Part 11 - Return To Amber
"Meanwhile, back at reality....."
- George Lucas
Dumbly, I stared at the center of the Pattern.
I was alone.
Without thinking, I dropped the katana and clutched the book, a far more familiar friend, to my chest.
Deftly, I held Kyle's trump before me and tried to reach him.
There was static interference....lots of it. It was akin to when I tried to reach my mother when she was at the Primal Pattern.
I pushed, pouring every ounce of my power into the contact.
Apparently, he couldn't even sense me to boost the call to completion.
I dropped my hand to my side, clutching the seemingly useless card, and frowned.
Briefly I considered re-entering Castle Crimson and searching the rooms for artifacts, but the thought willingly intruding on that tomb made me sick to my stomach.
I sat at the edge of the dead Pattern and replaced Kyle's trump, pulling Lumia's in it's stead.
I tried to initiate contact.
Again, nothing but interference.
The same results when the card for Amber came up. By this time, the Pattern had lost it's extra glow.
I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Offhandedly I wondered whether the nothingness that resided here had affected Kyle in the same way. It was like waves beating upon the shore - it would come close, then fade, then approach again.
Carefully, I shuffled out my Mother's trump and focused on it.
The contact was weak, so weak I thought I would lose it, but she reached out with her mind and boosted the call.
The picture was grainy at first, but became clearer as the contact solidified.
Mother was in one of the laboratories in Amber. Bleys and Toireasa were there as well, apparently studying something which I could not see.
"Shannon," she addressed me. "What are you doing, seeing how far you can Trump for the fun of it?" The sarcasm was there, but the look on her face showed that she was relieved to see me.
"Something like that." I smiled, trying not to show how relieved I was that the contact had gone through. Somehow, though, I think she was able to sense my feelings. "Will you bring me through?"
She smiled as I stepped through, remembering a moment too late that Kyle's katana lay at the edge of the foreign Pattern.
The thought fell to the back of my mind as I looked around me.
I was back in Amber.
Moonlight streamed through a window, casting shadows about the laboratory which seemed to be on the fourth floor.
Peering around my Mother I saw what Toireasa and Bleys were so intently staring at.
In was a runic circle within which smoke dwelled, obscuring the scene which seemed to take place somewhere in shadow.
My breath caught in my throat.
There were two ladies walking. One was the stranger, Clarissa, whom I had met in the library earlier. The other was someone right out of the history books.
Random's sister, Mirelle.
"Hello Shannon." Bleys smiled at me, looking away from the scrying spell for the moment.
"As you can see, daughter," said my mother, "we have discovered something interesting about Clarissa...I am sure you recognize who that she is with." I nodded. "The question we were deciding is what to do about it...until awhile ago, the pair of them were close to the Courts, but have been shadow shifting away from it."
"How interesting." I moved forward, peering at the couple. "Answers one question and raises many others."
A sudden thought struck me as a shaft of moonlight moved across the circle.
"Tell me," I asked Mother, "is Lorius at Tir-na N'goth?"
She shook her head. "Unlikely, since it is not liable to be fully stable until the full moon, on the Vernal Equinox, matter of fact...I believe he is still working on the Dream Power of the guy who visited everyone's dreams...trying to quantify it, identify it...he does think, he told me, that it's related to Tir, and the preliminary stuff he showed me does suggest a possible ink."
Then came the voice in my head. *And he tells me you have decided to learn sorcery finally?* There was a seemingly approving tone in the contact.
*Good for you!* Bleys cheered.
I turned redder.
To avoid being seen as a human tomato, I turned to study the ruin circle. Clarissa and Mirelle were rifling through a trump deck.
*Thank you.* I replied to their comments. *I have been meaning to learn for some time now and the timing happened to be right.*
Brushing hair from my face I turned towards them, certain that my natural pallor had returned. *I have been to the most intriguing place as of late, and I'm sure that you would both find it most interesting. Can we meet in, say, one hour? I'd like to shower first.*
Toireasa, seemingly oblivious to our mental conversation, continued to watch the circle.
