he notes his shoulders loose some tenseness, as if he had been expecting something else. "Hire, no, not really. This is a military and commercial port. But I can arrange something if you want."
Thomas follows behind Gerard, keeping a certain distance.
A large man, all muscle, appears from the shadows behind Gerard, dressed in fatigues and carrying an impressive looking sword. He hangs back a bit, watching.
Ellie smiles up at her uncle "That would be lovely, thank you. I grew up by the sea and like being on it when I can." She looks abashed "I better get back now. Luke is taking Jurt and I out to lunch. Thanks again for your help, Uncle Gerard. It was nice speaking to you." With a polite smile, she backs off and goes to join her companions.
Thomas simply raises a slight eyebrow at his cousin's sudden backing off. His face never falters.
Gerard nods a goodbye at her and turns back up the stairs. "See what I mean? A cutie. Corwin needs a sense of humor these days." He starts up the stairs again. "I'm sure you'll get to meet her better later."
Thomas shrugs. "Either way is fine with me. As long as I don't get in trouble and the rest of my vacation is fine."
Gerard looks back a bit. "You should get to know your cousins if you plan on sticking around. They're the ones most likely to be your allies. There aren't many like me."
They make their way back to the tailor's room. On a few dummies are some rather nice, if rather old-fashioned, sets of clothing, all in green and black. At least they seem free of lace or frills. Gerard seems pleased, and moves to talk to Muriel.
Thomas takes the clothes off the dummies. Nicely made hunter green silk shirt, no frills. Loose fighting black slacks with black boots.
"Nice work, where can I change into these?"
Tommy notices the changing rooms to the right. "Never mind." He changes out of his fatigues and into more Amber type clothing.
Gerard nods in approval as he walks out of the dressing room. "Told you he was good."
They walk along the hall, and Thomas notes that he straightens his clothes a bit as they walk. "So, you feel ready to meet the king?"
"Ready as I'll ever be." Thomas smoothes the lines in his clothes and tightens his sword belt.
They walk down the hallway, and Gerard takes a few turns. Eventually, they come to a huge set of double doors, deeply carved and inlaid, mostly with pictures of a Unicorn or a singe tree.
Gerard clears his throat once, nods at Thomas, then opens the doors.
The room within is huge, obviously made to hold a court of hundred comfortably. The air within though-- the emptiness makes Thomas uncomfortable. It feels unnatural.
The throne is empty, but seeming as how it looks horribly uncomfortable, Thomas can't blame the king. A man looks out a large bay window, looking over his shoulder slightly as Gerard enters. He nods.
Thomas enters to Gerard's right, slightly behind him. A quick survey of the room is all he does before silently waiting for introductions.
Gerard steps back a bit, letting Thomas be forward. "I'd like to present Prince Thomas to you."
Corwin turns and skims him over. Looking back at Gerard, he looks unimpressed and a bit confused. "That's nice. Prince of what?"
"Prince of Amber, your Majesty."
Thomas folds his right arm to his waist and bows from the hip. Standing straight again, he regards Corwin's reaction.
Corwin looks surprised. "By whom, may I ask?" Gerard's face fills with consternation as he passes Thomas, pulling out the same parchment again.
"What do you mean, by who? You're the one who asked to see him!"
Thomas now sees the strategy. Corwin gave ALL the princes and princesses that parchment. It would make it seem like he knew, and would bring all the secrets to the forefront. In a time like this, silence is golden.
Gerard throws the parchment at Corwin's face, but Corwin manages to intercept it. He opens it. After reading, "Gerard, I honestly don't know anyth-"
"Bullshit! This is low, Corwin. You get all up in arms because I run into your daughter, and then pretend not to have any idea about sending out cute little invites for people's kids to come to town, trying to shake things up. Dad could pull it off, not you."
Not Corwin? Interesting. Who would dare impersonate a King, knowing full well he'd find out eventually? Thomas remains silent until these two work it out a bit more. Thomas doesn't know the players well enough to guess.
Corwin looks at the note one long last time. "Gerard, I wouldn't try to force information out of you this way. You've stood by--"
Gerard grabs the paper back. "Bullshit. You're as shifty as any of them. I should've thrown you off the god-damn cliff that day, Corwin!"
Corwin steps back and looks at Gerard for a long moment. "Then if that's all, you can leave. We can talk later." With a curse, Gerard turns on his heel and storms out.
Thomas looks at Corwin, and states quickly "I'll talk to him." and follows Gerard out the door.
Corwin looks like he's about to say something, but stops himself.
Gerard slams the doors shut behind him, forgetting Thomas. As Thomas joins him, he can hear a string of unending curses run out of his mouth.
Thomas picks up the stride behind him."Let me know when you want to calm down. I think I know what happened."
Gerard pauses for a moment, pulls in a breath, then throws a massive punch at a door to his left. The door disintegrates. Thomas can't help but be a bit relieved that it was only a broom closet.
Gerard turns. "I'm calm. Talk."
"I don't think Corwin sent those out. Why would he act surprised if we walked in the door? At first I thought he just gave those notes to all the family, but his surprise at the note itself tells me you and him have been duped."
Who gave you that note in the first place?"
He leans against the wall, balling his fist. "You don't understand the game. They lie just to lie. Uncover secrets like a kid digging up worms for fishing. Nothing's sacred to them. He just wanted to show me that he was smarter than me." He growls, stewing.
After a minute of looking sour, he finishes responding. "It was delivered, like everything else around here. No one knows how to do anything for themselves around here."
"Staying angry at him is not going to discover what happened. If he's playing a game, let's see where it goes. If he's telling the truth, which I'm inclined to believe for now, you can get more clues together."
Thomas starts heading back to the throne room. "Come on, you've got nothing to loose."
Gerard clenches his fist a few more times, then goes to follow Thomas. "God-damn it. Sound too much like your dad."
