Muddle-headed Kay (mhw) wrote,
Muddle-headed Kay

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Amber log

I'm sorry that it's taken almost two weeks to finish writing this session up, but as you can see, it was quite a heavy session, and my writing, never of the neatest, took a fair amount of work to decipher in some places...

The intruder has not been found, and people have been told to stand down. Everything seems relatively calm. It is the evening. Most of the party are in their chambers. Tremayne has decided to take an early night, since he is planning on walking the Pattern tomorrow. Lucien decides to creep around the castle. He goes to the Great Hall. It's quiet. He goes up to the third floor, where Florimel, Gerard, Gideon, Malachi, Khan and some of the delegates are quartered - and well guarded. All is peaceful there. He goes to the fourth floor and finds a corridor with which he's unfamiliar: there are portraits at the nearer end, and then mirrors. Some of the reflections in them are quite disturbing. He tries to remember where the corridor is so that he can explore at a more convenient time. He returns to his rooms and sleeps.

At breakfast, Joseph discusses why people would eat muesli with Florimel, and then more general breakfast habits in other Shadows with Lucien and Tremayne. They head off to their rooms to prepare, and thence to the Pattern. Lucien meets Gideon on the way to the Pattern, and explains what Tremayne is going to do. Gideon asks Lucien to come and see him later in the day, as there is a little matter which needs looking into.

Tremayne descends below the castle through corridors and doors to the chamber that houses the Pattern, getting torches from a servant along the way. Joseph and Lucien and Florimel turn up and discuss preparations and precautions with him. Tremayne tells them that he plans to leave the Pattern by using it to transport him to the courtyard, as Joseph did before him.

He sets off along the Pattern at as good a rate as he can manage, ignoring the blue sparks that spring up around his feet. The fatigue starts up. He keeps going, his feet shaking as he lifts them up and puts them down again - and then he almost falls. Then he's through the First Veil. The sparks become brighter and taller, reaching almost waist high. He tears a strip off his shirt and binds it around his head to use as a blind if the glare from the sparks gets too intense. He takes off his belt...

A voice shouts "Ignore that, it's irrelevant! You're getting sucked into distractions - they'll kill you!"

It's getting colder and much brighter, and he pulls down his blind - that doesn't work: it seems that all the glare is inside his head. Moving starts to get harder again, as though he's walking into a headwind. The strip of cloth begins to smoulder, so he tears it off his head and drops it; it bursts into flame behind him. The pressure eases again, and his eyes start to readjust, but he daren't blink since here the Pattern has to be followed visually. It sounds as though something fell.

He refuses to be distracted and presses on, but his mind begins to get confused in space and time. He forces himself to continue, repeating "Next step... next step..." over and over again, but he can no longer work out whether he's really stepping forward or only imagining that he's doing so. And then his mind is almost all in the slums where he spent his youth, not on the Pattern; the illusions of the slums are utterly and vividly real to him, but fortunately enough of his mind manages to stay attached to the Pattern to prevent him from being lost to memories. One step, one step... he realises that someone or something is playing with his mind, but he refuses to be distracted - and then he's on to the Grand Curve. He blinks a couple of times, then wearily presses on.

Fragments of memory keep playing in his head. And replaying. As they replay, he becomes aware of inconsistencies. Someone has indeed been playing with his head. Suddenly disoriented by recalled memories, he gets confused between "left" and "right", and his balance keeps shifting so that he almost falls. For an awful moment he's sure that he's mis-stepped, but he daren't risk stopping to check. His balance has now almost completely gone; his body's completely numb, and it feels as though his heart's frozen within him. But what else can he do? He keeps setting one foot ahead of the other because there's no option: he's dead, or... he's dead. His foot won't lift from the floor. He tries sliding his foot, since it won't lift - it moves perhaps an inch. He tries lifting his other foot, and treads on his toes. It's too complicated for him to work out how to extricate himself while keeping any kind of balance, and his senses overload.

He has his feet back, somehow. It's only ten steps to the Final Veil. He trudges forward one step, and then another. It's still ten steps to the Final Veil. No matter how many steps he takes, it's still impossible to reach it, as he staggers and lifts foot after leaden foot, all to no effect. Just as he's about to collapse, he suddenly hits the Veil and stumbles. He staggers, trying to catch his balance. His eyes are full of stars, his clothes are afire - everything, the universe itself is burning. There are perhaps five steps remaining. Four steps. Then nothing but light. Another step, another...

Then there's nothing. No Pattern. One last step, and still no Pattern. The world explodes into searing light again, and there's nothing ahead, nowhere to go. All he can think of is, somehow, getting to the courtyard. He falls...

