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Dressed To Kill

Steed's Tale - "Dressed To Kill" - Chapter 09

Journal of Prince "Major" Jonathan Steed of Amber:
Based on a Scenario by Rain Donaldson
Written by: R. Cal Westray, Jr. in 1997-1998.
Steed's history was written in 1994.

"Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state,
need to be avenged by agents extraordinary..."


Bar
Episode A4-9 - Who's Who???

In which Steed has a pair of Kings...with one-eyed Serpents wild
... and Emma plays her ace in the hole.

We were somehow detoured and we are now in Los Angeles.
Kat. "Steed, you were here when you were off in Shadow. How did you get to Chaos, to attend the coronation?"
I think back. "Flora Trumped me in from Shadow. The only time I spent in Los Angeles, was to visit Flora's hairdresser. He was quite good."
The Doctor smiles. "Ah yes, I remember that."
I do too. That is when the Doctor, in his previous dark incarnation, contacted me to help him pull the TARDIS from the Abyss. That led to our jaunt back in time to rescue the TARDIS from being 'between' the Trumps.
Kat. "Maybe you could re-trace your steps to Chaos."
I shake my head. "It's not that easy and I Shadow walked to different places. To do that again would require a long walk, I've never traveled there via Shadow - only through Trumps." I wonder why we are in Los Angeles?
The Doctor left to check on Scout. I watched the theater, people are leaving and the crowd is settling down. Three figures walking together, seem to look familiar. They look younger, but it is definitely Martin, Merlin, and Luke. "Doctor!" I call out. "We have company!"
Doctor. "Yes?" They return to the control room. Scout looks O.K., although a little greenish and damp.
"A threesome. Younger versions of Martin, Merlin, and Luke."
Doctor. "And?"
"I am curious why 'we' are here and why 'they' are there."
Doctor. "Do you want to go ask them?"
"It could be a good idea, they may be of help."
Doctor. "O.K., the door's that way."
I knit my eyebrows, this is too easy. No warnings?
Kat steps over. "I'll go along."
Leonardo. "We could try Luke's Trump and see if it is really him."
Doctor. "Rasalom knows, we have enough of his Trumps."
I offer. "Luke's Trump is one I happen to have as well. Doctor, are the barriers down?" They are. I concentrate upon his bearded face. It quickly cools and activates.
:Yes?:
"Luke, old boy, how have you been?"
:Who are you?:
"Steed."
:Who are you really and how did you get my Trump?:
"You gave it to me, of course.:
:I don't remember you.: His thoughts become menacing.
"Later, then." I break contact. "Oh bother! It is too soon, he didn't know me."
The Doctor frowns. "It's 1986."
"That explains it, we will meet in a few more years, 'after' he calls off the vendetta. Excellent, now he knows of another relative."
Kat. "Then, we should forewarn him about things to come."
The control room echoes with the group sound of "No!"
The Doctor explains. "That would be a bad idea, there is no way to determine what affect that would have on the time line. Check the streets, has the crowd cleared?"
I look. "Luke is looking right at the TARDIS. Wonderful."
Doctor. "Your call, Steed."
Scout. "When are we, Doctor?"
Doctor. "1986."
Scout. "I thought so, they tore that theater down in 1992."
Doctor. "We may as well go out and talk to him. Let's go." The Doctor follows Kat, Emma and I join them. Leonardo changes his clothes to blend in. The Doctor takes the blanket and covers the TARDIS. His new Chameleon circuit, I don't believe it. He refers to it as an S.E.P. field and that I should read Douglas Adams.
The Doctor checks his handiwork. "There, much less noticeable. It was originally intended for Chaos, but it will work here."
Luke is separated from the others and approaching the TARDIS. We walk over to him.
I smile broadly. "Hello, Mr. Raynard." I tip my hat.
He looks at me with suspicion. "We have not been formally introduced. You seem to have me at a disadvantage. You know my name and I don't know yours."
I lean on my brolly. "Indirectly, we have been doing business together."
Kat. "Can we go some place to talk?"
I continue. "We have common interests and we need to discuss them."
Luke. "Call it a quirk, but I'm from the old school. I prefer to know the name of the people I'm dealing with."
"Oh yes. My name is Steed."
Luke. "Like the horse?"
"Certainly."
Luke. "And your friends?" He examines us very closely, very unsettling.
"Where are my manners? My partners: Mrs. Peel, the Doctor, Kat, and Leonardo. We just dropped into Los Angeles and decided to look you up. Do you have some time?"
Luke. "I will go let my friends know that I am not going back with them."
"Excellent." He leaves. "I am not sure how we get out of this, gracefully."
