Part 13 - A Midnight Snack

"So, what else is new?"
- Walter Cronkite


I departed from Bleys' room leaving the trump of Valerian and the book for my uncle and Mother to mule over. No doubt there would be little sleep tonight as the book was read, analyzed, and argued about.
Slowly, I made my way back to my room and slipped inside. I lit several lamps and bit my lip, wondering just how I was going to extract information from Brieanne.
I did not know Julian's daughter well. In fact, most of what I knew about her came second hand from Brandeigh.
Hmmm........Brandeigh.
The wheels in my head began to spun and a plan fabricated. It wasn't a particularly good one, but it was enough to appease the demons in my mind for tonight.
My thoughts wandered, forming an ever tightening loop around Valerian, whoever he was.
I pulled Larissa's card from my trump deck, having decided to verify my theory that it was she and Rylan on the other side of the mirror in the vision.
It was busy.
Scowling, I put the card aside and began to absently flip through a book tracing the origin of Amber's mythology. It was a nice, oversized volume full of detailed pictures and diagrams of various beasts who had been chased from Kolvir long ago.
I tried the card again.
Still busy.
Slowly, I held on to the tenuous contact which told me my cousins focus was elsewhere and dumped the contents of my trump deck on to the table. I fingered each card depicting a person, not sure if I could pull off this feat which I had only heard described.
I stopped on Luke's trump. There was definitely.....something. It was unexplainable, that feeling. But it was there. Some sort of bond between Larissa and Luke's trumps.
Smiling I cut the contact, both cards losing the extra feel.
Briefly I toyed with the idea of attempting to spy on the conversation, but Luke was Brand's son and while he tended to flash his arcane abilities less than Kyle, he was still dangerous.
I went back to the book and read about the Schripth, an three eyed purple beast with six legs and an appetite for insects. Apparently, it had once thrived in Arden, but had gradually disappeared during the early centuries of Oberon's rule.
Aware that nearly ten minuets had passed I tried Larissa's trump again. This time I saw Larissa, seated next to Rylan, in the dining room.
Neither of looked very happy and, from Larissa's comment, I guessed that she had just cut contact with Luke.
Larissa nodded,"Greetings Shannon." She then turned to Rylan. "Luke will be fine. As for me being targeted, I can only make speculations at this point."
"Hello." I smiled warmly, trying to ease some of their apprehension. "I am sorry to bother you in the middle of dinner - this will only take a moment.
"You mentioned earlier that you two had taken a - trip - down the Hall of Mirrors. Did you by any chance have meeting with the blond stranger who appeared in our dreams?"
She looked confused, as if she didn't know how to answer me.
"Shannon," she said, "perhaps it is best you come to the dinning room to talk. The trumps are no longer a safe way to communicate."
I raised my eyebrows. "You sound like Jayson." I hesitated only briefly. I had not planned on a visit to the dining room. I had hoped to call Larissa, get an answer, then go to bed.
Still, there didn't seem much point in arguing, so I stepped through.
"Sometimes he is right," Larissa said, smiling at our cousins name. "Yes, I did see the man from our dreams in the hall of Mirror's why?"
Larissa's attention shifted quickly, however, as she focused further down the table on the conversation Torri and, yes, Clarissa were having.
"It would not be a good idea," she said, "for you to contact Triton right now. If I see him I will try to kill him."
Clarissa's head jerked back in surprise and her eyes widen. Her reply to Larissa was in a slightly admonishing tone.
"That's not a very nice thing to say! You don't even know for sure if he's a good guy, bad guy, or just plain loony - that's two outta three I don't see why you hafta kill him." Clarissa paused for a moment, thinking, then continued, "Do you often have homicidal urges? I mean, if you do, I think you should get some help - I know a few therapists, but they're kinda far away, and, well, I guess, they may not be in business anymore, lessee, I think its been like a dozen years at least..."
Dalt's daughter looked as though Clarissa had sprouted a third arm.
"No thank you. I don't need a therapist. When someone hurts someone I care about I strike back....if that makes me crazy than so be it."
Ah. She must have been referring to Luke.
I smiled at Clarissa. "I don't know about Larissa, but I personally would not mind seeing Triton's body minus his head because I fear what he is doing." A pause then, "One Brand was bad enough."
"As for contacting him," I continued, "I wouldn't." Cocking my head to one side I smiled. "Could prove fatal."
I then turned back to Larissa. "Academic interest and an unspoken theory about our blond friend." I glanced briefly around the table, noting the stale bread crumbs and unwashed dishes. "I don't suppose there are any clean glasses left? I could use a drink."
Torri raised her eyebrows, seemingly in question.
Clarissa's head jerked up and she began to recite, as if by rote, a lecture about "revenge."
