Every Silver Lining Has A Dark Cloud

The next day after his meeting with Martin (and not too early), Lucas summons his wife's page, the boy Pert, and sends him racing through the Castle in quest of Ossian.

Ossian is in his room, working on yet another painting. It is an abstract piece with a very realistic cumulus cloud in the middle.

"Lucas, you say? That's unexpected. Just wait a few moments and I'll be ready to go there." Ossian turns his back on the page, adds a few more details to the cloud, closes the open window and changes into a clean shirt. "Wouldn't do to visit Lord Fashion with a dirty shirt, would it?" he asks the page.

Pert gives a disingenuous and wholly engaging grin. "No, my Lord!"

Then it's off to Lucas' suite.

Lucas receives him in his small and select library. The volumes appear to have been chosen for the sumptuousness of their bindings - although if one lifts a single volume down, one also finds the contents are on finest vellum or paper, in beautiful, clear or decorative fonts (such as that used by William Morris for the Kelmscott Chaucer. And yes, there's a Kelmscott Chaucer somewhere on the shelves). The illustrations are exquisite, whether in the volumes of nursery verse and tales that Lucas and Solace read to their children, or in volumes stored on rather higher shelves, beyond even Solace's reach. Lucas' reading tastes do tend to be Catholic, after all.

A clean shirt proves to be definitely a good idea - although Lucas is dressed informally in pale linen trousers and a polo shirt. The cut of both is, however, exquisite.

By the time Ossian arrives at Lucas' rooms small paint stains have already started to appear on the cuffs of his otherwise clean white shirt.

Lucas winces, but forbears to comment acerbically.

"Coz!" [Lucas] says warmly.

"Greetings, cousin."

"Thank you, Pert," says Lucas to his page. "You may tell Gaston to bring coffee now ... " His glance at the page suddenly seems to sharpen, as Pert regards them both with an expression of innocence so heartfelt that the average cherub would turn green with envy and fly disconsolately away. In Lucas' breast, however, it serves only to awaken suspicion.


"My Lord?"

"Give it back, Pert."

"My Lord?" A note of injury here - that his Master should suspect him of an action so base ...

Lucas merely extends a long pale hand.

Pert sighs. "It was only a wipe, my Lord. But it was half out of his jacket ... a temptation, my Lord!"

As he speaks, he is withdrawing a white handkerchief from his own pocket. He sets it carefully down on the table before Lucas - and Ossian may well recognise it as his.

"Nevertheless," says Lucas, "we are learning to resist temptation, are we not? Now, apologise to my cousin - and I would do it nicely. It will be for him to decide whether you should be beaten for this."

Pert looks up at Ossian apprehensively, and then bows low.

"Sorry, my Lord," she says, without straightening. "I didn't mean to steal your wipe."

Ossian smiles wryly "That's kind of the core of the problem, ain't it, Pert? You have to consider the possibility that _I_ meant you to steal it. I suggest you ponder on why I would do such a thing. Your master might even want a report of your conclusions." Ossian looks questioningly at Lucas.

"Oh indubitably," says Lucas expansively. "Just as my Lord Ossian, Pert, will be considering whether I must have instructed you to attempt the theft for reasons of my own. Wheels within wheels. Run along, Pert, and reflect on the vagaries of service in Amber."

Ossian grins. This is a game he likes.

"And don't forget to remind Gaston about the coffee. Unless Lord Ossian would prefer something stronger?"

He glances at Ossian.

"Oh, I trust your impeccable taste, cousin. Coffee will be just fine." Ossian says.

"Would that it were," says Lucas ruefully. "Unfortunately, the so far limited range of Shadows I have traded with has failed to yield quite the right conditions for that exquisite java I used to get from a little epicier off Montmartre. One does what one can, of course ... "

When Pert has left [Ossian] asks "So. I guess you wanted to discuss something?"

Lucas nods. "I was hoping to offer you a couple of commissions. A couple of kitkats of the children as a birthday gift for Solace ... and a portrait of Solace for me."

Ossian smiles and nods.

At this point Gaston enters with a tray that contains a pot of far from unacceptable coffee, for all Lucas' complaints. He sets it down and serves both men before withdrawing, his expression and lugubrious as ever.

"The portrait," says Lucas, after a couple of sips, "could actually be a sketch. I'm not interested in longevity here."

Ossian looks surprised.

"What I am interested in learning is whether one can make a trump of Solace."

Ossian's eyes narrow. "That's quite imp... There's a story hidden here. Your mother-in-law..." Ossian almost makes a face "And you want to know if it's true?"

Ossian suddenly remembers his cup of coffee any sips, quite stylishly.

