Old Digs, New Digs

Jovian finishes his klah without undue hurry, rises and takes a small, smooth but otherwise kiwi-ish fruit from the buffet table, and departs with nods and small smiles around.

Perhaps ten minutes later (perhaps eleven minutes and thirty-one seconds, but only he would be able to say that for sure), he is scratching thoughtfully at Canareth's eye ridges, making fidgety adjustments to his touring harness, and pretending to wait patiently.

Flora arrives three minutes and forty-seven seconds later. She has changed into riding clothes which flatter her lovely form while hinting at, rather than revealing, the delights beneath them.

She smiles at the handsome dragonrider. "Good morning, Jovian. I trust you and Canareth are doing well today?"

"Canareth's fine, thank you, and as pleased to see you as I am," Jovian smiles, closing the distance and gathering Flora lightly in his arms. "Well, maybe a little less pleased," he adds teasingly, leaning in for a kiss.

Which she accepts as her due, and returns.

"And how are you this morning, darling? Apart from pleased with yourself at your news?" There's a touch of humor in his tone, but it's not meant to sting at all.

"Very well, considering that I had an early wake-up call this morning. Mon fils, solicitious as always, brought his cher maman chocolat to start the day, and to see whether any gentlemen would be scrambling under the bed when he arrived."

Flora rolls her eyes slightly and shrugs, as if to ask what she could do with her incorrigible son.

"And were there any?" Jovian can't resist teasing, punctuating with the playful snap of teeth a fraction of an inch from the tip of her nose.

"Not that he caught," Flora says with a naughty smile.

He turns to close the fifteen feet from Canareth's head to his offered foreleg. "I was thinking of having a look in on the place I've been preparing for my riders' return, making sure things are in order, but I've got a few more days to be about that. Unless you really want the ha'penny tour of a cave-riddled island. Still a bit Spartan, I'm afraid," he smiles.

"I've been told I could make a home of the dankest cave. Perhaps it's time for me to see if that's true," she says, coming to join Jovian. She lets him help her mount, whether she needs the assistance or not.

"It's your presence that does that, you know," he smiles, pausing to kiss Flora again before giving her the minimum leg up that balances gallantry against the appearance of patronizing. "But most of the place is dry enough for comfort, thanks for small favors. And it's far enough out that the fishing is still good." He settles behind her, leaning close and arms encircling to take hold of the riding straps. With a nod of confirmation that she's comfortable and secure, Jovian gives Canareth the cue to go aloft.

"Shall we go out between, or enjoy the view of the coast along the way?"

"Oh, let's fly," says Flora. "The view is so lovely from up here." She settles in against Jovian for the duration.

For the most part, Jovian maintains a comfortable, companionable silence rather than shout over the rushing wind. He does note what views seem to please Flora most, occasionally punctuating them with a kiss at the back of her neck or a nuzzle at her ear.

Half an hour's straight flight later, the atoll is in view, the greenery of the slope atop its red cliffs in brilliant contrast against the grey-blue water. The higher side faces east, and as Canareth glides a broad, graceful curve around the island a stretch of beach comes into view, with some meticulously cleared sections comfortably above the high-tide line looking slightly scooped out. The major cave system is on this side as well, its great gaping mouths seeming poised to answer the surf's roar.

"There it is," Jovian says over Flora's shoulder. "Amber Weyrhold. Not much, but I can't chance making it feel too permanent."

"Not after today's announcement, no," Flora agrees. "Have you thought about what you're going to do once all the immediate crises are over?"

"There's going to be a time when the immediate crises are over?" Jovian responds, all incredulous.

"If you don't plan what you'll do when this set is over, you'll be reacting to the next set instead," Flora points.

"I've been thinking, though," he adds as Canareth glides in to land, "it should be something that gets me out to see Paris more often. How long have you had that job offer in your pocket, lover?"

"Not very long. Corwin gets these inspirations, you know." Flora shrugs theatrically.

Jovian kisses her shoulder as it relaxes, then lets a moment be taken up in fussing with riding harness before dismounting and handing Flora down. He gives Canareth an affectionate clap on the shoulder, with the middle distance look of communication passing silently between them.

"Just to be sure you don't think I'm quite as arrogant as your brothers," he begins with a smile after a moment's thought, "please don't worry that I'll ask you to plan around me or anything. I know better than to ask questions I know the answer to. But I do hope we can still get to see each other. And while I haven't tested, Julian is of the opinion that Canareth can't come through a Trump contact with me," he adds, a dismayed afterthought.

