Flora regards Marrek somewhat more approvingly. Jurt motions back. "And this is Marrek of House Aida. He's keeping us company."
Ryoden comes to the back of the couch and leaps over, but manages to keep her mouth shut while studying the new Amberite.
Flora nods to Marrek, a small smile emerging as she looks at his manner of dress, then she moves to study Eleanor. "And who do you belong to...?"
Ellie replies with a polite smile "I'm Corwin's daughter, if that's what you mean."
"Perceptive." She tilts her head. "Short, for Corwin's daughter. At least you're well dressed." She casts a small disdainful look at the somewhat ragged Jurt and Ryoden. He catches it and glares, but Ryoden appears unmiffed.
"We'll have to redress the two of you for the ball, however. You didn't happen to bring anything besides your house dressings with you, did you?"
Ryoden's eyes widen. "A ball?" Her face grows dark. "Great," she mutters.
Ellie smiles reassuringly at Ryoden then asks Flora softly "May I ask when the ball is to be?"
"Tomorrow," she replies. "At least it should be. This whole note thing has taken us all by surprise... but we were overdue anyway. The nobles' bank accounts we getting too fat." She touches Ryoden's hair and grimaces. "A princess? Really... I met Dara once. She didn't seem the type to breed a street urchin."
/That street urchin, dear Florimel, levelled your precious son with a mere thought. I'd keep that in mind if I were you.../
Ryoden's chin goes out defiantly, and for a moment, ripped jeans and all, she looks every inch of royalty. "I like my clothes _as they are_."
Jurt pulls her close. "And she isn't Dara's charge. She's mine."
Marrek gives a mental wince at Jurt's words. /Go ahead, Jurt. Hand her the ammunition./ Marrek finds a convenient wall upon which to lean and crosses his arms. "So to what occasion do we attribute this grand ball, Lady Florimel?"
Ellie backs up Marrek, saying gently "Indeed. It would be most helpful if we were to know this. After all, one would hate to arrive at a birthday party with nothing for the guest of honour, for example, or a masquerade without a mask."
Flora takes out a small book from some place on her person. "We're celebrating a glorious snafu in the human resources department which has made me an aunt a few times over. Now, how many in your delegation?"
"Three," replies Jurt, "But Ryo and I won't be going. Marrek can go if he wants." Ryoden nods, and sticks her tongue out at Flora.
Flora cocks an eyebrow. "Really?" she breathes to Jurt. She puts the book away and walks over to the petulant Ryoden, smiling. She strokes the child's cheek and purrs.
"There'll be sweets..." Ryoden's eyes light up and refocuses her energies on Jurt. Flora smiles at him. "Three, then."
"Wouldn't miss it for the world."
Ellie, watching how smoothly Flora has changed the situation, suppresses a smile. As unknown as she is to Ellie, the young woman nevertheless likes her. She's interesting indeed, Ellie decides. As for the ball, if nothing else it will be instructive and dancing is always fun. How many cousins constitute a few?...
Marrek's thoughts mirror Eleanor's own in one respect, though neither know it. A few cousins. Add in the Elders who will certainly make an appearance, the mysterious wanderer of the Castle and one or two unknowns and you've got the makings of a security nightmare. /Tomorrow promises to be an exceptionally long night--if we're still here, that is./
Even as plans begins to form in his mind, Marrek wonders how long until Jurt can be back up on his feet...
Having conquered the child, Flora looks back at Eleanor. "And where has my brother been hiding you, dear?" She seems to size the young woman up. "You do know how to dance, don't you?"
She looks back at Marrek. "Aida... a new house?" She taps her lip. "You look... familiar."
Ellie nods "I have lived in a number of places. And yes, I do know how to dance. Indeed, I like dancing very much."
Marrek straightens and waves a hand nonchalantly. "Relatively. A consolidation of several lesser Houses."
"Hmmm... and your original house was? I assume this new house has something to do with our recent war, no?" She smiles. "Always some new upstarts looking to fill the vacuum."
"Was of little consequence." Marrek's eyes gain a momentary dangerous glint before being covered quickly by wry amusement. /Give it about an hour, Dear Florimel. Then you'll know much more about upstarts getting their due./
She eyes Jurt's foot. "I guess _you_ won't be dancing, will you?" Jurt goes to reply, but Ryoden breaks in eagerly.
"Oh, no! I made him a foot! He can dance. Mand--" Jurt pulls her back, breaking off her sentence.
"Gee, that dinner's probably getting really cold, isn't it?"
