Enemy Mine? (Opening Court)

Another day at Castle Amber. Court is in session, as it often is, and Random is dealing with the things that only a king can deal with. The hall is large enough for several private conversations, as long as they don't get too noisy.

The Bayle family is notable by their absence. Rumour is swirling around the reasons, but no one's settled on a primary cause yet. There are other nobles making their appearances, the Corrino family from the West of Amber, and the Tallsin clan from the mountains North and West of Arden being most notable in the hall.

Of the family, Florimel sits at a desk near the dais, her dress and hair immaculate and flawlessly arranged to make her seem part of the torchlight, but inevitably separate from and brighter than all of it.

Not terribly far away, tiny Fiona stands chatting with Gerard, managing somehow to make it look perfectly natural, despite the vast difference in their heights.

Benedict is nowhere to be seen, but experience says he's likely in Shadow, honing his skills.

Llewella returned recently to Rebma, where she spends much of her time.

Bleys and Corwin seem, of late, to be possessed of wanderlust, as neither stays in Amber for more than a few nights before leaving again.

Julian spends most of his time in Arden, but surprisingly, he stands in the Hall today, his armour gleaming, white even in the torchlight.

Random sits with Vialle on the dais, currently listening to some request from yet another part of Amber's domain.

Kashfa and Begma have their diplomats out and about, though there is only a slight, understated, tension of late.

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Cutting a fine figure in her black Ranger dress uniform, Skye stands beside her commanding officer in a casual parade rest. Her twin long knives are peace tied in a specially made scabbard at her hip instead of strapped to her back as they normally are. It is a rare appearance for her. Since her enlistment one can count her appearances in Court on one hand with fingers left over. She has no idea why she's here beyond Julian asking her to come. Since she was on duty at the time, the request was seen as an order, and so here she is. Skye hadn't missed Random's observation of hers and Julian's entrance, or the times she has seen him watching.

She still hates Court, but she is endeavoring to keep the complete boredom off her face. Her father's Courts had seemed exciting, but now in the present, she can't recall if that was just because they were her father's Courts or if they really had been interesting. There had certainly been a grim excitement anytime he had Corwin dragged in.

She shifts her stance, and casts a quick glance from the periphery at the Warder before letting her eyes travel the hall again, trying to take her mind off the fact that she doesn't wear these dress boots nearly often enough for them to be really broken in properly. When Gerard looks in their direction, she flashes him a quick smile that lights up her face, but is gone as soon as eye contact is broken, and Skye is once again quietly observing.

Her eyes flick over Morgan briefly ~unimportant~, and then linger when he is approached by Lucas. She shakes her head at the son of Benedict bristling with so much steel in Court. ~Someone should explain Court Swords to him. Someone not me. I'm actually surprised Flora hasn't.~ She shrugs internally and her gaze moves on. ~Gideon~. She smiles at his dark robes and sashes flaring around him as he approaches and engages Flora. She notes Random watching them again. He doesn't miss an entrance and he seems to be keeping an eye on her and the rest. It's immediately apparent- though apparently not to the nobles he watches - that he's judging every movement. And possibly reading lips, as well. Skye wonders, but then shrugs again. She continues her scan of the room just in time to see the next entrance.

Saffron enters quietly and pauses just inside the doors to curtsy properly to the throne; she's resplendent in a red and gold dress that is thoroughly flattering without being at all immodest. She has a notebook in one arm; one of her classes had assigned the task of observing a government procedure and writing a report on it, and Court, she has decided, is good enough. She scans the room briefly and then, with a brilliant smile, starts working her way around the room to Skye.

Skye perks up when she sees Saffron approaching. In a generation teeming with testosterone, the girls have to stick together for self-preservation. She glances at Julian; she hasn't been told to stay put - obliquely or otherwise. With a murmured, "Excuse me, sir," the young Ranger steps away from her Commander and moves to intercept the raven haired sorceress.

~Bright Goddess, she's beautiful.~

Saffron's smile gets bigger when she sees Skye heading her way, and she hurries a little to meet the other woman. "I didn't expect to see you here," she says warmly as they meet.

"Neither did I," Skye shrugs. She leans over and gives Saffron a friendly kiss on the cheek in greeting. "But Himself called me in and said 'You have an hour if you want to go to Court with me.' I saw it less as a request and more as an order." The young Ranger takes a step back to eye the dress Saffron is wearing. "You look amazing," she smiles. "Other then dazzling the locals, what are you doing here? You come to Court about as often as I do."

