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Scout Carter's Journal

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Scout Carter's Journal - Part 4

Case File X257-7

Report by Detective Scout Carter

We stepped out of the TARDIS beside a rock outcropping which could be described as something like the base of a staircase. As the moon rose, something that looked a little more like stairs stretched from those to a ghostly image in the sky. Like stairs, but a lot more like a picture of stairs projected against the mist. A very long-seeming picture of stairs. I never have liked stairs...

Kesä, Kat and Creed hung back from the rest of us as we started our way up the staircase, so I hung just far enough back to keep an eye on them. I know my history and triumvirates are the single most common doomed power structure known, but that didn't make this one any less unpleasant to think about. Most things involving Creed turn unpleasant without too much thinking.

After more stairs than I like to remember, we found ourselves at the gates of he city of Amber, only rendered in shadows and mist and devoid of population. Spooky. It was only when Creed stepped from the stairs to the city that figures started to appear, from doors and alleyways, and began going about everyday business. They didn't seem aware of us at all.

Corwin looked back at the group who'd followed him here. He warned us of visions which he said was about all we'd find here, then said we should split up and see the sights. Except for me. He was going to take me to the Pattern. So everyone did split up (well, into predictable groups... the Trio went off together, for example) and I went with Corwin.

He lead me through the city, into the Castle, down to the Pattern. And along the way he told me what to expect. He said the Pattern was an ordeal, one he didn't envy me going toward. He said I'd have to walk along a certain path toward the center, spoke about four 'veils' where it would get a lot harder, but that it was never easy. He said not to stop once I started along the Pattern, that it would kill me if I did. He also told me not to be distracted by the Tir-na Nog'th visions; he seemed to think they lacked an real value. I didn't have time to pay any real attention to them, so I can't say I tested his judgment there.

Our plan was to use the Pattern to transport myself to the Castle of Mirrors, expecting to find Delwin there. As for Delwin himself, he didn't say much... Their mutual father, Oberon, had three rules... No defying him, no killing within the family and no incest. It seems Delwin and his sister Sand had violated the last rule and, as far as Corwin knew, died for it. Obviously they hadn't; I'd met both if my guess on Dr. Dream was correct. But Corwin offered me little advice how to deal with Delwin once I was in his castle. Assuming I had to do it on my own... the plan was for me to Trump him in. But he said he didn't really know Delwin all that well, so couldn't tell me much. Great. Another unknown. Still, I have to guess I'm pretty much a mystery to him as well, at least at this point in time... When we'd met just before the TARDIS explosion, he seemed to know who I was...

More steps, down this time, to a room that had to be in the deepest dungeons of Castle Amber. The image on the floor was etched in blue-gray fire, larger than I'd expected. Larger than I'd hoped, given the warnings of how difficult it would be. The surprise, though, was a ghost image of Steed lying in the middle of the Pattern. That I hadn't expected...

"Time to go for it, kid. If it turns out you aren't a relative... Nice knowing you." Corwin shook my hand and somehow the joke reassured me in spite of the threat. Random, Flora and Corwin all agreed I was likely family... I guess it was time for find out for certain...

The first step was easy. Foot down, hints of sparks, then other foot up, ahead, down...

It hit me like a hurricane wind. I almost faltered then, turned back... But I'd been warned, and that wasn't an option. It was forward or die. And he'd said it got harder as you go on? Impossible...

Ten steps in and it was like walking through molten Jell-O. I stopped looking at my legs when sparks reached my knees, except that my feet had gone numb and I had to look to make sure I stayed on the glowing path. Still, the curves weren't all that sharp, the path was clear. Not a smooth spiral to the center, but a complicated dance in and out, around and around... It reminded me of the knot work on the stone in my coat pocket, but I hadn't thought to compare the images before I started. And now was no time.

Suddenly, it was a little easier going forward. That wasn't supposed to happen from what I'd been told, so maybe I'd already...

