The air grows thick around Marrek as he follows Mandor's demon through the twists of his ways. Mandor insists the addition of incenses in certain corridors is for mood, but Marrek knows better. It's to keep guests off their guard and slightly less composed than him. Marrek is more used to it, however.
Glancing about at Mandor's accumulated riches, he straightens his jacket and shirt. Passing a mirror, he sees his reflection. An attractive young man, pale-skinned with dark hair drawn back into a ponytail. He smiles and smoothes back a non-existent loose hair.
Passing a curio case, he notes a small jade jaguar, much like one he had come into possession of a month earlier. He frowns, but somewhere in him, a smile forms. Its an old game between them. So far, Mandor is still ahead.
The demon stops and motions to a closed door, intricately carved with a serpent. The demon sinks into the floor, and Marrek hears voices on the other side.
Marrek straightens his jacket once more, smoothing out an imagined wrinkle. Drawing himself straight, he raises a hand to knock and...pauses. Briefly, he entertains the notion of listening at the door, decades of (bad?) habit manifesting in a single motion. Just as quickly, he dismisses the notion. This is Mandor, after all. In all likelihood, Mandor is already well aware of his presence.
Squaring his shoulders, he firmly raps upon the door.
Just as soon as his fist hits the door, it opens slowly and mechanically. One of Mandor's new tricks, it would seem.
Inside, he sees a small ornate dining room, almost oriental in style. Aromas of exotic and rare dishes surround Marrek as he enters.
Mandor is standing with his back to the door, studying a watercolour depiction of a tiger fighting a jaguar. His shirt is simple, grey with clear crisp lines and seams, a contrast to the complex carvings prevalent around them. He turns and smiles at Marrek. "A new acquisition. You like?"
Marrek then notices a form seated at the table, idly playing with a glass fish. It takes him a second, but he finally recognizes the second person as Merlin, King of Chaos.
"Not bad, brother mine," Marrek says blandly, striding through the door and placing himself halfway between the room's two occupants, "if you're a proponent of that particular medium. I tend towards works of a bit more solidarity, myself." He looks at the spread upon the table, the aroma a sharp contrast to the heavy incense out in the halls. Suddenly, he is quite hungry. But propriety must be observed.
He turns his attention to Merlin and drops into a low bow, "Your Majesty," he greets the king.
Mandor raises an eyebrow. "Like statuettes?"
Merlin smiles and waves his hand. "Eh, no bowing. I save that privilege for when the old farts come calling." He glances over at Mandor. "Unless they're related to me, of course."
Mandor keeps his face neutral, but motions to the table. "Please, sit," he says, doing so himself. "I'd hate to waste a conjuring spell by letting it get cold."
Marrek feels Merlin sizing him up. "Mandor described you well. The trump helped, of course, but it's not the same."
Marrek takes his seat and eyes the dumplings and noodles on his plate. He's always had a taste for all things oriental, more so for their national treasures than their food. With practiced ease, he picks up a pair of ivory chopsticks and settles them in his left hand. "I hope I don't disappoint, my king. Indeed, your trump does you justice," Marrek flashes a quick grin, "though I imagined you to be a bit taller."
Marrek turns to Mandor, "Yes, statuettes. They're much more," Marrek pauses, eyeing the painting on the wall. "Much more portable than paintings, don't you think?" He smiles and lifts a glass of wine to his lips.
Mandor smiles ever so slightly. "I'd be wary of statuettes, though. It's so easy to cast some rather interesting spells on them. They're wonderful for practice." He delicately picks up a spring roll and begins to eat.
Merlin, on the other had, had delved into his plate the second Mandor sat down. After devouring a small pile of shrimp rice (with a fork, Marrek notes), he leans back. "You know, you'd be shocked to hear how often I hear that. People seem to assume Amberites are taller. Well, they are pretty tall, but some of them rather petite."
Merlin helps himself to a helping of noodles laced with something exotic-looking. "So, tell me, Marrek, what do you do to make a living?" Mandor munches on his spring roll, pretending not to listen.
"Is it not so difficult to lay such a trap in a painting, brother mine? Contemplate a painting too closely and you may find yourself somewhere...unpleasant." Marrek pauses, helping himself to one or two bites of his noodles before turning his attention back to Merlin. "As for what I do for a living, well, I could tell you that I'm a collector of antiquities. That's a fairly polite way of putting what I do, you understand, but we must always observe the customary niceties in company, mustn't we? It's not much for paying the bills," Marrek laments, brushing an imaginary speck from the shoulder of his Armani suit, "but it keeps me entertained." Marrek takes another bite of his noodles, washes it down with his red wine.
Mandor finishes his spring roll, and looks slightly amused. "A threat, little brother? How droll." He picks up his chopsticks and starts picking at some simple white rice. He looks at Merlin, who is examining a small odd-looking vegetable with veiled horror. "I know you're busy, and dying to get back to the throne room." Merlin casts him a withering look. "Perhaps we should get to the meat of the matter?"
Merlin shrugs. "Fine by me." He looks at Marrek. "Did you hear what happened to Jarvis Minobee?"
Thinking on it, Marrek realizes he did hear a story about him a week back or so. The young lord was playing at raising daemons, and made the mistake of raising one in a bad mood...
Marrek sets down his wine glass and leans back in his chair, resting his elbows on its arms and steepling his fingers in front of him. "Yes, I heard about Minobee, but only in vague detail. Just that he met a bad end on the horns of a demon." Frowning, he leans forward, glancing between Merlin and Mandor. "What's that have to do with me? I try to avoid demons if I can help it; I prefer my company to be a little softer on the eyes."
Merlin smiles. "Won't argue with you there. I have siblings. That's enough for demons in my life." He chews on a dumpling, then continues. "The poor demon bait was one of my inner court. While nature abhors a vacuum, and tends to fill it, I find it tends to fill it with idiots. So I try to step in and fill them first. The idiots are getting restless, so I'm prepared to offer you the position."
Mandor breaks in. "Provided, of course, that you continue your studies here for a while." Merlin nods at him, then looks at Marrek expectantly.
Marrek blinks, taken aback for the first time that evening. "With all due respect, you can't be serious." Marrek spreads his hands, adding, "I'm no courtier. I've no gift for politics. Hell, I'm rarely even in Chaos except to visit Mandor and one or two others."
As Marrek objects, however, other thoughts float in his mind. He'd been plying his trade for quite a while, and while his on-going game of pilfery with Mandor had been highly entertaining for the most part, he had been growing restless for something new, despite his earlier claims to Merlin to the contrary. Perhaps trying his hand in a new arena might do him some good. Leaning back in his chair, fingers steepled before him once more, he asks, "What would you have me do?"
He chuckles. "Courtiers aren't all lace handkerchiefs and pretty faces. They're the hands of the kings. Some are politicians, true, but put too many in one place they'll eat up the oxygen. I need all sorts. Writers, engineers, shadow experts..." He smiles slightly, as if thinking of some anecdote. "...thieves..."
Should have guessed, Marrek thinks to himself. Indeed, had he not been so surprised, it probably would have been the first thought in his head. Of course Merlin had picked him for a specific reason. The whole "filling the vacuum before and idiot plugs the hole" explanation just didn't wash. "I see."
Marrek gazes at his king for a moment over his fingertips. "Very well," he says finally, "taking into account my studies here in Mandor's Ways, when do I start?"
Merlin makes a vague gesture. "Oh, I'll give you some time to coordinate your schedule with Mandor, spruce up the wardrobe, leave a forwarding address... the usual. A week, say?"He shrugs. "No particular rush. Once I announce your name, the masses will settle." He looks at his plate darkly and mutters something.
Returning his gaze to Marrek's face, he continues. "But maybe you should tell me a bit about yourself? Mandor leaves things out."
Marrek waves a hand dismissively, picking up his wine glass with the other. "Not much to tell, I'm afraid." He takes a sip from the glass. "Like I told you, I make my living and entertain myself by taking things that don't belong to me, being places I shouldn't be, consorting with women with whom I--well, you get the idea." Marrek sits forward, setting down his wine glass and leaning his elbows on the table. "When House Chanicut got most of its members obliterated during Patternfall, I opted to join those nobles from other decimated houses who accepted Lord Chondan's invitation to create a new House."
Merlin regards his new courtier. "Then this will be a boon to your house, won't it? You're the first I've asked from the new house to join my court."
He chuckles to himself. "As for women, there will be plenty of ones that I'm sure you can pick from, all of which have nervous fathers at home hoping to marry them off to someone high up the ladder." Suddenly, he looks gloomy. Mandor picks up on this and laughs. "It's not easy being the most eligible bachelor in Chaos, is it, brother?"
Marrek nods, "Yes, my House will see this as a great step in establishing themselves as a power in Chaos--something I'm sure they will not let me forget." He takes another sip on his wine glass, emptying it. Holding it out in front of him, he frowns and concentrates briefly. Slowly, the glass refills with the deep red liquid and Marrek sips once more.
Merlin lifts his head from his gloomy respite. "Prefer your own vintage, eh?" He shrugs. "Good. Cut down on my wine bills."
Out of the corner of his eye, Marrek sees Mandor stiffen slightly and hold up a hand for silence.
Marrek quickly sets his wine glass down and places both hands flat upon the table's surface. Closing his eyes to bare slits, he stretches out his awareness, his ears straining to hear the slightest noise...
Mandor looks into the air before him. "Yes--?" he says. A look of alarm hits his face as he shoots his arm out and grabs onto something... a small hand...
He pulls through two figures, one a small child, the other an adult male screaming in pain, clutching at a leg. Marrek manages to swallow his rebelling meal when he realizes the leg has a bloody mess where a foot used to be...
Marrek leaps to his feet and rushes around the table to Mandor's side, taking the injured man by his shoulders and easing him down onto Mandor's oriental rug, blood from the wound quickly spreading around in a puddle of ruin. Absently, he glances at both of the new faces, trying to place their identities before looking up into Mandor's face.
As he eases the man down, he realizes he's seen him before, back when Mandor's father died. Jurt... his youngest half-brother.
The young one jumps from the table and onto a sideboard, screaming and crying, looking at the injured leg. It's face contorts into its demon form, a sign of stress.
Merlin first checks on his brother, but then moves to the shapeshifting child, picking her up. "Shh, Ryo-- it's just a foot.." The child sobs into his shoulder, and Marrek places her... Ryoden, the youngest Sawall by Dara. She had been over a few times, but Mandor mostly kept her to himself during the visits.
Mandor works quickly, casting a heal spell, then bandaging what is left with conjured strips of gauze.
Marrek looks from the sobbing girl down to the man--Jurt--lying before him. "What happened? Who--or what--did this to you?"
Jurt looks at him, still in pain, but calming down. "I don't know-- we were in the ways, just walking. Her ears perked-- AH! Damn that smarts! Don't you have any other spells?" his face bland, Mandor hands his brother a flask. Jurt drinks deeply and continues. "It was magic, whatever it was. But her, she's got ears like you wouldn't believe. Heard it get triggered. We jumped, but I didn't move as fast. Was trying to protect Ryo. What-" He starts to lift his head up, but Mandor calmly pushes it back down again.
"No." He states calmly, and continues about his work. Ryoden can still be heard crying in the background.
Leaving Jurt to his brother's tender ministrations, Marrek crosses the room to stand with Merlin and the sobbing girl. "You're all right now," he says in his low, calm voice, "and quite safe here in my brother's domain. Nothing here will harm you and you've got your brother Merlin here to protect you now."
The girl is in full demon form, and so, notes Marrek, is Merlin. He holds her while the girl studies Marrek's face, tears still streaming. "it was m-m-my fault..." she stutters, and breaks into sobs again. Merlin pats her back, murmuring softly.
"Nonsense," Marrek scoffs. "Without your warning, Jurt would most likely be dead right now. You saved his life." In emphasis, he glances back at Jurt and Mandor.
Ryoden buries her head back into Merlin's shoulder. Mandor nods in agreement, but Jurt simply looks dazed. Confused, he looks at the flask. "What is this...?" he asks in a slightly slurred voice.
"Liquid codeine," Mandor replies coolly, "An excellent pain-killer. Your body is too busy worrying about your foot to neutralize it. Don't get too used to it, though." Jurt nods slightly and looks at the ceiling again, hugging the flask to his chest.
Mandor finishes up his bandaging, then moves over to Merlin. "Your enemies grow ambitious, your Highness. Are you sure it's not time to rethink your mother's and my exiles?" Merlin glares.
Marrek looks from Merlin back to Mandor, an eyebrow raised in puzzlement. "What's this now?" he asks the two of them. "I have to come home more often. I seem to be missing all the latest news these days."
Merlin responds without taking his eyes off of Mandor. "Oh, it's just a little family spat. You know, the old battle axe and your brother trying to control the crown, and in the process slaughtering an innocent village or two to appease some old duke." His voice drips with acid. "Politics."
Mandor raises an eyebrow. "Perhaps if you played these politics a bit better, instead of playing to your pride, you wouldn't have put our brother and sister in harms way."
Merlin grimaces, but replies, "We've no proof it was someone trying to get at me."
Mandor turns away and takes out his trump deck. "Denial is a beautiful thing."
Marrek, realizing that this is an old argument and knowing when not to get involved in such things, merely returns to the table, takes up his wineglass and takes a long drink. Turning back to Merlin and the still distraught child, he asks the king softly, "Would she know who sent the magic against her?"
Merlin stops boring holes in Mandor's back and pries Ryoden from his shoulder. "Well?" he asks softly. She looks down and shakes her head. He sighs. "Mandor, who are you calling?"
Mandor shows a trump of someone Marrek recognizes as Despil, the last Sawall child to join the merry fray. Mandor turns and Marrek hears him start talking softly.
Sipping at his wine, Marrek watches Ryoden disengage herself from Merlin and move to Jurt's, crooning softly to him. Merlin watches her with a touch of suspicion in his eyes.
Marrek moves to stand next to Merlin, handing him a glass of wine. After taking a sip from his own glass, yet leaving the rim near his lips, he asks softly, "You don't believe her, do you? I know the crown in any land always has its fair share of enemies, but have you grievously offended anyone lately?"
Merlin laughs. "I dismissed the elders who were supposed to be running the show, and as I found, everyone wanted to run the show. I pissed off every Elder in Chaos with that one, since a good many had spent a small fortune getting in the good graces of those two." He takes the wine and nods his head at Ryoden. "She's not good at lying. Never has been. I wonder how's she's related to us some days."
Across the room, Mandor finishes his conversation. Turning, he says, "Despil has a few things to tie up before he joins us. He thinks the attack was to get you too." Merlin narrows his eyes, but then casts a worried glance at his fallen brother and singing sister, as if thinking of how it could have been worse.
Mandor conjures his own goblet of wine (white, which apparently goes well with disaster) and pulls out another trump. "So, I assume you'll want to contact Dara?" Merlin grimaces and Jurt moans.
Merlin shakes his head. "The pleasure can wait."
"Amen to that," Marrek breathes fervently before taking yet another sip. "If it was indeed an Elder after your sister," Marrek continues, "then I would suggest keeping her under lock and key for a short while." Marrek stops, blinks, and mutters, "I can't believe I just suggested that." Giving a forlorn sigh, he shakes his head.
Merlin sips at his wine and mulls Marrek's last statement over. "I don't know. It may come down to that." He meets Mandor's eyes. "The attack happened in our own Ways. If anything, they should have been safest here." He takes out his own trump deck, and shuffles out a card, showing it to Mandor. Marrek only sees the back, a Unicorn on a green background.
Mandor frowns. "Dara won't like that."
Merlin shrugs. "You have to admit. It's safe. And if she gave a damn..." His sentence trails off, as he realizes Ryoden has stopped singing to the drugged Jurt, and is watching him.
Marrek frowns at the back of the Trump for a moment, then his eyes grow wide. Quickly regaining control of himself, he says at length, "An interesting solution, my king, but what guarantees do we have that she will remain unharmed by those with whom we would entrust her safety?"
Merlin raises an eyebrow. "Surely you've heard who my father is? We're rather close. We can chalk the trip up to my sister meeting her grandfather, who I'm sure you know the name of too."