A few of the nobles make disparaging faces when Skye and Saffron come together - rumour will have its day - but the fact that the rest of the family pays it no mind soon closes those faces once more.

Saffron returns the kiss on the cheek. "You look great, too; I still say that uniform suits you, even if it is all black." She offers up a small grin, tipping her head slightly. "Is this not a clue why I'm here, though?" she adds, tapping the notebook. "Classwork." She sighs. "I hate this government class; did I mention that last time you were over? It's dull."

The Ranger looks past Saffron a moment and catches a disapproving look from the Offenderati. Skye smiles broadly and blows the man a kiss then forgets about him and the rest as she gives Deirdre's daughter her attention again. "Of course it's dull," she says cheerfully. "It's the one that makes the rest of your classes fascinating instead of just interesting."

In one corner, two lesser nobles - some thinking retrieves the names Sir Astren and Lord Harkaan from memory - are apparently in deep and passionate discussion about something. Both are from Shadow - brought by Bleys and Eric at different times - and both have done fairly well in trade. Gwyll is close enough that he can hear the occasional word, though what he hears makes little sense without the context.

The court bard - surprisingly not Lord Rein who is in favor again and in attendance - sits near the back, lightly strumming a gittern and chatting with the ladies who have surrounded him.

Making his way back across the room towards Julian, Gabriel passes very near to Skye and Saffron. "Maybe you should sell tickets." He says innocently as he walks by the pair.

"Ooooh.. there's one we haven't heard before," Skye rejoins with a grin. There isn't a bit of rancor in it; she likes Gideon.

Saffron smiles at that. "Tickets," she laughs softly before picking up the conversation again. "The problem is, it doesn't make the other classes more interesting. The other classes make this one more dull. But enough, or I'll start whining." She smiles brightly. "How is Arden this week?"

Clasping her hands behind her back, Skye looks from left to right slyly as if checking for eavesdroppers; an action sure to get the attention of any trying to listen in. Then she leans forward closer in to Saffron. "Arden," she whispers, "is very … green." She winks, straightens and adds in a normal tone. "Imagine."

"Imp," Saffron laughs. "You know what I'm asking."

~Does she have any idea, I wonder, how glorious that laugh is?~

Skye just grins and holds her arms out to her sides. "As you can see, I am in one piece, and not looking for some place to steal a nap. In fact, it's rather dull at the moment. Nothing but peaceful green as far as the eye can see. I have taken to learning to speak squirrel again."

"I suppose I will have to take up prayer again, then," Saffron replies, straight-faced - though the laughter in her eyes gives her away. "So that when you finally offend them, they will only throw nuts at you - and that it will happen somewhere other than my garden."

Skye sniffs disdainfully and crosses her arms over her chest. "Wench. No one understands me like my little fuzzy friends. Alas."

Her eyes flick over Saffron's shoulder again, this time towards the Throne and then quickly away. She lowers her voice, murmuring; "Random seems pretty intent on watching everyone today. Very obviously, I might add."

"I noticed," Saffron answers, lowering her voice as well. "Which do you think it is today - boredom or waiting for something to explode?" She smiles a little as she says it.

Skye gives her a lopsided smile. "Perhaps he's just feeling antsy because there's been no explosions for awhile." She gives a speculative look at the crowd. "Perhaps I can challenge someone to a duel. Give him some excitement."

In future, when spoken of, the speakers will often say 'everything was happening at once', knowing it to be exaggeration, but for the sake of the story, and not much at that.

Random's eyes snap up to gaze intently at the door to the Hall even as everyone else begins to hear a commotion outside.

Gerard and Julian move, placing themselves in front of Random without interfering with his vision.

Florimel opens a drawer on her desk, her face white.

Fiona, contrary to the rest, seems almost calm, though her green eyes are so sharp upon the door that one expects it to burst into fire.

A bone-chilling howl sounds on the other side of the door - sounding nearly, possibly, somewhat human, but with too much beast for it to be anything that belongs in Amber. This is followed by a sickening thud, and the blow of a heavy body against the doors, held shut at present only by their latch.

