A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 13: A Change of Colors (continued)
A covered wagon pulls into Talladale on a sunny afternoon. The driver is an older man bringing much needed supplies from Shady Vale to Talladale. His passenger is an attractive lady in her early thirties, with dark auburn hair and large tawny brown eyes. She wears a form-fitting black-leather jumpsuit.
The gentleman drives the wagon down the main road, to the military headquarters. They climb out of the wagon and walk into the front double doors of the headquarters.
They are greeted by a desk clerk. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“Hello soldier. I am Sam, from Shady Vale. Captain Willows is expecting a shipment of supplies.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll get him.” He heads down the hall and returns with Captain Willows.
He walks in, reaching out to shake Sam’s hand. “Sam! Good to see you again! How are things at the Crossroads?”
“Same as always, Jason. You’re looking good. Still holding down the fort?”
“The Colonel is in charge until things get back to normal. I know you are bringing supplies we desperately need, you should have several crossbowmen with you. It’s not safe out these days, especially with such a lovely passenger. Whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?”
“Hello, Captain. My name is Katt. Tabitha Katt. Please call me Katt.”
“A real pleasure to meet you, Miss Katt. What brings you to Talladale?”
“I am looking for a friend. Wylde. Jack Wylde. Have you heard of him?”
“That old dog! Pardon me ma’am, he came here looking for a boy and you come looking for him. Who’ll come looking for you next, Miss Katt? A purely rhetorical question, of course. Did you see the gypsy caravan as you came down Trevarthen Road?”
She smiles. “Of course.”
“Well, Wylde has a wagon there. His is the last wagon in the caravan.”
“Interesting, Captain.” She smiles. “Sam, if you don’t mind, I will go down and look for him.”
“Go ahead, Miss Katt. Say hello to him for me.”
“I will, thanks for the lift Sam. Thanks, Captain. Good day.”
“Good day, Miss Katt.”
She wanders down Trevarthen road, passing the courtyard and bath houses. She turns onto Caravan Road and looks at each wagon, noting the decorations on each and observing the activity around the caravan. She reaches the last wagon, conspicuously absent of decorations, and knocks on the door. There is no answer. She knocks again then calls out. “Wylde!” There is still no answer.
A soft voice calls out behind her. “Welcome to our caravan. May I help you?”
The auburn haired beauty turns to see a silver-haired woman, who is much younger than her hair would indicate. She wears a crimson bandanna on her head and a multi-layered colorful dress. “Hello, I am looking for Wylde. Do you know where I may find him?”
“I believe I could reach him quite easily. Would you care for some tea until he returns? I’m sure it won’t be very long.”
“I would love some, thanks...?”
“Moonscrye, Madame Moonscrye.”
“How delightful, Madame Moonscrye. I am Katt, Miss Tabitha Katt, or just Katt.”
They walk to Moonscrye’s wagon and have some hot tea. Moonscrye picks up her Tarot deck and does a quick reading and smiles. “Katt, I am certain that he will be glad to see you. You have come a long way to find him.”
“You have no idea.” She has a tone of sarcasm in her voice.
Smiling. “But I do. Believe me, I do. The people of Talladale, including myself, care a great deal about our gifan suni and magi.”
She is taken aback. “You know Thari?”
“It is our native gypsy language, Katt. It surprised Wylde as well. It surprised us to learn that he knew it.”
“But, Madame Moonscrye, I don’t understand your reference to Wylde, as gifan suni and magi.”
“Just Moonscrye, please. When he arrived here, he had no memory of his past.”
“Sam told me as much.”
“Well, he is skilled at examining a horse by touch alone and he can determine an animal’s illness.”
“I am aware of his skill in that area.”
“He also went out to Dragon’s Peak, a place feared by all, and gathered the herbs I needed for fighting the illness. Every horse in Talladale is safe, due in large part to Wylde. The people of Talladale are grateful to him. Since then, he has kept busy learning spells. His skill at learning spells is impressive. According to Cassandra, he learns in hours what takes others days or weeks. We are counting on Cassandra and Wylde as powerful mages to protect our very existence.”
“I see. He has been a busy boy.”
A deep voice calls from around a wagon. “Misler, I got your summons. What’s up?”
A woman is talking to Moonscrye. She turns and I see her face. “You!”
“Hello, Jack. It’s nice to see you again. You’ve changed.” She rises to her feet and faces him.
“Itis you! Forgive me, my dear, but I don’t even know your name. I remember your face and some other things, but not your name.” I approach closer; we are inches apart, almost touching.
“Katt, Wylde. Miss Tabitha Katt.”
I snap my fingers. “Of course! Miss Katt! By the Unicorn, Tabitha! Help me to remember who I am.”
“I will do what I can.” We sit down and Moonscrye watches us intently.
She begins a tale that takes over an hour to tell. She tells me about our first meeting at a party arranged by my superiors in the Ministry, establishing our partnership. She gives me a sample of our assignments together, to battle espionage in England. With fondness, she describes our times together between assignments. She tells about her leaving the ministry, while I continued on with other partners, until I also retired from service.
