Meals and Messages

Paige smiles as the twins head back toward the rooms, Mace following slowly behind. Dressing them this morning had been easier, but it was still and a battle. She was going to have to begin teaching him about claws and teeth like she had bargained.

Perhaps tomorrow or even this afternoon she thought as she fixes herself another glass of juice.

As she does so, a metallic tapping sound can be heard to insert itself into the background noises of castle, approaching from the direction that the twins departed. The tapping is steady, like footsteps, and broken for a few seconds before resuming to herald the arrival of Jerod.

He looks around briefly as he leans on the spear, taking note of Paige in the dining hall as well as a noticeable lack of other family members. He had already noted the passage of a pair of teenage children from a dining hall normally reserved for family or higher members of the castle was duly noted, alike enough to be identifiable as siblings but unrecognized otherwise. The curious element was the presence of Paige's man as a shadow. A curiousity for the day.

In any event, the opportunity for both food and news catch-up now presented themselves, and Jerod was never one to overlook an opportunity.

"Good morning Paige." he says, continuing his approach again. "The morning finds you well I trust?"

"Much better than yesterday," she greets her cousin. "No lingering effects from Tyrell's gas that I can tell, other than a mild headache, which might've just as well been from this morning's question and answer session.

"Someone should've reminded their grandmother that by the time they're teens they're supposed to have all the answers already, not the curiousity of half their apparent age," Paige sighs with mock frown.

Gesturing toward the juices before her, she offers, "Might I pour you something while I'm up?"

"Whatever might be there. So long as it's in a big glass." Jerod says, catching the gaze of a servant to bring additional food to the table. As he sits, he reaches into a side pocket of the jacket he is wearing to retrieve a message packet.

"The twins I take it?" he asks, sifting comments, picking out pieces, sizing out the puzzle.

Paige nods as she hands him a large glass of apple juice. "It just occurred, you haven't met them yet, have you?"

Jerod accepts the glass, nodding an affirmative.

"You might've seen them in the hall. Leif and Brooke have developed quickly under the gaze of their and my grandmother," she explains as she takes a seat near him and sips her own juice.

"Clarissa sped the pregnancy and the Dragon their growth while under possession. They're still too... raw... mallable... I don't know the word, but suffice to say, too un-Ordered to Sketch, but so much more than babes of but a few months. Hells, if this were anything like a normal pregnancy, I'd still be fat and retaining water." She chuckles.

"I suppose it's time to leave that to others."

"I'd wager it's not a task one would like to be constantly occupied with." Jerod replies, cognizant of the role that Folly is currently occupying. "Let us hope that others do not have the same attention of Family upon them."

Something about Jerod's tone suggests he is pessimistic as to the chances of anonymity for others.

Paige raises her glass in agreement.

"For you." he says, handing over the letter from Brennan. "Brennan asked me to drop this off should you be in attendance here."

"I didn't hang out long enough yesterday to hear. Where did you run into him?" she asks as she accepts it. "Paris? Part of me soo wants to visit. The other seems to be looking at position here."

"Brennan is travelling with my sister and stopped by, evidently collecting information on his quest concerning the various Lords of Chaos, Dara included. Cambina has this masochistic tendency to seek out Uncle Corwin for some reason." Jerod says drily. "I finished drawing a path for Corwin to Gateway and used the goodwill to collect some information and put a proposal to him.

"It's an interesting place, certainly more developed than what Uncle Random has so far. I would presume you're considering which location offers the greater level of protection for your children?"

"And myself," she admits. "Of course, it's not Dragons that I'm afraid of." She winks conspiratorially at him.

Jerod chuckles and takes a drink of his juice.

"Pattern is the important thing in defense against their great grandmother according to Aunt Fiona, and it worked when she attacked, if not well enough to save their father," she frowns.

"I'm glad to hear that paths are working again now that we've anchors for them. Is it any different in practice from what we attempted during the Regency?"

"Yes, when I drew it my brain didn't feel like imploding." Jerod says even more drily as he inspects a tray brought by one of the serving staff, begins picking out a variety of items. "Pattern is good for imposing order but it lacks the flexibility that seems inherent in Chaos. To fight a Chaos Lord at that kind of range would require considerable knowledge of the Pattern. To be able to counter that flexibility would probably be the key."

Having collected a plate of food suitable for a first course, he continues. "Corwin gave me a basic tip about the nature of Pattern reality that now seems blindingly obvious but never was before. From there it was a matter of focussing the journey, building it in my mind through the various legs. More experience would certainly help reduce the time of the overall journeys. The one I built should last at least a year and with more stability. I can reinforce it prior to that, maybe shave some time off.

