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Esprit de Corps

Steed's Tale - "Esprit de Corps" - Chapter 11

Journal of Prince "Major" Jonathan Steed of Amber:
Based on a Scenario by Rain Donaldson
Written by: R. Cal Westray, Jr. in 1996.
Steed's history was written in 1994.

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


Bar
Episode A3-11 - Have Pattern will Travel

In which Steed shifts Shadows
... and Emma goes along for the ride.

I tell Emma and Morganth that I need to go on a little Hellride into Shadow. I explain that I need something to tip the scales in our favor over the Creed. "You both can stay here or come along. There may be risk involved, staying or going. I will provide the transportation, my Andelusians."
They both decide to go along. I discuss my plan with Morganth and he tries to convince me that he can provide what is needed. However, he accepts my reasoning after the latest confrontation with Kat.
"Emma, you remember Andrea. Her granddaughter is in the stable, she is also named Andrea. Morganth, I think Andy will be best suited for you; he doesn't spook. I will take Lucian. Lucy will come along as a reserve, if we need a fourth horse."
I take them to their rooms to change and get freshened up for the trip. Emma will find a surprise in her room. A runner is sent to the stables to get my horses ready and have travel gear and bedding for three people. I get cleaned up and dressed in my riding suit.
We then go to the Great Hall for something to eat and some travel rations. Emma looks rather stylish in her riding suit. My surprise? The closet in her room was stuffed with clothing that she may like. It is a room frequently used by visiting ladies at court, I did a lot of entertaining and tour guiding. I had purchased various outfits that Emma used to wear frequently. They were all in her size (I remember these things), or closely fitting. Imagine visiting ladies wearing some of these outfits. Sink me, but few looked as good in them as Emma.
I gather a bag of apples to take for the horses. Then we head for the stables.
The situation with Kat brought something else to mind. I should find something to provide protection for Emma. Just a little something to protect her from Psychic attacks, that will allow her to defend herself physically if being attacked mentally. I now have both items to search for.
After a stroll down the lane, we reach the stables. The stable master has the horses tethered on the lawn in the shade. I get an apple out for each horse and talk to them individually. I introduce rider and horse, I explain that my horses are more protective of any rider that I introduce. If I don't approve of the rider, they don't approve either. I am just a little over protective of my horses.
Emma holds out an apple, she is delighted with Andrea and Andrea senses her delight. They will get along just fine. Morganth approaches Andy with an apple. He sees Andy as a noble, proud, and powerful companion. Andy thinks Morganth has good taste. Another good pair. Lucy is sulking that she is left out. I tell her that we need her well rested, she will be very important to us. She will carry our valuable supplies. She perks up as I give her an apple. Lucian looks at me levelly. I pat his shoulder and feed him his apple.
"Lucian, old boy. I need your quick reflexes and nerves of steel. Would you like to lead the Hellride this fine day?" He stomps the turf with his forefeet, tearing up the sod. His snorting and neighing can be heard back to the castle. "Good lad! That's the spirit!"
I turn to the others. "They were bred for this. Hellriding is in their blood. They will take good care of you both."
We remove the tethers and mount the horses. Lucy will be led with a long tether to ride behind Lucian and me. Morganth and Andy will be on the left, slightly behind me. Emma and Andrea will be on the right, slightly behind me. We will be in a diamond formation, with a safe distance between us. We nudge the horses to go. We are on our way to Forest Arden and beyond into shadow.
We ride through the town of Amber and it is uneventful except that we see someone in front of a tavern. It appears to be Blazer in a naval uniform. He is being obvious about not being seen by us, only drawing attention to himself. He is ignoring us, maybe the sea air will do him good. We continue our ride.
The ride through Forest Arden is leisurely and uneventful. A beautiful day for sight seeing. The trees are mighty and majestic; towering and massive. The colors range from the deepest greens, to the shiniest gold, and to the darkest of browns. The variety of trees is enormous, with trees even nonexistent on Shadow Earth. The grass is thick, green, and soft. The fragrances are lovely and sweet. The air is cool and the sun is warm. There are just a few clouds in the sky, with no hint of precipitation. There are nearby hills and mountains in the distance. This is nature's heaven.
