The Hunt

Skye arches a questioning eyebrow at the other brunette when they close the distance between them. "Ready to do — whatever it is we're going to do?"

"As ready as I'm going to be," Saffron answers with a sigh. "We should probably head back to where we saw the first one yesterday and see what we can see - assuming we don't run into any more on the way."

"I think we should go make out in an alcove; that's sure to bring all the formerly living perverts out," Skye says with feigned somberness. "Or shall we run in the halls again?"

"Please," Saffron laughs. "Have you met our uncles? If they can't participate, they're hardly likely to show up. Not that I don't want to make out with you, sweetie, but let's try something else first."

"That's why they'll be lured to our little hotspot," Skye insists. "It will have been awhile, poor fellows." Her expression remains solemn, but Saffron can see the glint of humor in the pale eyes. "But we will play it your way. First, I would like to change out of this uniform. Dashing though it is, if I can wear jeans and a t-shirt for awhile, I would rather." She pauses and scrunches her face. "Then again, we are looking for trouble; my leathers might be better."

"I don't know which would be better yet; it's hard to predict when we only know three things about them, none of which involve attacking. But I do know that whatever you choose, the view will be stunning." Saffron smiles brilliantly at the Ranger. "Shall we stroll up to your room, or shall we race and see if we can scare up the old man again?"

"Tease," Skye grumbles fondly. "But since we saw the first on the way to my rooms, we may as well head that way."

"Don't we need to if you're going to change?" Saffron asks innocently as they start walking. "I mean, I was paying attention as you got dressed, and I don't remember you cramming two changes of clothing into your pockets…"

"Hush," Skye sniffs. She glances around as they head out of the room and towards her own. "I'd like to go visit our formerly flaming guest," she says lowly. "I've been needing to speak with a shape shifter."

The halls are fairly busy, it lacking only an hour or so before luncheon, but the staff are well used to the royal family, and the two occasion little attention save a few courtesies and slight bows as they pass, appropriate to their station.

"Really?" Saffron asks curiously. "Well, I'm okay with doing that. I have to admit," she lowers her voice too, "I'm not really in a hurry to investigate these ghosts. I keep expecting to see Mom… or a certain uncle…"

Skye watches another page scurry past. "I am thinking this area may be too busy for our visitors…." She turns back to Saffron and leans in closer. "In Scythia, it is not uncommon for warriors to be gifted with the ability to change shape, as you know. I have not been able to do it here. I would like to find out why."

"Probably. I suppose we'll have to search out dark nooks and crannies, then." Saffron smirks. "Alas. Seriously, though… I hadn't thought to ask you about that. I could probably make all sorts of guesses for you, if you'd like, but lacking the ability myself, I would probably end up somewhere between confused and blindingly wrong. It can't hurt to ask, if he's feeling up for visitors."

Skye nods while peering down a side hall, but there is nothing to see. "I've done as much as I can with the resources at my disposal; which are few. It is somewhat frustrating that Equinox has no trouble with her alternate form outside of Scythia, but no luck for the human."

It's a few steps later before Skye notices Saffron is no longer beside her. She stops and turns to look back curiously. Seeing the expression of intense concentration on the other woman's face, she moves silently back near to her and makes sure no one bothers Saffron.

The sorcress' expression changes. Saffron stands there for a moment, looking puzzled. "I'm not entirely sure what that was about," she says uneasily to Skye, "but someone is in a lot of trouble somewhere."

Skye steps up and rubs a hand comfortingly over Saffron's back. "Was it the same as before?

"Not exactly." Saffron frowns at the floor, thinking back to the day before and then looks up. "That was a vague mystery contact. This was definitely a Trump contact. It was a woman, and she was, I think, looking for Corwin… but when I told her who I was, she knew my name. Then the call cut off." She bites her lip and adds slowly, "I don't know who she was, but sweetheart - she was in a lot of pain."

The Ranger gives her a one armed hug. "It shouldn't be that difficult to figure out, sweetheart," she says quietly. "There can't be that many Trump decks floating around. Although I'm surious as to how she got you if she was holding Corwin's card."

Saffron snorts. "Are you kidding? I can name off half a dozen of the uncles that have undoubtedly lost a deck or two, starting with Corwin. We'd have to get our hands on Dworkin to find out for sure how many are missing, and… well…" She shrugs helplessly. "I don't quite know what to do this… can you use your super-secret Ranger skills to find us a quiet spot, maybe?" Saffron gives the other woman a hint of a rallying smile.