"I want to run the idea of a path from Amber to here past the King, see what he thinks. He might only be interested in mass evacuation however."

"To be honest, I'm not too keen on it myself," Paige admits. "Amber is a lost cause, I fear and is susceptable to invasion by Arcadia through Arden. Giving Artemis, Callista, or the Dragon an easier path toward my children, doesn't appeal at all.

"We've moved most of the fleet," she comments off-handedly. "And by 'we' I mean me, leading them the slow way, but truth be told, it was easy enough a trip. I still worry that more followed than I wished from Amber, Arden or Arcadia.

"Speaking of which, you haven't heard from the Warden, have you?"

"Julian?" Jerod frowns. "No. I was in the middle of dealing with Gateway so attending the funeral for Daeon wasn't an option. Mages are so much fun to deal with, like cats and water. I arranged to forward my condolescences to him however. I was figuring to call him after talking to Random about my proposal. Might I inquire as to why you're interested?"

"Somehow I haven't found the moment to speak with him since the funeral, and he's asked to be part of the twin's lives," she replies after taking a sip of her juice. "I've been considering if I want to trade that for being part of the solution."

"You could, but I'd advise you not to trade." Jerod says, working his way through a selection of cheese. "If he wants to be part of their lives, it's not something on the level of a favour with him. Tell him what you feel you need and let him say what he thinks."

Paige is skinning a piece of fruit with a paring knife and popping bits of the juicy flesh into her mouth as she nods in agreement. "Well, yes, I hadn't truly thought to deny him the children. They're all that he has left of Adonis.

"I suspect he's going to react to the idea with much the same opinion that my father has on the matter," she sighs. "He's of a mind to find something to keep me distracted and focused on the children here in Xanadu. It seems the King's in agreement, even if they haven't spoken on the matter. He's suggested that I might work with the judiciary again, here.

"Building policy from the ground up, establishing most of the precendents? It's a temping offer... or distraction. I wouldn't put it past my father having suggested it."

"Such is the nature of parents to try to ensure their children are protected from themselves." Jerod replies. "Even if the children believe they can handle things. Sometimes the children can too.

"What would you do?"

"If I were to become involved?" she muses. "I don't know. It's been some years since I considered myself a swordswoman, but I've been working out a bit recently." Her gaze flits to a sword and scabbard laying on a sideboard, currently out of her reach, but no more than a few steps. "Of course, I'm sure he can find as many of those as he needs, most more receptive to taking orders than I.

"My father named my curse," Paige chuckles. "I've dabbled too many years at too many things. I'm capable with Pattern, but far from proficient enough to draw paths. I'm an Artist, and taught Merlin well enough, but there's no doubt that he could teach me now. I'm a skilled nurse and midwife, but not a surgeon." She smirks and shakes her head as she adds, "It's been years since I even ran my own brothel.

"So I suppose that's part of the question that I need to ask... What can I do?"

"Skills are irrelevant." Jerod says absently, having finished off the cheese and pausing a moment to decide which of four large mounds of fresh meat he is going to work on first before settling on the roast beef.

"Ever wonder why my dad threw me into Court?" he asks rhetorically, popping a slice of beef into his mouth. "I could already fight well. Command troops, even small naval squadrons. I've negotiated treaties and resolved labour disputes.

"But they were all tasks, all assigned to me. They were things to be done, and someone else decided them. Once I knew what I had to do, I went out and did them either by my own skills or by acquiring others with the required talents. Court made me think on my feet. I had to make my own choices of what to do, and not rely on others to think for me."

He takes another slice of meat, chews on it for a moment before continuing. "You don't need skills, or talents. That's why I asked what I asked. You've said yourself, you've got someone who can do trumps, and Merlin will probably help you. You've got sorcerers and warriors and even a brother and they'd be sure to help you."

Jerod then smiles wolfishly, leaning forward slightly. "There's even a rival or two who might deign to help, if its worth the challenge. Once the goal is set, collecting what you need to do it, is just another task.

"But, the difficult question remains...what do you want to do?"

"What's the phrase? If you want something done right, do it yourself," she chuckles. "Of course, that implies that I don't trust Julian to handle it, or that I believe that somehow I could do better.

"I want to know my children are safe, and that they'd be safe from the Dragon should they leave Xanadu," Paige admits, setting down her drink. "Pattern swords have contained her before, but I'd like an offensive option... something more final.