"Be ready for the First Veil!" Corwin yelled in to me. First? If this was the normal progress, then what were these Veils like? A step more and I knew... Another step and I pushed against a brick wall and my vision went fuzzy...

I was back in the house again, my twice-dead friend with the phone cord reaching for me again. This time, Timmers was yelling in the background, something about losing my job or the Chief chewing him out or another familiar chorus. I didn't care, since my murderous acquaintance was after my throat. I ducked, pushed him away, stepped forward...

His hands reached through me and I burst out, saw the blue-gray sparking path ahead. So that was a veil. Hope they weren't all so intense... I was already totally exhausted, felt like I'd run for a day or two. How many veils had Corwin said? Four? Not possible. Maybe he'd meant less...

"You're doing great! Hang in there!" I didn't turn to see him (his voice was off to one side, I think... It was hard to focus on anything but lifting a foot, putting it down), didn't answer. Great? I wasn't going to make it. How long had I been at this? Two veils? Three? I remembered one clearly... I was so tired, I had to have passed another...

The wall again, impossible to pass, and there was Creed. Right on the Pattern. Or not... Another veil? Third? Maybe fourth... He smiled, said something about this being inevitable and moved to block my way. I didn't bother trying to reason with him, just stomped for his instep. Missed. Maybe he's faster, but I have no choice... Another step forward and instead of reaching up and snapping my neck (which I'm certain he could have done), he reached behind my back, pushed me forward...

My fingertips went numb where they struck the Pattern, then I fought my way back upright. Through another veil... The last one, maybe... How much worse could it get?

"Going great! Two more to go!"

Two? Either I had lost count or Corwin had... I preferred to think it was him... My legs were numb, heavy and moved on memories of willpower long used up.

"Okay, now's when it starts to get rough..." That couldn't have been what he said, but it's what I remember... The man has a sick sense of humor if it is true. "I'm going to feed you some of my energy now, so..."

He stopped suddenly at a sound. A crashing sound I didn't like hearing, but couldn't turn to see. I saw a curve ahead, could probably see the door from there...

I made it there a month or two later, and found that turning my head was no easier than walking. Still, I could see Corwin through the haze of sparks, sword out, dueling someone in black. Someone about Creed's size. I guess the Doctor hadn't done as good a job convincing him to be friendly as it had seemed...

Another step and sight failed me. It was black and damp and my arms were being wrenched backwards, pulled tightly, bound into rough canvas and leather...

I used to have nightmares about this. Interning in an asylum, investigating Lichfield, both had given me reasons to avoid wanting to think about how easy it was for anyone to end up...

It was too easy to move forward now. Hands behind my back, pushing me along...

"You seem happy to go. Don't know where you're going. You're sane, so now you face trial. Hope you fry, what you did to that woman..."

The voice was unfamiliar, the hate all to much the opposite. Was this what was real? No, I'd avoided that conclusion in Dr. Dream's attempt at the same, I couldn't make it now. But what had happened to the pressure of the Pattern, why was it so easy to move forward now, why was this Veil (the fourth? had to be) so very different...

A foot tangled in mine, tried to trip me... I spun around against my will, was pushed forward, almost fell again, caught myself and finished my spin, a foot down...

Into sparks and fiery pressure again. It had been a veil, all of it. If I'd had the strength to move my arms, I would have just to celebrate the option... Total focus on stepping forward, once, twice...

I saw Corwin on the floor, but no one else. I let a little concentration slip to moving my arm anyway. I found my pistol, slipped it out. My fingers were still numb from catching myself earlier, but I felt better now... If the black-clad figure I'd guessed was Creed was still around, hiding outside my vision, I'd probably only have one shot...

More steps took me around a curve, a long curve, but I still saw no one but Corwin on the floor. Then I knew I couldn't keep looking, I had to put everything into just walking forward. Was I though the Veils now, approaching the end? Had to be. I tried to remember what had happened up to now, make a count, but I couldn't. How many Veils? Corwin said four... I had to have passed a dozen...

