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Esprit de Corps

Steed's Tale - "Esprit de Corps" - Chapter 06

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

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

Episode A3-6 - A Surfeit of Space (a.k.a. The Deadly Air)

In which Steed is dead on course 
... and then flies to nowhere.

As the TARDIS makes its way to Chaos, the Doctor takes Creed to the infirmary to work on his hands. I wait in the control room with the others, I am anxious to begin the chase.
I find a quiet corner ignoring conversations. I focus inward upon my Pattern energies from the Primal Pattern, the Pattern in Castle Amber and now the Jewel of Judgment. The energies are cumulative and once I enter Chaos I must be careful. The manipulation of Shadow is easier in Chaos, dangerously so.
Pattern works too well in Chaos. Shadows are not particularly orderly and adjacent Shadows are not necessarily similar. If you don't know where you are going or what you are doing, you may walk from a normal Shadow into the heart of a volcano. The best way to use it in Chaos, is to not attempt to use it directly but to let it use you. Any attempt to use Shadow in an orderly fashion will not work well.
I will use my senses to allow shifting to be done naturally. If I force it, the changes will run wild. The trick is to feel what is needed and feed it just enough energy to allow the change to occur and no more. An analogy is trying to unlock a door using a key or a lock pick set, not a rocket launcher to blow down the door along with a large part of the building. Because there is much less order and much less substance, it is hard to control the power that Pattern provides. Through the Pattern, form follows will. If anything is organized, it is done for a reason. Any organized form is a result of the use of a great deal of highly focused and controlled power to maintain that form.
It took months of practice when I spent a year in Chaos. In an exchange program, I was adopted into the Sawall family. I learned to maneuver through the Ways of Sawall. Lord Sawall looked upon me like a kind uncle. He taught me the basics of Chaos culture that I would need to get by without giving offense to others.
I spent most of my time working on a special project. The reason we were drafted, I can divulge no more. It earned our group the Order of the Serpent for our success. I display all my awards in my room in Castle Amber.
I worked with Merlin, Mandor, Despil, and Jurt. Mostly with Merlin and Mandor, the only ones I got along well with. Despil and Jurt made no secret of their dislike of Amberites. Mandor and I share the same tastes in dining and culture, but he reminds me of my enemy agents on Shadow Earth; great to socialize with but not to be trusted. Now Mandor is spending time with Aunt Fiona, an interesting but dangerous combination.
Merlin and I got along well because of more substantial reasons. We have shared interests in Amber and Shadow Earth. We often disagreed regarding the balance of power between Amber and Chaos. We both maintained strong positions about the current status quo.
Now that things have settled down from the Patternfall War, we want the peace to remain. Hopefully a less cold, cold war. Merlin wants to preserve Amber as well as Chaos. I wish to preserve Amber and I suppose that means to preserve Chaos as well, loosely speaking.
Basically, Merlin is the one I trust most in Chaos. Well, as much as I trust any relative. He was, after all, instrumental in training me to manipulate Shadow in Chaos. That required a great deal of trust for both of us. I genuinely like Merlin. He has gained a great deal of power and status, but he still has a lot to learn. I hope he survives to take the Throne of Chaos.
Looking back on it, I find it rather odd that I never met Dara during that time. She may have been aware of me, but she never contacted me. She was mentioned in glowing terms, some grumbling from others spoke of her mental instability and dangerous abilities. I even heard that she held her own against Corwin in a fencing match, a feat that many Chaosians are extremely proud of. This also gave pause to others who may decide to challenge her to duels. It was only through the Ty'iga that I saw her.
I am now mentally prepared for the subtlety required for the task ahead, the safety of all depends on it. I should be physically prepared as well. Unfortunately, I lost many items that I usually carry on me, including a brandy flask that the Ty'iga now has. I still have a few items that are part of me, my: bowler, brolly, Carnation, and a Trump. These items will be enough. As I said before, it is best to have alternatives available. When I see the Doctor, I will address one such alternative. Others will present themselves at the right time.
Everyone makes it back to the control room. The view screen is quite distorted, an affect of Chaos. Oberon says. "The atmosphere is breathable. This is as good a place to start as any."
I approached the Doctor. "Doctor, would you happen to have an extra Trump deck? It seems that I left mine in my other suit, along with other valuables."
The Doctor reaches for one of the many pockets in his jacket. He withdraws a deck and looks through it, deciding which Trumps I may need and those I wouldn't want. He hands me the deck. satisfied with the selection. The back of the Trumps contain the image of the TARDIS.