Lucas smiles. "While that would be a delicious piece of knowledge to hold over my most respected belle mere, it's not my primary motive. After all, Amberite blood could be more than one generation old. Harmony Vesper could herself be the almost infinitely great-grand-daughter of an Amberite ... which is, in itself, an appalling thought, I will admit.

"But the rumours about Solace are persistent and ... yes. I would prefer to know. It may have some bearing ... less on her - for I believe she will never be strong enough to take the final test of our blood. But it might have an impact on our children."

Ossian furrows his brow and nods. There might be something he doesn't really understand. "I _might_ be able to help you."

"You see, I have decided to leave the city for a while, and will do so the day after tomorrow." Ossian says. "But. If we are lucky I could finish a really quick sketch in that time."

"It's something of a shot in the dark, though. Vere would say that this is an unsatisfactory scientific method. If I fail, it will not prove anything. I would need at least a month to be sure that a failure isn't just my lack of skill."

"Ah," says Lucas thoughtfully. "I see. In that case, time must be pressing upon you ... perhaps now is not the best time to undertake the experiment ... As you say, if it is inconclusive, it will prove nothing, and Solace is already upset from the attack ... although she does seem to find your presence among the more soothing of our kin. Nevertheless, I was hoping to pass her posing for you off among the portraits of the children which - incidentally - were to be straightforward portraits and not trumps. I'd like my children, for the moment, to have as normal a childhood as is possible.

"Oddly enough, I suppose my mother must have had the same hopes for me ... although her choice of physical location was a little unfortunate. Still, I am now beginning to appreciate her discretion in keeping me from full knowledge of my heritage for as long as possible. My children, of course, are unlikely to be so fortunate.

"Have you been seconded on a mission for the King, or are you not at liberty to say?"

Ossian shakes his head "I have an unknown heritage of my own to take care of. I have postponed the investigation of that for several years now." Ossian says, whilst holding the coffee cup under his nose, so he can smell the lovely drink. "Now I had a... disagreement with the king regarding his non-plan of how to move Amber to Xanadu. So I decided it was finally time to make that shadow trip. Think things over for a while."

"I see," says Lucas. "And do you propose to wander as the fancy takes you, or do you intend to follow a definite path? I have notes from my own voyages that you might find of some use if that is the case. I meant to write them up as a short monograph, but never seemed to find the time. Still, if they would be helpful, I am sure Gaston could produce a fair copy of the more salient by breakfast tomorrow. No. no, he delights in these little tasks for me. He'll be only too glad to stay up scribing till the candle gutters. He can then justify to himself his inordinate consumption of my best cognac.

"More coffee?" He indicates the pot.

Ossian drains his cup and nods.

Lucas generously moves the coffee pot in Ossian's direction.

Ossian pours himself another cup.

He hesitates for a moment and then says quietly, "Have you considered the possibility that - like Begma, like so many other places we have known and loved ... your home Shadow may simply not be there any more?"

"Of course. I have considered that." Ossian says with a frown "That and the possibility that Brand really didn't want anyone to find out. He might have erased the place."

"But it is the best thing I have to go on for the moment. And I would be delighted to read your notes, even if they might not help me find what I look for. I haven't been there in twenty years or so. The things I remember aren't easily described in words; smells, colours, the shape of a leaf."

Lucas nods.

"All the same," he says, "one does one's best.

"However it is true that while a great poet will represent a sunset in such glowing terms that one can visualise it entirely, we lesser beings are more likely than not merely to produce a description more matching a fried egg."

Ossian grins "Hey, I believe that your writing is splendid, otherwise I would not have requested your notes. Still it would not be reasonable to hope that you have covered the spceific details I need. That would have been an all too long and tedious read anyway."

"Lucas, I am willing to try making a Trump Sketch of your wife before I leave. It might even be a welcome distraction for her."

"Indeed," says Lucas. "Although I would prefer that you represent it to her as a simple portait, and not as an attempted trump. Such a thing would alarm rather than distract her."

"But of course. What about starting a new trend? I can provide you with a set of sketches of your wife to adorn the walls of your office with? Not Trump sketches, but the study sketches I need to make a working Trump sketch. All in very fancy avant garde style, of course." the slightly self-ironic tone in Ossian's voice is impossible to miss.

"Delightful," says Lucas. "And understandable. After all, you will hardly be having time for pointillism, will you? Three brilliant lines, and a crowd of us standing round, tilting our heads and saying slowly, 'Yes ... yes ... I see it now - Solace to the life!' That should do nicely."

"I might be able to make it four lines, actually. No more than four and a half, though."

Then Ossian turns more serious again, "Seriously, we are going to sell this idea to your wife. While I would take painting as a reason for itself, most people don't."

"If you make one of the preliminary sketches of Hope and another of Philippe," suggests Lucas, "Solace will be quite happy. She is only likely to become alarmed if she thinks that she alone is being singled out."