Doctor. "We are here for a reason, but I don't know what that is yet. Any ideas?"
I tap my brolly on the sidewalk. "That's what I've been curious about. Why the detour from Chaos, and why earlier in time?"
Luke returns and tells us that he gave his regards to his friends, they are heading back home. "Now, let's talk."
The Doctor tries to buy us time with small talk, until we can figure this out. "How do you like L. A.?"
Luke. "It's nice enough place to attend school."
Kat. "What are you studying?"
Luke. "Sales, as a matter of fact. What brings you to L.A.?"
Doctor. "An accident really, we were detoured. We will be leaving shortly."
Luke. "As the local host, is there anything I can do to show you around?"
Doctor. "No thanks. Let's see. This is 1986, at least there are no earthquakes that I am aware of."
Luke. "Maybe there is something you should be telling me."
I feel at a loss for words, strange. Luke is a very sharp fellow, and paranoid at this age. Anything I say can open a larger can of worms.
Doctor. "Sorry, the conversation has died down."
Luke. "I think your friends are trying to decide what is safe to say."
Kat talks with Luke, asking questions about Merlin and Martin.
Luke. "Do you know Merlin's mother?"
Kat. "Yes, Dara."
Luke. "Did Dara send you?"
Doctor. "No."
Luke. "But you know his mother, how interesting."
I try a feeler. "I suppose I should explain the Trump." I hand it to him.
Luke studies it closely. "I don't recognize the style."
"It was done by your hand, old friend."
Luke. "Despite the resemblance, you have mistaken me for someone else. I am concerned that someone may be impersonating me." Charming, let's make Rinaldo more paranoid.
Doctor. "We are apparently mistaken. We should be on our way. But first... I want to ask you a question. A rather personal question. If you choose not to answer, I will understand. If you do, I will give you some information."
Luke. "Fair enough."
Doctor. "If you could go back and tell your father one thing, what would that be?"
Luke. "What do you mean?"
Doctor. "If you had the opportunity to go back in time to see your father. And you could tell him one thing. What would you tell him?"
Luke gives it a great deal of thought, he at least appears to be taking the question seriously. "I'd warn him. I'd find a way to prevent... what happened."
Doctor. "Thank you. One day you 'will' get the opportunity. O.K., let's be off. Good day, Luke."
I tip my hat. "Later, then." Lucas Raynard watches us leave for the TARDIS. This is most unsettling. How does the Doctor do it? Interacting with people out of the time stream? It is most unsettling, trying to not affect history? The Doctor takes the paisley blanket off the TARDIS and we enter in single file.
The Doctor determined that we are here for the purpose to identify Merlin. He concocts a chemical dye to tag Merlin's DNA. Not to affect it, but to identify the 'tag' later in Chaos. An excellent plan, pity it wasn't 'after' Luke and I met. This time travel is becoming a bother.
He uses a mechanical bug to track him and sting him, injecting the dye. The Doctor should be able to verify Merlin from the dye. Once done, the whine of the engines indicate that we are leaving Los Angeles and heading for Chaos.
The TARDIS materializes in a grove, near a group of tree-like creatures; the sky above is a pale-pink. Our next step is to find the castle from here.
Scout. "Doctor, do you have a fix on the time?"
We are in the right 'when'; I think we are in the right vicinity for 'where'. Kat, would you like to take it from here?"
Kat is concerned that Eric would have killed Merlin by now. The rest of us feel that Merlin is more valuable kept alive, until he outlives his usefulness to Eric.
I interject. "Now that the Doctor has tagged Merlin, we should be able to verify if the poor bloke in the prison cell is Merlin or Eric. If it is Merlin, we rescue him. If it is not..." I let it trail, I do not know what the group will decide to do with Eric.
Kat leads the way to confront anyone who bars our way, in her own fashion.
The Doctor locks up the TARDIS and throws the blanket over it again. As we walk along a tree limb lowers and touches Kat on the shoulder.
She looks up. "Yes?"
In an incredibly slow speech, the tree begins. "Pardon... me."
Kat. "What can I do for you?"
"What... are... you... doing... here...?"
Kat. "We are looking for the coronation area where Merlin was crowned King of Chaos."
"I... didn't... go... to... the... coronation... But... my... uncle... did..."
Doctor. "Can you point him out to us?"
"Certainly... but... I... should... warn... you..., he's... a... little... slow..." He points to a larger tree.
Doctor. "Thank you, we'll cope." We walk over to it.
The conversation was indeed a bit slower. The Doctor compensated by setting a device near the tree to speed up the time in the immediate area, so the tree could match our time rate. It worked well enough and the tree took us near the castle itself, carrying Kat along for a nap. We thank the uncle tree and bid him farewell, to continue our walk to the castle.