"We'll get to the bottom of it, and when we find out whose playing games, I won't think to prevent you from lobbing anyone off cliffs." Thomas and Gerard open the doors to the throne room again, this time Thomas entering first.
Corwin starts as the door opens again, and steps back, hand flying to the hilt of a sword. Gerard lets Thomas go forward, glowering openly, occasionally looking at the bay window, then back to Corwin in a silent threat. Corwin doesn't miss it.
"He's made up his mind to calm down, your Majesty. I believe you've both been tricked." Thomas carefully steps forward. "From the sound of that note, I expect you'll find more of us younger generations about. They were delivered by messenger, so I suspect someone is playing a game."
I figured the two of you could compare notes and put some light into this situation."
Gerard glares at Corwin. Corwin takes his hand off the hilt of his blade and sits at a side table. Gerard joins him. Softly, Corwin says, "Gerard, I had no idea you had a son. Really." Gerard looks like he doesn't know how to respond.
"It would seem someone either believes that or is just trying to get all the younger generation here." Thomas sits down with the two elders.
Corwin nods at Thomas, but Gerard still looks sceptical. "You've lied to me before."
"If I had wanted to meet your son, I would have asked. I'm surprised you didn't raise him here." Gerard's face tenses, but he doesn't respond.
"I'm afraid this secret will get out anyway, especially since aunt Flora discovered it."Thomas looks at Corwin. "Gerard has been like a father to me. He's seen me raised to the man I am. The man who seeded me, however, was Eric."
Gerard glowers. "I could have kept her quiet."
Thomas simply smiles. "Anyone who likes flattery that much also likes the sound of her own voice."
Corwin considers Thomas while answering. "Like you can keep the sun from rising. I don't hold any animosity towards Eric's line."
"Well, you and he didn't get along."
"Yes, I figured that out around the time that he put out my eyes with pokers." He brings his hands up on the table and folds them. "What are your plans here in Amber?"
Thomas looks back to Corwin."Gerard asked me to come here, per that summons. So I'm here and I'm on vacation. Looks like it might be a working vacation."
"Let's see the start to all this, where's that note?"
Gerard takes out the note and lays it on the table. Corwin studies it more closely this time. "It's not my handwriting, but summons never are... We have scribes for that. And the seal... easily duplicated I guess. How was it delivered?"
Gerard studies it with him. "A black bird gave it to me while I was out supervising construction."
Thomas looks a bit odd. "Are animals normally how orders are carried around here?" Thomas eyes the note, trying to gain any details. However, not knowing any of the players well, it's not likely to yield much.
Thomas remembers Gerard's description of aunt Fiona. Red head, fiery, and smart. She's also Corwin's main advisor.
"Do you think she sent these out?"
Corwin drummed his fingers on the table. "Maybe. She's fairly independent. But- She's never talked about anything like that..." He's silent for a moment, and Thomas feels an unspoken 'however' hang in the air.
"Well, if anything, it has prompted mine, and probably others, arrivals here. I'm pleased to be here, even under these circumstances."
Thomas looks around the room.
"If both your time would be better served with a new kid elsewhere, I'm sure I can find things to do."
Corwin is about to respond when the door to the throne room swings open, and the woman Gerard and Thomas ran into earlier enters. Corwin sighs.
"No one knocks anymore."
Flora saunters over to the table, smiling at Thomas. "Tommy! What a surprise. I had wondered where you had run off to." She nods at Gerard, then turns to Corwin.
"Are you free for dinner tonight? Mathonwyr is in the castle now, but I'm sure he's itching to get back to Dworkin, so the sooner you can look him over the better."
Corwin shakes his head. "Flora, I didn't send for him."
"Well, that confirms that Uncle Gerard wasn't the only one." Thomas looks at the reddening Flora. "Do you happen to know who else got these invitations?"
Flora shakes her head. "I haven't seen anyone new in the castle. There's a good chance the just ig-" She catches herself, and glances briefly at Corwin, who flinches.
"Well, we're in town anyway. I'd hate to waste a trip. Is eight alright?"
Thomas is in bit of a shock as to her reaction. Then again, considering Gerard's strong words, it seems this monarch doesn't have a lot of sway over his family. Thomas waits for the scene to finish before commenting further.
Corwin nods, recovering from the slight. "Eight will be fine. I'll notify the staff."
Flora nods back, and moves off to study a painting. "He'll be bring a friend-- A Begman girl he picked up a while ago."
"I thought he was studying under Dworkin."
"He's also still a young man, and they get distracted." She turns her head slightly, as if listening to something. "Oh dear. He's woken." She smiles at the three at the table. "I'll see you at eight, Corwin." With that, she leaves.
Corwin looks at Gerard questioningly. "Random," he replies to the unspoken question.
"Ah, yes, Random. I feel awful about what happened to him. Uncle Gerard told me what happened."
Thomas sits back in his chair and looks at Corwin.
"Look, your majesty, just to clear the air. I'm not gonna cause any trouble while I'm here. I'll just stay out of the way and try to have some fun. However, if you need me for anything, just let me know. I'll help any way I can."
Corwin looks a bit surprised, but smothers it immediately. "Well, yes. I might give you a call." He collects up the paper. "If you don't mind, I'd like to keep this. I have some people to talk to." Gerard nods to him as Corwin leaves.
A few seconds pass after the great doors swing shut again, and Gerard gets up. "Well, now I either don't trust him, or I've lost complete faith in his ability to muster up some guts on the throne. Wonderful."
Thomas shrugs. "Either way, it's his problem now. You did what you had to do." Thomas gets up. "Ok, the duty part of all this is over. We know to keep our ears open, but doesn't prevent us from having some fun. Let's get out of here."
Gerard leads the way out of the throne room. "His problem now? You have a lot to learn about kingdoms. When the king has a problem, everyone has a problem."
"I feel like fish. You like fish, kid?"
