In the Dead of Night

Rebecca stalks through the halls and takes stairs three at a time, snagging Pages on her way. She sends the first out to the Royal Stables to have Demon prepared for a trip; the second is sent to the kitchens for two waterskins and her usual 'I'm on my way out for a couple of days, pack some food' kit. The others follow her to her room. Rebecca changes clothes in between tossing things at them to take down to be packed on Demon, not giving a damn if some teenage boys have something to think about later that night.

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Finn had mentioned Hellrides, and with his luck, she isn't taking any chances. Two of the Pages have the honor of carrying down her larger weapons - with a threat to be careful with those. A couple changes of clothes are already rolled into saddlebags in anticipation of a different trip, another bag is already packed with tools of her various trades that she may need, as well as the extra ammo she's kept untouched since she got here. One bag is kept empty for the stuff from the kitchens. Changed into all black from her boots to her hat, she straps on her loaded six shooter; every slot on the gunbelt holds a bullet. Snake is coiled and attached to her belt. A field knife goes into the boot sheath; a wicked hunting knife is strapped to her thigh. A bandoleer of blackened steel throwing daggers goes on last before she slips into her black all weather duster. The garment is a little heavier then it need be. But various hidden pockets hold a variety of other things in easy reach. The rifle from over the mantle in her bedroom comes off the wall and she checks it with a very satisfied air. It was almost like the old days back home.

Rebecca pauses on her way out after sending the Pages ahead. Slipping out her Trump deck, she removes a few cards. One goes in her boot, two more go into hidden pockets in her clothes. A moment of indecision and the deck goes into an inside zippered pocket of her duster. She is traveling with Finn, after all.

With a rifle over her shoulder and looking like the Wild West version of Death in the torchlight, Rebecca strides into the courtyard with Pages scattering before her like tumbleweeds before a storm. Her duster flares out as she walks towards the stables, where she can already hear Demon's restless fussing as he's led out into the courtyard.

"I'll take 'im from here," she says to the stablehands. "We're going to need Blake, and if Faylinn an' Arkadios have their own horse's here, well be needin' them too. If they don', jist get a couple fer 'em."

The sound of boot heels echoing along the hallways announces Kade’s arrival a second or so before he comes into sight.

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His manner of dress has changed little, although his boots are now suited to riding, a heavy black cloak now rests across his shoulders, otherwise he is as before, black hose with a red seam, a scarlet long coat with black cuff and collar, buttons done in gold, a white shirt beneath. At his side though he bears a blade, totally business like, a long heavy double-edged broadsword.

Behind him walk a pair of servants; one bears a bow and quiver of arrows, the quiver exquisitely decorated, the other servant carries a rather battered looking knapsack.

Seeing Rebecca is already present, Kade smiles and walks over, “It's always a pleasure to be early… given that I am so often tardy. “ he comments, he gestures for the servants to deposit their burdens nearby.

When they are gone Kade frowns slightly, “I meant no offense when I referred to you as Madam, might I call you Rebecca perhaps?” he asks, his voice is casual but there his eyes show some emotion, wariness perhaps.

In the midst of tying her rifle holster to the back of her gold maned black horse, Rebecca turns at the sound of boot heels just long enough to see who has arrived before she checks the straps before holstering the gleaming metal barreled weapon of her homeland.

Then she turns to face him while taking the saddlebags from the waiting Pages around her. "I reckoned ya didn' mean it th' way," she says with an easy smile. "But back where I come from a Madame is an ol' married woman, or tha one runnin' tha whorehouse." She slings a set of saddle bags over Demon's back. "An' Rebecca's fine. It's my name, ya know."

Kade makes an soundless 'O' with his mouth then smiles in response to Rebecca's explanation.

"Please call me Kade." he answers becoming more sober, "I assume I shall be provided a mount accustomed to shadow travel, I don't feel in the mood to break one in really."

With this he reaches for his belongings and moves them slightly to one side, Rebecca can see no particular advantage to the new position however.

Finished packing her horse, Rebecca reaches into one of her many pockets and pulls out stick of cinnamon hard candy. Demon perks up immediately and starts nickering and nuzzling at Rebecca. "Back, horse," she chuckles, moving it out of reach. Unwrapping it, she finally gives it to the silly stallion. Demon munches with obvious glee.

"I take it ya got a lot of experience with horses?" she inquires of Kade. "Can ya handle a spirited one or are ya needing somethin' more docile?"

Quick steps are followed by a fast moving Altair, who is scribbling upon a piece of paper. He is focused with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, but stops abruptly when he discovers that he has crossed paths with Rebecca and Kade. His look of surprise falls away quickly to be replaced with a look of urgency, though the two are hardly distinguishable beneath the hair in his face.