I browse the deck quickly. It has the Amberite Elders, our current group, and a group of ladies I don't recognize. It is no wonder why the Doctor chose them as companions. I pocket the deck, thanking him. I ask him. "Where is the new K-9?"
He thinks, looking down at K-9. Destroyed by the other Creed. "Oh yes. I'd forgotten poor K-9. The next K-9 is still in a box in pieces. I was going to get to it after dinner."
As we prepare to depart, I spread my Pattern awareness to keep it active to track down the object of my desire, the Jewel of Judgment.
Oberon speaks. "I will be staying here and seeing to it that certain powers do not interfere, so you can recover the Jewel.
I was concentrating on the Pattern and barely heard him. Speaking without thinking. "What? Oberon's staying?"
He looks at me with amusement, he can tell my Pattern energy is active and focused. "Perhaps I should go and you can keep the Serpent from interfering."
"Thank you, no."
We step out into a beautiful green field; with birds, deer, trees, and plants. A clear blue sky above. "This is a nicer Chaos than I remember." It looks as though this place was created to receive guests, but not necessarily us. My awareness gives me a direction that I can detect the Jewel and my body. We will have to begin shifting Shadow from here. Some of our group have been to Chaos before. They let me lead the way and control Shadow shifting.
The Doctor inquires. "I haven't been here in, oh dear, centuries. So, the idea is we find your body and recover the gem?"
"Yes, hopefully with minimal damage to my body."
Creed growls. "There's always a rider."
"I have a few ideas that may save us some bloodshed and bother. I will have to wait to see how it plays out first."
Lets review our current traveling group, rather sizable. Elders are: Corwin, Deirdre, and Delwin. My generation are: The Doctor, Scout, Suehprom, Creed, Kesa, Kat, Morganth, Blazer, Gabriel, and myself. Hopefully a lucky thirteen. As I shift, we have to stay together so no one gets left behind in some Shadow.
Looking around the field before we leave the area, I remember one more thing about Chaos. In Amber and Shadows of substance, observations are shared. If I see a tree, an animal, or a building; others will see the same thing. In Chaos and less substantial places, observations are more subjective. It is possible to see something that others can't see or they see something else. It is hard to explain, but it is a result of the form follows will principle; you see what you want to see or think you see.
Everyone is grouped closely together, so no one is lost during Shadow shifting. I take point with my Pattern awareness focused upon the location of the Jewel and my body. I will use Pattern to provide the force needed for the shifting. I peripherally note that Creed is on my right, Kat is on his shoulder. Scout is to my left. Deirdre is immediately behind me in black mail, an unwieldy battle ax at the ready. The others are gathered behind us.
I begin shifting Shadow. The scenery slowly changes from the garden. There is a clear Red Sky over the Chaosian landscape. We see a stone pathway, cobblestones, some structures, a bizarre gothic scene, from gray to more colorful, and more gardens. We encounter a Shadow with singing tiny blue creatures, getting trampled underfoot. We walk through a field strewn with corpses, some are undead creatures. We walk past a huge castle carved from a skull. An open plain with stampeding horses, they overtake other creatures trampling them then feasting on them. I have been here before or a Shadow like it. More shifting, scenery that resembles surrealistic artwork from Shadow Earth: Escher structures, Dali creatures, and Magritte clouds and bowlers. Another Shadow where rocks move like large snails. Many Shadows where humanoid forms are seen: reptilian, avian, and those resembling a host of furry animals.
Some are out of mythology: centaurs, lycanthropes, and satyrs (my personal favorite, since I was nicknamed Bacchus). The satyrs take notice of us and cease their riotous merriment and lechery; I allow them to approach closer. They have pointed ears, short horns, the legs of a goat, and the head and body of a human. They look at me with wonder, at the group of followers I have with me. They are limited in perception, they think that my companions are other followers of mine. The others may see the satyrs as something else, based upon their own view of mythology.
I softly whistle a simple tune to the group of satyrs. They understand the thoughts behind my tune. It speaks of urgency and the importance of a quest we undertake. It speaks of my fondness for them. It speaks of the sorrow that I feel that we must move on and a promise that I will return to them one day. I whisper my name to them, they whisper theirs to me. I whistle, I will remember and return. They withdraw their pipes and play me their tunes as we disappear into Shadow. It is their song to Bacchus, their god.
I shift Shadow again. In my peripheral vision, I see Scout look into a coat pocket and I hear him say. "Oh dear." I continue to follow the path that my Pattern opens for us. After a few more Shadows, we seem to be in the correct Shadow or very close. I stop shifting and get my bearings of the next direction to follow.
