The pattern room disappears and for a moment panic sets in as his world goes black-- but light returns, filtered through a light white cloth that seems to house him under a dark surface-- he's bent over, and an old man stares in a dirty tunic stares at him.
"Oh. That's where that went."
A young voice pipes up from behind him. "Who are you?"
Getting out from under table proves more difficult then he would originally thought. His muscles feel strained, and his form disjointed. Eventually he manages and looking around he says, "I'm Wraecca. Uh, could you tell me where I am?"
They each grab and hand and wrench him back under the table. The girl puts a finger to her lips. "Shhhhh..."
The man laughs quietly. "Yes. Shhh. We're hiding."
The girl helps him into a sitting position. "I'm Ryoden," she whispers.
"And I'm Dworkin." The old man pats Wraecca's back. "Now, what are you doing with my toy, young man?"
Looking at Dworkin he recalls the descent down some black well filled with stars, the reaching out...and waking to find himself clutching the gem. With a start he realizes the gem's intent. It was misplaced. He had taken it from where it rightfully belonged, and now it was wanting to be returned.
Nodding to Dworkin he hands the gem to him. "My apologies old man. I found myself in a bad way and came upon it by happenstance. If I knew it had an owner I would have seen it back with you sooner."
Dworkin waves it away. "No, no. Keep it. I have more. I'll have Math enter that into the inventory. Must remember your face--" He takes Wraecca's face roughly in his hands and studies it intently.
Meanwhile, Ryoden looks at Ellie, her eyes dark. "No. Dworkin and I were hiding, and it was going really well. But now you know, so Jurt will know, so Ben--"
She looks down. "What did he say?"
Ellie replies quietly, honestly, her eyes still a little red from the tears shed during the Walk. "Benedict did not say anything against you. Neither did Jurt. They're just worried about you. Sometimes people get angry when they're really worried about someone they care about. I have done. And if you want, all I need do is let them know that you're well, not where you are."
Ellie glances at Dworkin and the young man and says "I'm Ellie by the way." before turning her gaze back to Ryoden.
Obviously the soulgem had a reason for sending them this way but whatever the reason is, he can't fathom it. Looking into Dworkin's visage, Wraecca replies, "Nice to meet you all, I'm sure."
Feeling somewhat awkward with Dworkin holding his face he ventures, "Do I remind you of somebody? I can tell you for a fact we've never met."
He laughs. "I know you. You were once a dog. A nice big one. And you have a taste for blood, fights, and therapists."
He looks past Wraecca, hands still holding his face firm, and smiles at Ellie. There's something not quite right about that smile...
"And you. You're the little French girl who's having parental problems." He looks back to Wraecca. "And _she_ has a touch of Chaos in her, and a taste for ones of the same blood."
Ryoden rolls her eyes. "Tell me about it."
Ellie smiles a little and replies quietly "They've been nicer to me than most Amberites I've met." She looks at Dworkin "If I may ask, how do you know all of this?"
The fact that the soulgem doesn't screech alarm is the only thing that keeps Wraecca from leaping away from this strange man. "You seem to know my hobbies quite well old man. But who the devil are you?"
"I told you," he titters, an odd sound coming out of such a wrinkled old man. "Dworkin!"
He lets go of Wraecca's face and regards the two young Amberites. "You're Corwin's, I know that dear... I've seen you before you ever came to Amber. But I don't know who's you are. You don't have a familiar feel to you..." He squints. "That isn't your true face, now is it? Looks like it's still recovering from your walk. A bit lopsided."
Ryoden's eyes go wide. "You're a shapeshifter?"
Ellie thinks on his answer, possibilities occurring to her. She hesitates then asks "When was it you saw me? Was it in Chaos?" She bites her lip then "Dworkin, if you know, would you tell me who my mother in Chaos was? Please?"
Wraecca grimaces, "I prefer the term Polymorpher, but yeah I'm physically very flexible. Does anyone have a mirror?"
Almost instantly Dworkin and Ryoden seem to pull mirrors out of nothing, and hand them to Wraecca. A trick of the light? He studies his face... Yes, a bit off. One side seems to be a bit less masculine than it was before, and one of his eyes is caught somewhere between brown and blue. His beard is brown in places, and downy, like fur from when he was a wolf.
Ryoden pounces on him. "You're a shifter?! Who sent you? Did my brother send you? Which House? Are you coming to take me home? Oh, we have to go---" She touches his hand, almost accidentally, then draws back her hand. Her face fills with disappointment.
"Oh, an Amberite." She sits back and pouts.
Dworkin cocks his head and looks at Ellie. "Why, I saw you when you were a wee babe-- then again when you were older, maybe twelve or so -- Saw it in your father's eye." He grins. "I'm not familiar with your mum. I don't think she wore her true face."
Ellie nods "A shape shifter I know. Thanks anyway though, Dworkin." A curious look on her face, she adds "What was the face she wore like?" She then smiles to Ryoden and continues "We will be leaving Amber straight after the ball, I promise."
Studying his face in one of the offered mirrors he works to make his face symmetric. Subtracting wolven and old features and keeping elements that look new. He works quickly, and seems very adept at the process. "What's wrong with being an Amberite? Other then the royal family being a little twisted. The city is nice, foods good, and the people friendly. Did you get pushed onto the pattern too?"
Ryoden looks at Wraecca like he's lost a few marbles. "If you're an Amberite, you're not a Chaosite. So you're not going to take me home."
She looks at her feet. "Dworkin, can't you speed up time? This is your place, isn't it?" Dworkin laughs and pats the girl on her head, but doesn't respond.
He turns his attention to Ellie. "Oh, I'd rather not say. Some might frown. He has odd tastes, that boy."
Ellie answers quietly "I can guess well enough then." She nods to Ryoden "For the record, Ryoden, I don't want to be in Amber either. If we keep busy though, the time will seem to pass more quickly. I hope. And the moment it is safe to get you back to the Courts, you'll get to go home. Now, even if we don't say where you are, let Jurt know that you're alright okay, please?"
Wraecca frowns. /I hate teleporting into the middle of conversations. They never make sense. I wish Lillian were here. She'd figure this scene out. Why can't it ever be just a straight-up knock-down fight? I guess I should be asking questions or saying loopy stuff like the others. What should I say? What should I say?/
"Uh, nice weather we've been having. Don't you think?"
Ryoden scowls at the floor. "He'll yell at me. You call him." She curls up on the floor in a ball. "I don't like Benedict. I want a new grandfather." She hides her face. "I didn't even do anything wrong."
Dworkin looks up at the bottom of the table they all seem to be crowded under. "It's rare that it storms under furniture."
Out of the corner of Wraecca's eye, he sees a fluttering shadow pass over the tablecloth.
Ellie nods and draws out her trump of Jurt, saying "Alright, I'll call.", privately wondering what sort of reception does await Ryoden. Her actions were understandable, as such, given her boredom, if not necessarily wise. She concentrates on Jurt's trump.
Ellie zones out at she trumps Jurt... He appears, still in the orchard, his face worried.
"Ellie? I was beginning to worry-- I didn't know how long it's supposed to take to walk the pattern."
"I looked around, but I didn't see any trace of you-know-who."
"Where did she go?" He catches a bit of her background. "Where are you?"
Ellie smiles "It's a long story. Suffice to say that I'm with Ryoden and she's alright." She looks at Ryoden "You want to go back now?"
"NO," says Ryoden, a tad bit more forcefully than she means. She flinches immediately and curls up even more tightly into her ball.
Dworkin pokes her. "Stop that. You can't get anything done like that, girl."
Ellie says "Well, if the mountain won't come to Mohammed..." She smiles at Dworkin "Sir, would you mind another visitor?"
Turning to Ellie, Wraecca points his thumb at Ryoden and asks, "What's wrong with her?"
He looks around at the now crowded area under the table, and pokes Ryoden again. "Child. We have to move." He crawls out from their hiding place, and for a moment she stoically remains in her ball. However, a grizzled hand shoots back under the cloth and drags her out by the back of her jacket, much to her frustration.
Jurt looks back at Ellie. "I have a friend. Benedict left him. Goes by the name of Mouse." He flinches. "How's Benedict doing, anyway?"
As Ryoden is hauled out, Ellie says to Wraecca "It's a long story, trust me. Basically, her grandfather yelled at her." She thinks then adds "I'm going to bring some people through. If you like, when we head back to Amber, you're welcome to come with us."
"Uh, sure. Sounds great."
Ellie reaches out a hand, and Jurt steps through, dragging the young boy (about 11, dirty blonde hair, modern dress, scrawny) with him.
Wraecca stiffens as the newcomers apparently just appear under the table. The older one hits his head.
"OW! Okay, rule number one about Trump-- don't pull people in when you're sitting under furniture."
Jurt looks about for Ryoden, while Mouse simply looks around.
Ellie nods "Alright. Jurt, this is Wraecca." She then moves out from under the table herself and looks around.
Wraecca smiles and says, "Please to meet you Jurt." He turns and looks at Ryoden curled up in a ball and remarks, "I know an excellent therapist if you feel the need to talk to a professional."
Dworkin stands and looks at the top of the table. A large green and black butterfly sits there, calmly testing it's wings.
"I'm certain that wasn't there before." He scrunches up his face in concentration. "I've seen it...."
Ryoden stays in her ball, but loosens up a bit as Jurt bends by her.
He nods to Wraecca in greeting, but mostly just tries to coax Ryoden to stand up.
"You can't hit them like that, Ryo. They don't heal like us. Now, you should go apologize."
"NO! I hate him!" Jurt sighs heavily.
Ellie watches the butterfly, the colours reminding her of something.
She concentrates on the thought. /Brand's colours./ Quietly, she asks "Is Brand a shapeshifter that you know of?"
As totally boggled as Wraecca is by the Jurt’s and Ryoden's babblings, he feels he may yet contribute semi-intelligibly to the musings of Dworkin and Ellie. "The bugs name is Stan...the incredible fluttering telegram, and Lillian's protector."
Wraecca's eyes go wide as he recalls that he instructed Stan to come to him if Lillian appeared in trouble. "Does anyone know a quick way back to the Amber castle library? I have a friend who may be in trouble."
As the words leave his mouth, footsteps approach from behind.
"Where the hell have you been?" Lillian's voice trembles. "We've been looking all over for you! I've been sitting in the library forever!"
Ryoden looks at Wraecca. "I think you're the one in trouble."
Mouse crawls out from under the table, and Ryoden lets out a squeal of delight. "Mouse! Hello!" She pounces him and gives him a fierce hug, during which he looks to Dworkin with wide pleading eyes.
Dworkin laughs, and Ryoden forces Mouse to sit and listen to her prattle.
Jurt goes to Ellie and takes her hand, quietly speaking in her ear. "Considering today, I think Avalon is out. But I have an idea."
Ellie nods, replying quietly "I tend to agree. What's your idea? She likes the idea of Disneyland by the way."
Jurt rakes his teeth over his lips. "Well, The way I look at it is this: there's obviously someone from Amber interested in her, and someone in Chaos. Benedict has been showing quite a bit of intrigue too, and hinted heavily that we go by his leave. What if we went somewhere that most Amberites couldn't get to, most Chaosites really don't play around in, and even those that can get to it wouldn't think to check it?"
Ellie looks interested "Where would that be? And what would it be like? I certainly agree Shadow seems to be the best bet for us."
He pauses. "To get there, I kind of need a favour from you."
"I need you to walk your father's pattern."
Ellie nods, realising "The Shadows that fall from there? That would work. Alright, I will. So I walk this Pattern and then what? Where do I go to trump both of you to?"
Jurt thinks. "I guess you could trump us to the centre once you're done, and then all of us could go. I'd hate to lose sight of you. I've never messed with Corwin's version."
Ellie nods "Alright, I can't see why that wouldn't work as long as you or Ryoden don't use Logrus. Shall we leave after the ball?"
He nods. "We can get a full night sleep and then leave at dawn. Hellhounds run at night." He looks at Lillian seriously. "And this time, don't tell anyone. Not your father, not Benedict, no one. My brothers won't even know where I am, and they prefer it that way."
Ellie smiles grimly "Trust me, the last person I'll be telling where I'm going is my father. I won't tell anyone else either. Good enough?"
He nods. "Yes." He touches her arm. "What's happened to make you so angry with Corwin? So what if he has a girlfriend?"
Ellie shakes her head "Imogen being patronising or her being Dad's girlfriend is a minor annoyance. What is getting to me is what I've had to live with these last two days."
She takes a deep breath "I need to learn to survive quickly, but Dad never has the time to teach me and won't appoint anyone else to do so. What he has said you could write on the back of an envelope. He doesn't like anyone else teaching me either so whatever I've learned I've had to so in stealth, scraping bits here and bits there. Oh and let's not forget my mother was an evil being according to Corwin."
She slumps a little "I'm just angry and tired of trying to both survive and please my father. I know I'm being unfair. So I'm removing myself from the equation."
Jurt hugs her close, and starts to say something... but then simply remains silent.
"It'll be alright," he mummers, but his voice is somewhat strained.
Ellie says quietly "Sorry, I shouldn't have said anything. I know it will be alright when we leave, or at least better. Or is there something else that I don't know about that's worrying you?"
