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Dressed To Kill

Steed's Tale - "Dressed To Kill" - Chapter 05

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..."

Episode A4-5 - Trump in Time

In which Steed finds a mystery in the Trumps
... and Emma returns home earlier than expected.

There are times when personal problems have to take a back seat to the bigger picture. This is definitely one of them.
You see, I would like to return to Shadow Earth, so that Emma and I can retrieve our belongings and to have a few words with Mother. This situation with the mass Trump should have shaken up a few people, enough that we would be listened to with great attention.
The same event has become top on the priority list. Some event has caused the mass Trump contact, which must be investigated. I have a feeling that I may be somehow connected, and I will probably obsess over this until I learn how.
Emma and I walked until we reached the town of Amber. The people are wandering around in a fog, probably still in shock. We visit the stables, to acquire transport to the castle. I am recognized by the staff and they bring a carriage around for us. The driver seems to be pretty shaken, so I take the reins and take us to the castle.
Emma has been doing pretty well through this. I'm sure it is because she has been trained and slightly experienced in Trump contact already. I have been talking to her, rather incessantly, about trivial matters. I do this trying to keep her spirits up, and to distract her from dwelling on it. She doesn't need to know how serious the situation is yet, at least until 'I' know.
We reach Castle Amber and most people are in the same state of mind. The guards are a bit distracted but they remain on duty - good lads - keep the chin up.
We make our way to the throne room searching for Random. He is absent and no one knows where he is. Not a good sign.
I gave this a great deal of thought on the ride here, but I decided to do it anyway. We go upstairs to an area of the castle I rarely visit. I knock on the door. No answer. I try once more. Seconds pass. I almost turn to leave as the door swings open.
It is dark and quiet in the room, inviting and foreboding. "Aunt Fi?" I call out.
"Yes, Steed."
"Do you know what caused the mass Trump contact?"
"I've been working on it. Do you know anything?"
"No, we were in Arden when it happened. Fi, this is a friend of mine from Shadow Earth - Emma Peel. Emma, this is Princess Fiona; Sorceress of Amber."
"Pleased to meet you, Emma."
"It's an honor to meet you, Princess." She curtsies. Nice touch.
"Please call me Fiona or Fi, we don't stand on ceremony. Especially among intimate friends. Steed, have you tried Trumps since the incident?"
"No. I only had Flora's with me and I haven't tried it yet." I planned to stop at the Library to pick up another deck and I didn't want to mention my Trump of the Unicorn Grove.
"Something has disrupted Trumps since the - incident. Are you aware of anything out of the ordinary that occurred recently regarding Trumps?"
I think back to the last few days. Nothing since leaving the Village. Nothing since leaving L.A. Wait a minute, L.A. That is what was troubling me. "It may not be related, but there was an incident when I helped the Doctor pull his TARDIS out of the Abyss; after it was dumped there during Merlin's coronation."
Her eyebrow arches. "What is a TARDIS and 'Who' is the Doctor?"
"The Doctor is a Time Lord from a planet called Galifrey. The TARDIS is his device for travel. It stands for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. He has been traveling with me and the new group that came to Amber recently. The group that Flora located on Shadow Earth. Our activities have been rather - unusual."
"I've never heard of that Shadow. Time travel, I've always understood there is no such thing as actual time travel."
"I always understood that, but he was quite certain of it. He spent a lot of time on Shadow Earth. There was a situation that 'convinced' me of the possibility. There have been a lot of things that have happened lately, that run contrary to things I understood as 'not possible'."
"Please continue."
"The TARDIS exploded once, destroying everything. Others in our group were thrown back in time and they managed to stop it from happening. We managed to close the two time lines. Eric and Deirdre came from the changed time line. I can't verify their claims of time travel, I was stuck in the Jewel of Judgment at the time. When I arrived, there was two of nearly everyone."
"Another interesting tale, I'm sure. Now explain their appearance."
"I do not know any details. But as I said, this may not be a related item."
"Why don't we bring the Doctor here and find out what he knows about it?"
"I don't have a Trump of him."
"They don't work anyway. There is a simpler way."
I see her fingering a ring that is quite familiar. It is the Spikard I gave to her, that I took from Sweeney; the fake Sweeney anyway. "I see that you have found some uses for my gift." Emma gives me an inquiring look. "I will explain later, my dear. This was before you arrived, or things may have been quite - different." 
"Concentrate upon him, I will do the rest. Just touch it."
"I don't know which image I should use of him."
"He's a shape shifter?"
"I don't know. When his body dies, it regenerates into new forms."
"Interesting trick, I would focus on his current form then."
I focus on him and touch the ring. The sound of 'poof' is followed by the abrupt appearance of the Doctor. He has a wrench in his hand, that he puts in his tool belt.
"Oh, I must be back in Amber. Hello, I don't think we've been formally introduced." The Doctor looks at Fiona, smiling after his displacement.
I offer. "Doctor, this is my aunt, Princess Fiona of Amber. Fiona, the Doctor from Galifrey."
"Hello Doctor, Steed mentioned that you may know something about our current situation regarding the Trumps."
"Yes, I would say we have about 34 hours."
"Until they work again?" Her eyebrow is arched again, she detests partial answers. Believe me.
