Printers on Parade

Heap produces two new books. The first, _The Garden of Fair Flowers_, as described elsewhere, becomes publicly, if discreetly, available. For the distaff part of his audience, Heap's mysterious gentlewoman has produced a new book as well: _A Guide to the Financial and Legal Aspects of Inheritance for Ladies_. Some of the more conservative sorts find the book a bit radical. Actually, they find it quite radical.

Paige aquires copies of _The Garden_ for herself, Solace, and one for the table beside Solange's reading chair. Folly's welcome to borrow Paige's copy if she likes.

"Oooh, if I'm lucky, maybe Vialle will want me to read this one to her, too," Folly says privately to Paige as she thumbs through the book. Her smirk indicates that her irony meter has just plunged into the red zone.

"Maybe I should give up on the poetry and make some funds this way," she jokes to Folly.

"Or combine the two and start writing erotic poetry," grins Folly. "'My lover's ivory thighs/Blush like a spring sunrise;/The shadow of her breast/ Doth quake at my behest.'" Her grin gets wider as she pauses to reflect on her composition. "Hey, that kinda' doesn't suck. Can I borrow a pen?"

Paige shakes her head and offers the nearest quill. "If you need help brainstorming, later..."

As to the newest of the Ladies' Guides, she just picks up one for herself this time. How's this one read with the precedent that the Widow Fisher case made? She 'd like Lorring to look and see if any other cases come across the dockets that have had similar circumstances. What sort of rulings came down?

The next edition of the _Amber Crier_ features an anonymous article on the Castle's view of the city that includes some of the insights Vere related to Drudge. No names are mentioned, of course.

How astonishing.

It's perhaps a couple of days after that when Sir Archer shows up at Vere's office at the Harbor, asking to speak privately to Vere.

Vere has him shown in immediately, and receives him in private. "Please be seated, Sir Archer," he says. "Would you care for any refreshment?"

"Unfortunately," says Sir Archer, "this is a visit on official business. I understand you took Drudge, the printer, to dinner at the Naval recently. Did he speak to you of anyone who might be displeased with his work? He was found beaten to a pulp early this morning in an alley behind his shop, and hasn't regained consciousness yet."

He's suspicious, not of Vere, but perhaps that Vere knows who did it.

"Indeed?" Vere raises an eyebrow. "I find that distressing. Quite frankly, I had an inclination to do something similar to that myself. But my conversation with him convinced me that such an action would be 1) unwarranted and 2) detrimental to the good of the Family and the City. Have you any leads on who might be responsible? I fear that there might be some suspicion of the Family, and that may well not rebound to our benefit. Upon consideration, I find that I prefer our critics to be open in their opinions to the possibility that they may harbour resentments in fear and silence."

"That's a very ... enlightened ... view, Lord Vere," Archer replies. "I don't have any leads, no. But I have to ask you: why did you have a similar inclination?"

"Personal upset over the way my sister had been depicted in his broadsheet," Vere replies promptly. "I felt he had crossed the line from legitimate political commentary to personal offense. After speaking with him I altered my opinion."

Sir Archer looks mildly surprised.

Vere steeples his fingers together and stares into the distance. "It could, of course, be that another member of the Family also took offense, and that this is their response. It might also be that someone below the rank of the Family took offense, either on our behalf or for an attack upon them. Or someone may wish to make it look as though the Family had done this, to damage our reputation. Or," and now Vere leans back and begins to smile, "It might be that someone was angered that he had talked with me on friendly terms, and thus 'sold out' to the Family. Or perhaps they were afraid that he had given me information about them, or that he might do so in the future. Or it might be a purely personal matter, and angry husband or an outraged brother. Or a simple theft gone wrong, or an argument with a drunken sailor. Or a business matter, perhaps another printer who feels that Drudge was becoming too successful. No doubt I have missed several other possibilities that have occurred to you already."

Vere looks at Sir Archer. "If you truly have no leads at all," he says, "then I fear this may be a very difficult case. Is there anything I can do to assist?"

"Well," says Sir Archer, "Drudge certainly had a lot of enemies. While you can never eliminate the possibility of a personal entanglement of some sort, Drudge seems to be married to his work. He has a lot of political enemies, or so his pressmen tell me, but they say Drudge himself wouldn't believe it. No one was aware of any 'insider information' he might have had, unless he got it from you."

