Rabbit Holes

Now that they have light and the passageway is somewhat familiar, the pair move quicker as they make their way back to the place where the multiple trapdoors lay in wait. “Maybe these will be just boring old passages,” Skye opines. “Then we can get this over with and move on to other things.”

"That would be nice," Saffron agrees. "I would even settle for non-boring passages, as long as they don't have more Pattern drawings and magic mirrors."

Aside from the drawing on the wall they have to pass, the pair see no other representations of Pattern. There are drawings on some of the walls, but they appear to be little more than graffiti. They can see a stylized flame, what looks like a sword, and an apparently unadorned ring drawn on the walls. Each is actually set above, and just a bit to the side of, a trap door.

Saffron eyes the drawings. "I wonder who's responsible for these?"

Stopping briefly to study them, Skye points from one to the other. "If we are talking about people, I think the flaming sword is Brand because it fits his name. I am going to guess that the ring is Bleys - based only on the fact that he wears so many. But if they are supposed to be indicators of where they go, we'll just have to look for ourselves. Which would you like to start with?"

"The fire, of course," Saffron answers with a bright smile. "As if you didn't know."

'There was always the possibility you would save that for last," Skye protests. She wrinkles her nose at the sorceress then kneels down to open the door. Then she pauses. "On the off chance that this is something to do with Brand, would like to have a look and see if either of these are booby trapped in some magic way?"

"Of course," Saffron replies, and does as requested. "No booby traps that I can see," Saffron remarks after a moment. "And the graffiti doesn't mean anything either."

“Excellent.” Skye opens the door and holds her lamp down to see what’s below before climbing down.

The trap door leads to yet another hidden alcove, almost identical to the one they entered from. She can't see any light coming from outside, not with her lantern, so it's impossible to tell if there's a peephole there, but it's probable.

Setting her lantern down on the edge, Skye swings down onto the ladder and lowers herself into the darkness. She gives her eyes a moment to adjust before searching for a change in light levels on the wall that signifies a peephole.

Saffron moves the lantern back away from the edge of the trap door. "See anything?" she asks, leaning down.

There is a peephole, as expected. It shows nothing, however, except the back of something. Possibly another mirror, possibly a painting. It's small enough to let some light in from the sides, but big enough that it's not easy to tell what it is.

Grumbling, Skye climbs back up the ladder enough to retrieve her lantern. "Something is hanging over the peephole. We shall have to open it to see what's on the other side." With that she heads back down to look for the panel release.

Saffron sighs. "It had better not be another magic mirror," she answers as she starts down the ladder after her girlfriend. "Here, I'll hold that for you if you give me a moment."

"Could be a magic painting," Skye jokes from the bottom of the ladder. "Which Random already knows about."

"If the paintings start talking, we're moving to Scythia," Saffron says, not entirely joking. "I might even let you wedge me into some proper Scythian armor, as long as you promise not to chase me around the practice grounds again."

Skye looks up from her examination incredulously. "Not chase you while you're dressed in tight leather? The day that ceases to occur is the day one of us has fallen into a coma."

"I didn't say you couldn't chase me," Saffron objects mildly. "Just not around the practice grounds."

Skye leers over the top of the lantern, looking both sexy and sinister somehow. "But that is where all the interesting equipment is."

"As if you need equipment," Saffron smirks. "Aren't you supposed to be looking for something?"

A sound came through the peephole, of people moving past. Possibly several, possibly only a couple, but loud enough to make Saffron's words a little difficult to follow.

Skye holds up a hand for quiet and leans her ear against the peephole. She doesn't want to open it if people are just on the other side.

Saffron takes the lantern from Skye's hand as quietly as she can manage. Then she leans up against the back wall to wait.

Whoever they are, they pass by quickly enough, and Skye can't hear any further sounds from the hallway.

Whoever they are, they pass by quickly enough, and Skye can't hear any further sounds from the hallway. Skye doesn't say anything as she takes back a lantern to look for the opening mechanism. When she finds it, she slowly and carefully opens the door. She doesn't want whatever is on the other side crashing to the floor. Saffron continues to wait. She figures she'll be told when it's safe to do something again.

