High Programmer > Alan De Smet > Games > Role-Playing Games > Amber > Tainted Trumps

Tainted Trumps

Aaron Pavao's 2003 Amber Game

Dramatis Personae

Dramatis personae moved here

Session Notes

February 11, 2003

[Graphic: Bleys' Trump]
Bleys' Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

Agnes was Trump contacted by her father Bleys, asking for help. She Trumped through and found him badly battered and chained up in a cell. When some guards in blue uniforms show up to check on the prisoner, she killed them. Agnes took a key from the guards and unlocked her father. Helping her father, she fought her way out of the castle, then Trumped back to Amber. Her father promised to explain what was happening soon.

Random called the family to a family dinner. Everyone but Merlin, Corwin, Haakon, Arethu, Fiona, and Bleys makes it. At dinner it is revealed that Bleys has an announcement, his being missing raised some concern. His Trump was dead, so Agnes was sent to fetch him. She found him dead on the floor of his quarters, bleeding out of his ears. Agnes headed back to tell Random. When the rest of the family arrived to investigate, a stab wound to the heart has been added to his injuries. The family snooped around, but doesn't uncover anything.

The younger generation decided to head off to investigate. Lead by Agnes, they headed to the shadow where Bleys was being held. The castle proves to be the capital of Atwater, a Golden Circle kingdom. Unfortunately they arrived to find the castle under attack by an army in red. The red army hails from another Golden Circle kingdom, Bluerose. The group fought their way inside, arriving just in time to see an unknown someone Trumping away. The castle was overrun and the group retreated back to Amber by Trump.

February 18, 2003

Flashing back to Haakon, he avoided the family dinner at his father's suggestion. Caine had a bad feeling about the evening.

Arethu happened to see Agnes heading into Bleys' room. When she left to inform the king, he slipped in and examined the place. Bleys was holding Arethu's Trump card. Arethu took the card, retreated to his room, and contacted his mother, Fiona, about the situation. He feared that he may have been responsible for Bleys' death, having killed him mentally over the Trump connection. Fiona suggested that Arethu try to blend in with the family.

Arethu and Haakon bumped into the rest of the younger generation over breakfast. The group chatted. Kenji discovered that his arbitrary decision to take the seat to the right of his father the previous night implies that he is the crown prince over his brother Martin.

Some research at the library reveals that Atwater and Bluerose have been hostile for some time. They compete for exports. Hostilities grew particularlly bad after suspicious deaths of two Bluerose princesses betrothed to Atwater princes.

In a paperfolding book Arethu chanced to find a knife. It appeared to be the knife used to stab Bleys. Some mental sensing suggested that it once belonged to Bleys.

The group decided to head back to the castle that held Bleys for more clues. Arethu drew a Trump of the location and the group Trumped in. Haakon, who had been observing from a distance using the Pattern, transports himself instantly using the Pattern.

[Graphic: Caine's Trump]
Caine's Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

The red army was victorious. We were taken to the armies and were surprised to find that it was Caine. According to Caine, Random decided to end the Atwater-Bluerose feud permenantly. Caine was surprised to learn that Bleys was being held captive in the castle's dungeon just the previous day. Caine dismissed us while he headed to interrogate the Atwater prisoners.

Haakon used the Pattern to spy on Caine and explore the area remotely. The prisoners didn't have much useful information, but Haakon does discover a sword, clothing in Bleys' colors, and a letter addressed to Random in the dungeon. Agnes and Bergen steal the letter with the help of Agnes' magical belt and flee as Caine finishes his interrogations.

The youngsters regrouped at a bar in Murder Alley. It served really good fish. Allasandra learned that the war had been planned for a long time. Agnes revealed the letter.

[Graphic: Random's Trump]
Random's Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

My dear brother Random.

There have been a number of things going on that need to be called to your attention. Unfortunately we will shortly be indisposed to returning to the castle and will need you to contact me as soon as you can.

Your loving brother,


The letter also had a simple lemon juice based secret message. After holding it near a flame, an additional message was revealed.

[Image: The secret message which reads 'R - Remember our childhood.  {several lines of strange letters} B.']

Random was called via Trump and brought through. We interrupted a discussion Random was having with Caine. Random, we discover, is friends with the bartender. We gave Random the letter, as he started to read it, he disappeared in a rainbow flare, like he was pulled into a Trump.

February 25, 2003

The group spent some time debating at the bar. Gerard happened to show up. He asked the bartender about Random's whereabouts. Gerard chatted with the group for a bit, expressed some concern about the groups suspicious behavior, then left. Caine contacted Agnes by Trump and accused her of stealing the letter, but she denied it.

Arethu believed someone outside of the family was blocking Random's trump. For lack of a better plan, Kenji announced his decision to hellride for Random. After some quick dicussion Bergen joined him. Haakon and Agnes would check for clues on Bleys, and Allasandra would probe the rest of the family for information.

[Graphic: Corwin's Trump]
Corwin's Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

Allasandra, with some unexpected help from Arethu, successfully contacted Corwin via a Trump. Corwin pulled her through and they spoke. Allasandra summarized recent events and brought Corwin up to date on the additions to the family. Random had been out of contact for a while and was interested in the family news, but wasn't interested in getting involved. He had been living in the shadows of his new Pattern, which is why he was hard to contact. Corwin revealed that because of their location, Allasandra could not contact anyone else through Trump, nor could she shadow walk back. Corwin could walk his own Pattern to travel between the two sets of shadow, but he feared that the walk might kill anyone not directly descended from him. Corwin believed that both sets of shadow connected to the same Chaos, but Chaos is effectively impassible.

