"If this were played upon a stage now, I
could condemn it as an improbable fiction. "
-William Shakespeare 'Twelfth Night'
We Trumped to the front gates, which were closed, so Connie pulled out a sketch of the library. It was about this time he and Simon started arguing about something, and I finally lost my temper, and shoved Connie through the now open Trump. Oops.
We eventually all made it into the library. And started out search. The Wards led, not surprisingly, to Aunt Fi's rooms.
It took us a while, and the assistance of the infamous apparition, but we eventually found a bag with three Trumps: one blank, one of Aunt Fiona, and another of a man none of us recognized.
These treasures discovered, we went off to Ygg.
Not to sure what we needed to do exactly, Simon and I began to excavate the body while Connie tried to figure out exactly what was up with the Trumps.
We hadn't been there that long when the tickle of a Trump distracted me for a moment, but I shook it off. Simon gave me a concerned look, and I said only "Trumped," in reply before going back to digging. Then it came again, stronger and this time didn't let up.
I stabbed my shovel into the ground with a curse. When Simon looked over at me, I grumbled, "Someone's really trying to Trump me."
Laying down his shovel, he came over and laid a hand on my shoulder. "Go ahead."
I gave him a smile, then let the contact through.
"Sist- Simon!" Darien just barely caught himself in time as he noticed that I wasn't alone in the contact. He spared only a bare moment to give me a dark look, and I grinned weakly in response. "Darien," I muttered. "This is a bit of a surprise."
"Indeed. I didn't expect you to have... company." He narrowed his eyes at Simon very slightly.
"Well, given my current status as traitor to the Crown, I figured better be safe."
Darien gave me a long look, then sighed. "Well, I thought you should know things have taken a turn."
My turn to give him a long look. "What do you mean 'a turn'?"
He gave me one of those insufferably smug smiles of his. "Well, Corwin., your father," I rolled my eyes at his exaggerated and completely unsubtle mention of my heritage, "and Benedict have managed to convince Gerard and Random not to bring this to all out war. Rather, they're going to duel it out."
"What?!" I yelped. So that's what Dad was up to. Well, easier to stop two raging uncles than two armies. I hoped. "All right. This has gone bloody far enough." I held out my hand to Darien, then turned to Simon. "I'm going to go try and stall them so you guys can finish here..."
We stood on the outskirts of a clearing in the midst of a wooded area. Various members of the family milled about, and I noticed that there were two distinct camps: Random and Dierdre stood to one side, and Gerard and Julian to the other. My dad and Benedict seemed somewhere in the middle, trying to talk with both sides. It didn't look like they were getting very far.
Taking a deep breath, I strode straight into the center. That got the attention of most of them, including Uncle Gerard. I studiously avoided looking at the real King and moved to confront the false one. "This has to stop."
Gerard looked down at me with a faintly incredulous expression. "This from a traitor?"
"I am no traitor." That didn't make him happy, but the longer I kept him arguing, the more time that gave Connie and Simon. "I did what I did for Amber."
He snorted in disbelief. "You made moves against the throne..."
"We saved the rightful king, chosen of the Unicorn." I interrupted, and he started to turn a very nice shade of purple, but I didn't give him a chance to reply. "He is your brother. This cannot continue."
"It has always been this way," Gerard harrumphed. "It is the way of this family."
This was really starting to tick me off.
"Ah. So just because you all have spent centuries trying to kill each other, it means you have to keep it up because it's TRADITION?!" My voice rose in anger, and I had to remind myself that my usually gentle and kind uncle wasn't exactly himself.
"I am losing patience with you," Gerard growled, eyes blazing with righteous indignation. But I had some righteous indignation of my own.
"I don't give a damn if you're losing patience with me. No other member of this family is going to die. Period."
"I should..." he muttered, then just glared down at me. "What do you want?" He snapped.
"We need time. One hour, Uncle. That's all I ask." He didn't look convinced, so I pulled out the last trick I could think of. "If you truly do this for Amber as you say, if you truly love Amber, you'll let us have that hour."
He watched me for a long moment, then sighed heavily. "One hour. That's all."
My knees felt all rubbery as I tried to keep my profound relief from showing on my face, and I walked away quickly before he changed his mind. I was about to Trump Simon when Dad appeared at my side and grabbed my arm. "What are you trying to do?" He hissed.
