Breakfast Meeting

Papa told me there'd be days like this…

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Dawn broke across Kolvir bathing the castle in a bright orange glow. Rays of orange sun-beams penetrated through the shutters and glass windows that allowed Castle Amber to sleep at night. Where a sun-beam found a way in, the light picked out dust mote's floating lazily about in the crisp morning air. Outside the castle guard's footsteps crunched on the hard frost-bitten stone battlements and their early morning hushed conversations created clouds of smoky breath in the cold air. The sky was bright blue allowing anyone who looked out of any of the top floor windows a breathtaking view across Kolvir, south over the Forest of Arden, and east over Amber City to the coast. The city was beginning to wake; its inhabitants could be seen scurrying like ants attending to their duties, each one a tiny cog in a large machine giving Amber city life and vibrancy.

The quiet morning was shattered by the screeching and scraping of the front gate being opened, then the harsh 'clip-clop' of a horse as it trotted into the Castle Courtyard. An emissary from far out in shadow, having just ridden through the Forest of Amber, dismounted and ran for the main entrance hall as guards struggled to control his hastily abandoned fractious, sweating and protesting mount. In a moment peace returned to the courtyard as the horse was brought under control, walked to the stable block and the guards returned to their duty.

The corridors in Castle Amber crept into life as servants began the daily chores and guards relieved their comrades at their posts. Smells began to drift through the halls as cooks began to feed the castles inhabitants. Two cleaning maids argued with a guard at the door to the ballroom, furious at not being allowed inside to clean up the mess from the night before. 'Princess Flora's orders' they were told and shooed away to other tasks; they left grumbling that there would be 'hell to pay' when the castellan found out.

Fresh pitchers of water were delivered to the night stands outside all the quarters of the Amberites, visitors, and nobles in attendance at the castle. A number of morning 'wake-up' calls for those nobles leaving early on scheduled transport were delivered and the castle was once more a thriving community awake and about its business. Servants left the Breakfast Hall having swept, mopped and dusted every surface. A second group of maids entered and began to lay out breakfast provisions. Platter upon platter of all manner of meats, cheeses, loaves and sundries were laid out on the long tables which ran the full length of one side of the room. Sets of comfy chairs were laid out in small intimate groups at one end, with small coffee tables in between. At the opposite end was a large octagonal table, which could seat up to ten diners was laid out with family silver and porcelain. Steaming jugs of coffee, topped with magical lids to keep their contents warm were brought in and laid at one end of the food tables, and smaller pitchers with personal family drink requests were brought in and set out tidily a little further down the tables.

Within minutes, the servants had vanished into the corridors the room now prepared for the morning. Two members of the castle guard took up position outside the room and on either side of the large double doors in the south wall. One man flicked a speck of dust off his shoulder giving it a disapproving look as it tumbled over and over and was lost in the other dust motes floating lazily in the air.


The knock to wake her was met with the resounding crash when the vase Carmen threw met the unforgiving wood of the door. She ignored the housekeeper's indignant shouts and rolled back over to wrap around the warm body beside her. The strong calloused fingers of the sculptor traced lazy circles over her back.

"I hate mornings," she grumbled against a well muscled chest.

His chuckle rumbled in his chest as he pulled her to him and rolled her over on top of him. "Perhaps we can make this one better."

"This will be different from every other start of the day how?" she smiled.

He quirked an eyebrow and growled. "Timing."

Fortunately, Carmen and Remington's neighbors were more artists who were more amused then offended at the morning symphony that came through the open windows. Carmen just snickered at the smattering of applause from the street when they finally climbed out of bed. She loved this neighborhood. Remington did to, as was demonstrated when he went out on the balcony in a sheet to take a bow.


"Carmen, you cannot wear that for breakfast with your relatives."

She looked over and almost decided to ignore Flora's strongly worded request. Fresh from the bath, he was wearing a towel low on his hips while drying his hair with another. Yummy. Instead she pouted. "Why not? It's perfectly lovely. It covers everything important."