[Whether Jovian consciously avoided calling Julian "Dad" under the current circumstances is no exercise at all for this particular reader.]

"I would think he's a bit large for that," Flora says, and smiles. She leans in to kiss Jovian, but the moment is spoiled by the sudden trumpeting of roughly a score of dragons, and Canareth's return bugling.

//They are here!//

Jovian looks up and in the direction of the massed uproar. "Faranth shat a...brick," he mutters, and his expression shifts from mild exasperation at the start to an eye-widening impending horror. "Canareth," he says aloud, unnecessarily. "Are we leading them?!" From the intensity of his gaze it is plain that he thinks the question both perfectly sensible and terribly urgent.


Canareth is thrilled by the presence of his weyrmates. He doesn't sense any problem and it's not clear that he understands Jovian's question.

"But if we're not, then who led them here?" The question is half to himself, but the mental undercurrent is firm, calm - the blanketing extension of his personal control over the bond between dragon and rider. //Who led them between?// he repeats with a tone of enforced evenness.

//We are not with them. We are here. Come land, my brothers and sisters!//

Canareth sits on his hauches and bellows another mighty welcome and Jovian sees the wings begin to peel off in a landing formation.

"Florimel," Jovian says seriously, "something here is Not Right, and one of the possibilities could put me in a world of hurt. I'd appreciate it if you had your castle Trump ready." He moves closer to Canareth, all the while staring intently at the incoming riders - focusing on determining who's leading them. In the depth of his focus, behind his eyes, the glow of the Pattern flares through his nerves, his senses alert to the possibility of shadow manipulation as well.

//Hoshith says that she is bringing the wings down. We are to greet them and then leave.//

Flora looks slightly put out, but she has pulled out a deck of cards and is rifling through them.

Jovian nods grimly. "I just got the answer I expected. I'm afraid we'll have to cut the tour short, Flora. The short explanation is that I seem to be in two places at once and bad things will happen if I meet myself." He takes half a beat's pause to gauge her reaction to this.

"We'll be leaving almost immediately after Hoshith lands, but we needn't Trump out after all."

//Canareth, ask Hoshith who gave her the time coordinates to get here, please.// He would have to ask Kourin the whys and wherefores later, but it was better to be a whole ass than a half ass about such things.

//Hoshith says Kourin says that we did, and that you should wait until she lands the wings because she is busy.//

Belatedly, Jovian realizes that Flora is speaking to him at the same time. "Don't be silly, Jovian. I can leave whenever I need to. If you're too busy with your ... friends, I can just trump back to the castle. Perhaps I should stay long enough to greet Kourin, though. It would be rude of me to flit off prematurely, and I wouldn't want to offend her." Her smile is radiant.

"Certainly, and you know my riders think highly of you, Bloodflower." He punctuates this with a wink. "But I'm serious. I can't stay when they land. I'm not sure why things worked out when-- I mean how they did. The answer may well be waiting for me back at the Castle. But Canareth and I have got to go. And if you don't mind, I'd like your company on the ride -- unless you want to visit with the wings, of course," he adds, just a little sheepishly.

"Dear Jovian," she replies, "I am a princess of the blood, with all that that entails. If you cannot stay, then you should go. I can certainly return on my own, even if the view is less scenic. If the King's knights now landing need royal assistance, then I should do my duty and stay to make sure it is available to them. You flit ahead, if you must. I shall stay."

"Very well, my dear princess of the blood. But if that's how it is, I should prepare you for a weirdness. And ask you that, if I mean anything to you at all, you mention it to no one off this island. If not for me, then as a matter of State security.

"I meant that business about two places at once literally. *I* gave the dragons their coordinates to teleport here and now - I'm not sure why now, but I'll probably find out soon. Shortly after Hoshith lands, Canareth will land, and me astride him. That's why I have to leave. It's dangerous to be too close to my out-of-linear-time self. So when you see Canareth and me landing after the rest, take it in stride, OK?" He reaches for Flora's hand and smiles, a fondly questioning look.

She reaches out her hand. "Then you should stop explaining it and go. I'd offer to explain it to the you that is landing, but it sounds as if he will already know."

"Much as we ever know anything, I guess," Jovian grins with a quick, reasuuring squeeze of Flora's hand. Then he turns to face the approaching dragons, breathing deeply, almost deliberately.

Hoshith alights with a swirl of warm beach air.

Jovian trots toward the queen as the dust and sand settles. "Welcome back," he calls up to her rider, offering Kourin a hand down.

"The place is nearly ready, but not quite," he advises. "I suppose it would be dangerous to tell me why I chose now?"