Scout. "So, we are going to storm the castle of Chaos."
Doctor. "No, I think we are going to sneak in."
Scout. "So, we are going to sneak into the castle of a powerful and paranoid ruler."
Doctor. "Right. Now, what is the plan?"
Kat. "We should make our way past the guards and into the dungeon. I can handle the guards."
I offer. "I could ask for an audience with the king. It would keep him occupied while the others check the dungeon."
Doctor. "I would prefer to sneak in."
Scout. "No, I would rather not let him know we are here."
My thoughts exactly, but it was an option.
Doctor. "We could all stay together, holding onto my scarf and you could cast an invisibility spell, Kat."
Scout. "Will it work?"
Doctor. "Don't know, it's worth a try."
Scout. "They didn't cover storming a castle in police academy."
Doctor. "No? What an oversight. They should add it to the curriculum, it happens more often than you think."
Scout. "Not in L. A."
Emma suggests. "What we need is a distraction."
I smile. "Capital idea, my dear. I could use the Pattern to alter things around the castle. While they are focused on me, you can go check out the dungeon. I will go to the far side of the castle, along with anyone else interested."
Scout. "Not a bad idea. A distraction would be good."
Doctor. "All right. Who stays and who goes? I go."
Scout. "We may need more than one distraction."
I smile. "Very well, I am distraction number one. I am toying with some ideas."
Emma gives me a stern look. "I will tag along to keep you out of trouble."
"Come along, my dear." We prepare to get in position.
Leonardo conjures a purple paisley dinosaur. "So, what kind of distraction are we looking for?"
Doctor. "Use your imagination."
Scout. "It should be unique enough to make an impression in Chaos, so make it big."
Doctor. "Try not to hurt too many people."
I grin. "Pyrotechnics in Chaos, a symphony - an Overture!" We make our way into position: Leonardo, Emma, and I. We head for the far corner of the castle. The others go for the dungeon.
Leonardo. "Steed, where do we aim our fireworks? I will try to pull together a light show, fireworks, lighting, and big noises."
"Let's cover this half of the castle. I think we should make the sounds loud enough to shake the castle and get their attention. I don't intend to injure anyone, just get them focused on us for a while. I will use the Pattern to amplify what you create and add a bit of my own. I wonder if Eric will recognize the "1812 Overture"?"
After we reach our position, I summon the Sign of the Pattern and Leonardo begins his conjuration's. I pour raw power into his conjuration's, then I begin to send up screaming and pulsating ribbons of Pattern energy. I then follow it up with a sonic boom, near the wall of the castle.
We achieve our desired affect. I set up a repeating pattern of whistles and booms, in time to the Overture; feeling rather pleased with my work. Emma watches for anyone that approaches us. The sound is deafening, that of a thousand tubas and kettle drums. This is one concert they will remember for a long while. I switch melodies to "The Blue Danube" - most explosive.
The walls begin to shake and windows shatter. Some people within the castle are screaming and fleeing to the outside. Others are swarming outside to attack. I think our little diversion has done it's job. I set the melody in a fixed loop of whistles, flashes, and explosions. The Pattern blazes before me in a brilliant blue design.
Leonardo and I keep this up for nearly a half hour. Any Chaosians that appear are discouraged by the explosions that appear before them. Harmless but concussive, a genuine deterrent. Any getting braver, get kicked or thrown by Emma. Whatever would I do without her?
It seems that enough time has passed, they should have been back by now. There is no sign of them and they haven't Trumped us. Something is wrong. I hope that Scout's Pattern ability will be up to the task. Between them, they should be able to handle any challenges and Kat should be able to teleport them out. They would have Trumped us if there was a problem, unless they are blocked. I hope Eric hasn't set a trap... "Leonardo! I think something has gone wrong, they should have been done by now."
Leonardo. "I will try to Trump the Doctor." He tries the Trump. "No luck. They must be blocked."
I level explosions at the side of the castle. "Of course! To keep Merlin prisoner, they would have to block most powers. They 'must' be within the area of the blockage. We can either wait or assist. I think the distraction is no longer needed. We will check on them."
Leonardo levels some artillery explosions at the castle itself. The walls violently shake, cracks appear in the walls. Defenders on the wall are approaching us. We are stopped by huge bat wing things approach us. We form catapults and a trebuchet to fire at them. They disburse and regroup. We have a stand-off, how long can we hold them off?
Leonardo. "Hold on, time for an earthquake, about 5.5 on the Richter Scale."
The ground ripples and a seismic wave approaches the castle. Damage is becoming considerable. We run on to the castle. "Leonardo, see you at the castle! Make your way there as you can!" Emma and I draw our blades and dash for the castle itself.