"Never had fish, really. Kind of a commodity where I'm from." Gerard and Thomas start leaving the castle. "And I didn't mean like we should forget it or anything. It's just now he's gotta make some moves to make our mystery person come to light. I'm sure if we talked to everyone else they'll give us the same story you and I went through."
Gerard nods. "Wonder how many of the others are coming home? If I know half of them, Flora's right. They'll ignore it. But they won't forget. And having Corwin's stamp on it is only going to piss them off, thinking he's acting superior. Hell, I got mad, thinking that he knew about you all this time and just let me go on being sneaky." They head out of the castle, and down the stairs into town. "Make sure you keep that knife of yours handy. We're not going to a good section."
"Should I put the sword back then? Don't want to start fights." Thomas looks around to the city below. "If Corwin is going to be King, he's going to have to assert himself at some point. This letting other people throw around orders on his behalf and behind his back doesn't bode very well."
Gerard shakes his head. "Been this way for years. He had a good start, but with Dad not really being dead, and Fi and Julian stepping in, and everyone else running back out to shadow... It's not pretty.
And keep that sword out. That's your best bet at not getting into any trouble. Being unarmed is an invitation to these goons. Not that we're likely to get into any rows with me, but there are some that don't know a prince when they see one."
"Too bad about Granddad being sick and all. Any chance he'll get better or is this going to go on for a while?" They start heading towards the docks. Thomas adjusts his father's sword so it shows on his left hip more prominently.
Gerard shakes his head. "What happened to him-- he got a part of his soul ripped out. A pretty hefty part, too. You don't take an aspirin for that."
The section of town shifts from the upper crust lords section, to a more rising middle class, full of merchant shops and luxury boutiques.
"How the hell does that happen?" Thomas looks a bit unnerved. "Shopping district?"
Gerard looks around. "Not our stop. We're further down the way." He adjusts his sword in his scabbard while talking. "You know the pattern you walked? Well, a few of our siblings got the bright idea to us it to try and control Amber. Stabbed my nephew to do it, too. Dad had to fix it, and when he did, the pattern just ripped itself right out of his blood." He shudders. "A part of your soul."
"So it's that much a part of you?" Thomas continues as the houses and shops get less and less elegant. "Probably a good idea to make sure nobody fucks with it anymore."
Gerard looks around. "Why do you think I'm here? Trust me, we've got it well guarded where it counts, and you haven't been there before. Most likely, you never will be. Don't worry about it, though. It's not all that impressive. Been there once, to collect my dad. Won't be going again."
The distinct aroma of harbour arrives to the noses of Gerard and Thomas. "I think I see what you mean about a rough neighbourhood. I've seen worse." Thomas says with a straight face.
Gerard chuckles. "Not a problem with us. They aren't that tough down here. Just hate to get blood on my shoes."
Gerard looks around and spots the place he was looking for: the archetypical dive, a place called Bloody Dave's.
"If you don't want blood on your shoes, you picked a great restaurant name." Thomas walks in and surveys the landscape. He quickly grasps the situation tactically to make sure there are no surprises.
Gerard shrugs. "Eh, it's not that bad. And people learned a long time ago not to bleed on me."
Inside, Thomas notes it's quite dark, the windows being too grimed over with soot and other unmentionables to let in much light. The crowd is a thinning lunch crowd: some workers, a few sailors, a few more questionable individuals in the back. Gerard spots someone and curses. "What the hell is he doing here?" He walks up and puts his hand on the shoulder of a mild looking middle aged man.
Thomas walks behind Gerard silently. He looks for a free table.
The man turns and smiles a bearded grin at Gerard. "Hey! Didn't know you stopped by here during the day..." He motions for them to join him at his table.
Gerard doesn't look pleased. "Bill, you shouldn't be down in this section. You're a sitting duck."
Bill pats a sword at his side. "I'm armed." Gerard scoffs.
"I've seen you swing that thing. You'll cut your own hand off first."
Gerard motions to Thomas. "Bill Roth, Prince Thomas. Eric's son." Bill sticks out his hand.
"Didn't know Eric had a son."
Thomas shakes Bill's hand and sits down. "I didn't know he had a son until recently. Good to meet you." Thomas looks around for a menu and makes sure everybody is cool in the place.
Bill throws a questioning look at Gerard. He shrugs. "Amberite thing. Keeping the kids ignorant. Kind of a way to keep bad seeds from getting in."
Bill shudders. "And in the case of a bad seed?"
Gerard shakes his head. "You have a brutal employer."
As Thomas looks around, he decides, no, not everyone is cool in this place. A few dark individuals talking in the back, looking about nervously. A tired woman in revealing clothes leaning against the bar. Some scowling individuals looking for a fight or an easy hit. During his search among the unfriendly faces he spots a decaying chalk board with the days specials.
Thomas notes the specials and the bad seeds in the joint. "I'm glad I'm no threat then." Thomas looks over at Bill. "You work for the King, I take it?"
Bill nods. "The royal retainer. Specifically, lawyer. He imported me from the shadow Earth."
Gerard laughs. "Wasn't this supposed to be your retirement?"
Thomas grins a bit. "His retirement and my vacation. Seems like this place keeps you on your toes."
Bill laughs. "Not much a retirement, I'm afraid. The clime may be beautiful, but the atmosphere... "
Gerard nods. "Tommy. You never said what you wanted to do after your vacation."
"Well, I had thought to go back to my home. But now I know it wasn't much of anything real." Thomas gets a thoughtful look on his face. "Maybe I'll keep my father's rooms permanently. As for what I'll do, not sure. What job openings for a new Prince of Amber are there?"
Gerard laughs. "You know what Princes of Amber do? Nothing. A whole lot of it too. Most of 'em just run out to shadow, get drunk, wench, do the occasional plot and deception, and come back for parties."
His face grows a bit dark. "Or fake royal decrees," he growls.
Bill looks confused. "What do you mean?"
Thomas looks at Gerard. "He's a lawyer, too bad the evidence is with his Majesty." Thomas looks back at Bill. "Seems someone is forging royal decrees around here."