"You think you from the future is going to remember to tell me these things?" She steps down onto her partner's shoulder and takes Jovian's hand. Behind them, the sands are disturbed by the landings of several wings of dragons.

"Probably not," he snorts. "So damn mysterious I confuse myself."

"Your highness," Kourin says, her voice carefully neutral.

"Hello, Dame Kourin. I trust you had a pleasant trip?" Flora sounds enthusiastic.

"Flora's been helping me deal with some things around," Jovian smiles between them. "If the place seems at all comfortable, put it down to her influence."

"Thank you for your hospitality, Your highness." She turns to Jovian. "You did tell me to remind you that you should leave in one watch, thirteen minutes, and 25 seconds. But you didn't tell me why. For all that the dragons just finished bathing and resting on this very beach, they're going to need to do so again."

"You're welcome, my dear." Flora also turns to Jovian. "Will you be taking them to Xanadu, Jovian?"

103 minutes, 25 seconds. Jovian could not doubt the message was authentic - no one else in Amber counted smaller intervals than quarter-hours reliably. But the need for rest concerned him. A month's passage *between* time shouldn't have been that rough.

[While the body of research studies involving timing it a month forward from the True Earth is shockingly small, they're more worn out than you expected. If they're this bad, you may fall over when you-from-the-future shows up. Being one place at twice is not on the recommended list.]

No time to worry at that, though. "Xanadu. Errr. Well." His brow furrowed, weighing the situation. "The Knights will have to see King Random's new capital city at some point, of course," he allowed with a nod to Kourin. "But when Vere returns from his recruitment tour, he'll return to Amber, and from here is where he'll likely want to launch his campaign." And besides, he did not add aloud, if Random's Pattern gave Xanadu too strong a feel of permanence, the dragons might take to it a little too well...and his theft of a month would be wasted.

"While you were away," he explains briefly to Kourin and the other riders gathering, "King Random determined that there was no way to repair the source of power that kept up Amber's protections for the last two thousand turns. The only solution is to build a new castle and city, with its own power and protections. I'm told he's made amazing progress in so little time." He smiled, as much at the carefully edited yet unvarnished truth as at what he knew of Random's progress.

She looks worried. "Is it more or less weyrlike?"

//My brothers are going to swim. I shall join them.//

//All right, but don't get too comfortable. I've got a bad feeling about this and I want to give ourselves a wide margin.//

Canareth seems happier than he's been in the last month.

"I haven't seen the place yet," Jovian admits. "But when Amber's power source was intact it felt more...." He gropes for words for a moment. "More real is the only way I can describe it. It's not a quality like any other. You'll know it when you feel it. Xanadu will have that sense of reality and power now, that Amber has lost, and I dare not doubt the dragons will feel it too."

Flora says, "Jovian, dear, it's entirely possible the difference between substance and shadow is not trivially discernible to everyone." She turns to Kourin. "He's right, though. Amber is terribly diminished. It's very sad."

"Possible. But as I said, I can't be sure. The dragons understand things that surprise us, sometimes."

"Do we have enough stone to go to war?" Kourin asks.

"Nearly," Jovian nods. "A little less than I want, but I should be able to get the rest within a week. We have a little more time; Vere isn't back from his recruiting tour yet. Still don't have agenothree - that concerns me.

"We're provisioned more or less adequately across the board - not richly, but well enough. And I was planning on getting one of Julian's men out here in a few days to train our healers with the local medicinals."

"Alright, we'll take inventory and be ready to move shortly."

"Jovian," Flora replies, "my brother won't have healers to spare. He's fighting in Arden."

"Fighting?" asks Kourin.

"Local conflict in a neighboring realm," Jovian answers, a little tension showing around the eyes. "It's spilling over into Arden, but I don't know how severely - we haven't talked in several days. I'll have to get in touch with him today, either way."

With that, he sets about giving Flora and Kourin (and the other queen riders, assuming they've landed by now) the ha'penny tour of the island encampment. It is as reasonably comfortable, and as reasonably well-equipped, as one can expect of a temporary installation set up in a month.

[Kourin points out such flaws as can be usefully remedied ;-P]

Eighty-six and a half minutes later, he summons Canareth. //Call me superstitious, bronze boy, but I want to leave a margin of error. Let's head back.// He hands Flora up to the dragon's neck, mounts behind her, and presently they are aloft.

"We're going to teleport to the castle now," Jovian warns Flora. "It'll be brutally dark and cold, but only for about eight seconds. Hold your breath, and and don't forget I'm still holding you." When she is ready, he orders Canareth between.