He shakes his head. "No, there isn't, I can honestly say." He looks down at her, and seems to want to say something, but doesn't.
"How was the pattern this time?" he finally asks.
Ellie shrugs "Easier physically certainly." She looks up at him "What is it you want to say to me? Whatever it is, I'll listen, Jurt."
"Nothing." He kisses her temple. "So, what kind of place are you dreaming up for us?"
She smiles "Hmm, how about somewhere lovely and warm with ever changing skies, nearby amusements parks, clear seas to swim in and beaches to relax on? At least to begin with."
He laughs. "That works. She'd like that. I'd like that. And it sounds like it'd more to the Chaos end of things. If we have to call for reinforcements, then I'd rather be closer to mine than yours."
He looks at Ryoden for a moment, then turns back to Ellie. "Marrek won't be joining us."
Ellie looks faintly surprised "Really? So will it just be the three of us then?"
Puzzled that Lillian recognizes him with his new visage Wraecca disentangles himself from under the table and walks over to her. "Sorry, Clarice was showing me something, uh, very different and then I found myself here." Continuing in a lower voice he adds, "This is a very bizarre place. I'm not sure it it's a castle or an asylum."
She looks around. "Great. I knew there was a reason I got brought along. The fates conspire to prove a psych degree is worth something."
"I don't suppose these people are more family...?"
Dworkin grins an evil looking grin. "Suppose away."
Jurt shakes his head. "Gilva will be replacing Marrek. He's been away long enough, and Gilva has less to leave there."
He looks over at Mouse, sitting sullenly in the clutches of Ryoden. "Maybe we could look into taking him. He'd be a good playmate."
Mouse hears this and gives him a withering look.
Ellie chuckles and replies to Jurt "I like Gilva." She then asks Mouse "Would you like to come with us? I can't guarantee a safe future, but we will look after you. What is it you would like?"
Wraecca points out people to Lillian. "That's Ryoden. Over there's Jurt, and she's Ellie. The old guy is...old. Everyone, this is Lillian."
Dworkin snorts. "Only the creator of the universe. Don't mind me!"
Ryoden giggles and waves at Lillian. Mouse tries to escape while she's distracted, but only manages to get drug back down by one of her tiny, quick hands.
He looks at Ellie. "I think.... I'll pass. Benedict is more my speed."
Ellie nods then steps forward, holding out her hand to Lillian in a handshake gesture and a friendly smile on her face. "Hello, Lillian. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Turning to Ellie, Wraecca says, "Lillian is a therapist and gifted hypnotist, as well as a true friend. Stan is her pet."
Ellie chuckles as she says to Lillian "Boy, do you have a market here." She adds with a smile "Charge them an arm and a leg. They can afford it." To Wraecca, Ellie says with a grin "True friends are worth their weight in gold. You be nice to her."
Ryoden looks at Stan, and Stan decides to get to higher ground, alighting on a bookshelf.
"I can do that," she mummers. "My brother just won't let me. I could have lots of pets."
Lillian, meanwhile, looks at Dworkin. "You know, I've heard people call themselves strange things... But never before did I think they were right. I read about you upstairs." Her face suddenly grows panicked, and she steps back against Wraecca.
Dworkin notes this. "Boy. You wish to be rescued." For a moment, Wraecca wonders if he's addressing him, but then Mouse gets disentangled from the distracted Ryoden (dreaming of an army of blood creatures) and goes to him.
They vanish in a rainbow swirl.
Regarding the diminishing rainbow swirl Wraecca absently scratches his head and remarks, "There’s been a lot of that lately."
Ellie shakes her head, a slight smile on her face. then turns to Lillian "Don't worry, please." She takes out her Trump Deck "Do you wish to return to Amber? It's easy enough for me to take us all there."
She pauses for a moment, then turns to Jurt "My trump of the Gates, please?"
Ryoden laughs. "Where do you think we _are_?" She points to the door. "Main hall's that way. They're busy so I came in here."
Jurt holds out his hand. "Come on." Ryoden stares at him. "You know why." She pouts, and looks close to tears, but takes his hand.
"Be back in a bit," he mummers to Ellie. "Have to go face the music." He leads the upset Ryoden out of the room.
Lillian watches him, her body loose now that Dworkin is gone. "What happened, exactly?"
Ellie says quietly "Ryoden did something she shouldn't have and now has to face the consequences."
She brightens and asks the two "Want to leave here, get some coffee and chat?"
"Coffee? Coffee sounds wonderful." Lillian grabs Wraecca's hand and waves for Stan. "Where? I don't suppose... you live here, do you?"
Ellie nods "I live in the Castle at the moment, yes. We can get coffee here or we can pop down to Amber. I know this place that serves the most delicious chocolate desserts."
"I'm indifferent," says Lillian quickly. "So, are you royalty? By whom? I've been trying to read up."
Ellie says quietly "I guess so and Corwin. Okay, let's go to one of the side-rooms then and collar someone for coffee." She smiles and leads them out of the room.
"Corwin... Corwin... Number... Number five! Okay-- I remember now. He's the king..." Her voice trails off. "Oh. Should I be bowing or something, we're from out of town. I'm not up on protocol. Still working my way through the family tree. I think I'm almost done... I managed to get to Random, and I'm pretty sure he's rather far down on the list."
Ellie laughs "Don't you dare bow or anything like that. I only got here two days ago myself. If you find me in your list, let me know. I'd love a copy when you're done. Maybe I could repay in kind somehow?"
"Hmm... You're new too? How'd you get here then?" She sighs. "You wouldn't happen to know a rather large gentleman by the name of Gerard? I'm sure he's looking for us and Clarice..."
"Speaking of which..." She looks around. "Wonder where she went..."
Ellie rings for a servant and replies to Lillian "My father brought me. And I wouldn't worry about Uncle Gerard. He's a nice guy. As for Clarice, I last saw her with Caine in the Pattern room."
When the servant comes, Ellie smiles at the young woman and says "I'd like some coffee for us and some cheese sandwiches for me." She turns to Lillian and Wraecca "Would you like anything to eat?"
When she turns back, Lillian is pale, her hands shaking slightly, caught in some horrible day-mare. Wraecca shakes her slightly.
"Lillian-- coffee... what do you want in it?"
She shakes herself. "Oh-- um-- sugar, cream..." The fear on her face begins to fade.
Ellie nods and thanks the servant who leaves. She then goes over to Lillian "Are you alright? Is there anything I can do to help?"
"She's fine," interjects Wraecca quickly. Lillian nods, and some of the life comes back into her face.
"So, who was the young man and the girl? The ones who left together..."
Ellie smiles "Jurt and Ryoden. Visiting guests of my father's. I count them as my friends. They're brother and sister." Ellie asks curiously "Are you two from an Earth-type Shadow as well?"
"Well..." Lillian looks over at Wraecca. "I'm not sure what you mean by that. I mean, I've got that Shadow thing down pat, but some of the local vernacular wasn't used in the books."
She wrings her hands slightly. "We were in the middle of a war when we met. He..." She suddenly smiles. "Oh, I shouldn't go into that. Confidentiality. But we had more... technology than here. Ill-used to be sure."
Ellie nods "Me too. I came from a technological, modern world. It was kind of a system shock to start with I agree, but this place has its advantages too." Ellie is quiet for a moment "My homeworld didn't exactly always use technology well either." She hesitates "May I offer a suggestion? Concerning therapy here."
"What's that?" She laughs. "The way Clarice and Wraecca talk, I'm considering opening a practice here in the castle." She sobers. "That's a joke."
Ellie smiles "Not such a bad idea." She too sobers "I haven't been here long, but from what I can see, the prime commodity is secrets. There may be some willing to stop at nothing to get them. I just thought you should be aware of that. You're nice from what I can see and I'd hate for you to get hurt. I think my family, myself included, need therapy, but I don't know how safe you would be giving it."
Ellie smiles apologetically "I'm not trying to scare you, just give you a heads-up."
Lillian laughs. "Therapist to the gods? I don't think so. It's a great resume fluffer, but I'm not sure I really need it at this stage in the game."
She looks at Wraecca. "With he and his sociopathic loner mother, I don't think I'm looking for anything to do."
She leans back in her chair and her voice softens a bit. "Two days, and already a tad... bitter? What happened?"
Ellie smiles ruefully "Nothing I won't get over. Just growing up I guess, seeing my father as a human and not a god, getting a new stepmother-figure who happens to be my cousin. You know the sort of thing. I'll cool down in a while and get some distance, I think."
The servant arrives back and puts the heaped plate of sandwiches on a table between them as Ellie pours the coffee. Once the three of them are alone again, Ellie shrugs and adds "I know I'm being unfair and childish. I just tend to feel first and think later. Not a smart trait."
Lillian shrugs. "A human trait. Emotions intellectualised lose all meaning." She looks off for a moment, then slaps her hand to her forehead. "I can't believe I just said that," she mutters.
She looks back to Ellie. "So-- you're father's sleeping with your cousin? His... niece?" She looks vaguely disturbed.
Ellie looks uncomfortable as she replies "Either that or a sheet is the latest fashion statement." She hesitates "It seems to be less of a taboo here than where I came from. Certainly as regards close kin."
Ellie hands Lillian her coffee and then is quiet for a moment as she sips her own coffee "A lot of things are different here, I suppose."
Lillian nods, looking out a window. "I noticed that. It's fascinating, really. All my sociology classes are coming back to me.
A society born out of a seemingly pre-industrialized era, yet everyone seems to have at least a passing knowledge with the most high-tech of things. I shopped for a while, and the locals are fascinating."
She looks back to Ellie. "There were some interesting stories in that library-- most of those books are no more than rag mags covered in leather."
Ellie smiles "That I could believe. Any stories you would care to relate over coffee?"
She sips the coffee, makes a face, then bends over to add cream and sugar. "I don't know. Most of them read like bad jokes. 'Two Amberites walk into a bar...' Some interesting ones about Caine, Random... your dad."
Ellie looks curious "What about Dad?" She grins "Come on, Lillian. You can't throw a line like that and expect me not to bite."
She shrugs. "I wanted to give you an easy out." She sips her coffee.
"His life reads like some romantic novel gone horribly wrong. There's more than one rumour that he slept around with his full sister-- He brought troops to Amber to over throw it, only to save the day. He tried to kill the king another time and got his eyes put out and was imprisoned for a few years. As I said... lots of nasty things."
"But some good. He wrote a few ballads, some songs. He was really appreciated in his day... Lauded even."
Ellie is quiet for a long moment, her face neutral, then she smiles and says honestly "Thanks, Lillian. I didn't know most of this. I appreciate your kindness."
Ellie seems to reach some sort of decision. She rises and smiles "I have something to do. Again, it was lovely to meet you both." She curtsies and then steps out of the room. Drawing a trump of her father, she concentrates on it.
Watching the disappearing rainbows Wraecca remarks, "We need to buy some of those cards. That would be really useful."
Turning to Lillian he adds, "Ellie seemed like a nice girl don't you think?"
Lillian nods curtly.
"I picked up one thing from those books. We need allies." She curls her legs up under her. "She'd be a good one, but I'm not sure how much clout she has. Clarice I don't trust to make friends all that quick."
She looks at Wraecca. "By the way, where is she?"
Wraecca smiles and nods agreement, "Being a member of the pack is always a good thing. As to Clarice. Last I saw she was downstairs but I'm not certain you'd like it down there. They got the bright swirly thing in the basement."
She swallows hard. "Kay." Another swallow, and she seems to calm a bit.
"Gerard was another good one, and a local to boot. I don't want to discount Clarice, as much as I feel she's something of a kamikaze personality."
She looks at her coffee and runs over something in her mind. "There aren't many, that's to be sure. And most are somewhere out in the shadows, which pretty much cuts us off."
"I liked Gerard. He seemed like a decent fellow. Not like Caine at all. I doubt he'll find us here though. If he's even bothering to look for us, it would be back at the inn."
She nods. "True. But given that he didn't lock us in, I figured he wouldn't mind us wandering." She pulls her knees beneath her chin.
"I've been hearing whisperings about a ball. That might give us a chance to sniff out some more."
Wraecca furrow his brows and looks puzzled, "How would sniffing out balls be of help to us?"
She stares at him a few seconds, then shakes her head.
"Ball-- fancy party with dancing and pretty dresses. Lots of nobles and such attending?" She sighs. "I don't suppose you know how to waltz, do you?"
Wraecca shakes his head, "I don't think we covered that in Commando training. Is it something you could teach me?"
She sighs. "Oh sure, why not? You realize of course that this is like the blind leading the blind... I don't even qualify as having two left feet-- I think I have one left foot and a club foot."
"Maybe we can stick to the food trays."
He shrugs, "All part of fitting in I guess. So I need to learn sword fighting and dancing. The list grows. I take it the ball is open to the public just like the castle library so that probably won't be too much of a problem."
Appearing restless he says, "C'mon, let's check out the rest of the castle."
She gets up. "I think it's open. I'm not sure. I think as long as you look nice you can get in. At least, that's what it sounded like. Some silly nobles came in burbling about it."
She bites her lip. "Maybe we can talk to Gerard... get him to get us on the guest list if there is one."
Walking out of wherever they were, Wraecca looks around the outer corridor.