We fight our way there, dispatching a large number of creatures. We try not to kill anyone. After all, we are here to liberate their ruler. A goal they would support, if they knew it. However, discussion if quite unlikely. I summon the Sign of the Pattern and extend my awareness to the castle, searching for other Pattern users. Only Leonardo, outside. With the level of Pattern that Leonardo is using, I am unable to detect any Pattern users within the castle. However, I notice the level of Logrus activity increasing. I memorize Leonardo's Pattern signature, for later reference.
We reach the entrance to the dungeon. There appears to have been a collapse of the structure. Entering the dungeon would be too risky. The level of Logrus is still increasing, I drop the Sign of the Pattern. It may attract something... unpleasant.
Maintaining my footing is increasingly difficult and it is definitely a 'bad' idea to enter the dungeon, with these quakes. I try to use Pattern to stop the quakes, but I am unable to stop it; his level of control is much stronger. All I can do is wait for him to stop the earthquakes or for someone in the dungeon to contact us. I hope they are O.K. It is not even steady enough for tea.
Within moments, I get hit by a mental sledgehammer. :STEED!: My head is ringing. 
Only one person... "Kat?"
:What's going on out there?:
"Leonardo is creating an earthquake, I think he is bringing the castle down. How's everyone doing down there?"
:I don't remember anything. I was trying to contact you and I felt a sharp pain.:
"Can you reach the others and find some Trumps or teleport everyone out of there?"
:I don't know, it's too dark. All I heard from Scout was a groan.:
"Try to reach out with a mental scan to see if there is any mental activity from the others."
:I'll try. Scout is semi-conscious, the rest are all unconscious.:
"OK, can you conjure any light spells to see better?"
:I'll try. There are barriers down here, I don't know what will work. Anti-magic, anti-Trump, and who knows what else?:
"I suspected as much."
:It would help if Leonardo stopped the quakes.:
"Can you reach him mentally?"
:I'll try.:
I receive a Trump contact. I make myself receptive. "Yes?"
:Steed! Help!:
Whoever it is, I reach through and pull. It is Leonardo. "What's up, old boy?"
He looks white as a ghost, what could possibly affect him this way? "Snake! Huge one-eyed snake!"
"One-eyed snake? You can't mean..." He is quite agitated; rightfully so, if it is what I suspect.
Behind him, the vision appears. "By the Unicorn, it's the Serpent of Chaos!" I never expected to ever see the enemy of my great grandmother, the Unicorn.
It bears down on Leonardo. "I suggest you retreat to a safe place, Leonardo." Leonardo gets his Trump. Emma backs up and away from us. I turn to the Serpent. I tip my hat, preparing to leap out of the way. "I say, old boy. I don't suppose we could discuss this like civilized beings?"
Leonardo disappears through a Trump contact. The Serpent follows, through the closing Trump. I see a trailing balloon. How odd.
"I guess not. Mrs. Peel are you all right? The Serpent is something you are not likely to see very often, and live to tell the tale. I guess we get to tell the tale."
"I'm all right, just a little startled. I didn't expect anything like that to exist."
"Oh yes. His missing eye is the Jewel of Judgment, according to legend. Dworkin and the Unicorn took it ages ago. Well, we should attend Kat and get out of here." Ah yes, 'Dworkin'. A visit is overdue.
"Kat, are you still there?"
:Yes.:
"Kat, does anyone have a lighter?" I think I will suggest a standard survival kit for everyone to carry. Lighters or matches should be required items. "Who is nearby?"
:The Doctor is next to me.:
"You could check his pockets for a lighter, matches, or a flashlight."
:I will try a light spell first.: Why is everyone afraid of things the Doctor keeps in his pockets?
I see through Kat's eyes with the light spell: Scout, Anna, Eric, Merlin, the Doctor, and someone else.
:Steed, let me put you on hold.: Shortly, she returns. :I've pulled everyone together as close as possible.:
"Can you pull everyone out of there?"
:I'll try.:
"I will send through some Pattern energy, if that will help." I summon the Sign of the Pattern and make the energy available to Kat.
:No good. I will look for a Trump. Do you have a Trump of Castle Amber?:
I have one of my room in Amber, but at this distance a place Trump may not work. A Trump of a person would work better, we will need help from the other side. "Not at present."
:Hold on, why don't I teleport you here?:
"It looks rather unstable, try the Trump first."
Two guards approached us. "What are you both doing there?"
I turn to the guards, the best defense is sometimes to be offensive. "We are here to help rescue King Merlin from the rubble. If you're not going to help, stay out of the way."