Bill looks surprised for a moment, then sighs. "Great. Just what he needs. About what, may I ask?"
A waiter walks up, pad in hand, and looks at the trio expectantly.
Thomas looks up at the waiter. "Gimme a bottle of anything, and a glazed doughnut. And your biggest ribeye." Do nothing? Is that what being royalty here is all about? No way! Thomas would fidget until eternity ends. He attempts to think of ways he can help out.
Bill orders a catfish, and Gerard a shark steak.
Gerard looks at Thomas. "A doughnut?" He notices Bill is still looking for an explanation. "Oh. Right. Someone sent out a bunch of orders to bring the third generation in. Made it sound kind of official and ominous."
"I like doughnuts. Lots of calories and very portable. Cheap too." Thomas eyes the surroundings again. "And that order got me here, but what I'm gonna do here I still don't know. If I didn't want to be a good for nothing loafer, what could I do?"
Gerard leans back. "Hard to say. Julian protects the forest, and gets nasty if anyone edges in on his territory. I've got the sea, and you're always welcome there. Amber itself isn't all that big, you know. Just the castle and the town, and part of Arden." He drums the table. "You also haven't seen the who picture. There's Chaos too."
Bill nods. "Of course, I've done my job just fine without seeing Chaos. I've heard it's not the best place to sightsee."
"Maybe I can put my experience to use. I was into raids, hostage rescue, hit and runs, and spying. Maybe that could be useful around here."
Gerard laughs. "Oh, yeah, we get hostages all the time around here." He suppresses his mirth, trying to spare Thomas's feelings. "You really want a job around here? Why? Why not go out in shadow for a bit, enjoy yourself."
"Because I'd go nuts doing nothing, which going out in shadow would amount to." Thomas looks a bit frustrated. "I could always go back and straighten out home. It'd be interesting. But now that I know who I am and where I'm from, there's got to be something here. Even if it's just training people or guarding something, at least it's something that gives me a reason to be here other than just visit."
Gerard becomes quiet, as if he doesn't know quite what to say. "Don't know what to tell you, kid. This isn't an employment agency. We don't find a spot for you; you do."
Bill fidgets a bit in the awkward silence, and looks relieved when the food comes.
Thomas digs into his steak and eagerly wolfs down his doughnut. "Initiative, eh? Fine. When we're done here I'm gonna look all over the castle and city to get an idea of everything, then I'm gonna put a few ideas into Corwin's head. See if he likes any of them."
Gerard shrugs as he joins Thomas in digging in. "Whatever. You want to find a career, that's up to you."
Bill eats also, though with less gusto. "Have you seen all of Amber yet?"
"Haven't been here too long, but Uncle Gerard has been quite the guide so far. But no, haven't seen all of it yet. I'm looking forward to it." Thomas pours out a glass of whatever he was served. "If you're not too busy later, maybe you could show me some places."
Bill smiles. "I'd love to. I owe Rebma a visit."
Gerard smiles behind his tankard of ale. "Fishing?"
"You could say that."
"Hey, if I can actually be of some help on the trip, I'm in." Thomas eagerly polishes off his steak. He looks around for the waitress for another plate.
Bill shrugs. "Why not? Hope you don't mind your clothes getting wet."
Gerard draws a map off his belt and rolls it out. "Rebma is another part of the kingdom. Here." He points to a place in the sea. "It's underwater."
Thomas looks at the map. "So we use scuba gear or is this yet another hocus pocus trick?" Thomas waves a waitress down.
Bill points to another point on the map. "Hocus-pocus, fortunately. Scuba gear would make me extremely uncomfortable. Claustrophobia." He shudders.
Gerard takes the check, and hands the girl a few coins. "You'll be okay on your own, Tommy? I have a few more things to check up on. Few new ships going up in the yard."
"I'll be fine. Though I will have to get a set of those cards you carry. Would come in handy." Thomas looks back at Bill. "Whenever you're ready, we can go."
Gerard curses. "I meant to get you one of those-- all that Corwin crap distracted me." He shrugs. "Guess it can wait. Stick to Bill. He has one."
Bill smiles apologetically. "A partial one." He gets up, loosening his sword in his scabbard. Gerard rolls his eyes.
"Look about as threatening as a schoolgirl, Bill."
"Looks can be deceiving." Thomas stands up. "I'm sure Bill will make sure we don't need the big knives."
Bill smiles at the Amber youth. "There's some truth in that. I took lessons from him, so he knows what I can do." He laughs. "Age. Catching up with me." He heads out to the street, waving at Gerard.
Thomas waves to Gerard. "I'll see you back in the castle." Thomas heads out of the place and follows Bill down the street. "So this Rebma is underwater, eh? What's it like besides wet?"
Bill smiles. "Well, the magics keep it rather warm, which is good, since the natives don't wear much in the way of clothes. If you know castle Amber, you know castle Rebma. They're reflections." He heads to the docks.
"Don't know it that well, but I can get around the basics of it." Thomas follows Bill down towards the water. "If you don't mind my asking, what's the business in Rebma anyway?"
"Business? As far as I can tell, they try to stay out of politics as much as possible. Well, at least Amber politics. There's been a few scuffles, from what I heard, and I think they didn't like the climate." He passes the docks and heads to the beach.
"So this is more of a casual visit? That's always more fun." Thomas looks over the scenery of the beach, taking in the view.
The beach is abandoned, and in that, beautiful. The sands is rough beneath his boots, and a few gulls circle about. The water is clear, and crashes on the shore rhythmically. The sounds of the harbour fade behind them.
Bill makes his way down carefully. "Casual, yes. I might as well get it in now, since I have a feeling Corwin's going to be calling me for advice before dinnertime."
"How'd you meet him?" As Thomas and Bill head down the beach, Thomas notices they're getting quite far from the city.