Another step and Corwin was there, right in front of me. The pressure was gone. He smiled and congratulated me on my success.


He shouldn't be there. Hadn't he said the only way to the center was walking in? I told him as much. He said Steed had Trumped him in, but Steed wasn't there. I didn't buy it, kept walking forward, even though I couldn't see the path. Another Veil?

Corwin shifted, melting into a twisted figure, old and hunched over. He regarded me with one dangerously wild eye. And told me this was the wrong Pattern, the wrong universe. I had to stop, he said, or I'd regret it once we fixed things.

"No choice," I said, not having the energy or time for eloquence. "Find Delwin..."

"I'll take you to him, if that's all you need..."

He offered a somewhat withered hand. I considered, weighed my options, and took a step forward even as a took it...

And we were in the Castle of Mirrors. The pressure was gone, the exhaustion wasn't. The old man smiled once, then frowned. "Must go. The change is coming over me..." and he went.

Or maybe I passed out and he walked away. It was hard to tell.

I reached in my pocket, pulled out the Trumps I'd gathered. They dropped to the floor and I slipped down after them, sitting with my back to a mirror's comforting solid coldness. I shuffled the cards, found Corwin. Couldn't lift it, but I held a hand on it, concentrated...

Felt him answer and just reached forward. I felt myself slipping away again, but I know I had a grip on his hand, drew him close... He told me to rest, said he'd take care of Delwin.

Things were gray for a while... Then I felt a Trump call of my own. The Doctor and Kesä.

"Yes?" I was still feeling weak... I could sleep for a month, at least...

"Is Corwin there?" one of them asked. I don't recall who.


"Where are you?"

"Mirrors... Castle..."

Then they let me pass out. How nice of them...

Case File X257-8

Report by Detective Scout Carter

When I came to, Corwin was holding the unconscious Delwin and watching me.

"Wouldn't cooperate?" I asked once the cobwebs started to clear.

"He's being very cooperative," Corwin said with that scary little grin of his. He's a very good person to keep as an ally, I think. Definitely a frightening enemy. I also noticed that Delwin was free of any jewelry. Seems rumor says he has rings like the one Sweeney had made trouble with...

The TARDIS appeared then, and the Doctor invited us to join them in take-out Chinese. I guess he really does have everything somewhere in there. I looked around, counted noses. With Delwin, it seemed like we all present.

"I guess we're us now."

"But we're not when yet," the Doctor observed. "A few years to go yet."

I'd stopped trying to make sense out of everything the Doctor said a while ago, but this did parse to something meaningful. We were who we should be and (roughly) where we should be, but we needed to be here a few years in the future. As if multiple worlds wasn't enough... Time travel only makes it worse.

The Doctor took Creed off somewhere to work on his "nanite problems" (this probably has something to do with the flesh-and-blood replacement limbs he now has... They seem a lot less threatening than the mechanical ones the plans to Project Creed, but they looked to be rebelling. Can high-tech artificial limbs be rejected like organ transplants? I guess so.

And the rest of us planned. We came up with all sorts of options, which included having the Doctor land this TARDIS around the other TARDIS now that the Doctor had made this one resistant to a Chaos blade (apparently that was what had happened... Creed had slashed at the TARDIS with the black blade and, thus, had cut open its power source... The Big Boom resulted.). Kat and Creed fixated on contacting and kidnapping their alternate selves (I didn't wonder for a second if they were up to something... I knew it for certain from the first time they spoke). I voted for trying to take the other TARDIS away by landing this one around it then leaving with it still inside. The Doctor said that was a bad idea and would have undesirable side-effects. I didn't feel the need to argue.