He pauses, clearly weighing his next words before speaking. "It may be connected with the business of Heap and Stout, or it may not. It may be connected with the Royal family, or it may not." _It may be connected to both_.

"Indeed?" Vere regards Sir Archer with interest. "Do I take it that there is some evidence, or some suspicion, that links those two? I confess that I have not been following the situation, but I was under the impression that it was merely a matter of business rivalry. While I am aware of some small interactions between the printers and members of the Family, I have not seen anything to indicate to me that we are deeply involved. Admittedly, I have not been looking for such involvement."

"I don't quite know what's going on either, but something about the Heap and Stout case stinks like the fishmongery down by the docks. I wasn't aware that any members of your family had any business with either of them, other than as customers. But I've already had one of your cousins in my office nosing about the case, and then there's that apprentice luthier one of your cousins is so fond of." Vere reads that last as a euphemism for "sleeping with".

"I'm reasonably sure that I know who arranged the arson of Heap's shop. But if you've ever dealt with Heap, you know he's, well, not necessarily the type to teach a lesson by vandalism. If Stout had been found with a knife in his back, or, say, beaten in an alley, I might believe it. But not the press vandalism. It just doesn't feel right. And Heap would just as soon not be in the broadsheet business -- he'd be happy to make tasteful living-room books for ladies and gentlemen. But that's Stout's market, not Drudge's."

Sir Archer shrugs. "Or maybe it's not related at all. But it's awfully coincidental."

Vere smiles. "Coincidence is a word which means 'we do not yet understand the connection.'" he says.

Sir Archer cracks a grin at that.

"As to the Family's interest in the matter, I think this is an indicator of things to come. There are a lot more Royals in Amber now than in the past, of course, and we have not yet become as set in our ways as our Elders. I suspect that there will be more and more involvement of the Family with surprising and unpredictable people and situations." He looks mildly sympathetic. "This will do doubt make your occupation more interesting."

The expression vanishes. "Let us turn our attention back to this case. If I understand you correctly, there is not anything specific you can point to at this moment to explain your concerns about this case, and possible Royal involvement. It is a matter of professional experience, of years of handling these affairs in Amber, which gives you a sense that something about this is not right. Is that correct?"

"Something like that," says Sir Archer. "This business smells like trouble to me, if not today then in a few years. I'd rather deal with a little stink now than with a big stink later."

Vere nods. "I am in complete agreement. You are the expert, Sir Archer, what is needed at this point? Is there any way in which I can assist you in gathering hard evidence? I can certainly approach my Cousins and ask if any of them are involved. That does not mean that they will necessarily answer me honestly, of course."

"I doubt anything so open as asking them would help. But if you happen to find out anything that might be relevant, such as special interests that one of your family might have had in any of the matters to hand, I'd appreciate your letting me know."

"Mmmmm," says Vere. He pauses for a moment, then continues, "I do not wish to give a false impression, Sir Archer. I am not proposing that I will spy on the Family, nor am I stating that I will come out in opposition to one of my Cousins if he or she should turn out to be involved in this affair. I will investigate this matter, because it concerns me. If I discover anything that does not involve the Family I will let you know immediately. If I discover something that does involve the Family, I will immediately discuss it with the Cousin concerned, and unless they can give me a compelling reason why I should not do so I will then give you the information, after having informed them that I am going to do so. Even if they can give me such a reason, I will inform you that there is Family involvement, and that I am unable to give you more information at this time. Does this seem acceptable to you? If so, is there any specific information you would suggest that I look for?"

"That's more than I expected, actually," Sir Archer says. "What I really want, if this is members of the Royal family politicking by proxy, is for them to take it back up to the Castle and leave the city out of it. If you find out that one of your cousins taught Drudge a lesson because he didn't like Drudge satirizing your sister, that's enough for me to close the case without even knowing who did it. It's not like I'd toss one of your cousins in jail anyway. Disciplining your family falls under the Regent's jurisdiction, not mine.

Vere nods very slightly at this.

"As for what to look for: I'm not sure how one would know which of your cousins might be entangled with one of the printers. I would think that the man with the best motive to avenge your sister's honor on Drudge would be you or your father, but I doubt under the circumstances" unspoken _of being in a wheelchair_ "he did it, and you check out clean too. Does your sister have a suitor or a friend who might feel responsible for defending her honor?"