"Sure. I think I even have a few starting points here somewhere." Ossian starts leafing through his sketch book. "I will have to spend most of the time sketching your wife however. Although she does not need to know that."

"Ah. Here" Ossian shows Lucas a sketch of Hope "She has grown quite a bits since then, though." he adds with a smile.

Lucas examines the sketch closely, with the eye of a critic, although he is smiling when he hands the sketch back. "Yes, she has. Nevertheless, you've captured her beautifully at that age. Exquisite manners, even then, of course. My belle mere lived, I think, in the hope that she would give way to two year old tantrums and generally make my life a misery, but my mother's genes are powerful. My father's too, for that matter. I don't believe I ever heard him raise his voice in anger."

"Hm. I'll need you to cover up for me however. I have promised to show Celina and Merlin the art of Amber. If I make that sketch I have no time for that tour. Could you help me with that?"

"I'd be delighted," says Lucas. "I can make sure that they are shown some amusing bibelots that are all too often overlooked. As well as the masterworks, of course. It's the least I could do by way of thanks."

"Heh. There are a few things I really think should be included. The east gallery on the third floor of this castle, at sunrise. The play of light is just amazing. Kaliq's painting collection. He has sold some stuff, but the best pieces are still there." Ossian counts on his fingers "Garden Street, preferable from south to north, for the architecture. The sundering memorial. Some music, I'll say Sandra."

Lucas nods, with the air of gravely noting all of this. "There are other treats not to be overlooked too," he says. "The stained glass in the West Library wing is very fine, as is the painted ceiling in the smaller banqueting hall, although the frescos were sadly damaged in the Sundering. Do you think they would be interested in what is allegedly the remarkably fine collection of erotic art Bleys assembled in the private atrium? Perhaps not. And I must confess that although they do sound as though they have a certain novelty value, I have never fully appreciated the finer points of Oberon's collection of comical snuff boxes enough to seek them out. I suspect it was assembled purely to baffle his offspring..."

Ossian gives Lucas a look of mixed disgust and amusement "I am sure you will find lots of good things to show them. Remember that Merlin won't necessarily understand all your subtleties, though."

Lucas smiles. "Few do, coz.

"Now ... shall we find Solace and share the news with her? Or need you attend to other matters first?"

"No, not really. I think I'd better start the sketching now if we want any results before I leave. Let's go find your wife." Ossian furrows his brow "Heh. How will she react to the sudden change of routine for today?"

"Solace," says Lucas superbly, "is accustomed to acting upon my whims."

Ossian nods. But his eyes show compassion, although not for Lucas.

The plan is this: Ossian wants to make very quick (non-trumpy) sketches of Hope and Philippe (say, totally an hour of sketching or so.) The rest of the time he will concentrate on Solace, although now and then pretending to sketch H&P. He wants to take trump sketching to the extreme: sacrifice all longevity of the sketch for speed.

The project goes very successfully. Solace is pleased to have him produce art of the children.

After about two watches, Ossian feels that the sketch is ready to be tested. It seems like it should work.

Lucas has been an interested spectator throughout, encouraging Solace, admiring Ossian's skill, and even amusing the children when they seem a little bored - Lucas the unexpectedly relaxed father. But as the sketch seems to approach completion, Lucas suggests to Solace that she should take the children to Nanny Starch so that they can admire Ossian's art without youthful distractions.

Once she is out of the room, Lucas looks at Ossian.

"What do you think?" he asks. "Will it work, d'you suppose?"

"I think so. But we will have to try it to be certain." Ossian says "Now comes the question of how much secrecy from your wife we want."

"All right," says Lucas. "Doubtless you know more of these things than I do. Is it possible to activate it without alerting her?"

"If you think that's unlikely, then I suggest we tell Solace that we're trying an experiment - to see if we can create a trump by means of which I can talk to her if I need to go out into Shadow again. We have no need to mention that you and I consider it might establish other things as well.

"Or do you have another suggestion?"

"I can try activating it. Normally I don't spy on people this way." Ossian says "So I trust instincts more than experience here.

"Still, I think it is the best way. Letting her know we are experimenting with Trumps of her will probably lead her to the conclusions you might not want her to make in the end anyway. She will find out.

"Do I have your permission to try the sneaky way?"

Lucas hesitates, and then nods.

"Yes. Try it."

Ossian nods. He touches the sketch very lightly with two of his fingertips, and concentrates. He is probing very gently; almost only brushing the sketch with his mind.

Ossian feels the contact beginning to come together, the questioning feel of Solace's mind touching his. The connection is tenuous at first, and Ossian has to use all of his skill to keep it open. He can see her in the nursery holding Phillipe while the nanny holds Hope. Suddenly the trump connection falters, and the vision of Solace in the nursery collapses inward on itself.