Mandor once again moves away from the group, speaks a moment, then pulls a young man in livery that seems a bit unfitting on him. "Despil," Merlin nods.
Despil barely saves a glance for his brother, and instead moves instead to Jurt and Ryoden. "Oh my god! His foot's gone. You just said-"
Jurt lifts up his head, eyes wide. "What!?" Mandor steps forward, pressing his fingertips on his forehead. "Shhh-" A cool blue light emanates from his hand, and Jurt's head thuds back on the floor. Ryoden looks distressed.
"Now his head's hurt!" Merlin gives her a withering look.
"Trust me, half-pint, his head's plenty hard."
Despil paces across the room and pours himself a drink. "Merle, I think someone's aiming at you. I really do. Only person Jurt's fought with is you, and who'd try to hurt a kid... Not only a kid, but the lowest on the food chain around here." He drinks deeply.
"What better way to keep a man in check than by holding the constant threat of harm done to a cherished member of his family?" Marrek asks Despil, gesturing with his empty hand to the young girl. He turns to Merlin, still holding the Trump. "It's rapidly becoming clear, my king, that the sooner you make that call, the better for your sister's safety."
He considers the card for a moment. "You're right. Despil, you stick around and tell mom, okay?"
Despil gawks then sets his jaw. "Like hell, I'm telling! You're the one that's being damn stubborn and stirring up the hornets' nest."
Merlin looks back, nonplussed. "I'm the king. I order you to."
Despil glares. "I'm the head of your house, and I refuse."
Mandor steps forward, gracefully stepping over a snoring Jurt. "I'm the owner of this room, and I say we call Dara, tell her, then contact Corwin." He takes the card from Merlin's grasp. "I know my advice offends you, but you can't deny my logic. refuse to tell Dara, you risk her coming after you and making a scene, ruining what may be a very delicate talks. Tell her, she can look to protecting her end, since the rest of us may be in danger once Ryoden, our most vulnerable target, is out of Chaos. She may even begin to poke around a bit for you." He steps away, regarding the trump casually. "Besides, you act some days like Ryoden isn't even her child. She may have given her to brothers to raise, but she's still Dara's progeny."
During this monologue, Marrek notes Ryoden, still on the floor, looking rather miffed, as if insulted that she's being talked about like she's not in the room. She picks up a fallen dumpling and goes to throw it a Mandor.
"In the interest of keeping matters cordial," Marrek quickly steps in, catching Ryoden's eye and holding her stare, "might it not be wise at this point to ask she whose very life we are about to uproot?" Not waiting for a response from the others, he turns his full attention on the girl, dumpling still poised to throw. "Well, your highness? What say you?"
Ryoden returns the stare, hand still upraised, and rakes her lip with her teeth. Her human form starts to return. She lowers the potential projectile and looks at the card in Mandor's hand. "Is he nice?" she asks, looking at it. Mandor puts it away before she concentrates too hard.
She looks at Merlin. "What's he like? How long do I have to stay?" Her eyes grow troubled. "Who's going? Just me?" Tears begin to form.
He smiles, casting a side glance at Marrek. "No... I'll send some people with you. You're a princess. You need an entourage, right?" She brightens a bit. "Besides, won't Jurt need someone to help him?"
Mandor looks for a moment at the fallen dumpling and sighs. He moves away again, and starts concentrating on a trump.
Marrek turns to Merlin, an eyebrow raised, but doesn't say anything, merely sips again at his wine, glad that he was able to avert a potentially embarrassing incident. Ryoden would need watching in the months to come, he is certain, but Marrek feels up to the task. Besides, this trip could prove advantageous. After all, having allies on both sides of the border might prove eminently profitable...
Mandor finishes speaking, and pulls an attractive woman into the room, dressed in a black silk outfit. Her expression is not happy. She regards Merlin coolly, then walks over to Jurt, still prostrate. "It's been a while since he's lost a body part due to you, Merlin." She looks at Ryoden, and pats the girl's cheek. Ryoden accepts the touch stiffly, then moves behind Merlin.
Dara looks at Marrek. "Isn't it crowded in here...?" Mandor moves to her side, giving her, too, a goblet of wine.
"He is my family, and he stays. This is Marrek, my half brother." She pauses, then nods. The power play drops.
"So what are we doing about this?"
Marrek bows slightly to Dara, then looks to from Despil to Merlin to Mandor, wondering which of them will be brave enough to break the news to the volatile woman, hoping it won't have to be him. Marrek has never really been afraid of anyone--never been in the position to fear anyone, really--but Dara's reputation leaves him slightly on edge--in a way that a 9.8 California quake leaves people slightly edgy.
Merlin steps forward, showing bravado that Marrek wonders if he really has. "We'll be sending her and Jurt off to a place where we know they'll be safe." Dara looks at him cautiously. He smiles. "She's never met the other side of the family, has she? It's high time."
Dara's eyes go wide, then narrow to slits. "You are not sending her to that crude, murdering, deceiv--" He breaks her off.
"We'll be sending her somewhere where she'll be watched, and not delegated out to the nearest free hand." his voice drips of acid, and behind his cloak, Ryoden whimpers.
Marrek winces at Merlin's choice of words, wondering if a more tactful approach would have gone a long way to winning Dara's blessing. Then again, this is Merlin's mother, so perhaps he knows what he's doing.
Marrek isn't making any large wagers on that score, however.
With a mental sigh and shake of his head, Marrek steps forward. "If I may," he began, gesturing to Ryoden with his wineglass, "our adversary has shown an impressive degree of skill manipulating Chaos. What better place for her then than a place where Chaos has little sway. We know the Amberites will watch over her. We know this because if something were to happen to her, it would start a war that neither side is fully prepared for. Patternfall is a bit too fresh in all of our minds to risk another confrontation, I believe." Thus finished, he takes a drink from his wineglass, winking at Ryoden over its rim.
Dara regards him, as if in a new light. "You _are_ Mandor's brother... Ever consider joining House Sawall? I'll trade one of them for you." She motions with her goblet at her sons.
"Thank you, no," Marrek says with a bland smile playing across his lips. "I've done enough house hopping lately. I think I'd like to put down roots for a time before considering any career changes." He winces and looks over to Merlin. "Any _further_ career changes, that is."
Ryoden looks at Marrek, and lets a small smile slip. Dara moves forward and places a hand on the child's shoulder. Ryoden stiffens. "You've had a rough day, haven't you?" Dara says in a soft tone, "It must have been very stressful, being attacked. You seem rather calm, though, don't you..." Ryoden shifts her gaze to the floor. "What are you hiding, child?"
Despil rescues her. "Mother, please, not now, okay?" He clasps his sister's shoulders and pulls her back.
Behind Dara's back, Marrek wiggles the fingers of his empty hand, a dumpling appearing out of thin air. He flashes a quick conspiratorial grin at Ryoden before making the dumpling disappear as quickly as it had appeared.
She notes it, and while her lips don't move, her eyes sparkle.
Dara straightens up and looks at Despil. "You can protect her all you like, but if she knows something, all you're doing is letting her attacker get away. If your siblings' lives mean that little to you..." Her voice trails off, and Despil's hands tighten on Ryoden's shoulders.
Merlin shakes his head. "Not now. I doubt she knows who it is, anyway."
Mandor leans back thoughtfully. "True, but..." He looks at Marrek. "I think you and I should have a look at this explosion, don't you?"
Marrek shrugs. "Can't hurt, really." Marrek takes out his Trump deck, shuffling through them quickly. Finding the card he wants, he puts it on the top of the deck before slipping the deck back into his jacket pocket. Looking at Mandor's raised eyebrow, he says, "Never hurts to be prepared, brother mine. Shall we?"
He nods, and shuffles through his own deck. Looking at Ryoden, "Where was the blast?"
She responds, "Near the main dining room-- we were going to go get lunch when it happened." She wrings her hands. "Be careful, okay?" Mandor nods, the moves to Marrek's side. "Get your Logrus up as soon as we get there-- we don't need anymore accidents today." He concentrates for a moment, then pulls the two of them through.
Marrek knows right away this isn't the main Sawall ways. While there are a few tasteful decorations, most of the decor is young, almost pop-ish. Mandor explains briefly. "Ryoden and Jurt were left mostly to their own devices over here. It was a fairly empty wing, and after my father died, they wanted privacy, being thin-skinned as they are."
He moves forward. "Dining hall is this way."
Marrek closes his eyes briefly and summons the sigil image of the Logrus. Inky black tendrils flare up around his body and he wraps himself in their embrace, wearing the Logrus like an old cloak. Satisfied that everything is in order, he falls into step next to Mandor, his senses wary and alert.
Through the Logrus vision he does, indeed find traces of magic. Most, however, seem to be left-over cantrips and glamours. After a while, Marrek even begins to distinguish Jurt's style from Ryoden's, his being more hasty, hers, more careful and intricate. Obviously she has some tutelage from Mandor.
As they round a corner, they both stop short. A large chunk of wall is missing on either side of the hallway, as if something had gone off in the centre. The left-over threads of magic are very faint, almost indiscernible. "Some one good," mutters Mandor, "Help me look for others." He nods off in one direction, and Marrek watches him extend his Logrus in the other.
Marrek nods and closes his eyes, sending out Logrus tendrils in the direction Mandor had indicated opening himself up to the sensitivity granted to him by the Logrus.
Even as he sends his tendrils questing forward, he thinks about the immediate future. To say that matters would be tense does not begin to adequately describe the upcoming situation. Marrek fervently hopes that Dara would not be present at the meeting between Corwin and Merlin, thinking that her hostility towards the King of Amber would only serve to add undue complications.
Beyond that, life in Amber would be difficult. Marrek had been there before, though not by invitation. Curiosity had prompted him to poke about a bit and even take a souvenir or two before disappearing back into Shadow. This time around, with every noble eye upon him, it would be a miracle if Marrek didn't crawl out of his skin. Scrutiny is something that he is definitely not used to.
As he thinks, his internal worries jar to a stop as he runs over another delicate thread. He notices, however, that it doesn't have the vibrancy he would expect, but seems rather limp. A spell that's been set off... A further investigation reveals damage near the threads.
Next to him, Mandor curses under his breath.
"Got something here," Marrek tells his brother, carefully sending his Logrus tendrils further along the thread. "Very faint, very well laid; I almost missed it."
Marrek pulls two tendrils back and forms them into a small barrier between him and the thread. Meagre protection at best, but better than nothing should any surprises lurk there.
Mandor pulls back his tendril. "A trap? Has it been set off?" His voice is testy, an unusual tone for the normally very suave Lord.
"Yes, obviously triggered by Jurt and Ryoden; its magic is spent." Marrek frowns, shifting his concentration to the damage around the threads themselves. "What have you found on your end?" He asks.
Mandor frowns. "The same thing. And I'd bet my Ways Jurt knows nothing of any other traps." He pulls in his Logrus, and its sign dissipates from in front of him. He takes out a trump of Merlin. "Take down your Logrus. We're going back before they all kill each other."
Marrek pulls in his searching tendrils and with a casual wave of his hand dismisses the Logrus from his thoughts. Straightening his suit jacket, he waits for Mandor to take them back.
Mandor takes Marrek's arm and concentrates on the card. Finally the picture grows clearer, and Merlin, still in the small dining room, appears. "Bring us back," says Mandor simply.
Merlin pulls them back in, and Mandor immediately walks over to Jurt. "Awake," he whispers, and a warm light hits Jurt's temples. His eyes, slightly less drugged, open. "Huh...?"
Mandor doesn't wait for him to wake up anymore. "How many traps were set off in your Ways?" Jurt looks confused.
Mandor looks up at Ryoden, who has suddenly grown paler. "Looks like I get to keep my Ways, Marrek." Ryoden balls up her fists and looks at the ground.
Marrek watches the young girl in puzzlement. Judging from what he'd seen in the dining room, both Jurt and Ryoden should be no more than two smouldering corpses. Even as hard as Chaosites are to kill, the traps laid would have been sufficient to overwhelm an unwary Chaosites defences, indeed, Jurt had lost his foot and had only been aware of one of the traps.
Marrek looks between Mandor--whose intent stare is still locked on the girl--and Ryoden, her hands balled into fists at her sides. The girl seems so young and inexperienced. Even as difficult as ages are to judge in Chaos, she strikes Marrek as being an age where the magics necessary to defeat such a trap are far beyond her grasp. And yet, there she is, not only alive but apparently untouched while her brother lies in a heap, minus one foot. The burning question in Marrek's mind is, will she be able to survive another attack, now that her assailant is aware of her talents?
Bringing his gaze up to Merlin's face, he says firmly, "I believe it's time, your majesty."
Merlin nods, and pulls out a trump.
Mandor walks over to Ryoden and kneels down to their level. He takes her chin and forces her gaze to meet his. "We'll talk about this later." She nods slightly.
Despil walks over to Jurt and helps him up into a chair. Obviously his shapeshifting is returning and purging the drugs from his system, for he looks more alert. Jurt looks down at his foot and curses. Despil pats him on the back.
Dara takes a final sip of her wine. "I'll be off," she says coolly. "I don't think a meeting of old lovers is called for in this case. Give him my regards." She walks out of the room.
Marrek breathes a soft sigh of relief as Dara walks through the door. Dara's departure should avoid an entire mess of complications in an already delicate discussion.
Marrek returns to the table, scoops up a cold dumpling with a pair of chopsticks and pops it in his mouth, washing it down with a recently refilled glass of wine. Turning, his wineglass held nonchalantly in his left hand, he awaits Corwin's coming.
Marrek watches as Merlin shuffles out a card and hands it to something in the air. He ends his conversation, and turns back to the his family and Marrek.
"We'll be meeting him in a neutral place I set up for occasions like this." He looks at Marrek. "If you have anything you want to take with you, get it now. I don't think you'll be returning after this. At least not for a while." He looks at Jurt and Ryoden. "I don't think it'd be a good idea for you guys to go back right now. I'm sure you can get anything you need once you're there."
Jurt nods, then looks at his foot. "Guess it's wheelchairs for a while, huh? Shit-- I thought losing an eye was bad..."
Marrek nods to Merlin, pulls out the top card of his trump deck and stares hard at it. After a moment, the image on the card becomes as real as the room in which he stands. Closing his eyes, he walks into the image and disappears.
On the other side of the card, Marrek strides into his sparse room in House Aida. Walking to his closet, he take down a large dufflebag from a shelf and sets it on the floor. Into it goes a number of suits, casual outfits and one or two pieces of formal wear--this is Amber after all, and Amberite love formal shin-digs.
Going to a cupboard against a wall, he opens its doors and rummages around inside for a moment. He takes from it a small wrapped bundle and a laptop computer and adds them to the dufflebag. Lastly, he draws forth a slim-bladed dagger--a stiletto--and sheath. He tests the point and, finding it suitably sharp, he sheaths it and conceals it beneath his suit jacket.
Marrek zips up the duffle bag and places it on the bed. Once more going to his closet, he pulls out a stylish long coat and shrugs into it. Standing straight, he waves a hand at an empty wall, summoning a floor length mirror in which he gives himself a once over. Satisfied with his appearance, he shoulders the dufflebag and dismisses the mirror with another absent gesture.
Marrek digs into his pocket and pulls forth his Trump deck. He shuffles through it, stopping when he reaches Merlin's card, which he concentrates on, attempting to establish a connection.
In Amber, Corwin takes Ellie's hand and concentrates on the card in his hand. "I think you'll like him. I always have."
She watches as the picture on the card takes shape.
In Chaos, Merlin pulls Marrek through wordlessly. Despil rises. "I'll have to excuse myself. I don't think my presence will really be necessary at the meeting, and I'd hate for it to look like a Chaos refugee camp." He hugs Ryoden, then clasps Jurt on the shoulder. "I'll be in touch."
As he leaves, Merlin concentrates, then opens up a gate to room, somewhere in shadow.
The room is warm, and smells of exotic spices and dry heat. Merlin enters and looks around the empty room, waiting. Jurt manages to hobble in, leaning heavily on Mandor. Ryoden and Marrek enter last.