Bill heads for a pile of stones in the distance. "We met on shadow Earth, back when Corwin was Carl Corey, and had lost most his memory. We were friends... I always thought he was the mysterious type. I really never thought I'd get the whole story, but after that war of theirs, Corwin brought me up here and offered a position." He smiles. "We shadow folk don't get many chances to play at greatness, so I took it."
"Sounds like you're happy up here. That's always good." They head up to the stones and see a large staircase going down underwater.
Bill Roth takes the stairs without hesitation, and walks straight into the surf. As Thomas follows, somewhat nervously, he braces himself for the chill of the sea not yet warmed by summer. He's surprised, however, when it never hits, and he finds the water to be lukewarm.
Bill notices Thomas holding his breath for a while. When Thomas finally sees Bill amusement and the fact that he's breathing normally, Thomas takes a breath. Since he didn't drown, he smiles back and they start heading down the stairs. "Can I talk? Guess I can! I guess this is the hocus pocus." Thomas smiles.
Bill laughs, a bit muffled, but still audible. "Impressive, isn't it? I tried to find out how they did it, but there's so much magic mumbo-jumbo, I only got a headache."
The stairway heads down, slightly slippery from growth and silt. Dimly glowing torches, casting a greenish tint to Thomas's and Bill's faces, lights their way. And as they descend, a city emerges from the murky darkness, a perfect replica of the one Thomas saw above.
"Just as you described it. Is this it's own kingdom or is it a part of Amber's?" They head towards the gates.
"A bit of both, maybe? It's hard to describe. Politically, yes, it is its own province. But I've gotten more than enough hints that metaphysically they're linked. One's a reflection of the other, although I'm not sure about the exact mechanics."
"Just didn't want to insult anybody by saying this is Amber's territory. So if they're politically their own, do they have a King as well?" Thomas notices guards near the entrance.
Bill nods. "Queen, actually. Moire. There isn't a king, as far as I know, but I think she's doing a Queen Elizibeth stunt. You know, keep the power for her own..."
They reach an arch made of coral and shells, signifying the end of the stairway and the beginning of the city. It isn't as big as the city proper, but Thomas figures that it has more to do with the geography than choice. The city is nestled against a rocky face, and extends almost to a sudden drop off.
They pass the guards, and they nod to both of them. Thomas notices they seem a bit... green. A tinge to their skin and hair and eyes. He wonders if it's just the water coloring everything.
Thomas looks at the wonders of the undersea kingdom.
"Is this Queen Moire whom we are going to see or is this more of a casual visit?"
Bill shakes his head. "Oh no. The queen isn't someone you just 'drop in' on. But I received word that one of the young ones," he looks over, "That would be your generation, is in town." He spots someone off in the distance, and moves to greet him. "Martin!"
Bill shakes his head. "Oh no. The queen isn't someone you just 'drop in' on. But I received word that one of the young ones," he looks over, "That would be your generation, is in town." He spots someone off in the distance, and moves to greet him. "Martin!"
Thomas walks up to greet the young man.
The man is thankfully green free, and Thomas guesses his hair to be blonde. His frames is slight, and he realizes that he resembles someone...
The man clasps Bill's hand and smiles a crooked smile, then nods to Thomas.
Thomas reaches out to shake hands. "Hi, I'm Thomas."
The man extends his hand. "Martin. You always wander with Bill?"
"Just for today. He's been nice to show me around."
Bill smiles and goes to say something, but Martin holds up a hand abruptly. "Sec."
Thomas looks quizzically at Bill.
* * * * *
He sighs. "Dust off the brain and use that. Concentrate on it, and when you feel contact, talk." He pauses. "Hello usually works rather well."
"And this is why you never quite cut it to teach school," she sniffs, and looks intently down at the card, squinting faintly. "Helloooo..."
The face on the card stirs, and after a moment, a confused looking man is regarding her. His hair flows about him, and she realizes he's underwater... "Hello. Do I know you?"
"Not yet. Do you want to?" she grins widely, and holds the card forward so he can see Bleys as well.
He looks behind her and sees her father. "Ah. Bleys." Bleys touches Faetan's shoulder and smiles. "Do you always let your wenches play with your things?"
"WENCH?!" her face contorts angrily.
Bleys cuts in. "This wench happens to be my daughter. I'm giving her the grand tour. Mind pulling us through?" Martin laughs and holds out a hand.
Faetan looks at it for a moment. "Sure hope we don't drown," she grumbles, and clasps his palm.
He pulls forward, landing Bleys and Faetan right in the middle of Thomas and Bill. Bill doesn't look surprised, but nods at Bleys.
Thomas stands back, hand flying to hilt, but quickly calming.
And Faetan realizes they are indeed under water.
Thomas puts his hands down and steps to the back of Bill.
Faetan tilts her head to the side faintly, regarding not one, but three rather good-looking men in fairly decent physical shape. Ah yes...the universe is making up for the previous flaws in the random card drawing. "Greetings," she smiles, pushing back a flowing lock of black hair.
Her voice is a little muted, but audible none the less. Bill bows to her while Bleys eyes Thomas. Bill motions to Thomas. "Prince Thomas." Bleys raises an eyebrow.
Thomas nods to the newcomers. "Pleasure"
"Indeed," Faetan purrs, lifting her brow appreciatively as she surveys the little gathering.
Bleys mutters something that is masked by the water. "My daughter, Faetan. You're a prince? Of what?" Martin listens too.
"Of Amber, sir. It is good to meet you, Gerard spoke highly of you"
"Gerard..." Faetan muses, and glances at Bleys. "You mentioned him before."
Bleys looks surprised. "Really? Did we dig up another of Oberon's bastards, or are you from someone else?" He glances at Faetan. "I've mentioned many people."
"Eric was my father, though I never knew him. Gerard saw to it that I came here."
~Oh yeah...Eric's the dead guy.~ Though of course, tactfully, Faetan doesn't say this. "And where is here, exactly? It's very beautiful...and exotic."