The two men hear Solace scream, and then Hope and Nanny Starch are calling loudly for Lucas.

In Ossian's hand, the sketch is damaged, as if it was a very old piece of paper. It does not respond to his power.

"F*ck", Ossian says through clenched teeth, turning towards the door to the nursery. He does not want to reach Solace before Lucas does, though.

Lucas is on his feet and out of the room showing a wholly unexpected turn of speed for such an indolent man. Ossian will have no difficulty in seeing which is the nursery door even if the screams has proved insufficient; Lucas has flung the door wide.

Ossian puts the sketch on the nearest table and follows closely behind Lucas.

(OOC - how is Solace, and how is Phillippe? I hope Nanny Starch will have taken Phillippe, putting down Hope. If so ... )

Nanny Starch has Phillippe, who has blood on his gown. Phillippe is bawling, and Nanny Starch seems to be cleaning him up and looking for wounds.

Lucas takes Solace in his arms, holding her tenderly, gazing down at her.

Solace is unconscious and has a bloody gash on her forehead and blood all over her face.

Then he looks up at Nanny Starch.

"Vont-ils comment mes enfants?" he demands.

"I think it's all hers, my Lord. She just screamed and fell and hit her head."

Then he adds soothingly to the crying Hope, "Don't be afraid, ma petite. This is just like before ... when Maman was ... "

His eyes seem to darken, and his hold on Solace tightens. "Just like before ... " he echoes.

He looks down at Solace searchingly as though attempting to read something in her face.

Then, almost immediately, he has lifted her in his arms, and is carrying her towards Hope's little bed - as being the closest place to put her. The seriousness with which he is taking the situation is apparent from the way that he doesn't seem to care if he gets Solace's blood on his clothes. He notices (well, he's Flora's son), but treats it as an irrelevance. This should signal to Ossian just how concerned Lucas is.

"Take care of the children," he orders Nanny Starch. "Allez-vous -en! And send me Gaston!"

She pays him no more attention for the moment until she is assured that Phillippe is not hurt, and then leaves with Lucas' children.

He is gently brushing Solace's hair back from her forehead, endeavouring to discover just how bad the injury is.

(OOC - one trusts she is still breathing?)

She's breathing, and there is a nasty cut along her forehead. It's shallow but very bloody. She shows no signs of coming around.

Gaston enters the room - carrying an exquisite Sevres bowl filled with cool water and a sponge. Clearly Nanny Starch has informed him of what has happened.

Lucas beckons him forward, but looks at Ossian. "Find Gerard," he says. "We need a doctor."

"Of course" Ossian says and rushes out in the corridor.

Lucas starts to bathe Solace's head with infnite gentleness. Perhaps alerted by her earlier collapse, he does not seem unduly alarmed that she shows no signs as yet of coming round. Nevertheless, his face is grave, his expression intent.

"Gaston," he says, "Some of those pastilles that help Madame la Marquise's headaches. Set some around for when she comes round."

(OOC - these would be the sort of pastilles you burn).

"Of course, M'sieur," Gaston replies, and is off to find them.

Solace has not regained consciousness by the time he returns a minute later with the pastilles and matches.

Lucas signals for them to be lit, but himself remains on his knees, gently supporting Solace and continuing to clean her wound. His expression remains concerned - but not yet alarmed by her continuing unconsciousness.

[Ossian] realises that a page will probably find Gerard faster than Ossian will, so he "Go find Prince Gerard and tell him that Lady Solace has had an accident in Lucas' suite, and that we need a doctor there immedeately." Ossian's voice carries a surprising authority, and conveys the need for speed.

If Gerard's rooms are nearby and on the same floor, Ossian will run there himself and knock hard on the door. If not, he will go to the nearest room of an elder (that he thinks is in Amber) on the same floor, and knock on that door instead.

[You've got to pick, there are several reasonable options] Caine is usually in the Library, which is down a few flights, Random's office is a floor or two down, and Gerard's is a floor down from that. Vialle might be here, or she could be in the garden. Martin's quarters are here.

[Ah. The thinking is this: Gerard and stairs don't mix well if you are in a hurry. Ossian is looking for a Trump.]

Martin's new suite is around the corner and into the formerly-closed wing that Vialle recently ordered open for the return of the rest of the family. The guards at the entry to the Royal Wing start to move to ask Ossian's business, but one of them recognizes him and they send him on his way.

The door has a cat-flap in it.

Ossian acknowledges the cat-flap with a smile. It's not really unexpected.

Ossian knocks on Martin's door.

After a moment, Martin opens it. He's barefoot, and has Fathom in his arms. The room is a mess, although a bare area on the rug and the sofa have been mostly cleared. His guitar lies across the couch, and some papers peek out from underneath it.