"Until the backlash from the Trumps destroys all reality."
I interrupt. "Not again!"
Fiona looks at us both carefully. "That 'is' a problem."
The Doctor tilts his head. "Steed, we need to talk."
"We do?"
"Yes, it's about the TARDIS."
"Where is it, someplace safe?"
"Not precisely, I can only theorize." To Fiona. "My, lady, do you know much about Trumps?"
I almost break out laughing. Fiona must be quite amused.
"I have had - some - training in their use."
"Has your research taken you into Trump null space?"
"By that you mean?"
"Let's say you have two Trump images. You concentrate upon the area 'between' them; the background."
"I see, and you think the TARDIS disappeared into the Trump null space area."
The Doctor shrugs. "That is my best guess. I was trying to salvage it via Pattern energy from Steed. It disappeared during this salvage operation."
Fiona cuts to the chase, I was waiting for this. "Doctor, what is the nature of this TARDIS and why is it destroying the Trumps and all reality?"
"It may not be the TARDIS itself. It may be that null space was not designed to hold anything for a long period of time. It may be a matter anti-matter situation. It may also be because the TARDIS was about to explode when it went into null space."
"What kind of explosion, nuclear? Anti-matter?"
"Close enough. Possibly temporal shock."
"Ah yes, Steed mentioned that you were a time traveler."
"On occasion."
"I thought there was no such thing as functional time travel." She has that look, fly fishermen often have that look on a 'good' day with their favorite lures.
"I was under the impression that reality wasn't caused by a large scribble." Meaning the Pattern. "I've since changed my views. Amber... Have any of you eaten recently? I think we have enough time for dinner. Can you recommend a good restaurant?"
We remember the time differential. Galifreyan time was 34 hours, Amber time is 8 hours.
My turn. "We will skip dessert then."
Fiona asked the Doctor to elaborate upon our escapades in the alternate time lines, when I was trapped in the Jewel.
The Doctor explains the story as we walk to the Great Hall. He begins with the black Chaosian sword cutting into the power source of the TARDIS, the Eye of Harmony. It happens to be a black hole, this I didn't know. The Eye of Harmony has buffers to protect the TARDIS and its environment. The sword cut through the buffers and exposed everything to the effects of the black hole.
The people caught up in the explosion were sent to an alternate dimension, in Amber's past. They managed to undo the events that caused the Chaos infusion.
We find a table. The staff takes our orders and leaves for the kitchen. 
The Doctor and Fiona discuss their theories regarding the primary and alternate time lines and we come to the conclusion that we don't 'know' that we are in the primary time line.
Fiona suggests that there is one way to find out. There should be only one Pattern. If we were in an alternate time line, the Pattern would only be a Shadow of the one true Pattern. How would we know which it was? Fiona asked me if I have been in the Pattern room since the merging of the time lines. I haven't.
The Doctor suggests that if this time line was destroyed, we should be able to shift to the alternate. I am not fond of that idea, sacrificing one for the other. Given the possibility of backlash into all alternates, it is best to prevent the destruction all together.
The food arrives and we talk between bites.
We have been enjoying an excellent meal and the Doctor is enjoying the wine. "What year is this?"
"A '72 Merlot from my private stock from Shadow Earth. I thought we may as well enjoy it now. The thought of losing all that wine is frightening." I raise my glass and give a toast in Thari. "Lus axa'ram, nus a grinta karb Dhalyon dhuilsha goixil! Roughly translated. Let us drink to tomorrow, the blessing of the fair grandmother Goddess be on all of you."
I have not used Thari for some time and I tend to get rusty. I remembered that my name translates to G'ison G'ifan, a very good reason for not using it much. The Doctor would probably not be flattered to know that his name translates to Kroker, Misler, Sikdur, or Sugad'. Kat would be Kripa, Kripux, Kuter, or Maksti. To translate anyone else's name, I would have to check with someone more knowledgeable on Shelta Thari.
Fiona suggests. "We should gather the people that were involved in the first time line situation."
Here we go again; recruit the cannon fodder to prevent Armageddon. "Emma, I guess London will have to wait. I was so looking forward to our trip."
"Steed, Mother can wait. However, the Merlot was an excellent choice."
I turn to Fiona. "Fi, I wasn't involved until the time lines were merging and Emma was elsewhere. I was residing in the Jewel at the time."
"I remember you mentioning that." Her eyebrow arches. Damn. "For what we are doing, I don't think it will matter."
I mutter to myself, not really wanting an answer. "I wonder which time line the Jewel was in at the time."
Doctor. "Have you heard of a theory that you can't transport a single particle of matter from one universe to another? Supposedly, it would cause an imbalance. Well, it's nonsense. The bottom line, Steed. If your consciousness was there; it shouldn't matter where the rest of you was."
I tell Fiona. "The others involved - Kat, Kesa, Morganth, Suehprom, Blazer, Scout, Creed, Gabriel, Eric, Deirdre, and Corwin."
Doctor. "Steed, do you have a spare sword?"
"That is not a problem."
Emma taps me on the shoulder. "I left my sabre in London."
I motion for a server, get the particulars from the Doctor, and send the server to the infirmary.