Vere cocks his head slightly to one side. "No one springs to mind," he says, "other than Worth. But I do not think this is how he would handle such a situation."

Sir Archer nods in agreement.

"If Father had decided to have someone act for him in this matter there would have been no doubt as to why Drudge was injured, Father believes in making lessons plain to everyone. And if there is a connection with the burning of Heap's shop then there is not reason why it should be connected with the cartoon involving my sister." Vere pauses for a moment. "How seriously injured is Drudge, and what sort of medical care is he receiving? Is he expected to recover? If so, how long before he can be questioned? I assume there were no witnesses to the attack, was he merely found where he had been attacked? If so, by whom, and have they been considered for possible involvement?"

"One of his pressmen found him in the alley behind his shop. The pressman took him home and summoned the watch and a physician, who's caring for him now. We think he'll recover, but he was still unconscious the last I heard. No witnesses, of course."

Sir Archer rises. "I shouldn't take up any more of your time. I'll keep you posted on this matter, Lord Vere. And I appreciate your offer of assistance."

"I have not been here long, Sir Archer, but I am of Oberon's blood, and I understand the connection between Amber and the Family. I will do what I can for the city and her people."

Vere leaves the office an hour or so early that night to drop by the Naval, where he asks M if he has heard anything about the recent events involving the printers.

By that time Drudge has regained consciousness and been questioned, so Vere is aware that Drudge doesn't know who did it. Neither does M.

M has been keeping an eye on the Heap-Stout printer war, and is reasonably sure Heap has some sort of criminal backing, although he doesn't know any more details. Perhaps a loan shark has taken an ownership share in the shop. Whoever it is has trampled on Stout's prerogatives with the publication of Heap's latest tome, so M foresees the possibility of more trouble, unless the vandalization of Stout's press taught him a lesson.

Vere's sense is that M thinks Drudge deserved what he got, and the Heap-Stout quarrel is amusing in the same way a cockfight or bear-baiting might be.

After that Vere returns to the Castle, where he visits Gerard. Assuming his father is in good health and spirits this evening, Vere will mention the situation with Drudge, and ask if Gerard had heard about it. "It occurred to me, Father, that someone might have heard that you were upset about the cartoon Drudge published regarding Solange, and might have thought that you wished an example to be made. I do not wish to cause embarrassment for anyone connected to the Family, so before I begin investigating the situation I thought that I should speak to you about it."

Gerard has heard of it, and is both appalled and guilty that a little part of him is satisfied with the idea that Solange's honor has been defended. "I ranted and raved in front of some of your cousins, 'tis true, but I wouldn't want the man dead because of it. And I'd rather anyone defending Solange's honor did it openly, and not by skulking about. I mislike skulking. Look into it, yes, and tell me what you find out."

At dinner that night Vere brings up the topic of the Printer's War, and asks, "Have we any information on this situation that I am not currently privy to? I shall be investigating more closely, and I do not wish to interfere with nor to embarrass any of the Family. However, the situation as it currently stands appears to me to be dangerously unstable, and I do not wish anyone in the city to believe that 'business as normal' in Amber currently includes casual beatings and arson, nor that the Family supports such activities, overtly or covertly."

Paige looks concerned, but offers, "I've had no hand in this in any way, Vere. If I hear of anything though, I'll let you know. I had my own issues with alot of it, especially with Solange who's never deserved that sort of slander, but even if we're Royals, I don't think we can be taking this sort of thing into our own hands, unless we want to rule by fear. If that's the tact, well... we need to double the recruiting for our remaining military and change a whole parcel of other edicts and decrees."

Vere smiles slightly. "I don't believe that an official response is called for," he says. "A purely personal response might be, in the same way that any citizen who was offended might respond. However, I had a conversation with Drudge and was persuaded that he does provide a valuable means for the citizenry to express their concerns, and even vent a bit of harmless hostility. And I do not want someone else's action to be mistaken for a Royal act, and thus cause needless concern about our future actions."

"I did some investigating, myself, but with little result." Reid replies. "I haven't really touched on this Drudge fellow, but the whole Stout vs Heap mess just seems to be self-perpetuating, and as far as I can tell, concerns the two of them and no major additional parties."