Lucien, seeing that Tremayne's about to finish his walk, has left to get to the courtyard before Tremayne can appear there. He remembers that Joseph didn't estimate the vertical distance correctly, and fell quite nastily when he arrived there after his Pattern walk. Joseph follows, taking with him a small bag that he'd prepared beforehand and brought with him.

Lucien sees Tremayne appear in the courtyard. He's very dazed, but not apparently badly injured. Joseph gives Tremayne a drink out of a flask that he takes out of the bag, and then Joseph and Lucien carry the almost unconscious Tremayne to his rooms, where they put him to bed. Lucien tells Joseph that Gideon wishes to discuss business; Joseph says that he'll be along as soon as he's sure that Tremayne is out of danger. Lucien leaves, and Joseph tends to Tremayne, and, in asking him gently about whether Tremayne has recovered any memories, learns a few more rather unsuspected things about Tremayne's dealings with various people.

Tremayne wakes up. He's alive, awake, and feeling distinctly better than he expected to be - except that he's bruised his hand on the bed. He can feel his belt and his bracers working; perhaps the Pattern turned them off? He examines his memories: there are vague memories of being raised by some kind of family for a couple of years before being dumped in the slums, but he has only the faintest memories of the people who looked after him. Then he remembers that his girlfriend's name was Kirika. He remembers her dying. Now the memories of his first encounter with Kruge are different. Kruge decapitated her, and then looked at Tremayne and said "Someone must really want me dead, then. Let's get down to business." In the second battle he seemed more mournful, more driven by circumstances. The nuke went off early! it should have gone off ten minutes or so earlier. The Dark Lady, wielder of the Spear of Night, enforcer for Ventassa killed the World Mage - this time he remembers that the the belt etc. were just there; the old man was already dead. Tremayne caught up with her and killed her. Ventassa's mad scientist got away, and wasn't killed by Tremayne.

Tremayne also remembers the ruling that he isn't allowed back to the fourth world in case he's possessed by the bodiless parasite. Anak-Zakath wasn't pleased to see Tremayne, but was scared of him.

He eats a little of the food that Joseph has left by his bedside, slowly and carefully, while his equipment heals and reinvigorates him.

Joseph runs and catches up with Lucien, who's waiting outside Gideon's chambers for Gideon to see him. When they're admitted, Gideon asks after Tremayne, and Joseph tells him what happened, and that Tremayne should be perfectly fine after a good rest. He debates telling Gideon about some of the things that he heard from the semi-conscious Tremayne, but decides not to, not only because Lucien is present, but because he wants to make sure that what Tremayne told him really is so, and not delirious ramblings. He resolves to speak later with Tremayne when they can be alone.

Gideon announces that two bodies have been found in the city, freshly dead, and by all accounts they belonged to some people who were new to the city, here on unspecified business. They had been efficiently stabbed, probably by a right-handed person. Intelligence has revealed that they were disaffected citizens of Grenath. A group of six or seven of them are reported to have been meeting in various places around the city. The intruder in the palace was most likely one of the group; it's assumed that whoever killed the other two has got to him, and is now engaged in killing off the rest of the group. Gideon gives Joseph a Trump of the waterfront so that he and Lucien can visit Gustav, the leader of the group of lowlifes discovered in a shop during the pub-crawl, and discover what they can about any contacts that the Grenathi may have made with the city's underclass.

Lucien and Joseph are taken into the back room of the shop. They introduce themselves, and make polite inquiries about the dwindling group of disaffected Grenathi citizens. Gustav is nervous about talking but eventually reveals that one of them - Quinn - has a room upstairs at the Dagger inn. The group apparently bought stolen cargoes, one of which was headed for Grenath, including a "big glass bubble full of smoke". It seems that Queen Gwendolyn gets her supplies through Amber, and some gets skimmed for the rebels on the mountain, but it's unlikely that the Grenathi here are connected directly with the rebels. The transaction took place two or three days ago, and was paid for in a heavy grey metal alloy containing plutonium. Grateful for the information, Lucien and Joseph thank Gustav for his information and pay him handsomely.

Lucien heads for the Dagger while Joseph informs Gideon. The Dagger is a busy inn of several storeys. Lucien bribes the barmaid and asks where Quinn is: he's upstairs in room 4. Sneaking upstairs, Lucien listens at the door of the room, where he hears someone moving around. He taps on the door and says "Room Service..." Footsteps can be heard at the right hand side of the room, then, after a pause, there's a slight sound and the footsteps retreat to the back of the room. Lucien bursts in. There's a man heading for the window at the back of the room with a bag over his shoulder. He pulls out a longsword and hacks at Lucien, who dodges and grabs the man's arm, breaking it, and pushes him against the wall. Joseph arrives at this point, having reported in to Gideon, who seems fascinated by the news about the globe of poisoned glass. They knock the man out, who is presumably Quinn - and, having secured him thoroughly, Trump back to Gideon.

