|Tell me when this page is updated|
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."