The King's Council

After a night's interlude, the two wake to the dawn's sun shining in on them through a window, the sound of the city folk around them as they begin their own days.

Skye grumbles about heavier curtains as she shifts against Saffron. "Time to get up. Dammit."

"I thought Rangers were used to getting up at ungodly hours," Saffron teases sleepily. "Is it time to get up and run, or is it time to get up and take our time?"

"I can get up just fine earlier then this when I'm on duty," Skye huffs and tosses her hair back out of her face. "But not when I'm sleeping in this bed. Julian's generosity has my schedule all out of sorts now." She pushes herself up on one elbow and looks at the clock. "We do not have to rush. But meandering or our usual good morning is out of the question." Smiling down at Saffron, Skye lets a finger trail lightly over the raven haired beauty's collarbone. "There is time for a leisurely shower…"

Saffron smiles up at her. "'Leisurely shower'? Without our usual good morning? Is that even possible?"

Skye smirks. "We'll just have to have it in the shower, won't we?" She gives her a quick kiss and rolls out of bed. "I'll start the coffee. You start the shower."

"You just want an excuse to sneak up behind me," Saffron laughs as she sits up. "I brought home some flavored coffee I've been meaning to try. It's the blue bag."

"I don't need an excuse," Skye smirks on her way out the door.

She pads nude through the house to the kitchen and starts the coffee. She is still humming appreciatively at the aroma when she enters the bathroom.

Saffron similarly doesn't bother to get dressed as she makes her way into the bathroom. She takes a moment to water the assortment of tropical flowers on the windowsill over the tub before continuing across the room to pick out towels and soaps.

By the time Skye arrives, the dark-haired sorceress has a clear orange bar of soap in one hand and a cream-colored, brown-speckled one in the other hand, the latter of which she has evidently just sniffed. "Spicy or floral?" she greets the other woman.

"Can I chose the one in the middle?" Skye smirks as she checks the water in the shower. "Then again, I suppose we should chose what goes best with ghost hunting." The Ranger adopts a haughty tone. "Something that won't clash horribly with ecto-plasm"

Saffron laughs before offering up a smirk of her own. "So nothing floral, and nothing elusive. I was thinking something spicy and warm as a substitute for the shortened morning."

"You keep reminding me of that," Skye scolds. "We cannot be late. Afterwards, there may be time for me to drag you into a linen closet; but for now, we are limited to the shower."

Saffron chuckles. "Should I save the pointed reminders of what we're missing out on for someone else, sweetheart? I'm not really in the mood to smell like soap… but would you prefer something more soapy than spicy?"

She perks up. "Oooo… yes. You should save them for someone else. They always get this look in their eyes for a moment when we poke them like that. It's almost like a twitch — but not. I especially like it when their eyes glaze over and their imaginations take charge." Skye grins brightly. "So.. spicy."


Time passes far faster than the two would like, and it's soon time to head out if they want to arrive at the castle on time.

Having decided she isn't going to risk being out of uniform when she's not officially on leave, Skye is once again looking sharp and slightly dangerous in her dress blacks. Julian's mood was unknown since he wasn't able to return to Arden yesterday. Cranky Warders always found something to snarl about.

While Saffron finishes things in the house, Skye prepares their horses and they're waiting outside when Saffron's ready for the ride to the castle.

"Once more into the breach," Skye says with a wrinkle of her nose as they ride up the road.

Saffron laughs and looks over at the Ranger from her palomino's back with a smile. "'Breach' is too apt," she agrees. She's dressed for the day in jeans and a blouse that matches the combs sparkling in her upswept hair like points of fire. "I don't know whether to hope for a brief meeting or not; the shorter it is, the sooner we really ought to start ghost-hunting…"

Skye groans. "Tabiti's drunken raven. I still cannot help but pray that it is short. The longer it is, the more there is that has hit the fan, and the longer we are trapped with those who just enjoy the sounds of their own hot air. Besides, I wish to have a word with that unfortunate fellow from yesterday. I have some questions about shape shifting, and he seems the only one around to ask."


The trip to the castle is slightly faster than usual - it seems that the market traffic is elsewhere - and the two shortly find their way to the Privy chambers, where they see Random, Julian, Florimel and Gideon. And Dworkin.