The path is still ahead, under a Red Sky. In the distance, I see flying creatures with bat's wings. We are in a huge garden with a path. The garden is filled with a large array of colorful flowers of every type imaginable, carefully designed and decorated. The edge of the garden seems to go off into other Shadows. The Shadow garden seems to be quite limited in size. Most Shadows are entire worlds, in which we have a limited view. However, this is a micro Shadow. Constructed by someone with power and this is a carefully designed one. Many of the Ways of Chaos are such Shadows, crafted as places of residence and domain.
I examine the path. It is a soft carpet of bright red fungus or moss. It is slightly over one meter wide; enough room for two at a time. Creed and I take point. The Doctor gathers sample flowers in tubes and puts them in his pockets.
We move on, my Pattern senses are still registering the direction as ahead. Creed is slightly ahead of me. Corwin and Scout fall back for a discussion. Deirdre trounces the flowers and cuts a path through the flowers with her ax. The brightly colored fauna offers very little resistance to her onslaught. Soon, Scout catches up to us again without Corwin.
Shortly we reach the end of the path and we reach a large iron ornately designed locked gate. There are no walls around the gate. Feeling around the gate, there seem to be solid but invisible walls. The group examines the lock. As I examine it, I shrug and offer. "I could open it easily, it is a simple lock. However, my lock pick set is in my other suit."
The Doctor's sonic screwdriver fails to unlock the gate. Creed climbs the gate to go over it. The wall extends over the gate. So much for climbing over it. He climbs down.
Deirdre looks disgusted. "Let me try." She raises her ax and brings it down on the lock. Sparks fly and the lock shatters. She kicks open the gate.
From the gate, a whirl of flowers blow at us like a small tornado. They gather and form into a single rose. It goes through it's life cycle in reverse into a bud. Then it opens, from the bud appears a lovely lady. The beautiful and familiar face of Lady Dara. She has long black hair and blue eyes, probably in her twenties She is wearing a long flowing gown of flowers. Her shape shifting and spells are used with flair, to make quite an entrance.
She addresses us, not responding to our queries. "You have entered the realm of Lady Dara. If you are here by permission, proceed. If you are not, proceeding will be quite hazardous to your health. Good day." Then she disappears. She was a projection or apparition. 
I take a moment to explain my knowledge of Lady Dara, even though I have never met her personally. I explain my connection to the House of Sawall, through the Chaosian exchange program. I explain what I have deduced regarding her sanity, that her actions are as chaotic as her background. I explain her control of the Ty'iga to protect Merlin and aid his ascension to the throne. I state seriously that she is quite dangerous, with unknown powers at her disposal. Along with her unknown powers, she is no slouch in fighting as well. Some of the members of the house proudly boasted that she even held her own with Corwin of Amber. She has trained under the best swordsman of Chaos.
The Doctor comments. "I'm sure that we can explain the situation to her."
I reply. "I am sure that she will be quite understanding and then mourn our deaths for trespassing."
We enter the gate and see a huge hedge maze around three meters high. The entrances are to the left and to the right. Deirdre tries to cut through the hedge and it quickly grows larger than it was; a hydra effect. So we have to play her game.
The Doctor withdraws a large skein of yarn to mark our trail. After a brief discussion, we agree to follow the wall staying to the left; with Creed leading the way. We do so and end up where we started. We see the yarn tied to the hedge. This seems impossible, but with magic spells, anything is possible.
We try it again, keeping to the right. Shortly, we return to the same place. We try again by alternating walls; left, right, left, right. Soon, we reach a clearing in the middle of the maze. We are greeted, I use the term loosely, by a minotaur sitting in a lawn chair.
He rises and says. "Hold your horses, I'm coming." Next to the lawn chair is a six pack of beer, a poor quality American beer. Also, there are some bags labeled Fritos. "I didn't think you'd make through this far. I've been monitoring your progress. So, what is your business with Lady Dara?" He has a large double bladed ax that he left by the lawn chair, rather carelessly.
Creed takes the lead. "We want to talk to her about a missing item."
"Well, I can get you a Trump of her secretary and you can set up an appointment to meet with her. With no invitation, you don't get through."
"You are going to stop us?" Creed smiles.
"That's the plan. Not a bad job really. I get two weeks vacation a year."
"I hope you had your vacation for this year." I offer with a grin.
"Certainly." The minotaur looks at Scout. "Hey, wait a minute. I've seen you before."
"I don't think so."
"Yeah! Don't you remember? A girl, seventeen years old, thought she was possessed by a demon? You remember the big boyfriend you knocked out of the window? That was me. Remember?"