The door opens slowly, revealing an empty hallway and - yes - a painting on the other side of the door. It's a painting of a tall blonde woman dressed in gold and green. No one Skye knows, but with all the paintings, that's not surprising. The painting is small enough that it doesn't hang up on the door jambs, instead hanging easily even as the door swings open.

Stepping through into the hall, Skye gestures to Saffron. "Do you recognize where we are?" she asks

Saffron follows and obediently looks around to see what there is to see. "I wonder who that's supposed to be," she says as she glances at the painting.

The two quickly realise that they're in the second hallway of the floor, one neither has been in, as there's been no need. Their own chambers are above, and their parents' chambers aren't in this hall.

Skye notices, as they slide out from behind the door, a slip of paper tucked into the back of the painting. It's well enough situated that only the movement of the door reveals it.

"And what have we here?" Skye murmurs. She carefully lifts the edge of the frame and takes out the paper to see what it has to say.

"Don't know," Saffron answers, glancing at her. "I think we're by the rooms of your favorite person…"

"If I pick the lock, do you think you could set them on fire?" Skye mutters darkly.

"We might catch Uncle Gerard's rooms on fire," Saffron answers. "Or someone else's we like." She glances up. "Or technically, we might catch our own on fire…"

"Nah. Consider that fire in the study earlier. It just burned the nearby flammables." She looks up from the paper consideringly. "Of course, I would be their first suspect."

The paper, unwrapped, reveals a small plaque that looks as if it might once have belonged on the frame of the portrait. It reads simply 'Maryam, beloved daughter of Amber'. There is also some writing on the paper. It is less flattering, reading 'and temporary beloved of most of Amber, Finndo included'.

The writing on the paper is legible, but clearly not that of one well schooled in letters. Most likely a servant or some such. There's no clue why the plaque is so hidden, nor why the hateful words on the paper were written.

“The painting is Maryam,” Skye says, looking down at the paper. She can’t decide whether to be amused or offended on behalf of said woman. “Beloved daughter of Amber. Apparently close to Finndo.”

"Hmm. Well, that's a little before our time…" Saffron answers. "And one more thing to add to the list of things to do, I think. If we're going to be finding random family members we didn't know about, we'd better hit the library and see what we can find."

Wrinkling her nose, Skye steps around to the front of the painting to get a better look at the woman. “How about you go to the library, and I’ll go talk to the shifter? It will cut our list of things to do before escaping.”

Saffron sniffs, mock-offended. "Oh, fine. Destroy my hopes of digging into forgotten archives and sneaking in a good make-out in the stacks if you must."

Skye smirks good naturedly and continues studying the painting.

The woman, on closer inspection, shows a family resemblance, most closely to Benedict, sharing much of his features, though softened and feminine. There are elements that remind Skye of Oberon, though, and others that most likely come from her mother.

It takes a moment to notice, because it's de-emphasized in the painting, but Skye is able to pick out a weapon in the background. Likely hers, it's a tall, leaf-bladed spear. The colours are muted - probably intentional to keep it in background, so it's impossible to tell much more.

“Another warrior maid,” Skye says. She points out the spear in the background to Saffron. “And she looks remarkably like Benedict, does she not?” She hands Saffron the paper she found behind the painting. “Daughter or niece, do you think?”

"She does," Saffron agrees, moving to inspect the painting as well. "Why daughter or niece? What about sister? I mean, it's no secret Grandpa got around a bunch, and nobody seems to like talking about his brothers…"

Skye wrinkles her nose. “Perhaps because I don’t care to think about Finndo being a little too fond of his sister. That’s Corwin’s shtick.”

The sorceress rolls her eyes and shudders theatrically. "Please. I know, remember? I'm just saying it's possible she's an aunt, and that the 'beloved' part is just platonic."

She leans over to look at the paper in Saffron's hand. "I dunno. Looks sarcastic to me. If she was beloved by everyone, why's her name plate stuck behind the picture so no one can identify her? Maybe you can look at the family tree while you're in the library." Skye pulls the door open and sticks the name plate in her pocket. "Come on. We have another rabbit hole to explore."

"I didn't mean she was beloved by everyone. It does clearly say Finndo," Saffron answers, following. "Maybe she was his favorite sister, only not in that way. And there's just no way to know why that was behind the frame. Maybe someone did it as a prank. A petty, childish prank - which probably means it was one of the uncles - but it could be a prank."