The guards aren't backing down. "I'm afraid we will have to take you into custody, until we get this straightened out."
"If you want to save King Merlin, this will have to wait."
Blades are drawn. "We are perfectly capable of taking care of King Merlin ourselves. Drop the Pattern and surrender." The ice stench of the Logrus is with the guards.
I feel the sendings of a teleport spell, Kat is bringing us in. "Sorry, old boy. Maybe later." I get a Trump call in transit. I push it away, I don't want to know what effect that will have. It goes away as I appear in total darkness. Kat's light spell must have gone out.
I take the wind-proof lighter out of my vest pocket. I light it, hoping that at least 'some' technology works here. It works. Break number one. "Now 'that's' how you deal with darkness." I examine the area and see our unconscious party. I first examine them for injuries; minor ones only, nothing life threatening. Break number two. I give Emma the lighter to hold, while I take Random's Trump from Kat. I focus on the Pattern and concentrate on the Trump. I push the contact. No luck. The Trump blockage is still active. How to disable it?
I hear rubble being moved in the distance, they are digging their way to us. I would guess that they will reach us in less than twenty minutes. We must get out of here. I try the Trump again. It gets colder... nothing... nothing... something. "Random?"
:Steed?:
"Yes. Random, we are in Chaos. It is a long story, but we are in the castle dungeon area, there has been a collapse of the area. Can you pull some of us through?"
:I don't think the contact is strong enough. Do you think that is the reason for the Serpent of Chaos to be running through Castle Amber?:
"Yes, he is after Leonardo. I will explain later. Can you get someone closer to Chaos to reach us with a stronger contact? There are eight of us, six are unconscious."
:I'll see what I can do. You might want to work on it from your end.:
"Very well, I'll see what I can do. They have blocks set up here."
:Try to move outside the area, if you can.:
"Thanks, Random." Contact is fading. I drop contact. It was rather draining, but there is no time to relax. I examine the rubble for an unaffected area. There is a small area with no blockage, possibly three people could squeeze into it. I move into the area to see what I can do.
I get the Trump deck out of the Doctor's pocket, after withdrawing several odd things first. A frog, some jelly babies, a ball of yarn, and odd bits of unidentifiable objects. I put them back and look through the deck for a Trump of the TARDIS. The only one available is an old one. There is no way of knowing what would happen if we try to Trump a destroyed TARDIS, wherever it is. I will suggest to the Doctor to make a more current one later. Forget the TARDIS, for now.
I summon the Sign of the Pattern again, time for another tact. I think about Emma's missing magical device and wonder about the probability that it 'is' in this area. I alter the probabilities that since it 'is' linked to Emma, it should be available for her. Something catches my eye in the corner, a piece of cheap plastic. "By the Unicorn!" Break number three. I pick it up, it looks like it. A plastic Captain Decoder ring. I hand it to Emma and take the lighter. "Does this belong to you, my dear?"
Emma smiles. "I wondered where that had disappeared to."
"Let's see if we can get everyone out of here, we are running out of time. If the guards reach us, Merlin will be taken and returned to the throne. If it 'is' Eric, we will be place in the next available dungeon." I take off my belt and tie it to others to link us together. "If we are holding onto each other, we should travel together. Do you think it will work?"
Emma cradles her prize. "We will find out. I doubt if they have anything that will block this. It 'is' a rather unusual item."
I link my arms through as many belts as I can. We form a chain of eight bodies with Emma as the central focus. Kat and I hold onto Emma and the others. We hear the guards oozing through, they are nearly upon us. "I guess that is your cue, Mrs. Peel. We cut it awful close, don't we?"
"In the nick of time." She turns the dial. "See you in the funny papers!"
We are enveloped in a dense cloud of blue smoke. This is a good sign, it's working. Where will we end up? That is the only drawback. We will end up in the Cineverse Shadow Earth, but it is a random teleport.
I hear Emma say. "Oh-oh."
She is close enough to see her. In her hand is the Captain Crusader Decoder ring, in four pieces. It broke during transport. Break number four, but a bad break. What next? She fades from view.
The blue fog begins to clear. It appears to be evening, wherever I am. I feel a cool breeze and the smell of sea water. I seem to be inside of what appears to be a boat, but there is no sensation of movement. How very strange...
"Mrs. Peel?" No answer. The blue fog dissipates. I look around and see various buildings beyond a beach. The boat I am in, is made of stone, I somehow remember a stone boat - but where? In the center of the buildings is a green domed structure. Like a bad penny, I turn up again in the Village. "Small world." And getting smaller.
