Westray.org Logo

Scout Carter's Journal

Fedora image

Scout Carter's Journal - Part 2

Case File X257-3

Report by Detective Scout Carter

No, Creed and I didn't try to kill each other, but I'm afraid that wasn't the majority opinion in those woods that night. First, there was a tree that fell toward him, but that he just reached up and swatted aside, almost absently. That was a minor problem beside the second, though.

It came while we were sharing dinner. (Creed had done a lot better at hunting than I had, though bows aren't quite as hard to use as I'd feared.) Dog was acting as sentry (have I mentioned before that he has human hands? I should have... it's somewhat disconcerting, though nothing beside Swarm who still made my skin crawl), came back with a report of a caravan. Necros suggested using a fireball spell, either to drive them off or kill them. To his credit, Creed agreed with me and so the two of us went to investigate the newcomers.

It turned out to be three wagons carrying a good number of people in long, white robes. They said they were pilgrims of the "Church of the Unicorn", which meant they were likely headed back the way we had come. Amber is really big on unicorns, though no one has told me why yet. (Chaos is equally big on snakes, it seems, but the reasons for that are more obvious.) Creed asked their leader for his name, he offered 'Alan of Begma' which, at that instant, we had no reason to doubt. Still, neither Creed nor I felt quite comfortable. Oh, Creed did the polite traveler things, like offering to share a campfire and such. But when Creed looked critically at the crossbows the caravan guards were carrying, they decided politeness wasn't their bag.

They went for Creed and, while I'm upset to admit this it is true, did a little better than the LAPD SWAT team had. Which is to say, they lasted long enough for Creed's Chaos entourage to notice our problems and join the melee.

Necros got to use that fireball he'd threatened earlier, setting one of the wagons ablaze. A black armored figure stepped through that blaze and, even as the nominal 'Alan of Begma' admitted to just being a distraction, Creed and I arrived at the same conclusion. Creed fired three arrows in the armored figure's chest, each of which vanished upon impact. The Black Knight kept coming, and a swipe of his hand toppled a tree. It seemed anything that touched that black armor simply disintegrated. Which didn't make out situation seem all that happy. I tried two bullets, but they were no more effective than the arrows.

"I hope your friends have something good in their sacks, 'cause I'm tapped out," I told Creed as I looked for something that might be considered cover.

Creed did nothing of the sort. He drew his own sword and, attacking toward the hilt of the Black Knight's own blade, dislodged it. The knight's sword was the same black as his armor, but the hilt seemed of a different material. As it spun upwards from the knight's grip, I squeezed off one more shot, sending the sword tumbling away. They used to say I was juts showing off at the range when I practiced on smaller targets.

I left Creed to hold his own for a moment (he could if anyone could) and made my way toward where the sword had fallen. I found it sunk hilt-deep in the ground, which made sense, somehow. The blade had simply melted away the earth and only the hilt kept it all from sinking forever. I knelt down and carefully tried to pull it free. This struck me as a very dangerous thing, but the only hope we had of dealing with the Black Knight. Unless Necros had another of his fireballs handy.

As I pulled out the sword and turned, I saw Necros preparing just such a trick, but the Knight had none of it. With a single motion, he drew out and threw a small, black dagger. It plunged hilt-deep into Necros then slid to the ground almost as if unresisting. With that, it had gutted Creed's sorcerer and our chances all too neatly. The Knight then noticed me and decided that, with the sword, I was a threat. Good call on his part, but bad luck for me. I deflected a dagger thrown at my own chest, then tried to get to my feet, all the while carefully avoiding the black blade.

Well, the Knight was good, if only because he was used to this. He swiped toward my leg as I rolled free and he took out a chunk of flesh as well as a good part of my coat. And I liked that coat. I tried to use the sword defensively from my back, but it wasn't working well. The knight reached out and swiped his hand through another tree and it tumbled toward me. I heard a sound as I tried to avoid the tree, and even as it struck me, I saw the black point of a dagger blade thrust out of the knight's throat. It started to slip downward, more slowly than it had with Necros, and the knight started to fall. Toward me.

Using every bit of strength I could, I yanked my leg out from under the tree, feeling my knee pop out of joint as I did. Not a happy feeling, but much better than what happened to him. As he hit the ground, the familiar melting effect meant he didn't stop. An instant later, there was a man-sized and knight-shaped hole in the ground, and I didn't expect we'd ever see him again.

Wish I'd been right.

Anyway, Creed said he could deal with my leg, but it would hurt. The others decided to make sure our camp was better protected for the rest of the night. I didn't protest, and I kept a hand on that black sword, just in case.

I wasn't conscious all the time Creed was working on my leg, and I count that one of life's tinier blessings. When I came fully to, I could see that he'd put my knee back into place, bandaged up the missing chunk of my thigh and put a crude splint over the whole thing. It hurt like hell.

I suppose I should mention now what that strange stone I was still carrying had done all through that fight. It had been more than just vibrating. It was buzzing. Almost talking, if you're generous in your descriptions. I tried to make a note to myself to look into that more when I found time. Right now, I was tired and hurt.

And I was beginning to get a headache.