"I thought we might be able to flag down a servant and ask as to Gerard. Who knows, along the way we might blunder into something else."
Looking back at Lillian he asks, "Do you think I might be related to these people?"
She bites her lip. "Could be. It's beginning to look like it. They don't seem to have any shortage of lovers, and the old king, the first one, was nearly legendary for it. So I suppose that Clarice could be a result of one of those..."
She heads down the hall, towards the main corridor. "Do you want to be related to them?"
Wandering along with Lillian, "Well it's not so much what I want as what I need. I need to find out where I came from if I'm to know all my options. I'm surprised you haven't prodded me more to 'find my roots'. That was the original intent of coming to Amber. Though it hasn't been without it's other rewards." Smiling, he blows her a kiss.
She laughs lightly, but then becomes serious again.
"This family... is nuts. And that _is_ my professional opinion. The cabals, the fights... I mean, in the books they mention murder and betrayal so casually it makes my blood run cold."
She looks around. "And it's such a beautiful place. Pity." Looking back to Wraecca. "I do think these are your roots, Wraecca. I'm not sure how, or where you descend from, but given you and Clarice not aging and a few other clues, you seem to be one of them."
Laughing, Wraecca says, "Then we must definitely attend the party! It would be good to have a chance to size up my Aunts, Uncles, brothers, and sisters of the pack. Even better in that most won't know us at all. Probably the only chance to see them as they really are, eh?"
Swinging his arms in a carefree manner, he adds, "But we'll need to do some shopping first. Pick up the fancy stuff to wear. Is the ball to be soon do you know?"
She rolls her eyes. "Tonight, as a matter of fact. not much time to find more implements of torture." She tries to discreetly realign her corset.
"I don't know about 'really are.' I'm still getting a grasp on the psyche of someone that's thousands of years old. All I've picked up is that they seem to be what happens when you take a devil and an angel and puree them."
Wraecca smiles, "It must be exciting getting to push the envelope of psychiatry."
Quickening his pace, he says, "We should head back into town if we are pressed for time and see what we can pick up to wear."
She rolls her eyes. "Exciting like a ping pong match with a grenade."
She looks about as they reach the main hall.
"You sure you want to leave so soon? Maybe we should ask about Gerard... Or do you have something else planned?" She smiles. "Besides dressing decently for once. And learning how to dance."
Wraecca stops and cups his hands to his mouth. "DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE GERARD IS!!!" The shout echoes down the corridor. Turning to Lillian he adds in a much quieter voice. "You can never find a butler when you need one."
An old man dodders over, and regards the two with a look that comes from being too old to care about a set of hooligans.
"The prince is currently out of the castle. He informed me he was taking a sojourn to shadow." He coughs. "Is there anyone else you'd care to page, young man?"
Lillian has turned a deep red, and several servants eye them with humor, or plain confusion.
Not the least embarrassed, Wraecca says to Lillian, "Anyone else you think we should talk to, or do we go shopping?"
"Without a proper introduction, I don't think so... It just seems gauche." She takes his arm and pulls him towards the main doors, smiling apologetically at the old man.
She lowers her voice. "Yelling in castles, bad. Please don't do that again."
Wraecca shrugs, "We got a fast answer though." Heading out the castle gate he remarks, "I wonder what Gerard is doing out in shadow? Odd that he would learn of us and then immediately take off. I guess the duties of a royal prince have a person running all over the place."
"I think there would be quite a bit of responsibility, being a prince of the universe," she says ironically. "I guess he figures we wouldn't do too much." She looks around.
"I really hope Clarice shows up soon. I can just see her getting drug through the streets for slapping someone important." She shudders. "That's why we need allies. Or at least friends."
She thinks. "So, what are we dressing you in?"
"I was kinda hoping you could attend the ball as well. Your calendar is free?" He shrugs, "I figure Battle dress uniforms would be frowned upon, but I'm sure we can find something that looks like Dress Blues. Maybe the tailors would have an idea of what looks good at a royal ball."
She sighs and waves her hand. "Oh, I'll call my secretary and see if I haven't promised myself to any other handsome possible noble for the evening. You know, I'm just flooded most evenings."
She laughs. "Yes, I want to go. And not to flit around and look pretty. I have a feeling you two will need someone with a bit more subtlety on your side."
Negotiating down the stairs towards the city of Amber, Wraecca says, "Sometimes decisive action can be a plus. But yeah, I know enough to know that in more civilized places a person needs to fit in and not cause as much of a stir. The knowing and the doing are two different things unfortunately. Try not to worry too much. I'll get up to speed, just you watch."
She pauses a long time. They wind their way down the steps, and the sun shines on them fully now, warming the air a bit, and drying off the morning mist. Lillian lags behind for a while, lost in thought.
Finally, she catches up and looks at Wraecca. "What was it like... being a wolf?"
Now it's Wraecca's turn to pause. "That would be very difficult to explain. How do I describe a sense of smell over twenty times more acute then anything you've ever known. Or hurtling on four legs over logs and through underbrush chasing a rabbit? Pack meetings with a dozen brothers and sisters on the granite rocks of a snow filled hillside howling to the moon. If you really want to know...you'd have to try being a wolf."
She nods. "What you've been through is so... alien to me. I keep forgetting that, and it always surprises me when little bits of all of the things you've been peek through. Pack mentality. Different view of society."
"Tell me about more of them."
Wraecca chuckles, and continues describing his memories as they pick their way down the stairs. As he talks he seems to fade back to that time. His head tilts at odd angles. His nose tests the wind, and occasional growls interrupt his speech. "In winters we would be ravenous. Some of us would always starve or succumb to the risks that starvation would push upon us. Summers were usually quite good in mornings and evenings. The heat of the day was such we normally slept at that time. One of the drawbacks of a fur coat in hot weather. I had difficulties within the lupine group too. I was a youngster, and they could sense it. But I aged like a human so it was a long time growing up in the pack. This was sometimes confusing for them as it was for me. But I was strong, fast, and tough for a pup. I was just reaching into adolescence when a hunter brought me down. If it wasn't for that I think I would have challenged the leader by Summer's end."
"Looking at you now, looks like the hunter didn't get a Wraecca coat. What happened?" She sighs, looking over the city. "Sounds like a simpler life."
Wraecca smiles, "It was a happy time in my life I must admit. As for the hunter." His smile widens as he recalls the memory, "He used a high powered scoped rifle and put a slug right through my heart. I believe it was a Styr .308 bolt-action firing the equivalent of our 7.62 mm Astrinian omni-shock rounds. When the shell struck me it immediately fragmented into 4 pieces continuing inward in a spiralling pattern. It tore up my left ventricle, a lung, and nicked my aorta. It was very unpleasant but your correct, he did not get a Wraecca coat. I can formulate redundancies within my body very quickly when the need is great. The hunter made the mistake of approaching me closely as I lay recovering. His death was most unpleasant."
She shudders. "I'm glad I have you around. I know I'm no good in a fight. I got mugged once on my way home from my ex's house my Junior year. Guy couldn't have been over 150, and didn't seem all that fit.
But he hit me..." She stops. "God, for a moment, I saw him in the lamp light, and I thought for sure he was 6'10, 300 pounds, pure muscle... I couldn't even scream."
"Took my purse, and I just sat where I landed for about an hour, crying my eyes out."
Wraecca nods grimly, "I've known fear too. There's always something bigger, badder, faster, and tougher then either of us just around the corner. The trick is in discovering when to run and when to fight. Look on the bright side. Even if I'm not around, you won't have to worry about common muggers. Stan the incredible fluttering frying pan will knock sense into them."
She laughs. "Of course. I hope I never have to see him in action." She squints at his fluttering form in the sky, but somehow her face has a trace of worry.
"And you've forgotten about our pet sociopath, if she ever manages to stick around. I think she'd have fun tearing up someone. She seems the vengeful type."
"She's a pain but I do like her. She's got the temperament and grace of a rabid Wolverine whose tail you just accidentally stepped on. I pity anybody who crosses her. One of these days maybe I'll get a chance to spar with her. That would be fun. I bet I could learn a lot from her."
She laughs. "Like bleed? Or maybe you'll pick up smoking." She pulls him into a clothing shop. "C'mon. Let's get you purdy'd up."
The store has a heavy smell to it, one of rich materials coupled with a thin layer of dust in a place without vacuum cleaners. Lillian sneezes once, then goes to examine some deep purple vests.
Searching amongst the articles of dress Wraecca finds a Velvet grey cloak with a Teutonic fringe of Dark Green. A green silk shirt with embroideries of dull silver. Grey pants with a green line running down the seams.
He tosses the clothing over his shoulder and walks over to the tailor. "I like these. Can you make them fit me on short notice?"
The man eyes Wraecca and nods. Behind him Lillian giggles. She tugs on his arm and whispers in his ear.
"Um, aren't you a shapeshifter...?"
Wraecca smiles. As the tailor goes about measuring him, he flinches a couple of needles from a nearby pincushion. He closes his hand around them and when he opens them again, they are gone. Lillian recalls a previous scene in their room at the inn where he was having difficulty crafting effective darts from biological components...
Lillian doesn't see it as she runs off to shuffle through materials and chat with a few locals.
The man works quickly, and Wraecca gets the impression he's done this quite a few times already today. After finishing up, he nods and asks where the clothes can be delivered.
Wraecca provides the inns location and room number and explains that his lady will want her purchases sent to the same location.
Lillian picks out something in blue, not overly fancy. She does eye some of the more fanciful things, but finally settles on the more subdued.
As she settles their tab, Wraecca's skin prickles. Someone behind him.
"So. You are family. Where did you go after your walk?"
Not having the best of luck handling conversations behind his back Wraecca turns around to see who has graced his backside this time.
Caine stands there, his back against the wall, his gaze averted.
Lillian moves behind Wraecca, but responds softly.
"How do you know for sure?"
Wraecca replies simply. "Nowhere fantastic, I headed over to a common room in the castle where the conversation was less...pushy."
He looks at Wraecca. "The worst that could have happened is that I was wrong. I wasn't and now your question is answered. And you've filled in your gaps."
His eyes glint. "You should thank me."
Wraecca nods, his stance relaxed with just a flicker of twitching in his left forearm. Softly he replies, "I daresay we are both thankful. You learned something of who I am, and I learned something of how you operate."
He bows slightly. "I am old. I have many ways."
He sights Lillian, and the pile of finery behind her. "You have good tastes, madam." She nods politely, but says nothing.
Wraecca returns the bow instinctively. "I'm flattered by your interest in our welfare. It's not everyone who would follow us all the way down to the tailor shop, or to a castle basement, or at a non-descript sword shop."
Turning to Lillian he says, "The royalty in this kingdom are generous with their time as well as money, don't you think?"
Caine smiles, and for some reason, Wraecca doesn't think it makes him look all that appealing.
"We, indeed, can be very generous." He eyes Lillian's dress, not in a lewd manner, but simply observing. He puts his hand to his side and snaps something off his belt.
He extends his hand, and a jewelled dagger lies in his palm, sheathed.
"For the lady."
Lillian pauses, then takes it carefully.
Looking somewhat puzzled, Wraecca watches Lillian take the dagger. A part of him wishes to ask Caine why he is so intent on providing royal favour. But Lillian isn't his life mate. Her decisions are free of his desires. Was Caine making his own offer as mate or was this just a gift?
Acutely aware that he can't compete with the likes of Caine he watches Lillian's response impassively. The needles inside his forearm bones itch slightly.
She attaches it to her skirt belt, and keeps her eyes wary. Caine bows again.
"See you at the ball."
He leaves, and Lillian looks down at her new acquisition. She unsheathes it, and gives a low whistle.
"Oh my god... Is this an emerald? This could have paid for a year at State..."
Wraecca glances at it, "Quite a work of art. Good blending of form and function."
She laughs. "Besides cutting a tough steak, I don't think I'm going to get much use out of the function. But I do like the form." She eyes it a moment. "What do they call these... a stiletto, I think." She puts it back in its sheath. "Even matches my dress."
She looks at the door. "Why did he do this...?"
/Probably marking his territory/ he conjectures darkly.
Wraecca shrugs, "Caine helped me make a decision but he might have felt like he was pushing advice on me. This was probably his way of trying to avoid hard feelings on the issue."
She nods, then looks back to Wraecca. Whatever she was going to say is forgotten as she tries to suppress a smile.
"You aren't jealous, are you?"
Wraecca jerks his head to look at Lillian. "Jealous? I don't know. Maybe. More envious I think. I don't have loads of coins like Gerard, or fancy daggers like Caine." to give you, he silently adds.
She waves him off. "Caine is one of the older ones. He's had eons to collect this stuff. These people have worlds at their fingertips. As opulent as this place is, I don't know if it really means anything. Objects probably aren't all that unique." She smiles ironically. "Hell, he probably has a closet full of these babies."
She pats the dagger.
She pauses, then smiles more kindly. "Actually, I think Caine is rather creepy. He has a habit of sneaking up on us."
Wraecca's face quirks in an impossible gesture for a non-shapeshifter, "I know what you mean. I find it incredibly odd for somebody as old and established as he appears to be to find entertainment in shadowing us. He must have a lot of time on his hands."
She's silent a long time, and leads him from the shop.
"These people have nothing but time... But, considering the number of them, kin are something of a novelty. Only a handful."