On the other side, the wall shimmers for a second and Corwin and Eleanor appear.
Merlin looks a bit surprised at the extra person, as does Corwin look surprised at the injured Jurt. Merlin motions at the table in the middle of the room. "Shall we?"
In Chaos, Merlin pulls Marrek through wordlessly. Despil rises. "I'll have to excuse myself. I don't think my presence will really be necessary at the meeting, and I'd hate for it to look like a Chaos refugee camp." He hugs Ryoden, then clasps Jurt on the shoulder. "I'll be in touch."
As he leaves, Merlin concentrates, then opens up a gate to room, somewhere in shadow.
The room is warm, and smells of exotic spices and dry heat. Merlin enters and looks around the empty room, waiting. Jurt manages to hobble in, leaning heavily on Mandor. Ryoden and Marrek enter last.
On the other side, the wall shimmers for a second and Corwin and Eleanor appear.
Merlin looks a bit surprised at the extra person, as does Corwin look surprised at the injured Jurt. Merlin motions at the table in the middle of the room. "Shall we?"
Merlin and Corwin clasp hands over the table, both exchanging brief but strained smiles. Corwin starts. "You have something you wanted me to take care of for you?" He looks back at the crowd behind Merlin.
Merlin nods. "We've had troubles the past few days."
Marrek bows to Corwin. "Your Majesty," he greets him in his low voice, before slipping into a chair next to Merlin. Ellie stands just behind and to the side of Corwin, her green eyes watchful and alert. For the moment, she stays quiet.
Corwin nods. "So who are these people with you?"
Merlin steps back and introduces his party. "These three are my siblings. Mandor, I'm sure you know, and I've told you about Jurt. Ryoden is more recent. This is Marrek, newly added to my court."
Corwin smiles politely. He brings Eleanor forward. "This is my daughter, Eleanor."
Merlin looks taken aback, and Ryoden's jaw drops. She looks at Merlin, betrayed. "You have a sister?! I'm still stuck with brothers!" she mutters. "Not fair."
Marrek nods politely to Eleanor. "Your Highness."
Eleanor smiles politely to the group opposite. and says softly, her accent a gentle French one, "Good day. I am pleased to make your acquaintance." Jurt nods. Ryoden glares at her. Mandor smiles a graceful smile.
Merlin takes her hand. "That would make us siblings," he grins. "It's an honor." He turns back to Ryoden. "Hey, I didn't know, okay? Don't get in a snit."
Corwin sits. "Shall we begin? Where does your trouble start? I'm assuming it's a family matter."
Ellie smiles at Merlin and then sits beside Corwin. Marrek leans back, his elbows resting on the arms of his chair and his fingers steepled in front of his chin (a favoured pose, it would seem) and watches Corwin and waits for Merlin to recount the tale.
Merlin takes a deep breath, and begins. "My sister and brother were attacked rather recently in their Ways-- As you can see, Jurt got the brunt of the attack. we believe someone is trying to get to me by getting the less protected members of the family first. I'd..." He sighs. "Amber is the farthest I can get them away from Chaos right now. And I don't know of anyone fool enough to go there in the middle of a crew of elders and stir up trouble."
Mandor throws Marrek a look at the word 'attacked', but says nothing.
Corwin sighs. "Are you sure you've thought this through?"
Marrek notices the look but does not respond. To Corwin he says, "I concur with my king in this matter. Even the most rabid of fanatics won't confront a host of Amberite Elders in their own castle."
Ellie privately wonders if the Elders themselves would present a danger to the two more deadly than that which they are trying to avoid.
Merlin purses his lips. "You have Benedict's trump, right? I trust him, and I'm sure he'd come to Amber to help watch out for two of his relatives. Plus, I've spent quite a time with your family, and they really aren't all that bad."
Corwin frowns and furrows his brow. "You don't know them at all then." Marrek turns and looks at Mandor at that remark.
Ellie looks a little doubtful at Merlin's confidence too, recalling recent events and warnings.
Mandor meets Marrek's gaze. He looks slightly puzzled. Turning to Corwin, "I've met many of them, too. Trust me, I have more years that Merlin, and I don't think your family is any worse than some of our Lords in Chaos. Actually, our bloodbaths are much worse, from what I remember."
Merlin notes Ellie's look. "What? most are actually quite nice, when you know how to appease them."
Ellie replies quietly "I'll take your word for it."
"At any rate, we're getting a bit far afield, here, your majesties." Marrek sits forward in his chair. "The fact is that Ryoden is not safe in Chaos, no matter where we might try to hide her. Her assailant has already proven that he can get into places which we consider heavily guarded by Chaosite standards."
Merlin nods. "However, the only Chaosite who ever penetrated Amber was my mother, and she did so under extenuating circumstances. In peacetime, especially if you can swing Gerard and Benedict nearby, it should be impossible to get to her." He pauses. "She's my sister, dad. I can't think of anything else."
Ellie listens keenly to the conversation, understanding a little of how Merlin feels. She would feel the same way if Ryoden was her sister.
Corwin glowers. "What makes you think Benedict will come?"
Jurt looks at Corwin, surprised. "You have to be kidding! Mom had said she wanted to destroy Amber, helped lead an army against it, and he still came and talked to her, didn't she? He's legendary in the courts."Corwin still looks dark, and mutters something. Only Ellie hears it. "He'd come for her, then he'd come for me."
Marrek nods. "I agree with Jurt. How could he not be persuaded to watch over Ryoden after the way he supported Dara during the troubles she Caused Amber?"
Ellie wonders at Corwin's comment, but keeps quiet about it. Now is not the time to ask him. Maybe later.
He sighs, and pushes away from the table. "She can come, but I've no guarantees about her safety there. Benedict may come. He may not."
Mandor looks puzzled. "Could you just not call him and order him to? You _are_ king."
Corwin looks down. "Benedict... did not swear fealty to me." Mandor, Merlin, and Jurt look shocked. Marrek sits back in his chair. He becomes aware that his mouth is hanging open and shuts it with a sharp "clack" of teeth.
Unsure who Benedict is, Ellie nevertheless sees the effort it takes Corwin to admit this and the reaction.
Corwin lifts his head again. "He's like that. He prefers to stay neutral." his eyes issue a silent challenge. "If you want the girl to come to Amber, then fine. We leave now."
Merlin recovers, and nods. "Agreed." He hugs Ryoden tightly, whispering something in her ear. After a second, he embraces Jurt also. "Take care of her," Ellie hears. Ryoden bites back her tears.
Marrek stands, retrieving the duffle bag from underneath his chair. Grimly, he bows to Merlin. "I'll be in touch, my King."
Merlin nods to Marrek, handing him a trump. "It's of the palace room, if you need it." He looks at Ryoden, who's saying her goodbyes to Mandor. "Make sure she doesn't drive too many people crazy. She has a wild hair."
Marrek turns to Mandor and gives him a slight nod. "I'll keep you updated as well, Brother." Marrek shoulders his bag and prepares to leave.
Mandor nods, clasping Marrek on the shoulder. "Do yourself a favour and circulate up there. There are many who can be useful if you know how... And please, keep the glue off your fingers."
Marrek gives him a crooked smile. "I'll do my best, Mandor, but that's like asking a painter to leave his brushes packed up in a drawer."
Mandor shrugs. "Alright, but if one of them gets snippy and decided to punish you, don't ask for my fast rooms while you re-grow your fingers."
Marrek chuckles. "I'll behave, brother."
Ellie smiles to Ryoden "It's never easy leaving, Ryoden. How about we compare notes? I don't have any sisters either."
Ryoden accepts a kiss from Mandor, then turns to Ellie. "Do you have any other brothers?"
Ellie smiles at Merlin "Just this one as far as I know so far." then turns back to Ryoden "You are luckier than me that way."
Ryoden shakes her head. "No, I'm not. They fight. ALL THE TIME." Jurt smiles, but looks a bit embarrassed.
"C'mon, Ryo, give us some credit. No one's got hurt in a long time, have they?"
Ellie chuckles "I understand that it is normal for brothers to fight, Ryoden." She grins conspiratorially and adds "Sisters are much wiser though."
Ryoden's eyes grow wide. "They are not normal! Jurt has lost an ear, an eye, a finger, and he got a crossbow stuck in his shoulder once when..."
Jurt stops her. "Hey now!"
Merlin looks bemused. "Hadn't heard about that one." He takes up a trump, nods to all, and leaves.
Ellie wonders what exactly she has got herself into then says to Ryoden "Look at it this way, Ryoden. Through Merlin, we're sort of sisters, so you can find out what that's like too."
Ryoden considers it. "I guess. We can be sisters. Maybe someday you can meet Merlin better. He's nice." She stands up straight. "He's a king, you know," she declares proudly.
Ellie smiles and glances at Merlin "I think it would be very nice to meet Merlin again."
Merlin smiles. "Do you like Amber? If so, I think you'd enjoy the courts."
Ellie replies to Merlin "Amber is very new to me so I can't honestly say if I like or dislike it yet."
Merlin looks surprised. "how new are you to Amber?"
Ellie smiles ruefully and says "I've been there about an hour or so."
Merlin smiles. "Then you're about on par with Marrek over there. He joined the court, and hadn't even gotten the chance to see it yet."
Corwin considers Marrek. "So how long have you been in Merlin's courts?"
Jurt looks up at him. "Yeah, I don't remember you."
Marrek's lips quirk up in a smirk. "What time is it?"
Jurt snaps his fingers. "I bet you're replacing that kid that got eaten by a demon. Poor guy. Wasn't much left to throw into the pit." Looking at Corwin, "He's a newbie. This is most likely his hazing ritual."
Marrek looks at Jurt. "Newbie?" he asks mildly.
Jurt replies with a wicked smile. "Like a frat. You know. They make you eat live fish and such. Merle told me about things like that on shadow Earth."
Merlin sighs, clasping Ellie's hand. "I'm sorry. But I should go. I'm not sure how the time differential is here, so I had better get back before my IN box gets overflowed."
Ellie smiles "It has been nice to meet you Merlin. I hope we can do so again." then return's Marrek's smile with one of her own.
Merlin smiles. "Likewise." He bows slightly, and turns. On his way out, he pats Marrek on the shoulder. "Welcome to the club. Don't lose my sister."
Corwin closes his eyes and concentrates. Ellie waits, giving Ryoden a reassuring smile.
Marrek watches Merlin depart, then prepares for the jump to Amber.
Corwin opens his eyes again. He deals out a trump, this one of the throne room at Amber. "Can anyone figure out a way to transport him without carrying him?" he asks, nodding at Jurt.
Marrek looks to Jurt. "With your permission?" he asks.
Jurt looks alarmed. "What, you're going to carry me?"
"Don't be daft. I've got enough to carry."
Jurt scowls, then grins evilly. "Might want to be nicer to me. You're on babysitting duty for a few days. Ryoden can be bribed."
Ryoden smiles at Marrek.
Ellie watches what is going on and holds out her hand to Ryoden as Corwin has done with her so far in these transports. She grins and adds "What do you like to be bribed with, Ryoden?"
Ryoden thinks. "Sweet things. Pretty things. Vacations." She smiles. "My brothers are really good at it."
Ellie smiles "Those are good things to be bribed with indeed."
Ryoden sizes up Ellie. "And what are you bribed with?"
Ellie shrugs "I don't know yet." and chuckles along with Ryoden.
Marrek regards Jurt coolly. With a shrug, he makes a quick gesture and lays a hand upon Jurt's chair. Immediately, the chair lifts a half foot from the ground and floats there, waiting. Jurt grabs the arms just in time to avoid a tumble. Ryoden giggles.
Corwin watches the vaudeville around him, and looks worried. He opens up a gate. "This way..."
Ellie nods and steps through, her expression wary.
Marrek gives Jurt's chair a gentle shove, sending it through the gate. He gestures for Ryoden to step through before him. She follows, her eyes wide as she steps through.
The throne room is empty, and much cooler than where they had been. Surprisingly, while it is obviously tailored and quite costly, the room is simple in its design.
Jurt floats in, and Ryoden looks at his chair. Marrek puts a halting hand on Jurt's chair to keep it from sailing across the room. Slowly, the chair sinks to the ground. Thinking a second, a wheel pops into Ryoden's hand, then another. Tools fly into her hands as she sets to work around a trapped Jurt.
Marrek looks at Ryoden, a trifle startled. Ellie looks around, taking it all in, then turns back to the others, watching Ryoden at work. Jurt smiles proudly. "She's very talented."
Rods, pads, and gears appear about her as she works in a flurry of activity. Eventually, Jurt's chair is not longer a regular dining room chair, but a wheel chair. Jurt looks at Marrek. "Gets it from Merlin."
He nods. Corwin sits on his throne, and considers the group before him.
Marrek looks at Ryoden. "It's very well done, your highness, but how will he negotiate the stairs?"
Ryoden gets up, banishing the components she didn't use. She looks at the chair. "Hmm... I guess he'll go really, really fast, and learn to steer."
Jurt rolls his eyes. "I can stay on one floor for now, thanks."
Ellie nods "Stairs have always been a problem. Are there any lifts here?"
Corwin shakes his head. "Electricity doesn't work well here. So nothing really machine like."
Jurt shrugs. "I'll be fine. Won't take me long to figure something out. This is not a totally new experience, you know."
Marrek nods and waits.
Ellie thinks for a moment then says "Crutches will allow you to negotiate stairs perhaps."
Jurt nods. "I'm still in shock, a bit, though. I do need some rest." Suddenly his face begins to droop, and Marrek realizes the second spell Mandor cast probably did more than wake him up.
Corwin calls in a servant. "Are there any preferences to sleeping arrangements?" he asks.
Marrek places a hand on Jurt's shoulder to steady him. "Two connecting rooms and a third would be most suitable to our task, I think, your Majesty."
Ellie replies "Anywhere with a window and light will be fine, thank you."
He closes his eyes and thinks. Then, turning to the servant, "Prepare the rooms near mine. Brand had a set that we've since cleared out that they can use." He pauses. "Put her," nodding to Ellie, "in the one that shares a wall with mine." The servant nods, though he looks surprised, and leaves.
Ellie covers a yawn with a small hand and says "Thank you. It's been a long day."
He nods. "You have a long day ahead of you tomorrow, trust me."
Marrek nods in thanks. "I'd like to get Jurt settled in, if I may, Your Majesty."
He nods at Marrek. "Very well."
Ryoden looks like she wants to say something, but Jurt silences her with a look. Marrek looks between the two, an eyebrow raised, but says nothing.
Ellie nods, smiling at Corwin then turns to Ryoden "We're both new here. It won't be so bad I hope."
Jurt wheels himself out of the room, a disappointed Ryoden trailing behind. A servant appears and leads them to their room. Marrek sketches a quick bow to Corwin and Eleanor before following behind Jurt and Ryoden.
Brand's room is simple, obviously stripped of anything even remotely resembling or belonging to him. The main room has nice but generic furniture in it, and a fireplace. Marrek counts four doors. Jurt wheels in.
"Well, the girl... Eleanor, was it? She has claim to one of these rooms. I think you and I should be on either side of Ryoden, don't you think, Marrek?" He yawns. "Not that I'll be much use."
Marrek eyes the doors thoughtfully. "Agreed," he says opening the furthest down and motioning Jurt through. "And I wouldn't worry at it. Given a couple days rest, you should be back up on your feet in no time." Before Jurt can offer up a reply, Marrek shuts the door and turns to Ryoden. "It's been a long day, Your Highness," he says to her. "I would suggest that you get some rest."
Ryoden bounces on the balls of her feet. "But I'm not tired! Look!" She points to a window. "It's light out! I could be playing!" She smiles an electric smile. "We haven't looked around. We should look around."
Marrek fixes her with a long, steady gaze. Finally, he sighs and walks to his bedroom door. He opens it and tosses the duffle onto the soft bed inside. Turning, he asks, "What would you like to see first, Your Highness?"
She claps her hands and squeals. "First! I want to find Benedict's room!" She leans in conspiratorially. "He's my grand-father, you know." She moves back. "Then, then I don't know. I don't think the king wants to call him, so maybe we can find a way!"