"I'd swear it was you. Remember? You shot me seven times in the chest. The body disappeared from the morgue. Oh well, I didn't look like this at the time. I was undercover at the time. Maybe you recognize this." He shape shifts his face to look like a brawny human football player.
"Am I supposed to be impressed?" Scout looks irritated and the minotaur shifts back.
"Do you have a Trump of the secretary so we can make an appointment? We are in a bit of a hurry." I ask, we need to get moving.
"It's around here somewhere." He finds it near his lawn chair.
Creed wanders around and examines the various doors.
"Don't go back there, it's against the rules."
"Are you going to stop me?" Creed is looking for any excuse.
"I've got an ax." Well out of reach. "You want to try something?"
Creed swings his blade and the head of the minotaur goes rolling and the body collapses. Blood gushes out. The Doctor gathers a tissue sample and pockets the vial. We have the Trump of the secretary.
"I hope he enjoyed his vacation, he is not likely to have another. Regarding this Trump, I would prefer if someone more psychically inclined would handle this."
"I'll do it." Deirdre takes the Trump. She concentrates on the Trump. Time passes and she doesn't seem to have any luck with the secretary. "We would like an appointment with Lady Dara. Why? Because I have you in a Trump contact and I have a very large ax." So much for subtlety. It went down hill from there. I prefer the company of the Deirdre from my own timeline.
I ask. "When can she pencil us in?"
"I'm working on it!" Her face is turning red.
Others are checking the adjoining rooms that were off limits.
The Doctor gets into the connection with Deirdre and offers to help. He concentrates on it. "Do you have an opening? It's about a stolen item. Oh? Pity. I was intending to return it to her. Good, sometime soon if possible. Thank you. Oh that? He said he had a bit of a shape shifting problem and lost his head." He was looking at the head of the minotaur. "Yes, I think we can manage a Trump gate."
The Doctor opens a Trump gate and we pass through. We are now in a large reception area. The only wall is behind the secretary's desk. The rest of the office is an open area. Above, the sky is beginning the shift from Red Sky to White Sky, having a deep pink hue.
We have a very nice view of the Pit from here. It is also known as the Abyss, the place of the ancient Ty'iga that I met in the brief exchange with the Ty'iga. Something about that place...
The secretary says that we have to turn our weapons in before seeing Lady Dara. There is a pile of weapons; an assortment of swords, maces, axes, and a flying guillotine. Next to it is a pile of bodies; humanoid and others. Above it is a sign. "They wouldn't check their weapons."
Some of us are willing to check our weapons. Deirdre speaks up. "Let me get this straight. If I don't check my weapon, you are going to stop me?"
The secretary says. "No. He is." She points at a huge six armed insectoid. Huge mandibles, antennae, and a beetle shaped body. It has a weapon in each arm: a pitch fork, umbrella, flying guillotine, small sword, ax, and a large sword.
Deirdre is unimpressed. She takes a wide arc swing downward at the creature's head. She splits it down the middle. It collapses and is quite still.
The secretary screams and is cowering behind the desk with a Trump in her hand. Creed walks to her and hits her lightly, but enough to knock her out. He takes the Trump. "A Trump of the Lady Dara."
I offer. "It looks as though we have our choice of weaponry, if anyone is interested."
The Doctor takes the umbrella.
Creed and Deirdre take point, with me between and behind them. We see a palatial estate ahead, my senses confirm the direction. We enter a corridor which seems to extend for quite a distance. We returned to our established marching order. Creed, myself, and Deirdre are in the front row. We move on until we see the marble tile move, scant three meters ahead of us. It flows, grows, and takes the form of a statue of Lady Dara.
She is wearing a gown that matches the pattern of the marble floor. Her hair is black and her eyes match the marble.
"She does make quite an entrance." I smile.
She speaks. "So, you've come to see me?"
Creed mumbles something that I am sure would provoke her.
The Doctor speaks up. "Yes, actually we came to see you."
"Ah, a voice from the back."
"Yes, good day."
I offer. "Actually, we are just passing through, Lady Dara."
"Ah, a little Shadow man. What do I owe the honor of such illustrious guests?"
"Lady Dara, we have come looking for someone that looks quite like myself. Would you have possibly seen such a person?"
She smiles. "No, but if I do, I'm sure you will be the first to know."
"In that case, would you mind terribly if we pass through to look for him?" Members of the group are walking around her, not waiting for permission.
The Doctor tries one more time. "We would like to stay, being motivated solely by your personage. However, we are also in the middle of saving the universe right now."
She smiles wickedly. "I have no desire to destroy the universe. After all, that is where I store my belongings."
