Steed's Tale -
"A frigid breath of wind, fragile chiming in a sudden silence, and an apparition which dominates every reflecting surface to be found in Castle Amber."
Journal of Prince "Major" Jonathan Steed of Amber:
Based on a Scenario by Gamemaster: Stephanie Itchkawich - Ambercon IX, 1998.
Thanks to all who attended the session and who helped me finish the journal.
Written by: R. Cal Westray, Jr. in 1998. Steed's history was written in 1994.
"Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state,
need to be avenged by agents extraordinary..."
Mother: Flora of Amber
Grandmother: Dybele (deceased) Grandfather: Oberon (deceased)
Great-grandmother: Unicorn Great-grandfather: Dworkin
Personal History Time Line:
Time conversion: 4 Amber yr. = 10 Earth yr./4 Earth yr. = 1.5 Amber yr.
>Ages 0-10: (1922-1931) (2369-2372 d'L)
Born Jonathan Steed, on February 6, 1922.
Shadow Earth: in Berkshire, England.
>Ages 11-14: (1932-1935) (2373-2374 d'L)
Shadow Earth: Boarding school in Winchester, England.
Amber: Walked the Pattern at 12.
>Ages 15-18: (1936-1939) (2375- 2376 d'L)
Shadow Earth: Eton College, student.
>Ages 19-28: (1940-1949) (2377-2380 d'L)
Shadow Earth: British Royal Navy, title Major.
>Ages 29-32: (1950-1959) (2380-2384 d'L)
Amber Army, title Major.
>Ages 33-50: (1960-1977) (2385-2390 d'L)
Shadow Earth: Ministry of Intelligence, independent agent.
>Ages 51: (1978-1979) (2391 d'L)
Return to Amber after the Patternfall War ended.
>Ages 52: (1980-1981) (2392 d'L)
Present. In Chaos for exchange program.
>Ages 53: (1982) (2393 d'L)
Present. Return to Amber, royal agent.
Alexander, son of Fiona - Scott "Stormy" Whitney
Ariel, daughter of Fiona - Heidi "Kassi" King
Carachel, son of ? - Rich Driscoll
Colin, son of Flora - William ?
Conner, son of Deirdre - Robert G. Ewart
Corvina, daughter of Brand and Dara - Lori Turi
Graham, son of Eric - Michael ?
Harrison, son of Oberon - J. P. Brannon
Macallan, son of Fiona - Ian Ng
Steed, son of Flora - Cal Westray
Episode 2F0-1 - It's All Done With Mirrors.
In which Steed sees a reflection
... and then sees stars.
It is a starry and snowy night at Castle Amber. Most people are asleep and warmly tucked into bed. I am sitting on my sofa, by the fireplace in my room. I am keeping warm under a quilt, reading a book, and sipping a warm brandy. Times like this, remind me of Shadow Earth and my quiet times with Emma. Those were the days...
I plan to go to a small party in Conner's room soon, but I intend to be fashionably late. It is time to get ready, and I gather all my accouterment; these thing must be done properly. Conner, our host, is a likable chap. He is covered in tattoos and his tastes in music run to punk and heavy metal - still, no one is perfect. My other cousins are scattered throughout the castle. Some are out enjoying the snow, some are on the roof enjoying the view or repelling, and the others are going to Conner's party.
Ready for the evening's activities, I walk down the hall to the stairs. I reach the banister and begin my ascent to the third floor. On the landing where the stairs turn, there is a massive mirror that covers the wall. It is well lit and quite handy for seeing anyone approaching from the other floors.
In the reflection of the mirror, I see a beautiful young lady walking down from the upper floor. She wears a red leather cat suit and boots, quite reminiscent of the suit worn by Emma. She intrigues me - lovely lady, with her snow white hair, blue eyes, and ebony black skin. I see all this clearly through the reflection in the mirror, as I walk up the stairs.
I reach the landing, expecting to walk past her; possibly to exchange some pleasantries. I never saw her in the castle before and I was unaware of any new guests. I keep track of that sort of thing, my contacts in the guard let me know when we have visitors - especially lovely ones. There have been no new visitors reported in Amber for weeks.
I keep her in my sight in the mirror and turn to see her in the flesh. "Good evening, Miss." I tip my bowler in greeting.
But, she is not there. How extraordinary! I turn around and see her quite clearly in the mirror, close enough to touch. She gives no indication of seeing me. I now notice that my own reflection is 'not' in the mirror. When I look behind me, she is not there. What is this? Is this a trick of the lighting? Has the mirror become a window to somewhere? Is she a vision brought on by my musings of Emma? Definitely a mystery worth investigating.