She looks at Wraecca, her face dark. "I don't think you're going to be ignored. Clarice either."
Eyeing Lillian's dagger, Wraecca says, "From the looks of it, you won't be ignored either."
"I'm with you," she replies. "And people know that now. Gerard. Caine. Maybe they think I'm a way to curry favour with you. Or just something they'll have to deal with anyway in getting closer to you. Who knows?"
"Certainly not I. But if I had to guess I'd say they are just testing us and sounding us out. You know. See what were made of. Time will tell more then anything."
Looking up at the sun to judge the time of day, Wraecca half-wonders out loud, "Think we'll have time to eat before the ball?"
Lillian looks up at the sun too. "Um, I think that balls tend to happen at night. And seeing how it's not even noon yet..." She looks at him. "How can you be hungry already? We just ate. You haven't even been doing any of that shifting stuff."
She sighs and takes out her purse, counting coins. "I can see where our money is going to go. So, now that we have at least one family member claiming us, what are we going to do..." She smiles wickedly. "_Prince_ Wraecca."
Wraecca arches an eyebrow, "That would be a bit premature I think. I might be related to these nutcases, but I haven't a clue where I fall within the social order...if anywhere."
She shrugs. "You may need to burrow in and find one. Even if these people are a bit-- oh, off, they are knowledgeable. There might be something to learn here. Already we've picked up more than we would have stumbling out in Shadow."
"Even if we don't stay, this is too much of an opportunity." She shudders. "I... don't want to live the life out there again. The horror..."
"I don't mind picking up information. I just wonder if there is a price to be paid along the way.
She looks up at the castle. Unconsciously, she feels the dagger at her side. "There's always a price. But what else do we have? Run off to the wars and the weirdness and the danger?"
She shudders again. "Are you hungry?"
Wraecca smiles, "I'm always hungry."
He thinks back to the memory of the pattern he walked. Of the darkness that exploded from him leaving him flawless within reality. "I wouldn't worry about wars and weirdness anymore. That wyrd is no longer a part of me, I think."
She doesn't seem to hear him for a moment, but then nods sharply.
"I'll trust you on that." She looks around. "Where do you want to eat?"
"So now that we're free of weirdness, what do you want to do? After the ball, I mean. After we figure out your place here. A plan, as it were."
Shaking his head he says, "Once I know my position I'll work to solidify it."
He manages a wry grin, "If it's worth keeping. As for long range goals...I guess discover my options and pick the best ones. The castle has walls and troops. Maybe it needs to be defended. Maybe I can help. Maybe we spend our time exploring shadows in service to the realm. I might be able to help. We'll see."
He looks over to Lillian and contains a grin, "Why, did you have plans?"
"What, you mean _besides_ therapist to the gods?" She throws her hands up. "I'm a petty mortal. What am I going to do? If I wasn't paired up with you, I'm fairly sure that I would be ignored."
She chuckles wryly. "Not a great boost to the self-esteem, you know. But at least I can pat myself on the back that I seem to have my head on straighter than some of these people."
Wraecca chuckles, "Nothing wrong with being mortal. Besides, I get the feeling we can be killed regardless of whether or not we age."
She nods. "There are a number that are dead -- the two eldest, two of the sisters... some others of little note, ones who didn't even make it past their first century. That seems to be a breaking point. Quite a few simply over extended themselves and crashed."
She pulls him towards a restaurant, smelling heavily of spices. "You'd better not do that."
Wraecca nods with a smile, "Haven't yet."
Inhaling deeply he says, "Interesting smells. I'm not familiar with this kind of food."
She sniffs a few times. "Italian. Fond of pasta? They traditionally eat large meals, so you shouldn't seem out of place."
They enter, and the place is dark and not heavily occupied. A man leads them to a table with a nod, placing menus down, then leaving silently.
She looks around. "I know you haven't yet. The most fatal mistake seems to be over-estimating. The death reports aren't really clear, but usually it had to do with someone picking a fight with a bigger dog, then having nowhere to run."
She pauses. "Somewhere to run..."
Wraecca looks over the menu. His brows furrow as he reads the items. For half a moment he seems to be about to eat the menu, but then Lillian realizes he's only teasing. At length he sets down the menu. His eyes seem to rove around the place taking in the various bits and pieces of finery around them. The irises in his eyes expand and contract as he focuses on a particular item.
"Nice place. I could get used to having food served to me."
"Oh good. I hate to cook." Lillian studies her menu. "God, it's so wonderful just to have _normal_ non-military food." She thinks a moment. "Or motor oil."
"I know what you mean. It has cloying aftertaste and rich food tends to weigh heavy on me."
The waiter wanders over, and Lillian orders some dish with lots of z's and s's in it, and maybe a b, then looks at Wraecca.
Wraecca looks blank for a moment, "I'll have the same."
The waiter nods, and Lillian looks at Wraecca curiously.
"You've never had this before, have you? How long have you been human?"
Wraecca chuckles, "A couple decades I think. It really is a surprisingly versatile form. Good depth perception. Excellent colour visualizations. Hearing is adequate and manual dexterity is very good. Of course the other senses are atrophied but you can't have everything."
She tilts her head. "Do you ever miss being a wolf? You always seem to refer to everything in terms of packs, or other lupine ways." She laughs. "Not that I know what it would be like. Making an educated guess."
Wraecca's eyes gleam, "What do you mean miss? You think I'm human? Yes, I am. I'm also Lupine, Reptilian, Avian, Deciduous. I'm hot or cold blooded, transgenderous, multi-racial, and hell on whatever number of legs I would prefer. In short my humanity is just of slice of a very big-" he glances over at another table where a waiter is serving a meal. "I didn't see pizza on the menu. It must have been on the back."
She laughs. "Foccacia. That's what it was called." She tilts her head, and the therapist look comes up. "But you choose to be human. Human is more than a form, it's a society, a way of being. What I mean is, do you miss the rules of whatever groups you've lived among?"
Wraecca laughs, "Sure, all the time. But I had it pointed out to me that I am by nature a social being. And there is nothing so richly complex and rewarding as the societies that are human in nature. So here you find me. Learning and fitting in."
She smiles ironically. "Well, learning at any rate." The waiter returns, two plates of something steaming with lots of noodles and a white sauce. Wraecca thinks he can smell chicken... and something seafoodish.
Lillian eats lightly, eying the large portion. "Wonder if they have doggie bags here?"
At first he mimics Lillian's table mannerisms but eventually he tires of pecking his food like a bird and digs in with gusto.
She sighs. "Oh, the ball is going to be fun...." Something catches her eye off to the side, and she looks over.
"Oh, I had been wondering..."
Clarice sits down. "Smoking, right?" Lillian looks hesitant, but Clarice seems not to notice as she lights up anyway.
Wraecca wonders if that woman ever takes off her sunglasses.
Wraecca looks up from his food, "So, Clarice...long time, no smoke. How you been? Stay awhile. How's family?"
She grunts. "Caine is pretty high on my shit list right now. We parted ways loudly after..." She looks at Lillian. "After. Saw another one I think is a relative yelling at people, but didn't stop to say hi. Looked kind of prissy."
She does a smoke ring. "Figure I'll track down the king next. Watch him a bit. Their security is so lax. I'm in heaven."
Wraecca gestures with his fork, "Why bother tracking him down? I'd think he'd be at the ball. Just dress up in a..." His words trail off as his train of thought once again threatens to jump the tracks. "Good luck tracking him down." He finishes lamely.
"Dress?" She snickers. "Don't think so. You know how long I've had this jacket? Just wouldn't go with silks and satin, you know?"
Wraecca, in his moments as a Timberwolf, knows only too well how long she's had that jacket. He considers telling her but decides it wouldn't make much difference.
She grabs a passing waiter and orders a bottle of Chianti and a steak. "And if you put any sauce on it, I might just have to kill you." He scurries off.
"Making friends?" asks Lillian quietly. Clarice shrugs.
"You kids going to the ball?" Lillian nods. "Good. I'll need the distraction."
"Try not to get killed will you? I've gotten the impression their security is lax because there isn't a whole lot that can threaten them. But if you snoop around and irritate them you might find yourself swatted."
She shrugs. "Wouldn't be the first time. But I'm not doing anything too underhanded. Just found a few doors that I found out could be opened with a little gold." She smiles cruelly. "Guns don't work, he said..."
Wraecca smiles, "I guess gold works in any dimension."
Clarice sniggers. "Pretty much. Universal truths of the day. Swirly things suck and gold always works."
Lillian cocks and eyebrow, but chooses not to comment. She looks out the window. "Meet any more nobles?" Clarise utters a negative. "Pity. I'm looking for one to profile." She glances over at Clarice. "A local."
Wraecca shrugs, "Perhaps you should have some business cards made up and pass them out at the party."
She shakes her head vehemently. "No. I do not what them to know what I am. I want to be able to chat one up and get a good dialogue going without them realizing they're being analysed." She chews on a nail. "I need to talk to Gerard, then. And Caine. Hope they haven't blabbed."
Wraecca smiles, "I don't you need worry Lillian. From what I've seen they appear pretty secretive. I'm surprised they haven't offered you employment to check up on their relatives."
He pauses and considers what he just said, "Lillian Psycho-spy. I like the sound of that."
He spears another something or other on his plate and wolfs (excuse the expression) it down.
She makes a face. "I don't."
Something catches Clarice's eye as Lillian goes to rearrange her skirts again. "What's that?" She nods to Lillian's dagger.
"This? Oh, Caine gave it to me. Trying to make amends." Clarice holds out her hand and Lillian unsheathes it and hands it over. Clarice takes off her glasses.
"Nice..." She mummers, tossing it in the air a few times.
The third time, it disappears.
Wraecca looks at Clarice somewhat askance, "Cool trick, I didn't know you did stage magic."
She looks as surprised as Lillian as she looks under the table, under the chair, in her seat...
Lillian tries to laugh it off. "Oh, I didn't want it anyway..." The fingers of her right hand flinch involuntarily, and the dagger appears. Clarice cocks an eyebrow.
"I want one."
Wraecca laughs, "It appears that whether or not you want it, your stuck with it."
Finishing the last of the food on his tray "Maybe it's something they sell here."
Clarice shakes her head. "I sure as hell didn't see a sign for 'kick-ass dagger.' I feel jilted. Maybe I shouldn't have called his mom a pox-scarred sea whore."
Long drag. More rings.
"I don't think he took it personal, though. I may still get one."
A look of amusement touches Wraecca, "Let's hope you get one as a well intentioned gift."
Lillian looks at the dagger. She seems to be in the middle of an elaborate ritual.
Put blade down.
Go to eat.
Find blade in hand again.
Repeat ad nauseum.
Her face is red, and finally she throws it across the room, landing it dead centre at the centre of a support post. Wraecca is slightly surprised at her accuracy.
Lillian goes to eat again and curses as she finds the dagger in her hand again.
Wraecca helpfully suggests, "try placing the dagger in its sheath."
She sheathes it, waits, then beams as it doesn't reappear. "Stay," she orders, and digs back into her meal, triumphant.
"I knew there was a reason I liked you."
Wraecca looks puzzled, was she talking to the dagger or himself? He glances sidelong at Clarice for a clue.
Clarice is too busy threatening a waiter to hurry up with her steak, but looking back at Lillian he gets the feeling she was talking about him. She was looking at him, after all.
"You want the rest of mine? I'm full."
Wraecca raises a hand in a gentle warding gesture. "No thanks. I'm thinking of going flying later on and I don't want to carry too much weight."
Clarice rolls her eyes. "Good way to stay inconspicuous..."
Lillian looks fascinated. "What were you going to look for? Or were you just planning on flying around?"
Wraecca laughs, "I was sorta considering sometime after it got dark. I don't feel the need to dodge crossbow bolts. As an Owl or bat maybe." Looking at Lillian he says, "both. I enjoy mixing business with pleasure."
She blushes slightly and bites back a smile. "You do, don't you? But we have that silly ball tonight. Might be a bad idea. Are you so eager to get out of fox-trotting and enjoying luke-warm h'ors d'ouerves?"
Wraecca smiles, "I doubt the ball will last all night and you forget I don't normally sleep. There's time enough for everything."
She nods. "Let's hope there is..." Then she blushes and laughs into her hand, turning redder.
Clarice grumbles as a meek and terrifies waiter brings her a steak. "Coulda killed the cow and blow-torched it faster..."
"Yeah, but it sure beats hunting for your food. Just walk in and place an order. For all the delay the food is pretty good."
Clarice looks at him a long time, lifting her shades to do so. Finally she shrugs and mutters, letting them fall. She digs into her steak.
"My son-- the amazing wolf boy freak..."
Lillian hears it and breaks in. "Did you sleep last night Clarice?" Clarice looks up and shakes her head, her mouth full. "I thought so."
Clarice swallows. "I don't sleep if I can't help it."
"That isn't healthy."
"Neither is throwing your gun at a prince of the universe, but I survived that."
Wraecca's blank look appears akin to a record interrupted in mid-play by somebody dragging the needle across the vinyl. It appeared to start somewhere around when Clarice voiced her opinion of her son and ended about...now - "You survived? Your quite mistaken, you died a long time ago."
Lillian stiffens, and waits for Clarice's response.