"I'm sure we could, but barging into his room while he's not home is not something I would want to do with any great enthusiasm." Marrek pauses, realizing that Benedict is the only living person in the universe about whom he would make that statement.
"Why don't we go into the city below? We could wander down to the harbour or some of the shops there. What do you think?"
Ryoden looks disappointed, but considers his suggestion none-the-less. "Okay. I guess we can do that. But can we at least knock on his door? Maybe he's in."
Marrek nods. "Fair enough." Knocking on an empty door couldn't do any harm, he thinks, and might appease the girl long enough to get her out of the castle and any other possible mischief. "Shall we go then?"
She smiles and nods, and heads out the door before he can change his mind.
In the hallway, he realizes a problem with simply 'knocking on a door.' There are dozens of doors, all the same, all unlabeled. Ryoden looks around confused, the gets an idea. She concentrates, then...
"OWW! Ow! Ow! Ow!" She falls to her knees, clutching her head.
"Ryoden!" Marrek drops to his knees beside the girl and takes hold of her shoulders. "What happened? What did you try to do?"
Ryoden sobs. "L-l-logus. Hurts." She cries, but slowly, she calms down.
Marrek is shocked. The girl next to him couldn't be more than eleven. How could she have logrus...?
Marrek recovers from his shock and helps Ryoden to her feet. "Marrek's lesson number one: Summoning the logrus in Amber is a big no-no. The Logrus and the Pattern don't like each other very much at all and there are complications to summoning one power near the focus of the other."
He looks at her closely. "Who took you to traverse the Logrus? I've never heard of anyone trying at such a young age."
She looks up at him. "I'll remember that. I just never knew." She rubs her temples. "I need to sit down a minute. I feel woozy." She walks back into the apartments.
On her way in, she responds further, "I don't know who took me. I don't remember."
Marrek guides Ryoden onto a plush couch. Frowning for a moment, he holds forth an empty hand and watches as a glass full of a clear, fizzling liquid appears there. Handing the glass to Ryoden he stands and looks down at her.
This girl, this child, was already a Logrus initiate, an accepted impossibility in Chaos. No one of that age could possibly negotiate the Logrus's twisting paths, physically or mentally. What's worse, she couldn't remember who guided her through, which spoke of either great trauma or deliberate manipulation. Marrek frowns at the latter.
Marrek shakes his head and takes a seat across from her, waiting.
She drinks the liquid readily. Looking at the glass in her hand, she thinks for a moment. Slowly it fills with a red, clear liquid. She drinks again.
"Hi-C," she explains. "It's good. Merl brought it back from shadow earth for me." She sips her drink. "You know, they have the best place in the world there?"
Marrek stares for a moment at the red liquid--the Hi-C-- in the glass with one thought racing around in his head. <<I'm in over my head with this girl. Every time I turn around she has a new surprise.>>
Shaking himself, he asks, "What place is that?"
She smiles, and digs into her pocket. She pulls out a card, depicting a castle and a tailored garden in front of it. She offers it to Marrek.
"Disney World!" she exclaims. "They have rides and nice people and good food... it's really great. Merlin took me there on his spring break in college. Then to some place called MIT. Had robots there." She sips her drink. "No rides, though."
Marrek rests his chin in his hand and stares at Ryoden, bemused. Here before him is a young girl, wielder of immense power, yet so utterly ignorant of the potential of what she could use it for. Marrek isn't really certain weather he should be relieved or terrified.
"I've never been to Disney World," he tell her. A lie, of course. Two of the items in his collection had come directly from Michael Isner's opulent offices there. "Maybe one day down the road you can take me." He pauses. "Where else have you been?"
She thinks hard. "I've been all over-- Jurt and Mandor and Merlin and Despil take me all over." she looks at her glass. "Went to Berkley where Merlin went. Went to the pits to see the demons. I've been to every house in Chaos, even Aida, when it was real tiny and they were asking permission to be a house." She looks around. "Now I've been to Amber." She looks at him. "Where have you been?"
Marrek regards the card. It is cool to the touch.
Marrek absently runs a finger around the edge of the card as he replies. "I've been all over. Was in Paris not too long ago. Tehran, Madrid, the Keys. Hell, even been to a low orbit station called Blue-Six." Marrek sits back, his eyes lost in thought. "Now that was a sight. Looking down at a planet from thousands of miles above, watching the sun break over the horizon and bathe the planet in it's warmth." He sighs.
Marrek holds up the card. "Is this your work?"
She smiles broadly and nods. "Merlin taught me while we were on vacation together. We went all over and drew things." She concentrates and refills her glass. "The blue-six sounds neat... do you remember the shadow? I'd love to see the world like that." She drinks some more. "You want some?"
"Sure." Marrek holds out an empty glass.
"I don't remember what shadow I found Blue-Six on, but I'm sure I could find it again, or another just like it." Marrek pauses. "Now that I think about it, I may not have to."
He stands up and walks to the wall opposite Ryoden. Closing his eyes, he pictures the view from the transparasteel viewport on the low orbit space station where he had watched the cosmic sunrise while the citizens around him went about their morning routine. Locking the image in his mind, he places his hand flat against the wall and *pushes* with his mind.
Behind him, Ryoden gasps. Marrek opens his eyes to see that the entire wall has been replaced by the image from his memory.
She claps her hands together in delight. "Its beautiful!" she exclaims, looking at the blue, green, and white sworls that make up a planet. "I have to do that one day. Is it fun to be up there?" Almost as an afterthought she puts some Hi-C in Marrek's glass.
Marrek takes a sip. "It's exhilarating," he tells her, "and about as different an experience as you're likely to find short of dropping into the Abyss."
Marrek sets down his glass. "So, feeling better? How's about we take that stroll?"
She puts down her glass and smiles. "I am. Let's go." Ryoden gets up, and starts to walk out. She stops. "I guess we don't need to find Benedict. I'll get him later." And out the door she goes.
Marrek frowns at her last comment, shrugs, and follows Ryoden out into the hall.
The hall is empty, lacking even cleaning people. Marrek wonders at this briefly. In chaos you can't walk ten feet without tripping over a personal demon.
Ryoden looks one way, then another, and skips down the hallway. "Where to?"
Marrek pauses to think. "I shudder at the thought of getting lost in this place, so how about the front door? I believe it's this way."
She rolls her eyes. "We need a tour guide." but she obediently follows him to the front door.
The day grows cooler outside, and Ryoden hugs her jean jacket a bit tighter to her body. Marrek notes its ill fit.
She skips down the steps towards the town. "What are we looking for?"
"Your confidence in me is overwhelming, Your Highness," Marrek replies blandly.
Marrek eyes her ill fitting clothing. "When was the last time you went shopping?"
Ryoden looks back as her eyes grow wide. "This is Merlin's jacket! He gave it to me! I don't want another one!" She clutches the jacket as if he will turn into a terrible monster at any moment and rip it off of her. Apparently she's had this 'discussion' before.
Now that Marrek looks, the jacket could fit the king, perhaps if he were a bit more scrawny. Perhaps shadow earth didn't feed him all that well.
"Fair enough, though I'd hate to see Mandor's expression if he knew you were wearing that in here in Amber." He pauses, an amused smile dancing upon his lips. "Or maybe I wouldn't."
Marrek directs her down through the city and to a point upon the city's walls that affords a generous view of the Forrest Arden. The verdant greens stretch out further than the eye can see, a myriad of animals living under its leafy canopy, including those fearsome beasts which patrolled Amber's land boarder at Julian's bidding.
"No visit to Amber," Marrek remarks softly to Ryoden, "is complete without standing upon this wall and gazing upon Arden. It's as much a part of Amber as is the Castle itself."
Ryoden smiles and hugs the jacket once more. "Mandor knows I'm wearing it. He tried to take it from me by sneaking into my room when I was asleep. But I booby trapped my closet." A wicked smile appears. "I know what my brother looks like with hair that _isn't_ white."
She climbs up on the wall and looks down onto the forest. She sits silently for a moment. "Can we go there?" she asks finally.
"At some point, perhaps," Marrek tells her. "But for now, I think we should stay in the city itself." Not to mention, he doesn't relish the idea of wandering through an unpredictable Elder's domain uninvited.
He turns back towards Amber proper. "There's not much time left until dark. We should get a move on."
She climbs off the wall. "Okay. But I'm going there sometime." She gives Marrek a sideway glance. "I heard they have a unicorn here. I think it might be in there somewhere." She frowns. "How I'm going to find it without Logrus, I don't know."
"From everything I've heard, the Unicorn has a way of finding you."
The city starts to near. Marrek can see various shops, most of them mundane, but a few are interesting. An art shop. A candy shop. Fine clothes. The shops of a town supporting a large upper class.
Marrek eyes the shops, his gaze lingering on the art shop. He glances at Ryoden. "Care for some window shopping?"
She pouts a bit. "Darn. I wonder how you get it to do that." She looks around. "I don't need windows. Maybe someone sells unicorn bait."
Marrek comes to a jarring halt his eyes going wide. Whirling, he kneels down in front of her looking intently up into her eyes. "Your Highness," he says with deadly seriousness, "be very careful what you say about the Unicorn. In a city of gods, the Unicorn is the closest thing to true divinity these people will ever know. Were someone to overhear your words--as innocently as they were offered--the consequences..." Marrek trails off, his eyes still locked with Ryoden's.
Ryoden looks truly frightened. She swallows hard. "I wasn't going to eat it or anything..." she whispers. "I just want to meet it." She looks down. "Okay. I won't talk about it anymore."
She steps back. "This is a funny place."
Marrek closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and slowly exhales. Standing, he takes an appraising look at the buildings around him, noticing it is getting noticeably darker on the streets of Amber. "Yes, Your Highness," he says. "We should probably be heading back to the castle. We're likely to be here a while, so we will have plenty of time to explore later."
She shuffles her feet. "We just got out." She pouts. "Fine. We can go." She turns and heads back up the stairs. "I'm sure the castle has lots to look at."
Dutifully, Marrek follows Ryoden back to the castle, but not before casting one final look at the art shop and all the wondrous pieces contained therein...
Ryoden runs ahead, and Marrek can catch a glimpse of several beautiful paintings, and also one very delicate, very unique rendering of a woman in a state of severe undress.
When he turns back, Ryoden is already at the top of the stairs, sitting and waiting.
Wondering how she could have gotten ahead of him so fast, Marrek hurries up the flight of stairs after Ryoden. Even as he reaches her and guides her into the castle, his thoughts wander back to the statuette.
After a moment he realizes she's still burbling. "...and it's really pretty, though there are a bunch of stairs. But we can fly! Can we go see it?" She looks at him expectantly.
Marrek blinks, coming back to the moment. "Er...I'm sorry, but see what, Your Highness?"
She gives him an angry stare. "Never mind." She runs up to a castle servant. "'Scuse me. Where's the pattern?" The servant looks surprised.
Marrek goes white. Quite firmly, he places a hand upon Ryoden's shoulder. "I hate to keep sounding like a nay-sayer, Highness," he tells her, "but going to the pattern is quite out of the question. Do you remember the headache you got when you tried--" Marrek looks at the servant, "--uh, experimenting earlier?"
She looks up at him, hands on her hips. "I don't feel it now. And my brother took pattern. All I have to do is keep my logrus in!" She offers up a challenge in her stare.
Marrek merely stares at her. For a moment, he pictures Ryoden traipsing merrily across the pattern, wild and carefree, paying no heed to the absolute destruction she would suffer should she misplace one twirling step. *Serpent shelter a delusional fool, I'm actually
considering it,* Marrek thinks to himself.
Finally, staring right back down at Ryoden, his deep blue eyes every bit as intense as hers. "No, your Highness. Let's not cause potential incidents on your first day in Amber, okay? There will be plenty of time to raise the Elders' collective hackles once we've gotten settled in and convinced your brothers that you're behaving yourself."
Ryoden is silent. Finally she turns and enters the castle. "I _am_ behaving."
"Of course you are, Highness." Marrek falls into step behind her. "You know you are behaving. I know it. But your brother doesn't. He may hope you are, but he does not know for sure. Sending you here wasn't the easiest decision to come to for him, you know that. Give him some time to let his nerves cool before you start any fires here. Don't you think Merlin deserves that?"
That said, he will follow Ryoden back upstairs.
She slows a bit, allowing Marrek to catch up. "I don't know why it was so hard. I've been asking a long time to come here, and he keeps saying no and taking me somewhere else. Says 'Later,' or 'Not today, or 'I have tickets to a Caps game.' All sorts of stuff. Now I'm here,
and I can't see anything."
A thought suddenly occurs to her. "Where are all the other Amberites?"
Marrek frowns thoughtfully. "I'm not sure. Probably off doing whatever it is that Amberites do. Truthfully, I expected to find more of them here."
She nods. "It _is_ empty." They enter their hallway, and before Marrek can stop her, she sidesteps and raps loudly on a door. "Hello?"
Marrek shrugs. "What the hell?"
Ryoden hears this, and excitedly opens the door. To Marrek's
surprise, the door opens easily. He hears no traps, even. Ryoden pops in the room. From the light in the hallway, Marrek sees the colours of orange, yellow, and brown.
Marrek, at a bit of a loss, follows Ryoden warily into the room. Normally, breaking into a place would be second nature to him--and hey, the door hadn't even been locked right? But something about this room has Marrek uneasy. He looks around the room, taking in the
colours and mutters to himself, "I wonder whose room this is..."
Ryoden looks about. A few swords, some furniture, a few simple Japanese watercolours. But no portraits. Ryoden takes out an unusually thick trump deck and thumbs through them. She hands Marrek a card. "Him, I think. The colours are right."
Marrek sees a thin man on the face of the card. He carries a staff, and stares at him with the countenance of death.
Ryoden cheerfully goes to inspect the rest of the rooms.
Marrek closes his eyes. *Aw, hell.*
Looking around the vacant room, taking in the decorations--again with the watercolours?--Marrek follows Ryoden.
"Well, he doesn't seem to be home, and prowling around Benedict's rooms uninvited is not my idea of a cheer Sunday afternoon."
Ryoden knocks on some of the other doors in the room, presumably connecting to bedrooms or studies. "Maybe he's in one of these." Knock knock. "Hellooo?"
She bounces to another door, but as she does she happens to glance at Marrek. Something behind him makes her freeze, like a deer in headlights.
"What are you doing in my quarters?" Marrek hears a sword being drawn.
Marrek spreads his hands out to either side and turns, facing the newcomer who could only be one person. "Forgive our intrusion, Your Highness. My youthful and over enthusiastic companion wished to meet you, but seems to overlook such small matters of protocol that would deem breaking and entering a faux-pas. We meant no disrespect, I assure you."
His face is cold, but as Ryoden becomes more visible, it loses some of its edge.
"And who are you?" he asks Ryoden. Ryoden breaks from her momentary fright. She jumps over a sofa and smiles broadly. She takes the card from Marrek's hands and compares the two.
"You ARE Benedict." She looks him up and down. "So that's why they're tall." she sticks out a hand as Benedict resheaths his sword. "I'm Ryoden."
Benedict takes her hand, still not impressed, but at least not about to gracefully make heads depart from their respective shoulders.
Marrek lowers his hands back to his sides, being sure to make no sudden movements. For the moment, he remains silent, content to watch this little episode unfold--and draw as little attention to himself from Benedict as he can...
He releases Ryoden's hand. "Why did you want to meet me?"
Ryoden puts the card back in her pocket. As she does, Marrek notices it has a unicorn on a green background. "I'm Merlin's sister. Well half. Our half is Dara." She pauses. "Soooo that makes you my great-something grandfather."
Benedict regards her for well into a minute, then looks at Marrek. "And you are?"
Marrek gives Benedict a quick bow. "Marrek, recently of House Aida. I am serving as Ambassador of His Majesty, King Merlin of Chaos as well as temporary caretaker and bodyguard of his sister while she is here in Amber."
Benedict nods. "You should be more serious about your duty. The room could have been trapped."
Marrek remembers other traps Ryoden had emerged through unscathed, but does not reply.
He turns. "Come with me."