"By your leave, my lady, we will press on ahead and disturb you no longer." I start moving around her.
"Everything you do here is by my leave."
"Steed, Steed, Steed! I think that Dara is going to attack you." Bless her, I was expecting as much.
Creed is moving back to Dara, he puts his hand on her shoulder. "What's that all about?"
Kesa speaks up. "Are you sure you don't want to reach a little lower, Creed?"
"What's what all about?" She is looking at him with amusement.
"We don't have time for this." He draws back and hits her. No effect at all.
We go on ahead to see what is down the hall. The Doctor, Scout, Suehprom, Morganth, Deirdre, and myself. Blazer, Kat, Gabriel, and Kesa stay back with Creed. Maybe Creed can take care of himself, but it won't be easy. My senses tell me that we are still in the right direction.
As we move down the corridor, Morganth pauses. "I want to check out this dimensional warp that I sense ahead."
The Doctor pauses as well. "Oh, one of those pesky things."
Scout inquires. "Why don't you just turn it off?"
Morganth stares. "I think I can do that." He casts the spell upon the dimensional warp. The warp blinks out and lava starts flowing in.
Suehprom is stunned. "You didn't tell us about that."
Morganth turns to run. "I didn't know what was behind it."
"Retreat, gentlemen!" We about face and double time it back to the others. Hopefully, the others don't dawdle. The only person I see in my peripheral vision is Morganth. I feel the intense heat from the lava flow behind me, incentive enough to move faster.
I am quickly approaching the Creed and Dara confrontation. Kat, Kesa, and Gabriel are there meandering about. Blazer was running in my direction but is heading back. I peek behind me and notice that only Deirdre and Morganth is behind me What in blazes is Suehprom, Scout and the Doctor up to? I reach into my jacket pocket and withdraw the Trump deck. When I can stop, I will try to contact them.
In the distance I see a bulky gentleman appear and kick Blazer in the back. It sends Blazer sprawling on the marble tile. I take my bowler off and get it ready to throw, I am still too far away to get an effective shot at the assailant. He is drawing a dagger. Blazer is readying a spell and the attacker disappears. Through my Pattern vision, I see the energy of the spell building and disrupting the air around Blazer. An area to avoid, for certain.
I am still running; with the bowler in my right hand and the Trump deck and my brolly in my left. There may not be much time. I am still trying to keep ahead of the lava.
The attacker appears behind Kat, it is Jurt! Merlin's younger and accident prone brother. She scurries and scarpers away. She pauses for a second, thinking she is out of range. Jurt is over her and swings the dagger at her. Creed throws a dagger at Jurt, pinning his hand and causing the dagger to drop from his hand. Jurt's injured hand still makes contact with the back of Kat's head, knocking her out. He disappears again.
I am far enough ahead of the lava to be able to slow down. Instead, I speed up so I can be ready when I am clear enough to help. It will be safe to stop near Creed and Dara. From the lava at least.
I run around Creed and Dara. With my back to the wall, watching for Jurt. He is a sneaky little twit. I put on my bowler, repositioning my brolly, and sort through the Trump deck for the first Trump I find of Suehprom, Scout and the Doctor. The Trump I find first is Scout.
Creed is still struggling with Dara. He seems to be trying to break her neck. Jurt returns with a crossbow. He aims it at Creed. Scout will have to wait a second longer.
Jurt is furious. "Let my mother go."
I take off my bowler and aim for his wrist. I let it go and score, knocking the crossbow downward. The crossbow bolt hits the floor and ricocheted, missing Blazer and moving upward, hits Creed in the upper thigh, missing a vital organ. I may have to apologize for that later, maybe. Kesa throws a pen which scored neatly into his eye. It would be an understatement to say that Just is hurt. He howls with pain and anger and vanishes again.
I tap my forehead and the bowler returns.
Dara is angered. "You shouldn't have done that, I was being nice."
I get the Trump of Scout and concentrate upon it.
Dara is preparing a spell. Creed puts his hand in her marble formed mouth.
I make contact with Scout. He seems to be holding on to some sort of carving on a wall near the ceiling. He has a round flat stone in the other hand. The lava is rising dangerously close and his coat is badly burnt.
I ask. "Where are you gentlemen hiding?"
Scout is frantic. :Hanging over the lava, can you get us out of here?:
"Yes, I'll pull you through."
Bracing myself, I reach through and grab his wrist. I pull Scout through, then a scarf follows, more scarf, and then the Doctor. "Who else is missing?"
Scout is putting out his smoldering clothes. "Suehprom fell into the lava."