Clarice cuts another bite of steak. "Right you are. When Lil here tries to kill you and your kid because she's too chicken-shit to stand up for either of you, lets see how fucking cheery you are."
She chews and swallows. "And yet, I keep walking. So technically, I'm still alive."
Wraecca looks amused, "So what's keeping you going Clarice? You still walking for a reason, or you just aiming for a good honour guard in hell?"
She shrugs, still concentrating on her steak.
"Still keep waking up in the morning. Nothing bigger has found me and eaten me, so I keep walking. I got over the suicide bullshit in the 400s."
Lillian tries to keep her face neutral, but her mask cracks a bit, showing a moment of pity.
Wraecca smile seems frozen in place as he shakes his head slowly in disbelief, "Nice story. But why go to the effort of casing the place? You’re searching for something just like we are, but I think your reasons are completely different. Who you gunning for?"
She takes another bite of steak. "If you're asking if I'm looking to blow the place up, then your wrong. I'm not. And I'm not looking to blast anyone's head off.
"I figure I was some accident off in those shadows of theirs, and I can't hold a grudge for that. I don't really care who my father is. Just what I am."
"And that's all you get."
Wraecca smirks, "If that's all you want, look in a mirror sometime. But you and I both know that the only way to extend our identity is by belonging. Be it Royal Kingdom or Wild Wolf pack. Well I know it anyway."
Getting up from his chair he extends his hand towards Lillian and tells her, "Let's get out of here. The smoke bothers my eyes."
Lillian gets up slowly, and takes Wraecca's hand. She goes to say something to Clarice, but changes her mind, and leads Wraecca out.
"She's why I want to do a profile."
Stepping out into the street he says, "I'd say you have your work cut out for you. She makes the grim reaper look like a holiday excursionist."
Lillian sighs. "I've seen it before, in a lesser degree. She's seen something that killed her inside --
"Wraecca, what do you remember of her? Before... Anything?"
He frowns at her request, "I don't recall much before we...got separated. Until recently anyways. Now...yeah. I remember. I'd say she was completely normal. As far as any kid can recall his mother from so long ago. She'd hold my hand. Sing, tell me stories I think. She would chide me for sleeping in late. I remember her laughing. She wore braids, and her hair was long."
Lillian nods. "Please -- don't be hard. I'm learning the lines with her. There are times you just leave her alone. But I don't think we need an enemy like her. She -- I haven't seen her in action, really, but I get the feeling she's not a bluffer."
She looks back at the restaurant. "I wish I knew what she's looking for. I find her unknowns a bit unnerving."
Wraecca nods, "I'm not a kin-slayer, and no, I don't want her as an enemy. You can thank the pack for that. We'd play rough but never kill each other unless it was for position of pack leader."
"She doesn't play by your rules," she points out quickly, then thinks...
"But I don't think she's a kin-slayer either. Something about her."
She shakes her head. "I could spend a few lifetimes doing this. That's why I need a baseline."
Wraecca laughs, "Maybe you should go to the source. Talk with the king. Typically stuff roles down hill and picks up steam. He'd be the one to baseline."
She shakes her head. "He's not the beginning. Just another brother..." She smiles wickedly. "If I disappear for a while at the party, don't worry. My plan is to grab someone with a good ego and get him talking. Get a nice little history laid out."
She thinks a minute. "If I find my stooge, maybe you could keep any possible distractions away..."
Wraecca nods, "I'll do what I can but I may be wrapped up in my own business. We'll see how it plays out."
She squeezes his hand. "And that is? Flying around?" She looks up. "That would be so neat... You're blessed, in a way, you know that?"
Wraecca smiles, "There's a danger to what I do, but I agree. I've never regretted my abilities. Perhaps one day when we have time I'll show you what it's like."
Lillian is about to respond, when her eyes fall on Corwin. She pauses, thinks. "Number five. Corwin," she whispers, "The king..."
Corwin bows slightly at them, then waits for Eleanor to catch up.
Ellie catches up and says "Your Majesty, this is Wraecca and Lillian." She smiles reassuringly at them "Wraecca, Lillian, this is my father, King Corwin."
Wraecca returns Corwin's slight bow. "Pleasetomeetcha. Nice castle you got up there. The Library was most impressive."
Corwin squints. "You've been to the castle? Then why..."
He shakes off the question. "Would you care for a more formal tour? I have been remiss. No one had brought my attention to your presence until less than an hour ago."
Lillian smiles brightly, but Wraecca can swear he can hear her curse under her breath.
Ellie smiles at them both and adds "It's really a very interesting place, especially with a well-informed guide such as my father. Will you be attending the ball tonight?"
"We would be happy to see the castle, uh -" Wraecca turns to Lillian, "Are you up for another stair climb or do you need to rest my dear?"
Lillian nods eagerly. "Oh... I am feeling a bit tired..."
Corwin nods. "It must be the poor quality of your rooms. You should move into your proper place in the castle. This lower city noise can't be doing you much good."
Ellie adds "The Castle is certainly quieter. Perhaps, the tour could be foregone in favour of letting you rest, Lillian, if everyone is agreeable."
Wraecca turns to Ellie and says, "We do hope to make it to the ball tonight, but that will depend on how Lillian is feeling. The stairs can tire a person so easily."
A look of puzzlement crosses Wraecca's face and he looks to Corwin. "Uh? How is it the castle is our proper place? We paid for the room at the inn. You certainly can't take in every traveller you meet."
"You have pattern," he says patiently. "Therefore you are family. Therefore, your proper place is in the palace, and not in a tavern inn."
"One room or two? And where is the other one you travel with? Clarice?"
Lillian keeps her simple smile on, but the wheels are spinning in her head. "The palace. Why how lovely."
Ellie says "Given how tired Lillian is, may I suggest taking the quick route back to the Castle, your Majesty?"
Turning to Corwin, Wraecca answers, "Clarice comes, goes, and keeps her own counsel. I'm sure she'll turn up soon."
He nods curtly, but doesn't seem pleased. "Do you know where to find her?" Lillian quickly shakes her head.
Corwin takes out a trump and concentrates.
Wraecca leans over towards Corwin to study the card, "Those cards are really cool. Where are they sold? I could use a couple."
Corwin seems a bit confused. "They aren't sold... It's your parent that usually gets you a set."
"Speaking of which..." He gently takes Wraecca’s arm, and nods to Ellie. "I will talk to you later." His face is somewhat calmer, maybe even a bit abashed.
Lillian takes Wraecca's hand instinctively, and the world fades around them, and turns into a very stylish room, decorated in black and silver. Out a window they can see the town, tiny in the distance.
"Any ideas who that would be? This whole inheritance and royalty thing is kinda confusing."
Lillian moves to inspect some of the carvings on the door, but keeps an ear to the conversation.
Corwin shakes his head, even more confused. "Isn't Caine...? Well, who brought you? How did you get here?"
He sits at a small table, and motions for Wraecca to do the same.
Wraecca sits and puts his feet up on the table in a bonelessly relaxed pose. "Truth be told, we weren't brought here, we came here. If I waited around for family to come find me I'd still be walking broken shadows, and let me tell your kingship, it ain't much fun after a dozen decades of it. So we basically used a flawed version to transport us to this shining realm. After that it was a simple matter of contacting one of the royalty, Caine in this case, and arranging my walk."
He shrugs, "and I feel much better now."
Corwin blinks several times.
"Broken pattern? You mean, you can actually walk it...?" He sits back, not looking perturbed in the least at Wraecca's feet on his fine marble topped table. "Maybe you should start. I don't think my questions are getting us anywhere."
Wraecca sighs, "Hey Lillian, you want to give the story? I've repeated it so often I'm kinda getting sick of it."
He turns to Corwin, "No offence."
Lillian licks her lips, and gives a somewhat abbreviated version, given that she stops and seems to skip any part containing the pattern of any sort.
Her anecdotes about Clarice are rather entertaining, however.
After she finishes her broken dialogue, Corwin shakes his head. "I'm sorry. I have no clue who you descend from..." He looks at Wraecca. "But you are family... That much is apparent. Perhaps Gerard will claim you."
Wraecca chuckles, "What's my status if nobody claims me?"
Corwin thinks. "That's hard to say. We've never had that happen... So far everyone has been claimed by someone. Progeny are in short supply."
"It will remain to be seen. After the ball. If nothing else presents itself, I'll find something for you."
Lillian looks slightly relieved, but Wraecca can sense a tenseness in her.
Taking his feet off the table Wraecca leans forward. "I certainly appreciate your taking the time to look after us. Needless to say we look forward to the ball. Now is there anything we can do for you?"
He chuckles. "Don't cause any trouble. That's all I ask." Lillian laughs along with him, but it seems strained.
"I _am_ tired. Where will we be staying?" He stands and motions for them to follow. He calls a servant, and gives him some quiet orders, and then bows to them.
"Jake will take you to your rooms. Some of my siblings have been out of town for a while, so you're in luck."
It's a chiller to think that somebody so new to the Castle would get the joke, and Wraecca does so with a brief laugh, "I know what you mean."
With a, "Thanks again," He follows Jake.
Corwin closes the door, and Lillian watches.
"Well, we're not in the brig, so I'm happy. I want know who blabbed, though."
Jake leads them to a set of rooms, decorated in tan and red, filled with mystic symbols hidden in the wallpaper and fabric prints, and flooded with nick-knacks and oddities.
The servant leaves. "Nice," comments Lillian. "But I'm not sure I like this."
Wraecca turns to the Servant, "Hey Jake, any chance you got something a little more modern? The voodoo stuff isn't really to our taste."
The servant is already gone, faded into the numerous hallways and doors of the castle. Lillian moves about, examining the eccentrica of the room, then finally sitting on a couch.
"I wanted to stay in the city. I'm just not comfortable here. Visiting is one thing..."
Wraecca walks over to the window's vantage point and looks out at the city. "Of course, and you’re still free to do so."
Lillian gnaws on her lip. "I know. But it's all about how it's read. If we stay, then we look like we have nothing to hide. And we don't have anything to hide. But if we leave, then it looks like we are hiding something... But here I feel so exposed. I'm glad you won't sleep. I think I may end up joining you."
Wraecca chuckles, "Don't be silly. If you don't think it's safe here then don't sleep here. You can always go back to the inn. It's me they want here. Besides, it would confuse your status I would think."
She folds her arms across her chest. "I'm not leaving. No _way_ am I getting split up from you. Who knows where they might whisk you off. And then I'll be stuck with Clarice... We both know how dependable she is."
Wraecca catches an odd scent in the air-- perfumed... a musk.
Wraecca shrugs, "Just so you know there are options. What is that smell?" He steps into the hallway to see if somebody is burning trash.
He hears a soft laugh from a small stool. "You have a good nose... But I should be offended you call the result of perfume a smell..." The air shimmers, and a woman sits on the chair, sandy haired and dressed in red silk.
If Wraecca looks surprised he doesn't show it. (he's gotten lot's of practice watching people teleport.) "My compliments on your camouflaging technique. I don't normally overlook people wearing red."
"Well, in a red room, it can happen, can't it?" She stands and takes out a deck, walking over to Lillian. "Your name?"
"Lillian." She has a harder time hiding her surprise. The woman nods, then puts her deck on a coffee table, taps it, and cards fly out in some sort of intricate pattern.
"Sand," she mummers, and starts studying the cards.
Wraecca watches the cards fly with wide eyes. "Remind me not to play poker with you."
She looks at Lillian. "The Moon." Lillian looks at the cards.
"What? Is that what I am?" She looks at the cards.
Lillian sits back for a moment. "Sand... Sand... The long lost?" The woman nods mutely and continues to study the cards.
"With the way she can hide I can see how she could get a nickname like that," Wraecca remarks.
"So, uh...what are cards for? Is this like some sort of seance or something?"
She laughs. "Oh, you're clever... I like that. Delwin isn't clever like that." She motions to the cards. "Seances involve dead spirits. The spirits here are quite alive."
"Tarot," says Lillian, looking at the cards futilely.
"In its highest form."
Looking at the glyph and rune inscribed walls of the room Wraecca says, "So really these are your quarters. Obviously Jake messed up. We should see if we can find a room that isn't already occupied."
Sand waves her hand dismissively. "I have no need for them. Stay."
Lillian looks uncomfortable. "So... Why are you back in town? It's been a while, hasn't it?"
Sand collects her cards by tapping the deck again. "That depends on what you mean by being in town."
She stands and look at Wraecca. "Welcome to Amber. And say hello to the Tower for me." She fades as she touches her arm, and her perfume fades too.
"Well that was sufficiently bizarre. I think I need a shower." Wraecca begins to look around their quarters to see what the freshening arrangements might be.
"Don't dawdle. I'm next."
He finds a nice bath room-- literally a bathroom. No shower, just a big bronze tub and a variety of soaps and sweet smelling things. No doubt about it now. This room belonged to a woman.
In the other room he hears Lillian moving about, searching.
Assuming the knobs for hot and cold are universal, he draws a hot bath and rummages through the soaps. Hopefully there is something that isn't too pungent. After a leisurely bath he towels and dries himself down and puts on his clothes. A quick check in the mirror and some stray stubble fades from his face. Back in the main room he announces to Lillian the bathroom is free.
