April 25, 2004

THIS THING OF DARKNESS, SESSION ONE

ANDRE, diplomatic and trade rep for the king of Skyguard, returns to his town house well after dark with a linkboy and a bodyguard to find a double of himself dead a few paces from his doorstep. Two thugs move in from behind and two orchuli lizardmen attack from the walls. Net result: dead lizardmen and thugs, one lightly wounded bodyguard. The double is stashed in the meat locker (a deluxe example of Rebman magical craftsmanship) and the linkboy fetches the Watch. Andre being a respectable businessman and all, and the bodyguard being a known professional, and the guard and the linkboy having been bribed to not mention the double, all goes as well as possible.

A search on the morrow reveals that the lizardmen seem to have dragged the man up one wall and lowered him down the other via grappling hook and rope then killed him. Andre could also detect some faint traces of magic on the roof via Pattern, though no indication of what it had been used for. Modest bribes at the local Watch HQ and morgue get Andre a sample of the odd, octagonal gold pieces all the dead were carrying and a blow-tube of the whitish powder they had been equipped with, two tubes each. Their weapons were otherwise commonplace. The thugs were wanted ex-sailors. The orchuli though, were unusual. No others were in town and no loose lizardmen had been reported – not that scaly assassins were a normal thing in any case. Andre then found traces of the powder on the doubles face and nostrils.

THERA, daughter of Julian and also one of his ranger colonels, is in town getting ready for the Winterfest / Festival of Masks by helping organize an archery competition and by keeping an eye on the Sunset Company’s Bronze Street Dance for her father, a founder of the Sunset Company. (Julian is busy in Deep Arden doing something secret, or personal.) The latter job mostly consists of making appearances and making approving noises. Three days before the Festivals kick off she’s awakened at her town flat by a Ranger HQ messenger. She opens it despite the sleepy protests of her beau Bloom, an accomplished but too-pretty Ranger lieutenant. A terse message received via bird says that a fortified Ranger-allied village has been wiped out. Bloom’s home village of Kir Dahan. Thera makes quick arrangements* (see below) and they ride out. After most of a day’s travel Thera can start Shadowshifting and they arrive at the site after another two hours of hellriding.

Many Rangers are already on site. Only two witness survived, and they were outside Kir Dahan when it was attacked. The net results of the tracking and thorough examination of the village: a small group came in by air and Trumped in about 200- 300 attackers. Some of the attackers were inhumanly large, some left tracks resembling those of tigers. The tigers surrounded the village and killed everyone who fled. All 500 – 600 inhabitants were killed or taken off, mostly killed, and all the attackers’ corpses removed as well.

TYLER, son of Deirdre, is sailing to Amber with his mother. She has finally recovered from her wounds suffered in the Abyss and intends to make a grand entrance in Amber where everyone thinks she’s dead. Tyler feels a Trump call and cautiously accepts; it’s Thera. Thera convinces Tyler to take over her minimal Festival prep duties while she investigates a massacre in Arden. Tyler leaves his mother in his first mate Aristotle’s care, or vice versa, and steps through to Amber. The duties are light and Thera now owes him a favor. He takes the opportunity to arrange for horses and such for mom’s entrance. At the appropriate time Deirdre Trumps him back to the boat and they arrive. Word spreads quickly and by the time they ride up to the Castle’s gates half the family is waiting and more are Trumping in. Gerard takes some of the polish off Deirdre’s choreography by picking her up and hugging her; she puts up with it. Dee sashays up to King Random and drops to one knee, presenting her sword. Homecoming festivities ensue and run far into the night. Deirdre is cagey about what happened to her. Tyler tries to follow her lead while basking in the attention. Eventually the whole family Trumps in, except for Julian. Tyler makes an attempt to convince Merlin that it would be in the latter’s interest to provide Tyler with a Trump of him. Meanwhile, Deirdre mostly keeps Corwin at arm’s length. Martin says he’s tired of dealing with Rebman politics, but Queen Vialle, Llewella and Rebman Queen to be Melisandra call him over to plot.

TYLER and THERA. Tyler Trumps Thera and asks how her mission is going. He then maneuvers Merlin into stepping through with him to help out the investigation. Merlin confirms that the attackers did use a Trump, not a Gate, and not a teleportation circle or device. The Trump ‘em in tactic was little used in the Courts, Merlin said, because House Barimen, with all the Trump Artists in Chaos, kept tight controls on Trumps and tended to avoid military conflict. Corwin, on the other hand, loved the technique and used it all the time in his realm of Argent. Merlin says there’s no difference between Chaos and Amber Trumps. No one can think of a good reason to attack Kir Dahan. The royals Trump back to Amber. Fiona politely corners Tyler and talks the story of Deirdre’s unexpected appearance out of him. She then shows him something in return, saying she’s curious about Deirdre’s opinion: When Tyler tries hard to use Brand’s Trump he eventually gets a vision of an annoyed Unicorn and a stinging end to the contact.

ANDRE visits the townhouse of the ap-Morgwyn sisters, the most prominent Rebman traders – and mages – in Amber. Saithryn ap-Morgwyn, blue of skin and green of hair and quite attractive, strikes a complicated deal involving Skyguard silks, trade discounts and such. Still expensive, but Andre knows the ap-Morgwyns only hire out their magic when something piques their interest -- like a magic-assisted crime against a foreign trader in the City. Saithryn identifies the powder (using a trained gnome from one of her rings) as a soporific drug, dangerous only if the victim was hit with several doses. The same earthkin examined the double’s body from within and declared it to have been magically altered from a general resemblance to Andre to a close match. And someone involved had seen Andre naked too, to judge by the details. The magic on the roof – probed with a variety of magical tools, was probably a scrying spell set on one of the Turret’s stones. Saithryn rated the scrying spell as challenging (in Amber) and probably done with enhanced magic – Pattern or some shadow power source. It was nearly impossible to determine just what in the strong currents of energy constantly pulsing out of the Pattern under the Castle. Saithryn thought that even one of the Amber royals would have been hard pressed to do the double-sculpting in Amber. On the other hand, changing the man out in Shadow and bringing him into Amber was a lot of work too. Andre had such interesting enemies; perhaps he was more important than he was letting on. She uses their parting hand kiss to casually test Andre’s psychic strength, getting nowhere against his mental defense. That gets him a big, interested smile and they part on good terms.

Posted by randy at April 25, 2004 05:29 PM | TrackBack
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