Black, blacker, blackest...and light erupts again, and warmth, and the now-familiar landing ledge below. In a moment Canareth is settling onto the rocky outcropping once more, and in another Flora is sliding down the bronze's leg into Jovian's arms, still a little chilled from the airless void. He holds her tightly for a moment, putting all the warmth he can into a lingering kiss before each must be on their separate ways.

Thus warmed and cheered, the Shadowflyer makes his way into the castle, and seven minutes and forty-two seconds later he is knocking on Gerard's office door.

From within, Gerard calls out, "Come in."

Celina and Merlin find their way to his chamber. It's a fairly normal room, except for the odd flap in the door. Merlin frowns when he sees it. "I must remember to ask to have that door moved," he says to Celina.

This small detail perks Celina's curiousity immediately. "But it's so strange! What function does it have? Do servants use these little flaps to drop off things for you? I never would have imagined such a thing."

"No," Merlin says. "Folly used to live in this room. She has a small creature called Fathom, which is her companion. Fathom would go in and out through the flap."

Not long after their arrival, a page brings a note to tell Celina her quarters have been arranged.

Before she leaves, she thanks Merlin again. "I'm enjoying all this, Merlin. I can see it all would have been too much for me if I had done it alone. Thank you for bringing me." She gives him a quick kiss and turns away.

She changes her mind about something before leaving. "This business of Amber dying while everyone flees. I ..." Celina is unresolved, for Merlin can see plainly in her expression she has changed her mind yet again. She shakes her head to banish something away.

"I mislike it, too, but where I come from, all things are held sway by will. The will of Amber to live is gone, and so the place fades. I understand this, even though I would see it otherwise." Merlin shakes his head mournfully.

The young girl considers his words in silence for several breaths before saying: "And the land dies even as her king..." Celina nods. "I don't think I would have framed the issue that way. Will. So there really was a special magic in Amber and now it is spilled. Amber was never eternal, it was Oberon who held that charge. A charge he bled out in order to save ... what exactly if not his land?

"A legend gives his life, but not for his kingdom?" Celina looks quite young as she asks the man perhaps least likely to know the answer. "I know so little about the King's death beyond stories. After centuries eternal, what did Oberon sacrifice himself for? The chance to flee to a new land?

"Why didn't all flee when Chaos brought war? Seems like it would have saved a lot of important effort."

"I do not know. I only ever met my grandfather once, and we did not discuss this thing. If he had foreknowledge of his death, he did not share it with me," Merlin explains. "But you can see there is resistance in the family to such a move. Beyond Ygg, the relation of lord and affine is--orderly. Here, lords and affines have a most disorderly relationship."

Merlin frowns. "That reminds me that I must inquire what happened to the Aisling and its affine."

His sister nods. "Yes. Aisling. She didn't come to the briefing, so perhaps she is already in the new kingdom working for the King. I'll keep in mind what you have said about 'Will' and disorderly relationships." Celina smiles with affection.

"And I'll let you pursue your questions, Merlin. I'm going to ... take a nap." Celina moves back to the door. "I'll be in my room if you need anything from me. Later I will make myself available to Prince Martin."

She pauses at the door long enough to give him another smile.

"Sleep well, then, and send for me if you need me," Merlin says.

Celina is able to stop a page in the hall for directions, if she requires such a service.

Celina talks to a page, and thereby finds her rooms. She throws travel-weary clothes off and discovers there is little for personal bath but a basin. Surprised and yet intrigued, she searches the room in the nude, even knocking on a few walls in hopes there is a closet bath of some sort behind a panel.


She grabs the bedspread as a toga wrap and goes out looking for the helpful page. He is nowhere to be found. In the corridor outside her room, a word with yet another page explains her options: Amber has Roman-style baths, with pools and oil cleansing. While the lady can bathe in her chambers with a small tub if she wishes, a thorough and relaxing ablution should be had in the baths.

Celina asks the page to be good enough to escort her to the baths directly.

This is easily done and she is delighted with the character of the baths. Celina thanks the page with a huge smile and a word of praise (almost as if the young man had invented baths.) The moment she is alone, off goes the bedspread and she dives into the waters. Once she is good and clean, Celina entertains herself fully for a quarter hour.

The flurry of fulsome morning stimuli are savored as a backdrop to this. Memory calls a room full of sights, smells, and sounds that are rich in mysterious context and ripe with sensory pleasures. In her mind's eye, she studies each of her relatives from the morning conference.

Three relatives seem to swim the surface of her musing more often than the others.

