And as for asking Flora for my clothes back ...~

She cringes inwardly.

"I'll wear that," she says, gesturing towards the ragged remains of the blue woollen dress. "If you'll leave me alone to get changed... "

She looks at Corwin a little wistfully.

~I should have asked for universes instead,~ she thinks sadly. ~Or at least a little dress shop in a fashionable street.~

Ellie nods "Have no fear. I'll leave you both alone. Good day." She turns to Jurt "Thank you for your support, Jurt."

With that, she turns and walks back to her chambers. She takes a deep breath as she considers what to do next.