And I thought at the moment I was hallucinating, though I've learned better since. Even thought my eyes were closed (I was failing to get to sleep at the time), I saw the Doctor like he was right in front of me. And then I heard him, asking if I was all right, reaching for me...

And I was somewhere else. With far too much weight on my leg. I dropped onto a nice carpet, barely managing to keep control of that black sword (which I hadn't felt safe to hand over to Creed or any of his friends, not even Jenny). The Doctor reached down to pick up half of the card he'd used to contact me... It seems the sword had cut the image in half. I guess I'm glad it was behind me at the time.

One slightly muddled conversation later and the Doctor was taking the sword, saying he had somewhere safe to keep it, and Suehprom was helping me to the infirmary. On the way, he asked me why I'd bled on his nice carpet. Funny man. I told him I was worry, but didn't know it was a formal "no bleeding" kind of occasion.

Anyway, I was on an examination table in the all too familiar infirmary (I know that room better than any other in Castle Amber, which is a sad confession, given how fine that castle is). The Doctor showed up before Ge`rard was done re-doing Creed's work and applying a proper cast. I had a few painkillers in my system by then, so I was more coherent.

"Creed may be part of the problem." he observed. I had no reason not to believe him, but I wasn't in the mood for understatement.

"Creed's a whole problem all on his own."

That was when I noticed the woman. She was a drop-dead man-killer sort, all in black spandex and leather. With a cute little collar, leather and chrome. She had a dangerous look to her, but the sort of danger men don't have a problem with. She touched my hand and I felt an all too familiar presence. Another glance saw very familiar mannerisms in her as in Creed's feline partner. Don't ask me to explain that, though... I just knew they were one and the same.

"If you've got the same orders now, I'd be pretty happy about it."

She gave me the kind of smile I'd hoped for, and said (aloud, not in my head) "If you weren't hurt so bad, I'd slap you."

I think she meant it, but I wasn't about to let this drop. Blame it on the painkillers. "So, what other liberties to I get for my injury?"

:SLEEP: came the voice in my head I couldn't deny... and I did just what it told me. 

For a while, I slept without dreaming. I can't say I regretted that, because when the dreams came they almost made me wish I was still awake and just having to deal with a cast on my leg and some pain.

Because in my dream, the Black Knight was back. Chasing me. My leg was hurting, about to give out. So I didn't have much choice. I turned and charged, swinging the black sword I carried in the dream at his black armor. He took the swing in his side, but answered me with a dagger cut along my right arm. My sword arm. I dropped the sword, which fell to hilt-depth into the ground again.

Panicking, I snatched the sword up with my left hand and tried to swing it up through the ground to end this fight. All he had to do was touch me, after all, and his armor did seem to be at least some protection. But I didn't land that stroke, because suddenly (which is the way things happen in dreams, I was being swarmed by tentacles and the Black Knight was nowhere to be seen. These things were big, ugly and strong, as I learned the first time they tugged at my leg. But what they weren't was proof against this sword, which cut them off with a touch.

I hacked myself a messy way out of their grip, finally winning my way free to find myself back in the clearing where I'd fought the Knight. Another man was there, bleeding from wounds that had cost him an arm and both feet. The Black Knight was nowhere to be seen. But he didn't take any chances, starting off by tossing one of those black daggers my way (which I dodged), then following it with a spell that froze me in place. Seems I wasn't going to get a chance to protest my innocence.

Two men came up then, one dark-haired and bearded, dressed in black and silver, the other burly and red-haired with a broken nose that didn't detract from something like a used car salesman's face. Both were wounded, the former seriously stuck in the gut, the latter less dramatically cut into his shoulder. Inspiration hit me... I'd seen all three of these others in the infirmary, taking up the other beds. 

"You guys look like you got worse than we did," the first said. I couldn't nod.

"Did Fiona and Mandor do this to you guys?" I couldn't answer, and the fellow who'd frozen me didn't.

The redhead stepped up to me, waved a hand. I felt the lock on my mouth fade, but still couldn't move anything else. "You OK?"

I saw no reason to lie. "Been better."

"Did Fiona and Mandor do this to you?"

"This is the second time I've heard the name 'Mandor.' Steed seemed to think he was a friend."

Mr. Silver and Black chuckled. "If you see Fiona and Mandor, I'd rather talk before killing 'em."

That was always my preference. Dead people didn't ever help answer questions. At least not without the help of a darn good forensics man, and those results were never nearly as satisfying as a spoken answer.

Among the four of us, we agreed this was probably a dream. I knew they were all in the Infirmary, and they all remembered being there, though they didn't remember me. Problems of being the last to arrive, I guess. Still, S&B proposed we all concentrate and perhaps we could wake up. Since both the man who'd frozen me and I were hurt worse in this dream than in reality, we agreed and tried.

I woke to feel the still welcome touch of the woman I'd known as a cat on my hand. I hoped she'd been there all along, tending to me lovingly. I didn't ask if she had, because it would have shattered that nice hope.

"So, I guess that's a 'no'?"

She didn't even smile, just dropped my hand and crossed over to where Silver & Black and Broken-Nose lay. She introduced herself as Kat, which fit as good as anything, while they named themselves Corwin and Luke, respectively. I had no doubt this was the same Corwin I'd heard tell of earlier. Luke was a new name, though. And the other fellow was identified as Blazer, a friend of Morganth.