The sky ahead is becoming dark, it looks gray. It is becoming more pronounced further into Arden. It looks a bit polluted and the trees look sparse and unhealthy. I turn to the others. "Something is wrong here, it looks like Arden has become polluted. The only thing that would explain this would be that someone shifted reality while 'in' Arden. Julian will be quite upset about this, and I would rather not be the one to tell him. Let's ride on to see what is the extent of this effect." We ride on and the effect is the same, however we find a gravel road in the middle of the forest. We follow the road until it abruptly ends. Curious, a road that comes from nowhere and leads to nowhere.
Emma is confused. "Steed, why would someone build a road here? There seems to be no apparent purpose."
"The rationale for it escapes me as well."
"If it is an attack on Amber, it is rather a bizarre and pointless one."
I bring up the Pattern and use it to view the area of effect and determine if there are life forms nearby. It is apparent from the scan that this is a deliberate shifting, done with the Pattern. Definitely not a Chaosian attack. Someone with access to considerable power, shifted Shadow within Arden. I let the others know my findings.
I decide to continue my mission and watch for other examples of rampant usage of Pattern. I also memorize the 'fingerprint' of the Pattern user. If I encounter the mental signature of the Pattern adept, I will know who did it. It could be one of the elders that I don't normally associate with or a new Pattern initiate. (Someone with access to a great deal of power, something like the Jewel of Judgment or an artifact like the one I am looking for.) I am sure that I will eventually discover the identity of the 'Vandal of Arden'.
We continue to the outskirts of Arden, so I can 'properly' shift Shadow. I lead us to the streams, so we can water the horses before we begin shifting. We keep a good pace, not to overwork the horses. Within an hours ride, we reach the point where shifting is safe. "Let's water the horses before we leave. This is where the adventure begins."
We dismount and lead the horses to the stream. We get a drink as well and stretch our legs one last time. Emma and Morganth may need a break more than the horses, I don't know how long it has been since they have ridden last.
"Morganth has been with me before as we shifted through Shadow into Chaos. The shifting will be a bit faster, since we were on foot before. Emma, just observe the changes to the contours of the terrain and let the Andrea 'feel' her way along. If we encounter anything the horses can't understand, we may need to cover their heads and lead them along. It is like a fox hunt, with a few surprises. There are water proof cloaks in the saddlebags for areas of rain we encounter. Any questions?"
No questions, so we mount the horses. Everything is secure and we are ready. I take point and stop for a moment to bring up the Pattern in my mind. I 'feel' Forest Arden in my mind, fixing our place mentally. I wrap my mind around the area and nudge Lucian to go.
He snorts and gets a smooth pace, we are all in position.
As we begin, I then extend my awareness into Shadow, searching, scanning, looking for something I desire. I envision the object as I shape its existence and its location in my mind. I desire an object; its properties are meshed with the energies of the Pattern. It is something that will boost the Psyche of an individual with Pattern. It cannot function for anyone without Pattern, for it was made for one of the blood of Amber. Its destiny is one of serving one of the blood of Amber. With this item, one with Pattern would experience Psyche at a similar level of Kat's. Enough to do a thorough job on eliminating the Creed and the Creed nanites as a threat anywhere in Shadow. It will be an object that should be returned to its Shadow when its work is done. However, the object of my desire will have belonged to an elder in the past. Hopefully it will be abandoned.
Such an item does exist; I 'see' it and I know the direction I must take. I have no idea where I will find it or what Shadow it resides in, but I can find it.
Steady movement is more important than speed. As long as I keep a regular progression of stimuli to get a mental grasp onto, there is room for movement. Once this begins, its rate is a matter of discretion. Lucian moves slowly at first, we have reached the point where it is safe to shift Shadow. I mold the area beyond the immediate trees to become less dense and the sky to become cloudier.
