Part 18 - Magic And Mayhem

"Invariably the most dangerous people seek power."
- Saul Bellow

Fiona nodded and motioned for the three of us to join hands. She then took Lorius' free hand. Percy and Taliesin watched as Fiona quietly and with decorum ran a hand approximately three feet above Marguessan's still form, transposing the entire length, and back again.
There was no sense of shifting perception, yet we were cast into another realm of thought just the same.
We were walking down the corridors of a castle, possibly Castle Amber. The importance of this was not lost on us. Mother's mind was strong enough and disciplined enough to lend her own mental milieu to the mental landscape of Marguessan. Fiona, and not the subject, was deciding how things were to be portrayed.
Mother opened a door at random, and inside, like a diorama, we saw a low set building of stone walls, in the center of a fairly typical medieval city. As we watched, Fiona gestured and the diorama expanded and began to animate around us, until it seemed that we were a part of the diorama itself, rather than in the 'Castle'.
We proceeded, silently, into the low building. Robed figures with the demeanor of ghosts swarmed around us, yet we proceeded until we reached a circular chamber.
The son of Xavier, almost identical to Brandeigh's sketch, stood within.
"Beyond the portal, Marguessan, lies the pathway to the power. It is merely a labyrinth, and not a maze, so getting lost is not the danger. The danger comes in trying to exit." He gestured towards a portal on the wall.
"Get through the labyrinth," he continued, "and you will have inscribed the Power within you. Any questions?"
"None, Sterling," came the reply, as if we were making it ourselves, but obviously it was from the personage we were 'seeing' through.
Sterling gestured, and "we" moved forward entering the dark and dank labyrinth. Fiona's mastery of the environment was complete, as even the dank smells associated with the place beset our senses.
Whatever strange ritual this was, it involved power. I could feel it building around me in this strange, visionary setting.
"Mother?" Brandeigh asked cautiously, as alert to the power shift as any of us. "Is there danger in this? Are we merely 'reliving' Marguessan's initiation, or is there a chance she might rally and recover during the 'walk' for lack of a better term?"
"Think of this as a advanced VCR." Mother's voice swirled across the void. The answer, it seemed, made Brandeigh feel better, but was lost on me.
And so things continued. Marguessan stumbled at one point, and nearly fell to the ground, but, with strength of will and resolve, grabbed the wall and remained on her feet.
Finally, the terrible ordeal was over, and Marguessan exited the labyrinthine hall, returning to the anteroom from which we had come.
"Welcome back, Marguessan. You have survived the trial and now the power has been imprinted into you. Your facility with that power will grow as your familiarity with it does so, and as my plans for the accumulation of more minor powers to add to the Spiral progress."
"Is it just me," Brandeigh commented, "or doesn't that sound rather ominous? And why does this remind me of what Merlin's reported to have said about the Logrus?"
Sterling smiled and the scene changed, melting away and we saw Sterling and Marguessan commanding the power of the Gateways, as Tyler called it. It definitely did not appear as I would have imagined, given Tyler's description, but he was not an entirely reliable source.
Sterling, then Marguessan herself, "ripped" a hole in shadow, that it is an incremental thing. It was not like trump magic, but more akin to shadow walking, with nastier effects, it seemed. The results gained were equal to those acquired when using the Broken Pattern to shift. As our strange journey continued we saw Marguessan and Sterling travel from a nasty bug infested swamp to more stable ground.......and some insects traveled with them.
The next scene was...unusual. It was the sky, in a sense. Empty space being torn apart by this power.
"I like this not at all," Brandeigh said in a firm tone. "It does not bode well for any Shadow we live in, or Amber herself for that matter."
Finally, the process that brought us into Marguessan's thoughts reversed, and the diorama no longer encompassed our vision....and the four of us stepped back into the "hallway".
"That is all she knows on the question of this new power," Fiona said, her voice leaving no room for argument.
Kyle nodded. "I would like to take a closer look at her relations with Sterling, their first meeting, and all the rest that goes with it."
"Aye, I would as well," my sister replied. "I would like to learn as much of her plans and goals as possible," she added in thoughtful tone. Then, "Before I bring them down around her ears in ruin that is."
"Show me, if possible, where and how she meets Sterling," Brandeigh added, "so that I might set a trap or surprise or two for him at his next meeting."
"All right, let's find out just how these two actually got together the first time," Fiona said. We "walked" down the hallway and Mother selected another door.
The diorama this time expanded to show Marguessan, apparently, having a vision. A vision of a large army at which she was the head. An army which, with the aid of large, metal spaceships, such as Cyllene was fond of, aided her in conquering a city and large fortress.