Within minutes, blades with scabbards are brought to Emma and the Doctor.
The others that were there, stayed in their timelines: Luke and Delwin. We can also eliminate Gabriel, Eric, and Deirdre because they were not there in the beginning from our personal time line.
The Doctor drops the shoe. "We currently lack a source of time travel. I was in the process of salvaging a machine on Galifrey. A Sidrath that belonged to the Daleks. It would be a one way shot into the past. If you could put me back on Galifrey, I can continue my work; otherwise, we may as well enjoy our last meal."
Fiona smiles. "I can send you back."
The Doctor smiles. "Ah yes, since Trumps don't work, how 'did' you get me here?"
"A ring that Steed gave me earlier."
"Sweeney's." I offer.
"Oh yes, 'that' ring. Magic?"
Fiona. "There's no reason why we can't 'all' go to Galifrey and conduct our mission from there. Since it is a slower time Shadow, it would give us more time."
I smile. "We can take dessert with us then. Possibly also take some bottles along to celebrate later."
Fiona concentrates on the ring. "We will cross that bridge later."
"Poof." We are on Galifrey. Fiona just doesn't have a grasp on truly important issues.
Time to gather the rest of the group. Soon, the others arrive. Scout, Blazer, Kat, and Suehprom. The others are unreachable for some reason; apparently, there is a limit to the power of the ring.
I welcome the others to Galifrey.
Blazer screams. "Oh no, not again!"
Kat is surprised and looks around for something interesting to play with.
Suehprom looks around expecting an attack, let me guess from 'Who'?
Scout looks around. "How did I get here?"
I greet him, so much for reunions. "Have you met our Aunt Fiona, cousin?"
Scout. "Briefly."
"We have a little problem. According to the Doctor, reality is going to go on holiday in - how long Doctor?"
"30 hours, nine minutes." He shouts from behind the equipment. "Please, no more interruptions."
Fiona. "We are gathering together the people involved in the alternate time line problem."
Scout looks upset. "I thought we 'fixed' that."
Fiona. "It also has something to do with a TARDIS that may have exploded between Trumps."
Scout. "Again? And where is Anna?"
I ask. "Who's Anna?"
Scout is getting impatient, probably getting worried about this Anna. "She is a body guard that Random assigned to me. She is in a potentially dangerous situation, you 'didn't' leave her behind?"
Fiona. "We were unaware of her. Visualize her and touch the ring, I will bring her here."
Scout hesitates. "OK." Then he touches the ring.
A wispy, almost energy-like form appears that reverts to the appearance of a very attractive young lady. That didn't happen with the others. Is there something different about his body guard? Time to investigate further. I bring up the Pattern and scan the surrounding area, trying to be subtle about what I am doing.
Scout asks Anna. "Was Martin still there?"
Anna. "When you disappeared, I thought is was prudent to leave, and quickly."
Scout. "Good idea. Sorry about leaving you back there. They didn't know anyone was with me."
I couldn't resist. "You must have been too busy to answer our calls, to let us know the 'important' details."
Scout smirks. "You could say that."
I then provide introductions all around.
Scout. "Anna, apparently we've been drafted to fix another time problem the Doctor is involved in; before everything blows up again. I expect the situation to be very bad. He doesn't explain much."
My Pattern scan turns up some interesting items. Scout is still in possession of the Jewel of Judgment, my own attunement verifies it. He is also carrying a smaller magical gem like the Jewel, I should examine it in more detail later. It 'appears' to be a smaller 'Shadow' of the Jewel of Judgment. An interesting artifact in itself. At least it is not reacting negatively to Pattern energy.
Regarding Anna, she registers as fully human. She may be a shape shifter, but she is not what I suspected; she is not a Pattern ghost or Logrus ghost. Scout would be happy to know that, he reacted rather badly to my stint as a ghost. I drop the Pattern, for now.
Fiona was in mental contact with someone and then pulls Corwin through. He looks around to see who is in attendance and shakes his head, as if to say. "Not again."
Luke soon appears as well, odd that no one mentioned inviting him to our little soiree'. Did Corwin or Fiona invite him? As much as I like Luke, AKA King Rinaldo of Kashfa, I have a bad feeling about this; especially if he knows about our time traveling plans. I lightly touch Emma and express my concerns.
She lets me know that she will watch Luke very closely. She wanders around as if to examine our surroundings and the various equipment.
Luke addresses the group. "I hope I made it in time."
Scout answers. "Just another end of the world party."
I volunteer. "We are on Galifrey, home world of the Doctor. It is rather quiet here, everyone was killed."
Our party continues mingling, while the Doctor is working on some high tech gadgetry that belonged to the Daleks, bloody miserable buggers.
The Doctor finally enters the room. "Ladies and gentlemen, here's the plan."
Corwin seems momentarily startled at the appearance of the Doctor, apparently expecting the previous incarnation.
The Doctor continues. "In a few moments, I will make a short hop into the past, to see if I can obtain a more permanent form of chronological and dimensional travel. Once I have found what I am looking for, I will return here for the rest of you. Then we can go directly to the TARDIS and remedy our little problem."
Scout asks. "So, you can't just take us along?"
"No." The Doctor gives it a sound of finality, for Suehprom's benefit.
