I had pretty much completed the modification of my shadow when I got a trump contact. After the customary three tries, I spoke with Andrevo. He was ready to do Masamba's trump, so he pulled me through to Dubrovnik. He showed me to my room, where he had laid out several outfits for me to wear. How patronizing. Now was not the time for a fight, so I chose one, and put it on. We took a sleigh up into the mountains, to a cabin in the woods. On the way, Andrevo made a sketch of Masamba and contacted him. When he brought Masamba through, once we'd gotten there, he was accompanied by another man...who was introduced as a son of Sato Otanashi. Definitely an interesting turn of events. It seems that Sato Otanashi had asked Samba to seek him out in shadow and bring him to Sato. I would have to talk to Samba about that later.
The three of us went off to do the painting, while leaving Sato Vinn to entertain himself. Andrevo had set up twelve easels, and his paints, in the snow outside, next to a crisp mountain stream. He painted the portraits as Samba sat, the backgrounds in each one different from the next. We chatted, and I laid claim to one with Samba on the edge of the Abyss. After several hours, Andrevo said that he has expected me to entertain Vinn, so I headed back to him. We chatted briefly, really about nothing at all, and I *insisted* that he spend the evening with us. I didn't want an unknown son of Otanashi going to Amber quite yet, and definitely not alone. As for inviting him, if Andrevo was going to be the way he was, I would be more than happy to issue invitations on his behalf to anyone I felt like.
The next morning, while I was out practicing with my men before dawn, Siobhan approached me. I was extremely surprised to see Siobhan come out to Dubrovnik to meet me, and stepped away from the practice to speak with her. It seemed that Otanashi had proposed a solution to the problem of the succession, having grown tired of us trying to make one, and perhaps a bit...peeved it had been left to us. In one week's time, the families would gather in Amber. Each one would choose a representative, or judge, who would get together to judge a competition to determine who was 'best.' The judges would decide both the competition, and who would compete. As I listened to Siobhan describe it, I thought that I should be judge for our family, and that I would need to convince Siobhan of that. It surprised me, then, when she said that both she and Fionn wished to compete, so I should judge for the family. I agreed immediately. I mentioned it might have been why Sato Otanashi asked Samba to find Vinn, and she was quite surprised he had a soon. She also told me she wished to get together with me to discuss it in more detail before the meeting. As she was departing, she mentioned that my skill in the sword had improved greatly, but pattern would still be the greater ally.
When I returned, I sent a note to Andrevo, saying I wished to meet with him as soon as he awoke. After sending it, I noticed that Vinn was still partying from the night before, so joined him for a while, getting to know him a little better. Interestingly, he looked very different from when I had seen him the night before. Obviously some type of shape shifter, like Samba. Soon, I received a message saying that Andrevo wished to speak with me immediately. Not wishing to give him the satisfaction of being at his beck and call, I told the servant to inform him I would be available in my sitting room, and went off there to wait for Andrevo.
A servant conducted Andrevo in shortly afterwards. He came in briskly, wearing informal wear, slightly disorganized from having rid quickly and recently. I looked up from where I had been writing. "Where have you been, that you returned so urgently?"
"Someone has been reaching into my realm and causing trouble. I had to sort things out."
"Interesting. Do you wish my assistance?"
"You're the likely culprit in this case actually, although unlikely."
An insult to be sure. "Excuse me?"
He grinned slightly. "The only person that doesn't like Basil is you."
Who was this Basil I didn't like? "Basil?"
"My best friend; perhaps I should of formally introduced you two."
"I would be most interested in meeting your best friend." Perhaps it would give me more insight in my increasingly frustrating fiance.
"I do apologize for failing to complete that nicety; I must of presumed you've already made acquaintance erroneously."
"I don't believe I've met anyone here named Basil, although perhaps I have forgotten."
He raised his hand to about shoulder height. "He's about this tall at the shoulder, quite black, and sings."
I couldn't believe it. "The horse?"
I shook my head. You had to be kidding me. "What happened to it?"
If he insisted. "Him."