Lillian is rummaging through a desk when he exits. She smiles, relieved. "Hope you didn't use all the hot water. God, it feels like a million years since I had a good bath."
She walks by him. "Honey suckle? Manly." She winks at him and disappears into the bathroom.
Wraecca frowns. Obviously some changes to the decorum were in order. New wallpaper, some peppermint soap and dark woods would do for starters. He looks over the room and does a bit of inventorying as he waits for Lillian to finish.
He listens to her splash as he plays with some of the curiosities about. Most appear to be small works of art. A unicorn. A castle. One of a man with sandy hair and a none too pleased expression.
Eventually (after what feels like a few hours) Lillian emerges, clad again in her cumbersome clothes of before but now with her hair in a towel and her face flush from steam.
"God, I feel like I had a few inches of dirt on me. I have figured out one thing I miss about home, though. Hairdryer."
She fidgets with her dress again. "First on the agenda... New clothes--" She looks up. "Wait..." With a curious look, Lillian goes into one of the side rooms.
"Hrumpf...I do a lot of waiting now-a-days." His eyes turn towards the unicorn in his hands. The critter seems to be highly esteemed here. Looking over the beasts features he can see it's more then just a horse with a horn tacked onto it's head. There's a goat like hair under it's chin. The eyes are somewhat feminine. And the legs are slender and graceful with more wisps of hair. A wild and graceful mythical being maybe. Might be fun to try that form sometime. It looked promisingly fast and the horn would be useful for charging.
She looks at the figurine in his hands. "I think it's a religious icon here. There's a few weird references to it being the Royalty's grandmother, but I don't know if that's the oddness of historians talking, or something else."
Wraecca laughs, "Well if I'm any measure I'd be inclined to think the latter. Magic, shapeshifting, and playing with reality seems to be taken for granted around here. Speaking of which, I'd like to look a little deeper into the whole wizardry thing. If people are going to be disappearing and reappearing around me I need to get a better understanding of how all that works. In for a penny, in for a pound."
Glancing at Lillian, "What do you think?"
Lillian nods. "Good thinking." She glances around the room. "Anything she wanted was taken when she left, I suppose. I couldn't find anything particularly informative here. The main library probably has it. I spent most my time looking to things that were historical."
She moves to leave. "Are you looking to pick that stuff up?"
Wraecca nods, "That's the general idea. This business of being blind-sighted by magic-users is silly. Maybe there's some mumbo-jumbo that can protect us from that kind of stuff. Let's check out the library and see if the have a spell caster's for dummies book."
She chuckles. "Okay, that sounds scary. You aren't going to turn me into a toad or anything, are you? Because if anyone's the prince to be kissed, it's you, not me."
"And we have other things to research. Like nifty daggers and-- hey, think your soulstone might be in there?"
Wraecca grins at the thought. "Could be, let's find out." He opens the door to the hallway.
"Where do you think it is from? Do you think that things like that just lie around in the shadows waiting to be picked up?"
She heads down the hallway and to the stairs. "I wonder if normal old people like me can learn this stuff..."
Wraecca shrugs, "It wasn't lying around it was in some sort of dimensional tunnel full of countless stars, that gem was one of them. I was being chased by demons at the time and didn't have much chance to stop and take notes."
"But enough time to pick up a stone that caught your eye?" She giggles, then smothers it. "I'm sorry. Not funny, I know. But it was a lucky find, no?"
The noise level and sheer volume of people increase as they head towards the main hall on the way to the library. Servants scuttle about, carrying flowers, ivy, food, plates--
"The ball..." Lillian mummers, and suddenly looks nervous. "You know, I've never been to something on this scale."
Wraecca chuckles, "Nor have I. But it can't be too bad. We'll just keep to the shadows while were there."
She titters. "Yeah, we've been real unobtrusive here. Picked up by one prince, accosted by another, and now we've run into a third. Oh, and lets not forget our meeting with the creator of the universe.
"We must have magnetic personalities."
Wraecca tries to smirk but it comes out as a grin, "Yeah, makes me feel real important. I wonder what will happen next? I know! We'll have tea with the Unicorn. C'mon, lets see if we can drag some books back to our room while there's still some time."
The library is blissfully quiet, unlike the rest of the castle. Lillian immediately gathers up a load of books, then on thinking, grabs a few more. She smiles sweetly at the flustered librarians.
"We're guests of the kings. I have a library card, but I don't think it'll work here."
"Plus," she mummers to Wraecca, "I have a T S Eliot collection that's a few weeks over due."
"Wraecca laughs, "Hopefully we can change and be ready before the ball."
She spins around, and finally locates a clock. "Not even noon. I think we have time. You're researching sorcery, right? And your soulstone."
She moves to the exit. "In our rooms? The rest of the castle is a zoo."
"Okay, I'll meet you back in the room. It's takes me a bit longer to pick out books. I was raised in the wilds, not in a college."
He begins looking over the books in the library.
The books are the same as before-- he finds a few on sorcery, pattern, shapeshifting-- None on soulstones, though there are a few with Dworkin's name on it.
Lillian heads out, spilling a book or two as she goes.
Taking his smaller load of books back to the room he pauses to retrieve Lillian's dropped books as well. Of course it's merely chance that he spies the titles...
Some about shadows... Some about magic and other artefacts, or about Chaos... Most by the old guy, Dworkin.
A shadow falls over his view. "Oh, you're that shapeshifting guy Ryoden attacked, aren't you?" He sees a pair of beat up tennis shoes on the floor in front of him.
Wraecca finishes retrieving the dropped books and straightens. "My name is Wraecca, and your name is...?"
He sees the young boy that Dworkin 'saved' from the young girl. "Mouse. I don't know if we've met formally."
He's short, and looks to be just hitting his teen years. His voice cracks occasionally, and he's scrawny under his beat up jean jacket and jeans. He looks at Wraecca under his mop of untamed blonde hair with a keen intelligence.
"Um, can I ask you a favour? It seems to be my lot here to run from lunatics."
Wraecca looks at the young boy mouse in a rather blank manner for a moment, "uh, sure. Ask away."
"Well, I was hanging out with the old guy, and he seemed alright, but then after a while he just sort of... lost it, and stopped making _any_ sense. I managed to sneak away, and find my way back up here, but I think he's going to hunt me down again.
"I think he liked having an audience.
"Anyway, you're not holed up somewhere special, are you? Because I can't find Benedict, and he's about the only sane one I've met so far."
"I'm afraid we don't have any place special. When it comes to Dworkin, I get the feeling one place is as good as another to hide. Still, if you’re wanting company, feel free to tag along."
"Great. I was thinking that. But at least I won't be in his path, right?"
He helps collect a few other books from the floor. "So... How did you get here? You don't look like a local. You talk different."
Wraecca chuckles, "We got here like everyone else gets here; magic. And I'm not promising you anything. If Dworkin comes around I think the only thing we could do is put up with him. Though he didn't strike me as crazy, just a little uh, nuts.”
Between the three of them, rapid progress down the hallway now ensues, "So who are you and what's your story?"
"Me? I got pulled out of a mirror. I was just up late, working on a memo, and suddenly my monitor went weird and this girl was talking to me. I figured she had hacked my frame and was showing off, but then she reached _through_ my monitor, and when we touched... Well, everything kind of fell apart.
"Short story long, we're not sure.
"Ryoden swears up and down that I'm an Amberite. I'm indifferent. The food here is really good, though, isn't it?"
Wraecca laughs, "Yeah kid, I haven't eaten this well in a long time. At least you have your priorities straight."
As they continue walking he looks thoughtful, "So why did Ryoden tackle you anyways?"
"Urg. I think she's bored. She's smart as hell and fast, and I think her brother and everyone else bore her. I'm a bit closer to her speed. Plus, she just loves playing the teacher." He winces. "I would avoid her lessons if I were you. She did some weird mind trick."
"So she's gotten attached to me. But I just can't keep up. You know, Benedict was up with her all night? She refused to sleep. I collapsed around midnight. And the next day, she's still zooming along at top speed."
Wraecca smiles. Something in that smile showing a hidden meaning. "Gotta drink your milk kid."
"Hmph. I'll have you know my meals are very well balanced. SHE eats nothing but sweets. There's something unnatural about her."
Wraecca comes to his rooms, and finds Lillian sprawled out on the couch, reading furiously. She looks up at him as he enters, and looks over to Mouse.
"Well, hello there." Mouse waves, and introductions make a second round. He eyes her book.
"One of Dworkin's tomes... But I can't make heads or tails of it."
"Welcome to the club."
Wraecca grabs a book that looks fairly easy to read and looks to be instructive on sorcery and hunkers down in a chair. Glancing up at Mouse he says, "It's going to somewhat boring here." With that his head drops and he copies Lillian's studious demeanour.
Mouse shrugs and takes a book of his own from Lillian's stack. She growls as she struggles with a fancy calligraphy pen.
The book is fairly easy to understand... It starts with some discussion on something called power words, then on some cantrips, and simple spells. A few larger ones are detailed, but most are similar to anything Wraecca could have dreamed up.
Mouse looks up, and looks at the title of Wraecca's book idly. "Sorcery. Yeah, I've seen that. Ryo used some on me. Thought it was funny."
"mmmmhmmmm" Wraecca continues to read. He takes his time, focusing on understanding the concepts. Which is to say he occasionally flips back a couple pages and rereads certain tracts.
The quiet settles back over the room, until it is broken by a rap on the door.
Lillian looks up sharply, and Mouse promptly dives under a side table.
"Come in..." She gets up slowly, looking warily at Wraecca.
A middle-aged man steps in, bearded in silver and brown. He smiles politely and give a little bow.
"Corwin told me to check in on you."
Wraecca looks up from his reading and nods, "As you can see we are quite at home. We are both avid readers so I doubt we will be much trouble."
The man shrugs. "Bill Roth. I, um, don't believe I know you, young man..."
"Mouse." He waves a hand from under his table, and creeps out. "Glad you're not Dworkin."
Lillian thinks for a moment. "There is one thing I need." She raises from the couch, and grasps her leaking pen and stiff parchment.
"My first born for a big pen and ledger pad! I can't think with out paper!"
Wraecca also rises and strides over to Bill. Shaking his hand firmly, he says, "Wraecca, and the lady’s name is Lillian. It good to meet you. I guess we could use various types of stationary and maybe a desk or two, lamps, and such like. We may be engaged in some scholarly pursuits. Also," he pauses as if undecided to continue his requests, "are there any fencing masters about? I'd like to learn a bit about swordplay at some time or other. Seeing as firearms don't seem to work here it might be a good idea to train in the usage of long sharp pointy things."
Bill touches his own sword briefly, but then shakes his head. "No. Gerard would rib me too hard. But there's Benedict. He's in town right now. Not always up for a lesson.
"Can't hurt to ask at the ball though. You're going, right?" He snaps his fingers. "Oh! And Flora would kill me if I didn't ask. Do you have clothes for the event?"
Wraecca looks over at Lillian and laughs. Turning to Bill he says, "We had picked some things picked out but they are back at the inn. So the answer, I'm afraid, would be no."
He nods. "Then I'll send someone up. These balls are tricky things."
He looks at Mouse, who has resumed his studious reverie on a loveseat. "And you?"
Mouse looks up. "Eh. I think not."
"You know, you don't have to be an Amberite to attend."
"I am an Amberite. I'd just rather not attend."
Bill looks stunned.
Even as Wraecca laughs, "Not feeling like partying or you just reclusive by nature?"
"Ryoden will be there. And the crazy old guy. And more crazy people.
I don't want to get hijacked again. And there's so much to catch up on... Ryoden's knowledge on this pole of the universe is somewhat sparse."
Bill holds up a hand. "Wait! Back up!! You're an Amberite?!"
Mouse looks confused. "According to the girl, yeah. Why is that something special?"
"I would say so!"
"I can't see why. There's a whole bunch floating about."
Wraecca looks puzzled and then asks, "Is there something special about being an Amberite? I mean, were all here so were all Amberites, right?"
"Well, technically..." Bill looks slightly flustered. "But 'Amberite' means the descendants of Oberon... You know, the ones that can walk the pattern..."
He looks at Mouse. "Is that what you mean?"
"The walking the pattern bit? I haven't actually checked it out yet, but yeah, that was mentioned."
Wraecca notices that Lillian has delved deeply into her book... Then he sees her hands have crept up to her ears, and are covering them.
She trembles slightly.
Wraecca grabs Bill by the arm and whispers, "Deep six the pattern talk. Lillian has some difficulties with it."
He stares at Wraecca blankly for a moment, then nods, noting Lillian's state.
"I'll, um... I'll let you deal with her. See you at the ball."
He bows, and exits, still looking unsure.
Wraecca lets out a long breath and shakes his head before resuming his seat. /I'm going to have to figure out a way to get the word out to people not to discuss the pattern around Lillian. Unfortunate as it seems to be a favourite thing to talk about round here./
Picking up his book he tries to find where he had left off.
Lillian calms eventually, and Mouse watches her, apparently deciding that distance is a good thing when involved with females acting odd.
Finally she sits up and looks at Wraecca. "I can't go on like this."
Without looking in Mouse's direction he says, "Mouse would you do us a favour and vacate."