The Doctor is also putting out his clothes. "We don't know where he is now. If he survives, we will reach him later."
I replace Scout's Trump and look for Suehprom's Trump. I concentrate upon it, no luck yet. I pocket it for later.
Creed changes his tactic and is using a sword. A strong downward swing for Dara's head. It makes contact with air as she disappears.
Morganth is casting a spell down the corridor toward the lava. Did I hear him say ocean? No! Not the ocean!
A wall of hot steam rushes our way. The lava boils the water instantly. We will be lucky if we don't end up like scolded lobsters.
My Amberite endurance helps me to endure this for awhile. Visibility is near zero, due to the steam. We all speak to help get our bearings with each other. The Doctor and Scout are the nearest to me. I hear Kesa, Morganth, and Creed. I can't tell where the others are. I back up to the wall for defense, in case anyone else shows up to pick us off.
The Doctor is doing something with a Trump. I still have Suehprom's Trump available. The steam is slowly dissipating. The area is clearing due to condensation. As visibility returns, a form appears before us.
"Steed! Is one of these chaps with you Creed?" It's Merlin. Wonderful, just what we need; another fight with Creed. There's no time for this.
"Yes, he is working with us."
"Which one would that be?"
"May I ask why, just out of curiosity?"
"Yes you may. Just tell me which one he is."
The Doctor speaks up. "Can it wait? We are trying to find a Ty'iga who has the Jewel of Judgment."
This gets Merlin's attention. "The Jewel? Well, if Creed hadn't taken it, we wouldn't have that problem. Which one is he?"
Question number one is confirmed. My suspicions were correct, it was Creed who took the Jewel from Coral. One more question to answer.
The Doctor is not dissuaded. "I think the Ty'iga with the Jewel takes priority over Creed."
Merlin looks at the Doctor for the first time. "I've seen you before, on that TV show. Is it still going?"
"Now that you mention it, I've visited a Shadow awhile back ago. I think so, yes. I will have to stop by and watch myself some time."
Merlin focuses on Scout. "Are you Creed?"
"Not me."
To Morganth. "You?"
Morganth looks insulted. "Do I look like a Creed?"
To Blazer. "Then you must be Creed."
Blazer gives up the game, figuring that Creed can defend himself. "No, he's there."
Creed shows himself, giving up trying to avoid another confrontation. "I suppose you want to kill me for killing your wife or something."
The reference is still too vague to be certain.
The Doctor reacts. "Oh dear."
Merlin faces Creed with anger in his eyes. "I'm not going to kill you now. However, I am giving you official notice that I'm challenging you in a duel to the death. As the challenged party, you have all your legal rights under Chaos Law. I suggest you familiarize yourself with them. I am not about to help you."
Creed grins. "Oh, I will."
I get Merlin's attention, mostly to get the answer to the question that I wondered about for some time. I think I know the answer, but I want to be certain. "Merlin, I have been greatly concerned about Coral, how is she?"
"Not well since he cut off her head." There is venom in his voice as he points to Creed.
Answer number two confirmed. Creed was behind Coral's attack. Which of the Chaosians were controlled by the Ty'iga? Possibly Smiling Jenny. She was the person concentrating on something earlier with Creed, after Coral's attack. No doubt, it was the Jewel. The Ty'iga discarded Jenny after burying the Jewel, it wasn't expected to be found by me. I cocked up the Ty'iga's plan. Creed was either controlled by or duped by the Ty'iga to take the Jewel.
As the instrument of the Ty'iga, he is still a danger to us. I hope Oberon keeps him in his current mind set. I am sure Oberon knows Creed's role in all this. It seems that Creed is trying to make up for the problems he has caused, but what problems will he cause next?
The Doctor is saddened. "Well, we're working on that."
I continue. "Everyone thought that the Jewel would be safe with Coral. I thought so as well."
Merlin relaxes slightly, sensing my genuine concern and that of most of the group. "Why are you looking here for the Jewel? It's not like my mother would have taken it."
Creed. "Bull shit! Doesn't it sound familiar that a Ty'iga would take it? You have heard of Ty'igas before?"
Merlin looks at him contemptuously, like a snake that crawled out from under a rock. "Lots of people in the Courts use Ty'igas. That's no proof that my mother is involved."
I get Merlin's attention, he needs to know all of it. He can help us more than anyone else in Chaos. "Merlin, you've known me for quite some time. What do your senses tell you about me?"
He examines me closely. "Oh! I thought you were Steed. You're a Pattern Ghost."
Yes, a Ty'iga has taken my body and has the Jewel. We don't know where it is heading."