Ellie smiles and adds "And in addition, I'm sure there is much we have to discuss before tomorrow, Aunt Flora. As well as my father does, I am sure there is much about Amber and its ways that you could fill me in on, the correct manner in which to behave for example, if you were so willing. Having dinner while we talk would be so much more pleasant and civilised."
/I wouldn't put too large a wager on that, my dear Eleanor./ Marrek glances out a window at the setting sun. "Isn't it getting on towards dinnertime now, Lady Florimel?"
She smiles. "I'm well aware of the time. I just wanted to stop by and give my welcome to the Chaos delegation. I'm sure we'll have time to chat later."
She spins, and goes to leave, but as she gets to the door, she looks over her shoulder and winks at Jurt. "My son sends his regards." With that, she disappears around the corner.
Jurt scowls. "Let him try and send them again."
Ellie says quietly "Don't let yourself be goaded, Jurt. The only person that's hurting is you. And be as ready as you can be just in case. Ryoden, if you want, we can get you something to wear tomorrow and take you for more sundaes." She smiles "Now, I have to get going. I'll be back later."
With that, Ellie hurries out of the shared chambers and onwards to the dinner meeting.
Marrek's grin is predatory as he walks over to stand at Jurt's side. "Besides," he says, dropping a heavy hand on Jurt's shoulder. "He'd have to go through both of us, wouldn't he?"
Jurt chuckles, but then his face grows grim. "I think we'd better keep our distance. I don't want Ryoden getting involved. She works on animal instincts, and I don't think our new friend would be the victor."
Ryoden sulks, oblivious to Jurt's words. "Everybody wants to change my clothes. I want to go to Kashfa. Luke doesn't care what I wear."
"Won't be long," Jurt reassures her.
"The sooner the better," Marrek agrees with a frown. "The more people I meet here, the less I like this place."
"I've had a bit more luck," concedes Jurt, "but I think she's more the exception than the rule."
Ryoden rises and fetches her metal foot. She casts a look at Jurt sitting unawares, casually browsing a book again, then at Marrek. She wiggles her fingers in a pretend casting and smiles inquisitively.
Marrek stares at her for a moment, eyebrow raised. Finally, with a shrug, he gestures for her to proceed.
She walks by Jurt, and this time he notices her muttering and motion. He stiffens and goes to protest, but slumps over as she drops the final lynchpin.
She pulls up his pant leg quickly and unwraps the bandages, giving the metal foot to Marrek.
She pauses and looks at the mangled foot for a moment, muttering softly, as if trying to remember something. She then snaps her fingers and places her fingertips on a patch of skin.
The healing ends start to unravel as she concentrates.
Marrek, having resolved to no longer be surprised by this young prodigy, nonetheless is startled at the skills she displays. Moving with silent awe, he kneels down beside Ryoden and waits for the appropriate moment--as best as he can judge it--to attach the replacement foot.
She puts her hand out and guides the makeshift foot into place, then squints as she forces muscles and bone to merge onto the metal contraption.
She opens her eyes and looks pleased with herself. She wraps up the more gruesome bits and smiles at Marrek.
"Now what? He needs to sleep."
Marrek gives her a slight smile. "Oddly enough, I'm hungry. I'm sure we can scare up some food down in the kitchens if you're game."
/Or the dining room, perhaps?/
He nods at the snoozing Jurt. "How long is he likely to be out?"
"Hour or so. Why, you want more?" She wiggles her fingers at Jurt's slack face.
"I'm hungry too. I don't know where the kitchen is, though." Marrek notes she doesn't seem heartbroken about the idea of exploring.
Marrek smiles again. "I'm sure we can find it. We just have to look in all the right places." Finding a handy blanket, he drapes it over the slumbering Chaosite and walks to the door, holding it open for Ryoden.
"After you, Highness."
She waves to the prone Jurt and smiles at Marrek as she passes him. "I know where the kitchen will be." She skips off. "the last place we look!"
Marrek feels a smile as he recognizes an old joke of Mandor's that used to get bounced off him at a similar age.
Ryoden reaches the stairs and sniffs. "Food--?"
Marrek finds her good natured humor infectious as he closes the door. A small frown lights on his face for a moment, however, as he considers something, his hand still upon the latch handle. The frown deepens as he concentrates briefly and an audible groan of stretching wood fills the corridor. Nodding, he falls into step behind Ryoden. "Follow your nose, Highness. I'll be right behind you."
Ellie wanders for a while, but after cornering a few servants, she finds the correct dinning room. Small, but still terribly formal.
She enters, and at the head of the table, sees an old man smiling at his surroundings bemusedly.