Gideon is speaking to Dworkin quietly.

Gideon continues to smile, wondering if he should bother to take the bait and speculate on the trick.
"I believe you, grandfather, but I'm sure anything that's just a trick to you would be a small miracle for a child like me." Still, Gideon decides to bite at Dworkins game, just for the novelty of trying.
Gideon offers up, "Do you just go where Tir is, when it's not here in the moonlight? I mean, it doesn't really disappear into nothing, so it has to be somewhere…"

Dworkin chuckles and winks. "That would be telling."

Skye pauses briefly in the door, surprised by the appearance of Dworkin. She raises an eyebrow at Saffron then moves silently over to stand near Julian, nodding at the Warder when she catches his eye.

Somewhat relieved, Gideon grins at Dworkin's innocent response.
"You and your secrets." Gideon happily answers his ancient grandfather.

Noting the arrival of Saffron and Sky, Gideon gives each one a nod if they look his way.

Skye gives him a crooked smile in response. She always liked Gideon; any man with a hawk for a companion couldn't be too bad. Saffron smiles slightly and returns his nod with a polite one of her own.

"How long will we wait for the others?" Gideon asks, looking toward Random.

The young Ranger looks down at her watch. Truly, if Flora was already there, everyone else was late.

Random shrugs. "We're still not quite at ten. I'll give Lucas and Gwyll another five minutes, but if they're late, they're late."

"Right. If they are late could we have some food brought in?" Gideon asks the room pleasantly. "I had to get up in a hurry this morning and ignoring the easy road took some energy."

"It does seem to be a morning for getting up in a hurry," Saffron remarks. "A few of my own usual morning preparations suffered today, too."

Skye takes a sudden interest in flicking non-existent lint off of the jacket sleeve of her dress uniform. It's a casual gesture, and when she looks up, there's a hint of smugness to her expression.

"I could go for a cup of coffee myself," she says lightly to Gideon as she clasps her hands behind her back.

Gideon smiles and nods, taking the hint. "You want anything Grandfather?" Gideon asks Dworkin.
"I'm happy to play fetch for a bite to eat. I'll even bring extra coffee back for everyone else."

Random shakes his head. "I've got some pages taking care of that. They should be showing in a moment."

Indeed, not much more than a minute later, several pages come through the door with two large pots, and three trays - one with eggs, one with meats, and one with breads and pastries.

Just behind them comes Gwyll, looking a little rumpled.

Gideon looks at Gwyll and grimaces. "I hope there are no bruises, Gwyll, you look like you've already gone a few rounds in the ring." That said, Gideon walks over to one of the trays and grabs a hardboiled egg and pastry.

"Good morning. I was in the library and lost the sense of time, I haven't slept much." says Gwyll serving himself a cup of black coffee. "Sorry for the delay."

Gideon nods in understanding. "Don't worry, you didn't miss the food, so you you didn't miss anything important." He grabs a cup of coffee himself, piling sugar and cream into it. "Skye and Saffron only just arrived a minute ago."

Skye makes a noncommittal sound of agreement as she fixes two coffees. She looks over at the tussled Gwyll. "Find what you were looking for?"

Gwyll shakes his head. "Unfortunately, no. I did only find some vague reference but nothing enlightening." He pauses as he sips his coffee "There are many answers that are not put down to paper."

Random nods. "Indeed. We wait only for Lucas, and I'm disinclined to wait longer. I believe we'll start with Saffron and Skye, who have a ghost tale for us."

The coffee cup Skye is handing to Saffron rattles in its saucer before Skye gets a tight reigning on her reactions again. "Yes. Right. Yesterday after we returning from the practice yard, we happened across an apparition of a man with graying hair wearing green tunic and trews He looked rather like Oberon. He walked away and disappeared around a corner before we could get a good look. When we checked, he was gone. Unless he Trumped somewhere, he just — vanished.. Same for the next one we saw after we left my rooms; dark hair, neat beard, Faiellan descent, I think. But I wasn't able to see enough to identify."

"They seem to be constructs of some kind," Saffron supplies as she smiles in thanks at Skye. "They don't seem to be Pattern-based, but it's similar enough that it might be mistaken for such on a cursory examination." She blows on the coffee before taking a sip. "I didn't see any sign of any other sort of power."