Skye starts to respond, but then the commotion grabs their attention and she steps between Saffron and the door (and Saff is between the Throne and Skye). A flick of her fingers releases the peace cord and her hands rest on the hilt of her daggers. Saffron pivots on her heel to look, but she doesn't try to move around the other woman.

Gideon's head turns and snaps toward the door, his expression changed to a frown of concern. He changes his hold on his staff, pulling it up to a more martial position. He sees Morgan run for the door. "Don't be too hasty Morgan."Gideon says warily as his enthusiastic cousin rushes to block the door.

Gwyll turns to the door, his hands trying to grasp the hilt of the sword he has not taken with him.

As the door sounds, Lucas's sword is out in a flash. His face completely loses expression as he advances towards the door, preparing to slay anything unfriendly that enters. Seeing Morgan also move towards the door, he speaks, his voice oddly toneless "Morgan, catch. But try not to do anything rash, hmm?" and tosses him a dagger from his belt. He turns back momentarily to Gwyll "And the same to you." and tosses him the other. Then faces the door, sword in a two handed-grip, the odd runes along the blade glittering in the light.

"Thank you, Lucas.", Morgan calls out as he catches the tossed dagger from Lucas — even as he continues to run for the door. Gwyll also takes the dagger and nods to Lucas.

Lucas' speed is such that only Skye actually sees him move. The daggers are already in the air by the time Gwyll and Morgan get their warning - though said warning is more than sufficient, and both catch the well thrown and timed blades - and Lucas is already in line with Morgan.

The elders - with the sole exceptions of Florimel and Fiona - are even faster, weapons out before any save Lucas and Skye can even see. Gerard's great sword, Julian's sabre, and even Random is standing before the throne, a straight short blade in his hand.

Florimel's hand comes from below her desk with a crossbow which she quickly and professionally loads.

Then, as the door continues to buckle, Fiona's voice rises to pierce the din. "Hold! There is danger here, but I ken an ally, not an enemy."

Gwyll, even as she speaks, realizes that he gets the same impression - that the force beyond the doors, as mad as it seems, is not striving to reach the hall for ill-intent, though there is too much pain and fear for him to get further information.

Random begins to speak, "Hold and-"

Then the door crashes in. Standing, half-crouched, is a melted, twisted wreckage of a man. His face seems unable to settle - whether to show him as a handsome, dark-haired young man, a wolf, or a demon. All three faces miss an ear, though.

Half his body sloughs off charred flesh that seems to char again as quickly as it heals, the other half twists and bends between human, animal and demon - and sometimes mixtures of all three. He attempts to speak, but a shift turns his words into a howl of frustration and agony.

Entering behind - backing in, rather - are the guards of the Hall. Their swords are blooded, but they hold themselves more as they are watching for pursuit than expecting it.

Finally, the creature is able to speak. In a voice which holds power and presence - one that tickles the ears of the listeners with the barest hint of familiarity - he gasps out his say. "Random King, The Fount of Power grows wild, ravening. This growth is guarded - protected. But it is no friend to either Chaos or Amber, this I know."

Then, as if he was holding himself for only those words, he collapses, still shifting, still burning, but still, somehow, alive.

Lucas shifts effortlessly from his fighting stance to one more relaxed, and speaks calmly, though without the utter lack of expression exhibited earlier "Well, if this is an ally, shouldn't someone come render medical assistance of some sort? I'm afraid I'm not really qualified to do so considering the mystical nature of the flame." He does not put away his sword, though it is now simply held at his side, and that as he speaks his eyes are focused beyond the guards, at the corridor outside.

Skye frowns and sheaths the blades, though remaining wary. Tempted though she is to get a closer look, she stays put. There are others more suited to the arcane this is clearly touched by then she is. Including the woman behind her. Skye steps aside to allow Saffron to see better the flaming — person.

She glances over at Lucas when he speaks. ~Tries so hard to be Daddy's Boy….and overshoots every time.~

With a sad frown Gideon moves closer to the pitiable figure writhing on the polished marble. He watches the visitor for just a moment before giving an command to the closest guard. "You! Fetch a stretcher and several woolen blankets. Bring a bucket of clean water as well. Do it NOW."

Gideon kneels down next to the man and takes off his belt sash. He gingerly attempts to put out an isolated spot of fire, ready to discard the sash if it catches fire as well.