Who arrived with me? On the deck of the stone boat, is the unconscious form of Eric. There is no sign of the others. What happened? Eric and I... two of eight... one-fourth... four pieces of the ring... it must be. Four groups of two scattered through the Cineverse.
I put my belt on and see how Eric is doing. I summon the Sign of the Pattern. Time to affect probabilities, there should be 'no' reception committee.
Eric stirs. "Who? Oh, Steed."
"How are you?"
He feels around his body. "All right. I guess we are out of the dungeon."
"Yes. You got a nasty knock on the head. Do you remember who you are?"
"Of course, Steed. I'm Merlin." Says the Merlin who looks like Eric.
"That's good. I think everyone got out of the dungeon, but there is no way to know 'where' they are."
Merlin. "What happened?"
"There was a cave-in from an earthquake. We will have a lot of explaining to do later. We found a small corner that was not blocked and we teleported out of there. Something went wrong, we were separated. Do you have any injuries that need to be tended?"
"No, I'm a shape shifter. I can heal any injuries."
"We should get in touch with the rest of the group." I smile. "I don't suppose you have any Trumps." Knowing that he doesn't. "I think we should depart this place soon. We are in the Village, a place where people are taken and put away. They don't like visitors. We should be able to deal with this, I've escaped from here twice. However, they may get smarter; deciding to shoot first."
Merlin looks down the beach. "Is that one of Smiling Jenny's balloons?"
Unfortunately, no. "No... it's Rover. A prisoner retrieval system. Very nasty, this is the first time I've actually seen one. We should leave, unless you want to see what it can do."
"I think I'll pass. Too bad I don't have any spells hung. They never gave me the opportunity to prepare any in the cell."
"My Trumps are sparse. I have a Luke."
"Who doesn't? Except now... Luke would help us."
"I'll try it." I concentrate upon the Trump. It is not getting colder. Nothing. Now I remember. "Oh bother, I forgot. Trumps are somehow blocked in the Village."
"I hate that. There are so many places where Trumps are blocked."
"Agreed. Not very civilized of them. I will have to deal with Rover first. Then, we can take cover in the woods and shift out of here. Get a weapon if you can." I withdraw my blade and leap over the side of the stone boat and get some room to move on the beach.
Rover is nearly upon me. I lunge forward - point first at Rover. The blade slides in and Rover oozes along the blade, not puncturing. It covers the guard. I release it before it takes my hand. What in Shadow is this made of? I shove the brolly cover into Rover and jump out of the way. "Bad show, old boy. We will have to run for it. Into the woods and start shifting! I will cover the rear."
He smiles. "The better part of valor and all that."
We reach a trail into the woods and Merlin shifts Shadow around us. I pick up branches and large rocks to throw at Rover. It slows it, but doesn't stop it. It follows us into Shadow. Number 2 will have a difficult time explaining the disappearance of Rover.
I smell the icy stench of a Logrus tendril that appears behind us. It reaches out to us, following us through Shadow along side Rover. I move into position where Rover moves into the tendril. It makes contact and they both disappear. "Merlin, someone with Logrus is following us. The tendril took Rover. We better hurry before the tendril returns, they may be trying to capture us."
"Steed, these Shadows are ordered rather weird. I find myself shifting through multiple versions of the same Shadow. There are places where buildings are exploding. There are islands that are not populated, then they are populated with ape-like humanoids."
"We are in the Shadow Earth Cineverse. Do you watch the telly or visit the theater? Anything that appears there, can appear here."
"Ah, so that is what this is."
The Logrus tendril re-appears. It floats alongside like a jet black ribbon. I tell Merlin. The tendril passes us and blocks our way. A balloon pops out of the tendril. "A balloon from Smiling Jenny. We don't have time to chat, they will have to wait until we get out of here." We get around the tendril and keep moving. I prefer a Hell ride over a Hell run.
The tendril catches up to us again and pulls ahead. Out of the tendril pops Suehprom and Smiling Jenny, blocking our path.
Jenny calls out. "Don't worry Steed, we will help you."
Suehprom joins in. "I'll catch Eric."
"Suehprom, it's not Eric!"
"What?" He stops in disbelief.
"It's King Merlin in Eric's body."
"Right." He prepares to stop Merlin.
Jenny moves into position. "I know King Merlin and 'this' is not King Merlin."
Suehprom asks. "What if he shape shifted?"
"Then it could be Merlin." She stops then.
"Look, there is no time for this. I want to get out of here." Merlin and I return to shifting out of here. Suehprom and Jenny follow.
"Let me give you the short version as we go, we have to keep moving. During the coronation, Eric attacked Merlin. Under the cover of darkness, somehow Eric changed bodies with Merlin and imprisoned him. Kat visited him and was convinced that Merlin was in the dungeon. We came to rescue Merlin. That is it in the proverbial nutshell."