Mother consented to my proposal, seeming amused by it. The exact source of her mirth was indeterminable as usual. Either acid or completely unreadable - that is Fiona.
Uncle Bleys was far more jovial. I suspected that had it not been for their current experiment he would have insisted on hearing the tale then and there.
The real reason I had asked to tell them my tale at a later date was the fact that the leather bound volume still clutched to my chest.
As soon as my Mother and Uncle Bleys learned of it they would undoubtedly snatch it up and I would never see it again. Not only was it from another world, but it was tangible proof that the Stranger's universe did indeed exist.
Without another word I slipped out.
It was good to be home! As I walked I pondered the time differential between Amber and Castle Crimson. Kyle and I had been there an hour at most, yet all of the afternoon and part of the night had passed in the real Amber.
Strangely, I found it disconcerting.
A floor down I paused and selected my trump for Lumia.
This time the contact was instantaneous.
Once there I showered, changed, and ate, then went up to my study, brushing off the usual barrage of invitations to dinners and odd social events.
I then proceeded to read the book Kyle had found, transcribing all illustrations, maps, symbols, and words of important.
I was paranoid, perhaps overly so, but just the same I took all the notes in my native tongue, which is fairly obscure and I was sure that no one in Amber other than my Mother and Tyler could speak it, let alone read it - especially the notes which I took in short hand.
It was by no means a boring task.
History in all it's forms has always fascinated me. I had majored in it in college back home and had read at least half the books in the library in Amber dealing with the subject.
The book was more of a guide book than a collective history, but the implied comments were there.
Titania was apparently the founder of the alternate Amber. There weren't many pictures of her, but I did find a lovely portrait of someone all to familiar.
Tall and blond, dressed in green.
The so called "Stranger" from our dreams.
The book named him "Valerian" and noted that he preferred his "Forest Home." That world's Julian perhaps? I hoped not, since I loathe the man so. Perhaps he was more like Carl. They were closer in apparent age to say the least.
When I was done I slept some, then read the book one final time before trumping back to Amber.
Seconds had passed.
I pulled open my bottom dresser drawer and worked the latch of the secret compartment which was littered with a number of unused trumps. Carefully, I placed my stack of notes there, then re-latched it and put the book in a knapsack.
I then proceeded to the dungeons to find out what had become of Tyler.
I got to the staircase before realizing that things were amiss.
A pair of dead guards lay by the door, ripped open as thought some monster had torn them apart.
Carefully, I stepped around the fresh pools of blood and nudged open the door which hung ajar.
My hand involuntarily went to my mouth.
There were more bodies, similarly dead.
From the ceiling hung a magical ball of lemon light.
A very angry and upset Gerard, apparently unharmed, stood among the bodies, glowering at a trump.
Gingerly, I placed my foot on the first step.
He turned and saw me.
"Shannon! Warn the King. Warn everyone. Triton showed up trying to get to the Pattern, killing along the way. Malachi and Luke tried to stop him, but he threw his sword into Luke and ran for it...
"He's gone mad...I think Tina may be next on his list, but I can't seem to trump her."
Something shiny caught my eye. A cutlass lay by it's self, glinting on the stairs. It appeared to be Triton's.
There was no sign of Luke or Malachi, however. I did not know whether to be relieved or worried about that fact.
A pair of guards came up the stairs and halted before us.
"Prince Gerard, Prince Triton used a trump and has escaped before we can reach him. He's escaped, sir."
I turned away from them and selected Random's trump.
It was a shame I had to call him when I did.
Random was at dinner, surrounded by the familiar forms of Martin and Gerard's twin sons. A number of voices rose in the background.
The King was smiling.
"Ah, Shannon," he said. "We're near the tail end of dinner, but if you'd like to......."
His words faded only seconds after his smile.
Time to explain.