The Doctor offers. "He's trying to get his body back, he's rather fond of it."
"My senses tell me it is in this direction. Can you help?"
He is still uncertain. "Look, I'm sure my mother has nothing to do with this. It has got to be some misunderstanding."
"That is what I was trying to tell her, also we needed to get through this area to get to the Jewel." An incomplete explanation, since I didn't mention the Jewel.
Merlin accepts. "Why don't the two of us go to the place where the Jewel is? The rest of you can stay here, until we find out what is going on." I am sure the others don't want to wait around for Dara and Jurt's return.
"Can they go if they wish to join us?"
"I'm not taking him." Referring to Creed, of course. Everyone wants to join us.
Including Creed. "I'm going. Oberon sent all of us on this damned mission."
Merlin looks at Creed like he is out of touch. "Oberon's dead."
The Doctor. "Not exactly. He's back again."
I offer. "There have been a few changes." I point to the back of the group. "Deirdre is also with us. It is a rather long and complicated story."
Merlin looks at his aunt. "I heard about you from dad."
Deirdre. "Dad?"
Merlin. "Corwin."
Deirdre. "Oh. You're Corwin's."
I break in on the ongoing family reunions. "As I said, it's a long story. We will get into more detail when we have time. I'll take you to the 'Bond Street Pub' in Kashfa, where a lot of this took place, and we can discuss it over a few ales. We don't have time now and my current taste buds wouldn't appreciate a good ale."
Merlin grins. "I think you are the real Steed."
"I feel that I am. We need to get on with it."
"Do you mind if I get the information from your mind of where we are going?"
"Not at all." He touches me and we are bound psychically. I recount my journeys to him in a near instant. We have similar psyche levels and I am allowing the contact, to pass on as much information as I can.
I do, however, read his Pattern imprint. Each Amberite with Pattern abilities has a slightly different imprint, like different fingerprints. This knowledge will help me confirm his identity in the future, he senses mine as well. We are both attuned to the Jewel as well. This may be helpful later when we encounter the Ty'iga. Both of us can use the power of the Jewel, and now we can both sense its location.
The Abyss! The place where the aged Ty'iga placed the geas on all Ty'igas. It was taken there! I should have realized it sooner. Merlin can get us there. :Thanks Merlin. Let's get the Jewel.: We break contact.
Morganth is looking for a Trump and pulls through a huge wet demon. There is something familiar about the features. It must be Suehprom. We are all together again. Save for Corwin.
Merlin's ring glows for a second, then Creed and our surroundings disappear. We are near the edge of the Pit, also known as the Abyss. A virtually bottomless pit.
Blazer is looking over the edge. The Doctor is dropping jelly babies into it. Kesa and Morganth has a Trump and is concentrating on it.
Suehprom looks incredulous. "Are you saying the Jewel is out there?"
I am having trouble determining the exact location. "It may indeed be out there." With the aged Ty'iga, of course. "Nearly straight out maybe a little lower. Merlin, any chance for a lift?" I smile broadly.
Suehprom doesn't seem too keen to enter the Abyss. Most of us are apprehensive but are willing to go. "There's nothing out there. Doctor, there are no coordinates out there."
"There's something out there, the Jewel is." Merlin examines the surrounding area.
"Well cousin, do you have any suggestions how to get across?" I am sure he does, but it won't be a pleasant ride.
"Spatial mathematics 101. I can take us across. It's not that difficult." He concentrates upon the area.
"Excellent!" I am trying to determine what he is concentrating on.
Merlin concentrates for a moment longer. He breaks off a chunk of ground that everyone is standing on. It seems sturdy enough to support us to float over the Abyss.
I tap my bowler firmly in place and I get my Trump of the Unicorn Grove from the deck. I have it ready in my right jacket pocket, easy to retrieve if needed. It may be too far to reach by Trump, but it doesn't hurt to be ready. Just in case of problems, of course. The Unicorn did rescue the Jewel from the Abyss once before. She may be within reach, if needed.
Kesa and Morganth pulls Creed through the Trump portal.
Kesa doesn't want to ride the boulder. "I'll just stay here."
Suehprom. "It's not safe to stay here by yourself."
Kesa. "If Creed is here, I won't be alone."
Creed. "Oberon wants me to get the Jewel, so I'm going."
Merlin. "Feel free to go, I won't take you. As a matter of fact, you can take a flying leap into the Abyss after it, for all I care."
Doctor. "I guess that technology doesn't work here."
Merlin. "No, I am afraid not."