The vision lead Marguessan and two younger people who, from their appearance, must have been her son and daughter, to convene in a Tower, by a glistening seaside. A magical ritual, akin to a summoning spell of some kind was taking place. It was an appeal for aid from afar.
Another vision of spacecraft's similar to the ones in the previous diorama came.
The flow of events was clear. Marguessan, taking a spacecraft of her own, was clearly on a course for that odd region of space we had viewed earlier.
A meeting of ships near an oversized asteroid, as a large craft traveled through the "rip" to meet Marguessan's ship. The two docked and an unknown individual met Marguessan and after some discussion, allowed Marguessan to have her ship berthed in his larger one. The ship, apparently traveled through the rip. Marguessan, therefore we through her, saw the ship traverse the Gateway in space, avoiding the electromagnetic storms as it passed into another universe.
"I've seen parts of this before." Brandeigh's voice swirled around me. "Not this part though. Interesting - an asteroid or planetoid in the Morimaruse."
The ship traveled on, passing through a few more Gateways, before finally settling on a planet.
Another vision, then. A group of soldiers, along with Marguessan, marching through some badlands before using one final Gateway to arrive in the city with the Labyrinth. Marguessan and Sterling, apparently, met for the first time soon thereafter in a outdoor cafe of some sort.
"This, I believe," Brandeigh said. "Is where I 'heard' them speaking in that language of yours, Shannon."
The diorama ended and so did the magic.
We returned to consciousness and, from the look of Marguessan, the ordeal apparently had affected her to the point where rifling through her memories was temporarily abated.
"Interesting" Fiona commented.
"How so?" Brandeigh asked while checking Marguessan's pulse.
"What did you learn?" Percy asked, moving over to Brandeigh to see if she was all right.
"How is your cousin?" I asked with morbid curiosity.
Brandeigh smiled as she looked into Percy's face. "I'm fine. It was very interesting; learned a number of things. Our heretofore unknown cousin goes by the name of Sterling and is very familiar with high tech realms, or at least has access to them."
She frowned and looked towards us redheads. "About my earlier question; the one about detecting the use of this power? Can we work something up?"
Lorius looked to Fiona and then smiled.
"Since it is a incremental way to travel through shadow, I would imagine that blocking it from a particular place would be more on the defenses against the Pattern, or the Logrus, rather than Trump."
Brandeigh rolled her eyes in response.
Mother nodded. "Amber is the problem though, if more than just Tyler decides to come visit Shannon. By its nature, it would take some pretty fancy manipulation with the Jewel to blockade Amber against this Gateway power."
"We could block key Golden Circle Shadows, if it came to it," Lorius retorted.
"Hmm..." Brandeigh commented. "But that would require active scanning, continuous active scanning by whoever was using the Lens. I was thinking more along the lines of a passive warning system. Mayhap a series of linked spell 'watchposts' if you will in Amber and the Golden Circle."
"But, getting back to the actual question, a detection spell...well, a Pattern Lens, tuned right, would do the trick nicely," my brother babbled. "Mage Sight wouldn't do it by itself, but a sonar-like detection spell would detect users as well as the rips themselves, anywhere in a particular shadow."
"But, let's see an actual rip in living color, first," Fiona said to my sister, smiling. "Of course, you have to decide what happens to Marguessan." She gestured towards the still body.
"Well..." Brandeigh replied looking down at Marguessan. "She is alive yet. But I do not want her getting up just yet."
"Can you help me put a block around this power of hers?"Brandeigh asked Mother. "Or perhaps just a spell to keep her unconscious for the time being?"
Then, "Would you like to see it up close and personal, or through a Lens?" She smiled slyly. "Because if you'd like to see to it 'live' as 'twere, then I'll have to see if I can borrow one from Athra."
"Shall I give my father a call, mother?"
"I think that keeping her unconscious will not be a problem," Fiona said, a trace of false sweetness in her voice. Mother began to chant and a blue light appeared over Marguessan and then vanished.
"Done," Fiona said, smiling. "I've given the keys to you, too, Brandeigh. You, and you alone, must speak the word 'Checkmate' in order for the spell to be broken."
Brandeigh nodded. "Thanks, Mom."
"Now," she continued, "as far as a spacecraft, I hardly think a visit to your father would be necessary for one, REALLY, now don't you, daughter?"
Brandeigh grinned. "Ach, no! 'Tis a simple thing to have one appear nearby if I so desire. But it would most likely be one of Athra's, and he will come looking for it, ye know."
She sighed theatrically then, "But if ye don't want to see him, I can arrange things to cover the ship's absence."
