Her Serene Majesty

After collecting her things and saying farewell to the Twins, Carmen meandered her way upstairs in search of Her Serene Majesty. Frankly, she was still puzzled as to why Random thought she was good choice for tracking down Conner. He had no reason at all to talk to her, much less trust her. Still, she was willing to give it a shot. But if it came to an actual fight, well, Carmen was more likely to leave him to his idiocy.

Once she had arrived at the Royal Wing, she flagged down a Page to see if they could point her to Vialle's location. She didn't fancy spending an hour knocking on doors.

The servant was very young and looked terrified at having to direct a member of the royal household to the King and Queen's quarters, and as soon as they had pointed out the room they fled back to the safety of the servants quarters.

The King and Queens chambers were the largest suite in the castle, with at least four rooms and possibly the best view across Amber. The double doors stood at the entrance to the chamber and were large ironbound and made of iron-oak. The doors were flanked by two of Random's royal guard dressed in full chainmail and royal guard livery, and both carried bright steel swords– in contrast to the serving wench that has showed Carmen the location, these men did not look intimidated at all by a visit from a family member.

That was hardly surprising. Afterall, they dealt with the Crown everyday. One of the Crown's bastard nieces was hardly cause for them to remove the sticks. Not that she didn't have a healthy respect for the military. They made it possible for her to do what she did - which was high tail it when trouble started.

"M'Lady." The guard on the left offered, nodding his head politely. "I believe you are to go straight in. You are expected." The phrase was delivered with little emotion, merely efficiency. The guard on the other side of the door moved to open the right hand of the two double doors to admit Carmen to the Royal Quarters.

Carmen's eyebrow curled in surprise at that statement. Their Majesties were good - or Random had planned ahead; something no one ever gave him credit for, it seems. "Thank you," she replied smoothly. Carmen gave them a nod of her own and entered the Royal Suite to look for Vialle.

"Carmen?" a light airy voice echoed from within the right side chamber. "Is that you?" the voice called.

"Yes, Majesty," Carmen called as she paused. Then she turned towards the voice and stepped that way.

"Do come through my dear." Vialle called, "…though do mind some of the sculptures, they are still a little wet." As Carmen made her way through the outer chamber into the inner, she passed many sculptures, most appeared to be life-sized busts on marble-green pedestals. Likenesses of most of the elder generation and many of the younger were represented and indeed, good to her word, some of them remained unfinished and still had moist clay and sculpting tools scattered around them.

She walked slowly through the room, admiring the work of the blind artist. It never ceased to amaze Carmen. She was really going to have to get Remington up here one day.

The room in which Vialle Queen of Amber sat was a light and airy room with a number of comfy cloth sofas in lime green scattered around the chamber. The view from the large bay window was stunning and Vialle was perched elegantly on the window seat looking out across the vista which over looked Amber city and out across the coast. Carmen knew her eyes were sightless, yet she still seemed to be relishing the view!

"Come sit Carmen." Vialle encouraged. The queen was dressed in a dark green satin dress which looked a little like a ball gown. Her hair was blonde and she wore it high, her expressive yet expressionless eyes a deep blue matching Amber's sky. Vialle had delicate features an unfocused gaze which somehow indicated the breadth and depth of her sightless vision.

Vialle patted the seat next to her. "You have questions." she said simply, smiling.

"Don't I always?" Carmen smiled as she sat carefully beside the Queen. She set her satchel beside her and folded her hands in her lap as she turned to Vialle.

"Random wishes me to chase down Conner and bring him back before he does something foolish. I don't know Conner, have no idea where to look, or how to find him. On top of that, he has no reason to trust me since he doesn't know me from Eve — so to speak. Your husband seems to think you have something that might assist in this little quest."

Vialle smiled, as if she was being patient with a small child; the smile however was genuine and neither patronising nor condescending.

"Indeed." Vialle replied. "Connor must come home, and you have more in common with him than you realise, and this may be the way to find him."

Vialle ran her hand along the window sill until her fingers touched an ornate ivory box. The box was black-wood with white ivory filigree and quite exquisite. Deftly and without fumbling Vialle un-sleeved the contents of the box and fanned the cards within. They were a set of family trumps - Carmen had seen sets before, but she could not remember seeing quite such a large collection. Vialle carefully shuffled the Trumps, the faces away from Carmen.

Vialle held the cards in one hand after squaring the deck, she smoothed the fabric of the window seat and began to deal the cards face down.

"Watch." she said quietly. Vialle dealt a hand of trumps - a four card spread. As she finished, she beckoned Carmen to turn over the first card. Vialle ran her finger across the face…

"This is the card that covers you…" she said her head slightly tipped back, her fingers resting slightly on the card. The card was Random's. "Your work is for the crown, yet I sense that you will also be working for yourself."

Carmen nodded; that made sense.