"Well," she sniffs. "At least someone appreciates my super-secret Ranger skills." Skye smiles as she starts to steer Saffron onward. "Come on. There's a little used sitting room up ahead. This place is rife with little used sitting rooms. Have you noticed?"

"Only because you drag me off into them at every opportunity," the sorceress answers. "Do you suppose we should just start making a list of weird things and give it to Random at dinner tonight? I can only imagine there will be more…" She sighs.

"Oh, you know me," Skye smiles reassuringly. "I can make lists all day. Bad habit picked up from one of the tutors Father brought to Scythia." She gives Saffron a sidelong look. "And if you would like me to stop dragging you into unused sitting rooms, just say so. The same goes for linen closets."

Saffron rolls her eyes, smiling again. "As if. I was teasing, Skye, that's all." She wraps an arm around Skye and shakes her head. "I'm going to be out of sorts for a while, if you didn't guess. I just…" She frowns again. "There's one name that tops the list of people who have Trumps, might be looking for Corwin, and might be in that much pain, if she isn't dead. I really, *really* don't want to go down that train of thought, because that's getting into 'aren't you dead?' territory…"

"I know," Skye murmurs. She pulls Saffron close to her side as they walk and kisses her temple. "The thought occured to me too. Next time - if there is a next time - maybe grab my hand and we can both push our wills into it. I do not know how much help I can be, be it cannot hurt anything to try."

"If it had lasted longer, I probably would have done it anyway," Saffron admits, leaning into the contact. "It cut off too soon. If I had her card on me, I might be tempted to try calling her and see what happens…"

Skye hesitates a moment before speaking again. If she thought her father was still alive, she would move heaven and earth to get to the bottom of things and find him. She can't begrudge Saffron for wanting to know. "I have my deck."

"The whole thing?" the sorceress asks in surprise. "I didn't see much point in carrying certain cards any more…"

Skye shrugs and pulls her case from her belt. "I never had the heart," she explains as she hands it over. "Taking out those who have crossed over would mean removing Father's."

"It's not like I threw them away," Saffron sniffs, gently teasing as she takes the deck. "Though I must admit, I used Brand's as a bookmark in my least-favorite textbooks for a while." Saffron's least-favorite textbooks are easy to pick out - they tend to be the ones that are singed and bent from frequent flights across the room. "Thank you," she adds, quieter. "Where was that sitting room again? I think I'd like to sit down to do this."

"Up here," Skye smiles. She steers Saffron that way and checks the room before they step
inside.

The room is empty, and bears the signs of having been recently cleaned, so it's unlikely they'll be disturbed for some time. It's the sitting room most favoured by Fiona, decked out in green and blue, and with a picture of Julian on the wall, glowering down from above the fireplace.

Saffron eyes the room for a moment before settling into a seat. "I should call Aunt Fiona too," she observes. "I'll get scolded for it not being a full day again, but she did say to call at random times." She pats the sofa beside her and carefully flips through Skye's cards until she finds Deirdre's. "I think I'd like to try first, and then both of us if it doesn't work…"

Skye looks at the painting and wonders again why it was still in Fiona's favorite sitting room. Not that she spends much time with the woman, but the last she heard she wasn't fond of Skye's favorite uncle at all.

She smiles down at Saffron and sits beside her. "However you wish to proceed."

Saffron smiles and, after a quick glance towards the door, gives the other woman a gentle kiss. "Thank you, sweetheart."

Then she settles in to concentrate on her mother's card while Skye watches for any sign of distress. There is a long moment of silence.

"Mom? It's Saffron," she answers, answering aloud so that Skye would know what was going on. She hurriedly fumbles for the other woman's hand to bring her into the contact, hoping for assistance. Skye is surprised that it actually seems to have worked. In fact she stares at the card for a beat before she wraps her hand with Saffron's.

The contact is rough - a little like sitting on a pitched roof in a driving hurricane, playing chess with one hand and fencing with the other - so Saffron can't be sure of exactly how much actually gets through.

The contact is difficult, like a storm. It's taking all of Saffron's will to maintain the contact, and right now it's only mental - there's no sense of the physical.