"Oh, it's you, Ossian. What's up?"

"Do you have a Trump of Gerard?" Ossian says quickly and without ceremony "Solace has had an accident, and we need a doctor as fast as possible."

Martin goes pale. "Oh, s**t," he says, and releases Fathom, who lands gracefully on all four feet. He turns and dashes further into the suite.

Looking around, Ossian can see that there has begun to be some method in the madness. There's a guitar stand, where a second guitar rests next to Folly's mandolin. Some of the papers have been put in piles. And some of the weapons have been piled up together, probably in preparation to be racked or stored on the wall.

Martin returns, trump deck in hand. "Come on," he says, "We'll bring him in in Lucas' suite." He has not bothered to put on his shoes, Ossian notices.

Ossian nods and follows.

Martin stops in his rush to Lucas' suite only to speak briefly to the guards, asking them to summon Lady Hannah, whose rooms are in the guest wing, and ask her to bring a medical kit, or to have one brought.

After Martin has talked to the guard, Ossian asks "Martin. Who is this Hannah person? I think we should keep this within the family."

Martin nods. "She's a kinswoman. I saw her come in yesterday with Caine. Folly told me she's a doctor."

Hannah is researching in Castle Amber's library when she is interrupted by a page.

"Excuse me, Lady Hannah," the lad says. "Prince Martin requests you come at once. There's been an accident and he would like you to bring a medical kit."

Hannah smiles before she can help herself, happily shutting the book.

He looks around to see whether Hannah has such a thing with her and adds, "Or have one brought down."

"Could you take me there and then have one brought?" she asks, getting up and moving to follow him.

She follows him apace, coming to Lucas's door which she doesn't hesistate to open right up and step through...

Lucas can hear Ossian's voice through the door "Let's enter quietly. We don't want to shock her if she's conscious."

The door opens quietly, (Ossian didn't knock first), and Martin and Ossian enters.

"We'll try to get Gerard here through a Trump." Ossian explains. Then he get more concern in his voice "She's still alive I hope?"

"Yes, although she hasn't come round yet" says Lucas, who is eying Martin with disfavour. "You know, crises do give cause for an element of drama, but I really could have forgiven you if you'd stayed to pull on a pair of sandals."

Martin says, "I don't own any sandals," and both Lucas and Ossian note that there's almost an absence of affect in his voice.

[Lucas] look back down at Solace and carefully bathes the jagged wound once more.

"However, we now have an idea of what might have caused Solace's earlier collapse."

Martin nods as he shuffles out Gerard's Trump. "Gerard will want the details. Give me a moment ..."

He takes the card and concentrates on it. "Gerard? It's Martin. Solace has been injured and we need you." A moment later, Gerard is there, wheelchair and all.

"What happened?" he asks, wheeling over to Lucas and the little bed where Solace is now lying.

"Solace appears to have suffered another - and similar - collapse," says Lucas. "This time, unfortunately, she struck her head when she fell. She was unconscious a little while the last time. I'm concerned we won't know how much damage has been done until she comes round ... "

Ossian is remarkably quiet, looking questioningly at Lucas.

The door from the hall opens and closes and from the (sitting room?) the gentlemen can hear a feminine voice call, "Hello?"

Lucas frowns slightly, not recognising the voice, and then jerks his head fractionally towards the direction of the sitting room. Gaston give a slight bow in acknowledgement and then leaves the room.

Hannah unties the bows at her cuffs and starts rolling up her sleeves.

She will realise that she has been joined by a tall, thin man with a singularly lugubrious face, dressed in a dark suit suitable for a gentleman's gentleman.

"Monsiegneur sends his regrets," says this individual with the gloomy civility more commonly associated with the director of a funeral parlour, "but a domestic mishap means that he is not at home to visitors."

Hannah smiles pleasantly at Mr. Dour Face. She looks past him at the door he came through. "Well, that is precisely why, I have no doubt, Prince Martin sent for me. I'm a doctor."

"This way?" she asks, and nimbly heads around the tall man and through the door, where she finds Martin about to come out and get her. [per IM with GM] She smiles at Martin, and surveys the room. "Ah, Gerard, good. What happened?"

She sees (doubtless among other things) that this room is decorated as a bright and cheerful nursery. The decorations are simple, but stylish. The mobiles that hang from the ceiling and bright and colourful, but beautifully constructed, of first rate materials. The walls are decorated with a frieze that tells some of the tales of Perrault (the less scary ones) and which seem to have been drawn by professional artists. To one side there is a cot, to the other there is a child's bed. On this, a fair young woman is lying, deeply unconcious, with an ugly gash on her head. A bowl of reddened water, with a cloth, stands close by.

