[Cecily] Eleven: "Stacking the Deck"





July 4, 2189

       "Do you want to have this discussion in front of the girl?" Salome asked Fletcher, eyeing me with about the same level of disregard with which I was eyeing her.
        "Let's keep Cecily dealt in," he said after a moment. "Best if Kazor can't wipe out what we know so easily."
        In a moment of common sense and self-preservation, I wondered if I shouldn't just fold and get the hell out of this game while the getting was good. In keeping with the card game metaphor, I was suddenly feeling like I'd been dealt into a game with a stacked deck.
        I'd gone to Fletcher that morning to tell him about Harry's crazy scheme with the Beholder, and about the mirror. It was in part because he and I seem to end up sharing the de facto leadership position of this motley little posse, and in part because I knew he'd likely see the sense in keeping it under wraps. The mirror has the potential to be a significant advantage to us, but not if everyone is arguing about how it should be used. I had a feeling Fletcher would agree, so I decided to run it by him and see what he had to think of it.
        I sure as hell didn't expect events to unfold the way they did then.

       Don't get me wrong. I knew Fletcher was a treacherous little bastard, but until now, I though he was treacherous only to his own ends. And I guess that's not entirely incorrect, but it takes on a whole new light in knowing he toadied for Kazor, even if it was entirely for his own benefit.
        Later, after I left Reginald to Fletcher and Salome's tender mercies, I wondered what to do next. If Fletcher was going to sell us out, he had ample opportunity prior to now, so I don't think that's on his current agenda. Problem is, I don't know what is. Or how far it will parallel that of the rest of the group. And frankly, while they're not as an immediate threat as Fletcher might be, Stark, Shen, and Griffin are a collection of unknowns with each their own games to play. And relating Fletcher's little indiscretions just might be the spark to ignite the potential fire that's been smoldering since this gig got off the ground.
        I continued to debate with myself as Stark and I went in search of Ilie. What, if any of what I had learned that morning, should I pass on to the others? Stark made my decision for me when she pouted about my not telling her all the details about Reginald. No, for now I'll keep Fletcher's secret identity just that. And not let him out of my sight if at all possible.
       The unfortunate side of all this was that by that afternoon, when we'd all gathered at Lewella's knee to hear the great story of Amber, the tension amongst our merry band was quite evident. They all knew something had gone on down in the dungeon, but since Fletcher, Salome nor I seemed eager to relate any of it, the details were left to their imaginations. If all the little divisions in this crew hadn't been obvious before, they sure as hell were now.
       I have to admit, I wasn't too happy knowing what I knew. There are times the bliss of ignorance is far preferable. It's bad enough watching over my shoulder for crazy demon sorcerors or three-eyes cranky demons, let alone watching for them and one of my compatriots to pull something anti-social.
        We were distracted from our mutual paranoias for a little while by Lewella's story of our ancestral home, Amber. She pulled forth a card from another of those picture decks, this one bearing a Cinderella-style castle upon a verdant mountain slope. It looked eeriely familiar. My mind juggled that image around for a moment, playing a game of Concentration with itself, and I suddenly remembered - the man in the mirror had walked past a window, back in that first scene. And the window framed the exact image from the card.
       Son of a... No wonder Kazor would have been pissed about me moving the mirror. He'd been spying right into Amber. Oh, thank the goddess for those momentary inspirations like the one that made me think to take the mirror. It almost made up for losing the sword, but not quite.
        I was even more curious now as to the identity of my mirror man. Could he be one of the relatives left behind? More incentive for Harry to come up with that clairaudience spell for the mirror. Knowing what was going on in Amber might be just what we need to decide if Amber is really the place we all want to go.

        Of course, that was assuming we survived that long. After another of our usual group 'discussions', The Darkling Realms, Griffin's home, became our next destination, using one of the card found by Griffin, Fletcher and Shen in Grayson's shadow. Ah, 20/20 hindsight. So instead of finding ourselves on ahill, with a fortres sin the distance, we find ourselves in a room, apparently in a fortress, which, I was pretty sure, wasn't the one we wanted to be in.
        So Fletcher and I case the place, finding a staircase going down. Left with such an abundance of options, down we went - Fletcher and I in the lead, guns drawn, and trigger-fingers itchy. After about four turns, a soft light spilled into th staircase from the room to which it led. At other end of said room was a table, whose lone occupant looked decidedly out of place, considering the last time I'd seen him was on TV, in a pricey suit, being led away from a much more modern building amidst a gaggle of lawers.
        We'd found the missing Lucas Reynard.

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5/16/00