Skye, still not fully in the connection, can sense another Trump call being attempted, though whether the caller is trying to reach her or Saffron, she can't tell. Saffron's fingers tighten against Skye's for a moment - in thanks, and in worry, and Skye ignores the incoming and focuses solely on what Saffron needs her to focus on. If it's important, they'll call again.

As Skye helps, the contact firms more, until Saffron can almost picture Deirdre. Her words clearly reach her mother, however, and her answer, though pain-filled, is clear. ~Saff? Long time.~

At that point, the picture clears more, and Saffron and Skye can clearly see Deirdre, body broken and battered as if from a long, long drop. Skye's knowledge of doing damage tells her that it's a wonder Deirdre is alive at all, much less conscious.

Saffron, now that contact has been completed, can tell that there's a vast time differential between where she and Skye sit, and where Deirdre lies.

Skye's hand tightens on Saffron's. "Atargatis' Mercy," the Scythian born breathes. "How do we reach her?"

"I don't know yet…" Saffron answers quietly.

The contact flickers for a moment, then strengthens even more. With an amazing effort, Deirdre's hand lifts, and reaches for Saffron. Their hands touch.

Saffron grabs her hand quickly and, with an apologetic, "Oh, I hope this doesn't hurt as much as it looks like it should," and pulls to bring her across. Skye doesn't release her hold on Saffron, but her free hand and the strength of her body go into assisting bringing through the terribly injured woman. As soon as she can get an arm around Deirdre, she eases her onto the sofa.

Deirdre grips Saffron's hand as well as she's able, and with Skye's help, Saffron brings Deirdre into Amber, and the two quickly get her to the sofa. The catalog of injuries is pretty extensive. It's pretty clear that, were it not for her black and silver armour, she'd be dead. As it is, she's close enough to it. Ribs cracked or broken, bones in both legs broken, collarbone broken. It's a wonder she was able to take Saffron's hand at all, as both arms have multiple breaks.

Still, she's clearly alive, and it doesn't look like she's going to die anytime soon - that famed Amber fortitude. She's unconscious almost as soon as she hits the sofa - or maybe before. It's tough to tell, exactly. In any event, she's not speaking any time soon.

Skye moves back to let Saffron have unhindered access to her mother. Disbelief is very clearly etched in her features. She slips her Trump deck away from where it fell when they struggled to pull Deirdre through. Calling Gerard will be faster then chasing him down.

She moves across the room to focus on her uncle's card. He is Skye's fist choice for doctor on call.

She reaches out with her Trump, and Gerard answers immediately. ~Yes? Oh, Skye. What can I do for you?~

~Medical emergency,~ Skye responds in a rush. ~There's a story here, but it will have to wait. She's in very bad shape. Gerard — it's Deidre.~

Gerard reaches through the Trump and offers his arm. ~Bring me through.~ Skye does quickly, and then steps over to Saffron. She reaches down to pull Saffron to her feet so they give Gerard plenty of room.

Gerard looks down at Deirdre for a brief moment, nods, and kneels next to her, taking a thorough catalog of injuries. "This is the armour she was wearing at Chaos." He points out a dent. "I saw the sword that made that dent. Her armour's impressively made. Probably saved her."

"From the fall too," Skye agrees while Saffron waits anxiously, bottom lip caught between her teeth.. "Do we need to get you anything? Call anyone else? Send a page for a stretcher?"

Gerard shakes his head. "No. She shouldn't be moved more than she already has been. Skye, I'll need you to go tell Random, so meals can be sent here - also, cots - or better yet, actual beds - for Deirdre and Saffron."

"Right," Skye nods firmly. She kisses Saffron quickly on the cheek and squeezes her arm. "I'll be right back." She gives her a reassuring smile. "It will be all right. She is in the most capable hands."

"I know," Saffron answers with a nod. "I just…" She sighs. "At least I can hold things. If' I'm going to be staying… I think I might have left a change of clothes in your room, maybe?"

"Where is Random?" SKye asks Gerard. "I wish no repeat of chasing around we did yesterday."

"If not, you can steal more of my t-shirts," Skye smiles.

"Thank you." Saffron smiles slightly and lays a light hand on Skye's arm. Then she moves away, perching on the edge of a nearby chair.

Gerard looks over. "Random was in his office when I Trumped here. I told him who called, so he's probably expecting you."

Deirdre groans and Gerard's attention goes back to her, as he begins to carefully peel her out of her armour - not caring over much if he has to pull the armour apart to do it.