The woman I'd given the benefit of the doubt and accepted as an officer when first chasing Creed was there as well. Kesä. She clearly wasn't LAPD, though. Pretty enough, with red hair and green-brown eyes. Less threatening than Kat, but that's not difficult.

The Doctor was there, along with Steed and Morganth and Suehprom and almost everyone I'd met since this started except the King and Flora. And, of course, Creed, his escort, and the Black Knight. Oh, and the man in beige. None of that last bunch bothered me much by their absence.

And Creed seemed to be a hot topic of conversation, except as soon as anyone mentioned him, someone else changed the subject. Eventually, it was my turn to distract everyone from things and they asked me about where I was from, how I'd fallen into this. I filled them in on the basics about LA, but when I got to Creed's story, the Doctor and Steed shared a look, then they invited me to come with him for a minute.

Despite my cast, I didn't feel half bad. Apparently, the rest had done me some good despite the dream. So I went along. I was still pretty much the uninformed party around here, so I went where I was asked. And that was back to the Doctor's strange phone-booth (he called it a "TARDIS" which didn't clear up much of anything) and, once through the door and the familiar control room, through a weird series of corridors. I mean weird as in up walls, down walls, upside down... Apparently, the Doctor's TARDIS had an exemption from more laws of physics than just the "it's bigger inside than out" issue. On the way, they encouraged me to fill in the details of what Creed was doing. I did, right through the encounter with the Black Knight. And Steed noted something important.

He said King Random had wanted me back because I was family. Amber family, which I was starting to be certain meant I wasn't closely related to Creed. Unfortunately, if he told Steed why he thought this, he didn't pass that on to me. I made a note to ask Random next time I saw him.

Eventually, we came to something like a lab. The black sword was suspended somehow in a column of light in one corner, and there was something like a computer on a table. The Doctor spoke a few commands and some schematics filled the screen. The figure looked vaguely human, apparently cybernetic. An artificial hand and leg, other modifications. The name caught my eye, though. "Project CREED"

"I want a hardcopy of this. Can you handle it?"

The Doctor said he could, then offered me a walking stick he said was 'left from his first regeneration'. I didn't ask what that meant, but accepted the offer. My leg was hurting again, and the cane made it easier than the cast normally allowed. He handed me a thick stack of paper and we headed back to the infirmary. The cane did help, but Steed went on ahead at a faster pace.

By the time we got there, though, only Steed and the man who'd spell-frozen me in our shared dream were still around. The later was still out of it, burned severely in his out-of-dream body. And the former seemed to be there only to wait for us. He said someone named 'Coral' was being killed. Beheaded, he said. Since he didn't offer a reason why, I assume it wasn't something I would support. Nor, in my current state, was it something I could do much about. Unless...

"Doctor... I think we need to backtrack a bit. I'm going to need that sword again after all."

The Doctor didn't seem too happy with the suggestion, but went along. Somehow, I got the impression that he wasn't normally a man of action. Neither was I, really. But murder investigations usually require one to travel well-equipped. The Doctor used a trump of Steed to get us to him once I had the sword.

We weren't in the infirmary any longer. We were at a different castle, one I hadn't seen before. They said we were in Kashfa, where Luke was king (though, apparently, his real name was Rinaldo). When we arrived, Corwin and Luke were proving to be even quicker healers than I and were chasing the Kat and Kesä. I didn't know what either had done, but was starting to suspect the worst. If Creed was involved in this (Creed human or Creed half-machine), Kat was on his side, almost surely. And it seemed Coral was Rinaldo/Luke's queen. After a moment to get my bearings, I went after them. I still held the sword carefully, because I had no way to prevent it severing anything it touched.

We came to a window they had apparently leapt out of (we were on the second floor, but since I know I could make a jump like that, I assumed the same for them). Corwin and Rinaldo/Luke had swords and were trying to force the women to "open contact with Creed." I didn't know what that meant for certain, but I assumed Kat must have a trump of the nominal 'King of Chaos.' That would make sense. But I knew I had to favor my leg, so I looked for a safer way down to the ground.

By the time I'd found it, someone had given Kesä an ugly sword-wound, much like Corwin's own. He had the bloody sword, so I attributed it to him. And Kat was staring into a card, about to reach forward.

I'd learned how these things work by then. I grabbed onto the nearest body in the chain, and Corwin, Rinaldo/Luke, Steed, the Doctor and I tumbled through that magical contact to where Creed stood.

Yes, it was Creed.

And no, it didn't look good for him.

He had a woman's head strung to his belt. Coral's, I had to guess. That pretty much brought to a close any chance this was all a misunderstanding. Still, even healthy I was no match for Creed, particularly not with a sword. I held back. Not entirely by choice, either, because Kat moved faster than any of us could imagine. She snatched the head from Creed's belt and threw it to Rinaldo/Luke. Somehow, she seemed to think that brought everything to an immediate close. So did Rinaldo/Luke, who dropped his sword and vanished in a rainbow-flash. Trumped away.

The Doctor was at my side, and he'd pulled out a small gadget. Like some kind of Star Trek thing, he was waving it at Creed and studying results. Creed didn't seem to like that, and a quick sword-blow shattered the thing. I pulled the Doctor back and used the Black Sword to hold Creed off. He snarled and turned to a different target.