Then the Doctor explained something important. When we restored the universe, a "temporal reversion" would occur. We would be merged with our alternate selves from the now-averted timeline and would go forward as one person. Except that the TARDIS prevented that from happening. So we all had to be outside the TARDIS when we saved it. Great. Another complication.

Suehprom decided our plan wasn't complicated enough and tried to add all kinds of twists, turns and complications. We told him to forget it and went with a simple plan. Appear, let the Doctor try to convince himself to cooperate, then stop Creed', Kat' and Kesä' (their original-time alternate versions) from destroying everything. Sounded simple enough. I was sure Creed, Corwin and I working together could stop Creed', and Creed agreed. So we gave it a try...

We appeared on a tree branch not far from where the original TARDIS sat. The Doctor said we were about a half-hour ahead of the critical moment, which was confirmed by the stream of yarn tumbling beside the TARDIS. Once we were out of the craft, I tried my pistol, with no result. Suehprom offered to make me a bow, I said that was fine. Then Corwin and I decided to take Blazer and Delwin off someplace safe, so they wouldn't be in the way but also wouldn't be in the TARDIS and, thus, shielded from "temporal reversion." We found them a safe branch, then I headed back. Corwin hung behind for a few minutes longer, and I used up that time getting a feel for the bow Suehprom had constructed quite quickly. Not bad... though I'm no experienced judge of such things.

Someone was approaching. I think I noticed him first, but I can't be sure of that. I caught a glimpse of him through the branches. Male, wearing a feathered hat and ruffled shirt, white with a red vest. He looked very out of place. And rather unfamiliar. I called myself to his attention by stepping out, greeted him without naming myself. And warned him he might want to be somewhere else given what was about to go on here. Corwin stepped out to agree with me, and the newcomer recognized him at once. He said he was Gabriel, son of Flora, and was looking for his father. Why he was looking here, I didn't know. But he was.

About then, I felt a Trump call. It was Suehprom. He told me Gabriel was probably Creed's son. That surprised me, given what I knew about Creed and how he had met Flora, but Suehprom seemed convinced of the possibility. Something that had happened in this alternate past. If it was true, I concluded at that moment, I had something to be very jealous of Creed for. Flora qualified as a woman with a capital 'W'. And any other letters she'd like.

"Get rid of him," Suehprom insisted, but offered no advice on how to do that. Besides, he seemed harmless enough, as long as we kept him clear of Creed until after the main event.

"If he becomes a problem, you deal with him."

Well, that I could agree to. So I did, and ended our chat.

By then, the Doctor had come out of the original TARDIS (call it TARDIS' to match with people's names). He swung over and we introduced him to Gabriel. He seemed rather cheerful about how things were going and offered to make tea. I took him up on it, as did everyone else. Of course, Kesä, Creed and Kat weren't to be found... Probably better that way, though. It wouldn't do to have them around when their original-time versions showed up.

Gabriel reached out about then and pulled someone through a Trump. A big man, in armor. With red hair and a familiar face. Except this time he hadn't ever broken his nose.

"Luke... I wasn't expecting you," I said because, in fact, I wasn't.

"Do I know you?" he asked, not even seeming to recognize the name. I quickly gathered that things were very different with him in this alternate timeline... Which was confirmed when he grabbed Gabriel and used him as a human shield.

"Great... Look, you can do what you want, just stay clear of the blue boxes, all right?" I knew none of this would matter in twenty more minutes.

"I couldn't give a rat's ass about your boxes. I'm here to avenge my father."

Corwin looked guilty (which is very different from 'sorry') and made an offer. "Look, kid, we can talk about your father later."

The Doctor, who had just arrived back, said we could work all this out in an hour and offered everyone tea. I thought that was very reasonable.

Luke wasn't in any mood to be reasonable. "Drop your weapons or I kill your friend's son."

"He seemed like a nice kid. Sorry." Corwin was all too cold. Me, I know hostage situations, so I wasn't about to play our hand (which was that, while Gabriel seemed a nice enough person, he probably wouldn't even exist in twenty more minutes).