"I'm sorry to bother you at dinner, but Gerard asked me to call." I smiled pleasantly, despite my surroundings. "Apparently, Triton appeared trying to get at the Pattern. He killed several guards along the way before Luke and Malachi tried to stop him. He threw a blade into Luke and continued onward. I'm afraid he used a trump and escaped, however."
"Holy Shit!" Random exclaimed. He then addressed the dinner guests. "Friends, we have a new problem. Triton just showed up in the castle, and just killed several guards in an attempt to get to the Pattern. He trumped out just after throwing his sword into Luke's guts, who along with Malachi and Gerard tried to stop him."
I was beginning to think that Kyle's idea of mass trump contact and slaying might be accepted by Amber's residents.
Triton was causing too much trouble.
Random turned his attention back to me, "Unicorn, Shannon, are they all dead? Who is Gerard trying to call?"
I sighed and let the smile fade into a small frown. "There are several dead guards. I believe that Luke is alright. At least, he was not here when I arrived. Only the sword. Uncle Gerard was worried about Tina and was having trouble trumping her." I paused. "Just a moment."
I turned towards my other Uncle. "Uncle Gerard? Random would like to know who you are trying to call. Did you ever reach Tina?"
Gerard did not respond to me directly. Rather, he proceeded to bring Tina across the contact.
"Err...hello Shannon, Uncle Gerard," she said warily, looking at the bloody staircase.
I blinked. Her upper body was unclothed.
Suddenly, Cyllene and the golden skinned man from earlier came into view across the still pulsating contact with the King.
"Watch out Shannon, we have Cyllene and Jayson incoming. Not exactly the union cavalry, but here we go." Random concentrated and the contact began to expand.
Cyllene and Jayson stepped through the contact.
I was impressed. Apparently he had been paying attention to those lessons my Mother and Bleys had been giving him.
Gerard nodded to the pair, then bent down to look at one of the slain guards.
Jayson returned his nod, oblivious to the fact that our Uncle was no longer watching. He quickly added, "Uncle, we can't afford to say too much over those things, remember? Especially now......*His* son, remember......" He was making an obvious effort not to chide, but, rather, remind.
"Tina, Shannon," Cyllene addressed us, nodding. "Jayson, this is Tina, Llewella's daughter, and Shannon, Fiona's daughter. Cousins, meet Jayson...Sand's son, just came to Amber a few hours ago."
"Hi, again Tina." Jayson blinked, seemingly taken aback by her partial nudity. His recovery, however, was instantaneous. "Cyllene, Tina and I met earlier."
He gave me a quick nod. "Hi. I'd go through the lengthy introduction, but I just have to skip it in light of this."
"I understand completely." I nodded and smiled.
He clapped his hands once anxiously, addressing the four of us.
"Okay, I'm going after him. No arguments. If we're going to do anything, we should do it right now when he has no time to recover. If we keep the pressure on we stand a chance of capturing him. I think- no - I *know* I have a good chance of succeeding, but I may need some backup. I would be more than glad to explain my confidence, but not while Gerard might have a contact open. I am going down to the Pattern right now, follow along if you want some more details."
"But one thing.. and this is critical," he continued. "One of you must have Triton's trump. I need it. I'm not going to try to place a call. I really can't explain 'till I know we're secure and all contacts closed. After that, or down below, I'll fill you in."
He looked to Tina, "Tina. You must have Triton's trump? Please may I borrow it? It may mean the difference if he escapes or not, and believe me, he hasn't escaped yet. But I have to get moving......*now*."
"I may want you cousin's trumps as well, to call for backup."
Hesitantly, I reached into my pocket and extracted my trump deck. Flipping it open, I shuffled through and selected a card I had drawn depicting myself, then returned the deck to my pocket.
I handed the card the Jayson.
"Please try not to lose it. It's the only copy I have and I'd like it back." A small lie. I had others, but I did not relish on this golden skinned stranger having one.