"I am trying to keep this family from destroying itself until Simon and Connie can fix Ygg!" Dad just threw up his hands. "I don't understand all this talk about Ygg."
"And I don't have time to keep trying to explain it. You're just going to have to have," and I grinned wryly, "faith."
Back at Ygg they were almost ready to go. Connie had gotten the idea to place the Trump on Ygg itself, and did so, holding it against the trunk as he then activated it. And immediately became a conduit for the transfer of Fiona's lifeforce from the card.
There wasn't much Simon or I could do, so I just watched Connie with concern. Then another Trump call came.
It was my elder brother again. "How much longer is that going to take?" He asked, glancing back over his shoulder. "I'm not sure how long things here are going to last."
"I guess an hour was too much to ask." Sighing, I held out my hand.
Darien pulled me through once again. "Corwin and Benedict seem to have calmed them dow-"
"ENOUGH OF THIS!" I heard Gerard bellow, and I bolted for the clearing. Dad, Benedict and Julian were barely holding Gerard back from charging Random. Damn it, I had had enough of this as well. If Gerard wanted a family member dead that badly, he was going to have to go through me to do it.
I parked myself halfway between my uncles, ignoring a trump call, glad my father couldn't see what I was up to. A minute later I caught a glimpse of Simon come through a Trump contact and begin arguing strenuously with Random, trying to hold him back. Seeing this, and me, Gerard's face turned an angry red. "Get the children out of the way!"
I left my sword in the scabbard, determined not to let this escalate, and settled my stance. Simon was getting nowhere with the King, and I saw Random shove my cousin and draw his sword.
Gerard, seeing Random advance, shoved Dad, Julian and Benedict (well, not so much shoved Benedict) away, grabbed his axe and charged forward with gleeful barbarity in his eyes.
Neither seemed concerned at this point that I was still in the way.
Reflex kicked in, and a lifetime of thinking on my feet took over. I Worked, fast, and threw up two Barriers, one on either side of me, that cut right across the clearing. A second later, my uncles met the Barriers - Random with a loud, surprised 'Oof" and Gerard with a resounding thud and a loud cry of rage.
The both glared at me for a moment, before Random began to prowl the length of the magical shield, and Gerard began trying to hack through it. Neither of them were getting anywhere, and I opened my Working wide, pouring everything I had into keeping the walls up.
"ARCHERS!" the would-be king suddenly bellowed, his face twisted in ferocious anger. "KILL!"
Swallowing hard, I held my ground, still pouring as much power into the Barriers as I could handle, and hoping to God (and the Unicorn) they wouldn't think to fire very high. And so focused on this mess was I that I almost missed Julian's cry.
I looked to where Julian was gesturing. A huge storm was rolling across the sky toward us, with frightening rapidity. Even as I started to Key a protective Working, I knew it I'd never get it done in time. So I braced...
The light was blinding, and everything worbled oddly for a moment before it all passed. When I opened my eyes, everyone stood quietly, in dumbfounded shock. Gerard and Random stared at each other, and their weapons.
Moved so I was once again between them, and dropped the Barriers. Random let his sword fall, and I pried Uncle Gerard's axe out of his hand. "It's over," I said, as much for their benefit as mine. "Simon and Connie did it."
It was about then that everyone started talking. Simon and I tried to explain, and Connie put his two cents worth in when He Trumped Simon and came through. I even tried to Trump Dworkin, but had no luck.
Random eventually sighed. "Tomorrow. We'll have a meeting of the family, in the morning." He shook his head. "We'll sort it all out then." Still shaking his head and muttering to himself, he walked off.
I turned to look for Darien, and instead found myself looking up into a pair of grey-green eyes that looked startlingly like mine. It was Dad. Healed. "Congratulations, Quinn." He smiled, eyes dancing, and ruffled my hair.
"Told you so, " I quipped as I gave him a hug. "All it took was a little faith."
Back at the castle, the three of us retrieved Merlin, who I was relieved to note, was unharmed and had his powers back. Though he wasn't too pleased when I told him of his mother's involvement in all this.
Then while Simon and Connie went off in search of cookies, I checked up on Darien, then I pulled Dworkin's Trump out for one more try.
It very slowly resolved itself into the exhausted visage of my great-grandfather. "Are you all right?" I peered at him with no little concern, but he waved weakly at me.
"I am just very, very tired. I've been stretched every which way," he grumbled. "I think I have everything back where it belongs..."