She wasn’t there, but she told me what she knew of my time after retirement. I returned to my home, the city of Amber. After the event known as the Patternfall War, a war between Amber and Chaos – our distant cousins. And I remembered the phrase, “All roads lead to… Amber!” My uncle Random was newly made king of Amber and I served as his independent agent for a time. Years later, Amber time, Tabitha’s and my path crossed again. Again the world, as we knew it, was in danger. And we faced it together, like old times, but in a different realm across Shadows. She joined me in Amber with my relatives and other traveling companions on a series of adventures. She relayed to me what she had learned about my family, our talents, and our artifacts.
My family has a Machiavellian history. As other kingdoms have, but Amber is the center of the Universe. All other realms and people are mere Shadows of Amber. Our powers derive from our bloodline and access to a power source known as the Pattern, a glowing blue outline that is engraved on the floor of the catacombs of Castle Amber. There are other Patterns that are alternate forms of the Primal Pattern. I have walked many but not all of them yet. The Pattern is the device I concentrated on when trying to teleport. I can visualize it, but for some unknown reason, I don’t have access to its power.
Tabitha told me about the Trumps and how they are used. Concentrating on them and visualizing that the subject of the Trump is a real place or person, it becomes cold to the touch. A direct mental link opens to a person depicted on the Trump. A rainbow portal opens to the place depicted on the Trump. Powerful magic indeed, as is the Pattern.
She explained that she once needed to learn how to block herself from unwanted mental contact and how to make herself receptive to wanted mental contact. Many times we used a brief mental contact to convey a volumes of information in a short period of time and with few witnesses. One time, she was captured by agents and they spent days brainwashing her. It was necessary to link with her to help break the brainwashing techniques. She is better guarded against such techniques in the future. We could use this technique now, but I don’t know how. At present, just knowing that information will have to suffice. Later, when my memory is recovered, we will try it.
With her help, I now know more details of Amber, my home. I am a prince of Amber, son of Princess Florimel, the nephew of King Random, and agent of the Unicorn.
“Thank you, Tabitha.” I turn to Moonscrye. “Misler, does this all make sense to you?”
“Yes, it explains a great deal. It is fortuitous that Miss Katt has arrived.”
“Wylde, there is something you should know.”
“Yes, Miss Katt?”
“Trumps don’t work here.” She taps her forehead and points to my bowler. “Did you try yours?”
“I didn’t know I had them.” I take off my bowler and check the compartment underneath. It has a few Trumps that I wished I knew were there earlier. There were a few Trumps of myself, to give out to others. The last Trump is the important one. I try the Grove of the Unicorn - no good. They appear dead, not cold to the touch. “No good. Let me try to summon the image of the Pattern.” I try. The image in my mind is as clear as Miss Katt is in front of me. But there is no power behind it. It’s not there. “I’m also Pattern blind. Wherever we are, Trump and Pattern is blocked from us.”
“Yes, my dear, we are quite definitely trapped here.”
“I did a fair job of making sure no one knows where I went, too.”
“I guess we are officially on holiday from the Courts then.”
“That’s one way to look at it, Wylde. But I prefer a sea shore holiday and that’s out west of here.”
“A moment please, I should invite someone to see you.” I remember the pendant I wear on my chest. “Cassandra? Would you please join us?”
A few seconds later, there was a phasing in of Cassandra nearby. “Very touching, Wylde.”
“Hello, Cassandra. This is...”
“I heard. Hello, Miss Katt, I am pleased to meet you. Congratulations, Wylde. You are a lucky man.”
I hear a tone in her voice that I hadn’t heard before. Could she be jealous? “Cassandra, the pendant?”
“Just monitors things around you, it doesn’t read your mind or anything like that. Miss Katt, Wylde and I have been working closely together for some time. I don’t want to impose myself in any way.”
Miss Katt speaks up. “Cassandra, I know that Wylde lost his memory. There is still more he needs to recover. In such a situation, I can’t expect him to keep track of these things. If you two have grown close, I won’t interfere. Wylde and I have been partners for many years. I know how close he can become.”
“Yes, but that was before your arrival. Now his affections are split. This changes things for me, but not drastically. I will explain later, if there is the time and opportunity. Wylde, we still have work to do. Bring Miss Katt along, she has potential in the arts as well. She is... worthy.”
My emotions are confused. “I don’t know what to say, Cassandra. Thank you.”
She vanishes for Dragon’s Peak.
Moonscrye looks at me. “Don’t worry, Wylde. She has what she wanted and accepts that. She just wanted things to last awhile longer as they were.”
“I’m not sure I understand, but I suppose she will tell me when she is ready.” I turn to Tabitha. “Miss Katt, we’re needed. Before we go, I would like to treat you to a new wardrobe and a chance to freshen up.”
“I would like that very much, Wylde.”
“See you later, misler. And thanks again.”
We leave, arm in arm, to visit the clothier, next to the bath house. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of time to catch up on.
After we select a new wardrobe for Tabitha, she needs to freshen up after her long journey. I remove the monitoring device of Cassandra’s and leave it in my wagon, since we are going to the bath house. Besides, I wanted some privacy for this conversation. “By the way, Miss Katt. How did you find me?”
