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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."