Gideon frowns and double checks the egg that he's already taken a bite from. "You say the first figure looked like Oberon and the second one had a dark beard. Like Caine perhaps?"

Skye shrugs, frowning slightly. "I thought it Corwin at first, but then I realized the build was wrong; slimmer, taller. It's why I believe it was a Faiellan"

"Eric had a beard. What colors did the second one wear?" Gideon asks, giving Skye a strange look.

Even after all this time, the loss of her father was still a sore spot with his only known child- as her still blazing hatred of Corwin attested to. "I am well aware of what my father looked like," Skye replies stiffly. "If I had truly believed it was him, I would have said so." She looks away from Gideon and at a spot on the wall across the room. "Black. He wore black. I didn't see anything but black."

Gideon says nothing more for the moment, though he looks at Gwyll for a very long moment before shrugging.

Gwyll returns Gideon an almost imperceptible nod. "I think I have more ghosts for you. When I was heading to my rooms after yesterday's court session, I glimpsed a blonde figure reflected on a mirror. It was awkward because from where I was standing I should have seen the stranger. Later, at night, when I was going to see if Morgan was in his rooms I saw another…" Gwyll pauses "ghost or whatever. A man dressed in green and gold with black and white hair. When I reached the spot where I saw him, he had already disappeared leaving a faint trace of some kind of power. Has anyone else seen someone like him? Gideon?"

After a moment's thought. Gideon shakes his head doubtfully. "No, no ghosts have been seen by me, I'm afraid. Though I felt the touch of what might have been trump contact after I left the meeting. Back in my room, I got the feeling that my belongings had been subtly disturbed. Searching around I caught a glimpse of a head or a face watching me in a mirror."

Skye looks over her coffee cup at Saffron, one eyebrow curled upward in speculation.

"Now that you mention trumps, Gideon, I have something to tell as well. I tried to contact Morgan via trump, but to my surprise his trump had been replaced by a second trump of Corwin. So I tried to force a contact with him until a felt a very far presence, but I doubt it was him. It felt dangerous, maybe it was a kind of trap."

With a shake of his head and a grimace, Gideon replies, "Nasty nasty. I wonder if something like that happened to Morgan."

"I haven't seen Morgan since yesterday. Has anyone seen him?" asks Gwyll with a grave face.

Frowning, Skye looks at the two of them. "Why do you suspect something bad happened to him?"

"Well, it is clear that something is happening, something we don't have any explanation for, at this moment. I don't know where Morgan is nor I could contact him using his trump. That's the reason I was asking if someone has talked to him recently. Hopefully I may be just over worrying. You haven't answered my question, may I suppose then that you know the same as Gideon and me?" replies Gwyll

"I did not realize you were asking me," the Ranger shrugs. "I have not seen him since he left Court yesterday with that injured fellow who had been on fire. What happened to him, by the way?"

As Skye responds, the door opens to let Lucas into the room - on the dot of ten o'clock.

"As far as I know he is recovering well in one of the guests rooms. GĂ©rard was taking care of him." says Gwyll "I hope we'll get a chance to talk to him later, if Random allows it."

Saffron frowns slightly. "That reminds me. I received an attempted contact last night, shortly after we all left Court. It wasn't long enough to get a grip on who, what, or how, though it did seem familiar. I'd almost forgotten; it was a bit less remarkable than the ghostly visitors."

Gwyll assents "Maybe we should check our trumps. And it wouldn't be a bad idea to check on Morgan, if only my trump has been exchanged."

Lucas pulls up a chair and sits, he clears his throat and speaks politely "Excuse me, but as I appear a bit behind, could someone please give m a brief summary of yesterday's assorted happenings after our guest's arrival, and our departure from each other's company? I mean, I caught that there was apparently a Trump contact to Saffron, and that Morgan appears to be missing, but what's this about 'ghostly visitors'? If I'm to be of any help, being informed seems rather necessary." the last is said with a rueful half-smile.