He smirked. "Not if the wind blows. I may not mind sharing with the twins, but the rest can bloody well get their own." He just laughed when she stuck her tongue out at him and wandered back into the closet to put on something more acceptable for a gathering with relatives not the twins.

After getting Remington's approval for her new outfit, Carmen kissed him goodbye, promised to behave, and gathered her things to Trump to the castle.


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Six pierced tiers of crinkled gauze cut to resemble rough leaves shaded from sienna to green in her skirt. The corset top shimmered in leafy green and lacy, ribbon trim with crystal accents. Espadrilles laced over her calves left her toes bare and showed off her toe rings. Carmen adjusted the satchel that carried her "essentials"; sketchbook, pencils, her traveling Trump creating set. She blew out a breath and tossed her long dark hair over her shoulder as she made her way inside. It was too much to hope that Jack and Kaylee were awake at this hour on their own, darn it all.

She swanned into the dining room with the air of a butterfly barely contained and oblivious to the somber air. "Morning all," she greeted with an airy wave. She dropped her bag into a chair at the family table and proceeded to the buffet for croissants, fruit, and a pile of bacon to go with the carafe of coffee she liberated from the long table to take back to her seat.

Wearing a camisole and a pair of plaid pajama pants, Kaylee, a gorgeous blue-eyed blonde whose hair looked entirely unbrushed so far this morning, entered first and made a beeline for the coffee, without so much as glancing at anyone else in the room. Half of the tattoo between her shoulderblades was visible: four aces within some sort of circular design.

He shuffled in after his Twin Sister, barely lifting his feet as he did so. Jack stood in the doorway, and yawned. He was the kind of fellow you see on the cover of a magazine, or shilling for a tv show on an edgy network out in Shadow. Model good looks, though only about five-foot-nine or so, with sandy blond hair, and just the right amount of scruff. He was wearing a pair of black pajama bottoms, but he seemed to have forgotten his shirt and any shoes. "'Scuse me." He muttered on the heels of his yawn. Jack placed the cigarettes between his lips, and shuffled over to the coffee, finding it by scent more than bleary-eyed sight.

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Jack's chest, shoulder and side was covered in a black ink tattoo of seemingly random curves and swirls that disappeared into the waistband of his pants. When he turned to get coffee, the same pattern continued over his left shoulder blade as well. A trail of faint smoke floated in the air behind him, and floated to the ceiling as he prepared his coffee. Not finding a mug large enough, he found a tall juice glass, and filled it with coffee. The scent of his cigarettes were not at all unpleasant, and had more in common with an expensive cigar than anything rolled in paper. As he made his coffee, he handed one smoke over to Kay, holding it up at the right height, so she just had to take it with her lips.

Kaylee accepted the smoke with a muttered, "Was gonna steal yours next." Unlike her brother, she was using an actual mug, but she downed one cup black and then started making the second with cream and sugar as she smoked.

He shuffled again, filled a bowl with breakfast sausage and bacon, and eventually plopped into a seat beside Carmen. Kay followed her brother through the food, building an untidy pile of bread and meat and cheese in the middle of a plate, and padded over to the table - she was also barefoot - to sit next to Jack. He had a long pull of his coffee, sighed, and leaned over to put his head on Carmen's shoulder. Jack offered her the cigarette silently, holding it between his fingers while his wrist rested on the edge of the table.

Setting down her own coffee, Carmen plucked the cigarette delicately from his fingers. "Morning, lovelies," She all but cooed at the pair before taking a drag off Jack's cigarette. "Your zombie like states are quite endearing at this obscene hour of the day." She shrugged the shoulder Jack was leaning against. "But if you fall asleep on me, Drummer Boy, I'll be vexed. If I have to be awake, so do you."