Agnes and Haakon attempted to skulk around Castle Amber's library for clues. Haakon used the Pattern to scout the library. Fiona was present in the library and became aware of Haakon's scrying attempt. When Haakon broke contact, he was touched by an almost overwhelming Trump contact. Haakon barely fought it off. Agnes heads to the library, sees Fiona quickly hide something, and makes some light conversation. Agnes does some research, but doesn't find anything. Haakon waits outside where he bumps into Caine. Hearing Caine and not wanting a run in, Agnes uses a location Trump to flee to the edge of the city Amber. Haakon heads in with Caine, but retreats before Fiona sees him.

Kenji and Bergen attempted to hellride to find Random. Unfortunately by the point news of Random's disappearance was starting to spread. Julian was patrolling the Arden forest as a result and caught the two leaving. Given the circumstances, Julian questioned the pair. Julian pointed out that if Random is gone, as the heir apparent, Kenji should be available in Amber. Eventually Julian allowed the two to head out.

March 4, 2003

Arethu met with a man in a cloak on a beach. During a brief contact with Kenji and Bergen, Arethu noted a third pyschic presence with the two, something unknown, ancient, powerful, wise, and perhaps a bit alien.

Kenji and Bergen hell-rode toward Random. Their path clearly headed toward Chaos. During a brief status check with Arethu, they learned that something powerful was following them, but it wasn't obvious what it was. Later the two were trailed by two wyverns. Retreating to a cave, it became clear that their pursuers were Chaosites. The Chaosites suggested possible harm might come to Kenji and Bergen. Kenji tried to bluff, claiming to be on a diplomatic mission, the Chaosites offered to take Kenji and Bergen to the Courts. When Kenji and Bergen declined the offer, the Chaosites attacked. Kenji and Bergen escaped through a Trump to Arethu. Unfortunately Kenji's assistant, Yamika, was left behind. Arethu offered to draw a sketch of Yamika to retrieve her. Kenji and Bergen headed to Castle to recover.

While Kenji slept he had a strange dream. He stood on a cliff over a river of fire. One my one, Random, Yamika, Martin, and Bergen headed to the cliff and toppled into the flames. Kenji tried to stop them, but was too slow. He realized that he was too slow because he was reluctant. Finally Allasandra approached. Kenji reached for her, but Allasandra pushed his hand down, then stepped into the flame. With that, Kenji woke.

In the library, Arethu sketched Yamika. When he focused on it and saw a white raven. He brought it through. When Kenji arrived, the bird turned back into Yamika. During a Trump contact with Agnes, Arethu casually mentioned that he can tell her where the King is.

"If you want to know where the King is, you can ask and I will tell you."
-- Arethu

Corwin explained a possible way for Allasandra to return to her Pattern. In exchange, he asked Allasandra to promise on the blood of Oberon to bring him the Jewel of Judgement, "for just a week" so that he can study his own Pattern. She agreed. At Corwin's suggestion, Allasandra successfully contacted Merlin, who was in the Courts of Chaos. Merlin asked to be pulled through. Merlin visited Corwin for a half day, then took Allasandra to the edge of Chaos. It turned out that both Pattern's share the same Chaos. Merlin gave Allasandra a token, a beautiful bracelet. He headed off to investigate something. He returned to announce that he had found a path. Unfortunately, it was through the Logrus. Merlin confirmed it by walking the Logrus from Corwin's Pattern's side himself. Ultimately Allasandra is descended from Chaos, and should be able to walk the Logrus herself. At Merlin's suggestion Allasandra rested for the night. Allasandra contacted Arethu by Trump, they briefly spoke, but the connection was too weak to pull her through.

Agnes and Haakon laid low for a while while Haakon recovered from the trap. The next day they returned to the catacombs. Bleys' casket had been resealed. Haakon brought up the Pattern to study the casket. There were multiple layers of protection. There was Pattern, Trump, and something that might have been Logrus.

The group decided to try opening the crypt again. Perhaps Yamika, not being an Amberite, might not trigger the trap. Most of the group headed down while Bergen remained behind to act as a Trump escape route. Meanwhile, Fiona contacted Bergen by Trump. She asked about Random, Bergen avoided giving her any new information. Apparently it is known that the group last saw Random. She noticed a contact attempt to Bergen from Kenji.

Fiona then contacted Kenji. Kenji admitted that the group was going to open Bleys's crypt and blamed Agnes for the plan. She advised them to not do so.

"Where are you?"
"In the catacombs."
"Why are you in the catacombs?"
"We were going to do a little graverobbing."
-- Kenji (Michael) attempting to explain what he was doing to Fiona.

In spite of Fiona's suggestion, Kenji had Yamika open the casket. There was a huge explosion. Bergen pulled Haakon and Kenji, both badly injured, away through the Trump. Agnes avoided serious damage while Yamika was completely unscathed. Agnes and Yamika remained behind. Inside the casket was a burned corpse. Carved into the side of the casket was a carving of a firely place. It acts like a Trump, Agnes took it. It lead to a world of fire and lava. Agnes's belt protected her from the heat, but her clothing and Trump deck were destroyed.

March 11, 2003

Kenji and Bergen headed down to check on things, encountering Fiona. Fiona had been trying to question the unresponsive Yamika. From Kenji, Fiona learned that Haakon and Agnes had been there, and that Agnes was the instigator. Kenji, Bergen, and Yamika leave. Yamika brings Kenji and Bergen up to speed on what happened to Agnes.