He removes the cigarette to speak, "Forgive my intrusion! Though I must say I am glad to have not missed the departure."

His hand moves unconsciously as he takes another drag and brushes his hair out of his face. His eyes wander around the area for a few seconds before settling on Kade and speaking again, "I do not believe we have had the pleasure. Kade, is it? I have heard of you, of course; but a face to face meeting has never occurred."

Either not caring for Kade's response or having a mind that wanders too much to care, Altair continues, "Where is Finn? I much desire to speak with him."

Turning from her conversation with Kade, Rebecca looks vaguely amused at Altair. Behind her, Demon is snuffling around the cobblestones for the pieces of cinnamon candy he dropped. "He ain't down yet," she shrugs. "Takes him half an hour jist ta get his weapons t'gether. If yer ina hurry to speak with him, ya might check his rooms."

Sighing, Altair looks up at the sky. "I am in no hurry and wish not to miss him."

He nurtures the last half of his cigarette carefully, taking in the full taste of the tobacco. The smoke flows heavily from the corners of his mouth, quickly dispersing in the air around him. He rolls up the paper he was writing on and slips it into his sleeve.

He laughs slightly, "You are quickly ready Rebecca. Do you find all courtly affairs so droll that you lead the way on all risky endeavors?"

"Was already packed," she shrugs. "Not for this trip. But not much diff'rent." She pauses, reaching into her duster for her cigarette case. "That ain't 'xactly true, but close enough." She packs the cigarette against the case before putting the case away. A match is produced and struck on her boot like before. "An' ya know that I would rather do jest 'bout anyth'ng then deal with 'courtly thangs'. But Dad's a showman, I reckon."

He seems to smirk at the comment about her father. "He is quite one at that. You may not find courtly things to be so out of your grasp, my dear. No matter of course, as this current predicament seems to provide opportunities for everyone."

He reluctantly allows the cigarette to burn out, crushing the dying embers underneath his foot. "What do you make of it all? A Shadow that very few care to think about holding off a threat that is spreading all of Amber thin. What do they have there? What are we really going to discover?"

Kade nods in response to Altairs questioning his name. He listens quietly and finally comments, "Proof of the pudding Mr Altair."

Kade glances at Rebecca, shrugs then slowly moves around to give Demon an inspection, not too close though, he stays far enough back to avoid a hoof or a bite.

"Fine beast you have here." he remarks finally, "Perhaps a tad more spirited than I'm used to though."

Demon gives Kade the eye while Rebecca flips a section of the black's golden mane over. "Demon's special. "Reckon Dad 'an Finn are about the only other's that could handle him. Well, an' Julian since he handles that great beast o' his." She gives him an affectionate pat before turning to Altair.

"We'll find out when we get thar. No use standin' 'round speculatin' in the middle of the dark." She adjusted her hat and flicked ashes off her cigarette. "If ya'll 'ill 'xcuse me, I gotta go find Kade a suitable ride."

Altair seems disturbed by the lack of imagination, but quickly waves it off. "Of course, of course. We will know sooner rather than later, I would suppose."

With that she turns and her long legged strides carry her into the Royal stables to find an adventurous steed without Demon and Blake's tendencies for strong opinions.


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Rebecca stops inside the stable to consider the rows of stalls. A toss of a chestnut mane draws her attention. A while back, Rebecca remembers speaking with a mare that Caine took into Shadow briefly while his personal favorite was elsewhere for whatever reason. She would probably do the trick. Her name is Sha'lee, she has a beautiful brown coat and is obedient without being skiddish.

She happens to be in the stable, awake from the commotion of getting Demon out and prepared, and tossing her mane in a fit of pique. Rebecca smiles and strides through the stable towards her, taking a moment to great the horses who are awake as she passes them.

"Evenin' Sha'lee," Rebecca says when she stops before the mare. "Heard anything interesting lately? Besides my horse putting the moves on ya?"

"Nothing new… Mounts come in and go. The King goes out at night every so often. And yes… Demon is a lovely thing, really, but he scares the stable-hands so much at times that they avoid spending time in here with me. A pity!"

Rebecca blinks and turns to look at Eric's horse a moment before turning back to the mare. "I will have a word with the stable hands," she says as she opens the stall door. "For now, I need you for a trip. Go over the tack room."

"Thank you. You are very kind, Rebecca." Sha'lee says with grace, shaking her head just a bit.

She calls for a stable hand to ready the mare then she ambles over to her father's horse. From her pocket she pulls a peppermint stick. "Where's Dad been off to at night?" she asks as she unwraps the treat.