Once she feels that her inner paths are fully opened and refreshed, she dresses again in royal bedspread and makes her way back to her new room.

Clothes have been brought for Celina. As she tries them on like new riddles, she finds they do not fit perfectly, although Celina suspects from her discussions with Merlin that she could make them fit in any way she chooses. Instead, Celina enjoys the slight misfit of the clothes. She savors the new fabrics and colors, smells the perfumes of the laundry as she arranges her look. With greater poise she now moves out to find a page who will tour her through the castle's main galleries so she can orient.

She only asks for basic compass points, and of course, points of interest as selected by the young page.

And while this tour progresses, she makes a count and mental map of mirrors in the place. She considers the fabrication of these mirrors, and indeed the sightlines of them, with an eye towards what those mirrors have seen or are likely to see in the 'short dismal future' that is Amber.

This thought continues to bother her.

Still she finds that mirrors are common in Castle Amber, particularly in rooms with limited access to the outside. Celina realizes that most of them are so large because they reflect natural light from the castle's windows, brightening the room for the inhabitants. Rooms without windows are rare.

In this, Rebma and Amber have a common scheme.

The Seaward lass selects mirrors of solid craftsmanship that look on the corridor outside her room, as well as some on the first floor that are nearest castle entrances or receiving rooms. These she 'tags' in her mind for finding later tonight when she might introduce herself to them ... more intimately.

She finds several mirrors that will serve for her purposes.

Then she returns to her rooms to wait on Prince Martin's lunch promise and to give preparation time for her Llaya craft. Celina plans to remotely scry from a few mirror points and she figures she might have the time to arrange it tonight.

In between being sized up by the family --- or whatever instructions Prince Martin might have for her.

Lucas mounts easily, and nods to Cheval to assist the Captain (if he needs it).

[Shrike is an ordinary sailor. Captains in Amber are less unctuous. Or perhaps just differently unctuous.]

"Shall we be off then?" he says.

Shrike mounts much less easily than Lucas, but manages to stay aseat. Lucas believes that he'd stay on in a hard wind, but not in a crisis. "As you wish, my Lord," Shrike says from his docile mount. "The temple is in the temple quarter," he adds.

Perhaps unexpectedly for one who is rumoured to spend so much of his time in the city indulging in such fleshpots as the Red Mill, Lucas seems to know his way to the Temple Quarter. While, however, he seems to recognise some of the larger and more ornate of the temples (and definitely receives short bows of acknowledgement from the priests of a couple that are rumoured to go in for somewhat decadent ceremonials), he is content to let Shrike take the lead in bringing them to what he expects to be the somewhat more austere regions of the Paresh.

The Temple Quarter has seen better times, and it's clear as Lucas and Shrike ride through that it was not a priority on the rebuilding list. It's like a patchwork with some buildings in good shape and others not only in need of repair, but apparently borrowed from to repair other places. The occupied buildings are clean, and the street is spotless, which is one of the obligations of groups using temples. There are few people on the street, mostly foreigners. The Temple Quarter seems to have suffered more from Amber's decline than other quarters.

Shrike stops at a large white building made of stone. He ties up the horses and finds a young boy to watch them for him (and for a coin).

"We should have brought Pert," murmurs Lucas. "On the other hand ... he looks angelic enough to run the risk of being seized by any number of faiths to become their acolyte. And then shortly afterwards being denounced as whatever their religion execrates as the devil .... "

Shrike looks disapproving at the mention of a child being seized. "I wouldn't know, my Lord."

[Shrike] leads Lucas around to the back, where he applies a crowbar to a boarded-up doar. The door swings open and what looks like it might be a food preparation area is visible in the daylight streaming in from the opened door. Lucas may have heard scurrying, or it might have been his imagination. Lighting the torch and carrying the crowbar with him, Shrike says "This way, my Lord. The basement stairs are on the second floor." Shrike and the light enter the gloom of the boarded-up kitchen.

Lucas follows, not entirely unsurprised by the darkness or the possiblity of a rodent population. He does spare a minute for a glance around the area, as though assessing the kind of food preparation that went on here (austere vegetarianism, fatted calves on a regular basis, copious amounts of wine storage?).

From the space, Lucas thinks they were feeding a lot of people, but there's no evidence of what they were feeding them.

He then follows Shrike as they pass through to gain the second floor - Lucas quite interested to see what's on the ground and first floors as well ... (OOC - unless we are with the American system here, in which case Lucas will have to be interested in seeing only what is on the first floor).