Mouse nods. "Gladly." He looks at the doors and picks one, disappearing into what appears to be a bedroom.
Lillian waits until he's gone. "If... if we're serious about staying here, I have to get over this..."
Wraecca nods, unsure of himself what to do. /They didn't cover this in being a wolf 101./ "I'd help you if I can. I'm not certain what I have to offer by way of...being able to assist."
"I don't know. I don't know either. It's just, any time it's brought up, I can feel it again... What I felt the other times." She puts her face in her hands. "I wasn't asleep the second time... Not really."
Wraecca nods, "There may be a way to remove what's happened to you. But it could go either way. What you recall having us walked was broken and I think the flaws it possessed have infected you. But there is one here that is without flaws."
Her voice catches in her throat several times as she tries to talk, but finally she makes the words form.
"You want me to walk... that? Again?"
Wraecca throws his hands up in the air. "No it's something different. If the first one we walked was all wrong. This one is clean. I'm not even certain how far we can go with this conversation without you coming apart. What possessed you to stay awake the second time?"
She starts crying. "I couldn't help it! It woke me up! I tried to..." She grits her teeth. "I'm trying, okay? What else can I do, huh?"
Wraecca stares at Lillian briefly, "Okay, how about this. Let's go take a look at what's in the basement. We won't do anything while were there. If tomorrow you think it's something you want to try we can take it from there."
She dries her face with her sleeve. She looks at her lap for a moment, then nods. "'Kay," she whispers.
Taking her hand Wraecca leads her to the basement. As he walks with her he says, "I want you to hold on to something for me. It used to be what I prized most in all the worlds I've known."
He hands her a large gem almost the size of her fist.
She nods and holds it tightly. Lillian purses her lips several times as they walk to the basement, and looks almost relieved when they are stopped by the guards again.
This time, however, they part and give them leave to descend. Lillian stiffens again, but does move forward behind Wraecca.
Walking up to the double doors, beyond which lies the pattern, Wraecca says, "Close your eyes and I'll lead you in. You have my promise this time we don't walk it. I just want to know what you feel from it and maybe what the gem can provide by way of advice."
She closes her eyes and swallows hard, her lip trembling.
Inside, the pattern glows, bright and ambiguous as ever. Lillian keeps her back against a wall, and whispers to Wraecca.
"Nothing. It's doing nothing..."
Wraecca nods to himself, "It won't lash out and kill you. It's just a design. Go ahead and sneak a peek then close your eyes again real fast and tell me what you think."
She opens her eyes so slightly, that Wraecca almost doesn't see her dark orbs behind her lashes. She flinches and scrunches her eyes shut again.
"I-- the dark--" She shivers.
Wraecca hugs her close and strokes her hair. "Sokay. We won't do anything. No walking strange things today. We don't even have to get closer to it."
He pauses and waits for her to relax, "If you had a patient with this problem what would you tell her to do?"
She shakes in his embrace, and keeps her hands clutched tight around the soulstone at her chest.
"I would-- I would do exposure therapy." She stops. "Can we go? Please...?"
"Sure thing. Keep your eyes closed and I'll walk you out." Taking her hand he leads her out of the room and shuts the double doors behind them.
"You can open your eyes now."
She opens them, and let's out a long, trembling sigh as she puts her back against the wall and slides down.
She holds the soulstone close. "Thank you. For actually taking me out. Some would have just lead the patient closer."
"Talk about role reversal, huh?"
Wraecca smiles, "I thought it might be more important for you to think back on what just happened without having to recover from full blown panic. I want to know if that pattern in there looked or felt different from the other one back in the church."
She steadies herself, and draws her knees up. With concentration, her breathing calms, thought there is still a nervous tenor to her voice.
"The dark... glowed." She bites her lip. "I know it shouldn't do that... But it did. It called to me."
Wraecca nods absently. "You've been infected with the darkness. Not surprising considering what's been done to you. You probably were never meant to get this closely involved in these powers. Damn. Here's the scoop. When I walked the one here, it burned the darkness right out of me. I'm sure it would do the same to you but I'm not sure how you would weather the process. Would if in the process of burning it out of you it torches your soul or strips you of the rest of your sanity? And your other option doesn't look too good either. Living in the fear generated darkness of it's flawed shadow...I think you'll go crackers eventually. What's your opinion?"
"My opinion?" She sniffs. "We've gone from psychiatry to philosophy. They didn't cover _that_ in my grad studies."
She manages a weak laugh. "Knew I should have gone for that doctorate."
"Crap! Why didn't I think to ask that old geezer some of these questions? What was his name? Dorsal-fin?, Dwarf-bin?...it'll come to me. Somebody's got to know something about this. If these folks are immortal it would stand to reason some studying about this stuff has been done. Maybe at the ball we'll stumble across something."
Wraecca takes Lillian's hand in his, "Let's get out of here. We've had enough fun in the dungeon for one day." Helping Lillian to her feet, he exclaims, "Doorpin! That was his name. Wait...no, that ain't it; drat!"
"Dworkin," she chuckles, and leads him back up the stairs. "DWOR-KIN. Made the universe. I think he's a bit important. It might be polite to remember his name if we're going to ask him for help.
"I should warn you though: everyone seemed to think him insane from time to time. There's a couple of documented accounts of him just going nuts for a while. There's all sorts of theories why, but nothing very concrete."
Wraecca snaps his fingers, "Yeah, that's it: Dworkin. I'm going to have to tattoo that somewhere." He looks at her with a sidelong grin as they climb the stairs, "So can I have my rock back? I imagine we’re out of danger now."
Reluctantly she hands it back to him, and he's amazed her paw prints aren't pressed into it, so tightly was she clutching it.
"Couldn't you just make a tattoo with your shapechanging? I'd imagine that's not too far out. I mean, if you can be a wolf..."
"Tattoos from shapechanging, yeah, don't see why not. Far out. Hey, that would be an awesome camouflage technique come to think of it. Hmmm..."
"Oh! Mouse! Poor little guy. We left him back in the room! Where'd you pick him up, anyway?"
Wraecca glances at Lillian quizzically, "Uh, I kicked him out of the room when you were having some difficulties with the conversation between Bill and I. At least I'm pretty sure I did."
"Poor thing... Hope he didn't run off." She laughs in a self-depreciating way. "This has been such a bother, hasn't it?"
She ascends the dark stairway, and Wraecca starts to see her in shades of heat rather than dim colour as his vision shifts.
Wraecca replies in a tone of light amusement, "It's been an education certainly."
Out of curiosity he shifts his right eye's vision along the electromagnetic frequency band looking for any pattern that matched the darkness he had viewed in Lillian when he possessed broken pattern.
"But never boring."
She chuckles. "Then it looks like the fates have put together some souls with the same path." She pauses for a moment. "One of the books I got-- It was about wolves... I thought it might help me sort a few things out about you."
The shifting doesn't reveal anything out of the ordinary. The dark just sits there and looks dark.
Wraecca smiles, "I'm very flattered. If you have any questions about the book let me know. It's an area I do have some background in."
As they reach the top of the stairs he asks, "What shall we do now? We probably have some hours before the ball? More studying or is there something else you'd like to do?"
Lillian thinks. "I suppose we need to get outfitted. And playing hide and seek with Clarice is always an option, thought I'm sure she'll pop up at the ball. "
There is a long pause, filled only by the echo of their shoes on the stone stairs. "Um-- Wraecca. What does it mean by 'mate-for-life'?"
Wraecca stumbles momentarily and issues an elegant, "huh?"
His infravision reveals heat rising up her neck, into her cheeks. "Um, the book. It talked about wolves mating for life. You know. Only ever having one mate.
"You're not one hundred percent wolf, so I was wondering how that works into your, um, personal make-up. If you've adopted that or not."
Wraecca blinks, "Well, uh, um, er...I hadn't given it much thought. I was just a cub in the pack but yeah, I suppose so. I mean it's all about the joy of companionship and raising cubs and, well, what other options are there?"
"It's not really options-- but consequences..." Lillian is very careful. "I mean, you're immortal, as long as you don't hit your head too hard. Your mate is most likely not going to be immortal. What do you do-- after?"
"Oh! I see what your asking." He chuckles, "Wolves are very pragmatic about this. If a mate dies. Life does go on. Wolves mate until one or the other dies. I mean, you can't really have a relationship with somebody who is dead now can you?"
"I'd hope not." Lillian looks oddly relieved. "Okay, so what now? Are we going to be boring and study some more, or do you want to roam around a bit."
Wraecca grins, "Let's see if we can find the armoury. I bet they got all sorts of cool gizmos there!" His pace quickens slightly as he looks for a servant to flag down and ask directions of.
Lillian manages to pull him back. "Umm-- somehow, I think running around and asking where the weapon are is a bad idea. Maybe we should just go buy some...
"And gizmos? You don't just want a big steak knife anymore?"
"Well there are other things besides swords you know. There's maces, and flails, and bows, and many other implements of medieval mayhem I'm sure they'd have. It's not like I know how to use any of them but they are kind of neat to look at. Did you have a better idea?"
She giggles. "Are you going to be a medieval Rambo? A sword at each hip, a dagger in your boot, and a crossbow on your back? I can tear my petticoat and make you a lovely bandana.
"You'll look so butch. I say you go without a shirt either."
"Thanks but I can always shorten my hair if it gets in the way. And why stop at 2 swords? why not 4 or 6?"
"Four or six? I thought we didn't want to stand out? And what in the world are you going to do with..." She pauses. "Oh, that's right. You _can_ grow more arms, can't you? Still, that's hardly subtle.
"I think one sword is in keeping with the local fashion. Maybe if we head out to shadows..."
He chuckles, and Lillian gets the feeling that maybe he was teasing all along, "Point taken. One sword is probably more then enough."
She joins him in laughing. "Too bad you can't borrow my dagger. I think it'd look neat on your hip. But I guess a big steak knife will just have to do.
"And learning how to use it, of course. I'd hate to have my champion impale himself trying to defend my honor."
"Yeah, that is on the list of things to do. Hopefully I won't be needing one before then. I wonder what else they have here? A swimming pool would be kinda fun assuming they ain't totally primitive. A little exercise does a body good you know."
"Swimming pool, swimming pool-- no, I don't think I've read about anything like that, but hell, what can it hurt to ask? Or there's always the beach. It's a bit cold though, and I didn't see anywhere to buy bathing suits.
"Skinny dipping is fun, but hypothermia is not high on my list."
Wraecca shrugs, "Try it as a fish sometime. You might find the experience enjoyable."
His face brightens, "I wonder if they have an art gallery around here. You, paintings, sculptures and other silly things. It might provide some clues about this place."
She thinks. "We could explore, I suppose. No harm in that. Maybe we should track down a tour guide... One of these servants or something. I'm fairly certain the nobles are busy.
"Unless you want to try paging Gerard again.
"That's a joke, by the way."
"Actually, I kinda liked Gerard. He seemed a very straight forward level headed dude. It's people like Caine that give me conniption fits. I do sort of wonder what Clarice has been doing all this time. She doesn't know anybody here and yet she's never around. Very strange."
"If I've got a read on her, she's trying to get a leg up on the people there. Creepy or no, she seems to like to be prepared--
"Or maybe we can find those cards. There have to be some _somewhere_."
Wraecca nods, "Another good idea. I wonder if they have a gambling parlour around here, or maybe some occult...say, those quarters we just got. If Sand is half the card carrying closet cultist she looked to be I bet she might have a deck or two stashed in that room."
"If she does, it's nowhere I looked... And I was pretty thorough. Looked a little picked over.
"Maybe we should ask Gerard... If you are family, you'll need the goodie bag that goes with it. Where was that steward...?"
Wraecca makes a wry grin, "I may be part of the family but I don't have much in the way of a sponsor. But I'm not worried about it yet."
She touches his hand. "Then I think we should take not embarrassing ourselves at the ball as a priority. C'mon. Let's get outfitted."
Wraecca shakes his head, "Fashion, what a concept. okay. Let's play with cotton."
"Cotton! Pft. I'm dating a prince. I want silk. And with all we spend on keeping you fed, I'm due a little treat." She heads back to their rooms. "Bill said someone would be by to outfit us. Maybe he hasn't shown yet. Or maybe he left a note."
Wraecca grins, "Hopefully we won't be exceeding the dole on the first day."
"Hopefully. Hate to break the bank so early. They'll put us on bread and water."
She opens the door to their room, and Mouse is once again on the couch, reading, occasionally holding up a hand and saying something, looking disappointed, then going back to reading.
He notes Lillian and Wraecca. "Ah. Hello. Where did you go off to?"
Wraecca walks over to the book collection and selects the one he was previously reading. "We went for a walk," he answers neutrally.
"Did anyone stop by?" asks Lillian to Mouse, and he shakes his head. As if the fates have a sense of humor, or at least an idea of what a dramatic entrance is, a knock sounds on the door, and a withered old man in tired velvet enters.
He bows, and Lillian smiles. "The tailor?" He nods. Mouse collects his book and flees to the side bedroom again.
Wraecca frowns, "Doesn't that kid have his own room?"
He shakes his head and turns to the tailor, "Who's first?"
Lillian shrugs. "If they don't know he's a-- well, that he's visiting, maybe he doesn't have a room." She smiles sweetly. "It's not like he's noisy. And he's a bit young. I'm surprised he's been wandering about by himself. Wonder where his parents are."