Suehprom. "Which TARDIS are we trying for?"
"The one that was dropped into the Abyss."
Scout. "Why can't we just leave it there?"
"Because it and the universe will vanish in less than 30 hours."
Suehprom. "I thought it was relatively safe where it was."
"No. Now, after I activate the Sidrath, I will return in micro seconds."
Suehprom. "Assuming this works."
"If not, you have a little time to discuss alternatives."
Suehprom. "How about sending me back? I would be safer in the Courts of Chaos."
Scout. "Safe is a relative term. You would be safe for the same length of time, adjusting for the time differential." That brings a smile to nearly everyone.
The Doctor leaves to activate the device.
Nothing seems to happen for a bit.
Luke pulls Scout aside. I can hear the conversation. "King Random has disappeared." Old news.
Scout. "I heard that."
Luke. "I was just talking to Martin, he was trying to find him."
I get distracted from further eavesdropping by Suehprom. "Steed, where exactly are we?"
"As I said earlier, we are on the planet Galifrey, the Doctor's home world. He appears to be the sole survivor of the Time Lords."
"Which is the sole survivor? Are you all going to let the Master time travel out of here, to supposedly save us?"
Scout. "No, he is going to get 'another' time traveling device to save us. It does sound rather silly, I thought it sounded like one of your plans."
Suehprom. "Excuse me, even I am not 'that' stupid."
Scout. "Let's not test that, OK?"
Everyone gets along so well, that is why I enjoy their company.
Suehprom offers me a plan. "This Pattern of yours can take you anywhere, right? Walk it and have it take you to the TARDIS."
Fiona smiles. "If you wish to try that, I will be happy to send you to the Pattern room to try it."
Suehprom. "I'm tempted, I just don't want to put 'his' theory to the test."
The Doctor returns. "We have a problem. Steed, a moment please."
"Yes, Doctor."
"The power source I was depending on has been destroyed. I need an alternate source of energy, fast."
"I see, we could use Pattern energy. However, I think you will need more help than I can provide. Fiona would have access to more than enough energy."
"Before we ask her, I want to measure how much energy you can generate. Just a moment."
Suehprom. "Doctor, is there a library nearby? I may as well learn something before we die."
"Yes, downstairs." He gives directions and Suehprom leaves.
After checking his equipment. "There is no easy way to convert Pattern energy to electricity. About Fiona, does she have a way? Yes, Steed this may be a bad idea; but it's our best shot."
"I'll check." I walk over to Fiona. "Fi, the Doctor is without a power source. He needs energy converted to electricity."
"Why don't we just provide him with electricity?"
"Very well." We join the Doctor.
Fiona. "How much electricity do you need?"
"About three nova stars."
"No problem. Where do you need it?"
"This circuit here." Pointing to a metallic coil.
"Really?" Doubting that the coil could withstand that much electricity.
"Yes." He gets inside his device.
She activates her ring, backed by Pattern energy. I reactivated my Pattern awareness. Scanning Fiona was fascinating. The amount of raw energy flowing through Fiona and the ring, was nothing short of phenomenal. The ring draws on her mental energy and Pattern energy and works like a magnifying glass to focus and geometrically increase the power to a terrifying level. If the fake Sweeney used it in this manner backed by Pattern energy, he could have easily killed all of us to get to Creed. Then incinerated him. That is why I needed Ge`rard's help.
I can see why Mother wanted one of those rings. Quite a potent device with many uses. The downside? Keeping it from others who would want to take it away. Like wearing the Jewel of Judgment, it is like wearing a bulls-eye. Also, a person would become dependent upon them, unable to find other methods of resolving an issue. If Emma appeared earlier, I would have kept it to use against the Creed invasion. Oh well, spilled milk.
The energy flows through the Doctor's device.
Fiona remarks. "I can see no way in which this device can possibly manage time travel."
I shrug. "I never understood the technology used to move his TARDIS from one place to another, never mind through time."
The Doctor should be soon jumping back in time via the Dalek's Sidrath. I look around. Fiona, Corwin, Luke, Scout, Anna, Blazer, Kat, Emma, and myself waiting for the event. Suehprom has not returned from the library.
I hear the whine of motors and the Sidrath is activated. I bring up the Pattern again, to monitor things that my normal senses wouldn't detect. The building vibrates and I feel movement. Something is drastically wrong. I can see the Sidrath device 'hasn't' moved. Why do I feel that 'we' have moved? Has the Doctor miscalculated something?
He steps out and tells Fiona to cut power, we will over shoot our destination. He returns to the Sidrath.
We? Bloody hell. A one way trip into the past for all of us.
Fiona cuts power and the ring ceases function. Upon realization of our situation, the look of surprise and shock on everyone's face is contagious. I try to break the ice. "Do you know how long it will be before our clothes will be back in fashion?"
Suehprom returns from the library. "'Nothing' is chasing me!"
Fiona quips back. "If 'something' is coming, let us know."
Suehprom continues. "What is happening? The wall disappeared and was replaced with some sort of spinning vortex."
Fiona. "Did something go wrong, Doctor?"
Doctor. "Yes. My apologies for not specifying the amount of energy needed."
Fiona. "You did say three stars. I must have used the wrong type of stars."