(OOC - what does he see on the first floor as they go through? Have the rooms been stripped/looted/left intact? Are their signs of worship (e.g. plain walls, or richly decorated? Any symbolism?)

[You'd guess they took most of their stuff with them. Careful observation will indicate that there was something on the walls that isn't there now, like tapestries or hangings of some sort.]

"A slightly unusual arrangement, don't you think?" he remarks. "Having to ascend in order to decend. Architectural, or religious reasoning behind it, I wonder ... "

And he will endeavour to work that one out too.

"That's where Lord Vere had us break down the wall, my Lord. The stairs behind it went up and down."

Indeed, Shrike has led Lucas to a second [American system] floor corridor that has seen the business end of a pickaxe. Through the opening, Lucas sees stairs, going up and down.

Lucas nods. "But the Princes only went down?" he asks. "Or did they surmount to the heights as well as plummet the depths?"

He allows Shrike to proceed him through the hole - indeed he makes a gesture to confirm that arrangement - Shrike, after all, has the light.

"Tell me what the Princes did," he tells Shrike. "They are very thorough - and I see no need to duplicate their efforts in every direction."

"Sir? They went up the stairs to the roof, then we went down. They looked around for a while, then we pulled a large stone from the wall and they went into a passage behind it. " Shrike hesitates. "I...think that something magical happened. In the basement. I'm not really sure what I remember."

"How very unnerving," comments Lucas, who has drawn his dagger almost absently and is testing the walls of the stircase to either side. "Perhaps we had better start by descending then, and as we proceed you may beguile the time by relating to me all that you do recall. One often finds that the more one talks about it, the more clearly one recollects the episode. Or so that tedious little Austrian doctor was always saying to me ... well, at least he did until I started his talking cure. Between you and me, I'm almost half-inclined to believe he was a charlatan. But nonetheless, regale away."

"Prince Gerard's son kept talking, as if to someone. Level thought he might be a wizard talking to his familiar, because he knew stuff afterwards, but I wasn't sure."

"I suppose he might have been reading something aloud," says Lucas nonchalently. "Bright chap, my Cousin Vere. Haunts the library, dontcha know. Perhaps you saw something in his hands ... some little guide book. Something like that."

"No, my lord. It was definitely a conversation."

"When did all of you come down here before, by the way?"

"Some time back, my Lord. Just before Prince Jerod departed with the expedition that went to the wrong place."

Shrike's steps on the stone echo as he walks down a very long staircase that goes at least twice as far down as they've gone up. At the bottom is a large room, much larger than the light source can reach. The ceiling is tall and there are some small rooms near the staircase. On the ground is an oil lamp, extinguished and (if Lucas checks) about half full of oil.

The feeble glow of the torch is joined by the slightly less feeble glow of the lantern.

Lucas does indeed check and, if there seems no danger of it suddenly exploding, he lights it.

"Did you leave this here last time?" he asks. "Or do you think there've been more recent visitors?"

"We didn't leave that here, my lord."

"Well," says Lucas, "that answers that," and he looks at the lamp a little more closely.

(OOC obviously noting Clues like the brass plaque that says, 'Property of Amber Castle. OPlease so not remove@ and things of that ilk.)

Common as dirt. If you had a dime, you could have a dozen.

He proceeds to hold up the lamp so that he can examine the walls and then, when that is complete, the small rooms. If there seems anything interesting, he might test the walls with either the blade of his rapier (if the mortar seems loose) or rap it with the pommel to see if it sounds hollow.

The walls are covered with whitewash, which obscures some designs under them.

Lucas, with only the slightest grimace, draws a dagger and attempts to scratch off a little of the whitewash in hopes of exposing the layer below, and designs upon it.

Hard to tell.

Towards the center of the room Lucas sees some sort of mound rising towards the ceiling. It's at least 10 feet across. The room is large, but large on the order of a ballroom, not large on the order of a pattern chamber. The light does not reach the far wall.

The walls of the small rooms are also covered in whitewash. Lucas guesses that they had some sort of pictures or words, but he can't tell what it might have said.

"It would be give the mongraph a bit of a lift if we could find some church plate, dontcha know?" he explains to Shrike. "Something for the Museum ... I doubt these folks will be back, somehow."

"The building is royal property, my Lord. Anything here belongs to the crown already. I heard that the building was going to be sold."

Lucas look around. "How delightful," he says flatly. "One must suppose the eager queues of would-be purchasers from the Royal Estates Office must stretch round half the castle. A mere snip, I am sure."

"It was one of the embassies that asked, or so they say. I don't think the King ever sells anything in the temple quarter, though."