I call upon the powers behind the family's artifact, the source of my Shadow traveling abilities, the Sign of the Pattern; to see if magic is involved. It comes to me quickly and I focus through it. Nothing on the stairs... but in the mirror... in the mirror... 'something' is there. I still 'see' her walking away. I approach the mirror with the Pattern blazing before me, looking at her reflection.
I reach out with my hand to lightly touch the mirror. Closer... closer... I feel the cold air from the glass. The glass becomes silvery and opaque as I touch the mirror. It feels like a live electric wire. "Kaboom!" I feel an explosion; then I feel my body blown away from the mirror and down the stairs, clearing all the steps. Consciousness quickly and mercifully departs after I feel the collision with the cold, hard floor. Darkness...
"Oh..." The lights return. "Did anyone get the number of that lorry?" My eyes are struggling to focus and I fight back waves of nausea. I notice a few things immediately. First, I am laying in a most undignified manner on the cold stone floor. The ceiling needs dusting, there are cobwebs in the corners. Second, my hand is still tingling - numb from the shock. Third, my head aches horribly. After the bone-jarring contact with the floor, I am certain that I have a concussion from it. Lastly, I am surrounded by people, who were disturbed by the explosion. My smoking jacket is smoldering... I have a number of cuts on my body and my blood is dripping on the floor. Quite undignified, indeed.
Relatives tend to my injuries and ask me what happened. I try to give them an accurate account. I see the stairs and the mirror, describing the events. Everyone is surprised by what they see. The explosion tore apart the stairs, I am lucky I wasn't killed. (The Pattern may have afforded me some protection - most likely it was my carnation. The carnation on my lapel, is a gift from my great grandmother; it provides me 'some' protection from injury.) However, the Pattern 'did' react rather badly with something in the mirror. That is what got everyone's attention... the mirror.
In the mirror. The glass wasn't shattered. It looks silver, glazed, non-reflective, and darkened, as from great heat. It also holds the image of the woman in red... frozen in the mirror. Indeed, quite strange.
I get up slowly, no broken bones. I find my bowler and brolly further down the hall. I move slowly and gently pick them up, fighting off the dizziness. I tap the bowler in place. A bump is forming, but on the top of my head. Good... it would be a real inconvenience, if I couldn't wear my bowler.
I walk toward the stairs and get as close as I can to see the mirror. I notice that it is getting colder, there is a draft from above. I look up and see stars in the sky. The blast went upward and blew a hole in the upper levels and through the ceiling. I have an extraordinary view of a constellation like Cassiopeia.
The stairs are damaged at all levels. The structural damage, fortunately, doesn't seem to extend into the surrounding living areas. I bet there is severe glass breakage in the rooms. I just received a case of 'Bayle's Best' wine, so I hope those are undamaged. People are scurrying around like ants, but servants are conspicuously absent. The wing we are in, is away from state apartments, servants apartments, and elders apartments. They would have heard the explosion, but not disturbed by it. I learned from Macallan, that a tower slid off the roof and landed in Benedict's Japanese garden.
Special note: Add to ongoing list of things 'not' to do. 'Do not touch mirrors in Castle Amber with active Pattern, while checking for magic.'
Curiosity is as natural to Amberites, as flight is to birds. Many are using their abilities to check the mirror and surrounding area, to determine why the explosion occurred. One cousin, Harrison, is approaching the mirror, his Pattern becoming active. I voice a warning not to 'touch' the mirror using Pattern; explaining 'that' is what caused the explosion. It wasn't obvious to me at the time... now it is painfully obvious. Live and learn.
I offer my thanks to those who took care of my injuries.
Carachel examined the mirror. "The effect was limited to the mirror, some sort of spell; but not powered by Pattern."
Corvina summons the Sign of the Logrus to investigate the mirror. Corvina is a child of Amber and Chaos. Part of the Chaosian heritage is the ability of shape shifting; a select few have traversed the Logrus, the Pattern's counterpart. Pattern users, like myself, are sensitive to the use of Logrus. It is akin to smelling the fumes of burning brimstone. My senses detect the stench of the Logrus and the waves of nausea returns.
Corvina tells us that the power behind the spell is alien in nature to the Logrus as well.
We are interrupted by the Steward of the Castle, Henley; who arrives with a troop of guards to investigate the disturbance. Apparently, Harrison summoned Henley. Good lad, Harrison; keeps on top of things. Henley has in tow, a group of construction workers. They have enormous rolls of tarpaulin, timbers, and tools. They begin repairs and partitioning off the stairs, to prevent accidents. The work will continue throughout the night. Their work begins on the roof to cover the gaping hole. Good place to start, it is getting too cold in here.
