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.
Jurt takes out his trump deck and starts thumbing through it. "Mandor, I think..."
Ellie says to Ryoden "Would you draw the woman you saw, Ryoden?" then asks Jurt "I take it you don't like the thought of ghosts."
Ryoden nods, and suddenly a piece of paper and a pen appear in her hands. Benedict looks somewhat surprised, and looks at Jurt, but Jurt is busy responding to Ellie.
"Ghosts, I don't mind. Ghosts of Brand, I do. You don't know who Brand is, do you?"
Ellie shakes her head "Not really. I heard he killed someone and designed the window in my room, but I don't know any more than that. Who is Brand, Jurt?"
Jurt thinks. "I never met him, but you hear tons of stories about him. He still has some fans in Chaos, but they're more the fanatical bent-- From what I hear he tried to get the throne of Amber, destroy the pattern, stuck a knife in a few people, had it out with your dad, and eventually got killed at the rim-- that's a place in Chaos. Like a big hole. He dragged in Corwin's sister when he went." He shrugs. "Some think he was mad, some think he was a visionary... me, I think it came down to power-hungry."
Benedict leans over Ryoden as she sketches. She turns and hands the finished picture to him. He regards it for a moment, and looks at her. "You draw well." She smiles. Jurt shifts uncomfortably.
"It's a family thing," he adds quickly, "Do you know the person?"
Benedict shakes his head. "No, but someone might. Do you have a trump of yourself?" Jurt nods and hands him one. "I'll be in touch." With that, he leaves.
Jurt sighs and looks at Ryoden. "You really need to be a bit less flashy."
Ellie sits quietly, various pieces of a puzzle falling together. The sister of Corwin killed by Brand. Corwin's rage and grief. Unconsciously, her face pales as she remembers her father's face at seeing the window and her own defence of it.
Absently, she says "Thanks, Jurt. That has helped."
Jurt looks up, confused. "What helped?"
Ryoden pouts. "I'm not flashy. It wasn't a trump or anything. And I never carry paper, so what else was I supposed to draw on?"
Jurt turns his attention back to Ryoden. "Just because we're not in Chaos anymore, doesn't mean that you can show off. These people are more careful than Chaosites. I'm sure you've given Marrek plenty to think about."
Ellie nods "Jurt is right, Ryoden. The people here, I'm finding, are very careful and wouldn't hesitate to hurt you if it benefited them. You need to be careful too, just as careful as in Chaos. None of us want to see anyone hurt." She smiles at Ryoden "I just got a little
sister after all. That means a lot to me and I don't want you to risk yourself."
Ellie looks at Jurt "Thanks for telling me about Brand. It cleared up some things I was wondering about. I asked Father about the Trump tuition by the way that you suggested. He's going to have me taught here as he doesn't want me going to Chaos."
Ryoden pouts. "They never let me do anything, you know." She sighs and looks at Marrek's room. "I guess I'm not going out today."
Jurt shakes his head. "Afraid not." He looks at Ellie. "Why won't he let you go to Chaos? It's not all that bad. I know we get a bad rap for being bloody, but that's only to people stupid enough to get in line. Everyone else is relatively safe."
Ellie answers "There is a reason, trust me." She smiles "I guess we'll just have to meet somewhere else. If you still want to, that is."
He rolls his eyes. "In Amber less than a day, and she already has a secret." He looks back at her, a carefully neutral look on his face. "Shadow is fine. I can set something up. What do you like?"
Ellie looks at him, a puzzled expression on her face "Why the mask? I just thought Shadow would be a good midway point for us to meet after you go back to Chaos." She smiles "Anyway, I can hardly go to Chaos when I don't know how to walk Shadow, now can I? As to anything else, Father's just being protective." Laughing softly, Ellie adds "He's heard of Mandor's reputation too."
He goes to say something but nods. "Yes, that is a good idea. I don't know how long it'll be before we go back. And Mandor is-" He cuts off, then looks at the card in his hand. "Oh, that's right." He appears to struggle with something for a moment, then sighs and concentrates on the trump. A moment later Mandor steps through.
He bows his head to his brother, then turns to Ellie. "Lady Eleanor. Again, a pleasure." He kisses the back of her hand.
Ryoden rushes over and hugs Mandor about the waist. He pats her head, and sends her back to some project she's working on under a side table.