Ruddy eyes the stick and with skill, he lies "Up the mountain. Or sometimes in Arden. There's a cabin. He likes to spend time there. Alone." He approaches Rebecca, looking between her and the peppermint.

"Here now," she replies to the stallion. Eric in a cabin in the woods? Please. "I ain't as old as a lot of these folks, but I weren't born last night." She looks to the positions of the stable folks, then leans in closer and lowers her voice. "That is the one that sired me. I worry for him because he rarely does. You're his companion; I expect better out of you then to tell me tales that do nothing to make me feel better about leaving him here with no one to watch his back when you aren't around."

Ruddy looks at the stable boy walking past them to get to Sha'lee. He waits a bit and steps closer to Rebecca. Close enough for her to touch him. "He goes to the moonlit stairs. He stays there until the clouds shroud the sky." Ruddy pauses and neighs a bit upset. "He goes elsewhere too. Through a long tunnel with no light. To a dark place where we ride." Ruddy is getting restless; a sleepy-looking stable boy notices.

Rebecca holds out her hand with the peppermint for Ruddy while giving the stable hand a dismissive wave with her other. "Calm yourself," she murmurs. She strokes his muzzle and neck soothingly while he eats his treat. She can guess why he goes to Tir. But she's no idea where this tunnel is, and she doesn't really have time to investigate at the moment.

"Listen," she murmurs softly. "Watch his back for me when you can. I know you do already, but you must be even more watchful now. Those he can truly trusts are gone from the castle, and I will be away doing his bidding for awhile." She tugs his ear affectionately and smiles for the benefit of those in the stable. "Will you do that?"

"Yes. I'll keep him safe." Ruddy finally takes a bite of the peppermint and steps away from Rebecca.

Rebecca quickly unwraps a stick of it and slides it under the door of this stall. With a last look, she heads to the tack room in the corner where the chestnut mare has been readied.

"Thank ya, fellas," she smiles. "C'mon, girl." She doesn't need a lead; she knows Sha'lee will walk beside her out into the courtyard.


The sound of hooves on cobblestones precedes Rebecca's return. Walking beside her is a chestnut mare, saddled and ready for riding. Rebecca stops when they are even with Demon, and the stallion whinnys a greeting to the cinnamon colored horse.

"Kade, this here's Sha'lee," she announces, giving the horse an friendly pat on the side of her neck. "She's been out with Caine, so ya know she's ready fer 'bout anythin'." Rebecca's hand reaches into a pocket and produces a handful of wrapped hard candies. She hands them to Kade. "She likes butterscotch. All horses like pepp'rmint, jest so ya know, but a few got some particul'r tastes."

Finn enters the Courtyard armed and armored, as he would have been were he returning to Arden's front. It consists of dark green and black mail and leather, and looks well and recently worn. The mail is dark green and matte, with a black leather pauldron protecting his right shoulder, black leather vambraces and gloves. He bears a red-tasseled chinese broadsword at his left hip, and a handful Numidian-style javelins in a quiver on his back, along with a heavy dirk on his right hip. Anyone that knows Finn also knows very well that those were simply the weapons they could see.

A pair of pages jog up behind him, carrying his saddle and saddlebags.

"I see Faylinn will be the last." Finn states as he walks up to the group. "I'd best get Blake ready." He gestures for the pages to follow him to the stables. "Rebecca, I'm not sure if Faylinn has a favorite from here or not, but could you ready a horse for her arrival?"

Rebecca rolls her eyes at his tardiness. "Lordy. It's like waitin' on Flo, I tell ya," she mutters to Demon. The stallion makes a noise that can only be described as a laugh. Rebecca gives him such a look when he sends her after a horse for Fay, but she merely sucks her teeth briefly before turning with a flare of her duster and heading back inside the Royal Stables.


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A horse for Fay was much easier. Based on what she knew of the tree-speaker (and traveling with Finn), Rebecca already knew which was Fay's favorite horse from her visits to the Royal Stables. Nerves of steel and a nanny-like personality, the appropriately named Poppins was already been led out of her stall and outside the tack room to be readied for her trip. Rebecca goes to the buckskin quarter-horse mare and offers her a peppermint while she's saddled.

"Evenin', Poppins," she greets the mare. "Ready fer a ride?"

Poppins says, "Quite so, Princess. Why the late night expedition, I wonder…" She is patient enough to find out as things proceed it seems and she reaches for the peppermint stick and munches on it. Rebecca hums in reply but doesn't say anything else for now.