Doctor. "I was thinking of one brown dwarf, one red giant, and one white dwarf."
Fiona. "I see, I was thinking of much younger stars."
Doctor. "The power level was large enough for the Sidrath to take along a city block. We have over shot our destination, just a bit."
Scout. "This is another fine mess you've gotten us into."
The Doctor goes to the door to check out our environment. He turns to us. "The good news is that we have more time to work on the problem."
Suehprom. "Doctor, what was the swirling vortex in the library?"
Doctor. "Time itself. The bad news is we are not 'when' we need to be. I suggest we examine the world we have entered, to see what level of technology is available."
More bickering between Suehprom and the Doctor. He even addresses him as the Master. He explains his opinion to an interested Fiona. Corwin and Luke hear it as well. Suehprom insists. "We saw an image of the Master in the Corridor of Mirrors, before the Doctor regenerated into this form. The Master has taken over the form of the Doctor."
Suehprom. "Steed, didn't he remind you of someone darkly evil in the Corridor of Mirrors?" 
Fiona turns to me. "What do you know about this, Steed?"
Wonderful, put 'me' on the spot. "I don't know about darkly evil. His current incarnation has taken on the appearance of this 'Master' that we saw in a mirror. I know nothing about who this 'Master' is, to form an opinion. He has had a slight personality change, but I put it down to the situation in Galifrey. If someone killed everyone in Amber or Shadow Earth, I would have a personality change too. I would also be quite sensitive and defensive to criticism. The Doctor has continued to help us in our adventures. As long as he aided us, I saw no reason to accuse him of anything. There are times when I would be viewed as darkly evil. Dispatching Sweeney's impostor would be a case in point. It would be a matter of - perception."
"I'm going to see where we are." The Doctor leaves in disgust.
Fiona withdraws a Trump deck and sorts through it. She takes one and focuses on it.
Suehprom catches up to the Doctor to settle their differences.
Fiona. "A good sign, the Trumps are working here."
Scout. "Didn't we cause a lot of problems, the last time we went back in time? Shouldn't we all stay together, to prevent any further problems?"
As we leave the building, I see the Trump that Fiona used. Mandor... Wherever we are, it is evening. I tell Fiona. "If we can reach someone, we may learn 'when' we are."
Fiona smirks. "Mandor will be of little help. He is rather young."
Something occurred to me. "Fi, I would guess that it is a bad idea to contact yourself here."
"I wasn't planning to."
"My point was, some people use their own Trump to block others. We shouldn't find out if that person would initiate contact with their earlier self. I wasn't around at this time, so it wouldn't be a problem for me. That would leave you and Corwin in that category."
Fiona. "I see your point, but Corwin and I am protected by other means. It won't be a problem."
Doctor. "Judging by the position of the stars. It seems to be the sixth century Earth. Probably England. Known for short brutish people, with short brutish lives, using short brutish weapons, and responding with short brutish tempers."
Suehprom. "We can stay at Steed's apartment."
"It will be around thirteen hundred years, before it will be built. Finding shelter will be the least of our goals. Amber and Chaos must not know of our presence, I would guess it would - complicate things."
Doctor. "If you see any painted men with spears, don't antagonize them; and don't kill anyone."
Fiona calls out. "Luke, don't!'
I didn't notice him checking his Trumps. Before anyone could stop him, he disappears through a rainbow portal.
Remember that bad feeling I had? Curse me for a novice! I should have asked Emma to subdue him if he used a Trump.
Fiona spoke with anger and frustration. "I am concerned that he will help his father." Corwin and I understood that fully.
It took the combined effort of the elders to stop him. If Luke knows that Scout is in possession of the Jewel of Judgment and Brand finds out, Scout will need all our help to protect him and the Jewel.
The Doctor addresses the group. "I will lay my cards on the table. I was brief before, because we were short on time. Now we have a great deal of time. I was attempting to go back in time to locate a creature that moves between times. Once contacted, I could adapt its natural ability to move myself to the correct place in time."
Fiona, who has kept busy using power at her disposal spoke up. "I don't think we are in an alternate time line or a Shadow in our same time line. I think we are actually in the past of the same time line. Doctor, somehow you were actually able to travel in time. I doubted that this was actually possible."
If Fiona is convinced, that removes any doubts I had. Somehow, at this time, I don't feel comforted in that knowledge.
Scout, Suehprom, and the Doctor discuss tracking down one of those creatures.
I reflected on sharing my thoughts with Fiona, I ask her anyway. "Fi, you used the ring to power the Sidrath. Can the ring be adapted to effect the same 'results' of the Sidrath? Just a thought."
She contemplates my words and replies slowly. "It... is... possible."
Scout speaks up. "Before we attempt it, shouldn't we get Luke back?"
Suehprom asks. "When were we supposed to arrive?"
Doctor. "We over shot our destination by 600 years."
Emma comes over and nods. I understand, she saw something important.
We discuss our options on waiting around 600 years and what to do about Luke. No one knows why Luke came along and no one invited him to accompany us. This brings up conjecture about how he found out what we were planning.
Fiona is not in the conversation, she is working on the possibility of affecting time travel.