Rinaldo/Luke's dropped sword. Apparently, he thought it was a better blade than the one the late Necros had conjured for him. As soon as he touched it, a flash of light and energy proved him right. Things had just gotten worse.

Trying to disarm him, I swung down at his wrist. But, as I had expected, he was too fast. Still, the black blade removed his thumb before striking the hilt of his new sword and deflecting. Something else it couldn't cut... Maybe a good thing, but at the moment, it seemed not.

Kat, meanwhile, had joined the fray. She leapt at the Doctor and, in mid-leap, changed to the oversized feline form I'd first met her in. Corwin went to help him, and Steed and I tried to bracket Creed. Steed whipped off his bowler hat, winging it toward Creed. I used the distraction to strike for his leg, slow him down. Instinct made him move to block with a somewhat armored wrist. The armor proved useless against the black sword and it swept through his wrist and deep into his leg without more than the slightest resistance. His hand fell to the ground, twitching slightly.

Now, I knew I could let time be on my side. Wounded like that, he would pass out on his own fairly soon. I could hold him off that long. I thought. Unfortunately, the odds shifted again, as Kat, the Doctor and Corwin vanished in another trump-rainbow. It was two to one, but even wounded one Creed was a match for one (also wounded) me and Steed. At least that was my estimation.

Morganth and Suehprom showed up in the castle window and shifted the odds back toward our side, which I not too arbitrarily consider as being the "good guys". Suehprom used a crossbow, put a tiny arrow into Creed. He hit, and it seemed to trigger a last ditch assault from my former hunting partner. He came at me, a nasty uppercut with his sword. I tried to step back, to block, but didn't notice his real target. A quick, violent stomp shattered my cast, but as I fell a wild swing caught his leg, severing it all too neatly. We fell, thankfully outside sword reach of each other.

"I surrender now," he said. I guess he meant it, but I knew it probably didn't matter. He did drop his sword. Well, actually Rinaldo/Luke's sword.

"It may be too late for that now." But I still reached over and slid the sword into my grasp. The black sword I was holding tingled in my hand and the stone in my pocket, which I'd been trying to ignore, screamed a too-late warning. I wish I knew why.

Apparently, it wasn't too late after all. Steed used another trump to bring Ge`rard to us. Morganth locked Creed up with that spell he and Blazer seemed to like so much. That calmed the situation down considerably.

Ge`rard looked at my leg. "You can't keep it for one day, can you?" I shrugged. It hadn't really been under my control, after all.

Suehprom and Morganth helped me to a sitting position. Did I mention before that Morganth is almost seven feet tall? That's easier to notice when you're on the ground. Suehprom took Rinaldo/Luke's sword, which quieted my complaining objects considerably.

"That was good sword work," Morganth observed, probably just to keep my mind off my leg. It didn't work, but I didn't feel the need to be rude.

"It's a good sword. I guess. Never had a sword before."

Ge`rard worked on my leg for a while, then said we needed to go back to the infirmary. I didn't protest.

But after he'd drugged me again, to help me sleep, I got one last look at Creed.

And I noticed that the limbs he'd lost to my sword were exactly the ones those plans had shown as mechanical. And the blood I saw didn't look mechanical...

I didn't like what that implied...

But, just then, I didn't have much choice but sleep.

Case File X257-4

Report by Detective Scout Carter

I woke up in Castle Amber's infirmary.


My leg hurt like hell.


I decided I really needed to find a quieter lifestyle.


I looked around, saw that Kesä, Creed and Blazer were with me in the injured reserve, which didn't surprise me. Kesä and Creed had taken things pretty badly in that fight just now and Blazer... Well, he looked like a severe burn case in his physical body, a lot worse than he did in that dream-meeting. Suehprom and Morganth were at his bedside, trying something I couldn't identify. Looked like they had one of those Trumps. Steed was with them, then turned and walked toward the door.

He stopped there, looked away. Then said "Yes. The Jewel? Yes." and vanished in a white flash. Not like a Trump, which has a rainbow effect. I thought that was odd, but he seemed willing enough to take the trip and things got hairy pretty quickly, so I didn't get back to the question of where he'd gone...

Morganth glanced over, noticed I was awake. "We need your help." Suehprom agreed, offering me his hand. "More brains," he said. I hope that was an accident, but he doesn't look like the kind to have seen schlocky horror movies anyway.

I got up and stumbled closer. Damn, my leg hurt. And it was still in the temporary splint. Must not have slept very long... I took Suehprom's hand.

And I saw Kat and the Doctor. They seemed worried and pretty far away. Trumps aren't as impressive as I thought, then... They still have bad reception now and then, just like a radio. Anyway, it seemed they were somewhere dangerous (they'd Trumped away from the fight with Creed along with Corwin, as I mentioned earlier), maybe about to be burned at the stake. I doubted they'd done anything to deserve that, and would have protested along with Suehprom and Morganth that they needed to get out of there, but I was pretty much drained just to maintain the link. I know what an Ever-ready feels like now. Kat seemed to think Corwin had things under control, so she broke the contact. Said she'd call back later.