The man deftly measures about Lillian's waist, almost without her noticing. As he takes her bust size, however, she does seem to note him. They chat quietly about colours and styles.
Wraecca nods, "He doesn't seem like a bad kid true. Just a little shy. Maybe he'll drop that as he gets a feel for this place. So what colours will you wear? I don't want to pick out something that will clash with you too badly?"
"Uhhhh-- Blue? Do you have blue stuff?" The tailor nods. "Cool. Blue then. So no orange for you. Or pink."
Her voice lowers a bit. "As for Mouse, he's at an awkward stage. Poor thing. How outgoing were you right around the time you hit puberty? He just needs to get out of the ganglies and he'll be fine."
"Wraecca smiles, "Guess I'll forgo the orange n' black combo I had in mind. Maybe something along the lines of indigo with silver trim with a purple/black cloak. That might be decent enough."
"As long as we don't match too much," she nudges the tailor jokingly, who simply sighs and finishes his measuring.
"I like the sound of that... Are you sure you've been a wild animal and soldier all your life? You didn't moonlight as an interior decorator or something?"
"Hey I've worn a couple uniforms in my time. They weren't all BDU's. There was the occasional dress uniform we wore between battles and such."
She shrugs as the tailor finishes. "I only saw you in the field stuff and civs. Guess that's the breaks of war, huh?"
The tailor motions for Wraecca to stand.
Wraecca stands with feet shoulder width apart and goes through the motions of being fitted. It's obvious he's done this before one or twice. "I don't think they had gotten around to reissuing me Class A's. The war was over and they were too busy discharging people to bother."
He grimaces, "But that's all in the past. I doubt there will be much opportunity to wear a uniform here."
She sits back down and watches the measuring. "Unless you join the guard or the navy or something. Or unless they have balls all the time here. You never know. You might have to work up a rather sizable wardrobe."
Wraecca shrugs, "Don't see anything wrong with going to the occasional ball. I'll need to find a dancing instructor one of these days as well. Better add that to the list of things to do."
Lillian snaps her fingers as the tailor leaves. "That's what I've been forgetting! Dancing." She stands, and moves in front of Wraecca. "Either I can teach you, or we can page Gerard again and see what he knows..." She grins a wicked grin. "I think you two would make a cute couple."
Wraecca laughs and matches Lillian's grin., "Nah, he's never around when you need him. Guess I'll just have to make do with you. You got your steel toed boots on?"
She smirks, and lifts the edge of her dress, revealing tennis shoes, greyed with time and use. "I didn't like the local stuff." She puts an arm around his waist and takes his hand, lifting it in the air a bit. "Hope wolves have a sense of rhythm. Didn't see that in my little book."
"Of course we have rhythm. Just tell me what to do and I'll try not to disappoint."
As Lillian pushes and pulls, and otherwise begins to describe dance steps she quickly begins to realize that Wraecca isn't just strong, he is very, very strong. Small errors where she attempts to lead quickly prove to be somewhat comical. She'll shift one direction only to be stopped dead in her tracks by a single arm or, in some cases, an iron strong wrist.
Still Wraecca proves quite adaptable and quickly begins to figure out the hints in her body's signals...something many social animals are quick to understand.
She's rather happy with his progress, and looks quite pleased with herself while she's at it. "I guess as long as they don't go beyond a waltz or a foxtrot, we won't embarrass ourselves. And as long as you don't show the-- ahem-- enthusiastic appetite you normally do."
She kisses him on the cheek. "Despite this being a none-too-safe situation, I'm actually looking forward to it."
Wraecca laughs, "I'm sure it will be fine. As long as they don't start a Mambo that is."
"Or the limbo. Although with that shapeshifting of yours, that could get interesting."
A servant knocks on their door, and Lillian calls out for him to enter. With a small bow, he informs the esteemed guests of the king that the ball is beginning.
Lillian calls out to the side bedroom Mouse has claimed. "Last chance!"
"No thanks," comes the muffled reply. "Have a you know what."
Wraecca shrugs at Lillian and then makes his own pitch, "They got great food! I hear it's a buffet, all you can eat!"
Long, long pause.
"Maybe later. I'll keep at this conjuration stuff. If that kid can do it, I'm pretty sure I can."
Lillian shrugs. "That age and a huge formal gathering... we can bring him some food later." Another servant enters with their attire for the evening, and she separates out hers, dismissing the help with a nod.
She puzzles over the laces and hooks for a moment, then shrugs, heading off to the other bedroom (not occupied by Mouse).
Wraecca immediately begins changing as Lillian exits. Whistling an old military marching tune as he goes about garbing himself with the provided garments. "Let me know if you need any help" he calls out to her innocently.
She laughs, muffled through the door. "Uh-huh... I think I'll be fine." A long silence ensues, and she exits, her face sour. She holds the top covering to her chest, and he can see she can't get the back laced up.
"Okay, maybe a little help. Haven't they heard of zippers here?"
Wraecca’s lips quirk into a grin. Obviously the attire for gentleman is more utilitarian as he appears fully dressed.
The pants appear a light blue with a black military stripe delineated with silver running down the outer seams. His tunic is also mostly blue with a wide black V at the throat with silver etchings and trim. His boots are black with silver buckles, and a wide black leather belt employs a silver buckle. His cloak is indigo colored at the top with the colour shifting as the eye travels it's length to deeper blues, purples, and finally black where it rests against his boots. Silver linings are randomly embroidered into the fabric giving it an almost iridescent, night sky look. A silver cloak clasp cunningly crafted into a crescent moon rests at his neck. It's obvious somebody put a lot of time into making the cloak.
Wraecca walks behind Lillian and helps with the lacings, "Must have been designed by a polymorpher." he laughs briefly, "It's either that or you have it on backwards."
She sighs. "No... it was designed by someone who assumed I'd have a mess of servants helping me get dressed. Hmph. It's pretty, though. Hope I get to keep it."
It fits her well, tightly around the body, with lots of satiny material for the skirts... A bright sky blue, it sets well against her peaches and cream skin. As he finishes lacing, she turns and looks at him.
"Nice... I like that on you." She winks. "Gotta love a guy in uniform."
Wraecca blushes slightly. "I must say you look quite...stunning. Quite a change from the counsellor's attire."
He picks up a pair of black doe-skin gloves and wraps them under his belt. With a wide grin he bows, "Is the lady ready for this evening's festivities?"
She does a somewhat awkward curtsy. "As ready as this lady ever is going to be..." She takes his arm as he rises. "Let's go."
Walking down the corridor he says, "Should have picked up a book on etiquette while we were at the library. Oh well. I never was big on first impressions anyways."
She smiles. "They mean less than people think. I think it will be pretty apparent that we're out of town. Accent. Carriage. All the little things."
The enter the main hall, and Lillian stops a moment. Castle Amber is, on its own, stunning-- But with the added light and fineries and flora... The magic atmosphere is alive...
Wraecca stops and looks around the main hall in amazement at the opulence displayed. His eyes spy some of the other ladies from a distance and he turns to Lillian and in a low voice says, "Give me a minute."
He casually flinches some flowers that lie in decoration and wraps his cloak about him momentarily. His eyes loose focus briefly and he stands motionless for several seconds. When he pulls his cloak aside in his hands is a collection of light blue flowers intricately woven into a corsage. The back of the weavings including a single long thin thorn serving as a pin.
Turning to Lillian he affixes the corsage to her dress while whispering, "Some of the other ladies seem to wear them. I'd hate for you to appear less so when your not."
From a distance Lillian can see Stan fluttering nervously in the shadows. The insect might have alerted to something sharp piercing her clothing but it can't quite decide if she is being attacked.
Lillian smiles and reddens slightly. "Oh-- thanks..." She titters. "God, this reminds me of junior prom... Barry Kenter. He didn't get a wrist corsage by accident and he was so red-- my mom had to put it on..." She touches it lightly. "It's beautiful. Thanks."
Taking a deep breath, she surveys the room. "King. I think I see Eleanor. Lots and lots of people I don't know. No Gerard. No Caine. No Clarice. Lots and lots of wiggle room."
Wraecca takes a deep breath, "Well they don't know us either. So the playing field is level."
She nods, and sights Gerard. She goes to greet him, but, seeing the sour expression on his face, thinks better of it.
"Hmph. I guess he won't be my guinea pig, huh?" She looks around and sighs. "I hope more of the royalty show up. C'mon. Let's eat."
"He's probably not happy we didn't stay at the inn and remain out of sight."
He waves to Gerard, and escorts Lillian to the Buffet.
Gerard doesn't notice Wraecca's wave, but instead seems to be scanning the crowd towards the dancing area.
The buffet is overflowing, it still being early. Some linger around it, not touching it in it's pristine beauty. Others tentatively nibble on a stray strawberry or piece of cheese.
Wraecca looks around at the people admiring the food with some confusion. "They going to eat or they waiting for the stuff to cool?"
He shrugs, grabs a plate and heads over to massacre the artwork...
Lillian, Ms. Worrywart she is, doesn't stop him, surprisingly enough. "Most likely no one wants to be the first. But we're from out of town. We can break rules." She watches as Wraecca fills his plate with all sorts of savouries, and copies him to a lesser degree.
"Can't eat too much. I'll burst out of this thing."
Wraecca laughs, "Yeah, I learned a long time to admire food when I'm finished eating. Not before."
Finding a table for Lillian and himself he sets his plate down and asks her, "I'm heading over for drinks. What'll you have?"
"Nothing alcoholic," replies Lillian scanning the room again. "I need my grey matter unfuzzed tonight. Maybe later I'll indulge..."
Gerard does spot them, and walks over, nodding a hello. "Flora told me you'd be here. Heard you got to meet the king." He looks uncomfortable in a stiffly sewn jacket.
Wraecca nods, "Indeed. A very friendly king he is too. He set up some rooms for us in the castle. Most amazing."
He casually indicates the wet bar, "I'm getting some drinks. I'll be right back."
He heads off to the wet bar and the harried young man running it, trying to keep up with the refined tastes of the uppity nobility. Wraecca manages to get a strawberry daiquiri (virgin) for Lillian, and two stout beers for the menfolk.
Back at the table, Lillian has filled Gerard on what happened after they parted ways (leaving out a few more intimate parts, guesses Wraecca), and has moved on to detailing her need of a talkative Elder.
Wraecca hands out drinks and sits down to dine. He doesn't bother to interrupt the conversation. Being content to listen and eat for the moment.
Gerard patiently listens to Lillian's list of requirements for her guinea pig. Talkative. Egotistical. Old. Willing to hash out a life story on the spot... Gerard cuts her off at some point.
"Oh, that's easy. Bleys. No doubt about it. He'll even still be aching, so he'll want an excuse to sit."
Wraecca says, "Wonderful. Can you provide us a description of this fellow?"
"Red hair. Kinda muscular. Always looks really sharp. He should be with his daughter-- girl by the name of Faetan. Black hair, most of the time."
Lillian sighs. "Well, that's no good. I need him alone."
Gerard chuckles. "Eh-- I'll talk to Martin. Get him to distract her again. And Bleys is always willing to talk to a pretty lady."
Wraecca smiles, "Either that or I can occupy Faetan for a bit..."
Lillian cocks an eyebrow. "And how exactly are you planning on doing that?"
Wraecca barks a laugh, "Ask her to dance of course."
Lillian looks insulted. "_I_ taught you to dance. I should get the first one. Hmph. Some gratitude." She tosses her hair.
Gerard looks out across the room. "Speaking of first dances-- 'scuse me. I'll try to point Bleys your way if I can." He gets up quickly and leaves.
If Lillian looks perplexed, Wraecca looks confused, "Well yes you did have first dance. After all you did teach me. I assumed you were going to wait for everyone to eat, dance, and become a little inebriated before sinking your fangs into some unsuspecting sap."
"I told you, I'm not drinking." She points at her virgin drink. "And those dances don't count. They were practice. Hell, we didn't even have music to go by."
She tries to swallow a small laugh. "And I would hardly call any Amberite a sap."
Wraecca shrugs, "I was talking about everyone else drinking of course. Conversations become a little easier when people, other people," he amends, "have had a few."
"That would give us time for a few dances before you need to turn to serious conversations, eh?"
"True," she concedes, tasting a few sweet things off her plate. "And I suppose I won't need him for the entire evening. Besides, I don't even see him yet... Wonder why he's aching?" She shrugs. "I guess if he's as talkative as I need him to be, I'll find out."
Between bites Wraecca says, "An evening can last a long time. Should be interesting to see what unfolds." He looks over the crowd as he eats, "Don't see anyone yet. Course it's not easy to see faces when sitting. Still, it's important to sense of priorities about things."
Lillian keeps quiet for a few minutes, letting Wraecca eat and eyeing the locals. She watches a man smoke at the far corner of the room.
"My target," she mutters, "But he doesn't look particularly garrulous right now." She continues looking. "And there's Benedict-- the eldest. No chatty Cathy there either..." She looks over at Wraecca and winks. "Guess I'm stuck with you, huh?"
Wraecca laughs, "People are just sizing up other people as all. Give the party a bit of time. Things will get lively, I'm sure of it."