While Joseph and Lucien are considering possible strategies, and Gideon is interrogating Quinn, Tremayne joins them, seemingly rather well-recovered from his walk of the Pattern, though perhaps a little fatigued. Lucien and Joseph tell Tremayne what's happening, and then Gideon rejoins them, looking worried. Quinn's mind has been protected with exceptionally well-wrought blocks, some of which are so delicate that Gideon has decided not to attempt dismantling them lest Quinn die. What he has been able to discover is that there were originally seven members of the group: Serena, Ranulf, Frederick, Simeon, Amelia, Victor and Quinn himself. They arrived by ones and twos over several days in order to do one job for someone whose name is protected by blocks. There were several plans to achieve their aim: one principal plan, and two backups. The second backup required the use of something - the name of which is also blocked, but Gideon suspects strongly that it's actually the glass globe of chlorine - placed in somewhere, also blocked. The primary plan involved someone or something blocked, and the second plan relied heavily on something given to Quinn by someone. Both these last two unknowns are extremely heavily blocked. The only other thing that Gideon could determine was that Victor has the 'something' in his possession.

Now the Amberites are in a position to begin to put names to faces, given descriptions of the bodies and Quinn's recall of what the members of his team of patriots in exile looked like.

Unfortunately the use of such exquisitely crafted and potent memory blocks is exceedingly worrisome. Gideon says that to his knowledge there are very few people who could do such a thing, and they're all senior Amberites or Chaosites. Suddenly they are disturbed by the arrival of a frantic servant who announces that Quinn has attempted to kill himself by biting off his own tongue. Joseph hurries upstairs to where Quinn is being kept, and hastily implants a block of his own to prevent Quinn from harming himself further.

Tremayne goes to join Harry, who has been sent to find Serena; she is apparently in room 5 of the inn. Tremayne replaces Harry on watch over the inn, and sends him off to the residence of Simeon, the next disaffected Grenathi, whose address is now also known. On watch in the upstairs corridor, Tremayne sees a man go into room 11, and then after a while a servant with towels and bed coverings goes into room 3. Normal enough - but Tremayne's suspicions are aroused when the servant doesn't come out of the room again. He rushes into the room. There's a hole in the wall leading through into room 5. Stepping through the hole, he finds Serena, who has been stabbed through her throat, and a tremendously solid-looking man, easily six and a half feet in height, who jumps out of the room through the window. Tremayne leaps after him into a back alley, where the man pulls a blade on him. Tremayne punches him in the gut, which surprisingly doesn't fell him and he sweeps his blade down onto Tremayne's right arm, where it leaves a deep slash. The man flips and rolls backward, at which Tremayne launches himself at him, trying to wrest the blade from his hand. The blade vanishes from the man's hand, reappearing seemingly instantly in his other had, and he stabs Tremayne once again. Tremayne falls back to consider strategy - the alley is closed at one end, and to escape the man would have to get past him - then tries to distract his opponent by flinging coins at his knees and elbows before diving at him, only to meet with the blade, which has jumped from one hand to the other again, and takes a slice at Tremayne's left arm. Then, shockingly to Tremayne, the man vanishes instantly - "as though", Tremayne later told Gideon, "he'd Trumped out, though I didn't see him holding any Trumps."

Perplexed and disheartened, Tremayne goes back into the inn and to Selena's room, grabs the corpse and her former possessions, and Trumps to the courtyard. He hands the sad remains over to the guards for immediate delivery to Gideon, and then Trumps back to rejoin Harry and gives him the Trump of the waterfront so that he can retrieve Lucien. When they are all reunited, they go to the inn at which Simeon is residing and conceal themselves to wait. It's not long before Simeon comes in, a professional military man by his bearing. Tremayne goes outside to watch the window of Simeon's room; Lucien watches the bar, while Harry prepares to follow Simeon should he go upstairs. A sailor approaches Simeon, seemingly friendly - and then suddenly attacks him. Simeon, though taken at a disadvantage, parries very competently. Lucien enters the fray, shoving the sailor away from Simeon and stabbing with his dagger. The sailor turns his attention to Lucien and slashes at him with his sword. Lucien parries with his dagger, and tries to break the sailor's kneecap with a well-aimed kick. Alas, the sailor seems to be impervious to such a low stratagem, and Lucien falls back nursing a severely-stubbed toe; the sailor slashes at him. Lucien is quite angry by now; he stabs viciously at the sailor's back, then dives through the sailor's legs, stabbing upwards on the way, and barely avoiding an answering stab from the sailor, who seems to have impervious genitalia as well as iron knees...