Ariel Trumps her mother, Fiona. She is the youngest of Fiona's three children. Her older brother is Macallan and the oldest brother is Alexander. Trumps are a form of Tarot cards. Cards drawn by Trump artists, are used for communication and transportation. Trumps of people, are like cordless phones, but connect mind to mind; people then can be moved from one connection to the other. Place Trumps are used to go to that specific place. Handy items to have, even handier to be a Trump artist; I'm not one of those artists. During the aforementioned contact, she calls out. "Oh! Take cover!"
Something is about to happen. As an old military type, it is instinctive to take cover on command. I duck behind a pillar in the hall and bring up the Pattern. Shields up! I use Pattern defense to protect my mind from possible psyche attack. Others are running for cover as well.
The energy of the magical spell is released again. Those by the mirror, were tossed aside from the blast. I drop the Pattern and run to the stairs, checking for any injured people.
The following doesn't make sense for continuity, this implies that the Logrus is used to save the woman in red, before Corvina is pulled into the mirror with active Logrus. Therefore, I don't know exactly what happened...please help!
I look up and see the woman in the mirror. She has become animated, seeming to look relaxed, then looks horrified, and then takes a step back. Her boot catches the edge of the ledge she is on. She loses her footing and falls backward.
Corvina uses her Logrus tendril. It passes through the mirror and catches the woman who dangles past the ledge. She attaches another tendril to a pillar to anchor herself. The tendrils grow taught and she is pulled toward the missing stairs. I step forward to catch her and help pull the woman in red back and keep Corvina from falling in the gap here. I ignore the stench of Logrus. We are able to pull her back to her ledge, but no further. The Logrus can't pull her through and there doesn't seem to be much room for her on the ledge on the other side of the mirror.
Carachel calls out. "This mirror isn't the only thing affected by this spell now. Windows are affected, too. They have her image now."
I ask. "Do any of you ladies have a make up compact? Check the mirror."
One does and checks. It has the image of the woman in red.
I pull out my silver Trump deck. Her image is there too. "Oh, my. It appears that all reflective surfaces have her image." I hope that mother (Flora) isn't using any mirrors. "I strongly suggest that 'no one' exposes a reflective Pattern item at this time."
Ariel is pulled from us, through a Trump contact; disappearing through the rainbow portal. Alexander and Macallan leave to check on their sister.
Steed is unaware of Ariel's fate. However, it is important to note that Ariel and her mother Fiona have some mother and daughter issues that are being addressed. We (out of character) witness this. It is a humbling, humiliating, and therapeutic scenario for all members of the group. It is therapy of epic proportions.
All are amused and deeply moved at the futile exploits of Ariel trying to evade the smothering influence of Fiona, without breaking the bond of love between them. It is immaterial to Fiona that Ariel is 150 years old, she is still the 'baby' of the family, and still treated as such.
We are brought to tears of laughter at her expense - then to tears of sorrow and joy at the attempted resolution of their issues. Ariel's two older brothers have the freedom to do as they wish, but miss the affection of their mother. Ariel wants to spread her wings, while her mother strives to protect her from the world we know as Amber. A harsh place, where people strike out at each other through their weaknesses. Ariel 'is' Fiona's weakness. If the bond is broken, it will be cauterized - like Fiona's feelings for her sons.
Fiona can't love someone who can't be protected - an independent child becomes a liability against enemies. They have unresolvable views, for Amberites. Ariel wants unconditional trust and love AND freedom. Fiona wants unconditional trust and love AND total obedience. A fine balancing act is played out with unpredictable results.
What Ariel went through, would explain a lot about what may have happened to Brand.
Carachel tells us what happened. "I was in mental contact with the woman in red. It was strained, like from a great distance. There was a sense of astonishment and great relief that she was contacted by someone relatively human. Then something went wrong and she fought contact, like she was saying: 'No! No! Don't!' and was pushing away. That is when she stepped back. I couldn't pull away to break contact. So, I fell down the stairs, it broke contact. Not a great plan, but it works."
Carachel then leads a group to the frozen pond, to examine the large image of the woman in red in the ice - away from the castle; to prevent further damage to the castle. While they are gone. A resounding 'Gong!' rings out from all reflective surfaces. The woman's image is blinked out and replaced by the image of Carachel.