"Apparently, Dear, he was fooled into leaving to work for another for many years."
I wasn't sure exactly what he was trying to say, but I was not pleased with the direction this seemed to be taking. "Well, Dear, I hate to inform you that I have been no where near Basil since I arrived...and I'm afraid I don't understand exactly what you're saying. Fooled into leaving to work for another?"
"As if we split ways."
"So he was mistakenly made to think you no longer needed his services?" At least now I could see more clearly what he thought I may have done.
"More that someone impersonated me or faked the memories."
"Well, I see two possible candidate for impersonation here, at this time..." Neither of which were me, "...and while I can see no reason why she would do so, Siobhan probably could have faked the memories. Have you recovered him, or do you need assistance?"
"He has returned and attempting to overcome the fog that was laid upon his mind, but otherwise in typical spirits."
I could try to help. "If you wish my assistance, you have but to ask, although I can not see that I would be much help in such a situation. Hopefully, he will recover fully."
"He will be fine, having just returned. As for motives; the only obvious one would be yours; but beyond that many have reasons to disrupt or harass us."
Another accusation. "Is this what you wished to see me about? I did have something of im...something to discuss with you. And, please, make yourself comfortable. A drink or such?" Might as well try to make some amends for the perceived slight. "While I dislike him, I would not wish to cause you such distress."
"I actually had nothing to really see you about; I just had remembered that you also had asked for me."
"My aunt came to visit this morning. I wanted to let you know what she said." Andrevo hmmmed. "It seems our older...cousins have gotten tired of waiting, and Sato broached an idea they will be adopting. Sato Otanashi, I should say. They are having the families get together and choose, for lack of a better word, judges, who will then both decided the participates and the rules in some method of determining who is 'the best amoung us.' They will meet in Amber in one weeks time. I suspect this is why Sato Otanashi asked Samba to fetch Sato Vinn."
"To be a judge."
"Yes. After all, one would not expect one of the participants to be a judge, now would they?"
"Sounds like manipulatable bull to me."
Sometimes, this man could be so...stubborn. "It also sounds like something that might, possibly, keep people from killing each other, or trying to, again. More importantly, if all have agreed to it besides us, I doubt there will be much we can do, jewel or otherwise."
"It is a wonderful idea."
So he changes his mind now. "I thought you would want to know about it. I have spoken with my family. I would also be interested in meeting with Agnes before next week. You had said you wished to accompany me, otherwise, I will speak to her on my own."
"There is no particular reason for me to be there when you speak with her; but certainly I will escort you there."
"There is no need for such unless you wish, I simply did not want to...spite you by seeming to refuse your offer." Perhaps this whole engagement thing just wasn't going to work out. I don't think I can live with this man.
"This won't do."
A change of heart? "What won't do?"
"Before you leave, you should join me for dinner down on walls overlooking the inner bay."
I see. I supposed I could give it a chance. It would be nice to actually...know him. "It sounds lovely. Perhaps tonight, if your other guests have left?"
He smiled warmly. "We need not always pretend we don't like each other."
It made me smiles. "It's not that...I'm not sure how to put it. I'll just say that I will sincerely enjoy having a candid dinner with you, with no other business to discuss."
"Perhaps we might even have a chance to get to know each other ."
"Or perhaps, that will also occur without the feeling that we are sizing each other up."
Now he had gotten to the heart of the matter. I smiled. What was it grandmother had said. "Trust no one." I paused. "And I also look forward to learning about you, and not a possible opponent."
"Now that's no way to make friends."
"No, it's not. Perhaps, if you don't mind, you might find something appropriate for me to wear?" I would give him that concession.
"I cannot fathom the preferences of a lady; but I can certainly help you shop."
If he wasn't going to take the opportunity..."If you don't have something in mind you'd like, I'll go shopping myself."
"I do not."
"I will surprise you then."
At that, Andrevo smiled at me, then stood. I stood up as well, walking over to him. He took my hand in his, and brought it up to his lips, kissing me gently. I was nervous at first, but it was...pleasant. I looked up at him as we stood there for a moment, then he briskly departed.