That seems to be a lot like her. I thought I was quite impetuous now and then, but I'm learning there's a different standard to judge by the people I'd met recently. I made my way back to my bed as Ge`rard showed up to glare at me for being on my feet. As a distraction, I asked him about that sword I'd had, the nasty black thing. He said it was safely put away.

Suehprom seemed to think Kat's judgment wasn't as good as she thought and asked Ge`rard if we shouldn't do something to rescue Corwin and the others. Ge`rard said if anyone could take care of himself, it was Corwin. So everyone who was mobile left and I got myself a new cast. This time with metal bars (twisted by hand... Ge`rard is even stronger than he looks, which is saying something) as reinforcements. "If you're going to keep running around and getting kicked." I nodded sadly. Not like it had been my choice.

Anyway, I thought now was a good time to find another room. Ge`rard said Steed had set one aside for me, so I got directions and headed off, using the Doctor's cane to help. I'd gotten most of the way when I saw a small black cat. One that looked a lot like Kat in her feline disguise (I guess it's a disguise... maybe Kat Leatherette was a disguise and Kat the black and furry reality... Still don't know on that one). I decided to follow, and pretty quickly found myself back at the infirmary. Ge`rard said he hadn't seen anything, which made sense. I'd taken enough painkillers I couldn't be reliable anyway. As I turned to go, I thought I saw the cat under Creed's bed. But no. Must be my imagination.

Second try and I almost made it to my room again. This time, I was at the door when I heard a shout of alarm, coming from back toward the infirmary. Does everything that comes this castle end up going there first? When I got there, I saw the small black cat (definitely real... wish I'd convinced myself of that earlier) and two unconscious guards. Morganth stood in the doorway of the infirmary, apparently talking to someone inside.

"Kat? Is that you?" I asked.

:Yes: came a familiar mental voice. It was her.

"What are you doing here?"

:Helping Creed.:

"I think he needs to stay here. He's hurt."

:The help they give here is more like euthanasia.:

"Not if I'm around."

:You going to interfere?:

"Only to make sure no one gets killed."

:hmmm...: A mental shrug is a strange thing. She turned away, then, toward Morganth.

I edged closer slowly, then heard a whistle from inside the infirmary. Kat turned and sprung inside, past an immobile Morganth. I followed, just in time to see Creed, Swarm, Jenny, Kat and an unconscious Kesä vanish in a Trump rainbow. Blazer had been dumped onto the floor, which looked like it really hurt. Ge`rard stood there as immobile as Morganth. Damn.

Just then, Corwin, the Doctor and Kat (leather-clad human form) ran in the door.

"Neat trick, that," I said to Kat, who answered by looking confused. Morganth explained, "You just trumped away with Creed. And something happened to Suehprom." The last was news to me, like we needed more problems.

"You have a sister?" I asked Kat. She shook her head. "Good," I said, "No offense... but one's enough."

After getting Blazer back on his bed, we went to Suehprom's room, then, to find out just what had happened. We found him half-sized, but otherwise pretty much unhurt. I offered that I could probably track Creed (the stone had managed that before), but we probably needed more time to prepare than the trail would stay warm over. The Doctor offered to take us someplace where we could work out all this without losing so much time. Corwin nodded as if that made perfect sense, and I went along because nothing else appeared to be open to us.

We went to the Doctor's TARDIS, then walked out onto a nice beach. Warm, sunny and, according to him, time here moved in days for seconds back in Amber. Useful place to know about.

So we shared what little information we had. Most interesting was Suehprom's confession that, in an attempt to find Kat, he'd tried to shape-shift closer to her. Some sort of magical similarities thing, I guess. But, instead, this new Kat (call her Kat2 or maybe Citten) had grown out of one shoulder then run off to cause all kinds of trouble. "Curiosity creates the cat," he quipped. Wish I'd thought of that one.

We had plenty of time, so I recuperated a bit, chatted with the Doctor about how this sort of time-trick was possible. fenced a little with the half-sized Suehprom using swords we found in the TARDIS... He was half-sized, I had one bad leg. It still wasn't a fair fight. I got good pretty quickly. The Doctor made trumps of all of us, offered everyone a set. Useful things. I put them in my pocket, along with the stone. Oh, and he offered to make me a leg using those Project Creed blueprints rather than wait for mine to heal. I said I'd rather not, he agreed without an argument.

Days passed, then we went back to Amber. My leg was in pretty good shape, not hurting much at all; the missing chunk was an ugly scar that ached somewhat, but nothing distracting. We went straight to the infirmary (wouldn't want to break a tradition), Kat and Morganth used some magic to help Blazer, who looked a lot better pretty quickly. While they did that, I asked Ge`rard about that sword again. He told me where it was, and the Doctor and I improvised a scabbard in a glass jar with a narrow mouth. Hard to carry, but the blade didn't touch it so it didn't vanish.

We made plans to ride toward wherever Creed was, which meant horses again. I grumbled a little, not needing any new pains for my leg. Kat seemed to like the idea, though, and said she wouldn't need her own horse. "I could just jump in the saddle with someone." I couldn't resist adding how much I appreciated that offer. Blazer still wasn't in shape to travel, but the rest of us made ready and I tried the stone.