"Revenge is not a valid motive!" she exclaimed. "You only use violence to stop violence, not to repay it after the fact - *and*, you hardly need to kill someone to stop what they're doin', most of the time - and even if it isn't, you should only do it as a last resort, never as your primary plan. Otherwise, you're no better than the bad guys, and that's no good - cause you aren't the good guys anymore."
Idealistic, but not much more. Perhaps her shadow worked in that fashion, but in Amber, well, things were different.
After a brief pause she glared at Larissa and continued, "And yes, you are crazy. No one should ever want to kill anyone, ever - period, absolutely no exceptions whatsoever. And if you do hafta...kill....you should feel bad about it."
She glowered at Larissa and myself from down the table.
I would have laughed, but somehow that seemed unapt.
Larissa, however, was not worried with manners and began to chuckle.
"Oh your going to do well in Amber I can tell." Sarcasm dripped from her voice. Somehow she located a clean glass and filled it with wine, then passed it to me. Her gaze then shifted back to Clarissa,"Let's agree to disagree and move on. After you have been in Amber for awhile we can have this conversation again and see if either of our views have changed."
"Well, I guess so," Clarissa responded, "but nobody's killing anybody while I'm around, not unless there's some serious threat to life and limb."
Again I had to repress laughter. Larissa could tear the girl limb from limb if she wished to.
"How long HAVE you been in Amber?" I inquired. "I am afraid I missed you at dinner, though I did appear near the tail end of things."
Torri looked surprised as she listened to Clarissa's little speech about killing, though she gave a slight smile and a nod at the end, seeming impressed with Clarissa's words and agreement. After a moment, Torri softly added, "There can be a very fine line between fighting to protect those you love, and fighting because you've come to hate those who've hurt you or your loved ones. It's an important distinction though."
"But in the end," she continued, "it's something we each have to consider and decide for ourselves."
"Oh, you mean ME?" Clarissa said, suddenly aware of my earlier question. "Well, um, you know, pretty much since you saw me this morning at the library. I guess an hour or so before that the Ice Man himself did the trump teleport thingy to bring me to see King Random and he did the whole who-ha with that red rock of his to pronounce me part of the family. Of course, you know, can't really call this my first day here, since I spent most of it off in some weird dimension saving my mom from assorted bad people, er - things."
"Ah. And your mother - she would be Mirelle?" I inquired.
"Yup," she said, smiling.
Torri's attention reverted to me. "What's this about Triton becoming another Brand? You think it could be a fatal mistake trying to contact him? It sounds like you've learned a fair deal more about him than we have."
That was not true. Personally, I was far more interested in the man from the ruined Amber than the so-called traitorous "fish-boy."
Belatedly I thanked Larissa for the wine, then took a long sip. "It is not that I know any more or less about Triton than you do," I replied, "but, rather, I have chosen the study the facts and make an assumption based on them." Setting my glass down I met Torri's eyes. "Think about it - if what Triton wanted to use the Jewel for was........on the up and up, why steal it? Why not explain to someone in power what he wanted to be about so that rather than having all of us ready to strike at a moments notice he would have us behind him, helping. It is obvious from his attempts to get at the Pattern that he is trying to attune the thing." I shrugged. "That is not to say that Random would allow him to attune himself to it, but maybe he could have asked the King to do whatever it is he has set out to do."
She considered that for a moment, then, "Well, I'm not saying that you're wrong - what you say makes sense, as far as it goes - but I don't think it's all quite so pat as you make it sound, at least not in my mind. Maybe Triton really is a megalomaniac and is trying to use the Sapphire to remake the universe to his liking, but maybe not. There are still other options, less sinister options, that I think we should consider as possible as that. I don't like to automatically assume the worst about everyone - even here in Amber." She smiled at her last statement.
"Just for the record I would like to say that *I* never said anything about personally trying to end Triton's life," I said, "only that I thought it unwise of you to try and contact him."
"There's still the verse from Minh's dream - remember the meeting in the library?" Torri continued. "Walking the Pattern with the Jewel or the Sapphire seems to be about the only way to get to Gwydion's universe - the only one I've heard of so far, anyway. It's true, Triton wasn't at the meeting, but he may've learned basically the same thing in the dream he received - hard to say. If so, then maybe that's what his goal is. If you were Queen Moire, would you give him the Sapphire so he could go running off with it trying to visit a man from another universe that he met in a dream? Assuming it takes both the power of both the Pattern and the gem to get him there, how would he get back with the Sapphire afterwards? It's not so hard to believe he might have to resort to stealing the gem to try something like that."