Skye's sharp ears pick up the sound of people moving down the halls nearby. There's no guarantee that they're headed towards the two, but there's no guarantee they won't, either.

Giving Saffron a gentle shove to the center of her back, she moves the sorceress into the dark and slides silently back herself. She pulls the door gently closed behind them. "Up," she whispers with a gesture towards the ladder.

With a nod, Saffron heads back up the ladder.

And that easily, the two are back in the crawlspace / secret passage, with another section yet to explore.

Getting to the final ladder is easy enough, but Skye quickly finds that the secret door is either no longer working, or has been sealed, and refuses to open, though the peephole still exists, and is actually letting in light.

Oddly, the light seems brighter than it should, and has an odd cast of colour

"Skye?" Saffron asks as the door doesn't open. "What now?"

"Not a lot we can do about it," Skye shrugs, but she looks irked at the as she runs her fingers again over the door edges. She finally leans in and tries to get an idea of where they are from the view in the peephole.

The peephole reveals an outdoor scene - something that clearly should not, cannot be, given their position. The sun is a brilliant sapphire blue, pale compared to Amber's own, and the sun shines down whiter. What Skye can see immediately is a copse of trees, tall and broad, most with leaves that Skye herself could not span with her arms outstretched.

The branches of the trees are broad enough to hold houses - which Skye knows by seeing one, or a portion thereof, near the limit of the peephole's vision.

The Ranger leans back, gaping at the wall. She rubs her eyes and leans back to look at it again. "Mother of all," she breathes. Skye steps back to make room for Saffron. "Look at this."

The dark-haired sorceress obediently moves up to look out the hole, but she can't resist slipping an arm around her girlfriend as she does. "What - " she starts, stopping as she focuses on the scene outside. "Oh my. No wonder it won't open…"

Saffron steps back and frowns thoughtfully at the door. "I think," she offered, "that if we sawed open the door right now, it wouldn't go there. But if we open it right… There are markings here, and here, and over there," she roughly points out the sigils, "that show up to magesight. They're not glowing, and the door is closed. But it seems reasonable that if we activated them, made them glow, the door might open… It's just a guess, though."

Speculating silently a moment, Skye looks through the peephole again before sighing. “On the one hand, I would really like to open it and go through. But it also represents a possible vulnerability in Amber’s defenses. Since passages like this don’t normally come into being after a place is built, this doorway is old. It’s probably something Dworkin or Oberon did. Maybe one of the early wives even.” She bites her lower lip thoughtfully. “What are the chances you could seal it again after you opened it?”

"I have no idea," Saffron answers. "I'm not even sure I can open it; I haven't the foggiest idea whether it can close again afterwards. It may not even be a proper door; it's vaguely Trump-like, though it's not a Trump, so it could just teleport us somewhere."

Skye eyes the portal again warily. "Real-ly. If your mother wasn't currently under the tender mercies of people who think she should just sleep it off, I would be all for further exploration into this. But since she is, I think we should leave it for now, and come back to it later."

Saffron nods in agreement. "Let's go."

Skye gives it a last look, then they ascend the ladder and make their way back to the original opening they came through. She checks to make sure no one's out in the hall as best she can before she clicks the mechanism to open the door. "Let's leave the lanterns here," she says lowly to Saffron as she sets her own against the wall and out of the way. "They'll be here next time we come in. Maybe."

The hallway is quite clear as they exit, and Skye is easily able to close the door leaving little trace of their passage - though if they still intend to take the mirror, the peephole will be visible.

Eying the visible giveaway, Skye wrinkles her nose. "We have to hang something here." She looks around the hall for another small thing that she can move. Not finding what she's looking for - at least, none that wouldn't be noticed as missing, she ducks into nearby sitting rooms. Another mirror will be excellent, but a painting will work, and there's a painting in a nearby sitting room that might work. The room isn't one of the larger ones, so it doesn't get used all that much, and there's a painting behind a plant that might not be missed immediately, so she settles for that.

It doesn't cover perfectly, but at least it covers the peephole.