"Very wise," murmurs Lucas. "If religion is the opium of the people, it's never a good idea to rely on a foreign dealer ... "

Lucas, with a faint moue of distaste, advances on the mould in the centre of the room.

"And was this here earlier too?" he asks Shrike, as he holds up the lantern to observe the substance more closely.

"The ash pile? Yes, my Lord."

The ash pile is aptly named, a large pile of ashes, with some metal bits sticking out from it. It has been disturbed in a few places.

"And my cousins were doubtless intrigued?"

Lucas regards it with disfavour. Even as a child, playing with mud pies had little appeal when compared with arranging his bibelots. He pokes at the ash-pile a little disparagingly with his rapier, then pulls out a clean handkerchief and wipes the blade carefully.

"For a moment, my Lord. Until they discovered the other passage at the back."

Shrike points out a rather large stone and some marks on the floor where it had been dragged out of place. The stone is large enough to cover a significant opening and there are two holes in it at about chest high.

"We put a rope through them holes and the block slid forward." He explains.

"Ah," says Lucas, looking at Shrike a little askance. "And do we have a rope? Let us utilise it, by all means. Or if not, perhaps you should describe what you discovered beyond."

If Shrike produces the rope Lucas will wait patiently for the block to be removed. If it proves necessary he will, with a faint sigh, remove his jacket, fold it carefully and place it on what appears to be the cleanest patch of ground, and then assist the physical endeavour.

If Shrike fails to produce a rope, Lucas regards him with a look of faint reproach.

Shrike threads a rope through the hole and grabs the doubled rope and sets himself to haul the stone out. In a moment he falls on his backside as the two halves of the rope part. The rope seems to have been cut cleanly. Investigating the stone hole, Lucas and Shrike find a small piece of paper, with a handwritten note on it.

This passageway has been sealed by order of the King of Amber.
Do not attempt to open my sealing.
Fiona of Amber

Lucas looks at the message with decided disfavour, and then places it in his wallet (withdrawn from the recesses of his jacket).

Lucas looks into the other small rooms and - if nothing intrigues him, suggests they return to the higher levels of the temple.

Shrike seems more than willing to do so. "There was some boxes in the attic that wasn't cleaned out, my Lord."

"Then let us go there forthwith," says Lucas. "Perhaps they left outgrown toys, or some racy novels ... "

He will follow Shrike up to the attics.

This attic has been sealed up for many years to beings larger than rats.

Lucas gives a faint shudder and steps fastidiously.

There is a door onto the roof with a padlock on this side, piles of disintegrating clothes, a few wooden trunks (containing old, disintegrating paper), and the remains of bed frames.

Lucas glances at the papers, turning them carefully with the point of his dagger, to see if there is anything legible.

This may have been some kind of dormitory at one point. From the dust and the state of the goods, Lucas suspects that it has been many, many years since anyone has been in here.

Or perhaps not, as there are a few sets of footprints and one of the trunks is disturbed. It has the word "Germaine" written on it in a child's scrawl.

Lucas examines the footprints with interest, looking at the directions in which they head ... and also the size of the footprints (compared with his own foot) and other salient characteristics - dragging marks, strange boot heel imprints etc.

Modern boots, perhaps a half-dozen or so. They go to the chest and to a door, both of which seem to have been opened.

Lucas ascertains - as best he can - that this was not Vere and Jerod (or Fiona, for that matter) - both by assessing the marks with narrowed eyes - and also by the more practical measure of asking Shrike.

"Them's ours, yes, from when the lords came through."

Finally he approaches the trunk and looks to see if it can be opened. If it can, then he does, cautiously. Caution might take the form of getting Shrike to do it - particularly if brute force is required.

It's not even latched. The chest holds decaying papers, a schoolchild's catechisms and lessons. At the top of the chest is a printed book, which is in much better shape. It is called 'The Witnessing of Thrift" and it seems to have been printed outside of Amber. In the margins are drawings and doodles. The inside back cover is a drawing of Vere, or perhaps someone who just looks very like him, wearing a stone around his neck.

Lucas appropriates the book, and directs Shrike to take the catechism and lesson books (one can learn much about a faith from what they teach the children). He also checks - as best he can - whether the book was originally left in the trunk - or planted by the Owners of the Boot Marks at a later date.

"They pulled that from the bottom. That's when these papers got so messed up."

The papers (other than the book) are really not readable. They are too damp and old to be very readable. Perhaps another chest might yield better papers.

Lucas checks all of them ... well, he directs Shrike to check some, and checks the remainder himself.

