Conference in the Tower
Seated in a tall tower used only on rare occasions by the residents of Amber, such as when execution by defenestration is required, the King of Amber, his Marshal, the Ambassador to Amber from Chaos, the unofficial Librarian of Amber, and two princes of Amber sit drinking dark coffee and darker whiskey. The two princes share a history of rebellion but one has been pardoned and acts as a Minister without Portfolio when mostly sober and the other is a current resident of the deepest cell in the dungeons below, living under the doom of execution when the king has a mind to attend to it.
Random looks into the spiked coffee with intensity. "So he's going to live?"
Benedict nods, savoring a rare alcoholic beverage and a fine Thelusian cigar. "Yes, it seems so. Amberites are fairly indestructible and Klingons can take a furious beating as well. It seems Vance's son Agrom is tough. Double tough. I've not heard of one of our kin being so injured and living except the damage Galvar[] survived."
Despil adds, "Of course, he had help along the way. A minor farm wizard used a "Staunch Wounds" spell initially, though why is uncertain. Reflex probably but it might actually have confused the wounds long enough to get him to competent medical wizards without dying. Under normal circumstances he would have declared such a ravaged victim beyond hope and put him in the meat locker with the Unsat residents[]. Agrom may owe his life to that young wizard. What else he did right was to call his supervisor, who called his, and up the line eventually to a member of the Ang Ri Council of the Wing, one Hontas the Red. He called me."
Random ponders,"When this is all figured out I may have to visit Ang Ri in person, and thank him. Think you can clear that with Chaos and the BZPI[] junta?"
Despil nod casually, "Already done. Although Ang Ri has more overlapping practical government then most BZPI[] worlds. A state visit to the Council of the Wing would be quite an affair as far as they are concerned. The King of Amber honoring a farm wizard should be quite a spectacle. If you decide to visit expect a lot of...noise and intrigue."
Bleys laughs at the characterization.
"Noise and Intrigue? Despil, I so love your soft description of a thousand competing councils and cabals sloppily intermixed by gods opposed to Order. Everyone there wears a dozen hats and they'll all want a bite of the credit for this."
Bleys refills his cup with twelve ounces of whiskey and an ounce of rich coffee. he fumbles one of the cigars loose and strikes its self-lighting tip.
"Do yourself a favor, oh High King of Kings, either send him a fruit basket filled with apples and cats or invite him here. Invite Hontas to bring him! They may be hard on the nerves and hard on the furniture but it will save trying to put together a diplomatic tour group to that messy world unless you are really determined."
Brand snorts-"Basket of Apples and Cats?! So you have been to Ang Ri then, and not just for your Diners of Amber book?"
Bleys smirks at his convict brother.
Random looks to Benedict, "Well?"
Ben says, "Bleys isn't wrong."
Random barks, " I GATHERED THAT!!! By the labia of the Unicorn, can you for once answer a question without me having to drag it out of you? I want to know about Agrom and where he has been and I want to know if giving this farm wizard an honorarium is going to start a war??! "
Ben smiles into his coffee, "Alright. Bleys has given you sound advice. Ang Ri is a troublesome if not necessarily adversarial world that has much to recommend it but it is overburden with overlapping spheres of influence on all levels that seem designed by proximity to Chaos to mock the concept of Order. While the council of the Wing is almost certainly the most powerful association on planet it is one of a dozen such council that might claim dominance considering the circumstances. The Guild of Metal, the Gathering of Fishes, the Knilba of Fire, the Citizen's Correction Committee, the Leather-worker's Guild, the Holders of Transport, the Circle of Health, the Grubbers of Greens, the Council of Wyrms, and the Wizard's Tower might all claim preeminence in the case of the King of Amber making a visit in State. So might the Ang Ri Lords of the Games. And a thousand lesser groups will appeal to their favorite of the top ones to be involved. Not to mention a dozen different Chaosian religions, including the Church of the Serpent. You publicly walking the pattern on New Year's Day in the Hall of Diaga in front of the full assemblage of royals and nobles would be a day at a country faire by comparison."
Random sighs as he refills his own cup, setting aside a deck of cards to do so,
"Its so hard to be generous sometimes."
Arloxedra looks up from a printed medical report to add, "So don't make it all about this dragon or this farm wizard. Assemble a Royal Progress. The last one you did was 40 years ago and only went out past Diaga. The four you have had so far only went to Golden Circle Worlds and their allies, and a few minor enemies. You've made a few visits to Chaos and to a few other worlds that far out but nothing grand. As it stands you have not gone to Mandalay in State and you have a brother who was just crowned king in a strategically located, if small, primal realm. You have an open invitation from Corwin to visit Avalon. You also have a formal request from the Czar and Czarina of Regor to release...well.....him'
Arlo points to Brand who rolls his eyes and waves his cup but doesn't spill a drop.