The Doctor acknowledges that Galifrey exists at this point in time, but is hesitant in contacting them. He tells us that it was Pattern usage that killed all Galifreyans. Eric is the most likely suspect if all information is to be believed.
The Doctor steps away and examines his Trumps. He returns and tells us that Galifrey is off limits, with no explanation.
Scout is most concerned about retrieving Luke and quickly. I agree. Corwin seems to think we are too late. The Doctor is more interested in reaching a high tech Shadow. The problem with our group is that it takes too long to reach a consensus to take action. Splitting up into groups can accomplish several tasks. The Doctor's high tech Shadow can wait. We have plenty of time for that.
I sense Emma's frustration and I share it. Luke must be retrieved. This delay is - inconvenient.
The Doctor provided some insight that may have been only suspected. "Somebody exterminated my home world to keep the secret of time travel being spread among the Amberites... It's a bit late for that now. Quite frankly, the secret is let out. I need a high tech Shadow to correct things."
Suehprom. "Fiona, can you reach Luke?"
Fiona. "Like Corwin, Luke has some protection from Trump."
Scout. "I have a Trump of Luke if it will help."
Doctor. "I thought you could use the Pattern to track someone."
Scout. "Yes, but it takes time."
I break in. "Fi, could you pin point his location and send us there? Emma has some information that may help."
Emma. "Steed, I was keeping an eye on Luke, you suspected that he was an uninvited guest. The Trump he was concentrating on was a red-haired man."
Fiona. "Figures." She pulls out a Trump. "This one?"
Emma. "Yes."
Fiona. "As I suspected, Brand."
Brand, the Trump I never carried and Emma never saw. It is as bad as I thought. "I 'regret' that I didn't ask Emma to 'deck' Luke, if he used any Trumps."
Scout. "Corwin, didn't you kill Brand the last time we went into the past?"
Corwin. "It didn't help matters. Caine killed him the first time. I won't be the one to kill him this time. Someone can volunteer for that job. I had my eyes burnt out for it."
I offer. "Luke may be able to talk Brand into anything." He could sell someone a handbag, to go to hell in.
Scout. "He is good at that."
Doctor. "How would Brand react to someone claiming to be his son?"
Corwin. "Hard to say. He is a paranoid little shit. He would 'detain' him long enough to check out his claim."
Scout. "With his knowledge of Brand's background, he would be able to convince him easily."
I get to the point. "What is it that is protecting Luke? Is it a matter of mind power to break through?"
Fiona. "Essentially, Spikards are not very useful against one another. He has one."
Scout. "If he had his father's sword, wouldn't that be proof enough for Brand?"
Fiona. "He 'was' carrying Werewindle. If we want to prevent changing history. It is best if Corwin and I don't go along. We don't want to take a chance in meeting ourselves."
Suehprom suggests that, after we get Luke, we sit out the next 600 years in a slow time Shadow where only days pass. It would be up to the Doctor and Fiona to monitor the time flow, so we wouldn't over shoot it.
I believe that Suehprom's idea was the most feasible for getting back.
Fiona. "As I remember it, it was about this time in history that Brand was opening a dialog with the Courts of Chaos."
Scout. "So, Luke and Brand could be anywhere. We have to locate him and bring him back. That about sums it up. Let me know when this gets tough. Is there anyone we could contact for help? How about Delwin or Sand? Could you send us to them, Fiona?"
Fiona. "I may be able to do it. I've learned a few tricks recently."
Splendid. A mixed blessing.
Scout. "That would help; each time we have been in contact with them, they seem to have a handle on the time situation."
Fiona concentrates. "No luck on Delwin, but you are right, I have found Sand."
Scout. "Good."
Fiona. "Bring her here or take us to her?"
Scout. "Which way would she react better?"
Fiona. "Possibly better, if we visit her."
Doctor. "Before we leave, we should destroy the wreckage. There is no reason for us to return here."
Fiona. "Have you recovered everything of value?"
Doctor. "Yes."
Fiona. "Everyone should stand back." We retreat a bit. She points the ring at the wreckage and it vaporizes.
I have maintained Pattern awareness throughout our stay here. Fiona is aware of it. I 'observed' the methods she uses to control the ring. She can mask some things, but she chooses not to; I am sure it amuses her.
We have reached full consensus. Off to Sand's domain! Fiona focuses on the ring. I observe the ring again.
"Poof." The evening sky fades to black. We appear in a large dark room. The room is lightly scented in lilac and rose. My eyes adjust to the darkness and I see a bed. Occupied. There are two doors, closed; no windows. Several pieces of furniture and wall hangings.
The Doctor listens to the doors, opens one, and steps into the hallway. Corwin follows him to scout around. We decide to wake her. Kat knocks on the door, as we stand near the bed.
Sand stirs and sits up. She opens her mouth to scream. Fiona acts fast and covers her mouth. "We are not here to hurt you. We need your help. When I take my hand away, do you promise not to scream?"
She nods seeing Fiona. "Fiona, who are all these people and why are you here? How did you find me?" The lights go on in the room, revealing a light blue decor.
"That is not important."
Scout. "We have a problem. We are not from this... history."
Sand. "You are from an alternate world?"
Scout. "Close, an alternate time. You aided us before and we thought you may be able to help."