"And part of me just wants to be a mother and do what I can to raise them before I lose another decade and they run off to their godhood in Arcadia."

She smiles and chuckles warmly, a laugh that doesn't make it to her eyes unfortunately. "Those both take priority over mommy gossip with the Prince's wife."

Jerod listens carefully, nodding at a couple of points while he works his way through the beef, remaining silent for a long moment once Paige is finished.

"It's not easy, being friends with the Prince's wife, is it?" Jerod asks finally, the Court face put away for the time being.

"It's easy being her friend," Paige admits. "It's being her lover that may get complicated.

"You're his friend, have been for years. You know what came to pass during the Regency. I tanked a relationship that should've never been, but it didn't change how we felt, or might even still feel," she continues. "And while I think we've all gotten over the initial troubles finally, it has only been a few years since I went all PTSD on the Council and Uncle Gerard. Hells, yesterday was the first I spoke with the man since his father's coronation and the first question he asks me is how she is.

"It's a good thing I grokked the parental instincts and knew what to expect when he's juiced like that," she sighs. "Else I might've taken it poorly." Her expression suggests that even then it wasn't taken well.

Jerod does not appear to react to any of the relationship revelations that are offered during Paige's talk...perhaps he's good at hiding, or perhaps he's more tolerant than he chooses to let on.

Paige expects that while it might've never been discussed in committee, none of the above items were "revelations".

"Given some of the issues that Martin has developed from prior relationships, I'd would have been a bit more surprised had the relationship not tanked." Jerod says. "That's not a statement on you, by the way. He's had enough bad stuff in his life that for him relationships with true emotions are a ticket to having his guts ripped out."

Paige figuratively bites her tongue and lets him continue, covering by finding a pastry to nibble on.

He pushes the plate a few inches, satisfied for the moment. "Martin and I had a conversation a few years ago, about love and relationships. He took a position that pretty much said love didn't really exist. Oddly enough, I had the role of defending romance and marriage and all that good stuff." he says, smiling. "And don't look so shocked. Prior to the Sundering I had a relationship with a woman that had been ongoing for twenty years. It may still be salvageable."

Paige nods with a smile as she thinks about a pre-Sundering relationship and decides that she should find out if he's even coming to Xanadu.

"Anyway, I digress. The point being he said it wasn't doable, and I said it was. Awhile later, his relationship with Folly reached a certain stage and he came back and said that I was right, and he was wrong. Now, beyond the fact that I'm going to be getting a drink out of that admission, it also tells me that barring an elaborate setup and deception of his own doing, he's taken the plunge. A terrifying prospect on his part if he ever sits down to analyze it.

"And that means that he's going to need his friends. And you're one of them. I believe that because in a time of great stress, he's not going to reveal the secret that he gave to you to just anyone, something that could hurt him more than anything. He certainly wouldn't have asked your brother how his wife was doing. He asked someone he trusted, admittedly in his own pushy, juiced-up manner, but still someone he trusted. Otherwise, he wouldn't have given you the time of day.

"If you think there's still something unresolved, then go talk to him. Give him a day to calm down first. I doubt seriously if he enjoyed his arrival conversation with the King. I can only imagine what was said." Jerod says, remembering a conversation with his father, long ago, on a similar topic. "Give him time, and be straight with him if and when you talk to him. You can even tell him I sent you, if you think it might help."

"No. We pretty much took care of closure at the Ball," Paige accepts. "I'm really OK with him. I just haven't had a chance to talk to her.

"I don't think that it was a gesture of trust, though. I broke his trust a long time ago and he's not one that gives it easily. I'll need to rebuild it if I can." The smile she greeted him with is definitely gone but she hasn't resorted to her own court face.

"What I heard him saying was, 'I can handle myself if all you amateurs would stop Trumping me. You should be protecting Folly, as that's why I sent her home.' Of course, I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time I misread what he was saying." She offers a wink that's a little more encouraging than her tone.

"It's possible. It's why I would disagree that about the item of trust." Jerod says. "It's there. As you've said, you just have to work on it."

Paige accepts his comment with a nod. "So what's kept your time recently?" she asks, specifically looking to the spear.

"You mean besides meeting up with old flames, laying Shadow paths, getting ribs busted fighting a Triton, lunch with Flora, getting threatened by Llewella for making nasty comments about her daughter Khela..." Jerod says, pausing for a moment with a smile. "Too much to account in one breath.