That was when Luke's eyes went slightly out of focus. He pushed Gabriel from the tree branch and tugged Kat through a Trump contact. The Doctor swung his scarf down for Gabriel to catch and I was tempted to level an arrow but didn't.

"Now I have your woman," Luke gloated toward Corwin without real effect. Because it was comically untrue. Now, I decided, it was time to make an offer.

"Give us twenty-five minutes. Then do what you want. Corwin won't leave... Won't even go out of your sight, will you?"

"No reason to."

I was glad Corwin was playing along. That should make this work.

Except no one ever accused Kat of playing well with others. She slapped Luke across the face, or tried to. From where I stood, it looked like her hand was a quarter-inch or so shy of its mark. I must be getting used to weird observations, because I immediately assumed that was an affect of the armor he was wearing. Great. Another invulnerable opponent.

Just then, Kat', Kesä' and Swarm' appeared near the TARDIS'. The Doctor (or maybe it was the Doctor'... they seemed to work together quite well) seemed ready for them, took them inside. They didn't seem to notice the stand-off a few branches over.

"That went better than expected," I observed to Corwin. He frowned and tipped his head toward the trees.

I saw what he'd noticed. Men on para-wings, coming in as fast as the trees would allow. "I think it's about to stop being quiet," Corwin observed. Luke smiled slightly.

"Let me go or we'll all die," Kat offered. Obviously no hostage negotiation training there, either. Luke seemed to want us all to die, after all. Never the best thing to threaten someone with.

The men on the para-wings proved to have crossbows and they started firing. Fortunately, we had decent cover and they were on a poor fire base. But they also had swords, and there were a lot of them.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Creed', carrying Kat', exit the TARDIS'. That looked bad. As I understood the past, Creed hadn't shown up inside the TARDIS. Call that a serious change, I think. But I didn't have time to worry.

I only had a few arrows, so I was out of those quickly. That gave me a chance to notice Suehprom take a shot at Creed'. Of course, his target being Creed (real or alternate), he missed. And hit Kat'. Kat turned toward him with a very angry glare. Suehprom had ducked into the TARDIS, closed the door. Creed' charged toward him and, denied entry, pushed the blue police-box off the branch. That looked bad, for all of us. Which was about par for the course when the plan involved trusting Creed (again, either one).

Corwin and I were holding off the attackers, who were led by Dalt, who looked a lot like he did in our timeline. Scarred and frightening. He and Luke seemed about to press their attack toward Corwin...

And then the door on the falling TARDIS opened and a blast of flame spilled from it. It engulfed the branch, most of Dalt's men, Kat, Luke, Corwin, and, of immediate importance, me. While it hurt, it wasn't actually hot enough to ignite my clothes or hair. I guess I was on the outside of the blast. Dalt was blown off the branch he was standing on, but caught another. And was quickly on his way back up toward us, his cloak blazing madly. He doesn't seem to know when to quit.

"Things don't look good," I said to Corwin. We'd been guarding each other's backs, and while I doubt either of us liked the fire, it did give us a moment's time to reflect.

"Been better," he replied. "Wasn't the Universe supposed to be saved by now?"

We didn't have time to consider the situation, though. Luke (who seemed totally unaffected by the flame... that's some armor he's wearing, if that was the cause) shoved Kat out of his way (and off the branch, which would have worried me if it wasn't that cats always land on their feet, albeit that would mean in the mud here so I know she wouldn't enjoy it) and was advancing toward us. Or, more properly, toward Corwin. Dalt, his cape abandoned, had decided to take me out of the picture.

We held our own for a moment, but I know it wouldn't last. Corwin was facing someone whose armor made him invulnerable, I was swinging a sword against someone who'd grown up with such things. And I was decidedly a novice.

