Part 14 - Kyle's Return To Amber

"Choose your friends carefully. Your enemies will choose you!"
- Y. Arafat

"Shannon!" Kyle exclaimed. "Thank the Unicorn! You didn't forget your cousin Kyle. Can I come through?" He was smiling, as per usual, but Kyle's request carried just a tinge of urgency.
I glanced over his shoulder at the featureless metallic room which must have been a cell of some kind, for it lacked doors and windows.
"I could never forget you, Kyle." Smiling, I extended my hand.
Kyle returned my smile, stepping across the contact into my room. "Thank you, Shannon." He glanced toward the window briefly, aware of the streaming moonlight and inky darkness.
I shook my head, continuing to smile, and gave Kyle's hand a brief squeeze. "You look awful. Do you want to go down to the kitchen and get something to eat? Something to drink?"
"Ah, but you do have a way with a compliment, Shannon." A wan smile spread across his face. "I could use a meal, that's for sure, but I think it best to take it in private, considering recent developments."
"Undoubtedly," I agreed. Motioning towards the couch I continued with, "Sit down. I will go down to the kitchens and fetch something. I would call a servant, but at one in the morning it would make me incredibly unpopular."
I turned to go, then paused in the doorway. "Stay put, alright? If you go anywhere without telling me what happened I am afraid I may die of curiosity......."
"Your wish is my command," he replied, seemingly without energy for an argument. I liked to think that he would have agreed anyway.
Leaving Kyle in my room, a bit nervously, I proceeded into the early morning, in search of food. Like a ghost through the halls I tread, wanting to avoid any undue contact.
It briefly occurred to me that a trump for the kitchens would be useful, but everyone would wonder where I got it and using my sister as an excuse might not stand up to scrutiny in such a situation. While Brandeigh was generous, that would seem a bit extreme.
Probably because of the lateness of the hour, my journey was adequately uneventful, although I did glimpse Clarissa, down a hall, asking a very confused looking guard a question.
Definitely not your typical Amberite.
The time-candle was burning the second hour after midnight when I graced the threshold of the kitchens. Michael was not there at the ungodly hour, which was a good thing, since he would like be storm and fury unless I buttered him up and I was in too much of a hurry for that.
The pantry was unusually bare of snack items and cooking would have taken too much time, not to mention an affluent amount of noise.
There was bread in the cupboard and a tray of sliced ham on another shelf. With a little more work I located a pair of glasses and a pitcher of milk.
With a pair of sandwiches and two glasses of milk carefully balanced on a tarnished platter, I made my way back to my room.
Kyle was calmly sitting, stroking a mangy orange tomcat. His mangy orange tomcat which, as far as I knew, had no name.
The cat looked up curiously as I entered the room, though I could not tell if his interest lay in me or my burden.
"Even more company." I smiled and set the tray down on the coffee table before Kyle. "How unexpected."
I sat down next to him and tentatively reached out and scratch the cat behind the ears.
"It's not much," I motioned towards the sandwiches and milk, "but it was all I could find."
Kyle quickly reached out and snatched a sandwich from the tray, whether out of hunger or a desire to beat the cat to it, 'twas hard to tell.
Probably a bit of both.
Biting into it, he said, "It's wonderful Sannnon..jus' fine." Grabbing at the milk he downed half the glass then, more clearly, "Thank you, I was starving. Now, then, we have much to discuss. Where to begin, though?" He consummated the remains of his sandwich, and most of the milk, while pondering his own question.
I let him think, nibbling at my own sandwich.
"Let's start with the Crimson Pattern," he said finally, turning to me. "I spoke to her, Shannon, the Primal, and she's going to need our help."
"It is still sentient." Surprise flowed throughout my features. "Considering the condition of the shadow I was not sure the primal had a 'mind' left." Possibilities and theories and more possibilities........My Mother was going to have a field day.
"Incredible," I breathed, speaking more to my self than Kyle. I turned away from my speculations, once again favoring my cousin which my attention. "What was the extent of the damage to the Primal Pattern?" A pause, then, "Was there any?"
Kyle paused, allowing the scruffy feline to lap up the last of his milk.
He turned back to me. "She's in poor shape. Fortunately, I didn't have to take a walk to get out of that universe. I left guardians there, chimera and homunculi, but they won't stand up long in the face of real power." He paused thoughtfully, looking into my face, as if weighing something in his mind.
I watched him and sat the remains of my sandwich down on the tray.
"Shannon," he said at length, "there's even more bad news. If you hadn't noticed in the trump contact, my own mind isn't quite up to par lately. I've suffered a great trauma, and I am in need of straightening the mess out. Can I count on you to guard me while I go about the business?"
I raised my eyebrows. "Are you expecting company of the undesirable sort?"
"Possibly," Kyle said, "but I am also naturally paranoid, as suits a redhead."
Spreading my hands I leaned back in the seat. "I suppose I can not refuse. I just was wondering whether trouble was expected or if I would have to wait and see if it should turn up."
"Perhaps wait and see is the best approach. Also, I may need you to come in after me, should I say, stop breathing or have a seizure or some other unpleasantness." There was no mockery in his voice. No games. Just an air of dead seriousness.
I smiled. "I graduated from medical school with honors. The psyche department is another matter entirely, but I think I can manage." I paused then leaned towards him and met his eyes. "I want the whole story when this is done, Kyle."
"You always want the whole story, Shannon." His smile was one of genuine affection.
I laughed. "How else am I suppose to learn everyone's secrets, hm?"
"Well, you could just steal them, but I suppose that would be rather crass. I'd never do something like that, myself." Kyle stroked the cat's back, and smiled slightly.
"Of course, not." I smiled back. "I'm sure the thought has never crossed your diminutive mind."
"Feeling ever more 'diminutive' lately," he responded in good humor, "But, perhaps it is time for us to begin. The sooner we get it over with, the sooner you get to pry me for secrets."
"What a - pleasant - thought." I sighed and made an ornate serious of movements with my right hand. "Good luck gesture."
While I had never been overly religious in my youth, I had attended the church of the land and, though I had abandoned most of it's teachings upon arriving in Amber, some things remained embedded in my demeanor.
"Whenever you are ready." I smiled and sipped my milk, much better for my head than wine.
Kyle replied, "Thanks for the luck, I may just need it yet. Well, ta-ta for now. If the cat starts having fits, try trumping me and pulling me out, ok?"
I nodded and he pulled his feet up onto the sofa into a lotus position, the cat jumping in the hollow of his legs. Both closed their eyes.
For the first few minuets I watched over Kyle, but there was not much to see. The cat, I deduced, was far more than a family pet.
The mangy orange beast would jerk suddenly then relax, returning to his quiescent state.
I finished my sandwich and milk, then gathered the dishes and sat them aside to be dealt with later.
Watching over my cousin was one of the dullest tasks in recent memory. Whatever he was doing in his own mind, very little reaction seeped in to the material world.
My mind wandered a bit, no doubt aided by the alcohol from before. Recent events flowed through my mind. Valerian, Clarissa, The Crimson Pattern.
I lay Kyle's trump on the table so I could use it if necessary, but aside from a occasional twitch he was still and apparently in top physical condition.
My thoughts wondered to Tyler, and I thought about Kyle's question on why I had not yet slain him.
He was a nuisence, a seemingly powerful one at that, but he was the only connection to my childhood. The only tie I had not yet completed severed.
That bothered me slightly. Not the thought of killing him, for I had killed others before, but rather the strange insistence, no, the want for him in my life. It was utterly ridicules, but true.
I did not want Tyler dead. I wanted, for some reason my concius thought could not comprehend, to cling to that last remaining shred of childhood.
I stood abruptly, scowled, then walked over to the bookcase and began to rearrange the titles by size rather than subject.
And yet my mind kept revolving around the uncouth man who was, presumably, in Amber's dungeon.
I did not like Tyler. I had never liked him. He was an over bearing bully with an ego that could compare to even some of my more infamous relatives. He had made my early years a daily nightmare and yet I loathed to see him dead, despite all my pretty words and threats.
It was strange, but I could picture no one other than Tyler who had been a part of my daily life growing up.
Of course there had been nurses and nannies, but they came and were gone, Fiona finding a new one each time she visited. Not that she visited often. She was too busy with her power struggles to take any notice of me.
The conviction made me scowl and I slammed volumes of Shakespeare and Rochet into place with out much thought.
My hands shook as I truly thought about my relationship with Fiona. True, I would forsake Amber to aid her, but what was the reason?
It was simple and left a sickening sensation in the pit of my stomach.
I wanted her attention, her approval. As old I was I sought for the love and consideration I had never had growing up. Perhaps a part of me had known this all along, but I had never truly admitted it to myself.
Doing so made me angry with myself, for being so weak, and with her for simply having done what she did.
I did not know her, truly, and I had no idea about my Father, who had never even been mentioned. He probably never would, for it would be unlike her to touch upon the subject and I, certainly, would never inquire.
Agitated I pulled a leather bound book entitled "Greek Mythology" from the shelf. Lorius had given it to me once, though when I could not remember. I glanced towards Kyle, then opened it at random and began to read:

"And Medea turned to Jason, lightning flashing in her dark eyes.
'So,' she said, toying with the serpent bracelet, 'you have chosen to forsake your vows and web another.'
Jason remained silent, fearing the vengeance of the priestess now spurned.
'It does appear, my dear Jason, that your soul searching has done nothing, but bring trouble to us both. Do you not agree?'"

I slammed the book shut and placed it on the bottom shelf, where I would not have to look at it.
What I needed was a distraction. If I thought anymore I was liable to go insane.......
Finally I sat and toyed with my newly acquired Mage Sight. What I saw drew my focus away from my recent thoughts.
There was something filling the air. Something magical.
True, I did not have a lot of practice with the sight, having used it only twice, but points of magical power should not have been drifting into my room.
They were like miniature stars, growing slowly larger as they wink in and out of existence and......multiplied. Like bacteria.
I looked to Kyle's still form. A defensive spell of some sort?
Feeling not a bit foolish I knelt before the pair and studied the cat for any signs of agitation.
The feline opened his eyes and stared at me briefly before giving a loud "meow", then settled back into his master's lap.
I leaned back, alternating between watching Kyle and studying the points of light.
That's when, at that ungodly hour, I first felt the trump contact.
I was surprised - it was well past midnight, yet not entirely dawn.
After a moment I determined that it wasn't my Mother or Lorius. It just didn't feel right, somehow. And it was insistent. Damn insistent.
Scowling I pulled out my trump deck and began to rifle through the cards, searching for whoever was making the call.
I passed through the familiar faces, casting aside Random, Bleys, Brandeigh and the rest. The lesser used cards were next. Malachi, Julian, Llewella. I went through them one by one, searching for something, anything.
Frowning, I reached the bottom of the pile. Those cards which I had never used, rather, kept around for purpose of tarot casting. Eric, Deirdre, Caine......I passed through one by one, those cold, dead cards. It was the bottom card which was active. The final card, the only one which bore an inkling of psychic activity. The only card in the entire deck which could bring true fear unto my heart.
It was Brand.

Scary, huh? Check out Part 15!

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