Brand-"Hey! Don't go to Regor on my account!!! I only went there because I thought that proximity to the Inscription of Regor might heal my brain damage after my time in the Abyss. Rightly so it turns out. It was slow but my time sitting below the pattern of Amber is infinitely preferable and more effective. Besides, I'd rather be a prisoner in Amber then a Courtier in Regor. You've met our mother." Looking to Bleys for his nod of agreement.
Benedict chuckles almost imperceptibly but to the people in the room it might have well have been a belly laugh. "Too large a retinue and it will look like an army.
Arlo adds," You take a progress past Ygg it had better go heavily armed even if it does look like an army."
Bleys stands,extending his cup to make his point, "Let it! Take an army! Give Martin a Regency, get Osric and Finndo to come out of hiding and they and Margot can hold his hand. Order us to arm heavy and prepare to march! Let shadow see what an Army led by you looks like! You, Ben, Me, Gerard, Dalt, Delwin all suit up and we make the rounds! We'll take our pet warbands, a hundred thousand troops from the army, a shitload of elites, and a quarter million of those CHAD maniacs with their rabid elephants! We'll have frigging Star Fleet fly those big bastard warships of theirs over us as we march down the Jeweled Road. Let frackin shadow know that's OUR road. Julian may be King of Adagalasck and Caine may be quim-drunk and acting as his Marshal but there is no way they would miss that kind of party and pass up a chance to show off their new forces. Make Fiona the Ambassador to Regor no matter how mad it makes her and let my mother know that their time of isolation is over. Hell, if Azcala is as crazy as we think maybe they will come out and fight us or lock their doors and not bother us for a thousand years! They have had puma and jaguar cults killing travelers from Cynsure to Amber for 20 years and all we have done is bloody their noses here and there. Lets take the fear to them and see how they like it!!!"
Aghast at the suggestion, Random looks wide-eyed to Benedict for support. Ben raises a finger, a sign for a moment's pause and a moment's reflection.
The Marshal of Amber tilts his head slightly, tapping off the ash from his stogie, "Its not a terrible idea."
Random tosses his coffee aside, wetting a thousand year old tapestry, and fills the mug with the Whiskey of Amber.
"Ok, FOR THE LOVE OF THE UNICORN!!!!.." taking a deep breath, the monarch sighs and says, "lets table the thank you card for the moment. We have gotten a bit side-tracked. What happened to Agrom exactly? Where is Vance?"
Despil sighs shallowly, "From what I can tell they entered the Abyss near Zilla. From a point often used by Pit Divers on either side. I have spoken to Brand about what details he remembers of that path downward and he is better able to address where they went after that. The fact is I have only ventured a few dozen levels down into the Abyss myself, as have most Chaosians. Entering the abyss is never done causally even for those who do so frequently. The upper levels are all fairly organized realms that have a lot of interaction with the Ways, the Church, and people of chaos. Hell worlds for sure, but...civilized to some degrees. I can seek out the Witnesses of the Abyss for more information but that's likely to get sticky politically. Technically speaking the Abyss is not part of Chaos but that's not a technicality you want to hang your hopes on."
Brand nods in agreement, "From the refuse embedded in him I'd gather he was deep. Very deep. And you can bet cabbages to goldwings that the refuse that was scattered around his landing spot is currently being fought over by whatever wizards had the savvy to gather it up. That stuff all became Abyssal Artifacts the second they left the hole and scattered across the landscape. The diamond Ben brought me would make an extremely potent construct if managed right. Trash from that deep rarely makes it to the surface. The bones of pit divers litter levels of the abyss far higher where they died trying to get items of far less potency."
Despil nods. "I hadn't considered that. I'd have to agree. My guess is that Hontas has already gathered his own gift basket. I doubt anything was left behind for lesser wizards. That kind of thing could start mage wars."
Brand stands and takes the pose of a medical professional; a doctor, psychiatrist, or mortician. "I'd have to see Agrom in person to be sure but there is a good chance I can tell how deep he went. I have a few Abyssal inscriptions of my own and they will resonate with whatever ones he has. I've never met this kinsman of course. Nor have I been to Vulsar Base. How about it, brother mine? Does Amber have a Work Release program for its prisoners?"
Random snorts, "I don't like having you this far from your cell and we are still in Amber. Only the fact that you'll snap back there if you leave the castle allows you this much liberty."
Brand fills his coffee, putting a splash into his cup full of whiskey.
"As for Agrom", Benedict continues unasked,"his skin was flayed loose. Not by the blade but by flying shards of diamond, many of which were trying to wiggle their way deeper till he was put in stasis. About half of his bones were broken including a puzzled mess of his cranium. Klingon skulls are designed to be broken and stay together. Most his internal organs were either burned or frozen and only the Klingon's redundant organ system kept enough of them working to sustain life."