"It will most likely take a few minutes to arrange this," she added as an afterthought.
"So, Kyle," I asked, "did the Chaosian fix all your, ah, problems?"
Kyle favored me with a smile. "I believe so...but if he 'didn't', how would we know?"
"There's a drug in Flora's shadow now that could help him with any other...problems he might have. In fact, it's a pity it didn't come out sooner...might have avoided that mashy incident with Julian," Lorius said, grinning maniacally.
Kyle and Brandeigh both chose to ignore the comment. The faintest of smiles played on my lips, but there was no sense in damaging relations with my cousin over Lorius' mad ramblings.
My sister glanced skyward, then turned to us. "There's a small, scout class ship coming to pick us up. Should be here in a few minutes."
Brandeigh glanced inquiringly at Kyle, Lorius and myself. "I'm fairly certain Kyle speaks Gaelic and can get by for the time being; even if the crew thinks you've got an atrocious accent. But what about you two?"
I smiled and shrugged. I knew some Gaelic, but it was very basic.
Lorius smiled. "I may have an accent which you probably would consider a rusty bucket, but I can manage Gaelic fair enough. Magical researches necessitated it, you know."
Brandeigh sighed, rolling her eyes. "Nay, I did not know that; I would not have asked if I did." Though left unspoken, the final word was quite clear. Fool.
"Right then," Brandeigh continued glaring at Lorius. "The lot of you are from Erinna, that's this stellar kingdom's equivalent to Ireland Kyle, should anyone ask you. Cousin's of Percy's," she grinned. "He can step in and cover for you if needs be."
Brandeigh then turned to Taliesin. "We're about to take a trip out to the Morimaruse, to inspect an... anomaly there that I believe is connected to all this. Yer welcome to come along, or stay here with Marguessan. She'll not be waking up any time soon though."
Taliesin met her gaze. "I think I would be preferring your company, Brandeigh, to that of our relation here. But, how do you propose to summon a spaceship? I've seen wonders here in the last tenth of a day, but producing a spacecraft is of a different order. I would like to know, before it arrives, just how you managed to get one to come here."
Brandeigh nodded. "Very good, Talynno, you're welcome to join us."
She looked a little sheepish before answering his question. "Let us just say that my cousin Graham has had a 'vision' suggesting he send a ship this way."
Brandeigh glanced at Kyle. "Graham's a cousin on my father's side. Commands Scota's star navy for my father."
Brandeigh turned away from us then, her gaze growing distant.
"Dear brother," she began, smiling sweetly at Lorius, "I've just gotten a call from Brieanne. She and Benedict need yer assistance in Arden. Something about setting a ward or alarm on one of those Doors, ye ken? I cannot do it as ye know, and I need mother to remain here to view the rip in the fabric of my homeland. I was thinking ye could also inform them of Sterling, his designs and powers; and maybe set up a ward or alarm for him as well."
She glanced at Mother and then back at our brother. Her game was obvious enough - she was trying to get rid of Lorius and was imploring to Fiona for help.
"Will ye go, braud?" She held out a hand. "If so, take my hand and go through to Brieanne now."
"Now, sis, you aren't exactly playing with the net up, are you. I had you thought to mean that no one was going to get any calls in here while we go about this business. But, let's see what's wrong with Prince Julian's little darling," Lorius said pointedly. He walked over to Brandeigh and put one hand on her shoulder.
"That's usually what happens when ye think, braud," Brandeigh snapped, grinning. "Dinna ye know, I'm special."
Kyle and I exchanged a glance, but remained silent.
In the meantime, with unexpected quietness, a 40 meter long spacecraft began to descend from the heavens. Polished gold and silver in color, it shone brightly as it made a spiraling descent toward the ring of stones.
Though I tried to appear uninterested, I was. The few space crafts I had seen had been in the presence of Cyllene and she was not apt to stay in one place for too long.
"Talynno," Brandeigh called, looking away from the contact, "Please signal them to land wherever they find most convenient for them."
Taliesin nodded and stepped to the edge of the stone circle. With Percy watching, he began making hand signals, and sure enough, the metal craft began making a descent in a flat area to the northwest of our position. Fiona was, successfully, dividing her attention between the two events, but her attention switched in the direction of the ship once it landed.
Taliesin walked out of the circle and in the direction of the ship.
Kyle looked from the spaceship to Lorius, then back again.
Briefly Kyle sent a message along the contact of my hand on his arm, closed circuit so to speak; careful of psychic spill over in case Mother or the others detected that something was amiss.
**Something's up,** he sent. **I may be paranoid, but I want to check something. Be very alert.**
Across the contact Kyle's suspicions, more feelings than anything else, flowed.