Saffron rises again and moves quickly over to help - even if all she can actually accomplish is to move bits of armor out of the way.

Skye looks at the scene a moment more, then she turns sharply on the ball of her left foot and strides out of the room. Once in the hall, she breaks into a run for Random's office. If their unknown visitors have a problem with it, she'll gladly run right over them if they don't get out of the way.

She reaches the stairs just as Random is coming up them. He sees her and nods."I know. Lead on."

"She is very badly wounded," Skye says as she falls into step beside Random. "It is a miracle she still lives. Gerard thinks it unwise to move her. He requests two beds be set up in the sitting room, and meals be sent up. Saffron will be staying with her mother."

Random stops a couple of pages and gives them orders as they continue back. Mostly to get the castle staff to bring a couple of trundle beds to the blue room, but he also gives a couple of other orders - food, wine, and a wardrobe or two.

They quickly get back, to find Dierdre loosely wrapped in a blanket, and both Gerard and Saffron sitting by her side.

After closing the door, Skye leaves Random's side for Saffron's. She rests her hands on the sorceress' shoulders and squeezes gently. "Will she be alright?" she asks softly.

Random stands at the door waiting for the pages and shrugs. "She's hurt bad, even I can see that. But Gerard's a pretty good doctor, and she is Corwin's sister. I think she'll manage."

"She's unconscious still," Saffron observes calmly, but Skye can feel her bristling a little, probably taking offense to Random's offhandedness. "That's… good, right?" she finishes, directing the question to Gerard.

Skye isn't real impressed with what appears a flippant attitude either, but she stays silent and supportive for the moment. She is starting to get annoyed.

Random seems completely oblivious to their dislike. Gerard gives Saffron an absent nod. "Random's right. Being Corwin's sister is probably the best thing going for her right now. She's not his match in that - none of us is - but she has more stamina than most of us. I think she'll be fine."

Random looks back inside for a moment and frowns. "It's been so long, but - Gerard, check her boots. How are the soles?"

Gerard looks confused, but pulls her boots up off the floor to take a look. Saffron, still tense, watches this with an equally baffled frown. Skye frowns and looks at Random. "Why? I don't think she's been walking for awhile."

Random shrugs. "Just a hunch, really." As he looks at the boots, he nods and sighs. "One that was just proved out."

He looks to Saffron. "During the battle at Chaos, your mother stepped in some acid. Did a real number on her boots before she stopped it - but there wasn't time to replace them." He holds up the boots - the soles are obviously melted and corroded - and just as obviously, the damage is recent.

"What? Are you saying this isn't Deirdre? Even I could tell there was a huge time differential between us and wherever she was," Skye says evenly.

Saffron glances up at the ranger, still frowning slightly. "No, Skye, I think you have it backwards…" She looks back at Random, waiting to find out which one of them was correct.

Random nods to Saffron. "From what the boots tell me, no more than a few hours have passed for Dierdre - more likely a lot less than that."

"Grand," Saffron mutters under her breath. "History explanations." And then, more normally, "That was a serious time differential, but I wouldn't have guessed quite that much. Should I add that to the list of things to ask Aunt Fiona about when I call to check on her?"

Random shrugs. "If you like. But it doesn't really surprise me. Chaos is - weird. I've seen time work the same, I've seen it race along like a jet engine, and I've seen it crawl. This is the worst I've ever seen, but don't forget - ten years passed in Amber while only a week or two passed in Chaos during the war."

Saffron regards Random for a moment, apparently not quite sure what to make of his response. Then, "Maybe I should ask my question a different way. Do you want me to discuss the time ratio with Aunt Fiona? I know it's not out of the ordinary for there to be extreme timeline differences, but we *did* apparently just pull my mother out of the Abyss, and who knows what - " she pauses significantly, " - or who else might be retrievable out there."

Random gives Saffron a hard smile. "There's a bit of a difference there. Your mother was, to all appearances, hurt by a fall. She wasn't mortally wounded before the fall. I very much doubt we need to worry about anyone else. Still, it's entirely up to you. What you tell Fi or don't is not my concern, unless it touches on oaths you or I have given."

Skye's expression gives absolutely nothing of what she's thinking away. But she is remembering quite vividly why she prefers the company of hawks and trees to most everyone entitled to carry the last name of Bariman. Her eyes shift to Gerard. She had noted that he had not requested any medical supplies when she asked.