Kneeling beside the bed, one arm placed protectively around the woman, is a thin faced dark-haired man, dressed in a black polo neck and black trousers. He wouldn't look out of place in an early Truffaut movie. He looks at Hannah as she enters with heavy-lidded eyes - his expression is one of annoyance - which changes to a frown as he hears her address Gerard with such easy familiarity.

"A doctor?" he says sharply. "My wife - Solace - has been injured."

He doesn't remove the protective arm yet, however.

Also in the room is a small man (170 cm) in his early twenties. He is slender, with the body of a gymnast or a dancer and has unruly auburn hair that gets in his eyes every now and then. His eyes are almost disturbingly blue. Currently he wears a white shirt and blue hose; there are some faint stains of paint and charcoal on his hands and shirt sleeves. Right now he seems to be under some pressure, however. He bows, without saying anything.

Martin is dressed about as he was yesterday, except he's barefoot. Ossian and Lucas, to the extent that he is not preoccupied with Solace, notice that he's almost poised to move, as if he expects to be called to run down the hall again.

He has a deck of cards in his hand.

Hannah gives Ossian a quick nod, moving around Gerard, who she looks at quizzically for a sign before she kneels down next to Lucas.

Gerard nods at Hannah and gestures her on with one hand. His wheelchair would make it a bit difficult to examine the injured woman without moving her.

Hannah's black skirt matches her hair, which is pulled up in a braided bun. Her brown blouse brings out the bronze in her complexion, but the eyes that meet Lucas's are grey-green. The steady look she gives him is confident and meant to be reassuring. Then she reaches for the bowl and rings out the cloth.

"I want you to hold this over the wound, no pressure, just hold it there. Then I want to brace her head and I'd need you to remove this pillow." Hannah offers Lucas the cloth and waits to see if he'll take it. "Nous pouvons parler francais si vous voulez," she adds, "Monseigneur."

[hehe, my Russian co-worker who is my translator wanted to know what French man I was flirting with because my original babblefish translated "We can do this in French if you like" to "We can do _it_ in French if you like." So she has corrected us to "We can speak French if you'd like."]

"We can speak Thari," Lucas responds, with a sudden swift smile. "English, whatever."

He takes the cloth and handles it as she instructed. There is a competence about his movements that suggests he's not inexperienced in dealing with wounds - although she suspects he is more a field surgeon than a skilled doctor. He braces Solace's head carefully so that she can remove the pillow. If Solace reacts, he makes a soft, soothing sound, but does not relinquish his hold.

Gerard has watched the entire procedure with some interest. "Your cousin Hannah here is going to be working with me, Lucas." He adds quietly, for Ossian's benefit, "I should have known he'd like it when she started speaking French."

Ossian's face shows only the rumor of a smile.

Martin cuts off that line of thought. He says to Hannah, "Solace suffered a similar collapse a while ago. We don't know the cause for certain, but sorcery has tentatively been ruled out. She fell and hit her head. Lucas said that it took some time for Solace to come conscious last time. Solace has been in fragile health since she bore her second child." His delivery is terse, almost to the edge of rudeness, but not past it.

Hannah nods to let Martin know she's hearing him, but doesn't turn from her work. She gets the pillow out of her way, and once Lucas has lowered Solace's head to the bed, she starts by feeling along the spine at the neck and shoulders for injuries there.

"Did anyone see her fall today?" Hannah asks the room in general. Satisfied her patient hasn't suffered a broken neck or any other spinal injuries that need stablization, Hannah starts counting off her pulse, silently, while leaning over Solace to measure her breathing at the same time.

"Our children's Nanny," replies Lucas. "Nanny Starch. She's with the children now ... they were very upset. More - Solace was holding Phillippe when she fell. He seems unharmed - but I'd appreciate it if you could check him over when you are finished with ma pauvre Solace."

He falls silent - Hannah may guess that he is inwardly counting too - the pulse that shows in Solace's pale throat.

Gerard says, "I'll look at the bairn right now," and wheels himself away.

"Thank you," says Lucas gratefully.

Hannah pulls back from Solace and with a nod for Gerard, starts checking Solace's eyes. "So tell me how she was when she woke the last time this happened," Hannah says to Lucas.

Lucas frowns slightly, remebering. "She had a headache - a bad one. Almost a mifraine, I would say. Her vision was blurred, and she reacted badly to bright lights - we kept her in a darkened room for a day or so, and after that she recovered well. She had very little memory of the incident that caused her illness only ... that it was very painful.

"She came round after only a few minutes but, of course, that time she did not bang her head."

Hannah looks more concerned now.

During all this Ossian has been quiet, his mouth a taut straight line. He's looking expectantly at Lucas, almost staring.

Lucas glances up at Ossian and meets his stare, his own gaze cool and level.