Skye steps back from hanging the painting to make certain it's straight. She makes a small adjustment before giving Saffron a smile. "Right, so what's the plan? I'm off to talk to the burning man, and you're for the Library?"

Saffron nods, returning the smile. "Come meet me in the library - and would you please check on Mom on your way? I would, but I'm likely to shout at people again…"

“Probably for the best,” Skye laughs lowly. She pulls Saffron into an embrace and kisses her deeply – but not nearly long enough. She pulls back and smiles. “Don’t get lost.”

Saffron returns her smile with a slightly breathless one of her own. "I wasn't planning on it, sweetheart. You don't either."

“If you finish before me, I’ll probably be in the infirmary,” Skye smiles. She kisses Saffron on the forehead, gives her bum a squeeze, and then saunters off towards the study they left Deirdre in.

"You remember I'm going to the library, right?" Saffron calls after her with a laugh. Then she, too, sets off.

The trip is, of course, fairly short, and the guards in front let Skye in without comment. Gerard is sitting in a large chair near the head of the couch, and Deirdre is laying on a number of pillows, eyes open with a book on a stand nearby. Even as Skye watches, she nods slightly, and Gerard turns a page for her.

He looks up at Skye and nods.

"Hello, Skye. Come to check up on my care? She's awake, as you can see. Her bones will take time to knit, and she shouldn't be moved due to internal injuries, but with some time, she'll be fine."

Skye gives him a bland look. “No. I came to see if there had been any change. Which there obviously has.” She gives the woman on the couch a smile.

“Hello, Aunt Deirdre. “

Deirdre looks up at her, pain clear on her face, though not in her voice. "Skye. So you're my daughter's leman. Gerard has mentioned you."

She gives Gerard a brief look of faint annoyance. It wasn't his place to tell Deirdre that. Skye also felt that word wasn't quite correct, as obviously neither of them were male.

"Yes. I suppose that word will suffice," she replies. "Though I prefer prietenă. I leave you to your rest now. I'll let Saffron know you're awake." She smiles at the elder warrior woman. "It's good to have you back."

Deirdre smiles and shakes her head ever so slightly. "Your father would likely disagree with that, as the word doesn't demand any one sex, but leave that. Come, sit. I'd like to talk. I wish to know my daughter through the eyes of another who loves her."

It seems that the family love of gossip resides even within Saffron's mother, as does a penchant for correcting what they see to be wrong. However, the tone of her words is kind and pleasant - once one makes allowance for the pain she must be feeling.

Skye and Saffron had never made their relationship public or seriously confirmed a thing, and they have had more then one public conversation in which they sized this man or that up. Because they have an agreement should they ever find one that both of them can agree on. Of course, Skye always tends to compare them to Eric and finds most males lacking. Saffron usually goes along with that, knowing Skye's rather high standards. But Deirdre doesn't need to know that, she supposes.

She debates Deirdre's request for a moment before pulling up a chair and sitting beside the prone woman. "What would you like to know?" she asks. "Saffron's attending the University - where she is rather brilliant. She's always stealing my t-shirts, has an impatient streak, and a fiery temper," Skye smiles. "Which suits her. But she's also very nurturing. She's always getting on to me for working myself to exhaustion right before I get leave because I know I can rest at her house. Then she fusses over me." She leans forward and lowers her voice. "Don't tell her; but that's one of the reasons I do it. She likes to fuss, and I kind of enjoy being fussed over once in awhile. Then when she gets all frazzled about school, I can return the favor. Although getting her to take a serious break usually involves getting her out of town and away from her books."

Skye sits back, lacing her fingers together in her lap, her elbows on the arms of the chair. "She's a good woman, and I feel I am fortunate to have her in my life. For all her fire, she's the one who has done the most in healing me since the death of my father."

Deirdre smiles. "She sounds a lot like her father. Except for the temper - I fear that came from me. Actually, I think that's a legacy of Dad. You needn't fear my reaction, niece. I'm not dad, and care a lot more about her happiness than any social niceties. I suspect, from things he said to me while on the throne, that your father would have felt the same way - though, of course, I can't prove it. He was more - enlightened - than dad, but that wouldn't be difficult."

Skye snorts softly while nodding her agreement to Deidre's last statement.