The trees begin to thin and a variety of clouds are overhead. Dark lines appear in the nearest cloud formations and the sky beyond develops a pink tinge. The rock formations disguise hidden pathways made of macadam, ditches are overgrown with lilies and jack pine trees. The grasses are littered with blue bell flowers. I take the trail of broken stones until I see a covered bridge that will take us to the other side of the stream we have been following. The wooden bridge was designed to handle carts and wagons, there has been much traffic across the bridge due to wheel ruts in the road and scratches on the bridge floor.
We enter the bridge and I shift Shadow again. As we emerge from the covered bridge, the road is wider...people are traveling on the road ahead approaching us riding horse drawn carriages. The attire appears to be of Shadow Earth western style, although no weaponry is evident. We pick up the pace now that we are on an open road...Shadows shuttle...the landscape is a blur...the air becomes crisper...The road winds...Trees with Spanish moss...Small animals darting across the road. A full moon, rising early, emerges from the clouds. Trees, small buildings, and rock formations are hiding our view of the road ahead in the distance. The only sounds are of the click of hoof on rock and our breathing. Time passing quickly then slowly. The path winds to a downward slope. The road becomes springy with more moss and less stone. Shifting further, we cross a dry stream bed with thicker yellow moss. On the other side we pass through a thick fog of silver mist. We emerge once again on a road of macadam.
I hear gasps and exclamations from my travel companions, as realities shifted. I am sure that it is an impressive display. I was quite impressed when I began to do it as a youth. I shift again, altering worlds after worlds.
I receive a Trump contact. We slow and come to a stop. I turn and tell them about it.
I open to the Trump contact. "Yes?"
:Steed? It's Ge`rard.:
"Hello, Uncle; what can I do for you?"
:I was wondering which of your friends, tampered with the mind of one of my guards?:
"Is that the one guarding Doctor Plutonium?"
:Yes, he seems to be quite obsessed with him.:
"Plutonium is a very dangerous man who created this Creed invasion in my Shadow Earth. We are trying to stop the invasion. Do you remember the lady in black, Kat?"
:Yes, she did this?:
"Yes, we needed to keep him under guard. She searched the mind of Plutonium for a way to stop the invasion. I suppose that she enlisted the guard, with some emphasis that he take it quite personally."
:Very well, if you see her before I do; let her know that I wish to talk with her.:
"Kat also took care of the alien infestation in Castle Amber. She was able to burn their minds out." I continue. "My traveling companion, Morganth got into a confrontation with her. She then disappeared, I have no idea where she is." I pause. "We decided to go for an excursion through Shadow, leaving the castle for awhile. To get away from it all."
:Yes, I see you are quite a way from Amber.:
"Is there anything else?"
:Not at the moment. Is there anything you need?:
"Ah." I hesitate. He is the one who accompanied me on my first Pattern walk, the only relative, I have truly trusted. I test the water. "I am looking for an object to help eliminate the Creed invasion, like the aliens who invaded Amber. Something what will help with Pattern usage."
:Well, what are these Creed?:
"They are Shadow dwellers who have been created by Doctor Plutonium. They are cybernetic humans infected with nanites, used to infect others."
:I know what nanites are, Steed.:
"The Creed escaped Plutonium's control and are now spreading throughout the Shadows, growing through assimilation. They are infesting a Shadow that I am rather fond of."
:Have you considered introducing an anti-nanite virus into their programming.:
"The Time Lord Doctor has developed a hunter seeker nanite and introduced them into our system."
:Why not alter the technology so that the nanites wont work there?:
"Therein lies the problem, uncle. I am unable to alter the reality sufficiently to do that. I seem to be fighting for control over the Shadow's reality. I don't know who is assisting the Creed. Possibly a rogue Amberite."
:There are fortunately not many of them.:
"My suspicion is that it is related to the situation with Eric and Deirdre."