"That..." he says, motioning to the spear. "...comes from my mother. A replacement to cover dad's sword being absconded with by a Triton. It used to belong to my grandfather on mother's side. He hailed from Gateway but beyond that no one seems to know much about him prior to arriving in Rebma. I took a trip there to lay a path for Corwin, got in some goodwill and managed to verify from the Chancellor that the core material is indeed from Gateway. I've got a vague invitation to return that I might follow up.

"I debated briefly on putting it aside but I find I've come to like it. It's as much a piece of art as a weapon."

Paige nods in agreement. "If neither of us are haring off into Shadow anytime soon, you should let me sketch you with it. As Brennan mentioned last time we spoke, we've a shortage of Trumps, even just Sketches."

She cocks her head and scrutinizes the spear. "Nothing else of immediate interest about it?" Paige asks. "I'd suppose that you'd share if it were the Rebman version of Werewidle, right?"

"Unless Weyland the Smith spent some time in Rebma, I doubt if it has such an impressive ancestry." Jerod says. "Though oddly enough, the topic of Weyland, dragons, and swords like Gram that are meant for dragon-slaying came up in conversation with Corwin. Do you know of Weyland?"

"No more than I've heard of in legends and myth of my birth Shadow," she admits. "Unless he's the Smith that forged the Pattern blades, which makes him near and dear to my heart.

"Might I ask what you know of him?"

"That he is the smith that forged the Pattern blades." Jerod says with deadpan delivery.

Paige chuckles warmly.

"Corwin knew him. He claims he was from a place that no longer existed. Corwin even offered to get a weapon made for me and said I would not have to pay the price that he paid. I presume that means whatever binds him to Grayswandir. The legends of Weyland indicate he can demand unusual prices."

"I'll have to keep that in mind should I ever meet him," Paige decides. "Places that no longer exist... Seems we have a few of those now, or don't as the case may be.

"Wish I could cause a cascade failure of Shadow in Arcadia. That might solve the issue, but I don't see anyone advocating such extreme measures," she says.

"I'd wonder if it would even be possible." Jerod says. "If Brennan's suspicions are true about the Dragon being a creature of Chaos like a Lord, the shadows around it could be of its own creation, not ours."

"Like Clarissa," the redhead muses. "I haven't been close enough to Arcadia to know, but Artemis's trick with the grasses at Heather Vale would support that if there's any correspondence between the daughter's powers and the mother's.

"But then again, it's been trapped this side of Grandfather's border, so it must be subject to the laws or Order in some way," she thinks outloud. "How do we exploit that? Damn, wish I hadn't been so preoccupied when I met Grandmother."

"What is Clarissa like?" Jerod asks.

"The Queen or the Realm?" Paige counters. "One a reflection of the other and it's hard to tell which is influencing which. She's what I expected of a Queen. Strong and unfortunately too used to getting her own way. The Dragon's not the only one culpable in the twin's advanced age."

"How so?" Jerod asks curiously.

"The twins are attuned to the seasons and so was the pregnancy. With complete control of her domain, as she moved through them, so did the pregnancy advance.

"I'm fairly certain that she was behind the aging in Altamar, too."

"So that would indicate she has the ability to substantially influence areas outside her immediate realm of control." Jerod says. "This seasonal attunement, does that come from Daeon?"

Paige nods twice. "In addition to being a Lord of Chaos, she's an accomplished sorcerer," she notes to explain the former. "Daeon... Adonis... he was Everyman to Arcadia in his godhead and lent his faces to the seasons, or they to him. If the dragon's to be believed, they are to take his and his sister's place in that pantheon."

Jerod's expression becomes distant for a moment as he taps the table top several times before returning. "Individuals with specific functions...kind of like an affine? At least from the perspective of a Chaos Lord...everything around it would be seen to have a specific purpose. Once that purpose was deemed would the one performing it." as he stabs at a chunk of duck with a fork.

"Not a good situation. What does your father say?"

"Other than keep the children someplace safe?" she shrugs. "They've got to grow, to learn their Ordered heritage and make decisions for themselves.

"That and that I should be distracted from taking direct action in the fight against their paternal relations."

"Sounds like my mother when I got into my first Court entanglement." Jerod says. "On all counts.

"What do your children say? They appear physically mature, but given the time frame you've indicated, unless someone forced a personality imprint upon them I'd have to wonder what their take on things would be."

"They've been 'gifted' with a great deal of information, but I think they're still truly defining their personalities. They understand their obligations..." Paige shakes her head. "No, understand's not the word... They know their places in the pantheon as Artemis imprinted them.