That's when I had a flash of inspiration. The Doctor had said the TARDIS would things from re-merging in its immediate locale. Which meant to get rid of Dalt and Luke (who no longer belonged here in the fixed timeline, I hoped), I just needed distance.

As good as Dalt was, he hadn't been expecting me to charge below his sword and rush-carry him right off the branch. Even years of swordplay doesn't leave you prepared for every possible gambit...

About a hundred yards (and several bruising blows and angry words) down, Dalt vanished. Score one for applying logic to the Doctor's explanations. Or to just trusting luck when nothing else is available. I'd never had much truck with luck in the past...

Anyway, since I had to interest in meeting the muddy mush that passed for ground here (at the speeds I'd find it, it wouldn't be nearly as soft as I'd like), so I decided to risk a shoulder and catch a passing branch. It hurt like hell, but neither the branch or my bones gave out. Of course, I still had a lot of tree to climb back to where I'd left the others. It had been rough enough going down these mega-trees; I didn't look forward to the reverse process. Fortunately, I didn't have to suffer it for too long. With his huge robes flapping in the breeze, Morganth floated up, Suehprom in tow. I asked for a lift and Suehprom said he'd rather climb anyway. To each his own. Of course, he had the convenient knack of being able to grow nice, long tree-climbing claws and spurs. Handy stuff, shifting shape. Kat had probably made herself some wings or such rather than meet the ground. As convenient as it is, though, I think I'll stick to the body I know. The idea of that kind of ability made my stomach lurch even more than swinging from Morganth's hands as he floated us up did.

We arrived just in time to see the TARDIS fading away. The two Doctors (almost perfectly identical, so I won't try to guess which was which) smiled to one another, then merged together. Luke and the few remaining of his men vanished. "Well, that seems to have worked out," I observed to Morganth, who didn't bother with an answer.

Gabriel was still with us, though. That surprised me, as he shouldn't exist in our time. Or maybe it was just that which saved him... By not existing, he didn't have a counterpart to cancel him once the TARDIS protection was gone. That made as much sense as anything the Doctor might explain... And since there was no longer an easy excuse to put it off, I turned to Creed.

"So... You have any problem introducing him to his father?"

He looked uncomfortable for a moment, glared at me (though no more so than he glares at everybody) and shrugged. "Not saying I am. He'd have to ask his mother." Typical Creed.

Corwin came back about then, with Blazer and a woman. Quite a woman. She was dressed in well-crafted armor, silver with black. The same colors Corwin favored. Her hair was medium-length, inky black and her eyes shockingly blue. She looked beautiful and as delicate as someone can while wearing a metal body-suit and toting a huge ax. "This is Deirdre, my sister. She was kind enough to act as Delwin's guard until things were resolved."

His sister? Very believable... But the looks that passed between them weren't exactly brother-sister looks. What was it Corwin had told me about his father's opinion on incest? Anyway, I was about to ask why she was still here if almost everyone else had vanished when the TARDIS groaned its way back to a perch on the branch, door opening to allow Steed to step out. Last place I'd seen him was in the center of the Tir-na Nog'th pattern, but that was in a different world. I wasn't going to ask how he got there, because I was fairly sure the Doctor would try to answer and it wouldn't clear up anything.

"Hey, Steed. Meet your older brother." Creed seemed to actively pursue giving offense. Steed, however, took it in stride. Maybe he's gotten used to his family expanding every time he turns around. He seemed a lot more surprised by Deirdre, bowing slightly as he greeted her. From what I've been told since, our timeline's Deirdre was killed in the war Corwin's preemptive fratricide had prevented in the alternate history. So the theory I'd started with Gabriel was proving solid... People without a parallel weren't vanishing. The universe works in strange ways.

The Doctor invited us all into the TARDIS to clean up and have some dinner. I was all for that, and so was everyone else. Except Suehprom who was, it seemed, still making his way back. I'd wait to worry until he'd gone missing for a real amount of time... As prone as he was to causing trouble, I thought this world offered him few, if any, real opportunities.