"Prove it." Suehprom doesn't buy it.
"We are not stopping while in the Cineverse."
"What are you afraid of?" Suehprom.
"Nothing, the rest of our group is scattered through the Cineverse. I want to find them and get them out of here as well."
Suehprom. "Why was Rover chasing you?"
"When we teleported out of the dungeon, we ended up in the Village."
Suehprom. "How's James doing?"
"I didn't stick around to find out. Rover ate my brolly, it is puncture proof."
Suehprom. "Whoever you are; if you are Merlin, prove it."
Merlin looks at him levelly. "What would you accept as proof?"
Suehprom looks at Jenny. "What should I accept as proof?"
Merlin. "We could go to Dara. She would recognize me."
Suehprom. "Why do you look like Eric and why didn't you return to your self?"
Merlin shrugs. "Eric did something to me."
Suehprom. "Jenny, any ideas?"
Jenny. "If he weighs the same as a duck..."
Suehprom. "Maybe the Unicorn would recognize him."
I think not. "I don't think that would be a good idea."
Suehprom asks Jenny. "Who trashed Castle Chaos?"
Jenny. "Your friends caused a disturbance, damaged the castle, freed Eric, and kidnapped King Merlin. That is the 'official' story. Whoever you are, were you the prisoner or the King?"
Merlin. "I was a prisoner, but I 'am' the King."
Suehprom. "What is 'different' between Eric and Merlin?"
"I don't think that Eric would have Logrus, probably not even shape shifting. They both have Pattern."
Suehprom. "Then if we cut him with a Pattern blade, Eric wouldn't burst into flames."
Possible, but hardly a test that even Merlin would want to try.
Merlin. "Or, I could just bring up the Logrus. It seems like a simpler idea, much less painful." He stops moving through Shadow, to demonstrate that he is Merlin. The rest of us stop walking.
I keep my eyes open for danger from our current environment. It appears to be a jungle; quiet and uninhabited. Too quiet. I hear drums in the distance. There is an active volcano, a good distance away - no danger in 'that' - yet. No animal sounds... "There is a good reason why we shouldn't stop in the Cineverse."
Suehprom is now concerned about the situation. "I think we've stayed here too long."
"I agree. Merlin, be a good lad and use the Logrus to get us out of here."
Merlin summons the Sign of the Logrus and sends a tendril into Shadow. "Grab hold, we are on our way." Suehprom, Jenny, and I take hold and are pulled through the contact. I see the face of a gigantic ape peering through the trees - then we pop off into Shadow. Quite large indeed. This Logrus travel is rather interesting, nothing I would want to make a hobby of.
Suehprom saw the ape. "Some special effects, Steed."
"In this place, they are absolutely 'not' effects."
"Steed, what did you do to end up in the Village?"
"We teleported out of the dungeon. Something went wrong. We were separated. I don't know who is with the real Eric - that looks like Merlin."
"Who was with you?"
"Scout, Anna, Kat, the Doctor, Eric, Merlin, and Mrs. Peel."
"What do we do with Eric?"
"Once we get everyone together, we can figure something out."
Merlin. "I am concerned. I don't know what Eric would do with them. I never really knew my uncle before. I am beginning to understand why my father didn't like him. At least, I got to keep the eyes."
Suehprom. "What did he do to you?"
Merlin. "I have no idea."
"Merlin, are there any spells that deal with mind - psyche exchanges?" I have had limited experience in that area, and only non magical. I 'feel' for Merlin. It is rather unsettling to be trapped in another body - I remember Basil and Lola.
"It's always possible, Steed."
Suehprom. "Have you tried to shift back to your original form?"
"Yes. I've tried, but haven't succeeded. I seem to be stuck in this form." He seems to be rather upset about that.
"If that is the case, you seem to have lost your shape shifting ability. You both had Pattern. Apparently Logrus is not linked to the body, but to the mind; like shape shifting is."
Suehprom. "Where are we?"
Merlin. "I reached for a Shadow that is not in the Cineverse and grabbed it."
Suehprom. "We should get to a safe and familiar Shadow."
"Yes, and soon..." I receive a Trump call. "Incoming." I make myself receptive. "Yes"
:Ready to come home?:
"Where are you, Leonardo?"
:In Amber.:
I look around. "Anyone for a jaunt to Amber?" Everyone is ready. We join hands and I clasp Leonardo's. We step through. "Home again, home again." We see Leonardo, Kat, and Emma.
Leonardo reacts rather badly to Suehprom, Jenny, and her balloons. "Who is that? What are all those balloons following you?"