Finn finds Rebecca in the line and says, in the general direction that Blake had indicated. "Thank you for getting him ready, and the others." He smiles slightly, and then walks back to where Blake is waiting to let him out into the courtyard

Rebecca grunts in response to Finn. She takes the bit and bridle from the stablehand and slips them onto the mare herself, then loops the reins over the saddlehorn, and gives Poppins a pat on the rump. "Let's go. Lots of hurryin' up an' waitin' goin' on."

She tips her hat at the hands. "Thanks, fellas." Rebecca accompanies Poppins back out into the night.


Rebecca reappears shortly after Finn's return to the yard. This time she is walking with a buckskin quarter-horse mare; pale buttery colored coat and dark maned, with steely nerve and an almost nanny-like personality. Appropriately named Poppins by some well read individual with a sense of humor. The mare already seems to know where to be as she trots over to Fay.

Faylinn catches the reins of the buckskin when she arrives, without pausing her scratching of the tiger horse's jaw. "Hello, Poppins," she says to the mare. And then, "I think it's time you return to Finn, Blake. I will continue later."

With that, she runs her hand down the horse's neck and pats his shoulder once before turning to fasten her saddlebags to the mare's saddle.

Her Highness returns to her own horse as a Page comes out bearing waterskins and bundles from the kitchen. Rebecca thanks him and packs the bundles in her saddlebags and hangs the skins where they need to be. After giving the castle an expectant look, she busies herself with checking Demon over for the trip.

A royal guard approaches with a leather bag and a lantern. He makes eye contact with Finn, from a distance and nods as he approaches the congregation.

"Duke. King Eric says you asked for this." He hands him the bag and departs immediately, after throwing a quick 'Your Highness' towards Rebecca. He disappears in the shadows of a nearby porch.

Rebecca nods to the guard in response. Then she slips back in front of Demon and adjusts his bridle. He is very obviously not wearing a bit. Having determined that everyone was there with everything they needed, she swings up in the saddle with an easy grace born of a lifetime of horseback riding.

Pulling on a pair of riding gloves with fringe along the one side of the cuff, she looks pensively towards the castle and then pointedly at Finn.

"Can we shake a hoof here an' git movin'?"

Blake stumbles when Faylinn suddenly stops petting him and prances in place a bit in an effort to make it look like he meant to. He sniffs at Fay's mare, and high steps over to Finn, lifting head a bit higher as he passes demon. Finn greets him with a laugh and a pat on his shoulder before mounting up. He gives Rebecca a nod, "Indeed we can." He turns in the saddle, "Faylinn and I have Hellridden before, but I do not believe she has done so since the advent of The Black Road. The Black Road is our main concern. This close to Amber, it is likely to be ubiquitous and nearly unavoidable. That means there's potential to run afoul of an organized enemy or random beasties, even carnivorous grass. Be Alert. Stay close. The changes will be fast. Terrain will change rapidly, and not always at my behest, some of what happens on a Hellride is a matter of expediency not Will or imagination."

He turns to Rebecca, "I will try to have your 'powder dry' a few hours out. Test fire your pistol when we stop for water."

Finn then rides to the gate and orders them open, "Let's move out. You can ask any questions you have before we're off the Mount."

When Finn gives the order to move out Kade mounts up and gives a brief salute as he falls in behind the tiger-horse mounted warrior. Faylinn finishes adjusting her bags and gracefully mounts. She nudges Poppins into line without comment.

Rebecca suddenly grins at Finn. "Are ya hittin' on me already?" Demon tosses his mane in a very 'bitch please' way, causing Rebecca to snort. "Git in line, ya vain wretch."

"Try not ta git us all half dead, would ya?" she says to Finn as Demon ambles up beside Blake. She winks at him from under her hat, where only Finn can see.

Finn chuckles softly, and is about to reply when Demon tosses his mane. He smiles, "I wanted the beginning to be remembered fondly, as the middle of it won't soon be forgotten." He gave Blake a pat and the hybrid warhorse went out through the gate. He glances back to make sure the others are following, and to Rebecca replies, "I'll try to keep it to just a quarter dead."

He smirls slightly, and says loudly, "Remember! Stay close! Once we're off the Mount, the fun begins. I'll start off slow, and then we'll gallop for as long as the normal horses can handle it." Finn turns to Rebecca, "I will let you be the judge, call out when they need to stop." he raises his voice again, "Everyone! If the Black Road shows, stay alert, I will be focused on the path ahead. Blake as well, so cry out if we have pursuers."

Unless slowed, or harried by questions, Finn remains true to his word, somewhere down the mountain, before Arden but away from the Castle, he begins the Hellride. The pace increases gradually, until they are at a full gallop, with Finn focusing solidly on their destination. The land starts off as woodlands, but the trees rapidly begin to thin…


TOCHellride to Greymoor

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