"It's alot of fighting preconceptions they've been given and trying to well... be a parent."

Jerod nods once, knowing full well the preconceptions one can face because of what others expect. "How much do they accept these pre- conceptions?"

"Fully, but they're also learning about how different people have different points of view," she explains. "Right now we've gotten to a point where they accept that they need to wear clothes when in public and that shapechanging freaks out the servants."

"Hmmm...sounds like Dad's Weirs." Jerod says. "Though I think they had a better idea of how much they weirded everyone out and just didn't care."

Then he adds. "If there is anything I can do to help, let me know."

"Well, when I explained to Leif that clothing was like the natural protective coverings that he had as a wolf, he decided that he wanted clothes with fangs and claws," she chuckles. "You wouldn't be interested in a few sword lessons while you're about. I think the King's short a master-at-arms at the moment and Martin always spoke well of your ability."

"Fangs and claws huh? Definitely sounds like Dad's Weirs." Jerod says. "I'll be around for a few days at least. Have them come look for me. We'll see how they do handling that little bit of social interaction."

"That will be wonderful, I'm sure," Paige answers as she rises. "If you'll excuse me, I really should go catch up with them before the new city is complaining about the 'wolf problem' or such."

"Until then." Jerod says, also rising, nodding as she departs.

Around mid-morning on the day after Martin and Folly's return, Garrett lopes into the salle for his first lesson with the criminal. He's sure Martin won't approve of his new instructor, but somehow he feels his father would see the humor in it. So long as the man doesn't take his head off, that is.

He arrives quite early for the lesson to give himself time to warm up and practice what he learned from Brennan and Paige. As he strides into the salle, though, he sees Jerod already there. Garrett slows and makes his way to the sword rack, all the while watching Jerod with studious interest.

Jerod's spear is firmly seated in a polearm stand beside a bench where a small satchel sits. Jerod's court coat and a dagger belt are also there along with a small pouch and Jerod is dressed in the style of Amber in his darker colours. What Garrett sees Jerod wielding is a length of chain, two to three metres in length. Attached to one end is what appears to be a sickle which Jerod wields in his left hand. The other end appears to be a small, heavy metal weight with angular edges.

If Jerod looks up, he'll notice the young prince dressed much like Martin, in comfortable-looking jeans and a grey T-shirt. The difference is in the footwear. In place of Martin's ever-present high-top sneakers, Garrett wears a pair of battered brown leather riding boots that Jerod is certain the lad was wearing the last time he saw him in the stables.

Jerod would certainly have noticed the arrival of the newest of the royal family, though years of training under Venesch keep him from diverting his attention significantly from the task at hand. What Garrett sees over the course of a few minutes are repeated strikes with the weighted end of the chain against a set of heavy wooden practice dummies, followed by defensive moves with the sickle to block perceived counterattacks. The attacks with the weighted end are precise, focussed on specific parts of the dummies to simulate strikes in vulnerable locations, and despite the sturdy construction of the dummies, there are obvious dents and splinters.

Garrett selects his sword of choice, a light longsword, then waits for Jerod to take a break.

Another minute passes before Jerod swings a final time, wrapping the chain around the thick post that holds the dummy planted firmly into the ground. He pulls sharply, turning inward through his body line and there is the sudden sound of splintering wood as the post snaps, dropping the dummy to the ground. He flicks the chain in a reverse hand fashion to help disconnect it from the wooden stock and retrieves the weight.

When he does, Garrett approaches and asks, "Prince Jerod, mind if I join you?" Up close, Jerod can see that the prince has his father's easy grin and bright blue eyes. His hair, though longer and significantly darker than his father's, is just as unruly. He also has Random's lean build, but with the rolling gait of one who has spent most of his life on horseback.

"Not at all, your majesty. I think I'm finished with this for the moment." Jerod says, nodding as he coils the chain. Unlike Garrett, Jerod has few of the visual gene markers that would identify him as the offspring of Eric. What he does possess is the same intense personal drive, the inherent need to challenge himself for his own benefit. It is likely his emotions work with the same intensity.

"Don't stop on my account," Garrett says, though by the look of the dummy, Jerod would've had to stop anyway if only to change victims. He narrows his eyes as he gazes at the unfamiliar weapon. "What's that called?"

"A kusari-gama." Jerod says, placing the now coiled chain and sickle end down on the bench to retrieve a towel. "It's part of a family of different weapons that Venesch taught me about. It comes from an agrarian culture where lower castes were restricted from bearing swords but still needed to defend themselves."