Martin sweeps his hand around. "Rebma, the sea kingdom. My hometown. I'm back from a jaunt into shadows. You've never been here?"
"I'm new to this," she admits with an almost shy smile, trying a different approach. "There are many wonders to explore, it seems."
"Sooooo," she begins anew, seeing that everyone is behaving mostly in a quiet and boring manner, "I bet this place is a lot of fun. Can you swim where you want to go, or is it restricted to just merely walking?"
Thomas looks at the new flamboyant newcomers with a unreadable face, his arms crossed listening to the conversation.
Martin shrugs. "Depends on where you are. Part of the enchantment is gravity working like normal. But, if you jump off a building, you float down instead of falling." He grins. "Had a lot of fun with that as a kid. Got a shock when I went onto dry land for the first time and broke my arm as a result."
Faetan cracks a smile, glancing over at Bleys. ~I like this kid,~ she thinks to herself. ~Reminds me of me...~ Deciding that Martin looks to be the most fun, she appears at his side, claiming his arm. "Why don'cha show me around this place? Let's go jump off some buildings, hm?"
Martin looks at Bleys, as if looking for permission. He smiles.
"Don't compromise her virtue. She doesn't have much left."
Martin leads her off. "So, what will it be? Castle? Downtown? The tallest building you can find? I'll warn you, we're not as big as Amber, and a lot less rowdy. I'm the exception here."
Thomas looks off as his cousins walk off. He now sees an Uncle he's never met. He looks at Bill. "Looks like your visit got cut off short."
Bill shrugs. "I wasn't expecting to have to compete. It's not a huge deal. Just came to check on him." He looks off after Martin, and seems to address Bleys as he talks. "It's a bit odd to sigh about youth when you're talking about a guy 4 years older than you."
Bleys chuckles and looks at Thomas. "You don't strike me as son of Eric. He was a bit more talkative, especially after he grabbed the crown in that unfortunate little cabal of his." He looks pensive for a moment, and looks at the watery castle. "He wasn't uninteresting as an opponent."
"To be honest, I don't know much about him. Gerard has been the one seeing to it I didn't die. Father's last wish was to have me found, so here I am. I'm afraid you'll find me quite dull by comparison."
Bleys nods and sighs, and odd sound under the water. "You _do_ smack of Gerard. Pity. A true son of Eric would have been interesting." A wicked smile covers his face. "Especially with Corwin having an heir."
"Don't know how much of an heir he is," replies Bill, "He's kind of busy, isn't he?"
Bleys laughs. "Chaos? Oh, I think he's busy. I meant an heir to all of his bad habits and petty imperfections." He looks at Bleys out of the corner of his eye. "Of course, Merlin _was_ reared away from him. Maybe there's hope."
Bill looks apologetically at Thomas.
Thomas shrugs. "Maybe, given some time and inclination, I'll get more interesting. I was certainly talked about back home."
Bleys perks. "Really? And what were you? Some baron of sorts? Perhaps lord of some nefarious ring. Or was it the fairer sex that lauded you?"
"Just some mercenary who never really liked sticking to orders when women or children where the targets. Kings really started to hate me after a while."
Bleys chuckles. "Hates to follow orders... There's hope. Principled, though. We'll have to turn him over the Benedict." Another tragic sigh. "My poor Faetan. She'll be so alone among all these lawful cousins."
"All?" inquires Bill.
"I'm certain they can't be too interesting," reasons Bleys. "We'd have heard of them by now, no?"
"We'd be at a funeral by now, I think. Acting hastily without knowing your surroundings is just asking for it. Most of the people I've met so far could kick my ass ten ways to Sunday. Besides, I'm on vacation." Thomas grins slightly.
Bleys covers a look of surprise, a practiced action, more for drama than any real show of emotion. "Vacation? My solid brother is slipping. Why in the world would he bring you here for a vacation?" He snaps his fingers. "Ah. The slips of paper. You got an invitation, too, I suppose?"
"Yes, there was that. But compared to the bombing range I call home, this is a vacation. I take it you're not that fond of being here?"
He shrugs and looks up at the watery sun. "I grew up here. It gets crowded at times, and at the time, we had no where to go, so it got very crowded. And when we're crowded, we got rowdy, and then to swords and words fly. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but father could have sucked the fun out of anything."
"Glad I didn't know him," mutters Bill.
"Oh, yes, he's much better now that he's a blathering geriatric."
"No love lost I take it. Everyone I've talked to so far seem to be at least ok with the status quo. Means I won't have my vacation disrupted by bombs or guns." Thomas looks at Bill. "So what do you two want to do now? Get a drink?"
Bleys looks off. "I'm assuming that's what Faetan is doing, and I'd just _hate_ to be a copycat. she's so quick to jump to the conclusion that everything she does is copyrighted."
Bill shakes his head. "Amber drink is a bit strong. I'd hate to have to walk the streets slamming into random walls." He waves his hand. "But there's more to Amber than bars. If you're looking for your place, town drunk is taken."
Bleys looks at Bill. "What, Droppa is still around?"
"Being a drunk is not an occupation. I'm sure we can occupy ourselves with something a little more interesting. What do we do for fun around here besides kill each other and drink?"
"We?" Bleys looks amused. "I'm not sure that you've been paying attention, dear boy. _We_ as a group try not to get in each other's way these days. It tends to keep the sibling rivalry down to a minimum. The only ones that stay in town are the ones with some misguided idea of loyalty to the crown."
"So it's an everyman for himself deal around here?" Thomas shakes his head. "Seems the higher the station, the less the stability. Ok, so let's rephrase that, what do _you_ do for fun?"
"Me? Oh, I have my hobbies. My daughter mocked me for them, so the subject is still tender." He fakes a melancholy look, but then smiles.
"I play at shadows, and keep a few alliances alive. Occasionally I bother my sister, but she's had no time for idle talk these past few years." He motions in the direction of Amber. "Positions in the castle are either too much trouble to get, or too dangerous to keep. We're a bloody bunch."