"Tell me," he says to Hannah, "What does 'blood of Amber' mean to you?"

Ossians expression softens somewhat. He's still quiet, though.

Hannah doesn't look at him, but begins feeling delicately, at first, the skull around the area where Solace is cut. "Well, are you speaking of all these cousins, the apparent immortality, the toughness that allowed Gerard to live? Or are you making an analogy?" Hannah picks up the cloth with her free hand to dab at the gash.

Hannah begins putting a bit more pressure around the cut using one thumb to move the skin enough to assure herself there is no obvious fracture under the site of impact. She spares the briefest glance for Lucas, on high alert for the smallest reaction from Solace.

"Not an analogy," says Lucas. "But something that should be discussed."

His dark eyes rest full on her face. It seems Lucas has something to say - but not in front of his wife - suggesting that Lucas is aware that those who are apparently unconscious might still be able to hear what is being said.

Hannah sits back and replaces the cloth on Solace's forehead. She looks back at Lucas and her expression is not happy. "Is there something I need to know right now that might help me treat her?" Hannah turns to give the other two men in the room a look suggesting if they know anything of the sort, it might be a good idea to spill it.

"Nothing," says Lucas firmly, "that you need to know right now." He stressed the last two words. "The treatment will be the same."

Martin, who was about to say something, nods once, abruptly.

Hannah raises an [god, I hope *Un*julianic] eyebrow at him.

Ossian seems to finally get the message. He nods. His voice is detached, as if his brain is working on something else. "I have a hypothesis or two about these attacks. We might even be able to test them. But I agree with Lucas that we should let that be until Solace has recovered somewhat, right now I think we are too upset to be entirely rational."

Ossian looks around for the nearest mirror, pulls out his sketch book and starts making a Trump sketch of himself.

Hannah gives Martin a brief glance, before turning back to look at Lucas.

Martin meets her gaze evenly, but doesn't say anything.

"I am a licensed medical practitioner - I am also a healer. I want to clean this wound, and stitch it up. The scar should be minimal - it shouldn't compromise her facial skin movement much at all. I'd like to wake her up. At best, she's had a blow to the head, and to assess how serious that may be, I really need to see her when she's conscious."

Lucas nods slowly - this is clearly logical to him.

"I'm concerned about the memory loss and pain from the last time, however minor. If this fit mirrors that one, we can expect it again."

Lucas winces. "Ma pauvre Solace."

"I've had better luck with patients retaining traumatic memories when they awaken gently than with things like - I'm not sure what you'd call them here - violent smells?"

A blank look and a Gallic shrug is her response. "I don't ... follow. Ossian?"

"Smelling salts and such stuff, I think." Ossian says without taking his eyes from his reflection in the mirror. "If you think we should avoid them, you are probably right."

"Ah yes," says Lucas. "Bien sur."

Hannah smiles, finally, and nods. "Smelling salts, yes. Hate them. I would usually try to go and find someone under these circumstances. I don't know if that will work here, but I don't think it can hurt to try."

Ossian's pen stops scratching. He turns to look at Hannah.

"Find someone?" echoes Lucas. "You would try to enter ... their head? Believe me, doctor, that is the very last thing Solace needs right now. And for you, I think, it could be very dangerous.

"For Solace, it could be worse."

He glances at Ossian for confirmation.

Ossian nods. His voice has swithced from detached to intense, as has his eyes. "That could be a really bad idea. In this case you should only use it as a last, desperate, resort."

Hannah's brow is furrowed. "I don't mean trying to 'enter her head.' I don't even know how to explain..."

She sighs. "In my experience, she is somewhere. You would be somewhere when you dream; I might be able to find you there. You might consider this entering someone's head if you didn't believe that dreaming took you elsewhere - or that trauma might take you elsewhere. I believe that you do go someplace else. She may have gone someplace to hide, in which case she might be safe to stay there. Or she may be fighting something, which would be dangerous for me. I'd have to fight with her. She might decide she should be fighting me, and yes, that would be bad for both of us. I would agree that the spirit is connected to the mind, but I don't think we are talking about the same thing."

There's another knock at the door and Lucas and Ossian can see Gaston going by. Martin moves to join Gaston from his place by the door, where he had retreated to get out of Hannah's way.

"The same thing is true," said Lucas. "Believe me, you should be very careful before you intervene psychically with one of ... " He hesitates, considering, with another glance at Solace. "With someone connected so intimately with us."

Hannah sighs. "Alright, then."

"Can you do it on a concious person?" Ossian asks. "Explaining this kind of thing in words is hard. Experiencing it clarifies much more. I can volunteer."

[Lucas] looks down at his wife again and gently strokes her cheek. "Solace," he says, "come back to us now."