Morgan dashes over to one of the various courtiers who has a cloak, and says with just enough of a command to his voice to indicate that saying no would be bad,"Your cloak!" The courtier blinks and speechlessly then handed Morgan his cloak.

With the cloak in hand Morgan runs back over to where Gideon was kneeling. As he attempted to put the flames out, he said to Gideon, "I have some healing magics but never seen anything like this before. Is he a Chaosite?"

"That's probably a good guess." Gideon answers, allowing Morgan to replace his efforts with the larger cloak. "He knew Random though, perhaps he's not an unknown to our esteemed elders."

Lucas speaks, eyes still on the hall beyond the door "I've never run into to anything from Chaos personally, but the shifting form would certainly seem to indicate something of the sort. Perhaps Gwyll should take a look at him."

Gwyll's eyes examine the stranger with curiosity. "I'm afraid that my knowledge of Chaos and the shape shifters is purely theoretical and incomplete at best. But it seems strange that someone from the Courts of Chaos would come here to warn King Random of something going wrong with the Fount of Power. It should be expected he would have gone to inform the Chaos Lords and Merlin. We should take him to a room to take care of whatever is affecting him."

Saffron pads towards the knot of men, absently holding out her notebook to Skye as she passes the other woman. They seem to have the process of putting out the fire under control; she's instead looking to see if she can determine what caused it in the first place.

Skye accepts Saffron's notebook wordlessly and tucks it into the belt of her jacket. She stays only a few steps from the sorceress. Just in case.

As they are closer, the younger family members reach the man first, with Gideon and Morgan trying in vain to stop the flames - they burn on, fighting the efforts, though both manage to diminish them.

Saffron reaches their side at the same time as Fiona, who nods to her. "This is well within your abilities, dear. I will support you if needed."

With that encouragement, her senses reach out towards the flames. As her mind approaches, she gets a sense of something from the flames and stops. An unspoken word between them, and Fiona steps forward. Those watching see something very like the Pattern appear, almost as if wrapping around the fire. The fire dies, but grudgingly, fighting every step of the way. By the time it's finally gone, Fiona's face is white with concentration and dripping with sweat.

She stands, a little unsteadily, shakes her head to clear it, and sighs. "Yes, children, he is Chaosian. Until such time as the current king acquires an heir, he is Heir Apparent, though he and his brother don't seem to get along well."

She looks to Random, who continues. "He lives for the most part, in Chaos. But he occasionally has business on our end of things. This is ill news. Sister Fiona, you seem troubled."

Fiona nods gravely. "Mostly tired. Holding Pattern to mind is very draining. Still, it was needed - that fire would not have ended by itself, it was a thing of sorcery." The way she says the word makes it plain that she's not talking ordinary magick here.

Random nods, then gestures. Within moments, the Hall is clear of all save family. Gerard comes down to pick up the Chaosian and carry him closer. Once everyone is within a few feet of Random, he touches Vialle's hand, and she speaks.

"We learned of the 'Fount of Power' when Merlin was making so much noise a few years back. It seems to be how Brand got his power - and possibly his madness."

Random grimaces. "I'll have to send someone to investigate. In the meantime, everyone be careful. I misdoubt that he was coming to Amber solely for the company. I wouldn't worry about his wounds. As long as he's not dead, the removal of the flames will finally let him heal. He should recover soon enough."

Gerard picks him up and starts to carry him away. Random nods a dismissal to the rest of you, and leans back in his throne, his face, already weary, wearing down further.

Julian immediately heads out, obviously to Arden. As he passes Skye, he shakes his head.
"No. You may be needed."

Skye isn't sure how she feels about that, though only Saffron and Julian would know her well enough to tell. She nods stiffly instead of voicing a protest. "Yes, sir."

Only Skye can see it, but there's a momentary flicker of his eyes towards Saffron as he says it, and the hint of a smile about his lips.

Her right eyebrow twitches in surprise. Skye is slightly horrified that he knows. While they have made no secret that she spends her off time at Saffron's, they hadn't advertised their relationship either for a variety of reasons - it isn't like they walk around Amber holding hands or making out in the park. For some reason, it bothers her more that Julian knows then it would if Random had said something. But even though she is sure no one was paying them any mind at the moment, Skye merely gives the vaguest of nods to her favorite relative that she isn't sleeping with.


TOCScattering to the Winds

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