Allasandra was contacted by Arethu just long enough for him to say, "I am coming." Kenji received a brief contact from Arethu, "Agnes has the answer to finding your father."

Agnes began the walk back to Amber, lead by her belt Seraphim. After some time the trail lead to a long ravine. Deep into the ravine she encountered a man in armor. The man addressed her as a "child of Amber," and insisted that she take another path.

As Agnes considered the situation, Arethu handed Agnes a paper box and told her, "Take it, it will take you to Bleys's killer." In the bottom of the box was a Trump sketch of a shore. Agnes took the Trump through and arrived in the water near the beach near the caves of Amber. Two open paper boxes, one inside the other, were floating in the water nearby. Kenji reached Agnes by Trump as she examined the boxes. She read one aloud.

Arch-Prince Kenji and Yamaka
Agnes, Bergen and Haakon

I have the answers. I cannot stay.


As she finished reading it, she and Kenji (still in Trump contact with her) were Trumped away. They arrived in a completely dark location. They explored the darkness, eventually coming to a chair and a table. On the table was a lamp and some matches, they lit the lamp. The table was surrounded by nothing and rested on grey, loamy earth. On the table was inks, paints, and parchments. The parchments were covered in random looking squiggles, much like the ones on the Trump trap targetting Random. There were also three Trump sketches, one of a green plain, one of a tree, and one of an orderly bedroom.

Haakon and Bergen reached Kenji by Trump at this point. In the light, Agnes re-used the beach sketch to return to the beach and grabs the still floating boxes. The plan was that in a moment Kenji would contact Agnes and pull her back. Before Haakon and Bergen could react, someone in the darkness brained Kenji with a chair, breaking the Trump link.

"How did you get here?"
"'Why did you hit me in the back of the head with a chair?' would be a better question."
-- The mysterious man and Kenji (Michael)

Kenji, surprised but still concious, made conversation with the mysterious man. The man was lanky, bald, and weilding a rapier. The man made it clear that this was his home and demanded that Kenji leave. When Kenji failed to leave quickly enough, the man announced that he had made travel arrangements for Kenji. Kenji was suddenly bound by invisible forces and flung through Shadow at tremendous speed. There was a sudden pain, then darkness.

Bergen Trumps Agnes, pulls her through, and explains the situation. As they regrouped, there was a sudden crack sound throughout the castle. Agnes heads out to investigate. She found Kenji at the bottom of a small crater.

Meanwhile, Caine contacted Haakon by Trump to see if he was okay. Given the group's actions, Caine expected to find Haakon at the center of the problem. Caine suggested that Haakon check on people and mentions that Flora is already doing so. Haakon and Bergen checked the nearby rooms. Allasandra's door was ajar, so the two peered in. Gerard was laying on the floor, dried blood around his eye, ears, and nose. He was barely alive. Bergen summoned Flora by Trump for help. At Flora's suggestion, Bergen and Haakon examined the room. They found a bloody stiletto and a bloody Trump of Bleys. The table on which they blade and Trump were found was not bloody at all. There was no other blood in the room.

Agnes contacted Bergen, who retreated to the hallway, pulled them through, and returned to Allasandra's room when they left. Flora mentioned that the blade looked to be one of Allasandra's Flora asked Bergen and Haakon to keep the information about the knife and card concealed for the time being. She also asked Bergen to find out what had transpired before any accusations were made against Allasandra. Flora carried the barely alive Gerard away. Bergen took the knife and card in one of Allasandra's bags and retired to his room where he hid the bad. He tried to contact Allasandra, but failed.

After some brief discussion, it was decided to recollect the group and send some people to investigate the grey place. Several people had not rested in several days, so the plan was put off until morning.

Most of the expected family were present. Fiona and Gerard were noticably missing. After breakfast the group reassembled. It's was decided that Agnes and Bergin would head to the grey place while Haakon and Kenji remained behind and reinforcement or emergency exists. Unfortunately when Agnes read the box from Arethu again nothing happened.

Merlin and Allasandra had breakfast. Merlin explained that he needed to return to the Courts and is planning on leaving that afternoon. If he is to help her navigate the Logrus, she would have to make a decision soon. If she decided against, she may be waiting a long time.

Allasandra wasn't sure what she wanted. Merlin wanted to speak with someone anyway, and offered to take Allasandra with him for some advice. He took her to the center between Corwin's Pattern and Chaos. There was the speaking tree Yg, the tree planted by Corwin and Merlin, the "Bearer of Worlds." After speaking with the tree Allasandra decided that she needed to be able to move and would need to walk the Logrus. After speaking with the tree privately, Merlin took then two to the cave of the Logrus.

Merlin warned Allasandra that the path of the Logrus different for each person and that she should follow the ringing bell no matter what. The bell would be at the center. After a long, difficult, and chaotic journey, Allasandra reached the center. She searched out a Shadow near Amber, taking some time, then pulled herself to it. When she arrived she found what she perceived to be a hostile dwarf speaking an unknown language. She tries to shift away, but failed to get far enough away. The dwarf attacked her, she defended herself, slaying the dwarf.

Allasandra contacted Bergen by Trump. Bergen headed through to her. Allasandra, hallucinating, believed that Agnes accompanied Bergen through. Allasandra was covered in blood and her clothes cut up. She said that she had just walked the Logrus, and might be deranged as a result. Bergen lead her to a waterfall to clean up. The hallucination of Agnes swam into the pool and disappeared. While Bergen headed to find Allasandra some clothes, Agnes called and asked what was going on. Bergen evaded the question and asked to speak with Haakon. Bergen asked Haakon to get Allasandra to something to wear from her wardrobe.