Tremayne runs in at this point, alerted by the sounds of scuffling, and tackles the sailor, who flips his blade from hand to hand - or, rather, has his blade transfer instantly from one hand to the other and thrusts at Tremayne. Tremayne realises that he's seen this trick before. While Tremayne is distracting the sailor, Lucien slides his dagger between the sailor's ribs in a blow which should take any ordinary person out. Alas, all it does is elicit a malevolent hiss from the sailor, who then takes a kick to the knee from Tremayne, who hasn't Lucien's experience, and gets a really quite nasty sword-cut in return. The sailor then abruptly vanishes. Simeon, not pausing to give any thanks to his rescuers, runs out of the inn as fast as his legs can carry him downhill to the docks. Lucien and Tremayne give chase, Lucien at street level and Tremayne keeping the fleeing Simeon in sight from the vantage point of the rooftops, between which he leaps as necessary.

Simeon is caught at last by the expedient of Tremayne hurling a heavy moneybag at his knees, and Lucien using a spectacular flying tackle. They prepare to take him back to the castle, but a liveried guard approaches and demands to know what they're about. Tremayne explains, but is interrupted by the guard neatly slitting the supine Simeon's throat and then once more vanishing in an instant. Tremayne points out to Lucien, perhaps superfluously, that their adversary, the one who's attempting to eliminate the Grenathi malefactors, must be some kind of shape shifter or body-snatcher. They Trump back to the castle with Simeon's body, not feeling too proud of themselves, and not looking forward to explaining to Gideon what has happened.

While Tremayne is explaining and getting his wound attended to, Lucien and Joseph are dispatched to retrieve Amelia, who is in room 4 at the Ivy Leaf. Lucien lurks, while Joseph knocks on the door, then cautiously goes in. The bird has flown - or, at least, the room has been thoroughly and professionally tossed. There's nothing of interest left there; even the floorboards have been torn up by whoever did the search. They return to report to Gideon and Tremayne.

Gideon is fascinated by Tremayne and Lucien's account of the attacker. He asks Tremayne whether he might be able to hold the attacker off so that he could get a good look at it and determine what it is. Tremayne answers that he supposes he can, so they all set off for the last remaining address on the list, that of Victor, who is the leader of the group.

Victor's is an isolated suite, and he's obviously prepared for an attack, since as they approach a crossbow bolt heads for Tremayne's right eye. Fortunately he's fast enough to be able to swat it aside. Victor's room contains not only the man himself but several crossbows and evidence of magical activity, including a magical circle drawn on the floor. Victor, seeing that he's outnumbered, dives for the window, but his exit is blocked by a huge figure with great fists and expressionless blank eyes. It smells of smoke and petrol; indeed it seems to be rather like one Gideon's servants, the Riot Boys. It hits Victor hard, almost knocking him out. Gideon grabs Victor and mentally subdues him, grudgingly admitting that Joseph's plan of using mental blocks against self-harm is a good one, then tells the Riot Boy to guard Victor.

They examine the room, Gideon showing particular interest in the magical circle, which he declares to be a circle for summoning a demon. As he does so, the door to the room splinters, and the adversary comes through it, still looking like the guard who killed Simeon. It heads for Victor, and Tremayne hits it hard. It rolls with the punch and does the sword-flick trick again. Tremayne drops low as the sword whistles toward him and takes only a scratch, then grabs the adversary's arm hard and deliberately breaks it, whereupon it vanishes once more, to everyone's relief.

Lucien comes into the room. Unfortunately, there's already one Lucien in the room, so Gideon hurls his stick at the new arrival. The stick explodes, and the adversary (for it is he) looks shocked and disappears again. Unfortunately Tremayne was standing close enough to the door to have been caught in the explosion; his clothing is now reduced to almost nonexistence by the sticky acid that engulfed him. Gideon cleans him off, and Joseph graciously lends the nearly naked Tremayne his coat with which to preserve his modesty.

Gideon apologises, but say that he must return to the palace immediately with Victor in case of further attack, and to see if any more investigations have borne fruit. Those remaining examine the room carefully. There are no further attacks, and they discover, concealed under the bed, detailed instructions for summoning a demon, and, even more worryingly, Trump sketches of the members of the gang except for Victor.

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