Part 9: Welcome to Castle Crimson

"Take a walk on the wild side."
- G. Gerbel-Williams


I tossed my shard of glass into the darkness, listening. It hit with an audible shattering noise.
Passing Kyle, who was still reading, I selected another reasonably sharp piece of glass from the floor.
Pausing at the door I said, "I hope you have a light spell ready." Smiling to myself, I inspected the inside of the passage.
Kyle raised a hand. "Hold on a second, cousin. If you *must* have something pointy, take this." He offered me his enchanted katana, which I took.
"And gimme that glass...it is empowered, and there is precious little mana in this place. We may need to drain it, and all my items, for mana if we are to get out of here."
I handed him the shard, trying not to snap at him. I felt like a child who had been caught playing with matches in a deadened field.
Kyle, apparently, did not have a light spell ready. He fashioned a torch from a piece of broken timber and shredded curtains.
While he was doing this, I plucked another shard of glass from the floor and put it in my pocket.
His torch illuminated the corridor which was wide enough for us to walk side by side.
After a ways we came across a turn off which led to our right, the regular passageway sloping upwards.
I remembered the slope from my dream.
Kyle then seemed distracted with, I assumed, something magical. I took the opportunity to use my library trump. The card flared, activated with practically no effort.
Cutting the connection, I replaced the card in my trump deck and watched as Kyle fiddled with a gem.
"Let us go up," I said, inclining my head as he placed the seemingly useless jewel in his pocket.
I led us up the sloped corridor, which seemed to take us up at least one full story if not more. Finally, after a moderate, silent walk, we reached a foyer identical to one in the library.
This secret door, however, was ajar and moved aside easily as Kyle and I pushed our way into the ruined hall first seen in my dreams.
Across from us a large oil painting of a hexagonal castle which appeared to be Castle Amber, but wasn't.........
No sign of the void was present, nor were there any windows.
Kyle peered around me, studying the painting.
"Shannon," he said, "I just had an idea. I am going to go back for that book, and see if we can use it as a sort of map, since there seems to be much of the castle left in tact. Join me, or stay here, but do not wander off. It won't do to be separated in this place."
He moved toward the recently vacated passage.
"Wait," I caught his arm.
There was something dead about this place. Something which made me loathe the thought of being alone.
I pulled my trump of the library. "This will take less time," I explained.
Contact was simple and I reached through the card, plucking the book from the ground.
A quick look confirmed that we were on the third floor of "Castle Crimson".
The architectural book showed that many of the bedrooms and personal suites were located on this floor as well. I thought, briefly, about the room with the balcony where the stranger had first hailed me.
A closer inspection showed that many of the quarters had large balconies. I smiled bitterly, pondering the stranger of my dream.
As a whole the Castle had four floors and, to my surprise, their Pattern was clearly listed and marked on one of the maps. It was not in the basement as ours was, but on ground level in some sort of colonnaded courtyard which was open to the sky.
I wondered if they had ever had a problem with mad relatives. It seemed as though it would easier to get to a Pattern which was in the open, though I could be wrong.
I looked at Kyle. "I think we should head toward their Pattern," I tapped the spot on the map, "and see whether this courtyard is consumed by the nothingness." I gave him a wan smile. "It is magical after all."
"Wouldn't it be interesting if this Pattern was the source of the nothingness," I mused.
"Well, I don't know about the nothingness being magical," my cousin replied. "There is a marked lack of mana in this place, all in all, but I think we should head for that Pattern. May be our only escape route." He looked over the book, seemingly searching for a way to the strange Pattern from here. "Why not head this way, and see if we can see the Pattern from the inside?"
As walked down the hallway, he asked, "So, what's the deal with your microencephalic admirer, Tyler?"
I smiled. "I wish I could say that his vengeance is related to something romantic or at least interesting, but I'm afraid Tyler's reasons for a vendetta are laughable at best.
"When I was a child he used to steal my milk money - repeatedly. Finally, I grew tired of it and gave him a black eye, several cracked ribs, and a rather nasty concussion. I thought it was the end of it, but he was angry because his reputation had been marred - I was several years younger than him - and he found some sorcerer or another to to teach him the uses of the Broken Pattern. Ever since then he has haphazardly tried to kill me. On the last occasion he teleported out, leaving behind his clothes and several trumps. Apparently, he came to the Primal Pattern trying to reclaim them."
"Hmm," he commented, with great conviction. "Sounds like a case of Pattern envy to me. Why don't you just kill him? As inept as he is, he still managed to reach the Primal Pattern, and that is cause for concern. Of course, that's only a suggestion, mind you. He's your shadow person. Perhaps I shouldn't have reamed his mind earlier, but I didn't know of your relation at the time."
Sighing, I replied, "I honestly do not know why I have not killed him. Sentimental reasons probably. I've known him so long.......besides, he is such a bungler that it has never really seemed nessicary."
"Well," Kyle replied, "the bungler did end up near the Primal Pattern today, and he has some unknown power, whatever the Gateway power is that he mentioned. Any idea what that is?"
I shook my head. "I assume that is linked to these 'Door People' that have been appearing lately or, perhaps, the Broken Pattern. What I found particularly interesting was that Tyler mentioned wanting the trumps back because one of the depicted shadows was no longer accessible to him." I smiled. "Perhaps that can be our next adventure - assuming we ever get out of here that is."
We continued to talk, sinking slowly into court gossip and various ideas about had happen to this world and it's Castle, which was appearing to be in steadily worse condition.
The stones which made up the walls were burned and tapestries torn. Broken blades and ugly red stains indicated that some sort of battle had taken place along our path, but it was strange as the evidence was not continuous, but rather appearing in sporadic sections.
As we traveled onwards, windows appeared again, the ever present nothingness beyond them.
Suddenly we came a section of windows which overlooked the courtyard where the Pattern was to be.
Below, in a columned courtyard on a hillock, was a flat open space roughly the size of the Pattern we both knew and loved. The only illumination, a very pale red light, came from the Pattern below us.
Rather, the Pattern that once was there.
The thing below resembled out Pattern, but appeared as a pale, carbon copy.
Almost as if someone had tried to erase it and had not succeeded............

Here, faithful reader, is part 10!

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