I chuckled. "Dworkin, you mentioned that you had put some of the others away for safekeeping. Do you remember this?"
He looked confused for a moment, and my heart almost stopped. Then he nodded. "Yes. I remember that."
I started breathing again. "Do you remember where?"
His face wrinkled up, and he rummaged in a pocket. "They are in one of these two places," he handed me two Trumps. "That is all I remember," he added apologetically.
"That's enough, Grandfather," I said soothingly, clutching the Trumps tightly. "Sleep."
He nodded, and the contact faded away.
I caught up with Connie and Simon just before the kitchens, and grabbed Connie in a hug as I showed him the Trumps. "Bingo!"
Both Trumps led us to a rocky landscape, shot through with veins of a blue crystalline substance. Simon kept the one that showed the odd metallic jungle, and I pocketed the tranquil pond scene. Then we split up.
Connie came with me, and we clambered about the rocks for a good twenty minutes. Magic and Trump seemed to have no effect in our search, and I was quickly becoming frustrated when we heard Simon call out.
He had found a huge boulder of the blue substance in front of what appeared to be a vertical cave shaft down into the rock. It took us a while, but we pried it away enough for me to Conjure a rope and start down.
Then we heard a voice from below. "Who's there!?" It was Ganelon.
Much yelling back and forth ensued, and a few moment later I dropped to the cave floor, Connie right behind me. Ganleon and Caytt stood there smiling. I greeted them both with rleived hugs, but looked about for the third I hoped and prayed to the Unicorn was there as well. Caytt saw my distress and with a soft smile gestured toward the back of the cave before scrambling up the rope and into her father's arms.
Connie darted down the hall ahead of me, and burst into a back storage area to tackle a very surprised looking Luke Reynard. I leaned against the doorframe and watched the reunion. Watched him, and thanked the Unicorn, God, that he was safe.
Luke looked up about then, and saw me, and his eyes widened. "I'll catch up, Connie," Luke gave his son a last hug, and with a smug smile at the both of us, Connie bolted back down the hall.
Luke stood there, running a hand through his hair. "Saving the universe again, eh?" he chuckled wearily.
Leaning against the doorway, I shrugged, cheeks still red. "All in a day's work." The moment was deeply uncomfortable, until I decided I couldn't deal with just standing there. "Oh, hell," I ran to him.
"Mariposa!" he exclaimed as I tackled him in a tight hug, pinning one of his arms to his side, but he wrapped his free arm just as tightly around me. "Sweet Jesus, I thought... the worst."
I buried my face in his shoulder, just wanting to be held, and let out a laugh that had only a slight edge of hysteria to it. "Come on, two days isn't nearly enough time to get into that much trouble..." And I suddenly found that I was shaking slightly.
He extricated his other arm and wrapped it around me. "I was going stir crazy in here. I couldn't bear to think that I would lose you, just now that I, we..." His grip tightened.
He just held me tightly for a long moment, and eventually I got myself under control. More or less. I pulled away, just enough so I could look into his eyes, which were bloodshot and heavy-lidded. There were deep lines of stress creasing his face, and he was in desperate need of a shave. "It's probably better, then, that you didn't see some of what I was up to."
"Maybe I'll just remain blissfully unaware for a while," he said, stroking my hair. "All that matters now is that you're here..."
"And that you're all right too. When we couldn't find you..." I felt the shakes coming on again. "I was so worried something had gone horribly wrong. And then everyone was acting so strange... The coup... God, Luke, all hell had broken loose and no one would listen, and you were gone..." I blinked hard, eyes suddenly wet, but couldn't hold back the tears. The enormity of all that had happened over the last few days hit me like a ton of bricks.
"I'm sorry, butterfly." Luke gently kissed my tears away. "Dworkin would not allow me to contact you before he put us here..." Then the rest of what I'd just said registered with him. "Coup...?!?"
I couldn't help the smile at his reaction. "I thought you wanted to remain blissfully ignorant..."
"Yeah, yeah, you're right." He sighed heavily. "And you were going to help me pick out a house..."
I gently stroked a stubbled cheek. "And I still will, if you want," I said quietly, though even I could hear the relief and concern and exhaustion in my voice.
Luke nodded, and kissed me softly. "Now, let's get the hell out of here," he suddenly chuckled, looking a bit more like his usual exasperating self.
"Best idea I've heard yet today," I quipped, holding him close for one last moment.
My prayers were answered.