A smiled played at the corners of my lips. "There is always more than one road to every location. Magic is often the most lengthy and time consuming path, especially if you have never used it for the transversal before."
Torri gave me a quizzical look. "So are you saying you think you know another way to get to Gwydion's universe or . . . ?" She frowned. Inwardly I cursed. I did not want to touch upon this subject and hoped that neither Larissa or Rylan mentioned what I had said earlier in the hall.
"Well," Torri continued, "I'm not sure what you're saying if that's not it. Your use of the term 'magic' is a bit beyond vague in this context - I was talking about using the Pattern and Sapphire, something quite different than sorcery, which is what I'd call magic, myself."
"The Pattern and Sapphire are magic of the most potent kind," I responded while shaking my head. I was careful to draw her away from the subject of my implied knowledge of another path to the Crimson Castle realm. "If you wish to get technical about it everything is magic in some form or another. Amber was created by Dworkin using magic, therefore it is it's self a part of that magic. Don't you agree?"
She chuckled and shook her head. "Agree? Well, yes, but only when speaking in the most hypothetical of terms. If you want to go that far, rather than say that all is magic, you could say there is no magic.
"If you want to be a bit more practical though, so the term actually has some meaningful use in your speech, 'magic' should encompass a much narrower field of phenomena. I don't suppose I'd get far with your mother, for instance, if she asked me to explain something, and I just smiled and told her it was magic. Perhaps though, I should try it sometime, and refer her to you if she doesn't find that a satisfactory explanation.
"If you want to speak in terms that broad and undefined, then why bother speaking, as you're not really saying anything - I think that's more the point I was trying to get at, not to debate the technical definition of the word 'magic.'"
I laughed. I really could not care less whether she had agreed with anything I had said. It was brought up merely to divert attention from the statements about "transportation" to Valerian's world.
"That was not particularly what I was getting at," I replied, sipping my wine, "but if you chose to infer it that way it is understandable."
"Though you've still got a good point," Torri continued, still speaking of Triton, "that it seems he didn't even make any attempt to ask, if his purpose was something more innocent like that. I'm inclined to think you're right that we should regard him as dangerous until proven otherwise, but I'd still like to capture him and hear his story, not try to kill him off. There are still some parts of your version of things that don't really make sense. Why would he need to walk the Pattern here to attune the gem? I thought he walked the Rebman Pattern with it when he stole the thing and made his escape that way. Wouldn't he have been able to attune it then?" She shook her head.
"The Rebman Pattern is a backwards reflection of our own Pattern. The Sapphire, too, is a mirror image, but of a different type of magic. It's been theorized that the Rebman Pattern could not be used for attunement," I replied.
Toireasa gave a soft "Hmph," at that. "Well, I don't see where that one comes from. What better to attune a mirror reflection of the Jewel than a mirror reflection of the Pattern? Though personally, I've always believed the three Patterns of Amber, Rebma and Tir to be equivalent for all intents and purposes. Whatever their relationship to each other, they all derive ultimately from the Primal Pattern which is based on the Jewel."
I decided to ignore that. I was not inclined to begin a debate on the magical properties of the Pattern.
When I remained silent she continued, "There's a lot we don't know - too much to be doing anything with such final consequences as I've heard suggested so far. If we assume that Triton could be dangerous, then perhaps we should try calling Cyllene after all. She and Jayson were the last to have contact with Triton, according to what Martin said."
Suddenly, Clarissa jumped up and gave Torri a hug, exclaiming, "Wow!" in the process.
Obviously startled by our cousins sudden reaction, Torri's emerald eyes widened, then blinked.
"You don't know how long I've been trying to explain exactly that to every backwards group of people I've run into in the past, um, well, several years," Clarissa gushed. "This bunch here under the heel of some voodoo shaman, that lot there being oppressed by some old wizard. Not one of 'em thought they could use the natural laws of their dimension like those bad people - I tried to show 'em, its no different from learning to make a basket, you know, just application of principles......"
The initial surprise having faded, Toireasa gave Clarissa a broad smile and hugged her in return. "Ah, it's good to find another who understands you, isn't it?"
Inwardly, I cringed. Were this any other family I could see the niceties, but Clarissa was going to have her ideals crushed repeatedly by relatives and I felt sorry for her. Despite the fact that we were opposites, I felt a strange sort of a affection for the girl.
Happy as a clam Clarissa gave Torri one last hug before resuming her prior seat.
"So, I hate to sound like a broken record," Clarissa piped up, "but who's this Brand character? And just how many more people are in this family anyways?"