It appears that the woman fell from the ledge again and Carachel is now in the penalty box. Someone senses that she fell to her death. If anyone else gets pulled in, the situation will be repeated.
Upon their return; we learn that Carachel walked on the frozen pond, to concentrate on the image and fell through the ice. No, the ice didn't break - he just fell through, like through a Trump contact. When his image appeared in the ice, they dashed back to us.
The ante just went up, a life was lost - and another is in danger. Yet, we are no closer to solving this mystery. We discuss options and compare notes.
There is a theory about the spell. It seems to be a multi-level spell. One level is a protection spell that prevents powers from breaching the mirror. Another level is the spell that draws someone through the other side; a one way trip so far.
A plan is made to have a Trump artist open a Trump gate (an inter-Shadow portal) to Carachel; joining minds with high psyche to maintain the gate. Corvina will use the Logrus to break the Trump contact if there is a problem. We go outside to the garden by the frozen pond to carry it out, to prevent additional damage to the castle. Flora's blond-haired son, my half-brother Colin, is the Trump artist that will open the gate. He will be joined by Alexander, Aaron, and Ariel as the anchor. The rest of us will observe and 'not use Pattern'.
I decide that my abilities will be of little use in the resolution of this 'problem'. I will continue to observe and suggest, but doubt that I will be of further use. Who knows, they may still need my help.
There are a series of rules for Amberites, if you want to be safe in life. As told to us by Stephanie... Stay away from cousins, stay away from family, stay away from Amber, and stay away from Chaos lords. Don't get involved in plans, don't volunteer for anything, and don't 'get' volunteered for anything. Anything else, you are taking you chances...
The initial attempt fails, because they used minimal effort for the contact. On the second attempt, they pour combined energies and strength of will into it. They make partial contact and are SHUT DOWN, with extreme prejudice by Carachel! Amazing. It is refreshing to see cousins with high psyche, having difficulty for a change.
So much for plan A. What is next? We haven't attempted touching the mirror with Logrus yet. Another theory... Possibly the Pattern froze the conduit to the mirror, it represents stability and order. The Logrus should unfreeze the conduit, it represents instability and disorder. The Logrus 'should' open the conduit again. Well, it makes sense...
Someone suggest sending the Logrus tendril through Shadow to Carachel, instead of going 'through' the mirror or other reflective objects. Corvina prefers to try it first, as well.
Before she tries, someone notices that Carachel's face shifts to a clown face. He seems to be trying to tell us something. Charades...
Alexander says. "He's trying to tell us that he is 'happy' there and wants to be left alone!"
"Bravo. Bravo." I applaud. "That must be it."
Then Carachel's image shifts again and he looks like Llewella. He is trying to tell us that Llewella is involved or he is in Rebma. Castle Rebma is the underwater reflection of Castle Amber, where Llewella rules. There are hordes of mirrors there. Which is he trying to tell us?
Corvina says. "Let's put a note up to the mirror to see if he can read it. We then have a chance to communicate with him." We like that idea and she writes a note that says... 'Is Rebma the key to this problem?' She takes the note and slaps it against the make-up compact mirror. As she touches the mirror, a scorching sound follows; she passes through the mirror and the compact incinerates. We quickly find another mirror and see her unconscious form in the mirror; Carachel is no longer there. She looks injured and burned. She must have had the Logrus active when going through.
I comment. "Pity... we lost the note. What is the next plan?"
I hear various groans. We return to the castle, to the place of the original mirror.
Alexander is undaunted. "Let's Trump Llewella." He searches through his deck and concentrates on Llewella's. We don't hear her response but he relays it to us. "Hello, Llewella. This is Alex. We see a repetitive image in all mirrors and reflective surfaces in Castle Amber. Given that Rebma is filled with them, I thought I'd call to see if you were experiencing anything like that."
Llewella. :We have noticed a variety of images and unusual disturbances. We can only assume that the problem has something to do with Amber. Since there is a strict non-interference policy, I thought it would be solved there.:
"I see. Given your disturbances; if we can solve it, I will let you know."
:Thank you, I will be so relieved to find out exactly what happened. I know these little incidents happen from time to time.: She sounds patronizing.
"You know you can call on me. I would be happy to tell you anything we know here. I am quite reliable in conveying news."
:I feel so comforted. I am sure that if I am ever in the need of information; you will be the first I will call. How is your mother?: Heavy sarcasm now.
"She's asleep, I believe."
"Any messages for her?" He sincerely tries to be cordial.
:No, but you could find out something for me. Perhaps she might be induced to appear before the court on Thursday.:
"Given the use of the word 'induced', to what end?"