"Hmm," Garrett says with a nod of interest. "May I?" he asks as he reaches for the weapon.

Jerod does not immediately answer but waits momentarily, to see if Garrett actually picks up the weapon before receiving a reply to his question.

He starts to pick it up, then looks up at Jerod inquiringly.

After that moment passes, Jerod responds. "Of course."

"Thank you," Garrett says as he uncoils the chain. He steps back and wields the weapon carefully, doing his best to imitate the movements he had observed Jerod using moments ago. "I've never seen one of these in Amber," he says with interest. "Is it from a Shadow somewhere? How did Venesch come across it?"

Jerod backs up as Garrett picks up the weapon, gauging the distance necessary based on Garrett's grip on the chain. Jerod is well aware, from hard won experience, of the risks involved with chain weapons and how frequently the user can injure themselves and those around them.

"Captain Venesch brought a set of different weapons with him as part of his duties to teach me when my father recruited him as Master-of-Arms." Jerod says. "He made it a requirement of his service that while my father could set general goals, the methods of training were his alone to enforce. Since he was to ensure I could defend myself, he decided to cover more than just one kind of threat. This particular one is useful in a variety of situations but like all weapons has its limitations as well."

"Yes, I see," Garrett says as the sickle end comes a little closer to his knee that he had planned. He recoils the chain with great care and places the weapon back where Jerod had set it. "I'm still at the beginning," he says unnecessarily. "Sir Brennan showed me some things to get me started. He suggested Captain Venesch as a possible instructor for me. Or Lord Nickel. They're both still in Amber, though," he says with some disappointment.

"I do not know Lord Nickel so I cannot speak to his capabilities." Jerod says. "Has your father yet acquired a Master-of-Arms?"

"Uh, sort of," Garrett hedges. "His Lord Mayor recommended someone. His capabilities sound good, but his character seems a little... dodgy. He's meeting me here in a bit. I reckon we'll see how it goes before we offer him anything formally."

Jerod picks up the kusari-gama and heads over to a weapon rack, placing back into its position where he originally found it, speaking as he goes.

"A dodgy character?" he asks rhetorically, a slight smile evident. "No doubt this individual will fit in perfectly then. Your father was somewhat famous for his rebellious endeavours. He was permanently banned if I recall from ever setting foot in any of Princess Florimel's abodes. Something to do with late night poker parties I believe."

"Was he?" Garrett chuckles. "I didn't know that. I still have a lot to learn about my father."

He begins some warm-up stretches as he continues. "He was away from Amber for much of me childhood. I think I was about eleven when I met him for the first time. I almost crashed into him when I was running through the kitchens. I didn't even know he was royalty at first."

"Being the youngest in a line of imposing Princes would no doubt have been a bit of challenge to live up to." Jerod says. "I do not doubt that is where some of his rebellious streak towards his own father came from. How do you define your own sense of identity when there are all these other role models around you?"

A man appears in the doorway, and when the Princes see him he bows in the fashion of the Land of Peace. "Your highnesses, this humble one is yours to command. I am called abd-Allah in my homelands and Ash the Lord sent me to instruct the young Prince." He looks at Jerod for a moment, and then speaks again. "Forgive my forwardness, but are you Prince Jerod? My cousin, Abban, spoke highly of you." He carries himself like a swordsman, and has a blade, exotic by Amber standards, at his side. He has not moved in from the doorway.

The blade that abd-Allah has, how is it constructed and what would be appear to be its primary function? (ie - other than killing people of course, weapons are normally designed to deal with specific threats - other swords, heavy armor, light armor, or used to take advantage of specific characteristics - nimble light dueling weapons, thin stilletto types for piercing light chain or quilting, etc).

Cavalry sabre, although more of a curve than Jerod would expect. Perhaps horses fight very close together in the Land of Peace. It looks both fast and a bit fragile.

Sounds like a shamshir - given the desert environment opponents would tend to be unarmored, rendering irrelevant the need for a heavier blade to penetrate steel or laminated armor. Given the curve, is a thrusting attack likely? If the blade is too curved, thrusting will be difficult due to a decrease in accuracy (though not impossible).

"Assalmu Alaykum, abd-Allah." Jerod replies, giving him a slight nod as he finishes putting on his coat. "Your cousin Abban regrettably was not as forthcoming with the virtues of his relatives during my last visit."