I took a while to wash up and brush off my coat (it's amazing what a good no-stain treatment will let you get away with and still look decent). Then I remembered I was hungry and joined the others for dinner. Steed didn't seem to be feeling well. I'd seen him with a cup of wine before, and he seemed to know his way around one quite well. Now, the scent seemed to turn his stomach. Strange. He whispered to Corwin about it while I picked among the Doctor's buffet offerings to fill a plate. By the time I had turned back, Corwin had opened his forearm with a dagger and was filling a goblet with blood. Steed watched greedily. Wasn't that appetizing? I decided to wait for a while before eating...

Creed walked over to Corwin just after he had put away his dagger and wrapped a napkin around his arm. "So where are we now?" he asked.

"Seems a shame to spoil dinner," Corwin said, ignoring the fact that his knife trick had already done that for at least a while in my opinion. "I'll extend the truce until we leave the vehicle."

I don't know if I should consider myself insulted that Creed didn't bother asking me how I felt. Hopefully it was because he knew that I didn't bear him any ill-will personally, but was simply trying to keep him from another bloody mess like I'd seen with Luke's wife. He still hadn't quite explained why he'd done that, at least not as messily as he had. The Jewel seemed a valuable prize, though, and he obviously thought it was worth all the blood. Can't say I agree, though.

It was about then that Suehprom returned, walking into the TARDIS' dining room and asking just what had happened. He seemed to want us to believe he was the original Suehprom, not the one who'd bungled a plan or three and killed Kat'. I didn't buy it (I've lived in LA for years, and I've seen some people who know how to act), and I doubt anyone else did either. Kat certainly didn't.

"You will die," she said, fixing him in a gaze that seemed determined to make those words enough to do the deed unassisted.

"Please don't fight in the TARDIS," the Doctor said, always the peacemaker. (Yeah, it's capital letters. "Time And Relative Dimensions In Space". The Doctor had been explaining that to me as Suehprom arrived.) Fortunately, he was assisted by Deirdre's arrival at dinner. It seems she'd found her way around the TARDIS quite well, because she'd exchanged the armor and ax for a flowing gown, a perfect fit on a perfect form. It seems they don't come plain in this family. She sat with Corwin, who seemed to appreciate it. I doubt I was the only one to take the hint. Besides, I'd seen that ax and armor. I was sure she was more than able to take care of herself.

Dinner was quiet, tense. Creed and Kat whispered and glared at Suehprom. Before long, Creed had promised to kill him, which is about what I'd expected. I still don't know just what sort of trickery Kat had planned to commit with the help of her alternate-time self, but he'd ruined it. And shown willingness to kill her, which I'm sure she didn't appreciate. How did I feel about that? Well, Kat was Pure Trouble (even more deserving of capitals than the TARDIS) no matter how pretty the package, and Suehprom was by all signs dedicated to putting himself into worse trouble than he had been no matter the situation. There are some fights it isn't worth getting into.

It seems Kat wasn't willing to wait on Creed's promise, because she swiped Suehprom's cloak and fixed her eyes to his. I'd felt that gaze before, and I knew what it could do. Suehprom reached to Steed and Blazer, who were sitting near him. Neither really offered help.

"Doctor, she's trying to get into my brain!" Suehprom yelled out, as if stating the obvious would merit him more assistance. The Doctor took up the peacemaker role again, putting a hand on Kat's shoulder (gutsy move, that) and asking her to "please stop doing that."

"I'm just teaching him some manners," she replied. And didn't stop whatever it was she was doing.