Vere nods. "I have been informed that there is a likelihood that Heap has some criminal backing, although the level of involvement is as yet undetermined. I hope you will not mind if I continue your investigations? Is there any information you could give me that will prevent me from duplicating your work?"

Reid recounts the gist of his investigations. "Stout was no doubt behind the arson on Heap's shop. I've spoken to parties who may know the fire for hire who did the deed. I haven't delved into Heap's various actions against Stout's presses, so if that angle interests you, by all means continue. To this point I'm willing to say it's merchant against merchant, and no other parties are being injured or threatened, so I'm willing to let them duke it out until one of them backs down or they're both out of business. At least, that's how we would have handled things in the old days. I don't see how anything could be gained taking either side, or making an example of any of them, because they're all behaving equally bad."

"I am not interested in taking sides, but I have a dislike of this level of violence taking place." Vere smiles. "Open violence within Amber should be a Royal monopoly, and I think it not in our interest to allow a dilution of that power. I believe my viewpoint is considered somewhat reactionary by some of the Family, but I view the city as a Royal possession, and the power of the Crown as absolute. It is my considered opinion that there has been an unfortunate decline in the respect given that power by the city." He tilts his head to the side. "I am also concerned that they will think the Family is involved in this struggle behind the scenes, and I prefer that we be seen to exercise our authority openly. Anything else runs the risk of making us look as though we are so weak that we must manipulate and maneuver covertly." He shrugs. "However, as I have said on other occasions, I am a novice at theories of government. I was raised in an absolute Theocracy, and I tend to see the exercise of Royal Authority in somewhat straightforward terms."

"Um, right," says Folly. "Let me just say that I dislike this level of violence because I think whacking people is a stupid way to solve problems. However, Vere, I'm behind you inasmuch as you've decided that the best course of action at present is to stop the violence. We can argue about the absolute power of the Crown later."

Vere gets the sense that she's genuinely interested in talking government theory with him later.

Vere smiles in honest delight. "I shall look forward to it," he says.

[Paige and the Pack]
Ossian invites Paige to join him some night at The Thrush.

Paige arrives via carriage, dressed on the fine edge between propriety and risque, her Cavalier neckline exposing her charms to their best effect. She has her hair down, but still wears a small golden cap that matches the lining of the greatsleeves of her emerald drop-waisted gown.

Once introductions are made and the evening's readings are begun, Paige asks if she might offer a small piece of her own. "I've heard of Adreano's nightly offerings and while I don't consider myself a wordsmith, well I thought it might be appreciated. I offer it as my appreciation of being invited here this evening and your wonderful hospitality."

Standing with her glass of wine in hand, Paige speaks clearly,

"Imagine my wondrous surprise,
When shown an old broadsheet that "cries",
What others call art,
I haven't the heart,
To explain it's just full of bold lies."
The smirk on her face as she sits tells high Waters that she means no offense, but is just jesting with Amber's avant garde, as she truly views these men.

Ossian rises, and asks, with a mischievous look on his face.

"If you call broadsheets lies,
I must enquire, why?
Because to my simple eye
They're only thrown pies"

Paige returns his smile with a small nod of her head,

"True, Cousin, but...

Those in the know make a choice,
To listen to whichever voice,
But the city at large,
Bears a greater charge,
To determine at which to rejoyce."

"However.." Ossian is quiet for a moment, and then

"They joke about us, so what?
As dangerous that thing is not
as if they don't joke,
but opinions choke
until their anger grows hot."

Paige laughs and offers in exchange, "Agreed..." She surveys the other notables in the room, thinking a moment herself.

"So listen we do, while taken aback,
By the sytle and grace that they lack,
Better to sumbit,
To banter and wit,
In the pleasant company of the esteemed Pack."

She raises her glass to Ossian, and the assembled members and tosses back the drink with relish.

Ossian raises his glass in return; and says, turning to the gathered Pack: "I must admit I am outwitted by my beautiful cousin. Does anyone else dare to challenge her?"

He bows deeply towards Paige before he drains his glass and sits down.

"My cousin is as gracious in defeat as he is brilliant in victory." Paige curtseys and takes her seat, happy to laugh and joke with those of the Pack willing to do so.