Haakon searched Allasandra's many wardrobes for something appropriate. Two of the wardrobes opened into a hallway filled with mirrors. Some testing revealed that both wardrobes opened into the hallway at the same place. Uncertain what to make of this, Haakon settled on two ballgowns and passed them to Bergen.

Bergen returned to Allasandra. Allasandra perceived Bergen to be Gerard and was surprised. Allasandra admited to Bergen/Gerard that she believed she had killed Gerard. She claimed that she had been in Chaos, then was suddenly in her room in Amber. Gerard had entered and accused her of killing Bleys. He presented a bloody knife and Trump as evidence. Gerard claimed that the family had decided that Gerard would execute her. She fought back with her pysche and feared that she had destroyed his mind. Then she suddenly found herself back in Chaos.

Arethu's Journal

February 18, 2003
Paranoia + Ignorance

"Come on."

The prince-ling tried the image again. Nothing. He closed the box and set it aside.

"I killed him."

The realization crawled up his spine with a shiver. Getting up he paced to his anteroom. He shot his eyes about and then at the simple double doors. The doors he approached with reservation. He carefully put his ear to them. Quiet. He opened them and peaked out. Quiet and empty except for the servant.

Giving an awkward to the valet he pulled his head back and barred the door. It would not take the court very long to figure out who did it.

"Neither of them can help. I have to get out of this place."

That is to say neither his mother nor the man on the shore could help him. He knew which box he wanted and he knew exactly where he set it.


This he whispered as took the white box off the table of his study and gazed at the drawing inside.

"I'll be safe here."

He could hear the wood frame pavilion creek in the wind. The drawing of Ffyrd lived. He began to slip towards his childhood haunt-then he closed the box.

[Graphic: Fiona's Trump]
Fiona's Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

"Fiona. Bleys said Fiona?"

Thinking. Pacing.

"If anyone was there they'd think mother did it!"

He ran back into the anteroom and grabbed a green box with silver gilded knot-work. Opening it to look upon an image of his mother's chambers drawn from memory. He began to reach out for the rooms but then stopped himself.

"She doesn't know."

That is to say Arethu was pretty sure that Fiona did not know about the man on the shore. Though he had never been there, he was sure the library did not have a trump like that. If he used he used it she may ask some uncomfortable questions.

"I should warn her."

Sighing he looked from the box to the door and back to the box. Sighing again he closed it and made his way to the door.

"I have to warn her."

February 25, 2003

Arethu leaned against his door. His eyes were closed. His breath was quick and heavy. Back in his chambers he felt just how tired he was. But there was no time to sleep now.

He locked the door again. The hammer sound of the lock was the noise of the clearest fact; he had killed Bleys.

Agnes was suspicious. Allasandra should be after reading the knife.

"How do I do this," he asked, slumping into the hard chair facing the door. Grabbing his mother's trump box...his mother.

"His last word was my mother's name. Why?"

Arethu shot up and began to pace. He was pretty sure now that Bleys was alone when he tried the trump. So...

"The trump!"

Ideas were shooting in out of his perception. He pulled the card of his vest pocket and set it on the table.

"I didn't know I was important enough for them to make a trump of. Why would Bleys try to contact me in the first place?"

Arethu didn't want to hurt anyone, including Bleys. Someone else did on the other hand...

"...and stabbed him to make sure he was dead. I need answers."

Taking a tour of his chambers he collected trump boxes of the family, skipping his mother. On his way to get Random's box he saw the white box.


Driving the thought from his mind he returned to the antechamber and set Random with the rest. He looked to the family first and then to the trump taken from Bleys' body, deciding which to pursue first.

"Why did you call to me Bleys?" Decided.

He concentration focused to pin point. He reached out to touch the card...and fell asleep. He dreamed the same nightmare he always dreamt.

It is a shame that Arethu is beyond suspicion of Fiona.

March 4, 2003

The connection slipped then faded. Arethu's mind was first a bridge to nothing and then a spinning, tumbling star sliding through shadow. It trampled its way back into his body and gave the prince-ling a perfect hang over of satisfaction and strain. The web of intent and motivation between the boxes unraveled. The hum of the family faded and their images returned to flat stillness.

Arethu stood and took the luxury of a glance at the door. It still appeared secure. Returning to the family, the worried of a question crossed his face.

"Not even dislike?"

Pacing. Pacing.

Papers brown, black and faded yellow. Pencil. Ink. Paint.


Sketching. Inking. Painting. Folding. Thinking&thought.

"There wouldn't be. There can't be ill intent or motivation for a man who exists now only as shadow. Once I killed him there was nothing to hate."

Finished. It was triangular with a three-colored top. Along the inside was a portrait of Castle Amber's library. The musty smell of old and unused books crawled up his nostrils as he ran a finger over his creation.

Satisfied he returned to the box trumps of his aunts, uncles and cousins. Placing Kenji next to Random he asked the trump, "What do you have to be so resentful about?"

March 11, 2003

The paper box floated there. It was remained open as Arethu let the sun warm his face. The empty box resisted the sapphire-emerald water as it swam around Arethu's thighs. It was like his boyhood beach on Ffyrd except the water was just cooler and the sun just warmer.