"This is that which hounds you…" she said, turning over a trump of Jack; a slight furrow appeared on Vialles' brow as she ran her finger along the face of the card. "…Jack it seems, gets everywhere." she laughed slightly.

She arched an eyebrow and chuckled fondly. "He does."

"This is the course that lays before you." Vialle continued turning cards. The trump was Connor, a version of Connor without a smile, and with a more serious face. "He is troubled, and descends into moods - much like brand used to, and quite unlike his father." she added.

"…And this is the card that crosses you, the key to your dilemma." Vialle turned over a trump showing Delwin. "Every time I read both yours and Connors cards, Delwin turns up, in one position or another. He is the key."

She frowned at that. "I do not understand, I'm afraid." Oh, she understood why Delwin turned up in hers, but not Conner's. "Do you think I should seek out Delwin to find Conner?"

I cannot tell you for certain Carmen, but I know for sure that Delwin is inexorably tied up in both your fate and Connor's…" there was a slight pause, "…or so the cards read. Remember Carmen, there are no guarantees in the trumps only mystical hints and portents. I would seek out another method of guidance if you feel the need for clarity, but these things often have a habit of contradicting themselves."

For all her talent at making them, Carmen hadn't spent much time trying to do the readings of Trump spreads. She was raised with theater people, so she was plenty open minded about that sort of thing. But she really didn't understand divination, despite Remington's own gift for it.

Vialle cleared the trumps away and sleeved them back into their ornate case; carefully she placed them on the sill by the window.

"When I looked for Connor in the cards, his fortune was both tragic and violent - a shame since he was such a pleasant young man when we first met - since then he has become distant, angry, almost resentful."

Vialle stood, and subconsciously smoothed her dress with her hands. "You would not only be doing a service for the crown, but one for me as well." her sightless eyes held emotion, yet seemed distant. Vialle was nothing if not full of contradictions - she could perhaps 'see' more in any one member of the family than those with eyes.

She stood slowly, shouldering her satchel. "How long have you known him?" she asked curiously. "I honestly have never even spoken to him, and rarely seen him. What could have happened before recent events to make him change so, I wonder?"

Vialle sighed and clasped her hands together.

"Sometimes the power that Amberites receive changes their outlook on life, especially if they don't have a father or mother figure to guide them. Connor's father is of course Corwin, and he has been absent for a long time now."

Carmen didn't frown but she wanted to. Conner was a little old to be playing the petulant abandoned child card.

"It is sometimes a shame to see it happen, but the power one gains over shadow is too much for some. The thirst for knowledge and power can become all consuming as it was with Brand. I know that Connor sought out training and was very keen to receive any training he could find. He would now be an accomplished sorcerer, one could assume."

Vialle carefully and deliberately, with practiced ease moved to stand near one of the pedestals which had a bust of Dworkin on top. She stroked the bald head of the likeness of Dworkin.

Carmen followed the Queen as she moved and spoke. She was very charismatic, soothing even. Though the way she obviously saw with sightless eyes was unnerving if one thought about it too hard. Carmen tried not to. She liked Vialle.

"If Dworkin had been around, he could have taken Connor under his wing - tempered his enthusiasm. his thirst, his lust for power."

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely." she said as if it were an axiom.

"I have heard that said," Carmen agreed while eyeing the bust of Dworkin. Carmen would have given much to study under him herself. Preferably before the madness… the corruption.

She shifted her gaze back to Vialle. "Do you have any idea how I can even find Conner?"

"There are a number of ways he could be tracked, some are quicker than others." Vialle replied, still stroking the bust of Dworkin. "Trump is still an option, though he would most likely not be taking calls, and forcing the issue would probably not be wise. He may have left Amber via a trump or by magical means, but if he going to go further afield he would have to hellride or have a trump pre-prepared. From all accounts, he was no artist." Vialle smiled, a small smile, but moments later it had vanished.

"If he is hell-riding he can be tracked, if he uses sorcery, then it is more difficult. You could start with those that were closest to him, I know Selene and Connor spent a lot of time together and Llewella tutored him for a spell."

Carmen was silent for a moment, pondering her options. "I believe Llewella is probably my best starting point. At least she and I have a relationship." She smiled. "Thank you, Majesty."

Vialle smiled a tight smile at Carmen's use of her official title, she waved the formality away with a hand.

"Oh, never mind the formality. I just hope you can find Connor and dissuade him from any course of action that would be 'unhelpful'." she offered tactfully. "Good journey Carmen." Vialle wished and returned to her seat at the window - the audience with Vialle was clearly over - but at least Carmen could feel as if she had made some, even if only a little progress.

Carmen took her leave of the Queen and thoughtfully made her way back downstairs. She would be surprised if Llewella was still around, but it wouldn't hurt to look before trumping her green-haired Aunt.


TOCIt's A Mystery

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