Smiling Torri replied, "Well, it's a rather large extended family. Though if you put it all in perspective, it's not really that big at all. You have to remember that our late Grandfather, Oberon, had lived for a millennia or two. Through the centuries, he had a number of wives and lovers. It's fairly amazing the family's as small as it is given that kind of time frame. I don't bother to keep track of the official head count myself." She nodded to me. "Shannon can probably give you some figures, if you want. She's the family historian."
"As for Brand, he's our late Uncle," she continued. "He wanted to destroy the Pattern, and thus the Universe as we know it, and remake it all to his liking, with himself as the new god-creator. The rest of our Aunts and Uncles finally stopped him, Uncle Caine actually being the one who killed him at the end. All in all, it ended fairly well, given how close Brand came to getting his way. He grabbed Aunt Deirdre though, and took her with him when he died."
She shook her head sadly. "She was a good woman, from what I know of her."
"I didn't say I would kill him," Larissa broke in, obviously speaking of Triton, "just that I might try to. I am unhappy with what he did to Luke and realizing my temper I thought it best not to have him here. I know my limits and thought it best not to tempt them by having him in the same room with me....at least not until I have cooled off."
Torri favored her with a warm smile. "Of course. We just didn't want anyone doing anything rash and extreme. That you warned against contacting him shows that your feelings come from anger rather than malice." She reached over and gave Larissa's hand a friendly squeeze which the warrior did not draw away from. Rather, she returned Torri's smile.
Still smiling, Larissa leaned over and whispered something to Rylan. In turn he nodded and whispered something back.
Rylan nodded in agreement and sipped his drink. He stood then, refilling my empty wine glass(and trying to refill Larissa's, who politely waved him away) before asking if anyone else would like more.
I stared at the blood colored liquid as it swirled in my cup. I didn't need it. I was more than a little tipsy from the wine before it and the vodka before that. Still, it was in front of me and I was not inclined to refuse it.
Torri shook her head, giving Rylan a brief, grateful smile.
Clarissa, too, declined, instead pouring herself another glass of what appeared to be luke warm orange juice.
"Well," Torri said, shuffling through her trump deck, "I don't know that we'll figure much more out about Triton without gathering some more information. I think I'll give Cyllene a call and see what she and Jayson have to say about him."
Selecting a card she focused on it. I could feel that she was successful.
A guard passed through, announcing that it was one hour past midnight. The witching hour drew to an end, as did my involvement in the conversation.
I stood, repressing a yawn. "Well, it's getting late. Good night everyone." A pause, then, "Pleasant dreams."
Torri glanced away from the trump contact momentarily and grinned at my last comment.
"You too," she replied. "Maybe if we're lucky, we'll wake up wiser. We'll have to compare notes over breakfast and see if there've been any more visitations." She waved to me, then returned to the contact.
Larissa stood as well. "Rylan and I are tired so we will be leaving. Hope to see you all later."
Again Torri turned away from the contact, nodding and waving. "Sleep well. Hopefully I'll see you all in the morning."
"G'nite," Clarissa said, waving merrily.
Larissa, Rylan, and I parted in the hall amid a flutter of pleasantries.
I walked back to my rooms accompanied a barrage of stares from the guardsmen. An evil part of my mind wondered if they thought I was Asteria on the prowl. They were rumors of her having trysts in this manner. Fortunately, no one had ever taught her trump artistry. If they had she would be a real menace to the male population.........
I was soon back at my own quarters, the lamps still burning cheerily, banishing the shadows.
Thinking back to the book from the other realm it struck me that the oldest parts of the castle seemed to strongly resemble some sections of Castle Crimson in their architecture.
I shook my head and, taking a seat, withdrew my trump deck. Slowly I sorted Kyle's card from the mess and held it before me.
The contact was easy, not at all expected since I believed him to still be somewhere in Castle Crimson.
Kyle, however, was most certainly not in the land of the Crimson Pattern. It looked more like some sort of prison or asylum in a high technology shadow. He was in a circular room and surrounded by walls of smooth metal.
Yet Kyle was the most amazing aspect of the place. His mind was completely open to me, all his psychic defenses non-existent. At first I thought it was a trick of some kind, but as the contact solidified I realized that he had no mental shields whatsoever.
As defenseless as mere shadow dweller, though ten times as dangerous.

Part 14

Return to Shannon's page!

Hmmm......I had some trouble putting this together. Basically, it's nine pages(before being put on the web page) and everything took place in about a week's worth of messages. Needless to say, that was a lot of e-mail for me to wade through! So, if you were in this conversation and you've noticed that I mixed up the order of anything, please, please tell me!

Thanks!

^-^ Sarah ^-^