Part 12 - Meeting With Mother

"Good information is hard to get. Doing anything with it is even harder!"
- Luke Skywalker

"No," I could hear Fiona say as I entered the room. She was gazing into the now empty rune circle inscribed on the floor. "It's obvious to anyone with half a brain that Mirelle simply would not answer a call, even if she can now, as you point out. Who could it be, calling her after all this time?"
"Sister," Bleys said, apparently trying to mollify her by putting a hand on her shoulder.
"Ah, welcome back," he said to me with a smile.
My Mother gave me a quick glance. "Toireasa, you're excused," she snapped towards the other women.
Bleys looked at her then turned to Toireasa and I, looking for a reaction.
Torri's expression tightened she gave Mother a narrow-eyed glare, then nodded and schooled her face to a more neutral expression. She smiled forcibly and gave a low, sweeping curtsy as if in Court.
"Thank you for the opportunity to share your august presence, Your Highness," she replied, using Fiona's Court title. "I only hope that you save some of that - warm hospitality - for dear Clarissa when she returns rather than using it all up on me."
Turning to Bleys her manner changed, becoming much more relaxed - casual. "Uncle? I came here at your invitation. Was there anything else before I take my leave?"
"No, thank you for your help, Torri. I'll fill you in later," Bleys said with a genuine smile. It may have been just me, but he seemed to be trying to add a little alkaline to the acidic dismissal of Fiona, who said nothing in response.
Torri looked to me and spoke, "Sorry to run out, but I was just leaving. Perhaps we can talk after you're done here, if you like. I think I'll head to the library for a bit, and leave you to talk with your mother."
I smiled pleasantly. "If you're hungry you may want to stop by the dining room." A pause, then, "Rylan and Larissa were about to engage in a bit of storytelling when I left........."
With a shrug I let it hang.
She nodded and smiled. "Ah. Actually, I could use a bite to eat. That sounds like a good idea. I could never resist a good story."
As she left my smiled faded into oblivion.
"Has anyone told you the recent happens on the stair leading down to the dungeon, or do I have the pleasure of being the bearer of bad news?"
Bleys frowned. "No, no one has told us anything happening on the stair? What now? Gerard slip on that damn step he says is loose?"
My Mother ignored us both, standing tense with her arms crossed.
"Sis...take it easy," Bleys said gently. "Sit down and let's listen to what Shannon has to say."
She surprised me by complying and placing herself on a nearby work bench.
"Shannon...are we going to need a drink for this? Perhaps, Fi, we should retreat to my quarters. We both certainly could relax."
I replied, "Perhaps that would be best. It seems as though some of us need to relax."
I was careful not to look at my Mother as I said it. She chose not to acknowledge the barb and Bleys stepped between the two of us and, with a quick gesture, demonstrated his ability, for within a blink of an eye we were all gathered in Bleys' suite.
He was flashy; the life of the party, not to mention supremely confident of his abilities, and unafraid to demonstrate them.
I smiled and took a seat.
Bleys walked toward his well known(and well stocked) liquor cabinet, and poured a glass of a greenish potable. He handed it to my Mother.
"How thoughtful, brother," she said, for once without irony or acidity. She took a long sip of the absinthe, seemingly relaxing.
"I confess I am vacillating between several possibilities," Bleys said, gazing towards me.
I paused. I certainly did not need anything - that stuff always goes right to my head. However, it would have been rude to refuse.
"Vodka, if you please."
Smiling, I rose and fetched my drink, then sat again, fingering the book with my free hand.
Raising the glass I studied it briefly, then took a long sip of the bitter substance.
"Where to start......." I sighed.
"While the beginning is the most common inception I think I'll start first with what occurred on the stairs a short while ago.
"Triton, apparently, tried to get at the Pattern yet again and threw his blade into Luke when he, along with Malachi, made an attempt to stop him. Several guards were killed and Triton trumped out before anyone could catch him. Jayson - I am not sure whether or not you have met him; he claims to be Sand's son - seemed to think that he could use Triton's trump and somehow catch him."
"Jayson IS Sand's son," Bleys blurted out. I did not doubt for one moment that he had not meant to say that. He may be the life of the party, but he was a red head, too.
"But Triton's actions seem to indicate that he wants to attune the Jewel. I wonder, however, if he could do it with his father's Pattern," Mom said.
Some part of me silently hoped that Corwin's Pattern would have better judgment than that.
"Why not? Drawn with the Jewel just the same." Bleys took a sip of wine.
"However, brother, it was not drawn the same way," she responded.
It was interesting and well worth thought, but I had one other card to play.
"That, however, is only the most recent drama." I indicated the book Kyle had salvaged from the Crimson Castle library, then passed it to my Mother. "There is a story behind this, but I would like to hear your first impressions before I proceed."
She gazed at the title then moved on to the cover page and proceeded to flip through the book, then handed it wordlessly to Bleys who examined it similarly.
Their expressions were neutral, but I could see in their eyes that they knew it was something out of the ordinary.
Inwardly I smiled, flushed with the fact that I knew something they did not.