Exhaling, he returned his focus to the white box in his hand. It was like the trap that took the King. It was meant as a way for his cousins to follow him if they chose...if there was any place to follow.

Arethu nested the trapped box inside the other so both floated next to him. Within half an hour the water would claim them if his cousins didn't get to them first.

Preparing his own personal trap he mumbled to himself, "I hope you don't have to be real to go to Chaos."

He closed his eyes brought a trump from memory. It was colorless and flat at first and then quickly jumped to cool but very distant life. He mind became stretched and taut and he knew Allesandra could hear him.

"I'm coming."

Without waiting for a reply he set the image aside. Reaching into his bag, past Brand's masterwork, he found the box trump of Kenji. Focusing for a time, the son of the King appeared before him.

"Anges has the answer to finding your father."

Again, closing the connection without waiting for reply, Arethu conjured the memory of Anges' trump. Preparing another box he slid into her psyche.

"Take this...just take it and it will take you to Bleys' killer," he insisted, passing a trump box sketch of the thigh high water to Anges on the other side of the link.

Returning the memory to inactive flatness, he opened his personal trap. He could only have a few moments now. He read the trap out loud.

"You cannot stay."

It swallowed him.

March 18, 2003

Before he left, Arethu wrote the following...

Why was I down in my boyhood pond when my mother was in so much pain? When I was there at the top of our stairs she finished dying in the rain. That night she woke me up to tell me that it was only a change of plan. Im up, Im up but it is my fault that she died.

Now I can be seen among the family, though it is not hand in hand. I am just some young face in this lonely place that no one understands. Why did she wake me up to tell me the change of plan? Im up, Im up and it is my fault that he died.

Will I give more than I can take? Well I have taken more then some.

"...but he stopped before he finished. Sighing, he folded the letter and slid it in the pocket with the trump trap for Random. He'd have to burn it later.

April 8, 2003

He left his rooms behind. He turned corners. He up then down stairs until he found a corner. Once there he spread out his papers, pencils and paints.

He sketched, painted and folded with the hollow motions of exhaustion and frustration.

Arethu drew himself dirty and not clothed. The image was nude except for shadows that strategically fell over his mid-section and reached over his face.

Giving an awkward smile to the valet staring at him, Arethu committed the image to memory.

Then Arethu drew his beach.

"Someone else probably lives in the house any way."

The thin reed-like grass swayed in the salty air. Reflex took as Arethu drew a breath. Bluish water wetted the warm smelling sand. Instinct closed his eyes as he heard the pavilion creek.

The valet only shrugged as the prince-ling was carried away by the paint and paper.

Arethu did not bother to check his surroundings. He laid down on the pavilion floor thinking about the sand and then thinking about Sand and then nothing-sleeping like he was eight again.

May 20, 2003

In the fore and in focus, Arethu sits. As he quietly talks his hands sketch, fold and paint automatically. In the background and out of focus, Merlin sits in one of his chairs listening.

"I know who Sand is now," the exiled prince-ling began.


"I went home after I first admitted my...involvement with Bleys. I found my childhood beach and slept. I had a dream."

A long silence then Arethu began again.

"I was in Amber. There were a lot of other people there. They were all me and there was no one else anywhere. I counted at least thirty but there were more, I never managed to leave the castle. I went to find my mother, my mother Fiona. I found her."


"Amber was full of Arethus? I don't suppose you found your mother."

"No, I found her but she would not listen. She didn't even hear me&well she heard me but didn't care. But that is unimportant now...you know Merlin..."


"Hold on."

Arethu finished the box. It was white and cream but the image was dark and gloomy. Allessandra stood in a starless night. The image was given depth by her black gown. Her face had a confused manic look and tears flowed down her cheeks. Concentrating, their minds opened before him. Each received the briefest touch and piece of paper.

"Merlin, I have something to trade you for your help. This may take sometime to explain. We may get interrupted before I am through. Until I am through I must not be found. Do you remember the last time you talked to your Father? I remember..."

Bergen's Journal

February 11, 2003

I've been having problems finding a good gambling challenge. I suppose I could have headed to Amber, but games there are always serious with political undertones. They don't play for the sheer joy of the game. I had stumbled across Fleen and was relaxing for a few days when things got complicated...

Fleen itself isn't a bad shadow. Moderately low tech, mostly horses and pointy bits of metal. Learning the local favorite card game took me a few hours. The game is called Dragon Tiles, presumably for historical reasons, because it's on paper cards now. There were 108 different cards, played onto a grid of cards. Each card influences the game in a different way, and all of the rules between the cards interact. I imagine at one point there were lots of arguments about rules interpretations, but a few hundred years of play seems to have filed off the fuzzy bits. The shear interconnectedness of the game makes it a bit hard to cheat. I wonder if it's intentional. Was there a rampant cheating problem at some point?

I spent a few days slowly building up a stake so I could join the high stakes games. For a such a relatively primative society they certainly have their gambling well organized.

It's a typical high stakes crowd. The professional gambler. The idle rich. And the little fish. Noticably missing are the cheaters, a testament to the difficulty of cheating at the game.

Between my natural skill and a bit of luck I quickly amass a significant fortune by Fleenish standards. Time flies, and after a few hours I get bored, so I up the stakes and begin cheating. This doesn't help much. The pile of cash in front of me gets bigger and bigger and more and more boring. Well, the little fish at the table has been slowly losing his money, so I decide to make it his day. It turns out that cheating to support someone else is even harder in Dragon Tiles. The complexity of the game and difficulty determining what your mark is going to play makes it different.

