A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 17: Chaos Theory
The battle has gone on for some time now, with the occasional lulls in the fighting. I sleep whenever possible, short naps at best. Tabitha and I take our turns in the watch. I’m sure that she has had enough of Shadow Stralanth. She is only staying here for my benefit. I have offered to send her out of here, back to Amber – or at least to the Unicorn Grove via Trump. But the one thing she hates more than anything, is to be left out of the action. Not knowing what was happening here, or to me, would infuriate her. So, she flatly refused my offer for an easy way out of here.
I gave Tabitha the blade and shield that Thomas had made for me. I feel more comfortable with my own blade and she needed the best weapon available. Thomas was surprised at how well she handled herself with the silvered weapons. Under normal circumstances, I enjoy watching her fluid movements while fencing. To be honest, she is easy on the eyes at any time. Unfortunately, we are fighting for the very survival of Talladale and lands beyond. I can’t afford any distractions.
I have noticed that with the return of my memory and Pattern imprint, I have been more effective in combat. All my battle experiences and sneaky tricks are coming into play, not just my instincts. I am subtly using Pattern, altering probabilities in minor ways, to edit events in this Shadow. I find that I have affected the likelihood of simple events. In a small way, I have caused the occasional demon to behave in an irrational manner. For example, together they act as a swarm; but if one of them cuts away from the group, they are easily swatted down. I have repeatedly done this to our advantage, because they can be distracted or outraged quite easily. Also, the demons and their human allies can be maneuvered into fighting each other. Through the amulet, Cassandra observed me using Power in this manner and picked up on it rather quickly. In a very short period of time, she does the same, but on a much larger scale.
With Cassandra editing events in this manner, she was using her power more efficiently. Quite easy to do since she is in control of this Shadow. It must really irk her to have these creatures getting past her formidable defenses. Eventually, the demon assault dwindles to a manageable few. Only the most powerful among them remain.
Up to this point, I hadn’t seen anything that I could do to drastically damage the most powerful of these infernal creatures. Typically spells and direct sword attacks seemed the most efficient method of disposing of those I have faced individually. I saw no way that the Pattern could be of any help to improve the situation on a grander scale.
Then it happened…
I knew we were overlooking something and I finally realized what it was. It was tall dark and ugly, the Demon lord that nearly killed Thomas! I recall him calling out: The smell of your blood. You are one of the cursed spawn of the Unicorn! It didn’t make sense to me then, but now that I have my memory back, I’m sure that the Demon lord recognized me as an Amberite! But in this realm how would a demon know of Amber? Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to figure out how he knew.
He attacked Thomas’ sister, the girl with no name. The stench of Logrus and the ebony tendrils flowed from the demon lord. He is a Chaos lord, no mere demon! The girl also summoned Logrus to defend herself. The living chain that I saw before was Logrus tendrils. I didn’t notice it before, because my flawed memory and lack of Pattern imprint.
Now they were locked in a power struggle and the girl appeared to be on the losing end. I ported very near to the struggle, within a few feet of them. The girl was falling before his onslaught. I summoned the Sign of the Pattern. It floated before me blazing blue lines of pure Power. I charged the Chaosian with the Pattern firm before me. I haven’t tried this before and I wasn’t sure what would happen. If the girl was to survive, I didn’t have much of a choice.
He saw me, released the fallen girl, and sent out the jet-black tendrils at me. “You again! Spawn of the Unicorn and the traitor of Chaos! I shall exact my vengeance upon you for their crimes.”
“Well, well, you have been out of touch. To end up here, you must have really pissed off someone in your House. Which of the Houses are you on the run from: tall, dark, and ugly? Will I owe your Chaosian House an apology for killing you or will I get their gratitude? My cousin, now King Merlin of Sawall, may even want your head on a stick. Now… Back off or die. Your call.” Minor taunts at best, to try distracting him. He may even talk further.
What happened next surprised us both. He charged and I braced myself for contact. When the Pattern made contact with the Logrus tendrils, I felt as though I touched an exposed wire carrying an impressive charge. I nearly passed out from the jolt, but held my ground. The Chaosian lit up like a Roman candle and was thrown back a dozen paces, smoking but still alive. The Logrus tendrils withdrew and the Chaosian was in a great deal of discomfort while trying to get back to his feet. Understandable, since I had a bit of difficulty in summoning the Pattern again. But I try to raise my arms for the attempt and notice that my arms are numb from the shock. Bad luck, it will take time to get the circulation going again. We have to stop tall, dark, and ugly. I look around to see what is happening around us.
Thomas was checking on the condition of his sister. I suspected the worse already. I saw the expression on his face. I also saw Thomas pulling her soul into him. Again, I was too late - first Moonscrye, now Thomas’ sister.
I call out. “Thomas, he’s yours if you want him!”
Thomas runs toward the Chaosian with murderous intent.
The Chaosian seemed to consider attacking Thomas or me, but thought better of it. “Next time we meet, you won’t be so fortunate!” He vanished.
Thomas howls in frustration. I share his sentiment.
With the sudden disappearance of the Chaosian Demon lord, the rest of the remaining demons followed suit and scattered. It looks like this round went to the good guys. We regroup and take inventory. Our people were dropping steadily from the repeated attacks, the population is a small fraction of our original size. The army is in tatters. I learned that Colonel Willis Wynne was killed in the final demonic attack. Captain Jason Willows would have shared his fate, were it not for the skilled blade of Miss Tabitha Katt.
It looks like Jason is now in charge of Talladale and the army. The medics and the gypsies are busy with casualties. Everyone else is busy checking out the area for injured or hidden enemies. I don’t expect they will receive any quarter.
In the days that follow, there is a massive cleanup of Talladale. Anything of value is gathered and distributed where needed. Work crews are assigned to repair building as quickly as possible. Guard posts are fortified and tasks are assigned to the able-bodied. Shelter, security, and food are the main priorities.
Cassandra has stopped by occasionally to deliver supplies and news from surrounding areas. It appears that the attacks are at an end. She has been hunting down demons, like she previously did the vampires. She also seems to be in better spirits now. I guess that she hasn’t been in a hurry to send me off or restore the Pattern and Trump blocks. I think that she is happy I stayed around to finish the job. She knows that I could have left, but didn’t. I am doing a fair job of making her feel a little guilty for her earlier treatment of me; well, as guilty as a were-dragon is capable of being.
Thomas requests Tabitha’s and my presence at a ceremony. I could hardly refuse.
After the ceremony, I think it will finally be time to go home. What to do then?
First, we have to get Thomas back to his family – with minimal explanations. They would never believe the truth. Thomas can tell them whatever he thinks they will want to hear. He will have a bit of difficulty explaining his change of appearance, since he has aged over a year in just over a week.
I will return to the Ministry, gather anything of value or interest, then have my death faked; ending my existence there. That Shadow Earth has lost its appeal to me. I will locate another Shadow Earth someday, if I am interested, and replace a Shadow of myself. I then take his place. But that will be another time.
Then, I think that I will return to Amber and have a briefing with King Random to discuss the matter of my progeny and this rogue Chaosian Demon lord. There will no doubt be a multitude of questions. I get the impression that he will contact King Merlin to get an identification of him and let the Courts of Chaos worry about him.
That will free up Random’s time to consider the issue of my kids. I will be worried about them myself. With the differences in the time flow, I may not have to wait very long. I wonder what their names will be?