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Selene raised her eyes to the door just as the twins entered. The sight of Jack's tattooed chest stopped her lips from whatever else she was going to say to Lotus. Her eyes flicked away as the siblings move to get their coffee and settle next to Carmen.

"Percussionist B-" Jack's words were brought short by another epic yawn, which he covered with his hand. "Nice corset, Carmen. It's too early for you to be so well put together. Rem helped didn't he?" Jack straightened, and stretched his arms towards the ceiling, arching his well-toned form like a cat. He groaned softly as he stretched, and grumbled. "Why's it so cool in here?"

"Because you are half naked, sweetums," Carmen smirked. She ran her nails across his bare back to make the point. "Remington wouldn't let me wear what I wanted to," she continued with a huff. "Something about the wind blowing making it indecent."

Jack's back arched slightly at the feel of Carmen's nails, towards them rather then away. He shivered a bit, and made a quiet sound in his throat before he replied in a voice that was laced with mirth, even if it sounded a bit sleep. "Aww, Rem never lets us cause a scandal."

He drank more coffee, and blinked his bright blue eyes as he looked around the table. "It is an obscene hour. We should be going to bed, not getting up." He smiled slightly, "Mornin', Selene." Jack managed to stifle another yawn, before he got his cigarette back for a draw. He slowly exhaled, lifting his chin, before finishing his thought, "Mornin' Lotus — fellas."

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Hadrian nodded in greeting to his various other cousins as they enter, while helping himself to an extremely hearty breakfast of meats, cheese, eggs and bread. With his plate loaded to his satisfaction, Hadrian sat down at the table, took a large and apparently pleasurable swig of his coffee, and began eating while also continuing to pay attention to the activities of the others.

Selene managed a nod in Jack's direction at his greeting. Keeping her eyes averted she addressed his earlier question, "The climate is quite comfortable for those of us that managed a complete ensemble." There is no heat behind this observation, perhaps she was just uncomfortable at his state of undress. Glancing at the buffet, she clearly wished stronger libations were available at this time of day.

He had more coffee and smiled at Selene, "Complete ensem-what?" Jack smiled crookedly, "Ooh, clothes. Yes, the ladies are looking very good this morning." He tilted his head towards Kay, "Even Kay, and she didn't do much more than I did." He eyed Selene appreciatively, "That color brings out your eyes."

Kaylee yawned behind her cup of coffee. "He never manages a shirt at breakfast," she offered sleepily. "Or shoes. You get used to it." She tilted her head to look at her brother. "At least he put on pants." Setting down her mug, she reached for a roll on her plate and absently added, "Morning, everyone."

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Lotus bows to the assembled company with a murmured "Good morning, cousins", obviously uncomfortable with both the varying stages of dress of the company and the level of informality. Those who know Lotus at all well can guess she will have been up since dawn. She collects a plate and starts assembling a breakfast for herself.

"For which I am sure many of us are grateful," commented Hadrian with another brief smile at Kay's remark. He seemed to be unconcerned at the level of dress, undress or formality of his cousins.

Jack nudged Kaylee with a grunt, "Ah, shoes, that's the other reason its cool. Cold floors." He had his feet up on one of the horizontal chair supports. "Kay remembered a top, but stay tuned for other early mandatory breakfasts, she doesn't always." He drank more coffee, looking a little more awake, his bright blue eyes more amused now than they were unfocused and sleepy.

"Liar," Kaylee answered, smiling. She was starting to look more awake, too. "I haven't done that when you were around in years."

Selene managed a gracious nod at the compliment before rising to get something more to drink from the buffet. Returning once more to her seat, she sipped a mug of steaming chocolate as Kaylee got in the last with her brother. Turning her dark head to include Hadrian, she asked, "What have you heard of last night's events?" If Lotus was turning crimson from the twins banter, Selene was doing her best not to notice in an effort to spare the shy woman more embarrassment.