Bill nods. "Reading their history is like reading a bad copy of a Shakespeare play."
"Remind me to stay out of it. Last thing I need is to piss off family that can chase me across the universe." Thomas looks around. "Getting a bit late, perhaps we should get back to dry land."
Bill looks at the disappearing sun. "Not me. I still have a few places to make an appearance." He waves to Thomas. "Pleasure to meet you." He bows slightly to Bleys, who seems to enjoy the gesture, then walks off.
"You seem to be so concerned about finding something to do, you should catch up with Faetan." He laughs. "She loves ordering people around."
"She does seem to have a flair, doesn't she? Might just do that." Thomas starts heading into Rebma. Looking back, he asks, "You coming along or do you still not want to be a copy-cat?"
"Oh, I suppose," he replies, "Seeing as how my brother has left your education short. I honestly don't know how he can see fit to let you wander about aimlessly when you desire direction so badly." He falls into step with Thomas. "So, are you going to try your hand at empire making? Or are you set on a local job?"
"Not sure yet. I'm not a empire building kind of guy. Not my style. To be honest, this whole ability to walk to worlds thing is fairly new to me. I might just go get myself lost in the shadows for a while and see what my imagination can do. Then again, knowing the real world a little better might be just as good. I guess it depends on how interesting this place gets." Thomas starts looking around for local watering holes where they might have gone.
"Interesting? This place defines interesting. Well, at least when everyone feels like playing. If you get too bored, thought, there's always Chaos. A lovely place as long as you don't mind demons." The bars look kind of tame, more like the 'clubs' back home middle-aged cigar smokers frequented.
"Hmm, needle in a haystack. Might as well just pick one and have a drink." Thomas enters the first place that looks interesting. "Demons don't sound like a lot of fun, so I guess I'll see what this place is all about. If these family squabbles get too intense, I'll just go walking off. Just remind me not to pick favourites." Thomas goes up to the barkeep and asks for something strong.
"But all the fun is in picking favourites!" laughs Bleys as he joins Thomas at the bar. "Laying your bets, making your guesses, and holding on for all it's worth. My god, how are you going to make it through your first millennia without being bored to death?"
He orders something green and sweet looking, while the barkeep hands Thomas a glass he first thinks is empty, but then realizes is full of something clear and potent.
Thomas downs his drink quickly, making a small grimace as he does so. "Helps to know the players a bit better. So what about you? How do you fit into all this?"
Bleys shrugs. "I tried to depose your father, and got your full uncle's eyes poked out as a result. So I've had my fun being a full player. Now I just play bookie, and let the others have all the fun." He rolls his eyes. "I think the horses should be shot at this point."
"Dad was both a saviour of Amber and a real dick, depending on the frame of reference. For my thoughts, I never knew the guy, though I wonder, of all the places he could have put me, a never ending raging battlefield still strikes me as an odd place."
"Barkeep, keep 'em coming."
Bleys thinks. "Perhaps he was trying to train you. You were, for a time, heir to the throne. Well..." he thinks a moment. "We haven't had a real succession, actually. More the blood and heroes and cabal mix rather than any kind of rule. Some say the list should be fraternal, some patriarchal. I'm all for crowning Bill and saying to hell with it."
"Now why would you do that to such a nice guy?" Thomas grins. "I'll tell you one thing, it did teach a lot about strategy and other such survival nonsense. Maybe I'll just go practice out in shadow some more. Find interesting opponents or battles and just jump in."
Bleys puts his forehead in his hand. "Oh no. Nononono. Not another. By the Unicorn..." He looks at Thomas through the corner of his eye. "Please, don't turn into Benedict. He's boring enough. He could suck the fun out of a brothel at two in the morning on nickel beer night. Find some joy in anything else but war."
"Oh I think I'd have a little more fun than that. But it's what I'm good at, so I do want to keep my edge. Though I do think a world full of pudding and naked ladies would be an interesting place to visit." Thomas looks around the place. "I'm sure with your lifetime experiences, you've had a few wild times, right?" Thomas nudges Bleys.
"There was no 'wild' before me. All that is wonderful and hectic and totally selfish 'id' driven desire descends from me." He raises his glass and drinks, apparently to himself. "That's the benefit of having part of the universe a shadow of yourself. You get to stake some real claim."
"So I can call you the original party animal, eh?" Thomas downs his drink. "Next time you get something going, give me a call. It would be interesting to see what the original can do." Thomas looks around the place. "Wanna head back and see what the rest of the family is up to?"
"Certainly." He throws a few coins on the counter of the bar, and leads Thomas out. "I'm sure Faetan will find her way back eventually. There aren't too many places to get killed in Amber." He walks to the door. "As you can see, I teem with parental concern."
"You can call it confidence in her if you want. Doesn't bother me either way." Thomas and Bleys head up the stairs out of Rebma.
"Confidence? In Faetan? You must be delirious." He fiddles with his sword. "You may want to be more careful about offering your services, though. Someone just _may_ take you up on it."
"Don't mind if you ask, just as long as you don't mind if I say no if I have to." Thomas and Bleys reach the beach at the top of the stairs. "If you want my help just ask, though I doubt I can do anything more than you can on your own."
"Perceptive. But perhaps you miss my meaning." He stops Thomas, and smiles a wicked smile. "Try to lend out your services to too many of my generation, and you might as well get 'cannon fodder' tattooed on your forehead. You won't be useful. You'll be dead."
He hastens to the top of the stairs. "One of the bad things about Rebma... You can't smoke."
"I'll keep that in mind." Thomas runs up to the top of the stairs. "Like I said, I reserve the right to say no." Thomas wrings out his shirt. "Most people probably don't visit Rebma unless they plan to stay a while. I take it your daughter can find her way back to the castle ok?"
Bleys waves a dripping hand to the castle on the hill. "It's big and white. I'm sure she'll find her way. She's a smart girl. And if anything, Martin is with her."