She gives a very small shrug - obviously as much as she can without pain. "I tell you this because I think you two should acknowledge it. To Random, at least. And there's a shock for me. Little Random as king. I suppose, of the boys, he's one of three I'd have chosen, so it's not that surprising, but still."

"You are not the only one," Skye smiles. "Those of us stuck back here were all a little surprised when we found out."

Deidre gives her head a slight shake. "Tell him. He's not dad, and isn't likely to order you to marry someone for state purposes, but if I'm wrong and you don't tell him, it could get ugly."

Skye sighs. "She and I will discuss it."

Deirdre lowers her voice then. "I know what Gerard thinks of him. What are your thoughts?"

Pursing her lips thoughtfully, Skye takes a moment to compose her thoughts. Random had firmly been in Corwin's corner, and everyone knew how she felt about Corwin. She leans forward again, her elbows resting on her knees. "All I really knew of him before was from stories - second and third hand at that. I am uncertain if it is the Crown or Vialle that has had the greatest impact on him. But he seems to be doing a good job as Ruler." She smiles. "As well as a man can, at any rate."

Deirdre smiles. "Well, good luck getting most of the boys to acknowledge that a woman can do as well as they. Even Eric dismissed us all. Only Ben and Gerard tend to see us for what we are. Of course, neither of them can be realistically threatened by anyone, so they can afford a little more openness."

“Father was not so dismissive of my mother,” Skye smirks. “But she can be quite frightening, especially to a naked man.”

Deirdre gives a small shrug. "I never knew her, but that's more or less true of any woman, though some need to get truly angry first. But please note my wording, dear. Even Eric. He was a decent king, and not a bad man, but despite both, he held the same attitudes that dad did. Maybe he changed after meeting your mother, I don't know. Like I said, only Benedict and Gerard tend to treat us as anything other than frail children. I won't even go into Corwin's attitudes. Fi is a bitch, but given her treatment by most of the men in the family, it's understandable. Especially when you consider that she's dramatically more intelligent than anyone except maybe Dworkin and Brand."

There seems to be some bitterness there, though clearly a lot of respect for Benedict.

Who can blame her? She’s just as capable as the boys – more so in some cases. Skye tilts her head in a curious gesture. “Do they? Julian doesn’t seem to think I am less capable then a man. Of course, it has never come down to a choice between me and, say, Gideon.”

Deirdre gives a tired chuckle. "Well, it's been how long for you, dear? You and Saffron rescued me from wherever I was only a few hours after Brand took me into the Abyss with him. Maybe in the intervening time, they've learned a little. Or maybe they see you differently because you didn't grow up with them. I am glad for you, though, and for Saffron."

She swallows some water, and looks back. "So, what's going on with the two of you, anyway? You're all dusty. Been crawling around the attics?"

Skye gives her a mischievous smile. “As much as I adore your daughter, she can be a bit haphazard about where she drops things. I had to crawl under the bed to get her shoes.”

She and Saffron will likely tell Deirdre everything at a later date. But being annoyed at Gerard, she doesn’t feel like spilling the beans to him just yet.

Deirdre gives Skye a penetrating glance, but doesn't say anything, merely glancing over at Gerard. She lowers her voice a bit.

"Oh, before I forget. Random mentioned something off-hand that I think you should know. Gerard asked him how he got here so quick. Apparently, when you two were trying to reach me, someone was eavesdropping. He didn't say who."

A sooty eyebrow arches. “On the call or the room?” Skye asks darkly.

She shakes her head. "That, I don't know. Around here, it could be either. A lot depends on how far away he was, and how quickly they got to him."

She shakes her head. "That, I don't know. Around here, it could be either. A lot depends on how far away he was, and how quickly they got to him."

"He was in his office with Gerard," Skye supplies with a dark tone still in her voice. "Thank you for telling me."

She settles back down into the cushions. "Thanks for talking. I do have a request of you, when you can manage it, but it's purely a request, don't hesitate to say 'no'. Even with our recuperative power, I'm going to be laid up for a while. Once I'm walking again, I can get to a fast time shadow, but still." She waves her hand lightly. "Anyway, next time you're walking in Shadow, could you retrieve my battleaxe for me? I'd ask Saffron, but even though she's my blood, she's not a warrior. It wouldn't come as readily to her."