“Simple investigative techniques, dogged determination, and a little device that Queen Vialle gave me.”
“Very clever. Tell me about it.”
“This device.” She shows it to me. “It is a ring similar to a ring I lost, a long time ago. It allows me to track something or someone through Shadow. That’s all it does. It opens a Shadow pathway, when needed. I concentrate upon the subject and it pulls me in the appropriate direction.”
“Of course I did most of the leg work.”
“Naturally.” My eyes wonder. “Whose legs are better suited for the task?”
“Flatterer. The ring took me to Shadow Earth, where our twins are residing. Of course, you weren’t there.”
“I followed the trail to an Alternate Shadow Earth. One, I may add with a bit of disappointment, with no corresponding Tabitha Katt.”
“I’m sure there’s a good reason for that.”
“I’ll pass on that for now.” She smiles at that. “I’ll continue then. That inconvenience made it more difficult, but not impossible.”
“I suppose you broke into my apartment or something like that.”
“Look, do you want me to tell the story or should I let you guess what happened?”
“Oh no, I want to hear all of it.”
“Right. Well, I broke into your apartment and found a telegraph from an Ambassador friend of yours in Brazil, looking forward to your visit. I wasn’t satisfied at that clue, so I broke into your office. I checked your calendar and itinerary in your desk.”
“I know about the secret compartment you keep in your desks. They hold notebooks that provide enough information to track you down. I hope you don’t change your habits, Wylde. I’m glad that I know your modus operandi as well as I do.”
“I suppose I should be glad that you pay attention to such details.”
“You are such a fraud, Jack. When you had your memory intact, you knew I would find it there. You leave a road-map that I could nearly follow in my sleep. There was also a telegraph on your office desk from the Ambassador, wondering what happened to you after you found the boy. He thought you might have been called back to London. I found another telegraph, to your boss asking for an investigation of the disappearance of you and T.J. Apparently no one bothered to follow up on it, so no investigation followed. Shoddy work, not like the Ministry I remember. Then, posing as a Ministry agent, I arranged to get forged papers and a passport for Brazil and caught a flight out there. I contacted the last person known to have seen you, Ambassador Rinaldo Martinez. He led me to Fausto Vidal, the last person to have actually seen you alive. Fausto shared an interesting tale with me. After he took the Chief of Police into custody, it appears that you and T.J. disappeared off the face of the Earth.”
“That all took place in less than a week. He only knew that you were getting T.J. from his hiding place in a village. With Fausto’s help, I found the village you were last seen and checked out things with the ring again. It pulled me to an ancient stone structure, which happened to be locked.”
“A locked door wouldn’t have stopped you.”
“No, it just took awhile. Once inside, I looked around and found something strange in the basement.”
“A glowing blue area, similar in appearance to the Pattern. I naturally assumed that to be the case.”
“The ring even indicated that you entered it. So, I stepped through. It was very strange.”
“If it was the Pattern, you would have been quite dead Miss Katt!”
“I know, but it was the only lead I had. Besides, I hoped the ring would have provided some protection. It continued to pull until I appeared on this world. Then it stopped working. Dead!”
“Dead? Like the Trumps? Like my Pattern?”
“Dead to the world, exactly. From my point of arrival, I had a 50-50 chance of heading in the right direction. I decided to take a walk and ended up at a Crossroads. Even though I went in the wrong direction, it worked out quite well.”
“It’s a charming place.”
“Yes it is, and friendly people. I asked around and met Sam and Amos. Charming men.”
“The salt of the earth. Pillars of virtue. Exemplary characters.”
“Oh, stop being droll. You like them and you know it.”
“Indeed I do, Miss Katt.”
“Well, they like you too, but I can’t possibly see why. They have scruples for God sake.”
“Nobody’s perfect, my dear.”
“Sam was heading to Talladale with a load of supplies and he insisted that I go along. He wanted me to give you his regards.”
“Very considerate of him. I now owe them an even greater debt than before.”
“Wylde, there is something troubling me.”
“What is that?”
“Amos said that you cleaned out his stables and was going to work for Sam to pay your way.”
“And?” I’m afraid I know where this is leading.
“Since when did you ever become a laborer? You are without a doubt the laziest man I know.”
“I forgot myself. It’ll never happen again, I promise.”
“You are a fraud, Wylde. An unmitigated fraud.”
“Our little secret?”
“Of course, Wylde.”
“One more thing, Tabitha. You said I had only been gone for a week. I have been here for over a year. That would indicate a severe difference in the time flow between Earth and Stralanth.”
“Of course, Wylde. The time flow between Amber and Earth differs as well. Approximately two and a half Earth days to one Amber day. But the time flow here is highly accelerated. A person could go to Shadow Earth for two years and return here over a hundred years later.”
“The good side of that is that when Thomas is returned to Earth, he won’t miss much.”
When she is ready, I take her to Dragon’s Peak to give her the really bad news and prepare her for the days to come. She handles it quite well and comments on me being a trouble magnet.