Marrek shrugs and gestures Ryoden to precede him as they follow Benedict from his quarters.
He leads them down the hall, down a few corridors, down some stairs. Ryoden skips along, asking questions, but Benedict ignores her. Marrek can taste her displeasure in the air.
The surroundings grow a bit more plush, and Marrek gets the sense that they are now in a more public part of the castle. Benedict walks up to a set of double doors and opens them wide...
Giving Marrek a lovely view of the throne room at Amber.
*Wonderful,* Marrek thinks to himself as he steps through the thick set of doors. *I'm beginning to think I should have stayed in bed this morning.*
Marrek looks around, taking stock of any in attendance.
Marrek notes a shocked looking Corwin as he walks in, and a petite red-headed woman.
Benedict moves to the middle of the room. "Hi, Corwin." She waves. She looks at the red-head. "You must be Fiona. Hi." Another wave. She wanders off to explore.
Benedict coolly regards the king. "This is my grand-daughter?" Corwin nods slowly. Fiona looks surprised.
"She is?" she asks Corwin archly.
Marrek stands quietly, attempting to blend into the background and observe the players in this millennia old game while trying to keep a close eye on Ryoden as she wanders the throne room.
Benedict nods at Marrek. "Where are you staying?"
Marrek looks back to Corwin. "His Majesty selected a set of rooms for us off the Royal Suite. They are more quite lovely and more than adequate to our needs."
Ryoden looks up from her study of a vase. "Yeah, belonged to a guy named Brand."
Benedict nods. "Collect your ward and go back. I'll meet you later." He turns his stare back to Corwin.
Marrek bows low to Benedict then turns to Ryoden and motions her to follow him with a casual wave of his hand. In the hall, he tells her, "There's a meeting I would not wish to be in the middle of."
Ryoden looks back at the closed doors. "I don't think I like him." She pouts, but a smile breaks it. "I have to go tell Jurt what I've done today!" With that, she races ahead.
"Finally, some rest," Marrek mutters to himself as he hurries to keep up with Ryoden.
Ryoden hits their suite first. From the hallway Marrek hears her call for Jurt, first excited, then puzzled, then angry.
He joins her, and he notes all the doors are open, and Ryoden is standing in the middle of the sitting room, pouting. "They're all gone!" She pulls out that damn trump deck again...
Marrek briefly entertains thoughts concerning Ryoden, a couch and a giant roll of duct tape.
"Er, Your Highness," he says, his voice dripping with suggestion. "They may have gone off somewhere together and not wish to be disturbed..."
Marrek watches as the wheels turn in the child's head... This is a child genius? But finally she smiles. "Oh. That." She snickers. "I'll wait then." She sits on the couch and pulls a comic out of her coat pocket and begins to read.
Marrek shucks off the long coat he wears and collapses onto one of the room's plush chairs. Sighing in relief, he closes his eyes. Negligently waving his hand, he summons forth a brandy glass containing--surprise, surprise--brandy, which he quickly downs.
Marrek feels a cold sensation, the beginnings of a Trump contact--
"Marrek?" He hears Jurt say.
"Jurt?" Marrek replies, sitting up. "What are you do--" he breaks off, casting a sidelong glance at Ryoden, still nose deep in her comic. "Never mind. I don't want to know."
In front of him, Marrek sees Jurt and Eleanor, Jurt look a bit tired, but Eleanor looking absolutely exhausted. He reaches forward a hand to be pulled through.
They step in, and Ryoden looks back. Seeing Ellie's dishevelled state, she goes bright red, then buries a cascade of giggles into her comic. Jurt looks at Ryoden, then Marrek questioningly as he makes his way to a chair.
"Never mind, long story." Marrek scrutinizes the pair from head to toe. "You two look like you could use a drink..."
Ellie makes her way to another chair and sinks into it, a puzzled look on her face as Ryoden giggles. Suddenly, she realises her dishevelled state and realises what it could look like. Chuckling herself, Ellie says quietly "Wrong answer, Ryoden."
She smiles at Marrek "Thank you, but no. For me, sleep is probably better right now." Getting up, she adds "Good night, everyone." and heads through into her own room, closing the door quietly behind her...
"Sounds like a plan." Marrek looks at Jurt. "I'm turning in, too. I'm thinking tomorrow will likely be a busy day." *What with Benedict dropping by and all. Joy*
Marrek walks into his room, closing his door behind him. Dumping the dufflebag off of the bed and onto the floor, he flops down on the bed and promptly falls asleep.
Marrek lies sleeping, blissfully unaware of anything going on in the next room. He smiles in his sleep, dreaming of statuettes and the possibilities of a town with no electrical burglary alarms...
Ellie shakes him awake, finally. Once again, she can hear nothing.
Marrek's eyes snap open, his left hand whipping across his body to snag the hand that is shaking him. In an instant, he takes in the worried expression upon Eleanor's face and releases her. "What's going on?" he starts to say, but his mouth snaps shut as he realizes he can't hear his own voice. His eyes go wide and he leaps out of bed, streaking past Eleanor and into the sitting room, snatching his long coat and wrapping it around himself as he goes.
Ellie resorts to sign language. She points to the door, saying a word to get the message of the silence across quickly, then heads out of the room, letting Marrek follow as he will.
Out in the sitting room, Jurt has managed to coax Ryoden into a more verbal state. He looks at Marrek. "She says she woke up, and a person was sitting at the end of her bed. I would normally chalk it up to bad dreams, but dreams don't cast silence."
Benedict returns, his arms full of blankets. Corwin follows, looking sombre. Ryoden watches him with curiosity. "What-- what are you doing?" Benedict silently puts the sheets on the couch and starts setting up a bed. "Are you sleeping here?" she asks, this time reaching out and touching him on the shoulder. He stands and sits in an armchair. "No," he says. "You sleep there. I'm staying here." He eyes Marrek and Jurt. "If you have protection or warding spells, lay them now."
Ellie smiles reassuringly at Ryoden, worried for the young girl, then looks at Corwin and Benedict and asks "May I be of any assistance? Whatever I can do to help I will."
Marrek looks briefly at Eleanor and Ryoden, then his eyes go to a point in the ceiling, his brows knitting into a frown. He stands thus for a few moments before nodding, as if he's come to a decision. He holds out his right hand, palm upwards and mutters a few words under his breath, his hand making a lifting motion. Silently, he raises into the air to a point where he can reach up and lay both hands against the ceiling, which he does. Closing his eyes he concentrates, drawing images together in his mind's eye and forming them into one cohesive idea. His hands, pressed up against the ceiling, glow with an eerie darkness and Marrek begins to sweat profusely.
Onlookers begin to see the wispy shadow of an image within the ceiling. As they watch, the image resolves itself into a giant, winding serpentine creature seeming to flow within the very stones of the ceiling. In evidence are scales of the deepest obsidian, seeming to absorb the very light itself. Opening its mouth, it reveals rows upon rows of long, razor sharp teeth, built to rend and tear through materials harder than steel. Eyes of frightening intelligence peer down upon the onlookers, displaying a desire far beyond hunger.
Marrek opens his eyes and looks deeply into those of the serpent. It seems to look at Ryoden then back to Marrek and duck its head in a nod before fading slowly from sight.
His task finished, Marrek lowers himself to the ground. His feet have barely touched the floor, however, before he drops to the ground in a heap.
Ryoden looks at the collapsed heap of Marrek, then up to the serpent. "Wow..." she whispers, as Jurt leads her to her makeshift bed.
Corwin grabs the collapsed Chaosite and lifts him easily. "Jurt, I assume this is normal...?" Jurt nods, tucking in Ryoden. Ryoden looks up.
"Over-exertion. He'll be okay." She smiles at the unconscious Marrek. "He made something really cool, I bet."
Benedict looks at Eleanor. "Get some sleep."
Corwin nods. "I think I'd be more comfortable with you in one of my rooms tonight."
Jurt kisses Ryoden on the forehead and goes to sit in an armchair. Benedict stops him. "You sleep too. In a bed." Jurt glares, but Benedict stares back at him coolly. Finally, he rises and hobbles back to his room. "Good night all." He looks at Benedict. "Keep her safe." Looks at the serpent. "You too."
Corwin returns from depositing Marrek in his bed and walks over to Ellie. "Ready?"
Ellie nods "Ready." She smiles at Ryoden "You sleep too, alright." then turns back to Corwin, saying quietly "After you."
The night passes quietly, Marrek regaining strength, Ryoden quietly dreaming on the couch, and Benedict watching her, barely blinking.
The dawn arrives much too soon, and Ellie is roused by Corwin who brings her back to Brand's room. There, a breakfast has been laid out, with enough juice, pastries, fruit, and eggs to feed an army (or a handful of male Amberites). Ryoden bounces off to Marrek's room to wake the slumbering but recovered Chaosite.
Corwin sits, grabbing a bagel. "Any ideas on what happened last night?"
Bleary-eyed, Marrek walks--well, stumbles, anyway--into the room, brightening slightly at the sight of breakfast. Helping himself to a plate liberally piled with food, he collapses into a chair and digs in.
"Don't know," he says after a large swallow. "I came in too late to notice anything and...left...again fairly rapidly. Did I miss anything after I fell into my nap?"
Ellie replies "I don't know that much about magic, but one thing that strikes me is wouldn't have the magic that stopped sound or let the person get in shown up to any defences the Castle has?"
Benedict and Corwin exchange a brief glance. Corwin takes the lead. "There are wards and alarms in the castle, but it seems the person who got in did so without destroying them-- As for spells, the spells weren't aggressive in nature, so nothing that has the ability to sense danger could feel them."
Benedict studies his cup of tea. "The person who entered did not want to hurt her." Corwin nods.
"Or they had a damn good way of hiding it."
Ryoden hoards several Danishes and cheerfully starts munching. She doesn't stray far from Jurt, however.
Ellie thinks then asks "What did the person look like, Ryoden? Would you describe what you may remember, please?"
Marrek washes down a slice of toast with a tall glass of ice cold milk, giving a sigh of contentment. Without opening his eyes, he says, "So, what, our would-be assailant was just stopping by to say 'Hello'? I find that difficult to believe."
Corwin shrugs. "May have been a scout. Maybe they want her alive, whoever it is. I don't know... yet."
Ryoden puts down her Danish and looks at Eleanor. "She was very pale-- and she sat on the end of the bed looking at me. And I got scared."
Benedict and Corwin look at her, surprised (Corwin showing it more than his brother). "She?" asks Benedict softly. Ryoden nods.
Corwin shakes his head. "You guys figure this out. I'm off. Apparently kings are supposed to bathe daily." He stands and bows briefly, then walks out, casting a slight wink to Eleanor.
Ellie smiles back, with a nod to Corwin.
Jurt sighs. "Does anyone else think this should be reported to my brothers?"
Marrek nods, chewing another mouthful. "Absolutely, just wanted to get some breakfast down."
Marrek draws his Trumps out of his pocket and flips through them. Eventually, he locates the one he wants, Merlin's, and holds it in front of him, attempting to make contact.
Ellie looks a little worried, then thoughtful. She moves over to sit beside Benedict. She says quietly, her smile abashed "Excuse me, this may be a really silly question, but does Amber have ghosts?"
Jurt looks up alarmed, then at the room. "Oh, F- me..."
Benedict manages a wane smile. "If it were the ghost of Brand, then it would have not been female." Turning to Ellie. "I've never heard of ghosts in the castle. Especially not those with magic."
Marrek concentrates on the trump but bets nothing... his mind fogs over and his head grows heavy. Distantly he feels a hand on his shoulder, and someone leading him back to his room...
Ryoden watches Benedict lead Marrek back to bed, and looks appreciatively at the serpent again.
Marrek's eyes flutter open and he finds himself upon his bed. Puzzled, he thinks back to his last memory, his attempted Trump contact with Merlin, the fuzziness of the connection, his mind shutting down. Last night's work must have taken more out of him than he thought; he'd have to be more careful in the future.
Rising, Marrek selects casual attire, black trousers, blue button down silk shirt with no collar and a pair of supple calf-high boots. Tucking the stiletto into place in a sheath in his right boot, he gives himself a once-over in the room's floor-to-ceiling mirror before emerging from his room
Ryoden sits on the floor, a mess of rods and bolts and springs around her. Her hands fly, and she appears to be putting something together.
Jurt notices him, and Marrek notes he looks a bit tired. "Ah. You're up. You nearly passed out trying to make a trump contact." He leans his head to the side, resting it on the chair, and Marrek notes that there's some fresh blood on his bandages and on the floor. "Your brother's in the castle, by the way. He's hi-jacked Eleanor." His face is not pleased.
Marrek glances for a moment at Ryoden and her many odds and ends before looking back to Jurt. "Hi-jacked? That sounds ominous. Any idea where they went?"
He pauses a moment. "For that matter, what's he even doing in Castle Amber?"
He frowns. "Probably off still trying to convince her not to tell Corwin about the passage in her room." He looks back at Marrek. "Oh, you were asleep. She found a tunnel or something in her room. She wants to tell Corwin about it, and Mandor's trying to tutor her in keeping secrets. They're probably in the throne room or something." The 'or something' is barely audible.
He looks back at the contraption that Ryoden is still throwing together. "He came here after he heard about the latest attempt... or whatever it was."
"I see." Marrek stands silently for a moment, arms crossed, one hand to his chin in contemplation. Finally, settling on a course of action he retreats into his room. Concentrating for a moment, he utters a few words under his breath and fades from view before
walking back out into the sitting room.
Jurt and Ryoden still sit there, Jurt in some sort of funk, and Ryoden putting pieces together, checking a chart, adjusting what she already has out. She stares intently at her work, brows knitted.
Satisfied that his invisibility is firmly in place, Marrek returns to his room, quietly closing the door behind him. He opens the window in his room and sticks his head out, looking in the direction of Eleanor's room would be.
He can see her window, characterized by a small stained glass inset at the top. He also notes a small ledge running beneath both the windows, connecting them.
The breeze is slight, and rather pleasant.
With a curt nod, Marrek eases himself out of his bedroom via the window and onto the ledge, closing the window as he does. Eyes closing for a moment, he shifts one hand into a wicked claw, should an errant breeze catch him unawares. With a grace born of decades of practice, he makes his way to Eleanor's window and examines it, looking for an opening. Should a method presents itself, he will open the window and slip inside, securing the window behind him.
A surge of adrenaline hits him as he looks at the distance down, but with a firm resolve, he makes it to Eleanor's window.
It's one of the older types, and it doesn't look like they put many preventative measures into it. He easily gains entrance.
Inside, he does indeed see the trapdoor, still wide open. He sighs at the girl's lack of experience. The tunnel leads down into an inky darkness-- all Marrek can see is a ladder, going down.
Once again shutting his eyes, Marrek wills his body to change. His long black hair recedes into his scalp, likewise his eyebrows and the hair on the backs of his hands slip back into his skin. His facial features flatten, then vanish all together save for two eye slits. His skin darkens to the blackest obsidian and hardens, yet still offering full freedom of movement. Satisfied with his change, Marrek slips down the ladder into the darkness.
His eyes shift to infravision as he walks into the void. He sees nothing living here, only rock. The tunnel is crudely made, and only large enough to fit one person of a normal size at a time.
He walks, and notes a side passage after about 20 minutes.
First gazing down the main corridor to see how far along he can follow it, Marrek turns into the side passage and proceeds.
He can't see an end to the main corridor as he moves into the side one.
The side tunnel broadens a bit, and begins to look more like a real passage instead of just a conveniently sized hole.
He notes that he begins to get a small headache.
Confident that he knows where the side passage leads, Marrek turns and goes back to the main passage to see where it might lead.
He finds the last passage easily and commences walking. After a quarter hour or so, he begins to detect the air becoming fresher, somewhat salty.
Intrigued, Marrek will follow the passage to see precisely where it comes out.
He walks, and eventually comes to an opening...
He stands at the sea, just in sight of town. Waves send a slight spray up to meet his face, and he notes that the way down is covered in slimy moss and seaweed.
Marrek looks around for any other access to the tunnel, meanwhile keeping an eye open for any recent tracks or anyone else who might be in the area.