Gideon shrugs. "Alright, a reasonable request. Here's the story. Aside from anything that happened to you, last night several entity's were seen in the castle. When I say entity's, I mean figures that disappeared abruptly and left traces of some energy in their wake. These figures appeared to resemble a gray haired Oberon and another dark haired fellow with a beard. Also, there were several incidents where faces were seen to be covertly observing family members from reflective surfaces. My room was disturbed. There has been a rash of furtive trump contacts. One of Gwyll's trumps, of Morgan, has been replaced somehow with a image of Corwin that might be a trap of some kind. You just walked in. Morgan is now late."

Gideon then pulls out his trump deck and while waiting for any one else's replies, begins methodically going through it. He looks at the cards with a slight look of distaste, giving them the minimum of contact physically and mentally.

Random speaks up. "In fairness, I wouldn't say he's late. I was simply unable to inform him of this meeting. Slight difference, there."

"Absent then." Gideon agrees. "Has anyone checked the stables? Maybe he's of my mindset, more favoring a ride that a trip on a magic trump carpet."

Gwyll speaks; "Gideon, you forgot the third apparition: that of a man in green an gold and with white and black hair. Could it be that Morgan is back in Rebma?"

"Wouldn't that be a good description of Oberon?" Gideon asks in reply."As for Rebma, who knows."

Lucas blinks and looks surprised at the full description of events, but his tone is relatively calm. "Oh, my. Well, my night was significantly less eventful. I did, however, discover that there are apparently birds of some sort watching who is arriving at and leaving from the castle. Likely sorcerously controlled or some such thing. Hence the unusual armament." he gestures at a bow and quiver of arrows he is, somewhat atypically, wearing. His tone grows somewhat concerned for a moment "Should we not, perhaps, try trumping Morgan? Things are strange enough that knowing he hasn't succumbed to some sort of foul play might be for the best."

Skye looks over at Saffron and silently mouths "Birds?" Not that she had been scouting for birds when they rode up, but she would think she would have noticed a strange gathering of avians around the castle.

Gideon adds, "Hmm. As I rode to Arden last evening, it looked like some farmers were having crow problems."

Saffron shrugs. "I don't believe Skye and I spotted any untoward birds…"

Lucas turns to her "I never actually saw the birds in question, only tracks where none should be, indicating their interest which argues for their skill at stealth."

Then back to Gideon "How large were the crows? From the tracks I saw, our little spies would seem to be a bit larger than a common crow. Closer to the size of a large hawk or even a small eagle, actually. Still, Chaos may be involved, considering recent events, which would make shapeshifting a possibility…"

Skye mentally rolls her eyes. The paranoia in the room is as thick as the testosterone.

Gideon shrugs noncommittally. "Well, the few I saw were nothing extraordinary. There was a rather large amount of spore around and the crops look like they had been picked at. I also saw the farmers setting up extra scarecrows. That spells crow problem to me, though I don't know what that means."

It couldn't possibly be that the blasted things had a really good breeding season. Still, if they were right, it was mildly worrying; crows were harbingers of war in Scythia.

Gwyll comments, "One of them nested in the tower Benedict uses when he's here. The nest was very tidy, I think it was no ordinary crow. By the way, has anyone got Morgan's trump? I'd try myself to contact him, but as I said before I don't have his trump anymore."

Having already looked through his trump deck, Gideon takes out Morgan's trump and hands it to Gwyll. "Knock yourself out."

While Gwyll is staring at Morgan's card, Skye wanders over to the window to drink her coffee and take in the view, or just to have something to do for the moment. Frankly, she couldn't imagine caring less where Morgan got off to; one less Corwin spawn running around was fine with her.

Gideon watches Gwyll stare at the card and tries a little cheer-leading. "Getting a nibble?Or is he trying to block you?"

Skye watches Gwyll return the card to Gideon in the window's reflection. "He does not answer. I don't know, maybe Morgan has left or lost his trump deck somewhere. I haven't felt an active blocking of the contact"

Random looks over at the others, obviously concerned, but also with a slight hint of amusement on his face, but says nothing, as yet. She can't blame him; the Creator of Amber Trumps is in the room and they're nattering on about what could be wrong.

Gideon takes the card back, looks at it once, then put's it back in it's place. "Well, the trump doesn't look broken." He says, half joking. "I guess we should get on with things then." After putting his trumps away, Gideon turns around and waits for one of the Elders to contribute to the discussion.