Carmen nudged Jack with her shoulder and leaned in so as not to disturb Selene's conversation. "I've had a cowgirl kind of morning. How about you?"

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"We played the Accordion until we were off key." Jack replied as he leaned in to hear Carmen more easily. He drank more coffee, and swung his arm arm to rest on the back of her chair. He sat back, and with his free hand picked up a fork and started to cut up his breakfast into manageable bits.

She chuckled quietly. "Show off." Carmen held out a piece of bacon for him. "Do you have any idea why we're here? I told them last night I didn't see a damn thing. Remington and I weren't even in the room."

Lotus was indeed starting to blush from the twins' conversation. She accepted the tea from Hadrian with a mumbled "Thank you" and a polite inclination of the head, which had the added advantage of focusing her attention on the floor.

Continuing to look at the floor, she moved to spot as far removed from the press of family as feasible, took a seat and started to eat her breakfast which seemed to consist largely of porridge and fruit.

Jack leaned over and had a bite of the bacon as he cute his own breakfast into smaller pieces. He chewed thoughtfully, and shook his head. "Nope. No idea. No one even had the chance to ask me if I saw anything, I was busy — showing off the tapestries." He stuck his fork into a piece of sausage. "If we had stayed at the Ball, what would we have seen?" Jack swept his gaze over the group, throwing the question out to everyone.

"Because Flora felt like snapping her metaphorical crop," Carmen remarked lightly. "And when Flora does that, we dare not disobey."

He noticed Lotus trying to separate herself from the table, and shrugged slightly. He had another bit of sausage, and drank more coffee. He listened to the exchange between Selene and Hadrian, and added. "I'm curious why this couldn't wait until an hour, maybe two, later. Eleven o' clock, say, is a far more decent hour than this." Jack nudged Kaylee, "You hear anything?"

"Other than that we were supposed to be here at this obscene hour?" Kaylee shook her head. "Nope, not a thing. I was busy - " she smirked into her coffee cup as she paused to take a sip, " - instructing a gentleman of the evening's acquaintance on the finer points of furniture construction."

Carmen pretended to wipe a tear from the corner of her eye. "Remington will be so proud. He was sure you hadn't paid attention."

Kaylee snorted in amusement. "I was well acquainted with furniture construction long before I met your Remington - particularly the part where you test the joints."

"Hush," Carmen leaned forward to grin at her around Jack. "He likes to pretend he's teaching you something occasionally."

The door to the breakfast room opened once more, this time to admit Connor, son of Corwin, and half-brother to the Late Lord Merlin. Connor wore his usual deep red shirt, black slacks and boots, though he had apparently lost the black jacket this morning. Uncharacteristically, he looked a little disheveled, his shirt was creased, un-ironed. His slacks were also creased and marked in places. Perhaps more worryingly for some, were his features. Connor, usually bright, well groomed and vibrant looked pale and drawn. There were bags under his eyes, and his skin was drawn tight across his cheek bones like stretched pale white leather. His hair while normally a little unruly was more ruffled than usual and his shoulders were hunched and he looked tired.

He looked up as he entered, seeing the growing throng of people, but his blank expressionless face did not move. He ignored the food, the beverages and most of the people in the room, but moved to the window on the far side. For a moment he locked eyes with Selene, and he managed a weak smile, but when he reached the window he starred out looking faraway and lost.

Selene's eyes met Connor's in understanding, reading something there. She remained seated, allowing him his privacy before the house of cards came down.

Jack watched Connor as he entered, and softly said, "Damn." Ever the optimist, he was holding out for word that Merlin had gotten very ill, and thus the commotion had been an exaggeration. One of those things that had grown in the telling. Connor's appearance made that line of reasoning very unlikely. He glanced to Carmen and Kay, and then pushed his seat back from the table. He filled a mug of coffee with what he liked to call 'fast food standard', two creams, two sugars, and walked over to Connor without a word, placing the mug close at hand on the window frame. He retook his seat, and his position, with one arm on the back of Carmen's chair, and started to eat again.