Sand. "I've never considered the possibility of time travel."
Scout. "That means our presence now, makes it possible for you to help us later. A closed loop. This is the second time we have tried to fix things."
Sand. "I can understand the problem, it would be too easy to change things. Difficult not to change things."
Scout. "There is a real problem. Someone joined us uninvited, then left to change a few things."
Sand. "Such as?"
Scout. "His father was stopped from destroying the universe, and rebuilding it in his image. He will warn him of the future dangers."
Sand asks with contempt. "Was it Corwin or Oberon?"
Scout. "Corwin is with us to help; in both time lines, Corwin helped stopped the destruction."
Sand. "It seems that I have misjudged him."
Scout. "Possibly, possibly not. Neither of them are the problem though."
Sand. "I can't see Caine or Julian pulling it off. I would guess one of the red heads."
Scout. "You are not wrong."
Sand. "It must be Bleys, because I can't see anyone coming back to help that bastard Brand."
Scout. "We didn't expect it either."
Sand. "I see...I wouldn't have thought that he was capable of breeding."
Scout. "Here's our problem. Rinaldo has already left to warn Brand about future mistakes."
Sand. ""Rinaldo? He named his son Rinaldo?"
Scout. "He may have had nothing to do with the naming. My lady, I think introductions are in order. I am Scout." He points to each of us. "Anna is with me. Suehprom. Blazer. Steed. Emma. Kat. Of course, you already know Fiona."
She studies us closely, memorizing our features. She uses Pattern and senses Pattern in Scout and myself. I 'memorize' Sand's, Scout's, and Fiona's Pattern signature. If any are aware of that little trick, they are probably doing the same.
Scout. "We hoped you would be able to help. You have always worked outside of things and wanted to stay that way."
Sand. "That has been our intention."
Scout. "So we need to retrieve Rinaldo and get back to our time. Hopefully, make sure Brand doesn't remember anything Rinaldo tells him. Also, we can't do anything to stop Brand from carrying out his plans."
Sand. "Should we bring my brother along on this?"
Scout. "I'm sure we have before."
Sand. "I appreciate how complicated this time travel could get. You said Corwin came back to help. Where is he?"
Scout. "He is with the Doctor somewhere down the hall. Hopefully, keeping out of trouble."
Sand. "The Doctor? That's his name?"
Suehprom. "Or the Master. But no one believes me. By the way, we are sorry for disturbing you in your chambers."
Scout. "We had no idea when we would reach here and we were in a hurry."
Sand. "Understood. If all of you wait outside, I will get ready and contact Delwin. There is a comfortable library down the hall. Three doors on the left."
We go to the library and find Corwin and the Doctor already there.
Doctor. "Have you talked to Sand?"
I answer. "She is getting in touch with Delwin, she wants us to wait here." Suehprom stayed with her for some reason, no reason to mention it to the Doctor.
I look around to see if there is a bar in the library. There isn't. Pity. Shortly, Sand and Delwin enter the library. A quick exchange of introduction.
Delwin. "My sister tells me that you are from the future. Also, one of the time travelers are missing."
"As we understand it." I reply, scanning him for Pattern and memorize his Pattern signature.
Delwin. "What do you want us to do?"
Scout. "We need to retrieve Rinaldo and if necessary, get Brand to forget what he learned from Rinaldo. We can then go on to our way without changing time further."
We discuss how we can get to wherever Luke is. Trump to the location of an 'item' on a Trump?
Doctor. "Steed, a moment please. I would like to scan an image in your mind. You are a trained observer. Your mind retained his image. It may help to get to him. It will only take a second."
"I'm not sure about this, Doctor." I mentally envision Luke. It's the old routine, don't think about elephants. What comes to mind? I can't even block contact in time.
Doctor. "Thank you, Steed." He begins sketching a Trump of Luke.
Wonderful, there's nothing like the apprehension of having your mind ransacked, even for surface thoughts.
Scout. "Is there a place Brand would have hung out a lot during this time period?"
Fiona. "I got the information second hand from Merlin., but Brand use to visit the Keep of the Four Worlds. But I stayed in Amber most of the time. I don't know when he may have visited. That is where he used the Font of Power and became a Living Trump."
I offer. "We can go to the Keep and search from there."
Doctor. "It is better to do that than do nothing."
Scout. "We just need a starting point for a search, to follow the trail."
"There are three of us that can help with the search."
Scout. "I don't know how much help will be needed. Our quarry is carrying a unique item, it should make it easier."
Fiona. "I like that choice better than the others, Amber and Chaos."
None of us have been to the Keep. Surprisingly enough, not even Fiona and Corwin.
Corwin. "Since it is not blocked, we can Shadow walk there."
Fiona. "Please Corwin, not another Hell ride."
Scout. "If you have a quicker way, let's go."
Fiona focuses on her ring. "Poof." The library fades and is replaced by a vast chamber of stone. There are staircases, hallways, high vaulted ceilings, and heavy oaken doors. A quiet place, but I sense an incredible level of Trump energies from somewhere, probably the Font. Nearby is a coat rack in the form of a person.