"Of course," Skye replies with surprise. "I'm honored you would ask it of me." She smiles and rises from her chair. "I will leave you to your rest now. I probably need to go rescue your daughter from the clutches of the Library, else she will be in there until food calls."

With another smile and a nod to Gerard, Skye heads off to the Infirmary to see if the shifter is still there.

As with Deirdre's room, the infirmary has guards outside it, but they merely nod to Skye and open the door, announcing her to the person within.

He looks up at her - already, most of the burns are gone and he seems to be in good health - from where he's lounging on a couch in a dressing gown that almost has to be one of Corwin's.

He nods a greeting. "Good day, lady. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"

Unburnt, he's nearly a match for Merlin, from the few times she's seen her cousin, though this one lacks an ear.

She smiles politely at what is clearly another son of Corwin now that he isn’t on fire. The man breeds like a damned rabbit

“I am Skye. I was hoping you were possibly up to answering a few question I have. They are for my personal … education. “

He leans back in his chair, reaches over to the table and picks up a goblet of some drink, taking a sip. "I am usually willing to assist the education of others. Sit. Have some wine, and we can discuss your needs."

"Thank you," she replies and moves a chair so she can sit across from him. No need for him to sit up after all. Though she's tempted to make him do so. But she has to balance out the son of her hated uncle part with the need information part.

"Let me get right to the point so you can go back to recovering in peace," says Skye matter of factly. "In my home Shadow, I have a limited ability with shape shifting. I have been unable to do so in Amber. A problem you do not seem to have. I am wondering if there is something I am missing. Something that needs to be done differently here."

He shrugs. "Without knowing your home Shadow, I couldn't tell you. If I had to guess, I'd say your shifting is magical - a spell that you learned very young, perhaps, or just a function of the Shadow itself. If you've been able to shift in other Shadows, it's likely due to magic."

"The kind of shifting I do is inborn, but needs to be heavily trained, as well. And it starts out slow - unless your family tosses you into Chaos. That speeds up the process."

She frowns. "I don't know any magic. My horse is from the same place and she still has her ability for shifting."

He gives another shrug. "It may not be something you recognise as magic. As a child, you may have learned a rhyme, or a dance that you internalised. As for why it doesn't work here when your horse can still do it - it may be that it's innate for your horse, it may simply be that I've seen animals with magic still work their magic here when humans have a difficult time. You know, for instance, that magic is difficult in Amber. It was probably one of the first things you were told when you came here."

He sips his wine and shakes his head. "Your horse never got that memo. Not that I'm saying it's just a question of belief - it isn't. Magic is difficult in Amber. But most humans, when they encounter a difficulty like that, especially when they're primed like you would have been, give up. Animals don't. They know that they can do something, so they do it - unless the difficulty is so great that it would kill them. You may find, if you look closely, that your horse is more tired after changing in Amber than he would be otherwise."

He smiles. "All of which is a long winded way of saying 'don't just take their word for it'. If you have the ability elsewhere, then you should have it here - but the effort required might be more than you're willing to pay."

“Since I never thought of the ability or myself as magic, I don’t see how being told magic was difficult here would have had any effect on how I viewed the ability,” I respond patiently. Useless ponce. “I’ve meditated, I’ve visualized, I’ve tried forcing it, I’ve researched what little I could find on the topic. “ She blows out an annoyed breath and scowls at the wall and mutters; “Altai, liber de la mine aceste obligaţiuni”

She throws up her hands. “I am at a loss as to what to do next. I suppose I should go back to my home Shadow and see if they can shed light on this.”

"Seriously," he looks at her directly. "Just because you don't view it as magic doesn't mean it's not. But let's say for a moment that you're right. Have you been able to shift since assaying that big glowy thing in the basement? Have you tried it in other Shadows? If you can only Shift there, then it would mean that it's a function of that Shadow. As for your horse, maybe he's not from that Shadow initially."

"She is from there. She is from a long line of Royal battle stallions," Skye informs him. "And I haven't been able to shift since I got here - even before the Pattern walk - and so far as I've experienced it's only here."