As I'm building up to losing my pot to the little fish, I get an odd sensation. Each time I move a slight bit to play, it feels as though I am shifting shadow. When I stop the sensation stops. I certainly am not trying to manipulate probability; that's no fun. After a moment the sensation passes. Perhaps someday I'll understand what it was.

I prepare to make my big loss, to lose it all to the little fish in one dramatic cheat. As I attempt to drop a palmed card onto a stack, one of the professionals grabs my hand with surprising speed. Fleenish are pretty fast, it's worth remembering for the future. Hand crossbows are pulled and accusations fly. Unfortunately some of the crossbows point at the little fish.

I leep over the table and throw little fish to the ground before he gets shot. The heavy curtain providing the game some privacy provides a quick net to delay the agitated gamblers. Little fish is a bit shocked, so I grab him and run. Several guards try to stop us, I dodge one and use my hold out dagger to block the blade of another. We escape the building and duck through back alleys to evade and pursuit. I get lucky and a military parade passes behind us as we cross a major street, effectively blocking any persuit.

[Graphic: Flora's Trump]
Flora's Trump
© 2003 Katharine Giacomini

Suddenly I get a Trump contact, it's Flora, my Mom. Apparently there is going to be a family get together, a dinner party, and she really wants me to attend. Ah, well, if she insists. During the call little fish bolts.

I head to a nearby stable, intending to take a horse for test drive to Amber. I shout at the nearby stablehand only to discover that it's the little fish. He mentions that the money was his savings for his yearly vacation. Well, at least I didn't backrupt him and he got a bit of excitement. But, I just can't steal the horse from him, I screwed up his day already. He is a bit confused as I walk off.

After a long shadow walk I finally come to some wild horses, unfamiliar with humans. Being unfamiliar with humans, they let me walk right up, but the one I leap onto pretty quickly figures out I might be a problem. As it bolts in terror I make some quick shadow shifts toward a clothing store so I can get proper threads for the party. After a few hours the horse realizes I'm going anywhere and relaxes. I score a black three-piece suit and head on to Amber.

On the road near the forest Arden I overtake two other riders, a man and a woman, also dressed in suits. The man is Kenji, the woman Yamika. They aren't terribly chatty, but I do learn that Yamika is Kenji's assistant and that they are involved in running a Serious Business. Way too stuffed shirt for me. We ride on to Amber in silence.

We apparently arrive just in time, as Random had just called the family together for dinner as soon as possible. I made a mistake in wearing my new suit on the ride, it's a bit rumpled. The servants aren't terribly keen on a rush laundry job and provide me with something to wear. Some of Random's old motley. Oh well.

At dinner most of the known living family is present. Merlin, Corwin, Haakon, Arethu, Fiona, and Bleys are missing. Kenji and Martin have some sort of non-verbal argument about who gets to sit at the right and left of Random, as though it matters. Eventually Kenji ends up taking the seat to Random's right.

Dinner is typically good but not adventuresome. During the meal Caine makes a Trump call, I wonder to whom.

After dessert Random expresses surprise that Bleys is missing. Apparently Bleys has an announcement to make. Random asks for a Trump deck to contact Bleys, Kenji quickly obliges. Random fails to contact Bleys. Agnes, Bleys' daughter, tries next and and also fails. They both report that the card no longer feels cool to the touch. Caine isn't sure it is a real Trump, but tests with other decks reveal the same thing.

Agnes is sent to her father's room to fetch him. A few minutes later she returns and whispers something in Random's ear. The two head off with Kenji trailing.

A few minutes later Kenji returns and blandly announces that Bleys was dead. Showing typical family class, we all run to Bleys' room.

[Graphic: Bleys' Trump]
Bleys' Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

Sure enough, Bleys lies dead on the floor. A shame, as far I as I know he didn't deserve it. Some blood is dripping out of his ears, but the large stab wound in his heart provides a clear cause of death. Agnes mentiones that when she first found the body that the stab wound wasn't there. Curious.

Caine expresses a perfectly reasonable desire to autopsy the body, but Gerard makes it clear that it will not happen. Benedict makes a quick survey of the room and leaves. Agnes heads after Benedict and soon returns.

While ransacking the room, it looks like Caine may have palmed a Trump from Bleys' deck. I check the deck, but none of the cards are missing.

Eventually the rest of the family wanders off, presumably to react to situation in a typically unfocused and chaotic way. Not too much on pesky things like police procedure and forensic investigation my family.

Allas, Agnes, Kenji, Kenji's assistent, and I are left hanging around. Agnes gives us some background. Apparently earlier in the day she was contacted via Trump by her father, Bleys. He was chained up in a dungeon. He pulled her through. She fought off some guards and brought him back to Amber. Bleys said her would explain what happened soon and left to recover. Agnes didn't see Bleys again until she found his body.

I suggest we head back to this dungeon and check for clues, Scooby-style. The others agree, but Agnes reveals that she has not yet walked the pattern. At this, someone else, perhaps something Agnes is wearing, suddenly speaks. Agnes leaves for a moment, presumably to talk with her hidden advisor. When she returns, she is confident that she can lead us there. We agree to regroup in an hour and half and head off.

I lose the motley and put on the outfit I was wearing in Fleen. I scrawl a quick note for Random, "Me and the gang (Allasandra, Agnes, and Kenji) have gone looking for clues. Jinkies! -- Bergen." I pass it to a servant with directions to get it to Random "eventually."