Jenny. "I am Jenny and that is my boyfriend."
Leonardo. "Keep him away from me, or he is dead."
Jenny has a slight menace in her voice. "Don't threaten my boy friend."
Suehprom. "Who is this person?"
We need a referee, possibly more. "This is Leonardo, a new cousin. He came with us to rescue Merlin."
"We need to contact the Doctor, Scout, Anna, and the other Merlin."
Leonardo gets the Trumps of both. After an attempt, neither are responding.
I look around; we are in a storage area of Castle Amber, in the upper levels.
Suehprom. "What is the matter with you?"
"I was chased by a snake and he had one of those damned balloons following it!" Leonardo sounds rather upset, understandable. "So, stay away from me until I figure out what the hell is going on."
"You were chased by a snake?" Suehprom sounds dubious.
Leonardo. "Yes a huge one-eyed snake."
Jenny. "You seem to be fixated on something."
Leonardo. "Look downstairs, the castle is in ruins. It even attacked Ge`rard."
Kat. "What happened to Ge`rard?"
Leonardo. "The snake bit his arm off."
Jenny. "You need to get a girl friend. I don't want to know what Ge`rard was doing with your one-eyed snake." To Suehprom she smiles. "He and Kat would make an interesting couple."
Jenny and Suehprom comment on Kat's bump on her head.
Leonardo tries the Doctor again. He pulls the Doctor through along with a young teenage girl and another Merlin.
The Doctor looks around, sees Merlin and Eric. "Oh, bother. Where are we?"
"Castle Amber." We have both together and in Amber.
The Doctor. "Can we go downstairs and discuss this, without killing each other? May I make a suggestion? Let's have lunch first."
"Capital idea, Doctor. Let's get to the Great Hall and get this settled there. And no sneaking about killing each other. Right?" We head downstairs toward the main floor.
I see that extensive damage has occurred in the castle. I hope the wine cellar is still intact.
Leonardo. "I was being chased through the castle by the snake." 
The Doctor talks as we go. "Everyone this is my companion, Ace." He proceeds to introduce everyone to Ace.
As we reach the second floor. "Mrs. Peel, would you be so kind to find Random and let him know what happened? He may be organizing a rescue for us."
"Of course, Steed." She smiles, knowing I gave her an important task.
She heads for the Throne room.
Suehprom and Jenny disappear. Not by Logrus, but via Pattern. The balloons remain and float around aimlessly.
The Doctor looks around. "All right, who did that?"
Merlin and Eric both say that it wasn't them.
"Not I, Doctor." Good trick, that. I detected the signature. Leonardo...
Kat. "Do you seriously think I would want to get rid of those two? I take that back." Doctor. "No more disappearances now." He gets the Trumps out. Looking for the Suehprom Trump.
Leonardo admits to it. "It's been a long day and I am exhausted. I created an earthquake that trashed Castle Chaos, was chased by a snake, Trumped to Amber, was chased through Castle Amber by the snake, Ge`rard's arm was bitten off by the snake, the Unicorn appeared to stop the snake, and the snake left. My master gave me a new arm for Ge`rard. I pulled nearly everyone here and I am tired."
Doctor. "It 'has' been a long day."
I make my excuses. "Please excuse me. I want to stop in the Library for a moment and I will catch up with you in a bit." I leave for an overdue rendezvous. "There is a book, I've been planning to read. Ta ta."
As I walk down the hall, I hear Leonardo. "Will someone tell me what was so important about this Merlin - Eric deal?" They proceed to 'try' to explain to him - 'why' we got involved.
I hope he gets a satisfactory answer.
I reach the Library, opening the double doors. I walk down the right side of the Library, along the wall. Seventh bookcase from the door, sixth shelf from the floor, and fifth book from the right. There it is... I take it to a nearby desk. I sit down and look it over. Yes, it is the same book.
Inside the book cover is the picture of a relative. I concentrate on the picture. It grows colder. I reach him.
:Yes?:
"Hello, Dworkin?"
:Yes. I see you found my book:
"Yes, what is the book about?"
:You will know, when you read it.:
"This is Steed, great grandfather. I found this book in the Library. I took it as an invitation."
:What can I do for you?:
"I thought you could help. I want to increase my Pattern Ability or learn Trump Artistry."
:So, you want to study? A worthy desire.:
"Yes. If Trump, at least to be able to do simple sketches. I doubt that I could create works of art." 
:You would be surprised at what you are qualified for. Why don't you come through?:
"Certainly."
:Come to me, then.:
I take his hand and step through...

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R. Cal Westray, Jr.
Copyright 2001 [Westray.org].
All rights reserved.
Revised: October 23, 2007 .