Bleys quips, "That's interesting... perhaps we should investigate developing extra organs"
Ben gives his brother a rare scowl. "Thanks but regrowing an arm was enough for me. Anyway, once Agrom got to Vulsar, even in the condition he was in, his chances were excellent. The thing that surprised me was that once we put him in the kolto tank and removed the stasis field, he opened his eye. He was probably awake until Hontos put him in stasis. That's tough."
Despil says, "About the other eye...He lost it and its probably going to stay missing. I think a carbuncle is growing in the socket. It looks like a cluster of boils now but will eventually solidify, purify, and clear. It a common magical infection Pit Divers consider highly valuable. Its a status symbol in certain places in Chaos, sort of like a dueling scar. It comes with its own initiation that he has probably already achieved. They would consider him lucky though Agrom will probably not like it. With all do regard, I suggest you let me get a suitable expert in the field and have him examine and monitor the progress of the growth. I'd suggest my brother, Mandor. He has an affinity with such stones. He also has had good relations with Amber over the years."
Bleys quibs softly, "Well, he certain had good relations with Fiona.....They traveled together for a time."
Brand chuckles. "Really? Fiona made the rounds in Chaos once upon a time too. Nice to see she did so after Patternfall. People always thought her a frigid fish."
The King nods his head with a little laugh and says, "Lets forget the gossip about dear Fiona. Alright, Despil.. Present my request for Mandor's assistance. I'll have someone bring him to Vulsar when he is ready. Now....What about Vance? I can't let Ben stay the acting Fleet Admiral for Star Fleet. I need Vance back."
Brand turns his gaze to the king,"You might want to rethink his leading one of your military arms for a time. Whatever spit Agrom out didn't include Vance. He is either dead or still down there. When he comes out he will be....changed... as I was. There is too much down there to leave one unaffected, as our Klingon kinsman is finding out. Our first bounce landed us in a hell realm that split Deirdre in two. That condition may or may not be permanent but it certainly screwed the both of them up pretty seriously. The Deirdre the Unicorn didn't rescue and I were down there for a century before Fleece rescued her and accidentally freed me as well. Vance may have been down there a month or he may have been down there a million years. There is no way to know till we see him. You might not want to trust whoever comes out."
The Ambassador agrees, "I would second that, your majesty. Whatever service Lord Vance was to you before he entered the Abyss is over. Whoever comes out of the Abyss will be a different creature and it may be a millennia before you can be certain of him again, if ever. Frankly, as a Lord of Chaos and citizen of that end of the universe I'm not sure I would recommend extending too much trust to your brother here. He may seem healed of the effects of his time in the Abyss but those wounds are long to heal and those that gave them hold grudges for eons. Take the lessons of Calmir and Paragon to heart. "
Brand scowls at the Ambassador of Chaos, "And here I was starting to like you."
Random nods, "Your advice is well-given and understood. I've not granted Brand a fraction more trust then I ever did before Patternfall. The trick is knowing how hard to bang the drum and not tear it."
Standing, the king of Amber nods to Brand. "Would you like one for the road?"
Sighing, the prisoner swallows the last of his mug in a chug and stands, dropping it, a slight bow to his fellows before his jailer Arloxedra nods and sends Brand down to the depths.
Random finishes his mug as well.
"Alright. Benedict, check on Agrom and see to his honorable discharge from Star Fleet. Give him a suitable separation rank...admiral maybe. Let him know its nothing personal but until Vance returns and until we know how badly both of them are effected he is going to have to consider this a sabbatical. Oh... Get the Borg stuff out of him while you are at it. I don't trust that crap either. I will speak to Mandor myself and send him along to you when he is ready. Find a new Fleet Admiral for Star Fleet."
Benedict nods, removing a trump deck.
"Bleys, establish a suitable army and prepare it for the march. Let Benedict approve it. Speak to Lord Fortunadas about the CHAD contingents and make sure he understands no Savior/Slayers will be coming. Have it ready in two weeks. Don't tell the officers. Lets consider this a surprise dress rehearsal for serious trouble in the future."
"Arlo, contact Julian and Corwin, let them know we would like to make a State Visit. I will await their trump calls. Talk to that Regorian prince, Alexei is it? Tell him I will be making a visit to pay my respects to the Czar of Regor and his Czarina, the former Queen of Amber. I will be bringing at least two of her children and will be ready to discuss the third."
"Lord Despil, ask your liege if we may meet him at Theldane. We will leave the army east of the Abyss. If I'm going to lead this circus across shadow I'm going all the way."
"As for myself, I'm going to talk to Adrian of Mandalay. I have not seen the place since it was created. Its about time i saw how it was decorated."