The thin layer of dirt appears to be free of tracks, and the small rocks and rubble appear to be undisturbed.
Marrek feels frustration bubble in his chest. It doesn't look like this area even leads anywhere. The rocks are too sharp for a ship to land safely, and the slope down hits the sea and not much else. A person couldn't even get to town or dry land from here. What is this, an architect's idea of a joke?
With a resigned shrug, Marrek pivots on his heel and slinks back into the tunnel. As he makes his way back to Eleanor's room, he keeps his ears open and his eyes on the walls, searching...
His search turns up nothing, and he hears nothing-- no hollows, no hidden ways. Either Marrek is very disappointed in Brand's ingenuity, or impressed with his ability to hide his secrets years after his death.
He reaches the place of the fork, and can now feel the buzz quite clearly.
Faced with a choice is our Marrek: Either he can retrace his steps and hope no one has noticed his trespass or he can avoid potential embarrassing conflict by going towards the buzzing sensation, which, if his intuition isn't leading him astray, would lead quickly to the
Pattern, not a visit he would relish.
Deciding on the former, Marrek cautiously slinks back the way he came, towards Eleanor's quarters.
Marrek freezes as he hears a laugh echo down the passage. It takes him a moment, but he realizes it belongs to Mandor.
/I might have known./ Marrek thinks with a grimace. Curiosity getting the better of him, Marrek leans against the wall, figuring to let Mandor come to him. As an afterthought, Marrek concentrates for a moment, then shivers reflexively as his blood begins to run cool instead of warm. /It might be nice to surprise him for a change./
Marrek spots Mandor a long way off, eyes glowing red, staring at the floor. His hand glows slightly as he waves it over the tracks, just enough to show Marrek's tracks.
In his other hand, he holds three spheres.
Marrek continues to wait until his brother comes within hailing distance, standing still as a statue, watching.
Mandor moves stealthily, keeping low, shifting his eyes from the ground, the walls, the void in front of him. He shows no signs of seeing Marrek. His face is neutral, his breathing regular.
He comes within ten feet of where Marrek stands.
Beating down the temptation for mischief, Marrek speaks. "Relax, brother mine," he says softly. "No need to get your balls in a twist." Marrek dispels his invisibility spell and allows his blood to resume its standard temperature.
Marrek almost gets a reaction out of Mandor, but he manages to cover any expression in time.
"I had half guessed it was you," Mandor says coolly. "Your curiosity always has been insatiable. So, what treasures of Amber that this tunnel hid have you pocketed? I'm sure they'll decorate my mantelpiece soon enough."
Marrek sniffs disdainfully. "Unless you want the Pattern itself hanging above your fireplace, dear brother, there's nothing down here worth mentioning. The tunnel branches off a ways down, then continues to let out to the sea." Marrek lets his features shift back to normal. "All in all, a distressingly unprofitable adventure."
Mandor leans against a wall. "Knowledge is the biggest profit. I've planted a seed of doubt in Corwin's daughter, so, for the time being, we have a hold of some rather exclusive information."
"I hear you got to spend a day with my sister? Did you find it entertaining?"
Marrek smiles wryly. "Indeed. That girl is definitely a creature of chaos, all whims and no logic." Marrek shakes his head. "At least she's entertained this morning. If she knew about this place..." Marrek suddenly goes cold. He thinks about Ryoden's desire to reach see (and perhaps walk?) the Pattern and the wonderful opportunity she would see this tunnel as.
Marrek turns to Mandor. "She can't know about this tunnel."
He cocks his head. "I believe that goes without saying. She's much too fast, and if it leads to the sea, I'm forced to admit she's a good swimmer. She's quite adept at shifting. And if it leads to the Pattern... well, she's curious too."
Marrek raises an eyebrow at Mandor's understatement, but lets it go. "There is little else to be gained down here, unless you want to go fishing. I'm heading back up for some lunch." Marrek pauses. But I think I'll take the long way. There's no reason Eleanor needs to know that I broke into her quarters."
Mandor holds out a hand. "A moment. This is a relatively secure place to talk." He pauses. "I finished examining the other explosions. They were indeed spun by the same hand, and an experienced one at that. I couldn't find a place of entrance, but many sections of the ways are
self-healing, so entrance could have been sealed over long ago. I'm now positive the attacks were at Ryoden, since the others were situated in areas only she frequents." He sighs. "You may be up here a long while. I can't bring her back until I know who is after her, and have... dealt with him. Or her."
Marrek grimaces. "Terrific. Ryoden's already managed to get me on Benedict's bad side. By the time we return home, I'll have the entire Castle Amber after me howling for my blood." Marrek flashes a quick grin. "But I'll have a bag full of souvenirs to remember the experience."
Marrek's expression again turns serious. "Has anyone made any headway as to the identity of Ryoden's mysterious visitor?"
Mandor shakes his head. "Whoever it was, made sure that after the bombs had been set off, there wasn't enough to gather evidence of a style." He pauses, then starts up the way back. "I think you and I had better have a talk with Ryoden." As he walk back to the room, "So much for my brother's entree into Amber politics. I do hope my sister isn't too much for you? She's quite precocious."
/Precocious doesn't even come close./
Marrek falls into step next to Mandor.
"Not really. Now that I know what to expect, I think I can handle her. She's a bit free with her...demonstrations, though."
"My main concern is that her attacker may try to strike here. I don't believe last night's visitation was connected. As much as it terrified Ryoden, it doesn't seem to fit with previous attacks. Why not just obliterate her? Why all the subtlety and silence spheres when brute force and explosions seem to be our enemy's stock in trade." Marrek shrugs.
"Ah. I heard about her showing off. What did you think of her... demonstrations? She abhors having to pretend to be normal, and thought that certain rules wouldn't apply here, or with an almost-family member. Not that I think you'd exploit her. But using things in ways advantageous to yourself is one of your family traits." He pauses. "I don't think the incident last night was connected either, but it is curious as well as disturbing. The way she described it, it was almost as if she were being observed." He sighs. "What anyone has to gain from watching a sleeping child, I don't know."
Marrek glances over at Mandor. "A sleeping child that casually displays more powers than anyone her age should possess? My imagination doesn't have to stretch too far to understand the motives involved there."
"As for what I think about her displays, they're surprising to say the least. For her, so young, to show easy mastery of powers that took me years to practice is somewhat unnerving. It's easy to fathom why someone would want her exterminated. As fiercely loyal to Merlin as she is, his enemies would soil themselves if they knew her true potential. I think it's safe to assume that someone already does."
Mandor sighs. "Then she showed you more than she told me about. She grows more like us every day. But to get into Amber is no easy thing. You can't simply Logrus your way to the castle, and the forests and seas are well guarded and armed. If this person's contacts go this
far--" He breaks off, holding up a hand. "Yes?" He listens a moment, then sigh. "I'm beginning to detest getting trump calls." With that he pulls Marrek and himself through the trump.
They stand before a cursing Jurt. "That way!" he yells, and points to the door leading out to the corridor. "Ellie went after her, but she hasn't got a chance."
Mandor nods and takes out his spheres. He whispers a word to them, sending them flying. Casually, he follows.
"Oh for fu--," Marrek swears. Quickly, he disrobes, throwing modesty to the wind. Shutting his eyes, he summons forth the image of a night-black panther. As quickly as he may, he feeds himself into the image, feeling bones and muscle restructure itself until a huge cat stands where Marrek had been. He sniffs twice to get the scent, then leaps forth, following Ryoden and Eleanor's trail.
Eleanor is surprised as she calls out when a panther, sleek and dark as night, runs past her and after Ryoden's path. A second later she's surprised again as a trio of silver balls fly by, barely missing her ear.
Marrek manages to gain a little ground on her, but he has to admit, she's nimble. She may not have shifted to something with faster joints and structure, but she corners like a race car.
They hit a large, grand stairway, one Marrek remembers. It seems he saw this nearby when he was off to visit the throne room.
A silver ball rushes over his head.
Letting loose a feral growl, Marrek redoubles his efforts, pouring all his energies into his raging muscles, relentlessly trying to gain ground.
He watches as she easily bounds down the stairs, and runs to something half-hid in shadows. A man?
The sphere, trailing two others, catches up to her and attempt to circle her. She shrugs them off.
Marrek ignores the stairs, instead going for the wall. Seeming to defy gravity, he lets his momentum carry him up onto the wall as he continues to race down the curving stairs after Ryoden. The keen eyesight of a hunting cat attempts to penetrate the shadows around
He hears the alarmed cries of staff and lower courtiers around him as he races down, heart pounding. He feels his body shift a bit, legs becoming longer, more agile.
A figure steps out of a shaded doorway, and Ryoden rushes into his arms.
Behind him, Ellie smiles as she recognises the silver balls /Looks like Mandor's around./ then frowns as she starts to lose the panther and Ryoden. They soon outpace her, but Ellie keeps heading in the direction anyway rather than give up.
She soon reaches the head of a large, curving stairway. She sees the panther sprinting towards Ryoden, who appears to be in the arms of a rather large red-headed man.
Marrek, puzzled, slows his pace, coming to a stalking walk as he gazes upon the stranger holding Ryoden. Ears flat, eyes narrowed to bare slits, he rumbles a warning to the newcomer. Should harm befall Ryoden, Marrek will send him to the grave.
Ellie hopes the panther can catch up to Ryoden before anything else happens even as she keeps going. The man is unknown, at least to Ellie, and her first instinct is to keep Ryoden safe from a potential danger.
She watches as the panther and the man square off, both growling in their own tongues. Ryoden watches on from behind the red-head, almost curious.
The man looks up, and sees the panther Marrek. He starts, and snaps up, pushing Ryoden behind him. He pulls a sword from his belt, and it sizzles as he draws it. "Stay back, kid." He says.
Ryoden looks from behind him, studying the panther. "...Marrek?" she whispers.
The panther looks between the stranger (and his smouldering blade) and Ryoden, head cocked to one side. Grimly, he shifts his shape back to his standard features (almost as an afterthought, he shifts himself a pair of pants for modesty's sake). His mind runs through the spells he has prepared, weighing and discarding some, approving others, all in the span of a heartbeat. All the while, his eye lock on those of the stranger's.
As their mutually distrustful stare meets, Ryoden tugs on the man's cape.
"Luke! No! See, it's Marrek. He's watching me. He's not really a cat! I swear!"
She looks at Marrek. "It's okay. He's a friend of the family. This is Luke." She looks almost frantic at the idea of a fight.
Marrek holds up a hand to forestall any action from those coming up behind him. Once again looking from the stranger--Luke--to Ryoden, he straightens slightly from his crouch, more to put Ryoden at ease. The thrill of the chase still courses through Marrek's blood and he would like nothing more than to sink his fangs in this Luke's neck.
Ellie walks up and says "I think we can all relax, gentlemen. It's clear that Ryoden is in no danger and she is after all our prime concern."
She looks at Luke and smiles politely adding "Good morning."
"Who are you," he asks the newcomer in a growl. "And why are you here?"
He barely looks her way as he replies to Marrek. "I'm Rinaldo, King of Kashfa. And I'm here to see Ryoden. I'm friends with her brother. Perhaps you've heard of him? He's a member of the king's club too."
Ellie replies coolly "Yes, my brother Merlin did mention something of the sort. Chaos wasn't it?"
Marrek glances at her out of the corner of his eye. /Very good,/ he thinks to himself.
"Can't say that I've heard of you, probably because I've spent too much time with my brother, Lord Mandor." /If he wants to play the name dropping game, we can play along, too./
Marrek shifts his eyes to Ryoden. "Highness, for the sake of your brother's failing nerves, please refrain from bolting like that again."
Ellie smiles to Ryoden and adds with a grin "Especially when he's hungry." She looks at the two men and adds calmly "I was about to order refreshments for Jurt, Ryoden and myself. Would you care to join us?"
Ryoden looks down and shuffles her feet. "Sorry," she mutters.
Luke drops the aggressive stance and puts away his sword. "Ah, so it's a family reunion. Fuzzface, you didn't tell me anyone else was here." Ryoden giggles.
He bows to them, then takes Eleanor's hand. "And I wasn't aware that Merlin had a sister. Delinquent of him. He's off my Christmas card list." He smiles and kisses the back of her hand. "A pleasure. So are you Corwin's or Dara's?"
Ellie nods and replies with a smile "Corwin's as it happens."
He raises up again and bows slightly to Marrek. "I met the man briefly. Your brother, that is. It seems Merlin has collected a whole clutch of siblings. Maybe that's why he took over the throne of Chaos. He needed living space."
He takes Ryoden's hand. "And I'd love something to eat. I haven't forgotten my last stay here, and I'm sure the kitchen has restocked since then."
Ellie smiles then continues "If you would come with us to our temporary shared quarters then please, that would be helpful as Jurt's movement is limited. I'll call a servant from there." She looks to Marrek "Unless we can help Jurt to a nearby room?"
Marrek's gaze lingers on Rinaldo for yet another moment before he turns his attention to Eleanor and nods "If he can't manage the crutches, I can get him there." He grimaces. "Besides, I'm starting to get cabin fever in those rooms. Castle Amber is gargantuan, yet we're shunted into five of what have to be her smallest rooms."
Luke laughs. "You know, you must have the same rooms I had while I was here. They didn't take kindly to me wandering about too much either. So what's wrong with Jurt? Merle only got a hold of me long enough to tell me he had Fuzzball up here for a while, and that he'd stop by after a bit." He looks down at Ryoden. "Gods, you've grown. Glad to see you chose the human form. That other one was just eerie." She smiles up at him, and her teeth are just slightly too sharp.
She leads him back to their rooms.
As Marrek falls into step with the impromptu group, he idly wonders where Mandor went...
Ellie looks around and nods to Mandor with a smile then turns to Jurt, the smile warming a little. She says "Looks like you get your wish. Want something to eat outside of here?"
He nods briefly, and gives Ryoden a hard look. "No running out." Ryoden pouts but shakes her head up and down.
Mandor is sitting on a loveseat, drinking something dark and red in a wide mouthed goblet. His spheres come flying back in the room, and he catches them without looking. "Your majesty," he says, rising. "A pleasure."
"Good to see you again." Luke smiles broadly.
Jurt is looking at Ryoden still, and Luke notices this. "Don't be too hard on the kid. She just got excited. We were about to go out for lunch. I'm sure that'll burn off some energy" Jurt shakes his head.
"She won't be joining you. Marrek, Mandor, and she are staying here. Benedict wants to see her." Ryoden's eyes go wide.
Mandor nods. "He contacted me while you were off chasing down Luke. He has some information, but more questions." Ryoden looks scared and crushed, all at the same time. Mandor goes over to her and lays a hand on her shoulder. "You can join them later. Your safety comes first." She sniffles, and goes to Jurt who pulls her close.
Luke notices Jurt's injured foot. "Ouch," he says, cringing. "Merle was right. It wasn't pretty."
Ellie nods, agreeing with Luke, concern showing in her eyes. She then turns to Ryoden and says "It probably won't be long and then as Lord Mandor says, you can join us, Ryoden. And then we'll see what we can do or where we can go next." She smiles at the young girl, trying to cheer her a little.
Inconspicuously as possible, Marrek gathers his hastily discarded garments and retreats to his quarters. There, he dons more appropriate attire, black slacks and a grey shirt, and again emerges into the sitting room to await the arrival of Benedict.
Jurt gently pushes Ryoden off his lap with a sigh and looks questioningly at Mandor. Mandor nods. "It's for the best. You need to get out. And since you have neither new information or an eyewitness account to draw from besides the one attack, Benedict would deem you superfluous. And he is not a man who entertains such things. We'll have a hard enough time as it is."
Jurt sighs, and Mandor hands him his crutches, helping him up. Jurt steadies himself. He looks at Ellie and Luke. "Ready?"
Ellie nods and replies "Ready." and opens the door for Jurt. She looks at Luke and asks "Recommendations for someplace to eat?"
They head out.
As Luke, Jurt, and Ellie leave, Ryoden sits in a corner, concentrating on her wringing hands. After a long period of silence, during which Mandor studies her carefully, she finally talks.