The suspicion that something may not be right about Lorius came through as well as Kyle's wish that we should observe, not act, until the right moment.
I elbowed him lightly in the ribs, nodding without looking at him.
Then, turning to Lorius, he said, "The space trip seems quite intriguing, but I think that my skills might better serve Arden. I believe that your dear mother can handle the initial scans of the anomaly well enough. I also have some urgent business to attend in the castle."
One arm still looped in mine, he opened himself to trump call. "Mind if I join you cousin?"
Kyle touched Lorius' shoulder and we were entered into the call. Brieanne was on the other side, but the real interest was what lay behind her.
A bronze door, much like Krysta's sketch, lay within our line of sight as well as Julian, Rylan, and Krysta herself.
**Well now who the hell is this?!** Brieanne tilted her head slightly away from the contact, distracted as a presumably unknown, to Brieanne, Clarissa stepped into the clearing via a trump held by Julian.
Being a trump artist, I was more sensitive to the going on's of the world within the card. Clarissa, it seemed, was arguing with someone else who stood outside the boundary of the card. The voice suggested Larissa, but I couldn't be sure.
"You and I need to have a little talk about the danger you put us all in by acting stupidly," the voice which I thought to be Larissa's said. "Now we do have the problem of that other door and the encampment of Omphalos to deal with. So we can either talk now or wait till after we have taken care of them, it's up to you."
"That would be Larissa, I ken," Brandeigh said to Brieanne. "She's no' so keen on Clarissa either....." she commented.
"Okay, shoot," Clarissa responded. "Watcha wanna say to me?"
"Pulling that lever was not only completely stupid," Larissa continued, "it was reckless and endangered the life of everyone in the clearing. You want to be curious about things and act without thinking? Fine but do it when other people aren't around that will have to take the fallout for your actions. When you work in a group then you need to remember that your actions will effect other people. We were here to examine that door not open it. If it needed to be opened then that was something that we should of decided all together so that before hand we could of taken protective measures incase anything happened when we opened the door. Instead you decided to act on your own and nearly caused the death of Sabrina. Now I don't know about you but I take it personally when someone hurts someone close to me. The only reason that my sword isn't drawn and I haven't challenged you to a duel is it looks like Sabrina will make it. So I am giving you fair warning, I am going to let what you did go this time cause I assume it was out of naivete and not malicious intent. However if you ever hurt someone I care about again you are going to have me to deal with."
"Hmm, I see." Clarissa did not seem particularly fazed. "So, turning the handle was stupid and reckless, and done without thinking? And why do you believe this?"
"If it needed to be opened then that was something that we should of decided all together so that before hand we could of taken protective measures incase anything happened when we opened the door." Larissa voice remained steady, but there was more than a hint of anger. "We could of set up magical wards and are own protections against anything that would come through the door like the psychic attack that did come through. For all you know when you opened the door troops could of come pouring out. Now the fact is that except for three of you by the door the rest of us were busy talking to rangers, each other, or looking at the dead bodies. Your opening the door without saying anything left all of us exposed with no warning except our own senses of what was to come. Is this starting to get through to you or would you like it explained further. Perhaps another perspective maybe from Sabrina.....oh no she can't talk just now. Maybe one of the rangers...oh nope they aren't up to talking right now either and some never will be. hmm maybe BhangBadea or Toireasa, nope they are back in Amber helping the victims of this fallout. Perhaps Julian or Rylan might like to explain why what you did was idiotic and foolish."
"Yes, yes," Clarissa said, waving her hands. "I got that part, but it seems to me, and I just wanna be clear about this, is you somehow think trying the handle was dangerous. Yes? Why? What reason did you have to believe that? And, just in case what I mean isn't clear to you - I'd like to know what'd you be saying to Toireasa right now if her mystic probing through the door had set that big purple thing off?"
Lorius spoke up then, drawing my attention away from the exchange.
"Look Kyle," Lorius said, grinning. "An opportunity of a lifetime, or at least the millisecond. That is, of course, if the defender of the Forests actually wants you to come through. If you do...get your sarcasm meter up and going...yonder two sword swingers are being none too cooperative and helpful. Half-wits, too."
"I'm ready to come on through, Brieanne," Lorius addressed her. "Do you want Julian's favorite nephew to come along, too?"
Kyle smiled, and said to Brieanne, "I do believe I'll be of more use in examining that Door than the anomaly here. Please, do ask your father if he'd not mind me joining your group in Arden." His general tone as well the impulses that came across our connection conveyed that he was more interested in Brieanne's willingness to bring him through than in Julian's acceptance of his presence.