There is much draining of glasses in honor of the lady, but no one stands to challenge her. A number of them do come by later and flirt with her, though.

Practice for the Baron's concert in honor of his late wife begins, with Ossian working with Sandra and Maunder. Barenthkov is writing a new piece for Sandra that will be formally unveiled at the concert. Invitations to the concert are delivered to members of the Royal family and assorted other persons of interest.

Paige will be more than happy to attend. She'll ask Worth if he'd like to accompany her.

Worth accepts the invitation.

Lucas will attend, with Solace.

Ossian visits Barenthkov, asking how the work progresses.

Folly offers Ossian a trade: "I'll give you a couple of voice lessons if you'll give me a couple of art lessons. Obviously, you don't need any help with the artistic interpretation, but I might be able to show you some tricks to help your breath support in that long sustained section."

"I'll appreciate some lessons, dear cousin. I guess there are a few things you could learn about painting from me too."

Folly will definitely attend the concert. Since her usual art buddy will be busy actually singing, she extends a very casual invitation to Ever to join her, figuring he'll both enjoy the music and be willing to discuss it at length afterwards.

[That oughtta' quell those rumors. You betcha'.]

Drudge comes conscious and doesn't remember who attacked him, Sir Archer reports to Vere. There's no additional progress on the Heap and Stout front at this time, either.


The missing patrol in Arden is weeks overdue now, with no word. The searchers have all reported back in, with no sign of the missing men.

At this point, a frustrated Brita comes to the castle and asks her cousins for help. "I have tried tracking the patrol to no avail. I can't find any scent of a trail. The paths into shadow from Amber may be natural, but it is as if the way is blocked for me." Brita looks ready to pull out her hair. "Maybe one of you who have been initiated into the Pattern can come to Arden and see if the paths are clearer for you? I am all out of ideas at this point."

"I'd love to, but I'm really busy Brita, especially since..." Paige lets it trail off not wanting to bring up Solange and Jerod's names and risk Gerard's moods. "Perhaps Ossian, you might be of help? At worst it's an excuse for you to get out and sketch some of Arden, no?"

Ossian ponders this for a moment: "Sure. I cannot leave immedeately of course, but if you are willing to give me a few weeks to finish my business here first, I could try to help you with those paths.

"If Vere can manage the harbour in my absence."

Vere nods. "Yes, Cousin, this is important enough that I will manage to continue without you. It cannot seem that we are willing to allow our loyal Rangers to go missing without doing everything in our power to find them. I wish there was something more useful that I could do to assist in this, but releasing you for this mission seems the best aid I can give."

Folly looks concerned -- maybe even a little freaked out -- but doesn't say anything.

Have you considered checking the bear droppings?

"If you need someone now, Brita," Martin says, "I'm not tied up in town."

"Your help would be appreciated, Martin. I don't know if you will be able to sense any specific changes in probabilities that will help lead us in the right direction, but it can't hurt to try. Perhaps if you can't find anything, Ossian can give it a try later when he is free."

"I don't know that I will find anything. But it's possible for even initiates to get blocked from Amber," says Martin. "Isn't that what happened to you, Reid?"

"As far as I can tell, yes. Though that raises the question, could an initiate also be blocked from LEAVING Amber? Or could shadow paths be veiled from an Amberite's view?" Reid ponders seriously.

"Anything is possible," says Martin, equally seriously. "One of the things we've discovered since the Sundering is that a lot of what we thought we knew about how the universe worked isn't quite right. Like how to lay Shadowpaths." The thought touches his face with worry and anger for a moment, before another thought chases them away.

"Hey, Paige was talking about getting the metaphysicists together to talk theory. We did this once, before you and Brita got here. Who taught you Pattern and such? Maybe you have some insights from the old days that our parents never got around to teaching us."

"My practical knowledge of pattern work is limited. My interests were always more in the trumps, and from what I gathered from Dworkin, the two draw on very different powers. Still, I may be able to bring something to the table. I'd gladly discuss various theoretical aspects of the arcana at your convenience," Reid offers.

"I'd say talk to Paige; she's our expert. Trained by the redheads -- her father and Aunt Fiona and ..." his face clouds for a moment, then he settles for, "Some of the experts, anyway. You might also talk to Ossian. I never learned much theory myself; I've strictly picked up what proved useful in transit, as it were. Certainly nothing as artistic as you and Ossian and Paige." Martin grins, friendly.