"I'm in trouble, aren't I?"
Mandor smiles, perhaps pityingly. "Someone is trying to kill you. I would call that trouble." He clears his throat and looks at Marrek briefly. "Mind telling us about the two other traps?"
Marrek settles himself down on one side of the room's couch, but not before a tall glass full of an orange liquid appears is his hand, which he hands to Ryoden with a wink.
Sitting back, he awaits Ryoden's answer.
She drinks the Hi-C, more as a stall tactic than anything, before she starts.
"I found them the day we left Chaos. I felt the strings go up in my sector, so I used a Logrus filament to set off. I found another a few minutes later, and set that off too. I thought I had them all, but he put one in a vase, so I didn't notice it."
"Or her. Whoever."
Marrek sits forward. "Was this the first time you'd felt something like this?"
She nods furiously. "Oh yes. We don't even have servants, really. Some demons, and my nan, but that's it. It's not a big part of the ways."
Mandor nods. "So, do you have any idea who it was?"
Ryoden stares at him, then shakes her head after a moment. She finishes off her Hi-C quickly.
A brief knock sounds at the door, and Benedict enters. Ryoden looks like she can't decide whether to be relieved or worried.
Marrek rises from his seat on the couch and inclines his head politely. "Your highness," he greets him, studying his face, looking for the barest hint of a definable emotion.
Benedict bows slightly at Marrek, not showing the least in homicidal tendencies. His face is not as icy as Marrek would have expected from the king of steel. He looks at the huddled Ryoden in the corner.
"Come sit here," he says, tapping a green armchair. She gets up reluctantly and does as he says. She sulks at him. Marrek recalls her comment about not being impressed with her new grandfather.
Reassured by Benedict's seeming calm, Marrek sits back on the couch and throws an inquiring look Mandor's way.
Mandor catches it and shrugs.
Benedict sits and takes out a piece of paper, the one Ryoden had drawn one earlier. He regards it a moment, then hands it to Mandor. "Nothing yet. The face isn't familiar. How good is she at drawing."
"She's quite adept. It runs in the family."
"How good exactly?"
Mandor pauses. "I think you're asking about more than her artistic talents."
Benedict nods. "She's under my protection. Therefore I should know anything unusual about her." Mandor sighs.
"She's a talented girl."
Marrek throws Ryoden a half-reproaching look. "She's not afraid to show it, either."
He looks at Mandor and makes a motion to the picture. "May I? I haven't seen it yet."
Ryoden glares back. Marrek gets the feeling she's going to make his life interesting for a while.
Mandor hands Marrek the drawing while he continues to speak to Benedict. "This is a delicate situation, as I'm sure you understand.
She's talented, but she's young, and as a result, impulsive, strong-willed, and overly trusting. We would certainly appreciate any information given out today staying in your Avalon. Even as a state secret..." He leaves the statement unfinished, and Benedict nods.
Marrek studies the drawing intently, etching each and every detail into his memory as Mandor and Benedict continue their conversation.
The drawing is good, but he can tell that parts she must have guessed on, or fudged.
The woman has long hair, and fine, almost unreal features. Eyes a bit large for the people around here. It's black and white, but he gets the feeling that a few colour pencils wouldn't make a difference. There are few details besides structure, leaving the woman pale.
When he looks up, he realizes Ryoden is watching him. "The eyes were blue," she says quietly.
Marrek stands and switches seats to sit next to her. "Do you remember anything else about her? Did she say anything to you?" He seems to think of something and further asks, "Did you smell anything strange while she was in the room?"
She thinks back. "She might have. But I just screamed. I got scared-- she was in MY room. No one gets in my room." She pulls up her knees and hugs them to her chest. "And maybe it did smell. Like flowers? But not really. Sweet. I wasn't there long."
Benedict and Mandor continue. "She's always been advanced. She seems to learn by osmosis, so I would be careful what you let her see. We've only formally taught her after realizing that she had the rudimentary skills anyway."
Benedict nods. "And the specifics?"
Mandor doesn't smile. "You need something to discover about your great-granddaughter, don't you?"
The slightest amount of steel enters Benedict's eyes. "Don't play games with me."
Mandor is silent for a few moments, then finally gives in. "Conjuration, which you saw. Sorcery. Trump. And... Logrus."
Benedict looks surprised, and Mandor takes a small delight in this. "She's quite advanced," he mummers.
"All that mixed in with an insatiable curiosity and a dose of incredible good luck," Marrek puts in from his seat next to Ryoden.
Benedict nods. "The Unicorn watches over fools and small children." He looks at Mandor. "Or the Serpent."
Mandor smiles wanly. "I think the Unicorn would be a more likely deity to do that."
Benedict thinks for a moment. "She's Jurt's ward?" Mandor nods. "He's the least gifted of all of you. Why him?"
"He's emotional, hot-headed, and holds a grudge. But so is she. They're two fires that burn each other out eventually. Her education is well covered, I assure you."
/Her's or our's?/ Marrek stands and paces the room, deep in thought. In his mind, he sees two adversaries, one with definite hostile intent for Reasons Unknown. The other merely seems content to watch and wait...for what? Marrek shakes his head, troubled. Is this mysterious watcher-woman merely waiting for Ryoden's powers to mature before moving against her? That would be foolish at best, unless she wanted to harness it for herself. Marrek doesn't know how one would go about doing so, but in a universe where the word 'impossible' lost all meaning, there would have to be a way, wouldn't there?
The other opponent, the one that struck in Chaos, concerns him as well, even though he had yet to make an entrance. Was he, too, waiting for the proper time to strike, when Ryoden would be alone and vulnerable? Could he, in fact, strike deep into the heart of Amber herself, or would he need intermediaries to accomplish such a goal?
The entire thing was starting to give Marrek a headache.
Benedict notes Marrek's agitated state. "A problem?"
Marrek waves a negligent hand. "Aside for the one at hand, no." He stops and draws a breath. "I'm merely trying to sort through a myriad of details and walking helps me think."
Benedict nods and turns back to Mandor. "What else is there?"
"How else has she advanced? Swordplay and the like."
"I don't know." Benedict gives Mandor a hard stare. "My house is not one of sword swingers, and I don't find the idea of someone I don't trust anyone getting close to her with something sharp and pointed. Call me paranoid." The veneer of Mandor's cool exterior has worn thin, showing his sarcastic underbelly a bit more clearly.
Benedict nods, then turns his attention back to Ryoden. "Give me your trump deck."
She purses her lips. "No."
Marrek blinks. /That's probably the first time anyone's said 'no' to him in millennia. I wonder how he'll take it./
Mandor shoots darts at Ryoden, but she ignores him, her eyes locked with Benedict's.
Benedict takes the rebuff stoically. "It wasn't a request"
She takes out the deck and holds it tight. "You can't keep it."
He considers her for a moment, then takes something off of his hand.
Marrek notes a single red gem, large and from what he can see, flawless, set in silver... or perhaps platinum? This is Benedict. Platinum.
A wordless exchange ensues, where Marrek assumes they come to some sort of agreement, her taking the ring and looking at it, he taking the deck.
Benedict takes a moment to shuffle through it.
Marrek watches the exchange in silence, cataloguing the bribery for later use. Should probably come in handy almost immediately...
Benedict shuffles out cards periodically. At the end of his search, he has two piles. Marrek notes one of the piles seems to be a normal set, with the usual set of Chaos cards-- house heads, family, the usual. The other...
The other bears the Unicorn on each of the backs.
Benedict holds up the Unicorn deck and counts it. "Where did you get these?"
Ryoden lifts her eyes from the ring. "I found them."
Marrek starts in surprise, throwing a look Mandor's way. He'd been assuming that she'd made them herself, copying those from Merlin's deck.
"Where did you find them?"
Mandor looks just as surprised. Benedict keeps his eyes on Ryoden.
"This is an original Trump deck, from Dworkin's hand. Where did you find it?"
Another silent exchange, and Marrek can suddenly see the family resemblance. She can reign in that mouth of hers at the damnedest times.
She doesn't betray any emotion while answering. "The Rim."
Mandor goes to say something, but decided at the last moment to cover it by conjuring a brandy, which he looks like he needs. Badly.
Marrek's blood runs cold as the import of Ryoden's words strikes him. His minds eye envisions a brutal confrontation at the edge of the Abyss, two figures grappling; an arrow shot sure and true; two figures plummeting down into the void.
Could those be...?
Benedict nods, as if it was an answer he had been expecting. He takes one last look at the Dworkin deck, then adds it back to hers and hands it to her.
"It's appropriate you have one of the family. Guard it well." She hands him back his ring, a bit reluctantly it would seem. "Will you see the Pattern, later?" His tone has become a bit more gentle.
Mandor shakes his head. "Absolutely not. She can't take the pattern."
"Her brother did."
Mandor smiles a bit. "Her brother also has pattern in his blood. We know a bit more about the breeding of partial Amberites, and we have found around her generation, the chances of having pattern become less and less. She was born without." Benedict nods.
"How many of Chaos's citizens have mixed blood?" Mandor chuckles.
"Your line doesn't spread that far. Most of them seemed a bit ambitious, and that's not a recipe for longevity. As it stands, Dara and her progeny are all that are left."
Marrek watches the ring change hands yet again, keeping his face carefully neutral. If only it didn't belong to Benedict. But then, that added to the value of the trinket exponentially, didn't it?
Shaking himself, Marrek turns to Benedict. "Even so, how many even half-Chaosites would want to risk complete--and messy--obliteration in that fashion?" He shivers. "I know I wouldn't."
Benedict shrugs "Those with enough desire for power or knowledge." Benedict dons the ring again, studying it for a moment.
Ryoden counts her cards carefully, nodding finally, then replacing them. She studies Benedict warily, and he looks thoughtful.
"I thought you said she was trusting." Mandor shrugs.
"She also normally talks a mile a minute. She's a child, and they have their moods."
Benedict watches her a moment more, then stands and goes to leave. As he passes by her chair, he briefly touches her shoulder. "Welcome to the family," he says, then exits.
Mandor lets out a sigh as the door closes. "Family is a mixed blessing, and I think today I found the lesser part of the mixture."
He looks at Ryoden. "And why in the world were you so petulant? Do you want to be skewered before you reach your next birthday?"
Marrek assumes a crocked grin. "Our last meeting wasn't as cordial as this one," he tells Mandor by way of explanation.
Mandor's expression remains serious. "Ryoden, not only is he the eldest of the Amber Royal family, and not only is he your ancestor, but he's also not a man I'd think suffers fools gladly. You should watch your step around him more. He's about the only thing guaranteeing your safety right now."
Ryoden glares back. "He's done questioning me. Can I go now?" Mandor sighs and nods. She takes out her deck and finds a Trump, concentrates, and steps out without a word.
Mandor looks at the chair she was occupying. "This is why I don't have children."
"Amen," Marrek agrees fervently.
Summoning a glass of chilled wine to his hand, he assumes a thoughtful expression and starts ticking items off on his empty hand. "One, we have the intruder in Chaos. Two, we have the meagre-- if any--evidence of the explosions in your ways. Three, we have our mysterious nocturnal visitor here in Amber. Four, we have Ryoden's picture of the visitor, which no one seems to recognize. Five, we have a concealed tunnel (one of many) leading from Brand's quarters to the ocean, with an off shooting tunnel to the pattern itself--for obvious reasons, really." Marrek takes a sip of his wine. "Not really much to go on, is it?"
Mandor laughs drily. "To a passing observer, I'm sure it's quite interesting. I think we've been caught up in a comedy of errors." He sips his wine. "One thing you forgot-- we just learned a few facts about my sister I have to admit I didn't know. Those cards, who I'd hate to speculate on the ownership of... Her subterfuge is getting better."
/Who needs speculation? Amber luck running the way it does.../
Marrek drains his glass and sets it on an end table (from which is slowly fades from existence). "I'd be tempted to pick her up by the ankles and shake her to see what other secrets she's been hiding--if I didn't think she'd turn me into a frog."
Marrek sits back in his seat. "You know," he says, "she going to be absolutely impossible for a while, right?" He grimaces. "
Mandor nods. "Oh, yes. I've seen her tantrums before, and they're not pretty. Broken things, nasty spells, a lot of sulking and dangerous forms. You and I, and the Prince Benedict, are not her favourite people right now." He takes a sip of his drink.
"Which reminds me. I have to be getting back to Chaos now."
Marrek smirks knowingly. "Your timing, as ever, is impeccable." Marrek stands to see his brother off. "I'll be in touch. Let me know if you turn up anything on your end."
"Indeed," he replies. He clasps him on the shoulder. "Sleep lightly, brother." With a mysterious smile and a nod, he takes out a trump and steps out.
"Count on it, brother," Marrek replies grimly to his brother's fading form.
Taking a seat, Marrek sets to work. Concentrating, he brings forth the image of a bird. Holding his hands out before him, one cupped over and around the other, he shapes some of the reality around him until a bright blue jay flutters to life. Holding it up to his ears, he whispers the words, "Seek and report."
The bird cocks its head at him for a moment, then flies off, the image of Ryoden in its mind.
Marrek catches his breath for a moment, then realizes he's a bit hungry. Between collapsing and questioning Ryoden and Benedict and seeing off his brother, he had forgotten to eat.
He looks at the leftovers from breakfast and makes a face. Lukewarm, stale, and hardly fresh. He didn't come to Amber to scrounge.
"I wonder what the kitchen is cooking up?"
After making sure he's suitably attired, he emerges from his room and wanders down a hall, heading for what he hopes is the kitchen and the food contained therein.
Marrek wanders and begins to realize exactly how big Castle Amber is. He begins to wonder if he'll be forced to resort to conjuring, when finally he notices a way that seems somewhat less decorated. Perhaps a way to a servant's area?
Hopeful, Marrek proceeds down the hallway, doing his best to moderate the growling of his stomach. It simply wouldn't do have its rumblings echoing throughout the castle...
He starts opening door, glad that locks aren't there to slow him down. He finds broom closets, sitting rooms, stairways, all sorts of odds and ends. One knob he grabs he quickly notes is cold, like ice.
A storage locker? He may be close.
He opens it, and is surprised as he spies an old man lying in a hospital bed, apparently asleep.
Puzzled, Marrek silently studies the old man. He hadn't thought he was in a residential part of Castle Amber, judging by the various closets lining the rest of the hall. He dismissed the thought of a servant--the Castle seems to run itself after all.
"Who are you, old man?" he whispers.
The man stirs, and opens an eye. "You aren't my maid," he rasps. "Where's Mara?"
He shifts in bed a bit, waking. "What's your name?"
"My apologies for waking you, sir," Marrek says politely in his soft voice, "but Mara asked that I look in on you. My name is Mark."
Marrek walks up to the foot of the aged man's bed.
He man pouts. "You're not as cute as her, you know-- she reminds me of one of my wives-- Dybele. A pretty thing... so funny." He glares at Marrek. "Mara always brings me lunch. Where is it?"
Marrek smacks his forehead. "How remiss of me. Just a moment."
He ducks back out in the hall and with a broad sweep of his hand, he brings forth a tray filled with steaming plates of spitted chicken, breads of several varieties, cheese, fruits, vegetables and a tall tankard of ale and sweets. A meal fit for a king.
After all, you can't be Mandor's brother without learning, _something_ about food...
The old man looks content at the spread, and dives in-- nothing wrong with the man's appetite.
"When will Mara be back? Your food is better, but I'd rather have her."
/I bet you would./
"Oh, she'll be back soon, I'll wager."
Marrek leans against the wall, studying the old man closely as he eats. Who is this strange, emaciated old man before him? Why is he being attended in what appears to be servants' quarters? Almost as if he had been tucked in some out of the way place, to be eventually forgotten...
The old man finishes his meal in record time. While sucking a bone dry (an despicable habit that would send Mandor into elegant, well-thought out fits) Marrek notices a ring on his left hand, large and gold, and slightly worn from the trials of time.
As he grimaces at the old man's table manners, Marrek studies the ring, taking in every detail. An heirloom, perhaps? A clue to the old codger's identity?