Ellie smiles politely to Mandor, saying "Lord Mandor, likewise a pleasure." She gently withdraws her hand, stepping a fraction closer to Jurt as she does so, and says "Marrek is asleep currently, having worked tirelessly to ensure Ryoden's protection along with Jurt."
smiling more warmly at Jurt as she mentions him.
He nods politely. "Is there a reason you called me?"
Ryoden looks up from her project before Jurt or Ellie can respond. "Yeah! Someone was in my ROOM!" She looks angry. "Sat on my bed and everything. Benedict has a picture of her. He's going to find her." She looks up at the snake again, smiles, then goes back to her
conjured objects, which include a number of small metal rods.
Mandor looks back at Jurt, obviously disturbed. Jurt grimaces. "Whatever it was, it has a way to get past wards and danger sense-- and it can cast a pretty strong silence spell. My
amulet woke me, but I couldn't hear anything. Same with Marrek." He sighs. "It even has Benedict puzzled."
Mandor sits and pours himself some coffee. He sits and thinks for several moments. "Ryoden, come over here. It's time we had a talk."
Ellie quietly says "If you will excuse me." then lifts her canvas and case and retreats into her room, discreetly leaving the brothers to talk with Ryoden.
Closing the door behind her, she cautiously looks round the room realising it is the only room that has not been checked after last night's events.
The room is as it ever was, the stained glass filtering the light a bit. The piece isn't sinister, like she'd expect a work by a potential madman to be.
She searches to room, but turns up nothing. But something is out of place--
She realizes her bed is made. She knows she didn't make it, and she hadn't seen any servants enter...
Through the door she can hear the muffled tones of Mandor and Jurt talking, and occasionally a protest by Ryoden.
Ellie shakes her head. Poor Ryoden. Whatever is being said doesn't sound to her liking. Ellie looks round, remembering some places in Paris. Older houses generally where doors were fashioned to look like the walls, a fashion in the Sun-King's court. With this in mind, Ellie begins checking the walls, looking for any irregularities, her curiosity aroused.
She feels the walls with her fingers, tapping and listening. At first, she gets nothing... back and forth along them searching...
Then she notices something odd. There's one place in the floor that seems to sound different. She had been concentrating on the walls she didn't notice it at first-- she only heard it because she walked over it.
A knock sounds on the door. "Lady Eleanor? Our discussion is done, if you would care to join us."
Eleanor notes the place on the floor, and pulls a small rug over it as a further mark, intending to come back and explore further. She then walks over and opens the door, moving out to join the others.
Ryoden has moved back to her project, although she seems to be distracted by the fact that she can't decide who she wants to glare at more: Jurt or Mandor. They take her evil eye stoically.
Mandor leads her back in, then takes a seat once more. "This has been some exciting times for you. I hear you recently acquired pattern?"
Ellie sits down, saying quietly "Yes, a rather impulsive move on my part. Luckily, I had good friends to advise me."
"And a bit of luck," he replies.
Ryoden walks over to Jurt and climbs on the arm of his chair, her animosity gone. "I need to do something," she says.
He smiles. "That is?"
"This." Her hand flashes out, and Jurt's eyes go wide. They then close as his body goes limp. Mandor chuckles.
"Very deceptive, Ryoden. Maybe you are my sister after all. Is there a reason for it?" She nods.
"I need measurements. I'm making him a foot. And they won't feel good." Mandor nods.
"M'lady, you may not want to watch this."
Ellie nods and rises, saying softly "Thank you for your consideration, Lord Mandor." She smiles at Ryoden "I'll see you in a short time."
Heading back through to her room, closing the door behind her, Ellie pulls away the rug and begins to examine the floor in more detail.
She soon finds the edges of the door down-- it appears to be a small door, wide enough for a medium sized person to go down. Try though she might, she can't seem to find a latch or any kind of opening mechanism on it.
Ellie sits back from the door, thinking. It is likely that this door was here originally. It may open from the other side only, or it could have an opening mechanism removed from the door itself.
Musing on this, she looks round at the permanent features, the ones that are unlikely to have been removed along with any other trace of Brand. She shakes her head, amused at her own ramblings, and searches anyway.
The walls, already searched, reveal nothing once again. The only thing left is the stained glass window.
Ellie goes over and looks at it, the phoenix moving upwards into the black sun. Upwards. On an impulse, she traces the edge of the black sun, looking for any difference in level to the surrounding glass.