After a long silence my Mother spoke, "Since you are not a fool, I am eliminating the source of this book being any common shadow of Amber. So where is it from?"
"We're all ears, niece," Bleys said with a smile, taking a sip of red wine.
I smiled and began.
"You are both well aware of the dream phenomenon which occurred last night. After my dream I made two trumps - one depicting the blond haired man who had contacted us, the other being that of the library in the so called 'dream realm.' However, I did not want to try to use either trump without some sort of back-up, so I asked Kyle for help. Together we activated the card for the library and went through." I paused to sip my drink. "It was more or less the same as in my dream. I found the secret passage the Stranger - called Valerian by this book - used and Kyle and I explored some, using the maps in the book to locate their Pattern. It.....it was different. Faded. As though someone had tried to erase it and failed, leaving it, for lack of a better word, braindead. Kyle then proceeded to walk it and I have not heard from him since. Shortly there after I contacted you." I looked to my Mother. "This world, this Amber, was unlike anywhere I have ever been. Perhaps it was due to the damage to the Pattern there or perhaps it was something else entirely, but that place was literally lifeless. It was surrounded by nothing. No wind, no sun, not even a sky. It was as though someone had plucked the castle and put it inside a jar, then sealed the lid. It was utterly dead."
I leaned back and took another sip, awaiting their reaction.
"Kyle is as impetuous and temperamental as his father." It wasn't quite what I had expected from my Mother, but Bleys nodded in agreement.
"It was slightly reckless, even for him," Bleys announced, "to walk that Pattern. Judging from the description of that world you just gave us, Shannon, walking it could have disrupted the lifeless world...or killed him or killed you, needlessly."
"A faded Pattern...and a dead world, but one with," Mother toyed with the book, "valuable knowledge inside said jar. Very valuable indeed."
She looked up, her gaze piercing the inner recesses of my soul. "So, you have not tried Valerian's Trump yet, have you? And I think, if you would, a visit to this 'Faded Pattern world' might be educational, do you not agree brother?"
Bleys nodded. "I do so concur. Although an attempt to talk to Valerian first might be in order."
Slowly I pulled my trump deck from my pocket, setting what remained of the vodka aside.
I shuffled Valerian's card from the pile and passed it to my Mother.
"Do you really think that it will work?"
She took the card and scowled. "I am sure if Brand's hyperencephalic son can help you power a Trump to that dead world, I think you, Bleys and I can reach this Valerian and get straight answers and information from him immediately."
She passed the card to Bleys, showing him my handiwork.
"Very good for someone you met once and done so quickly," he said, eyeing the card suspiciously, probably trying to determine when I had the time to paint it. Mother took it in stride, obviously confident that I was resourceful enough to find a way.
"But you want to try this NOW, sis?" Bleys said, realizing that that was what she seemed to be suggesting. "Isn't that a little premature?"
"I don't think so." She looked to me. "Don't you agree, daughter?"
I did not agree entirely, but I decided to go along with her to avoid hurt feelings.
"Perhaps it is a bit premature, but I for one would like some answers. The day is not yet through and more strange things have transpired in this period of time than have happened in the past year. If this man holds the answers I would like to know them."
"Well spoken, Shannon," she replied approvingly. "Let us call him now."
She placed the card on the table in front of her and we gathered around, joining hands.
**Now, let us begin** Fiona spoke in my mind, linking the three of us together in power. Our minds reached for the card..........
It reminded me far too much of what it had been like trying to reach Castle Crimson - static, hard, and slow, existing only because of the sheer force of psychic power.
Images poured through the card.......a silvery gray landscape the same color of Lorius' dream residue........then Valerian, in some sort of library setting with someone.....someone familiar......... Brieanne! They walked among the shelves in a castle in some odd world...........the scene changed and I saw Valerian alone, gazing into a mirror in what appeared to be Amber's fabled hall.
There were two figures on the other side of the mirror, too distorted to be recognized, though I thought I knew who they were.
The vision ended then. While we could not contact him we had been able to touch his mind.
"Brieanne!" Mother exclaimed, letting go of my hand. "Holding out on us, I see. But, it seems that, if he wasn't engaged in the Dreamlands, we would have contacted this Valerian, although I see why he used dreams to reach you - the trump contact was difficult, even for three of us."
Bleys smiled. "Shades of Brand, you mean."
I bit my lip, the name of the mad man doing nothing to quell my growing unease.
Mother continued, "We'll call him tomorrow. Lets meet in my quarters at noon......and I'll get your brother to join in to ensure that it will work. And, Shannon, I suggest you try and draw out what your cousin knows about him. I think sugar, rather than vinegar, would be the best method."
Bleys chuckled.
Somewhere, from beyond the door, a clock chimed twelve.
Silently I recited an ancient childhood rhyme in my head:

One for sorrow,
Two for joy.
Three for girls,
Four for boys.
Five for silver,
Six for gold.
Seven to twelve for the secrets,
never to be told.

Part 13......

Return to Shannon's page!

With apologies to the Counting Crows for butchering their lyrics in that last bit =)