The Doctor snatched Suehprom's cloak away and tossed it to him. As soon as he touched it, Kat turned away angrily. I guess that cloak is more than a fashion "don't" after all. All-in-all, a fairly anti-social scene. One which doesn't bode well as we... No, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Steed decided now was a good time to explain himself. I agreed, and not just because it would be a good distraction from the sniping. His story was a bit long and I can't say I understood it all. Apparently, he was called away to rescue the Jewel (given the last words I'd heard him say before he trumped away, that seems reasonable). Wherever he was taken, he said he'd dug the Jewel up (without explaining why it was buried). He then hid somewhere and 'entered' the Jewel and found something else already 'walking' it. I gather from what I was told then and since that the Jewel contains something much like the Pattern. Which means Steed had voluntarily gone back into the Pattern. Which means he's crazy, from my experience with the thing.

Anyway, he said he made it all the way to the fourth veil before he caught up with the creature, something he called a Ty'iga. He said they were a sort of demon commonly used by someone named Dara. Another name for the troublemaker list (which was getting much too long). Somehow, he managed to pass the Ty'iga (apparently, the Pattern in the Jewel isn't a physical thing, so maybe he just forced his way past by strength of will) and finish the Pattern first. He then used the Jewel's power (whatever that means) to force the Ty'iga to a stop. If what Corwin told me about the Pattern is true (and I have no reason to think it isn't), that meant certain death.

That completed, Steed tried to return to his body (that's what he said, which confirmed the non-physicality of the Pattern n the Jewel) and couldn't. Instead, he ended up in the TARDIS without a real body. He called himself a "Pattern Ghost" and said he needed the blood of Amber to continue to exist. Which explained Corwin's offering earlier.

We discussed our options then. If we wanted Steed back in a non-bloodthirsty form, we had to recover his body. He was certain that body was currently carrying the Jewel toward Chaos which, according to him, wasn't a good thing at all. Creed said he couldn't care less where the Jewel was, which really didn't explain why he'd started all this in such a bloody way. Sometimes he really didn't make much sense.

All this talk about the jewel reminded me about the carved stone I was carrying. Not anything nearly as important, surely. But worth a check now and then. Thinking back, it had been fairly quiet during the whole mess of Luke and Dalt's attacks... I guessed why at once. A fine crack was forming along it, and the whole of it, under the light of the TARDIS banquet hall, seemed to be glowing. Still, it didn't seem dangerous just now... I could figure it out after we chase down Steed's body. I'd have to resign myself to not having this useful toy to chase him with, though. I hope someone else had options.

About then, a deep voice interrupted my considerations. It said we were all to come to the control room, that we were to go on a mission for the speaker to Chaos.

Creed spoke up first. No surprise there. "Who the hell are you?"

"I am Oberon, King of Amber."

Who was supposed to be dead, as I recalled. I glanced at Corwin and Deirdre. He seemed surprised, but not too much. I'm starting to think the dead returning is almost as common as surprise new family member in this clan... I wonder if this was our world's Oberon come out from hiding after a faked death or the alternate time's Oberon slipped across the same way Deirdre and Gabriel had.

"So what's that to me?" Creed demanded. He's got balls, if not the brains to keep 'em under control...

"You will show me respect while you live." Oberon seemed to live up to Corwin's descriptions. Imperious, forceful and intolerant of dissent. He and Creed would get along oh so well, I could tell.

I'd had enough of the argument, so I joined the majority of folk in heading to the control room. After a bit of a wander through the TARDIS halls (the Doctor has never offered a map... I wonder if there is one?), I made it there. Oberon looked like his image on paintings in Castle Amber, which made sense no matter which one he was. Before long, everyone except Suehprom and Creed had shown up, making for a crowd and a lot of quiet mumbling about just what was going on. His Majesty didn't seem interested in answering any questions just yet. When he counted noses, he glowered at us all and headed off to round up our two strays.

"I wonder which Oberon this is?" Corwin asked, just loud enough that I could hear it. Seems we both had thought in the same direction...

Creed came in a few minutes later, with a cheery "So, we gonna go get the Jewel for good old Obi?"

I had a flash of a memory of forced cat-stroking and almost felt sorry for him.



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