"A sad commentary. We discussed the lack of attention I paid to Brita's mother," Paige snorts. "The biggest question I had was based on the idea that the the Patterns in Rebma, the Tir, and Amber were reflections of the Primal Pattern, yes? So, Grandfather fixed the Primal Pattern, and in doing so cracked the mirrors that reflect it. So how do you fix a mirror cracked? Or do you find a new mirror? And if the mirror is Shadow, can we influence it to fix it? What's the probability of another tectonic shift that might seal that fissure? Can our physical actions make that probability more likely so our metaphysical influences have a better chance of success?" Paige curses under her breath in a very unladylike way. "I wish I had paid more attention to her lessons..."

Ossian laughs: "I did not have very much time learning about the Pattern from Brand; he always said that Trump was more important, and now and then he said that the Pattern was not exactly perfect, that it could have been more esthetically pleasing"

Another thought takes him. "Folly does some really beautiful art. Do you think, when Trumps start working again, that she might make an artist?" The idea that there might be an 'if' to it doesn't seem to have occurred to Martin.

Paige considers that herself, never having thought about it herself, and wondering why...

Ossian only smiles.

"With the number of artists running around here, I'm sure she'd be at no loss for a teacher. In my youth in the castle, art and music were the exception while in the current population, they appear to be the rule."

"Um, as long as we're talking about Pattern theory and art, can I ask you guys something I've been thinking about?" asks Folly, brow furrowed.

"When you all talk about the Pattern and the nature of Shadow, you talk about things reflecting, flowing, propagating off to infinity. That always makes me think of light or sound, flowing from a source in waves. Also, when I listen for it, I can sort of hear the shifting of Shadow, which kind of strengthens the soundwave analogy for me.

"Now, I know a little something about acoustic theory -- like, in particular, if you've got two sources that are almost-but-not-quite identical, they interfere with each other, which is why you can hear beats in the wave when two chimes, or flutes, or whatever, are almost-but-not-quite in tune with each other. In some spots the waves reinforce each other and sound louder, in some places they cancel out and you're left with nothing.

"I know fuck-all about repairing a Pattern, of course; but is it possible that the process made a partial or total copy of some of the unbroken parts -- like, the repair tracing replaced the bad bits but also went a little way into the still-OK parts just to be on the safe side -- and now it's serving as a double source that's reinforcing our food supply but destructively interfering with our money?

"Go ahead, tell me my theory is completely cracked," Folly concludes, looking around for her cousins' reactions.

"Please?" she adds plaintively.

"I don't hear any problems with the theory, but I doubt the harmonics are affecting the food and money. I think they're affecting the people. If you're right, it's the citizenry that's being interfered with," Paige comments.

Folly looks really glum, like that's the part she was afraid of but didn't want to say.

"Hmmmm," says Vere. He pauses for a moment, then continues. "I don't understand Pattern theory very well, but it occurs to me that it might be possible that the mysterious thefts in the city are actually due to objects vanishing, in much the same way that we are concerned about people vanishing. Is this possible?"

Folly shrugs. "Why would it be happening only in the dockside area?" A few seconds later, she answers her own question: "With the right configuration of sources and reflections, you can get localized cancellations of sound waves. Why not with 'reality waves'?

"But, c'mon, guys -- normally I'm all for being right, but in this case I'd really rather not....

"Unless...." She gets up, lost in thought, to pour herself a cup of tea. She stares into it for a long moment, tapping her fingers against the side of the cup, and then mutters, "But how the hell do you filter reality?"

"What if we're dealing with a finite amount of Shadow now that we don't have a working Pattern and any manipulation, conjuring, etcetera that we do is molding that Shadow into what we need." Paige suggests. "The people and coin are becoming the food we who control Shadow have valued above them."

"That argument makes very much sense" Ossian says, with a somewhat sad face, "even if I by principle hate conservation laws.

''I wonder....'', Ossian says, ''would it be possible to detect shifting of shadows.''

''I could spend a night dockside, and see if anything of that sort happens. Of course there is a large possibility that my presence affect whatever happens.''

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Last modified: 1 Jan 2002