Some people are too easily distracted by the lure of power. Case in point; Suehprom, Kat, and the Doctor are wandering around. Looking for the Font of Power, no doubt. Blazer looks as though he is torn; between staying with the group keeping safe and studying the Font.
Scout, Anna, Corwin, Fiona, Sand, Delwin, Blazer, Emma, and myself focus on the task at hand. Scout withdraws the Jewel of Judgment and looks into the Jewel. "No luck with Luke. Any Trump of Brand?" Fiona hands him one. He looks at the Jewel again, backed by the Trump of Brand. "This way." He leads, we gather alongside and behind him; following Scout on the trail.
I extend my awareness to the Jewel and add my support to the Jewel. My power level surges when the dual Pattern images form in my mind.
A voice calls out from the top of a dais. "Who dares intrude upon the Keep of the Four Worlds?" It is a woman in a mask.
Doctor. "Travelers passing through, with your permission." He joins the group, with Suehprom and Kat; they decided that we should move on.
Fiona, sounding disgusted. "We don't have time for this." She aims the ring just below the lady in the mask. A bolt of energy hits the dais. It crumples and the lady falls in a heap.
I smile. "Nice toy, Fi."
Fiona. "Aren't you glad you gave it to me, instead of keeping it for yourself?"
I chuckle. "I thought I would become over dependent on it, something I can't afford to let happen. If I knew about the Creed invasion, when I had the ring; I would have kept it a 'bit' longer. At least it is in good hands. She is unhurt?"
Fiona. "I don't want to affect the future, she is part of it."
Scout. "We have to keep moving." He continues walking, but changes directions.
We come upon a statue that looks remarkably like Luke. It is Luke, frozen by some spell. He is conspicuously 'without' Werewindle, Brand's sword. That means Brand now has two of them.
Doctor. "Should we bring Luke back to normal?"
Scout. "It would be a good idea, I think he has learned that Brand is not worth trusting."
I reach into his jacket and remove his Trump deck, no reason to let him escape again.
Fiona. "He will never learn that." She uses the ring to nullify the spell.
Luke returns to the land of the living.
Scout. "Have a nice reunion?"
Luke frowns. "It could have gone better."
Scout. "All right, what did you tell him?"
Luke. "I warned him not to over do the Font."
Doctor. "And?"
Luke. "Little of this, little of that. Caught up on old times."
Suehprom. "Why were you a statue?"
Luke. "I suppose insurance. He had no idea if I was who I claimed to be."
Suehprom. "You lost your sword."
Luke. "It is 'his' after all."
Scout. "Only one at a time."
Doctor. "Welcome to Paradox."
Luke. "Can you blame me?"
Suehprom. "Yes."
Doctor. "Blame you? No. Hold you responsible? Yes."
Luke. "I can live with that."
Scout. "Where do you think he went?"
Luke. "I would guess to see Dara."
A collective groan. Corwin sighs. "If she is now in Chaos, then she is 'much' older than she indicated." 
Scout. "Why Dara?"
Luke. "They were working together. Fiona would know."
Everyone is watching Luke closely, in case he tries anything.
Scout. "Here is our problem. As I understand these time mix ups, which is very little. We are currently in our own past. We have been changing it, that doesn't work. Stress is created and things break apart."
Doctor. "Yes, but history usually finds a way of correcting itself."
Scout. "Unless you stress it too much, like last time. I guess we are very close to doing that, worse if Luke's information changes the future."
Doctor. "If something drastically happens that can't be corrected."
Scout. "Will two swords cause a ripple or loop?"
Doctor. "They are not 'that' important."
I quip. "That means there will be two Werewindles for the next thirteen hundred years. The first will disappear and the one Luke brought will continue on. Is that about right?"
Scout. "It will just loop through, then."
Doctor. "Right."
Scout. "Luke, how do we make sure Brand doesn't wreck the future with the knowledge you provided?"
Luke. "I told him what I thought he 'needed' to know, not everything I know."
Scout. "What did you tell him that we have to correct, as messy as that is?"
Luke. "If he believes what I told him and if I've done things right, things should ripple around. There shouldn't be any major changes, until we get back to our time."
Scout. "You suggested he wait 1,300 years before starting his plans?"
Luke. "No, that would change things. Trust me."
I don't trust him in regards to Brand, but we are getting nowhere; unless they plan to have Kat ransack Luke's mind for details. That is unlikely. "If no significant changes will occur, can we get on to the business of getting back to our time?"
Luke. "Works for me."
Scout. "All right. Let's say good-bye to our local hosts. Can we leave from here or do we need to go somewhere else?"
Doctor. "It doesn't matter where we are. We left no wreckage behind."
Fiona. "Agreed."
Suehprom. "Where are we going to, now?"
Doctor. "Since we are only going forward in time. All we need to do is take care of business here and step into a very slow time Shadow and wait." However, he didn't acknowledge that he agreed with Suehprom's idea.
Scout. "That sounds the most reasonable plan, fine. I want to speak to Sand and Delwin for a moment." He steps off with them for a moment. He returns. "Let's go. They will find their own way back."
Fiona. "If all of you are ready, I have located a Shadow that is suitable. It will only seem like days have passed while time catches up with us." She focuses upon the ring. "Poof." The Keep of the Four Worlds fade from sight.
We are - somewhere.

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