He laughs as he conjures a thin cigar. "Not that I'd trust the boy with my life. But hers, sure."
"Glad to hear that affection for your offspring. Got one of those cigars for me?" Thomas looks at the setting sun. The image of the multicoloured sky meshed behind the resplendent castle is quite a site. "Nice view. Maybe I'll built a house or something near here."
Bleys flashes his fingers and hands Thomas his own cigar. He lights them both.
"Oh, I'm sure she's fine. She's cute enough, and Martin's the wenching type like his father. At the most she'll get a few burrs in her hair. I know my daughter. Give her someone nice to look at, she'll be too distracted to get in trouble. And her going after him is much, much better than what she was planning right after she met the king."
He puffs away and heads up the beach. "I don't know. Gerard likes his coastline. I'm sure you can get room in the castle."
"Already have one. I took over dad's old room." Thomas takes a long drag on the cigar. "These are good. Seems like Faetan is the adventurous type. I think amorous pursuits would fit her better than any conventional conquests. From what I've been told, making martial plans around here tend to be short lived."
Bleys laughs. "Well, let me put it this way. Most you're going to get out of a shadow girl is a good 20 years or so until she gets too old for you." He taps his forehead. "You don't age up here, either. I'd doubt any of us are any wiser or venerable than we were a hundred years back."
He puffs at the cigar as he talks and heads back to town. "Dad, seeing that after a few hundred years or so we might 'forget' that we were all related somehow laid down a law forbidding that we marry each other. Some were peeved, but really, is there any prospect worse than an ex that just won't die?"
"That's a nightmare I can live without." Thomas and Bleys head closer to the castle. "Family squabbling is bad enough."
He raises his cigar as if it we a glass, and was toasting. "Amen to that."
"I have some people to say hello to at the castle. You do have something occupy yourself this evening, don't you? Gerard or some such?"
"I'm a big boy, I'll figure something out. Maybe just check out all the stuff leftover in Dad's room. Nice to meet you." Thomas extends his hand. "Don't be shy if you have something in mind, business or fun."
He rolls his eyes. "I speak, and yet does he listen...?" He clasps Thomas's hand and the world fades, only to be replaced by the interior of the castle.
"Saved you a trip. Tata." He turns and heads down the hallway.
Thomas waves and heads down the hallway. He attempts to get his bearings and perhaps find something of a kitchen. Drinking does lead to hunger, after all.
He finds the kitchen, alive with servants and waiters alike. They pay him little head as he raids the pantry.
Standing with an armload of goodies, he thinks over where he wants to eat... Eric's room, dining hall. A voice speaks up from behind him, low, and audible to only him.
Thomas cautiously turns around, ready to drop the food and arm that sword in an instant. "Thanks" he says matter-of-factly.
The man is dark haired, and hides partially in shadows. "And where did you come by it?"
"I earned it. And just so I know whom my interrogator is, who are you?" Thomas puts his food down on the counter.
"Someone who rewards petulance with steel. I know that sword, and the man who bore it."
A flash of silver in the dark?
"I can remove that sword from you a million different ways. So speak up, and quickly."
"If you know this sword, then you knew my father. I inherited it. And though you may best me, you may not live long enough to relish it. I may be new, but I do deserve some respect." Thomas glares at his new questioner, and readies his weapon.
He hears steel loosen in a scabbard, but not draw. The man moves forward, and the shadows fall. His face is calm, not perturbed in the least at being threatened. He holds a dagger in his hand.
"Eric has a son. I'm curious as to how you plan to kill me, if I do go after that prize of yours."
"Advertising one's strategies is foolish." Thomas loosens his stance, pointing the edge of the blade to the ground. "And I still have no intention of harming anybody, but I will defend myself and the few things that belong to me."
"If I wanted you dead, you would be so."
The silver flashes again, and Thomas realizes that he's playing with a dagger in his hands, like a child's toy.
"Now how did you get it? Did your father give it to you?"
"I inherited it, how I got it is personal. If you want any more information out of me, either use that dagger or give me your name. The first is a fight, the second is a conversation. I'd prefer the latter."
The dagger twirls. "Caine. And I spent considerable time looking for that sword after Eric's demise. It's recovery is of some... academic interest to me."
Thomas sheathes his sword, taking the conversation route. "Gerard kept it by father's wishes, and recently reunited me with my heritage. If you want the full details of it, grab a plate and join me. I was about to retire in Father's rooms, which I have recently came to as well as this sword."
"I've dined," replies Caine, turning and leaving the pantry. "But if you are so willing to talk, so be it." He disappears from sight, and a few servants watch him nervously.
Thomas stands and blinks for a moment. What's the interest in this thing, he thinks to himself. Grabbing his food, he makes for his rooms, keeping a look out for danger more so than before.
He looks about as he makes his way to Eric's (his?) rooms. Suddenly the shadows seem to jump at him more, and the servants look a bit bulkier than they really should be. He realizes that the more war-like decorations of swords and axes seem a bit too sharp to just be objet d'art. The hair on the back of his neck tingles, and he thinks about Bleys' warnings again.
He opens the door to his room, and finds Caine, waiting comfortable in one of the fireplace chairs.
Thomas puts his food down on the tray. "I'll be right back. Make yourself comfortable." Thomas heads down the hallway, looking for a more familiar face.
Thomas's stomach tightens as he discovers Gerard rooms empty. An elderly steward admits he hadn't seen him this evening, but doesn't seem overly concerned.
About to give up, Thomas stumbles into an alcove, and discovers Bleys chatting with some giggling serving girl.
"Excuse me your highness, but perhaps I could ask you a favour?"
He looks at Thomas. "Oh, good! I was going to come looking for you. Ask you if you had any spare rooms, or if you had invited some shadow flunkies up for the weekend." He cocks an eyebrow at the girl, who blushes and winks at him, then hurries off.
"What's the favour?"