:Oh yes, I never did get your version on what happened then.:
I give him the abbreviated version, like the one I gave Queen Vialle. I include the destruction of the TARDIS and the universe, which I can only take the word of the others. I did not witness it. I appeared when the time lines were converging, according to the Doctor. I point out the guesses about time travel. I agree that it has always been impossible to travel backwards in time. Regardless of my faith in the Time Lord, it 'had' to be a case of Shadow travel and they brought back Shadows of Eric and Deirdre, not the originals from an alternate time line. "Corwin was convinced that they were the originals from an alternate time line. That would make them extremely dangerous."
:I can see where Corwin may be confused. He does seem to rush to judgment on these things.:
I conclude my tale and let him know. "My plan was to find something that will boost my Psyche to improve my control over Pattern to defeat the Creed invasion."
:Anything that powerful will be risky, so be careful nephew. I don't deal too much with mind tricks.:
"I too, but this Shadow is rather important to me."
:Very well, just be careful. Remember, my brother Brand sought out sources of power beyond his ability to handle, much like you are now attempting. You know what happened to him.:
I inwardly shudder. "By the way, has anyone discovered the whereabouts of Eric? What is happening to Deirdre?"
:Deirdre has sworn fealty to Random, so she will be behaving herself. Eric has been rather quiet and Random is content to leave him out in Shadow.:
"This Deirdre seems more bloodthirsty than the one I briefly knew."
:Your knowledge of her has been limited, that is the way she is. You never had an argument with her.:
"That is correct. I also observed that both Eric and Deirdre were quite keen on getting the Jewel of Judgment, before we left the Abyss."
:I am not surprised. You know, most of our relatives are not shy about grabbing power at any opportunity or excuse.: That strikes a nerve, that is precisely what I am doing. Even if my motives are just and pure.
"Any suggestions? Taking on the lead Creed seems to be beyond my power at the moment."
:I have always advocated the direct method. Head for it, find it, break it into small bits. If there is nothing else, I need to see a Kat about a man.:
Clever. "Thanks, uncle." We break contact.
I fill the others in on Ge`rard's advise. I am not as confident as I was before. I ask Emma's opinion. 
She speaks up. "I am not familiar with your powers in Amber. I do know they are quite impressive. Our method in the old days were to bull through and see what happened."
"I know." Such good memories.
"But I understand if you feel that you don't have enough power to deal with them."
"Well, the power 'is' there. I am not certain if it is sufficient for the task at hand."
"Perhaps, you should look for the source of the problem; rather than deal with the side effects, i.e. the Creed. Can you do that?"
"We can alter the Hellride a bit. Thank you, my dear."
I concentrate on our new destination. "Once more, my friends, into the breech." The source of the Creed. We move into formation and I bring up the Pattern and begin shifting Shadow again. In a short period of time, it becomes apparent that we are heading back to Amber. Damn. We must be heading back to Doctor Plutonium. This is not what I had in mind. I alter my search, to concentrate upon searching for the intelligence behind Creed Prime.
The sound of hoofbeats upon broken stone, shuffle, pop, and crack. The sky is a deep aquamarine and the grass has an olive hue. We are still moving quickly. The trail moves up and over ridges like a small rollercoaster. The sky has flares of yellow and pink, giving the appearance of fire in the sky. The clouds spread across the sky like lava flowing over a sea of fire. The sky darkens to an indigo gray, as the sun and moon are blotted out.
The clouds become layered and the temperature drops slightly, with the smell of ozone in the air. The winds are increasing and we are heading directly into them. The distant rumble of thunder seems to get closer. The sounds of birds scattering for shelter fill the sky. Some trees are filled with the sounds of birds that already found shelter within its branches. We break through into a familiar environment, it is a Shadow near the Cineverse. More shifting.
We eventually reach a Shadow where there are many Creed. However, they are not doing well. They seem to be having trouble with their motor functions, stumbling, and falling. I use my Pattern awareness to scan them. Someone has apparently introduced some virus into their system, some counter programming that has neutralized the nanites and the Creed. The nanites have been reprogrammed to infect other Creeds, not other victims. Then it instructs them to shut down.