Marrek studies the ring, first noting that it's a bit gaudy for his tastes; nothing subtle or elegant at all. The he notices the imprint on it... An animal. A horse...? No. A unicorn.
Behind him, the handle to the room begins to turn.
Quickly yet gracefully as to not draw undue attention from the gobbling old man, Marrek moves against the wall to the side of the door, waiting. Mara, no doubt.
The door opens, and a pretty curvy young woman moves in, laden down with a tray. "Hello M'lord, I hope you--" her voice breaks off in confusion.
Marrek moves up behind the young serving maid, placing a hand on her back. Eyes on the back of her head, his mind bores into hers. Once he has contact, he shifts and alters her thought patterns. The memory he implants is one of a young gentleman, a half hour ago, offering to deliver a tray of food to this very room. The tray in her hands was actually to be delivered to Gerard's quarters. She'd better hurry. Gerard hates to wait for his food.
She stops for a moment and stiffens. Then she curses. "I'm so sorry M'lord-- I was mistaken." She bows as best she can and scurries out of the room.
The old man looks disappointed. "I hope you aren't permanent. She's always so chatty."
Marrek turns back to the old man. "Purely temporary, I assure you. I have other tasks that await me around the castle." He peers at the old man through slitted eyes.
The man looks vaguely familiar, despite what age and infirmity have obviously done to his features. Add to that Mara's deference, calling him "M'lord," and the ring on his finger...
Marrek struggles to keep his face impassive as realization dawns on him.
The old man frowns further. "Hmph. More tasks." He grunts and picks at a dessert. Then, with the slightest of smiles, he looks at Marrek. "Not any more you don't. I say you stay here."
/Trapped by my own cleverness and curiosity. Who said this trip wouldn't be interesting?/
Marrek spreads his hands wide. "What would you have of me, aged sir?"
/Might as well play the part, follow it as long as it runs./
He smiles. "You can tell me of outside. Mara's a thing to look at, but a bit of a homebody. Think her dad doesn't want any untimely surprises, eh?"
Marrek smiles as he leans his back against the wall and crosses his arms. "The outside, huh? Plotting, intrigue, paranoia. All the things that make life interesting, if you can keep your sense of humor about you long enough."
He makes a gruff disappointed noise. "Nothing new then? Bah. Boring children. Should've drowned them all at birth."
Marrek blinks. "Well, I suppose that's direct enough."
Marrek pulls a tankard of ale from behind his back and hands it to Oberon, while he partakes of a glass of red wine.
"There is one thing, though. We have a ghost wandering the Castle."
He perks. "A ghost? Really? Where did you hear such a thing." He chuckles. "Every castle should have a ghost."
Marrek sips his wine, watching the old man closely. "She paid a visit to a young girl under my charge. Scared her out of her skin." /Literally./
"Oh-- poor thing. Tell me, what did your ghost look like? It didn't kill the girl, did it? Ghosts can do that."
Marrek briefly describes the woman in Ryoden's picture, watching Oberon for any sign of recognition. "It didn't kill her. She's a bit worse for wear, especially after the going over Benedict gave her- he has that affect, I've noticed. Otherwise she's fine."
Marrek hears a tap-tap-tapping coming from somewhere.
Frowning, Marrek expands his awareness, searching...
The old man looks puzzled. "Benedict? What did he have to do with it? He's never concerned himself with children. Gerard, yes...." He doesn't show any recognition at Marrek's description, though.
Marrek follows the tapping noise, and finally narrows it down to a window. There sits his little blue jay, tapping at the window, looking a tad miffed at being brought to life, given a mission, then ignored.
Marrek chuckles as he walks to the window and throws it wide, allowing the bird access to the small apartment. The blue jay flutters inside and comes to a rest on Marrek's outstretched finger.
Turning back to Oberon, he says, "Who knows why Benedict does anything, really. Maybe he's bored."
Marrek fixes his attention on the bird waiting impatiently on his finger. "Report."
The man looks puzzled as Marrek talks to the bird, who tweets back in a high-pitched voice, telling of Ryoden at The Pit, and her lunch with the three others, and her parting words to it. "Go away, Marrek."
The old man looks at Marrek suspiciously. "You talk to birds. And they talk back. You're no servant."
"Never said I was, old boy." Marrek frowns at Oberon's tankard and it refills itself. "I'm merely a helpful soul wandering the castle."
He turns back to the bird. "Keep watch. And try to be discreet this time..."
The bird glares and flies off. Oberon looks at his tankard, then back at Marrek. "A wandering sorcerer? What are you about?"
"Nothing quite so grand, I'm afraid," Marrek says modestly. "Just looking for a bite to eat."
Oberon looks disappointed. "Youth. Inbred to dullness. This universe is doomed. Dworkin was right." He drinks his ale, then grunts. "Well, if you don't have anything interesting for me, why did you stop by?"
"Are we bored, old one?" Marrek asks, the hint of a devious idea coming to his mind. "Perhaps a change of scenery would be more to your liking." Moving to stand beside Oberon's bed, he lays a hand upon the side of the bed, channelling energy into it. Immediately the bed lifts off the ground to hover a good foot off the floor, forcing a startled, "Woah!" from the aged man upon it. Satisfied with its stability, Marrek draws out his trump deck and shuffles through it.
/All these trinkets I've seen all over Amber: the statuette in the storefront, Benedict's ruby ring, even Oberon's ring. What better prize than Oberon himself?/
Finding the card he wants, he concentrates on it. When he has a connection, he steps through bringing Oberon, bed tankard and all, through with him.
Back in Brand's room, Jurt sits, his head resting on his fist, a book in his lap, but his eyes staring off into space. After a moment he looks up, then pulls Marrek into the room.
"Where've you been? I thought you were going to stay in Amber?"
"Nowhere special, old boy," Marrek replies with a jaunty wave of his hand before taking a seat on the couch. "Just had something to drop off. How's Ryoden?"
He motions off to her bedroom. "Pouting. I wouldn't bug her right now. She's been thinking all sorts of painful thoughts for the past hour or so." He returns to his book. "She's like that. Has my temper. I've at least learned to temper it a bit." After a pause, "And I'm not that old."
"Letting her shake off whatever funk she's in sounds like the best plan to me. She's bad enough when she's cheerful."
Noting that Jurt seems immersed in his book, Marrek retreats to his room to reset his spent spells. Once complete, he re-emerges into the sitting room. Smirking to himself, he announces, "I never did get anything to eat. I'll be back in a little while."
Jurt nods without looking up. "Don't get lost again."
Marrek smirks and heads for the door. On his way out, he says, "Why don't you get Ryoden that sundae? Should mollify her for a bit..." He closes the door on Jurt's glare, then heads down the hall.
His stomach grumbles, and he seriously starts considering spending a few weeks learning a few of Mandor's gourmand spells. He spots a servant milling about, dusting and doing her best to look busy.
Marrek crosses the hall and taps the servant on the shoulder. "Pardon me," he says as she turns, "where might I find the kitchen?"
She looks back over her shoulder and smiles. "The bottom level, sir. Down two flights, and to the right. Just follow your nose."
"Thank you, my dear." Turning, he follows the directions, whistling as he goes and thinking of steaming plates filled with meat, fruit and cheese and a chilled glass of wine.
He collects his culinary treasures, even gaining a basket from a matronly looking woman, and heads out.
From the kitchen he sees he has a few choices: back to the room for some scintillating conversation with the ever chatty Jurt, with a side of confusion from Ryoden (oh, why couldn't Mandor have been an only child?); a dining room, empty; or an orchard and garden for scenery, with the odd noble or servant wandering about.
The thought of enduring Jurt's conversational wit (or lack thereof) turning his stomach, Marrek turns and heads in the direction of the gardens, the aromas emanating from the plate making his mouth water.
As he goes, a small morsel rises from his plate, does a midair loop-the-loop and pops itself into Marrek's mouth. "Mmm..."
He walks, and decides, yes, the garden were a good idea. Tailored to perfection, not a brown leaf among them. A few dirt covered individuals tend the spring flowers, not looking up as he passes.
A voice speaks up from behind him. "Marrek."
Slowly so as not to drop any of his long-awaited food, Marrek turns to regard the speaker.
His stomach drops as he regards the grim countenance of Benedict. Benedict nods, and motions to a bench.
/Well, that figures./
Marrek follows Benedict and takes a seat on the bench. His hunger winning out over his good manners, he takes a bite from his food. Chewing and swallowing before he speaks, he asks, "What can I do for you, Your Highness?"
Benedict doesn't appear to note the Chaosite's preference to eating over talking. He sits beside him and regards him with a firm look.
"You're in charge of my granddaughter. What can you tell me about her?"
Marrek pops another mouthful, chews and swallows. /Serpent's Tooth, that's delicious./
Marrek considers Benedict for a moment before answering. "She's like any child, really," he beings with a shrug. "Wilful, obedient when it suits her, headstrong, stubborn and very very curious." He smiles slightly. "She's manipulative and drives my brother to distraction, which is most likely why he isn't here with her now. She adores her brother, Merlin, and she does have her bearable moments when she's almost adorable."
He pauses to take another bite. "You don't necessarily have to tell her I said that, though."
Benedict lets out something that Marrek guesses is his version of a sigh. "That's not what I meant. I meant her abilities. How abnormal is she?"
Marrek stops in midchew. "Oh," he says, washing down the mouthful, "that." He is silent for a moment, his mind working, wondering how much Benedict can be trusted. /Here is the probably the most frightening man in creation. Not for any reputation of monstrousness, however, just the possibility that he *could* march anywhere and decimate entire shadows, even though he chooses not to.
With very little effort, he could easily become King here himself and yet is content to stay on the sidelines, carefully neutral. Probably for that fact alone, I can trust him in this more than anyone else here in the Castle./
Marrek sets down his fork and takes a pull from his wineglass. "She's like nothing I've seen before, really. Of course, my experience is nothing compared to yours, but I'm fairly certain she's a rarity even by our standards. She masters complex ideas with a childlike simplicity and easily handles powers that took me years to learn." Marrek sighs. "Quite frankly, she unnerves me."
He nods. "I may be older, but the ways of magic I've left to my other siblings. I've never had an interest in it." He leans back. "A prodigy. Is she... a happy child?"
"Usually, yes," Marrek says, picking up his fork once again. "She's very good natured. Lately though, with all that's been going on her mood has gotten a little bit more grim. Understandable that--we've had to restrict her freedom because of the threat to her safety. That's never easy on a child. Hell, I doubt I'd much like it either."
He looks grim. "She should stay so. I've seen prodigies before. Some grow into shapers of the world, others, destructors. Are you related to her?"
"Not by blood, no, only by marriage. She and Mandor share a father, he and I just share a mother."
Marrek looks down at his now-empty plate and sighs. "I've gone and run out of food. Oh well." He looks back up at Benedict. "I know what you're getting at. If you're wondering if she's bad news for the cosmos, I'd have to say no. She isn't the belligerent type. Sure, she'll hold a grudge, but she'll just make your life difficult for a while, not try to take it from you."
He folds his hands together. "She's young. Are you close with Mandor's other side of the family?"
Marrek shakes his head. "Not really. I met Merlin for the first time about three days ago. Jurt and I have had some dealings in the past, but only briefly. I've had even less experience with Despil. She seems to attach herself to Merlin more than anyone else in the family, and I take that as a good sign."
He nods. "I know her mother. She is... not the person I would have influence her. Her brothers are a better choice, by far." He pauses. "Tell me of Mandor."
"Mandor? Mandor's not such a bad egg. Yeah, he's manipulative, shady, underhanded and arrogant in the extreme. But underneath all that he is a true Chaosite." Marrek grins ironically.
"From some things I have heard, that is a true Chaosite." Benedict shakes his head. "And yourself? Do you plan on being involved with her?"
Marrek nods slowly. "For as long as Merlin needs me to be."
Benedict nods. "You have other concerns." He folds his hands and goes to say something else, but Marrek doesn't hear it as the hairs on the back of Marrek's neck stand up. A trump call.
A strong one.
Marrek grimaces. "Your pardon, Benedict. I seem to have a visitor." His fingertip taps his temple.
Benedict nods and stands. "We'll talk later," he says, and walks towards the castle.
Marrek opens up his mind to the trump, and before him he sees the grim countenance of Mandor.
"'Afternoon, old boy. I can begin to guess why you're calling."
"Oh good. Then you won't be indignant when I do this." Marrek feels his joints tighten as something cold runs over his brain and spinal cord. Mandor reaches out and grabs him by the cuff of his shirt, and yanks through the trump.
Out of the corner of his eye, Marrek sees Benedict turn and reach for his sword, but by then, it's too late. Marrek lies on the floor of Mandorways.
Marrek picks himself up off the ground and dusts himself off, straightening his silk shirt. "Really, brother, that was a trifle abrupt. A simple, 'Hey, would you please come through,' would have more than sufficed."
Mandor eyes him dangerously. "Marrek. The only thing that kept me from using that contact to liquefy your brain is the fact that we share some blood. Now, would you care to explain what demon overtook your senses and made you move the King of the Universe into your suite?"
A glimmering doorway appears not far from the Castle gates and Marrek steps through, looking non the worse for ware and with a slight smile on his face. Shuffling his Trumps back into place, he pockets them and looks about.
Not too far away, Marrek spies Benedict and Eleanor with a distraught Ryoden not too far from where Mandor abducted him.
Ah. Wonderful confusion.
/Simply must have a word with my dear brother about abrupt abductions./
Marrek hails the frantic trio (well, duo...Benedict could never be described as 'frantic') with a shout and a wave. "My apologies, Benedict, for the haste of my departure. Before coming to Amber in the company of Ryoden, I was not suitably able to inform various parties in Chaos of my imminent departure. One, a lady friend of my acquaintance, took severe umbrage and took me to task."
Benedict nods. "Find a more demure lady." He replaces his sword and walks back to the castle, tapping Ryoden lightly on the shoulder as he passes. She turns and looks confused.
Ryoden glares at Marrek. "You scared me."
Ellie just behind Ryoden says, by way of explanation "We were told you had possibly been abducted, Marrek."
Marrek smiles. "If you knew the lady in question, you'd find the term to be an apt description." He turns to Ryoden. "Sorry to frighten you, Your Highness, but the matter is resolved, so there should be no other frights from her quarter for the foreseeable future." Looking back up at Eleanor, he asks, "Where is Jurt? I would thought he would accompany you both in my absence."
Ryoden breaks in. "Jurt's in the rooms, resting. He needs to heal a bit more before I put on his foot." Her smile is wicked. "You mind the sight of blood?"
"I have no real problems with it, no." Marrek eyes the little Chaosite openly. "Try not to make him scream too much, ok? We don't want to upset the neighbours."
Ellie asks Ryoden "What if Jurt is knocked out again? Would that help in putting the foot on?"
"Might not be a bad idea."
Ryoden makes a disgusted look. "Of course I'm going to knock him out. I'm not mean!" She starts to walk down the garden path, looking around. "Besides, he'd squirm too much."
She stands on a bench and cranes her neck. "What's Faetan look like?"
Ellie answers "Black hair, black eyes, about 5' 10" tall. Any sign of her?"
Marrek looks puzzled. "Who's Faetan?"
Ellie replies "Daughter of Bleys. It was a possibility that we were meeting here to go out and explore Amber."
Ryoden turns about. "I don't see her. I bet if I could fly..." She smiles sweetly at Marrek and Ellie.
Ellie shakes her head with a smile "No, Ryoden. That's not really a good idea I think. Jurt said no shifting."
"No no. We have enough trouble keeping track of you on the ground, Highness." He looks around for someone matching the given description.
Ryoden pouts and jumps down, then starts picking up some sticks from the ground.
Marrek looks around, and doesn't see anyone matching the description.
Ellie wonders if Faetan might still be involved with Bleys and Corwin...
Ellie says "Look, Faetan may still be involved with Corwin and Bleys. Let's just carry on with what we wish to do next. Ryoden, what would you like to do next?"
"You two have a good time. I'm going to go look in on Jurt. Let me know if you need anything." With that, Marrek heads up the Castle steps and through the huge double doors.