Ellie smiles and walks up to the old man. She curtsies politely then smiles and says "Good evening, sir. I'm Eleanor. I don't think we've been introduced yet."
He waves his hand. "I'm never introduced." He studies her, then pats the seat to his right. "You're a pretty girl. Not a servant, though. Where'd you come from?"
She sits down to his right as he indicates and replies "Thank you. My father Corwin brought me to Amber, sir. So how should I address you?"
"Corwin's your father?" He leans back. "I suppose it could be. You have the colouring." He puts a wrinkled finger under her chin and lifts it a bit, turning her face from one side to another.
"Nice features. You have the family structure." He releases her and smiles.
"You can call me Oberon."
Ellie smiles "Please call me Ellie. All my friends do." She pauses then asks "Please excuse my not knowing, but where do you fit in to the family? I've heard your name a couple of times, but that's been it. Are you one of my uncles too?"
"Uncle?!" he almost roars, but then goes into a coughing fit. After a few minutes he composes himself again, then looks at her with a scowl.
"Ungrateful little shit... not you, Corwin. I'm your grandfather." He mutters a few more things Ellie is somewhat glad she can't hear.
Ellie hesitates then smiles warmly at Oberon, saying "Well, I'm very glad to meet you, Oberon. Don't be angry at Dad, please. He's had a lot on his mind lately. I'm not helping him either. I go off and do things on my own that he doesn't always agree with." She smiles ruefully "Still, I'm learning. And I'm also rambling. Sorry." Her smile widens "It is nice to meet you though."
He plays with his fork idly. "You sound like the rest of them, then, though you do have an honest face." He glares at his empty mug, then turns his attention back to her. "So, what sort of things did you get into?"
Ellie asks innocently "The rest of who? And is there any way I can cheer you up? Make you feel better?"
He laughs, the shadow of something that might have been hearty at one point. "The rest of my progeny, little demons they are. And I think I'll feel much cheered in a few minutes."
A serving girl enters and regards the old man nervously. She fills his mug and he takes it, grunting. "Aren't we supposed to be eating soon?"
Her hand shakes, spilling some of the pitchers contents. "Sir, are you sure--?"
"Goddammit, yes!" he yells, and slams the mug down weakly, but strongly enough to send the girl running from the room.
Ellie watches then replies "I haven't met many of my uncles so far and only one aunt." She smiles wryly "They're a mixed bag. And I'm much too honest, I think." She shrugs "C'est la vie." She asks "So what do you do here in Amber?"
He takes up his mug. "I rot." He drinks and his eyes grow distant. "The golden age is over. I've put puppies at the helm."
Ellie is quiet for a moment then asks "Oberon, forgive me if this is a silly question. However, if you're not happy with the way they run things why did you put them there to start with?"
"I didn't," he spits. "They made their moves before they should have." He drinks deeply. "I thought their failure at playing at kings the first time would have calmed them down, but no-- everyone has a _better_ way." He frowns deeply.
"Should have drowned the lot at birth, all the good they've done me."
Ellie replies "Well, why not just be king again? And they have done you some good." She smiles at him "You have a grand-daughter who likes you for a start. And if you don't want to be king, there are a lot of other things to do."
He pats her hand, then motions to his legs. She realizes the only reason he sits now is due to a combination of well hidden straps and supports. "You should have seen me in my glory, child. I've had too many things ripped out to be king. I wouldn't be a good one now."
Ellie gently squeezes his hand "I'm sorry you've been injured. Is there anything I can do to help?"
He shrugs. "Turn back time. Besides that..." He looks at the door angrily. "How long are they going to keep me waiting? If they've warned him..."
Ellie hesitates then says "Oberon, I have an idea that will help both you and my father, if you want to hear it that is. Why don't you advise my father? Nobody could deny you that post after all. And it would give you something to do. I don't doubt you were a great king so why not let that experience benefit others?"
He watches her for a moment, then sighs. "There's more to running a universe than politics. Do you have pattern yet?"
Ellie nods, her attention focussed on her new-found grandfather "Yes, I have Pattern. Why do you ask?"
She runs ahead, looking over her shoulder every few minutes to ensure Marrek is indeed following. Caution? How peculiar.
She nearly runs into a laden down servant girl. She steps back and watches her enter a side room. Ryoden glances at the door, then the direction the girl came from. "I think the kitchen's that way, but they're having dinner there."
Marrek leans up against the wall next to the door, crossing his arms, a wry smirk dancing across his lips. "Your choice, Highness. I'd point out, though, that food is always better when someone brings it to you..."