Lucas looks concerned and speaks slowly and seriously "Speaking from experience, if the card's working, it should contact him whether he possesses his own deck or not. Though, also speaking from experience, there are locations difficult or even impossible to send a Trump contact too or recieve one from…Still, with possible enemies on the scene, his disappearance is troubling to say the least."

His gaze turns to Random then "I suppose, if there's no more pressing business, one or more of us could go try and track him down through Shadow. I'll even volunteer to do so. He is family, after all. After the current meeting, of course."

"You should probably take someone with you, just to err on the safe side." Gideon comments.

Lucas smiles slightly and wryly and speaks "Well, yes, that would be ideal. Preferably someone more mystically inclined, to cover all the bases, so to speak. But I can only volunteer myself. Anyone else interested?" the last is spoken to the room in general, particularly those of his own generation.

Skye rolls her eyes. It's almost as if jumping to conclusions were the only form of exercise they get.

Flora sighs heavily and shakes her head. "Lucas I'll forgive, since our esteemed wizard seems to have effaced himself, but Gideon, you should not have forgotten so soon."

She gestured to a corner behind Random where Dworkin sat, quietly toying with something. "Did you want to ask him anything before you leave?"

"Oh, right…" Gideon mutters quietly as he chuckles at Flora.

Lucas looks startled for a moment, but recovers quickly and bows slightly to Dworkin "My apologies, sir. I must be slipping, or I should have noticed you earlier. Do you have any other ideas of what might cause us to be simply unable to contact Morgan via the trumps? You'd certainly know, if anyone would." he turns to Flora for a moment then "And, for clarity, I have no intention of leaving until the end of the meeting. It seems unlikely that the situation is quite that time sensitive."

Gwyll nods to Lucas "If we can sort this out during this meeting I will go hellriding with you." Then he falls silent again, eagerly expecting Dworkin's answer.

Skye turns from evaluating the view and faces the room once more. But she doesn't involve herself in the current discussion. She can't possibly care any less what Morgan has gotten himself into. Maybe the line of Corwin will wipe itself out with its own arrogance. A glance tells her Saffron is also staying well out of the conversation, though she does appear to be listening.

Dworkin scratches his head, pulls out a Trump deck that looks about a third or more thicker than any deck any of the younger folk have seen. He riffles through the deck, frowning slightly. The frown increases as he finds what he's apparently seeking.

He holds up a card and shows it to everyone. "This is Morgan. But the card doesn't go to him."

He concentrates, speaking as he does. "Odd. It seems superficially connected to Corwin, but that connection is tenuous at best."

All traces of the vague, possibly insane old man are gone. His voice is clear, incisive and full of a presence of mind and power. "Ah, this has definitely been redirected. But not by the Serpent. Something familiar about this. Family, fire, fl-"

His voice cuts off as he disappears, the Trump he was holding dropping to the floor.

Saffron blinks twice, swears once under her breath, and mutters, "Oh, that's never good," as she reaches for arcane sense to examine the spot.

Skye's reaction is much the same. Not having the talent for the arcane, she looks at her commander instead out of habit.

Gwyll steps forward to look at the trump Dworkin has left. But he stops before getting closer to Saffron to avoid breaking her concentration.

Gideon snarls and starts out a short string of curses. He grips his staff tightly and spins in his hands as if he's looking for something to smash. "Alright. Looks like someone asking for a beating." Gideon says bitterly, looking toward Random.

Lucas blinks and lets out a heartfelt, frustrated, and somewhat regretful "Oh, shit." Unfortunately, without much in the way of sorcerous skills, Lucas doesn't attempt to investigate the disappearance per se.

"Out," Saffron says urgently after a moment. "I don't think this is a good place to be right now." Though she doesn't seem like she intends to move immediately. "Something's… coming…? About to happen…? Not sure yet. Heat and Trump, anyway."

Skye abandons her cup to the carpet. Hooking a finger through Saffron's belt loop, she pulls her away from the hot spot whether she likes it or not. She knows how the other woman can get with both puzzles and fire.

Lucas's face goes blank, his sword is suddenly in his hand, and he is instantly moving between the King and the card in question. He keeps that position, moving with the King (including moving out of the room) unless ordered otherwise.