"Wa `Alaykum", he replies, bowing. "Abban doubtless had many other matters of import to discuss with you, beyond his kinfolk."

By this time, jacket now neatly in place, he also reaches over to collect the spear and motions to Garrett.

"His majesty, the Prince." he says, directing his voice to abd-Allah but watching Garrett to see how he reacts. There is something Jerod's expression that Garrett can see has changed, practically in an instant as soon as abd-Allah introduced himself. As if another person were standing there now.

Abd-Allah bows again, more deeply.

Garrett acknowledges abd-Allah with a formal nod. "A pleasure, sir," he says, having drawn himself up to princely posture following Jerod's lead. With the air of Donovan interviewing a prospective stablehand, he asks, "So, tell me about yourself. Your background, your training?"

He nods. "I have devoted two score and 4 years to mastering the sword in all her forms, following my apprenticeship to the Master of Trizerabad. I have fought in wars and in duels, and am considered expert in my craft. I have trained Princes and soldiers, and each has been better for it. I am not undefeatable, but I have not been defeated.

"It is my hope that my training and what I have added to that knowledge can be of use to your highness."

"This is my hope as well," Garrett responds.

Jerod listens patiently, collecting bits of information that might be useful to ask about later, or to investigate for convenience sake should a return trip to the land occur. He will await a moment's silence before speaking.

"Does his majesty wish me to remain to observe?" he says, directing his comment to Garrett. "If not, then I must arrange a meeting with your father."

"If you wish, but if you have other things to do, it's prob'ly not necessary," he says, leaving the decision to Jerod.

"You are of course correct your majesty, probably not." Jerod replies, carefully enunciating the word "probably". Stable hands can get away with blurring their words...however in even Random's potentially loose-fitting kingdom, one of the royal princes is not likely to have the same luxury. If anything, Jerod suspects that appearance is even more essential with a monarch more likely to be found in a travelling road band than anywhere else.

The correction in front of a non-family member prompts a slight frown from Garrett to go with the nod of dismissal.

Then, he gives a slight bow to Garrett, a nod to Abd-Allah, and Jerod is off.

Abd-Allah bows to Jerod and then returns his attention to Garrett.

To the swordsman Garrett says, "Tell me about your methods. You'll find as a student, I'm tireless and persistent, but very inexperienced. How do you propose to teach me what I need to know?"

He nods and begins pacing slowly. "Not having determined his highness' strengths yet, I would start with an evaluation, and then develop a course revolving around the basics: strength and endurance, speed, unlearning bad habits, practical and theoretical textbook lessons, and rote memorization of technique. Each student is different, of course.

"What is it you think you need to know, highness?"

"Everything," Garrett answers honestly. "But to start, defense. I'm the youngest of a pack of cousins who grew up doing this in their sleep and, I'm told, not all of them are trustworthy. I reckon that's where we need to start."

He nods. "Yes. I need to know your abilities. Strength, speed, skill, stamina, each can be a defence and the first line should be your greatest. Once you have a defence, we will work on others, and on nimbly switching between them. Armor is quite useful in most cases, but not if you are fighting the Marid." He says the last as if it were an aphorism.

Garrett considers this. Strength, speed, stamina - yes. Those are qualities he has in abundance. Skill, no. To the line about the Marid, he simply nods, filing it away to ask about later.

He looks around the room and turns to Garrett. "Pick an item here that you can lift with one hand. Hold it at arm's length."

He sits, cross-legged, in front of Garrett.

"All right..." Garrett says as he moves off to the weapons rack. Unsure as to whether the master means something heavy or something that can be picked up easily, Garrett selects a rather large broadsword, something that would take a normal person two hands to wield, but can be picked up in one hand easily by someone with Amberite strength. He brings it back to adb Allah. "How about this?" he asks, his arm extended according to instructions.

"If it pleases you," says Abdallah. "Close your eyes, your highness. Now keep it where it is and tell me what you know of matters of fighting." He seems to be wandering around the room at random, looking at weapons and picking things up.

Garrett does as he's instructed, listening for Abdallah's movements as he speaks. "My earliest experiences were just street fighting. Fists. No weapons. I was banned from that early on 'cause I was stronger than all the other lads.

"When I was a little older, I took lessons in swords from one of the guards. He taught me some footwork and the basics of how to handle the blade, but I could outlast him easily. It wasn't until I started working with Ser Brennan that things got challenging." Garrett pauses to see if Abdallah has any comment.

"And how long did you train with Ser Brennan? What was his objective in training you."