We mount up and follow Agnes. The path leads to the edge of a nasty swamp. Some lizards decide that our horses look like nice snack. I lead the group a side-shadow away to avoid the lizards. It appears that Agnes will only be able to lead us through one specific path. I suggest that I lead us to a similar setting, taking a less hostile route, then Agnes can lead us the hopefully short distance to the correct shadow. This appears to work fine.

We arrive to find the castle under seige. Men in red and silver are attacking the castle while men in blue and silver defend. It doesn't look like things are going well for blue, the drawbidge is going to fall soon. If the red army slays the blue one, we might not have anyone to question. So we charge in.

Kenji gets a little too into the battle; hops off his horse, and wades in for hand to hand combat. He's good, but not that good. The rest of the group has pushed their way past surprised troops to the drawbridge, but I need to head back to help Kenji. We eventually make it through the drawbridge and past the murder holes. I dexterously avoid the pitch being poured down, but not everyone is so luck.

We fight out way past some suprised blue guards. Agnes grabs an official looking fell and quickly questions him. With the red army moving in, we head further back into the castle, guided by our prisoner. We eventually come to a chamber deep in the castle. We kick in the door just in time to see someone Trump out.

We block the door to slow the red army and give the room a once over. The only thing of not is an ornate origami box. As the soldiers begin pounding on the door by try to shift away.

We get a short distance away, but not far enough. Three soldiers in red and white burst in. They're amazingly skilled, better than me, and certainly better than the red and silver army we barged through earlier. Agnes takes one out on her own. Kenji and his assistant double team another. I hold my own against the last until Kenji gives me a hand.

Unfortunately, in the confusion our red prisoner was killed.

Allas mentions that we're in a Golden Circle shadow. The men in red are from Bluerose, and the men in blue from Atwater.

February 18, 2003

We head back to Amber to get breakfast while we wait for the Bluerose army to finish taking the castle. While rummaging for stuff in the kitchen we bump into Haakon and Arethu. We all discuss the murder and a bit of what we've discovered (that is, not much).

During our conversation the little seating incident between Kenji and Martin comes up. I ask what was going on and why people care. Kenji doesn't seem to know himself. Allas, always one full of needless courtly details, explains that the person who sits at the King's right hand is the heir apparent. Not too interesting, except that Kenji didn't know this himself. He may have accidentally set himself up for alot of trouble. I'm glad I'm no where near next in line for the throne, it looks like a crappy job.

The possibility of searching the library for information on Atwater and Bluerose comes up. Arethu asks where the library is. Doesn't Arethu make Amber his primary home? Odd.

Everyone but Haakon heads to the library and do some research. I stumble across an interesting book of gambling card games. Most interesting is that someone with a flowing handwriting heavily annotated the book. I pocket it. A bit later I find a terribly dry book on Bluerose

Checking out the book, we learn that Bluerose and Atwater have been hostile for a long time. The two nations have competing exports. They used to be allies, apparently because Oberon told them that they would be. Great way to build up genuine trust. A Bluerose princess was promised to an Atwater prince, but she died of a sudden and mysterious sickness. When a second princess was offered, she died similarlly. That was that and the two hated each other ever since.

Arethu is looking a book when a knife falls out of it. It looks like a book on paper folder. Agnes confirms that it's the knife that stabbed her father. The hell? This feels like an astonishingly clumsy attempt to frame Arethu. I try to keep the knife minimally handled, but no one else seems to terribly care. Arethu senses psychic vibrations or something on the knife, he senses pride, daring, happiness, and worry. After a moment he senses Bleys, suggesting that Bleys is the owner. At least, that's what Arethu claims. Now that Arethu has handled the knife, it's tainted with him, so we'll never know if he was the weilder. Sigh.

For lack of a better plan, we head back to Atwater. Arethu isn't interested in shifting shadow there, he proposes that he draw a Trump for the place. Apparently in too much of a rush to get some paper, someone tears a page out of the history of Bluerose and Atwater. Agnes describes the scene and Arethu sketches random lines on the page. After a moment he folds it up and scene appears. Showoff. Sure enough, it works to Trump us through.

Of course, is a description enough to draw a Trump, or have Arethu been there before?

We arrive, surprising some soldiers. "Halt!" Sure, whatever, just take us to your leader. We're lead to a back room to wait. Haakon already there. The hell? Haakon is meditating or focusing or something. We ask what's he's doing here, he explains that after hearing us over breakfast, he walked the Pattern and came here. I guess...

[Graphic: Caine's Trump]
Caine's Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

After a moment Caine enters, dressed in red. Double the hell? Apparently he is running the show. "You youngsters weren't supposed to know about this." We learn that this is the capital of Atware. Random decided to end the feud and chose Bluerose to win. Caine lead Bluerose to victory. Caine fingers out Haakon for a future conversation. Caine is surprised when I mention that Bleys was in the castle prior to the attack. Typical. Caine bids us to leave and heads off to interrogate some prisoners. He refuses to let us watch.

Allas, Kenji, and Arethu Trump back to Amber. Agnes, Haakon, and myself hang around.

Haakon returns to meditation. Agnes pokes him and asks what's up. Apparently he is remotely scrying the area to watch the interogation. If we'll leave him alone, he'll tell us what he finds. Someone about the deal sounds wrong, but we agree. Sure enough, a moment later he disappears.