"Will her bones magially knit themselves," Skye inquires without a trace of sarcasm, displaying nothing but curiosity. Even though she doesn't happen to think the woman is being cared for properly at all. She likes Gerard, but sometimes…. "— or shall I have someone fetch some things for you to set them? Perhaps something for her pain? I have not seen one of us treated for broken bones. Is it different?"

Saffron, on the other hand, is frowning at both of the men in the room. She isn't entirely thrilled with the conversation in general, and with some of the answers provided in particular, but she is willing to cede the floor to Skye for the moment. She even manages to not cross her arms.

Gerard looks up at Skye and shakes his head. "No need. She's banged up, yes, and she'll be a while recovering, but she'll be fine. As for her bones, unless they're compound fractures, our bones don't really need setting. Hers, less than anyone save Corwin or Eric."

Skye has to fight the sneer that threatens at the continued mentioning of Corwin that borders on hero worship. Was it so difficult to say 'the children of Faeilla' instead of rattling off the names of her dead father and the selfish bastard that outlived him?

He pulls a small bottle from his pocket and shows it to both ladies. "This is painkiller. Amber having been what it was, habit made me wait to administer it until I could be sure you were aware of it. Once she's had that, she'll sleep for a while. I doubt she'll be bedridden for more than a month, though."

The Ranger scoffs. "Honestly, Gerard. You of all people should know neither of us would have thought you were attempting something untoward. We wouldn't have called you if we didn't trust you with the safety and care of Saffron's mother."

She doesn't mention that she's already plotting how to get Deirdre to Scythia, where she would be guarded and cared for by people loyal to Penthesilea , Eric's memory, Skye, and Saffron by extension. As a warrior, Deirdre would be seen as one of them and treated as such. Skye turns to look at Random.

"No offense, but I do not have the faith you do in Brand's inability to escape the Abyss. I have seen people survive an arrow in the throat, and they did not have the abilities or regenerative gifts of the House of Bariman. With everything else going on, it would be just like him to show up."

"Not to mention," Saffron says tightly, "That you just told us it could have been less than a few hours. For all we know, it's been just slightly longer than it took her to fall to wherever she was." She does cross her arms this time, as she turns to look at Gerard. "Also - you do realize that I've been in the room the whole time?"

Gerard looks up at Saffron, his face starting to turn red. "Of course I realise that. I could hardly miss the daughter of my favourite sister. Why do you seem to think I'm talking over you, girl?"

Saffron visibly bristles at being called 'girl.' Skye is positive she needs to get Saffron out of here before Random and Gerard both resemble burning bushes.

He then turns his eyes on Skye. "And whatever burr got under your armour, pull it out now. Of course I know you wouldn't accuse me. I did say it was habit."

Skye just stares at him a moment with a slight curl of her eyebrow. Someone was touchy. She turns to Random as he speaks.

Random shrugs, clearly unmoved by Skye's attitude. "The house of Bariman is not the line of Faiella. The redheads have shown no such endurance or healing ability - only that which the rest of us have. Impressive enough, sure - but you're forgetting that Fi was there, too - and if he'd shifted his concentration enough to deal with the wound, she'd have gutted his mind. I'm not going to completely discount the idea that Brand may still be alive, but I'm not going to give it much concern either, until we have evidence."

Remaining unconvinced that discounting Brand was a sound battle plan, she responds with a vague shrug. "If you say so," she says calmly. Dealing with more then one of her uncles at a time had always been irritating. She already has a list from this one brief encounter, and not only because they were upsetting Saffron. "It isn't like we're lacking for excitement at the moment."

Skye gives her attention to Saffron, who's temper was hovering near the red zone. The way she crossed her arms was a giveaway, and she can almost hear the angry exclamation of Men! from the other woman. "It sounds like your Mother will be out of it for awhile, Saff," she says gently. "Why don't you come walk with me while we round you up a change of clothes or two? If anything changes, I'm sure Gerard will let you know."

"That is likely a grand idea," Saffron answers tersely. She rises and heads for the door, leaving behind slightly singed spots where her fingers touched the chair as she stood.

Skye gives the smolder points a vaguely amused expression that she then bestows upon the men in the room. "If you will excuse us, uncles. I believe a little fresh air is in order for my companion."

With that she clasps her hands behind her back and strolls after Saffron.

TOC - The Cenotaph Road

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