It just brought me back to the Infirmary, where he'd Trumped away, and mumbled. Great.

"Looks like I was wrong. We've lost him."

Well, we tried a few other tricks, like using Kat's trump to contact Citten. Didn't work. A trump of Creed. Nada. A trump of Luke (if only to recruit his help), again nothing. Frustrating and it made my head hurt.

The Doctor headed off in the TARDIS to try a project. I decided this was a good chance to talk to King Random about his idea I was family, but hadn't gotten far when I heard the TARDIS returning. The Doctor must have used his Time Beach to test his plan quickly. He popped out of the door, announced that he'd found Creed (he didn't volunteer how). We all joined him (without horses, I'm glad to observe). Kat was there, just walking in from deeper in the TARDIS, grinning prettily. "You look like the cat who swallowed the canary. Don't have one handy, though. Sorry."

She glared at me. She's got a nice glare.

We talked over weapons. I guess everyone else had decided Creed wouldn't come peacefully. I had my pistol (if it decided to work) and that sword-in-a-jar, so I was fine. And Kat, I observed, was always armed and dangerous.

"Watch it," she said.

"Gladly," I answered with my best rakish leer. Must have lost some charm somewhere, because she didn't seem to appreciate.

The TARDIS dropped us off somewhere. From the screens, it looked like we were riding a giant war machine, a tank the size of a couple battleships. And we were on our side. That made getting out an acrobatic challenge. And once we were out, we were greeted by a squad of cyborg soldiers. Not my idea of a welcome wagon. And they were firing some kind of Star Wars guns at as. I took cover and the Doctor leapt back into the TARDIS, then popped out quickly with a huge gun, which promptly fizzled. Great. I drew my pistol, but those cyborgs looked armored and a .45 isn't that much of a man stopper. Morganth, who was hiding with me behind the TARDIS said his magic was out here. Things looked dark. But the Doctor had another trick up his sleeve and tossed a grenade. We used that as cover to drop back into the TARDIS.

One quick plan-making session latter, we headed out en masse. Kat chose to drop back to feline form, charged a cyborg. I had my sword-no-longer-in-a-jar. But instead of a cyborg charge, we were greeted by a turret turning to face us. Unhappy sight, that. "Kat, get back here!"

She kept charging. She is a cat, after all. Damn things never listen.

I glanced a Corwin, he nodded and pointed right. So I went left. We sliced the turret nicely, with his sword doing pretty well, if not as cleanly sheering metal as mine. Of course, his could be held in a scabbard.

The Doctor, Morganth and Suehprom tried something involving toys the Doctor called "gauss guns." Electronics disruption toys, from how the cyborgs reacted. Nasty. Kat scampered back, mentally dragging a cyborg prisoner with her. She must like me more than him, because she didn't let him pet her until his arm fell off. I take my honors where I can get them.

Back into the TARDIS we went, the prisoner having been our primary goal. The Doctor made a quick pass over the cyborg with his "sonic screwdriver" (which seems to do almost everything except drive screws), announced that he was not just a cyborg but also apparently a genetically manufactured solider under the metal. Joy. Memories of Lichfield carried to success. Unpleasant.

I asked if he had a pistol version of those gauss guns. He did. Deep storage closets, this TARDIS. I took one, and so did Corwin. I can't speak for him, but I wanted something effective because the stone was mumbling something fierce. When I'm not tracking someone, it seems to mumble only when it's warning me of something. Like I needed a warning here. But a quick touch and I had a direction to Creed... He was here, which was a good sign. At least we weren't wasting our time. Our new plan was to use a hatch into the Leviathan (as we'd coined the massive super-tank) and then follow my lead to find Creed. We headed out in a group again, but as soon as the Doctor opened the hatch, we saw a countdown in progress. 10... 9... 8... We went back to the TARDIS damn quick. But nothing. We went back again, and saw the count still. 2... 1... 10... 9... A cycle. Must be something to synch up the cyborgs. Damn, that had scared us all for nothing.

Kat took point (like anyone could tell her not to) and we headed in. The stone pointed me toward Creed, but didn't navigate the corridors of the massive Leviathan. Corwin suggested a direct route. I smiled and unjarred my sword. We went pretty much straight, except for when the Doctor suggested a detour to avoid the power core. I made a note to thank him when we had a break.

I got pretty tired of stainless steel and black hallways after a while, which made it more fun to cut holes in them. We eventually found ourselves in what looked like a combination infirmary and garage. "I'm spending way too much time in these places," I said as the stone directed us to the left. That's when we saw a few bugs, buzzing out ahead of us. Swarm. We wouldn't surprise anyone now.

Following the stone's route, we found a couple of swinging doors. Corwin and I went through, swords and pistols ready, but again not quite in time. Creed was there, and so was Kesä. Both had some cyborg attachments, Creed's exactly what Project Creed had predicted. Jenny and Swarm were there was well, for a split second. Then all vanished in another Trump rainbow. Not before both Corwin and I fired pistols at Creed, to no known effect.

There were some cyborg-doctors still in surgical gear nearby. If we'd taken less time, we might have had better results. Damn that countdown anyway. The Doctor grabbed some plans and parts, then suggested it was time to be going. No one argued.