After some confused Trump calling around, we learn that Haakon headed home, but that in the dungeon there is Bleys' sword, clothing in Bleys' colors, and an envelope addressed to Random and sealed with a unicorn. Haakon wants to rest for a few hours. Agnes and I head downstairs to find Bleys' things. The door in question is locked. Agnes slides her belt under the door and talks to it. In a moment an envelope edge appears under the door. It's address to Random and is written in Bleys' handwriting. Just about then I hear Caine finishing his interrogation. Agnes stuffs the envelope down her shirt and we head out. Caine's guards try to stop us, but eventually are convinced to let us lead. As we're leaving we hear Caine shout to the guards to stop us; we Trump back to the Amber.

Arriving in Amber city, we bump into Kenji. Of course, Caine may have the same Amber City Gates Trump we do, so we beat a hasty retreat with Kenji in tow. We head to a tasty fish place off Murder Alley. Surprisingly Arethu is there. Arethu complains of having a busy day and getting laughed at.

We discuss the situation. After a bit Agnes calls Allasandra and brings her to us. After a while Haakon arrives. Arethu, frustated with our secrecy, leaves.

Agnes opens the letter and reads it.

My dear brother Random.

There have been a number of things going on that need to be called to your attention. Unfortunately we will shortly be indesposed to returning to the castle and will need you to contact me as soon as you can.

Your loving brother, Bleys.

That doesn't terribly help. We've still got lots of questions and almost no answers. Was Bleys placed in the castle about to fall, or was the castle attacked because Bleys was present? Where was Fiona during dinner, especially given that her son makes paper boxes similar to the one we saw in the castle? Allasandra feels confident that Bleys is alive. I agree it's possible, but I'm not certain.

Agnes notices the presence of a childish lemon juice secret message on the paper. Holding it up to a flame reveals another message.

[Image: The secret message which reads 'R - Remember our childhood.  {several lines of strange letters} B.']

Crud. No new answers.

[Graphic: Random's Trump]
Random's Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

Agnes contacts Random and pulls him through. As Random comes through, he asks Caine to wait for him. Doh! Random gets a drink (he's apparently familiar with the bar), and sits down with us. He reads the letter, but only gets as far as "Dear Random" before he suddenly Trumps away in a rainbow glow. It didn't look like he intended to go somewhere, more like a strange trap.

Agnes and Allas both try to call Random through a Trump, but fail. Allas repotrs that it feels like she is pushing against a resistive force.

Great, we've lost Random. That's not going to go over too well. Random was just with Caine, so it seems likely that his disappearance will quickly be noted. This knowledge could create alot of problems, including possibly starting a new throne war.

I now remember why I don't like hanging around my family too much; it's too complex.

February 25, 2003

[Graphic: Gerard's Trump]
Gerard's Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

We consider plans. Allas suggests getting a shadow Random to show up, explain that he'll be gone for a while, and having him disappear. This would buy us some time. Unfortunately, just then Gerard walks in. Kenji heads up to the bar and makes some idle chatter, then Gerard notices the rest of the group and heads over. He realizes that we've been being a bit secretive and complains that we've picked up the family tradition of scheming. He pointedly mentions that patricide is also a family tradition. Irritated, he leaves when it becomes clear we're not going to explain anything.

As Gerard leaves, Agnes gets a Trump call. From Agnes' side of the conversion, it sounds like Caine. Agnes denies taking the letter.

Kenji points out that Caine will soon learn of our involvement. The bartender knows that Random met with us here but didn't leave. He may have seen Random trump out.

Allasandra gets a Trump contact and heads off to respond.

The bartender stops by and collects our empties. He asks after Random and mentions that Gerard was also asking after Random. Crud, this isn't going well.

As we debate Allasandra returns. She was contacted by Arethu. Arethu thinks someone outside of the family is blocking Random's Trump; and Random wants to contact people back. Arethu suggested that we don't trust Caine and that his mother, Fiona, may be able to help.

On a whim I borrow Kenji's deck and do a casting. Bleys is reversed in the center. The rest is junk. Oh well, what did I expect?

You can't say yes in a Tarot deck, it's like Latin.
-- Kathleen (Agnes)

Kenji announces his plan, he's going to hell-ride to Random. Finally, something active to do! Sitting around talking has already lost us Random. After some quick discussion we decide that I'll join him, Haakon and Agnes will check for clues on Bleys, and Allasandra will check the family for information. Kenji and I head off.

As we ride through the forest Arden we hear a hunting horn. I hope it's not for us. Then we hear the dogs. After a moment we see them following us. Kenji and I ride on, but the blasted dogs catch up and surround us. Oh, crap.

[Graphic: Julian's Trump]
Julian's Trump
© Boris Sirbey (original)

We stop for the dogs. Julian arrives as I badmouth his dogs. Oops. He knows we saw Random last and word is already out that Random is missing. Apparently Random missed a meeting. Kenji gives a lame excuse that he was taking me racing on his home shadow. Gaah! He should have let me talk. Oh well. Sure enough, Julian points out that this might be a little tasteless given Bleys recent death and Random's disappearance.

Julian suggests that we should stay near Amber given that Kenji has the strongest claim on the throne. He may be needed to execute business in Random's absense. Again Kenji learns that his seating choice was significant. After revealing to us facts we already know, he lets us go, but warns us to stay near.

Kenji and I reach the edge of Amber and begin hellriding toward Random. We ride for about ten hours without reaching Random. Our horses are tired. Kenji tries approaching some nearby horse sized lizards to ride them, one swallows him an he tears himself out. We take a detour to fetch fresh horses.

Unfinished notes and thoughts