:It would be of interest to me if Fiona should choose to come Thursday, to keep her promise that she made to me.:
"Very well, I will deliver the message. Good evening, Llewella." He breaks contact.
Alexander speaks up. "Let's try to Trump Carachel again. We haven't tried to contact anyone who disappeared from the mirror, and we don't know if he is dead now." He goes through his deck and tries the Trump. "Carachel! You still look like Llewella. Where are you?"
Alexander relays to us that he seems to be only a representation of himself 'inside' a spell construct, existing in the spell itself! Carachel, Alexander, and Corvina are in mental contact with each other now. She regained consciousness and is discovering what happened, her hair is now green instead of red.
Alexander tells us that he learned that Carachel is going through the detail of a very old and unstable spell; he is in the process of determining it's purpose and how to patch it to it's original state. It is like debugging a computer program from within the program, and modifying the coding to get the program fixed. Given the environment he is in, that is a close approximation of what he is doing. We ask if he needs any help.
Alexander reaches behind his back and uses hand sign language, to 'sign' to us. :We are being monitored! Keep quiet!: So we wait to see if there is anything they need.
Corvina leaves the ledge and joins Carachel in spell repair. It looks as though this is a task solely for spell casters. Somehow, Carachel opens a group Trump contact, like a conference call, to make it easier to communicate his progress. This must be a function of being in this realm, because I have never heard of group Trump contacts before. They continue in spell repair. Soon, they have the spells corrected, installing a self-replicating spell repair system. Once the repair system is in place, the reflective surfaces return to normal.
Alexander uses his Trump abilities to download the coding within this realm to a backup system, including Carachel and Corvina. Theoretically, he would be able to run duplicates of these spells later. He should even be able to create duplicates of Carachel and Corvina as well; 'why', I don't know. Sort of spell clones... The sort of things to avoid tampering with.
The spells, in the realm that Carachel is in, begin to function normally; then Carachel drops the conference call, but keeping linked with Alexander. Corvina returns to us through the rainbow portal of Alex's Trump, followed by Carachel. They seem to be all right and everything is back to normal, whatever that seems to be.
Both Corvina and Carachel made it back intact. However, something has changed, known only to Carachel. Each person has a Trump signature-image or Trump tag; this is what the Trump artist tags to the Trumps that are drawn. It is what identifies us as what we are for Trump artists.
Somehow, Corvina's and Carachel's Trump tag is now fractalized. What affect this will have on them is unknown. Only time will tell if they notice any differences.
Ariel and Alexander leave to deliver the message to Fiona from Llewella. The group is satisfied that things are back to the way they were and separate for the night. Conner's party broke up after the explosion, oh well. Satisfied of a job well done - and that is how I feel, well done. A good warm bath, fresh bandages, and a warm brandy is in order before going to bed. I say my good nights to the others and return to my room, where I would have been better off staying in the first place.
I cover the mirrors in the room before I undress. It is going to be difficult to believe we have any privacy in the castle anymore. Apparently, we didn't have it before; but now we 'know'.
I will give it a great deal of thought in the morning, what to do about the mirrors. Many of my personal items are silver, therefore reflective. It is unsettling that we have been so spied upon. I could build upon my paranoia or accept things as they are. Personally, I am not fond of paranoia. It tends to make me less than cheerful.
After a bath and fresh bandages, I feel 'much' better and the brandy relaxes me a bit.
I then decide to push aside all paranoia, cover the full length mirror in the bedroom with a large towel, and go to bed. I quickly fall to sleep...
Carachel is getting ready for bed and brushing his teeth. He is opened to a Trump contact between Fiona and Llewella. He didn't try to intercept it, but somehow his fractalized Trump tag has enabled him to monitor others' Trump contacts, unnoticed.
They sound rather conspiratorial. They 'know' what happened tonight and are probably behind the events.
Llewella, sounding smug. "Well?"
Fiona smiles. "I believe it is complete."
Llewella. "And will I see you next week?"
Llewella. "Do you think they bought it?"
Fiona. "Most assuredly. How could they not?"
Llewella. "You were never convincing as a child."
Fiona sounds sarcastic. "Give me some credit Llewella, I have grown."
Llewella. "I take that to mean that you are sincere."
Fiona. "How else could you interpret it?"
Llewella is irritated. "Cut the bull, Fiona. Did you get the final commitment?"
Fiona sounds quite satisfied with herself. "Oh yes. I think it worked."
They break contact, leaving Carachel with much to think about.