He shrugs, spreading his arms wide. "There are a lot of reasons why it might not work. But if you like, I can teach you the children's games we play in the Courts that guide us towards Shifting."

She smiles crookedly. "I am ready to try pretty much anything at this point."

He nods. "Well the course, depending on your aptitude, can last up to several months. But I can teach you the first exercise now. It's not difficult, mostly focusing imagination. But it'll tell me if you have the talent required, and whether or not it's worth continuing."

With her consent, he leads her into a kind of guided meditation, but different from any she'd previously known, he focuses her attention on concrete feelings of cold, of pain, and so on.

Skye goes through the exercise easily enough, though she doesn't see what this has to do with shifting into her other form. Being able to isolate and identify physical differences in her body to search for injuries or weaknesses was something all Scythians were taught before they ever picked up a weapon. When they're done, she opens her eyes and looks expectantly at him.

He nods. "You have potential. More, I'd say you'll be able to progress rapidly. Do you want to be able to shift freely? It will take some time, but I think you can attain that level if you want. I still can't say why you couldn't shift before now, but maybe the exercises broke a barrier within you. You should be able to manage that alternate form of yours right now, if you like, though I'd be cautious at first - don't stay outside your natural form for too long."

"I will give some thought to attaining a higher level of shifting than the alternate I can do now. It strikes me as something i will need to devote a bit of time to and I am not sure how much of that I have free." She frowns at the limitation. "How long is too long?

He smiles - it's not a pleasant expression, though he's clearly not trying to be vicious.

"It varies from person to person. A good rule of thumb, though - if you start to feel yourself thinking more like what you're shifted as, and less like yourself, you're pushing it. I think, for most people, it's around a day or two, but some can go longer. My little brother can manage almost a week, even though he has no ambition. Merlin, on the other hand, couldn't hold it together for more than twelve hours at first."

“Oh,” she smiles. “I feared you were talking about minutes or a handful of hours.”

"If I may ask," he gives a diffident shrug, "what is your alternate form? No need to tell me - I doubt you trust me much. Few in Amber do. Whether it's because, or in spite of, Merlin, I don't know."

“I have never met Merlin,” Skye replies with a shrug of her own. She shakes a finger at him. “You, I do not know. You haven’t even told me your name.”

He blinks in confusion. "Oh. And here I thought everyone knew me. It seems I underestimated King Random. I am Jurt. Merlin's my half-brother."

“I’ve had a busy time,” Skye says wryly. “He may have mentioned it and I missed it. But his day has been busy too, so it may have slipped his mind.” She pauses a beat. “Well met, Jurt. If you do not mind my saying so, the distrust likely steams more from what I understand were your mother’s parting words from the Pattern and less to do with your half brother. I had mistaken you for another of Corwin’s spawn; which is incorrect if I remember my gossip correctly.”

He smiles and shrugs. "I've heard it before. It stopped bothering me some time ago, once we verified the genetics. I am no more Corwin's get than you are. I am even - somewhat - reconciled with my half-brother, though we still prefer not to spend too much time together, hence my appointment to Amber. As for my mother - she has repented, mostly, of those words. And for the rest, I think Merlin can keep her in line."

She smirks briefly at that. "Are you here as an Ambassador?" Skye tilts her head curiously. "Why were you on fire?"

"Yes, as I mentioned, Ambassador to Amber. Given that Trumps are difficult to work with across the divide, it was seen as better to have someone here that is at least nominally trusted."

She nods. “Ah.” Skye looks down at her watch and sighs. “I should be going. I have to rescue Saffron from the Library. She’ll be in there for days if left to her own devices.” She stands and offers her hand to shake. “Thank you for your help. I shall let you know how it goes.”

He holds up his good hand and shakes. "I think I should like to meet this Saffron. I don't know anything about her, but just what I hear has me intrigued."

"I will pass that along," Skye smiles. Watch it, mister. Don't make me claw your eyes out. "Enjoy a speedy recovery, Ambassador."

With that the young Ranger exits the Infirmary and starts towards the Library. Then stops out in the hall. She gives the passageway a suspicious look while pulling Saffron's Trump from the front of her deck. She's had enough supernatural excitement for the week, and could do with missing out on an apparition or three. She focuses on the dark and fiery impassioned woman's image on the card.


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