Carmen leaned over and kissed Jack's cheek when he sat back down. "That was sweet," she murmured.

Kaylee watched her twin cross and return soberly. After a moment, she interrupted Jack's eating with a light touch and, when he set down his fork to reach for more coffee, she caught his hand in hers. She didn't say anything, just met his eyes briefly with a quick flicker of a crooked smile.

A long moment passed as the aroma from the delivered coffee cup made its way into Connor's olfactory senses. He turned his head slowly as if in slow motion and stared at the coffee cup, his nostrils twitched once then twice, but he made no other movement. He turned back to the window and continued to stare out at whatever was before him. He appeared to be neither aware nor concerned at the sobering affect his arrival and demeanor had had on the group.

Carmen didn't care for the angsty or tense situations that seemed to bring every one with an opinion or agenda out of the woodwork. In fact, it was well known that she avoided them to the point of fleeing the area when they came up. She was seriously starting to rethink her attendance at this one. After a moment of frowning in her coffee, she summoned over a page. She whispered something in his ear that sent him scurrying off. Feeling much better, she pushed her plate to one side and took out her sketchbook from her satchel. Collecting a handful of colored pencils, she sat back and started sketching things only Jack could see from his place beside her.

Lotus regards Connor with a look of concern and seems to be debating whether to join him at the window. Instead, she picks up her plate and moves to seat closer to Selene. She leans closer to the elegant young woman and whispers "Those who were not present last night do not seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation".

Selene raises a raven brow at the point being made and looks over the others before saying in a quiet tone, "Looking into the eyes of a man while he dies does have a sobering effect."

Equally quietly, Hadrian comments, "I can well imagine that it might."

He seemed to consider his words for a moment. "Also, are there further implications of events that we should be aware of? For example, should we expect to be at war with Chaos again in the near future?"

Selene looks at him for several moments before saying evenly, "I'm sure war was the intent, yes."

Hadrian nods as if this confirms his own thoughts. "Which then leads to the question of whose intent."

Jack leaned into Carmen's kiss slightly, and when Kaylee reached for his hand, he gave hers a squeeze before he let it go. He drank more coffee, glancing at Carmen's sketch work as he did so. His expressive eyebrows lowered, however, at the mention of war. "Whoa, now. War? Really? I mean Merlin was Family, not just another visiting dignitary. What would Amber gain by perpetrating the most transparent ploy in its history? His Royal Dadness is many things, but stupid ain't one of them." Jack shook his head and went back to eating, "It's like any scam you run on the Strip, look at who gains the most. Follow the money. If it's not about money, find out who gets stomped down, and who gets pushed up. We've seen croupiers become trigger men just for a promotion and an extra couple hundred bucks a week in their paycheck." Kaylee nodded in agreement.

Carmen's Page returned with three tall glasses of orange juice that were sat in front of Carmen and the Twins. After smiling her thanks, Carmen took a very long drink from hers and went back to her art. She pulled a frown at the conversation. "I think guns may be being jumped here, fellas."

"Perhaps," agreed Hadrian neutrally. "Nonetheless, while Amber as a whole might not gain by this," he continued, looking at Jack in particular as he spoke, "there may be those in Amber who might feel that they could. Not to mention that I am quite sure there are those in Chaos who would wish trouble on us should the opportunity - or the excuse - arise…"

Jack looked up from his plate when he was addressed. "I s'pose, Man. I just don't see the angle. The last War didn't make anyone rich, and by the history books, Chaos lost." He glanced to Connor, and quieted. "I guess we'll see what the Mis—Aunt Flora has to say, or Dad." He finished off about half of his bowl, when he reached for the orange juice. He had a sip, savored it a moment, and then with a glance to Carmen drank down its contents in one long pull. He sighed when he placed the glass down, and returned to eating the other half of his breakfast.


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