Garrett feels fingers gripping his upper arm, tracing the musculature.

"He's only had time to give me a couple of sessions, but they were real workouts," Garrett explains, involuntarily tensing his muscles as his instructor touches him, but holding his position steady. "Since then, I've been practicing the exercises he set me to. Lady Paige helped with that while we were on board ship on the way here. So it's been... oh, several weeks since we started.

"As for his objective, it was more than simply training me to the sword," Garrett continues. "He wanted to impress the importance of truly acting like a prince, not just being one. He said it amounts to using your authority as an extension of yourself, much like you'd use your sword. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, and about how to find my own style with it." Garrett continues to follow Abdallah's movements with his ears, dutifully resisting the urge to peek.

"Good! A fit education for a Prince includes both philosophy and war." The sword becomes suddenly tip heavy, but Garrett is very strong and can hold it as is. Adballah's voice is directly in front of Garrett. "Tell me about a training session. The one with the knight. What did you learn? What did you not learn that he meant you to or you wanted to?"

"He was tough. Real tough," Garrett says bluntly, still holding the sword steady. "He'd push me to the breaking point, then keep pushing. I never worked so hard in my life. But yet if I tried to rush something, he'd hold me back, to make sure I knew the maneuvers inside and out before I pushed on to the next thing. And he was patient. He'd demonstrate something over and over, as many times as I needed to see it, and he never complained about it.

"What did I learn? Well, a lot about swordwork, obviously, and breaking old habits from my previous training. But I think the most important thing was simply how to behave. Like I said before - how to use my authority most effectively. And just how important that authority is, every moment.

"And what did I not learn?" he smiles self-deprecatingly, eyes still closed. "Probably some of the same. I'm still too familiar. Despite knowing what I'm supposed to be doing, sometimes I still fall into old habits; old patterns. They're hard to break," he admits with a shrug.

The weight comes free from the tip of the sword.

"You may open your eyes."

Abdallah is sitting in front of him, and there is a practice dummy set up.

"I cannot train you in strength. Run through your exercises. First at half-speed, so I may watch your technique, then we will repeat at faster speeds. While you are doing so, I wish to know of the philosophy that you have been taught. What is it to be a prince, My Prince?"

Garrett opens his eyes and shakes out his shoulders. At Abdallah's request for exercises, he nods once and starts in on the exercises he learned from Brennan. Doing them at half-speed first is easy for Garrett. That's the way Brennan always demonstrated them. Garrett starts with the more basic moves, then increases the difficulty.

As he works, he considers the question. "It's different things to different people, I reckon," Garrett begins diplomatically. "But I think the common thread is a knowledge that you're always on stage, all the time. You have to be real careful what you do, because people will read things into it that might not be there. Those opinions, in turn, will influence how they feel about the monarch. Your image shouldn't detract from what the King is trying to project."

He nods as he watches the exercise. "So that is a prince, then? A serf in fine robes, with no authority. A soldier for the king without even the ability to quit? Now with the other hand, if you please."

"Left-handed?!" Garrett replies, surprised. "All right..." He swaps the sword to his weaker hand and tries to do the exercises in reverse, again starting with the most basic. It's much more difficult this way. AbdAllah can easily see this is new to him.

As he thrusts and swipes, Garrett clarifies his previous comments. "The soldier without the ability to quit I'll go along with, but I wouldn't say a prince is a serf in fine robes. And they certainly have authority. Some more than others. Depends on how much the King gives them. Or how much they take," he adds, with maybe just a little too much spirit in that last left-handed thrust.

"I see, my Prince. You do realize that you would have been pricked by a riposte in sixte for that thrust, by even a moderately talented swordsman, yes? We will work on it. The technique should be something you can perform in your sleep, so that no discomfort, or agitation, or hate or love or fear or want can make you fight at any less than your best. One fights because one cares, but one fights as if one did not. Nothing that disengages the mind shall be allowed, for the spirit fights poorly with steel."

Garrett listens raptly, taking the swordsman's comments not as criticism but as a path to improvement. At the end, the young prince nods once, decisively.

[Abdallah] smiles. "That is enough. How far can you run without getting winded? Run that far and then turn around and run back. I shall see you tomorrow at the same time."

"I'll be here. Thank you, sir," Garrett replies and watches the master leave.

Once abdAllah has gone, Garrett allows a wide grin to bloom on his face. "This could work," he says in an amazed tone to no one in particular. Then he proceeds to clean the weapons before he sets out to do his "homework."

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Last modified: 12 August 2006