Gideon's face twitches at hearing Saffron's words. In a burst of motion he quickly runs toward the door, attempting to put a wall between himself and the trump card. He goes no farther though, listening carefully for whatever might be going on in the room.

Gwyll tries to mentally push away whatever it is coming. It will be worse letting something unknown slip into the castle. "Saffron help me repelling the thing that is coming through the trump."

Saffron is in no position to aid, as Skye is pulling her out of the room. Idiots. Julian, Flora and Random are heading out as well. In fact, in mere moments, Gwyll is the only one left in the room. He can tell that his efforts are having a small effect, but even adding Saffron's talents to the mix, he doubts they could slow whatever it is appreciably. The sensation continues to grow, a building mass of what seems like a mixture of fire and Power.

In the hall, everyone's quickly able to realise that Gwyll remains in the room. Saffron can tell that in no more than a few moments, whatever is building will hit, and probably hit hard.

Seeing that his efforts are useless, Gwyll rushes towards the door with cold sweat running down his brow. Gideon counts the people as they leave the room, quickly noticing one particular absence.
"Damn it Gwyll, get the hell out of there!" Gideon yells, moving towards the room to pull Gwyll out by force if necessary.

Skye looks over her shoulder at Random and company. "Your Majesty, might I suggest we not linger in the hallway and put another wall between us and that?" Skye doesn't stop in the hall, she moves to the other side of it and shoves open the door to the room across from the privey chambers, still dragging Saffron behind her.

Saffron is currently wearing what might politely be called a rebellious look; her hands are currently fists, and it would be a fair guess that she's seriously contemplating setting something on fire. "I can't do anything useful if you're dragging me across the castle by my belt," she growls irritably at the Ranger.

With a calm that has annoyed Saffron more then once, Skye replies. "And you cannot do anything useful if you are blown to bits either." But she releases her hold just then anyway. "And across the hall is hardly across the castle."

As soon as all the others are out of the room, Lucas begins to go back for Gwyll, but seeing Gideon already doing so, stops, and remains between the King and the door to the chamber. He appears completely oblivious to the argument between Skye and Saffron.

Gwyll comes out almost as soon as Gideon and Lucas lunge for him. Julian closes the door behind him - which turns out to be a good thing, as there's a blast behind the door, and tongues of flame leap out through the cracks.

Random looks over at everyone else with a 'wtf' expression on his face. "I find it really odd. Nothing like this has ever happened in Castle Amber before. Not to my knowledge, anyway."

Julian and Florimel nod agreement, though Julian's is diminished somewhat, as he speaks. "Nor mine. Benedict may have seen such."

"It seems to be the week for odd things," Skye observes. She steps back out into the hall and regards the door across the way to see if it continues to burn in case they need to summon a fire brigade.

After making sure Gwyll isn't somehow subtly injured, Gideon agrees with the general sentiment of Skye's comment. "Verily. I think it's obvious that someone needs to go pay a subtle visit to the Font of Power."

"And we should find Morgan too. About the Font — we should know a few facts about it before we can go to see if it is related to what's happening here." Gwyll turns to Random "I think the king has already talked to him about the matter, how bad looks the whole situation?"

Lucas nods, his face and tone troubled, having lost the emptiness that characterizes them in battle "I'd be very interested in any information we have on that as well. Still, it seems to me our first priority should be finding our lost family. I'd suggest looking for Dworkin first…but I can't help but think that if he was captured or otherwise inhibited, which seems likely, we should get more information before confronting anything that can, well, capture Dworkin himself. Morgan just might be less well guarded, though. Assuming his disappearance even has anything directly to do with this, of course."

Skye mentally rolls her eyes at the conversation behind her. They don't even know if the idiot is missing, for Circe's sakes. Men. Why couldn't more of them be like Julian, or her father, or Gerard?

Gideon nods. "True. Then there's this business with the crows and the figures in the mirrors. We should keep out minds open; we may be dealing with more that one just one enemy, or maybe one of these factors is working against our enemy. "

"And the apparitions," Saffron adds as she heads after Skye to check out the hallway and the room they had all just vacated.


TOCThe Persistence of Memory

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