Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
for thou art with me.
For the first time in almost 6 months, I felt... right with the world. Even though I have strayed from my original path in life, my faith has not faltered; if anything, it has grown. I've found home, family, friends... love... And as I fell off to sleep, still lost in a warm haze of happiness from the weekend, I felt ready to take on anything...
Who knew how soon that would come...
I was awoken by someone shaking my shoulder.
I rolled to my feet, instantly alert. A few things of note struck me immediately. I was dressed, armor and all, and my sword was slung across my back. Definitely not how I had gone to sleep.
A quick glance found Connie and Locke, as well, and huge cavern. I Worked a Knowing. Images and sensations flooded at me, and with an ease born of long practice I picked from among them what I needed to know...
"Dworkin!" I called, immediately regretting the edge of anger in my voice even as I stalked forward to the passage I knew would lead us to his lab.
It was, not unexpectedly, empty of my quarry. But he hadn't been gone all that long. Candles, burnt almost to the floor, near a wall caught my attention.
I knelt to examine what seemed to be carvings in the wall. Connie joined me, and we stared at it for a few moments before I began to realize we were too close to make out the scope of whatever he'd been doing. I started backing up, stopping only when I hit the far wall. Better, but the room was too dark. "Simon, can you light the room?"
He did so, and I heard myself gasp slightly. The entire wall was filled with an etching, on a grand scale. A stylized tree towered almost to the ceiling...
And among its branches, strung 'round a pentagram, symbols-
Mine. Connie's. Jessica's. Simon's. Locke's.
"He was standing in front of that door," the woman pointed to Locke's room, "drawing..."
As Connie and I came up over the rim of the plateau and saw the Primal Pattern's state and who was standing at its center, my words to Luke came back to me with a vengance. " I know he's as mad as a hatter sometimes, but the old man does have his moments. And having gone head to head with him on touchy subjects, I've aquired a deep appreciation of his love for Amber and his abilities. And of the fact that there is far more to Dworkin than meets the eye, I am absolutely sure."
There are times I really hate being right.
"What I feared has come to pass. More of my children have died. It should not be..." The mournful tone in his voice tore at me, though we could get little more out of him.
"It was foretold. It is foretold. It will be foretold... Someday I will meet you and know that you are the ones to set thinngs right..."
And then charged once again with a task whose scope was... enormous, to say the least, we were forced to leave, with no more to go on than a hint of prophesy and blind faith...
"I hope that you are all able to find what you are looking for..."
So do I.
Coming out of the gate, we were immediately confronted by a large fountain decorated with slyphs, sprites, dolphins, and the like, all in marble.
City Amber's Grand Plaza, with the large statue of Oberon against a sky of blood red...
Without even thinking, I turned toward a certain inn, but Connie was already dashing across the square. I let him go, and turned back to my cousins.
It wasn't long before Connie returned, and I left Simon and Locke to their discussion. The look on Connie's face told me all I needed to know, but the words escaped me anyway. "Is he alright?"
"No," Connie shook his head, panting slightly. "He's gone. A bag of his stuff is missing, but his trump does not respond."
I felt my heart drop into my boots. "I used up all my luck..." Entirely unbidden, Luke's warm laugh came to mind..."What could go wrong?"
Damn unintentional foresight, anyway.
"... He warned me not to fly off the deep end, which was exactly what I did anyways. He said that I had important things to do, places to go, people to meet, and it would not do any good to have my "fool neck wrung'..."
I glanced back at the inn one last time, hoping to The One God (and any others that might be listening) that Luke would remember that.
Then Connie Trumped out before I could do much more, and I got distracted by trying to convince Jessica we were who we were.
It was shortly after we got Jessica straigtened out that I realized Connie hadn't come back.
His Trump animated slowly, and I was faintly surpised to see him pulling on armor. "Where are you?"
"With my mother."
He didn't seem inclined to say much more, and I let him go, a cold feeling of unease settling in my stomach. I had a feeling this was only going to get worse...
And boy, did it. We were at the gates when we found out just how worse. "Random is no longer king..." The guard said slowly, and with a little strong-arming we pried out of him that there had been a coup in the middle of the night.
Gerard was now on the throne, with Caine and Julian backing him.
Dear God, what had gone wrong here?!
In an odd display of immediate agreement, we headed straight for the Pattern Room. Amber's Pattern was in much the same state as the Primal, and when Simon suggested we contact Merlin, we left Jess to her meditations on the Pattern's state.
My brother was in a state himself, and when I'd convinced him I was who I said, and he brought us through, the picture became more complicated. He had no access to either the Pattern or the Logrus, or sorcery.
Our immediate assumption was that Ygg had finally fallen, and we revised our plans a bit. Back to Amber then, then to Ygg, and Chaos, with a side trip to find the Unicorn.
And I wanted to talk to Dad.
I almost stumbled when Connie's Trump contact hit me. Fortunately, I had been lost in thought before, so Simon and Locke payed my continued lack of attention no mind. Merlin might have noticed, but if so, he said nothing.
"Don't say anything!" Connie said as soon as I let the contact open. Conversation went downhill from there, and I discovered how difficult it is to argue and walk at the same time.
He told me of what he had discovered from Dierdre, and of the situation at Ygg, The tree fallen, Fiona vanished, and Bleys dead. And I wasn't to tell the others a word.
"Why, Connie? Why shouldn't I tell them?"
I love Connie dearly; he's practically my best friend here in Amber, but when he gets in these moods I could just throttle him.
While I'm glad he feels he can at least trust me enough to tell me, I fear that this secretive silence is going to be our downfall in this. All of us are capable people in our own right, but when we actually work together, we've already proven our effectiveness in hopeless situations.
And right at this moment, together was the last word I'd use to describe us.
Too much else clamoring for attention in the back of my mind, and I let it drop to deal with later. Dad was no help, as Connie had warned me, more bitter and withdrawn than I'd seen him since our talk.
This should not be, indeed.
We were gathered in the hall when Connie found us, and with our usual scrambling went off on our way. I knew my frustration was showing, but as we stood outside of the stables, the divisions between us as obvious as day, I didn't really care; that mural suddenly foremost in my thoughts.
Dworkin, at God knows what cost, had given us a chance to put things right.
And I'll be damned if we're going to waste it.