I notice it is now White Sky in Chaos. When we were in the garden, it was Red Sky. In the secretary's office, it was a pink sky. Nearly half of the Chaos day has passed since our arrival. We have been wasting too much time. Everyone is getting on the rock. Kesa has seized upon the flying leap idea and she desires to bungee jump off the boulder. This is not the best idea I have heard. 
Merlin is concentrating, preparing to lift the boulder with a spell. We feel a mild electric tingle through the rock as the spell is cast.
Creed has a blade drawn, intent upon Merlin.
Doctor. "Gentlemen, not now!"
Merlin stands ready. "If he wants to break the rules and start the duel now, it just means that I'll kill him sooner."
"And you're not?" He is reacting to the electric shock.
"I am not injuring you."
Suehprom enjoys Creeds discomfort and disadvantage. ""He is following the rules. You should read up on these things before you accept duels."
Doctor. "Put the sword away, please. We really do need to find the Jewel."
Creed. "It looks like your chances will be better without me. Good luck, call me when you are done." Creed is staying behind. Gabriel wanted to stay with Creed, but Creed insisted he go along to help. We depart, barely noticing the movement of the rock.
Suehprom is trying to convince Merlin to help him with the Logrus. It's the Chaosian version of Amber's Pattern. In the case of the Logrus, an individual needs shape shifting to traverse the Logrus. It changes an individual, forcing adaptation to survive or perish. It also causes temporary insanity. Assistance is critical, not to be taken lightly; by the trainee or the master. Merlin doesn't think he is ready, he may indeed be right.
Suehprom also wants to learn various spells, including how to create flying rocks. Merlin feels, and I agree, that there is no time for this. This is also definitely not the time to distract Merlin. We are floating over the Abyss. Imagine skydiving and never hitting bottom.
Kesa is even serious about bungee jumping off the flying boulder. Odd, she didn't even want to be on the rock earlier. Floating over the Abyss is dangerous enough. The Doctor is even encouraging her by pulling a bungee cord from one of his pockets. I have been wondering how many pockets he has in that jacket and how large are the pocket dimensions? He does show some restraint. "Let's save the jumping till we are done."
Suehprom gives up on Merlin and focuses on the Doctor. "Why are we in a hurry, Doctor?"
Scout answers for him. "Well, because the Jewel is probably in the single worst place for it to be, and getting further away as we stand around here wasting time." Scout is getting agitated with Suehprom. His patience is wearing thin, as I am sure others are as well.
Suehprom, not to be put off. "Is it in a castle or heading out into the Abyss?"
Scout is fuming. "You ask one more question and I am kicking you over the damned edge. Now shut up, we are in a hurry. Can I be plainer than that?"
Suehprom. "Uh?"
Scout. "That's it! I'm kicking him over the edge."
Suehprom dives over the edge, scrambling to the underside of the rock and clinging there. We are well underway over the Abyss. Merlin smiles at Suehprom's fate. He was probably tempted to do that, himself.
Scout. "Now stay out of the adults way, kid. He's caused too much trouble all ready." He throws a sword at Suehprom and nicks him along the leg, drawing blood. Suehprom scurries further under the rock.
Scout. "I don't care where he goes, I just want him out of our hair. He has screwed up four good plans we had in the past and he's trying to fake as if he doesn't remember what happened. He's a bad liar too."
Doctor. "I've noticed that."
Scout. "Yes, he didn't remember what happened, but he remembered making me this bow when he supposedly wasn't here. Which he did when I thanked him for it."
Doctor. "Do you need another sword?"
Scout. "I don't need one."
Doctor. "How about a flying guillotine?"
Scout. "No thanks."
The rock continues to move further from the Rim, we are moving slightly downwards. Merlin looks on. "It looks like we are heading near the edge of the inhabitable territory. If you go too far in, you don't come out. Fortunately, I've known a few Abyss divers in my time. So, I know a little more about this than most. Steed, you say your body is there?"
"Yes." I hope so.
"I guess you are kind of attached to it." He smiles.
"At least I can try to check if it is in that direction. At least that is where the Jewel is, I haven't checked to see if my body is still with it." I focus my Pattern sense upon the object of my desire; my body. As I begin to bring up the Pattern, I realize that this may be a bad idea while in the Abyss. I cease my action. "No success, I'll worry about my body, later."
I hope we are in time to recover the Jewel and my body. Of all the things I miss, I miss my body the most. At least I still have my mind.
We continue further into the Abyss. The Rim is barely in view. Just open space in all directions. I hope the boulder knows where we are going and how to get back.
I hope we get there soon. I may have to feed again, a prospect I don't relish. Scout may not wish to be a donor, maybe Merlin...

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