On the way back, he set a few interesting looking devices on the Leviathan's power core. From what he said, he must have known an explosives expert named "Ace" recently, because he did this pretty clean. After a run back to the TARDIS, we watched on the screens as the Leviathan ceased to exist.

"One place he can't run back to," the Doctor suggested. Good enough reason for me.

Suehprom suggested we try to booby-trap Creed's Trump, to keep him from always trumping away. Everyone agreed that was a good idea, but was stymied as to how to actually pull it off. So the Doctor and Kat decided to try chatting with Creed directly. They apparently got through, and Suehprom joined in time to (I suppose) swipe Creed's new hand. The Doctor studied it and identified it as a mix of technology and magic, probably shielded against our gauss weapons and most magical tricks as well. He said the cyborgs back on the Leviathan hadn't been magical, so this sounded worse by the second.

We headed back to Time Beach, and this time we brought Blazer along. He'd be able to recover here and Morganth thought he'd be useful.

We talked about a lot of things during the next few days. Like why we were after Creed. Most agreed it was to stop him from taking the throne of Chaos... I didn't object, but I could care less if he sits on a throne, really. I just want to keep him from killing too many more people, and if that's how he'd use the throne, then stopping him is a good idea. Kat asked about Coral's body, but no one seemed to know where that had gone. Her head went with Rinaldo/Luke, of course.

Suehprom and I fenced a little more, until it became obvious he was nowhere near as good as I. He'd been eating a lot and was almost full sized again, but my growing familiarity with swordplay left him in the dust. Corwin stepped in to keep me humble. I think he could best me blindfolded. But he did suggest a few nasty tricks I could try with the black sword. Like bringing the house down around me or cutting and escape hole at my feet. Clever (if devious) man, Corwin. I'm very glad we're on the same side in this.

We returned to Amber's time flow then (the Doctor told me we had, because otherwise I wouldn't have known). The reason was so we could use Trumps to talk to some people and find some help. I can see why using Trumps from Time Beach would be tricky, but I hadn't tried. Thought I did have one person I wanted to talk to... I took this chance.

I've seen it written here and there that American's don't know how to deal properly with royalty. Well, King Random of Amber seems willing to overlook a lot of informality, because he didn't seem upset to get my call. Nor did he mind when I went straight to the meat of things and avoided small talk. I asked him why he thought I was family. He said he knew my father, and I guess my interest showed, but he didn't say anything more. Just promised to tell what he could once the current crisis was resolved. He said the Jewel of Judgment was missing, I told him we'd decided it was with Creed (which we hadn't, but I was sure it was so I took advantage of a role as spokesman), but that we were having trouble pinning him down. King Random suggested Trump suppression magic, which I would never have guessed was possible, but I thanked him for the advice.

After I took a while to chat with Blazer, Morganth and Suehprom about Random's idea. They seemed to think it was possible. We made some new plans quickly and the Doctor set a Trump of Creed on the console of his TARDIS to focus us on the destination.

We arrived in a forest and the screens even identified it, someplace called "Erignor". Someplace with a large army off in the distance, too. Corwin took a quick look and identified it as belonging to Dalt. Who, he said, is family but has a grudge or ten against Amber. Apparently, he attacks fairly regularly. Not a nice person, I tried the stone, it showed no sign of Creed being near. I voted we bug out and try again, but was in the minority. Blazer, Kat, Morganth and the Doctor went over for a chat, and in the screens I watched them on the screens. This Dalt is a big, tough-looking fellow. Scarred as hell, too. I think I'll practice a lot more before I think about calling myself good with a sword.

Suehprom told Corwin, Blazer and I about a divination he'd cast (I didn't express skepticism... I'd lost a lot of that over the last few weeks). Said it was bad news, but not specific. Ahh, my skepticism still had a foothold.

Everyone returned and we tried another jump, to another shadow, and again one with no sign of Creed. Damn. We discussed options, and the Doctor said it was difficult to play with time this near to Amber (I don't know how you measure distance across realities, but apparently you can if you want to. Corwin took him aside for a moment, which likely meant something devious was being planned. We hopped back to Time Beach and the Doctor worked on a Trump of Kat. Or, more properly, tried to make a Trump we could use to track Citten even though he hadn't seen the smaller version of Kat for more than a couple seconds. If that alone had been Corwin's suggestion, it was a disappointment. But I think I can safely say it wasn't.

We tried using the Citten Trump, but got a dead end jump yet again. "You sure there's nothing wrong with this machine of yours?" I asked the Doctor, since the failures had started only recently. The other chance, that Creed had found a way to hide, wasn't as pleasant to imagine. The Doctor kicked the console, we moved again. To another high-tech place. I stuck my head out to try to test the stone's tracking here, but Corwin pulled me back in just before something took a pot shot at me. No sign of Creed, so we bugged back to Time Beach.

The Doctor tried to make a Trump of Jenny this time, as he'd met her for longer. Corwin wandered off to explore some idea of his, and Kat to do whatever it is cats do when no one's looking, In her case, I'd be very interested in seeing... and not just because Kat was well worth looking at. I was also becoming a little suspect of our semi-feline friend. When the Doctor was done, Corwin was back but Kat wasn't. So the Doctor left a trump of himself for her and off we went. Good choice, that, Subsequent events proved my suspicions conclusively.