The words are not so much a command as Lucas' usual custom of stating a wish and expecting it to be accomplished.

Solace remains obdurately unconscious.

Based on Hannah's initial examination, there is nothing wrong with Solace other than the cut on her forehead and the unconsciousness, which is still not outside the normal expected reactions to having fallen and hit her head. Solace's pulse and breathing seem normal, as do any other obvious vital signs that Hannah can check.

Martin comes back in as Lucas finishes speaking with a medical kit, which he presents to Hannah.

She smiles and immediately starts digging around in it.

He says quietly to Lucas, "That other matter you sent me a note about--I'll go take care of it. You're needed here." Martin's look down at Solace is not unkind, but it's not as warm as Lucas would have expected, either.

"Very well," says Lucas. He seems about to say something more - then shakes his head with a slight smile.

"Hey, Martin." Ossian says "Thanks for reacting so fast when I asked for help."

Martin turns and nods, once. He adds "You're welcome," after a moment.

Then [Lucas] settles himself more comfortably (and more elegantly) on the bed to await Solace's return to consciousness, but watching with interest Hannah's response to Ossian's offer.

Hannah's pulling what she needs out. She says to Lucas, "Could you have your man put on some water to boil? I just need to know when it's ready."

"Gaston," says Lucas languidly, "might be otherwise engaged. However ... "

Without leaving his position, he reaches up and pulls a cord with a velvet tassel (stationed with adult arm stretch). There is a pause, and then the door burst open to admit a young boy who, despite the livery he wears, can only be described as an urchin. He looks worriedly at Solace stretched on the bed, and his lower lip quivers.

"Pert," says Lucas, "you will request that Gouter boils some water. When it is ready, you will return here and inform this lady, who is attending to your mistress, and inform her of its readiness. She is Madame la Marquise's doctor, and if you remove anything from her pockets without her being aware of it, you may be removing the vital object that will save Madame la Marquise's life, and then you would have her death on your hands. And you wouldn't want that, would you?"

The boy Pert pales. "No, Monsiegneur!"

"Good," says Lucas. "En avant!"

The boy turns and dashes away. Lucas makes a gesture that clearly indicates, "It is accomplished."

Hannah turns and glances up at Ossian. "It wouldn't be the same if we did it. I could take you with me, on a walk, if you had the proper preparation. That takes time. I'd be happy to guide you through a spirit walk, though. It is a process of self-discovery. That's always worth doing."

Ossian smiles a little "I'd like to try that, yes. When you have the necessary time, of course." He seem to be relaxing more now. He starts sketching again.

"Now. Are we going to just wait, or is there something we can do for Solace?"

Martin slips out, leaving the medical supplies, and promising to send for more on his way out the door. Another kit arrives not long afterward, and is taken to Gerard.

Hannah, with cooperation from Pert, gets her supplies and stitches up Solace's forehead. Not long after that, Solace wakes up, complaining of a terrible headache. Hannah realizes she will probably do best in a darkened room, sleeping.

Lucas arranges to have her taken to her bedroom, and settled comfortably. While that is happening (I imagine with Hannah in attendance), he suggests to Ossian that he returns to the study. Lucas will join him there shortly.

Ossian does so.

Ossian suggests to Hannah that they do the spirit walk tomorrow morning.

"That sounds good. We'll make it work, somehow," Hannah smiles. "We really should have a third party present. See if you can round up someone."

"I'd be interested to witness it," says Lucas, "if Solace is well enough."

Ossian nods. "Tomorrow morning. My rooms?"

Hannah agrees, and get directions.

Solace doesn't remember what happened, and seems a bit disoriented, although she recognizes Lucas and Ossian and responds properly to the news that Hannah is a doctor and will be taking care of her for a while.

If anyone lets on to Solace that she dropped her baby, she is disconsolate.

Lucas will not be amused if anyone does this. Nanny Starch will be less than amused (which is possibly worse).

Gerard reports that Phillippe is fine and no worse for the wear.

When questioned, Nanny Starch says that Solace had a sudden spell, and that there was no indication of why. Hope corroborates her story (either publicly or privately to her father, as the case may be).

Certainly to Lucas - (OOC - does Hannah want to be present? We can discuss Solace there if you wish, before Lucas rejoins Ossian.)

Hannah smiles reassuringly at Lucas. "I'll be around until it's time to take Gerard to... Xanadu. Anything she needs, anything you need, just send for me. Can I meet your little ones?" she asks.

"Certainly," says Lucas. "Pert will take you. Ah ... don't let him too close to your pockets. My admonition should be your protection, but temptation can be a terrible thing ...

"And you might be able to divert their minds from the accident. Phillippe is only young, of course, but Hope has a vivid imagination."

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Last modified: 17 October 2004