It is all a matter of trust in our family and I did not trust Jayson, no matter how good his intentions.
Random and I spoke briefly through the contact as Jayson and Cyllene rushed off down the stairs, apparently in pursuit of Triton.
Tina and I stepped through gate, which abruptly shut down behind us.
We were in the dining room, which was relatively empty. Judging from the dishes I'd say that it had been vacated within the past few minuets.
Random was standing, and off to one side Martin sat, quietly staring at his plate. I caught a glimpse of Noys and Krysta walking out the door as we arrived and a strange, red haired women with a nasty looking whip was speaking with Castor and Pollux. Another relative perhaps? This certainly seemed to be a popular time for them.
No event, formal or otherwise, in Amber is complete without Asteria and Flora, our resident "social butterflies", who appeared ready to leave as well.
"How are you Tina?" Random asked, running a hand through his hair, perhaps out of frustration and worry over the recent events.
I looked at Random and smiled pleasantly, interrupting. "Unless there is anything else......" I trailed off. "I'm supposed to speak with my Mother and Uncle Bleys and I would like to prepare."
Untrue. I wanted to get out of here and hide before anything else happened.
"Indeed, Shannon. I suppose you do..." He seemed very distraught. "You can blow this scene."
I smiled politely and blinked at his choice of words. I still have not quite gotten used to Random's highly informal use of language.
With a nod to Tina I slipped out the door.
I'd gone all of five feet when I saw Larissa and Rylan moving towards me.
Larissa nodded to me in greeting.
"We have some news." She looked to Rylan then, silently letting him know that she wished to tell me something. I wondered if it involved him.
Smiling warily, I repressed a grimace. I had as much "news" as I wanted for one evening. "What about, dare I ask?"
Rylan nodded and smiled to Larissa, apparently pleased by something.
"We have had a very busy day." He told me. "Perhaps we should join the others," he indicated the dining room I had recently vacated. "That way we only have to tell it once. How about you? Anything interesting happen to you today?"
I laughed, but, somehow, that seemed improper and I quickly covered my mirth with a smile.
"You might say that," I replied. "I visited the so-called dream world the stranger hailed from. I was also privy to Triton's attempt to get at the Pattern *again*"
Shaking my head I continued, "I'm afraid almost everyone has left the dining room."
"Timing is everything, as they say," responded Rylan. I smiled prettily, still not certain of my feelings towards this recent arrival. "Oh well, Larissa and I could still use some dinner." He looked to Larissa, then back to me. "Would you like to come sit with us and share adventures? I would like to hear more about your visit to this dream world. We didn't make it as far away as that, but we did have a interesting walk down a hall of mirrors here in the Castle. And pretty talkative mirrors at that."
Ever so slightly my smile faded.
The Hall of Mirrors? How interesting.
A moment later the door to the dining room opened and Tina slipped out, appearing upset and somewhat scared.
She nodded. "Hello all." Then, to me, "Thank you for your help. I'm going to talk with Vialle about all this."
I smiled and reached out, touching her lightly on her shoulder, which was cool and still a bit damp.
"Don't worry. Things can not get any worse, right?" My tone was light, but I knew that I was fooling neither her, nor myself. Things can always get worse, especially in Amber.
Rylan peered at Tina curiously, as if tempted to ask what was wrong.
He remained silent, however, and I continued, speaking only to Rylan and Larissa.
"As for dinner, I am afraid I shall have to pass. I am supposed to meet with my Mother and Uncle Bleys and I have a few things I need to do." I smiled. "Perhaps later?"
Rylan nodded. "As you wish. But I think that sharing what we each now know, would be wise and as soon as possible, even better. Remember, this stranger said that our one true defense was our working together." He steeped to one side, allowing me to pass, then turn back to Larissa. "How about that dinner now, then we can decide what comes next?"
I walked past the three of them and, the book from the other world still clutched in my hands, returned to the laboratory to meet with my Mother and Uncle Bleys.
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