We arrived at a strange building, a seeming near-scale model of Castle Amber, only on wheels and with nasty-looking gun turrets. Shadow was a strange place. Someday, I'll have to find out if there are any limits on it. Kat trumped the Doctor (apparently she can make Trump calls from Time Beach, but she's got quite a strong mind, which must help), appeared then stormed out toward the castle while we were still making preparations. Forced our hand. While Morganth set up the Trump Suppression we'd planned to hold Creed here (and he was here, the stone confirmed), Blazer used a spell to make us all invisible. Which worked too well and we couldn't see each other. We used an invisible chain to tie ourselves together while Morganth worked on a spell to let us see one another. During this time, Kat made it to the castle, opened the door and entered. That should have been red flags and sirens, but we were occupied. I took point in our charge, planning to make my own door with the black sword. But less than halfway to the wall, the stone in my pocket screamed warning and I called a retreat.

We hadn't made it halfway back when the castle turrets opened up an a laser-like blast cut us off. Creed's voice boomed out, warned us not to move. When the Doctor took the role of spokesman, Creed asked why we were chasing him. "Why did you run?" the Doctor replied (smart man). Creed said we were after the Eye (I later found out that's what the Chaos folk call the Jewel... Don't know why yet), which wasn't far from the truth, after all.

Of course, during this chat, the rest of us whispered a plan. On a count of three, Corwin and I drew gauss pistols and went after the turrets, Blazer and Morganth wove defensive spells to minimize the effect of the turrets we missed. The Doctor's toaster oven/guard dog K-9 joined the gaussing. It worked quite well. I took a grazing hit to my leg (which had almost healed, damn it), but everyone made it to the TARDIS.

Except Corwin. He'd decided to charge, despite machine gun fire which the gauss weapons didn't seem to be lessening at all. I told Morganth to drop the Suppression spell while I dug for Corwin's Trump. Morganth, though, was distracted. Apparently, he'd suspected Kat as well and had planted a magical bug of some sort on her. He could see where she was, and reported she was on Creed's side. "Big surprise," I said, because it wasn't. She must have been sending us off course, buying Creed time. Just as clever and dangerous as she is pretty. I always disliked that mix.

The Doctor tried to advance toward Corwin behind a bullet-shield, but was forced back. Corwin was safe for the moment, too close to the wall for the turrets to work. But he didn't have the black sword, so the wall wasn't paper to cut through. We tried to move the TARDIS closer, but the Trump Suppression spell seemed to freeze it as well. The Doctor seemed surprised at that, but I'd come to expect disappointment. That was when the castle started to roll, moving away.

Morganth and Blazer, working together, killed the Trump Suppression around the TARDIS and we dropped her right on top of Corwin, who wasn't all that hurt but was grateful. However, the Doctor said we couldn't jump to inside the castle because it was too well shielded. So I drew the black blade again, then decided that wouldn't work well with the moving target. We grapple-chained the TARDIS to the castle to keep close. Inside, you couldn't even tell we were being dragged over cratered land. Strange.

Morganth, Suehprom and Blazer had a plan. Using Morganth's bug to target, they were going to send a present to Kat, Creed, Kesä and Citten (who were all together). A fragmentation grenade and a few gas canisters. Not bad. I worried about Kesä, but I knew the others could take it and hoped it would even put them out.

Just as the spell was ready to go, my sword vanished from my hand. Morganth said Kat had it, which didn't surprise me as much as it should have. She was proving a lot more competent than she'd ever let on. Except that, when the bomb was sent (and I only know this second-hand from Morganth), she used the sword to slice it in two. Which just released the gas without the fragmentation effect.

Blazer cast a second Suppression spell just as Morganth let fly with something he says he called "There/Not There". I'm not sure how it works, but suddenly the castle wasn't there. Apparently it was for some (the Doctor ran into it and even seemed to be avoiding walls now and then), but for me it was totally gone. I had a clear view of the quartet inside, who had just managed to get out of the gassed room and were recovering. I drew my pistol and fired after seeing Suehprom had found our bullets acted like the castle wasn't there either. I think I like this "There/Not There" spell. When my pistol was exhausted, I snagged one of several assault rifles we'd accumulated during the planning stages, tossed one to Corwin. We opened up, keeping Creed and company moving slow. We even hit the man himself (my primary target) a few times before all four vanished. However, the Doctor managed to use his ridiculous scarf to get a grip on Kesä and tag along.

I quickly dug for his Trump, which worked like a charm (Blazer's spell must have been countered... I'd put that down to Kat and Citten). I pulled him to us once he reported having lost Creed and a few feet of scarf. He did have a black dagger which he reported Creed had thrown at him.

And there we were. We'd done our best but hadn't managed to hold them here. The Trump Suppression trick was lost (Kat would dispel it as soon as we tried again) and they would likely leave traps behind now that they knew how we were following them.

Things didn't look good. I set down a smoking assault rifle and looked around at my bloodied, exhausted companions. And I shook my head.

We'd just tried to find a miracle and come up wanting. I doubted even a miracle would help if we had to try this again.

Back Link ButtonMore Link ButtonHome Page Link Button


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