He finds nothing that he thinks will be useful. More papers, but again, they are damp and would be difficult, if not impossible, to read.

Gaston has been trained in the reclamation and recension of ancient manuscripts. It will be good for him to have a chance to hone his skills - or so Lucas feels.

[Unless Gaston is a magician of some power, this is the kind of forensic art that fails miserably in Amber. Lucas has no reasonable expectation of success, although he may assign the task to Gaston. Not that Gaston expects reasonable expectations from the Marquis.]

Well, quite. If Gaston wants reasonable demands, Lucas is sure he can find work elsewhere. Less challenging, and less highly paid.

Later, remind us that you asked for this and we'll tell you that Gaston has not made any progress.

Remind me to berate him appropriately.

Gaston will pencil it in on your beratement calendar for you.

[As far as mundane skills for recovery of information from codices and scrolls, the librarians of Castle Amber are the renowned experts of which all others are ... but you know.]

Clearly Lucas will have to cultivate a librarian or two.

Lucas also checks whether the drawing is a trump of his cousin (or someone who just looks very like him).

It is not cold to the touch.

Nevertheless, he removes it for later study.

Then he nods to Shrike.

"The door, now, I think."

He heads in that direction.

Lucas opens a door onto the roof of the Temple. The view is glorious.

Lucas takes advantage of it.

"Did my cousins go out here?" he asks Shrike.

"No, my lord," Shrike says. "They looked out, but didn't go out."

He goes for a wander anyway - unless it proves logistically unfeasible.

The door opens out onto a catwalk, which if it were closer to the sea and facing the right direction, might best be described as a widow's walk.

Lucas wanders down to the far end of the walk, enjoying a lovely view of the Temple Quarter, and finds that he has reached another door. It is similar to the one from which he recently emerged onto the roof.

By this time, Lucas is (perhaps unsurprisingly) operating under the strong suspicion that Jerod, the ever-observant Vere and Fiona herself have between them been through this building with a fine toothcomb. The odds that they have overlooked anything are, he feels, somewhat remote. But nevertheless ...

He opens the door.

If nothing else, he reflects that he will probably find he has a quick entry to the other end of the long attic.

Perhaps, but if so, there is a wall about halfway between the two sections. This room is organized as an office and seems mostly empty. There is a roll-top desk and a small floor safe in the room.

Lucas heads first for the rolltop desk and - having checked it thoroughly for booby traps - opens it.

The desk contains desk-y things, such as string and pen nibs and a small knife. There is a book that lists class attendance at some education seminar or other, and a lot of sealing wax.

Only after he has searched it thorughly (including checking for secret drawers, compartments and false bottoms) does he turn his attention to the safe.

(OOC - is it attached to anything, or is it of a size where he can take it away and open it at his leisure?)

It is not, and he could. It is heavy, but not too unwieldy.

Lucas looks around for a dustsheet, or a cloak or something to cover it. It is, after all, possible that the Paresh are still watching the Hole in the Wall where he entered. In addition, while quite happy with gossip about his fashion sense, his aphorisms and even his morals, Lucas feels that there is something faintly vulgar about being gossiped about for strolling through the Temple Quarter with a locked safe under his arm. Mysteriously wrapped objects now, that can jolly well verge on dashing if carried off (in both senses) with sufficient panache.

There is a cloth of some sort up here. In a drawer, Lucas finds what looks like a flag that will do.

Lucas does not forsee a lack of panache as being a problem here.

If Shrike were there, he'd be foreseeing Lucas having Shrike carry it...

Shrike will find out soon enough.

If he fails to find anything in the office, he supposes he can always utilise the old clothes in the attic with Shrike. After carefully checking this room to make sure there are no further hidden rooms beyond, he makes his way back to Shrike.

(OOC - unless we have more to explore ... )

There is a door here that leads to a stairs that do no seem to be bricked up. They seem to lead down in the normal fashion into the temple.

Lucas returns along the widow walk, and invites Shrike to join him. Once in the hidden room, Lucas helps Shrike to lift the safe, then takes his lantern and leads the way back down the stairs and into the temple, looking around for points of interest (such as how well concealed the entrance to this part of the attic is from this side).

If nothing further of note occurs or remains to be explored, he will be willing to set off back to the Castle, hopefully in time for lunch. Gouter had rather a fine fricassee planned, he seems to think.

All happens as Lucas desires, although the fricasee is a little less juicy than Lucas had hoped.

Lucas sends a note to the kitchen, expressing his disappointment (and adding a suggestion of a rather more useful way of seasing the dish for the next time it is served).

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Last modified: 28 July 2004