"What do you think?" he asked me. "Arden or Lost in Space? I've got some work to do in my lab and I'd like a crack at one of these Doors. Care to join me?"
Smiling, "Either. Each is more interesting than the other, I suppose."
Kyle suddenly let loose with a burst of emotional content, unmistakable urgency added to the words, "Trouble in Arden! We need to go through, NOW!"
It was quite obvious to all involved in the call that he was prepared to launch himself through the contact.
My sister gave Kyle an incredulous look, as if he were imagining things and raised a hand to stop him.
"Hold!" she said loudly. "I dinna ken what yer talking about lad, and I have a much better view on things than ye, ye ken?" She then began to concentrate on the contact, which wavered slightly.
"Umm, Kyle," said Lorius, "are you sure that after your experiences that you aren't overreacting to things? Clarissa is simply arguing with someone over there, that's all. Hardly a reason to break out the 5th Infantry."
"I'll trust my senses until they prove me wrong, cousin," Kyle replied pleasantly. "Brandeigh, will ye let me pass through your contact? If nothing is wrong, no harm is done, an' I'll eat my crow later."
Brandeigh refocused her gaze, more so on Kyle than anyone else. "Me brother is right," she said, casting a faint grin in Lorius' direction. "There's little danger present there at the moment beyond the door. And they've goleor of people there already to deal with it. Give them a minute or two to sort things out. Ye going through now will only add to the confusion. And, I've still not heard from wee Brieanne about letting the lot of ye through any road."
"So to answer ye," she continued, "nay, I willna let anyone through just yet, and dinna press me on it lad. I ken a great deal more about Trump and Trump calls than ye, ye ken? I 'see' more than ye, especially viewed third party boyo, and I tell ye the situations well in hand. Let it be."
Brandeigh's body language, facial expression and tone of voice indicated that she would not welcome further debate on the subject.
"Very well," Kyle said, smiling, though it almost, in my opinion, seemed forced. "If the two of you are agreed, then it is settled. We wait." He did not seem at all irate with Brandeigh.
"However," he added cryptically, "you'll bear responsibility for anything that goes awry that could have been prevented by our presence."
Kyle released his hold on Lorius, drawing us away form the contact.
"It seems your siblings have their doubts as to my stability and judgment," he said glibly, not quite looking at me. "I hope they are right considering Brandeigh has decided to play Cerebus today."
"Think of it this way, cousin, should anything go wrong you have the right to say, 'I told you so.' That in it's self is almost as fun as traipsing through Arden, no?"
Kyle turned and watched the space ship as it neared landing.
I was watching the ship land when Brandeigh pulled a pair of trumps from a pouch at her hip.
"I dinna like this..." She said. "Brieanne ni' Julian. Get a grip on yerself, this instant. D'ye hear me?"
"Oh.. damn," Brandeigh commented softly. "She's lost it. This isna gonna be good."
She looked to Lorius and Kyle, grave concern on her face. "Ye canna have sensed this coming Kyle. I dinna sense it, an' she's me 'daughter in spirit. But none of ye are going through there at the moment. It's not safe. For ye."
Brieanne had lost control of temper again had she? She was the worst, it sometimes seemed, of all of us. Even worse than the elders. There was something seriously wrong with her psyche..........
"BRIEANNE!" Brandeigh said quite loudly, striving to reach her "daughter." "Dinna do anything, ye hear me? Dinna do it!"
My sister swore, quite a rare sight. "DAMNIO!" Brandeigh looked at us, tears streaming from her angry face.
"Taliesin," she commanded, "get on that ship and tell them to head towards the Morimaruse. I will catch up with ye later. And dinna ask me how I'll do it! Now go!"
As Taliesin hurried off, she addressed the rest of us. "We're going to Arden; Brieanne's flipped and nothing's safe there. Ye magicians, get yer shield spells up. Mother, Lorius, overlap them around us if ye can; this is no' gonna be pretty.
"Everyone, link hands and be ready fer a rough landing." She grabbed Lorius' hand and Kyle's free one, then turned her attention back to the trump and began to study it intently.
"Shrug off the children you've now left without fathers to see if we carry guitars in our pockets......." Brieanne was trembling and the contact was....odd. Almost as if she was crushing the trump card..... "So that you might sing lullabies or ballads for their tortured souls? Do you think whatever tunes you might play will ease their pain? Their loss?"
"Damn it all!" Brandeigh shouted, yanking us through the contact. Wisely, she chose Julian's trump rather than Brieanne's, which was indeed being crushed. Both contacts died as we tumbled into the forest clearing.

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