Someone with Pattern has done this; I recognize the mental signature. Mother! We move further into the area, there are more and more dead and dying Creed. "The Creed have been infected and are dying. Flora took an active part in this, she has saved the Cineverse."
Morganth seems to be distracted, concentrating upon something. A spell is released in the area. Morganth's face and hands have become purple. Apparently Kat has found him.
"Morganth, do you feel all right? You look rather purple."
"I was blocking a Trump contact for quite awhile." Morganth sounds rather disgusted.
"I can only guess who was trying to reach you through Trump. It looks as though 'she' was somewhat successful."
Morganth shifts to the form of that purple dinosaur. "I may as well look the part."
He is still purple, unable to remove the spell. He decides to return to Chaos to see if he can remove the spell there. "There is 'one' way to take care of it."
"If you wish. Do you have an easy way to get there?"
"I could whip up a spell."
"Are you in a hurry, or do you want to see what happened to the Creed?"
"Do you think I like being the Spawn of Moander?"
"If that is what they look like, I don't think I would either."
"Exactly."
"My quarterstaff doesn't seem to be removing the spell. Let's put it this way, I will be picking up a power, similar to yours soon."
Morganth intends to walk the Logrus. I have heard that that way leads to temporary madness. "I take it you plan to do something rather dangerous."
"I have heard rumors about what it will do."
"I hope it doesn't enhance the quality of purple." He is completely purple, with varying shades of course. Even his hair and eyes are in shades of lavender to deep violet. His clothes were unaffected. He changed back to his normal form, tiring of being a purple dinosaur.
We continue further into the Shadow. More of the same. I am still searching for the intelligence behind the Creed. We find more dead and dying Creed. I am quite pleased with that, too many innocents have been affected.
We eventually locate what looks like the remains of a Creed, the one I was looking for. Of that there is no doubt. We dismount and get a better look. It is missing an arm and leg; apparently the original arm and leg taken from Prince Creed of Chaos. Someone has taken the original body parts of Creed, again. This means that the Creed can be recreated somewhere else later. That...will be another adventure. One that I hope will fall to someone else. As long as it doesn't happen in Amber or in 'my' Shadows. 
I say softly, while examining the remains with the tip of my brolly. "Thanks, Mother. It looks as though you decided to protect 'your' Shadow as well." I pause, then look at my companions; smiling. I hold out a Trump I retrieved from my silver Trump case. "Well, it looks as though our work here is done. My little side trip was not necessary after all, even if it was a pleasant ride." I pat Lucian's shoulder and he snorts.
" Morganth, you can have the Trump of my quarters in Chaos. The flat may still be there. You will be close to the Courts, but I don't know how close you will be to your final destination. I have not looked upon the Logrus and I do not know it's location.. Emma, it looks as though I am long overdue visiting my Mother. I want to thank her personally for her help."
Morganth dismounts and takes the Trump. He hands me Andy's reins, patting his shoulder. We exchange thanks and well wishes. He concentrates upon the Trump and a portal opens. I can see the colorful swirling mists of Chaos, not sure if I can make out any details. He steps through and the shimmering portal closes.
"Shall we return to Amber, my dear?"
"As much as I enjoyed our little jaunt through Shadows, let's go somewhere under the rainbow."
I smile at her subtle way of suggesting we return via Trump. "Emma, your wish is my command." Out of my vest pocket, I withdraw the Trump of Castle Amber. "Presto! Let's go, we can leave the clean up to the locals."
I hold the Trump in front of me and I concentrate upon it. It is a view of the front gate of Castle Amber. As I look at it, people appear and there is movement at the guard post. The portal opens and Emma steps through with two horses. I follow with the others. The guards approach and pause when they see me. "Good day, gentlemen. Beautiful day, isn't it?" I tip my hat and we walk on. The guards return to their business.
We take the horses to the stables, leaving them in the capable hands of the stable master's men. We head for the castle, arm in arm.

Continued in Chapter 01 of Dressed to Kill!

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