Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Meeting

Andrevo and I arrived in Amber for the meeting together. He had secured an horse-drawn carriage for our ride...a nice touch. As we rode, we chatted, nothing...important, but we were growing still closer. He had chosen to wear some white, as well, and I complimented him on his appearance. The meeting took place in the Large dining hall. Andrevo had wished to arrive on time, and we did, as well as several others...Siobhan, Fionn, Paki, the rest of the Sprottles, and the Satos. As we entered the hall, our names were announced, and we went to mingle as we gave those missing a few more minutes to arrive. Shortly after we arrived, I received a trump contact from Masamba. He was standing in the main hall, not too far from where we were.
"I didn't get a chance to tell you, my mother will be making an appearance, and probably my surviving 11 brothers and sisters. I have no idea what this means, neither does Paki. That is all, we can talk more at the uh... gotta go." Abruptly, the contact was cut off. Soon afterwards, I heard Samba's name announced, and he walked, wearing his formal garb in purple and gold. I turned to Andrevo.
"Be on your guard. Amina Igare will be here..."
"Could you of warned me of this before I dressed?"
"Samba just told me. She is his mother...and he does not speak her name. She has killed others of her children. I don't know if you can tell your family discretely." I looked across the room. "Let's go say hello to your family."
"First, let's go say hello to Vin."
"As you wish."

Samba approached us, smiling. I turned to him, smiling as well. "Good Evening."
Andrevo bowed lightly to him. "Stormy evening, friend Masamba."
"Indeed. Good evening both of you. And I...uh...Apologize, I just remembered something." He scooted back out as Rose and Eathon were announce, and the same back in, accompanying Amina...with about a dozen other Igare I had no knowledge of. Why was he accompanying his mother? I would have to find out. We began to walk over to Vin when I heard the last announcement...Fiona. I stopped for a moment..could it be? Andrevo, however, did not even seem surprised, so I continued on, whispering to him.
"You knew she would be here?"
He grinned. "All in the art." Andrevo said good evening to Vin as we walked up, and Sato began to arrange for seating. "So where do we sit?"
"A warning would have been nice. And we look a lot alike, don't we? If you would be so kind, I should sit with my family for now."
The families seemed to be congregating in clumps, and Andrevo escorted me over to Siobhan and Fionn. Standing up to reach him, I kissed him on the cheek before taking my seat between them, and Andrevo returned to his family. Otanashi began to speak. "I've brought the royal family together to settle the matter of the rightful heir. The idea is this, those that believe they are best to rule, will leave, allowing the rest of you to decide how to measure what the queen meant by 'The best among you.' I hope to keep things on track and short, each family should have had some time to decide who will stay here." Samba frowned at that statement. "Most of you have met with me and asked many questions, and seem to understand what is expected. Are there any other questions now?" I waited, looking to see if any others would raise the question. "Then I ask now that those who wish to rule,leave the room with me."
It seemed no others would, so I spoke up. "Will this discussion be limited to Princes and Princesses of Amber?"
"Yes, and the validity of all here except the servants has been checked."
I nodded, and Sato Vin spoke up. "Everyone who is appropriate has been invited."
Andrevo spoke from across the room. "Who hasn't been invited?"
Sato Vinn shrugged, and Otanashi answered, "Everyone I was able to contact is here, save Dworkin, who showed no interest in coming."
Samba leaned over to speak to Amina as I s asked another question. "And who was not able to be contacted?"
"No one that has not been presumed dead for some time." Otanashi then left, along with Ambrose, Paki, Siobhan, Fionn and Rose. Interesting. Andrevo smiled at the list, and now being alone, I walked back over and sat with Andrevo. I looked over at Amina and company. "Perhaps introductions would be in order..." Samba, who had not stopped talking with Amina, snorted, and stared at the place where Otanashi had been standing.
Eathon spoke up. "why don't we take another minute or two to talk to each other and get our thoughts together, then begin a discussion."
I whispered with Andrevo. "Does your family know anything of these others of Amina's?"
"No. This seems to be a waste of time."
"Because..." I let the thought sit.
"No one wishes to contribute."
Sato Vin spoke up in response to Eathon's statement. "You mean that you haven't already decided what to say?" He snorted.
I turned to say to Eathon that I didn't need any more time, although several others conversed among themselves. Eathon approached me. "Amina arrived last night with 4 dozen of her children. These are the survivors of the Pattern."
"The survivors? So they walked it last night?" I shook my head in disgust. And yet Samba was sitting with her, talking. As I looked over to him, I saw him furrow his brow, looking between Amina and the rest of the Igare. As I looked around the room further to see if anyone was still talking, Sato Vin sighed and sat back in his chair, seemingly exasperated.
After several minutes, Eathon spoke up. "I suppose I will try and keep things moving in here, unless someone objects."
Good, it wasn't going to have to be me. My tempers were already on edge. Eathon would probably keep things...civilized. "Please, cousin."
"Well then, I guess let's start with, how do we think the best among us should be determined."
Vin spoke up. "Competition." I snorted. How...glaringly obvious.
Amina then voiced her opinion. "How about we vote after giving them sufficient time to shower us all with bribes?" I shouldn't have been surprised. Several of the Igare agreed with her.
Andrevo added his voice. "Majority or consensus agreement."
Vin then decided he would add something slightly more specific. "There are many enemies of Amber. For far to long our rulers have sat here in away from it all. It is time we have someone who is more then a pretty face or wealthy enough to bribe us." Several of the nameless Igare agreed with him. Samba blinked and shook his head, taking notice of the empty seats.
I thought I should put my opinion in. "A consensus among families." I spoke to Vin. "If you wish competition so much, perhaps something a little more specific?"
Andrevo joined in. "It does not matter if one can balance sticks upon their hand or run the fastest; for such has little to do with governing."
One of the still unamed Igare joined his voice to the fray. "A battle of arms, the greatest general should rule." Several of his brethren agreed. Samba rested his head in his hands.
I snorted in disgust. "There is more to governing than war."
Amina repeated her earlier sentiments, "I still think soliciting more bribes is in order."
Vin offered up something slightly more specific. "A fixed time, say 30 days. At the end of which they are to return with proof of defeating an enemy of Amber."
To which Amina added, "...and that it should be something entertaining."
He continued. "They are able to use what methods and resources they can gather, as a true ruler should."
Andrevo objected. "That is insufficient basis."
As did Amina. "I don't want to stay around here that long."
I looked to her. "A pity, cousin."
Eathon decided to try a voice of reason. "I'm not sure if we should wage war in order to determine who should be king."
It was then that Samba spoke up. "Hell, I'm no warlock, and I can kill a dude and make him look like an enemy of Amber. But yeah, dispensing death: not necessarily something exclusive to royalty."
I leaned over to speak with Andrevo. "Your family is...quiet."
"I'm speaking for them."
"I see. A wiser course than the Greek chorus."
Turning my attention back to the others, Vin was speaking. "Amina, would not the spoils of war be sufficient for you?"
Fiona then added something. "Perhaps we should discuss the qualities of each person, then test them, then hold a vote as to the winner, giving one vote to each of the 5 families."
I voiced my agreement. "An excellent idea, Aunt Fiona."
Amina replied to Vin then. "I do enjoy spoils."
Samba raised his hand. "Question:" He looked at Fiona. "Who the- Who are you?" Andrevo chuckled lightly, and I smiled.
She smiled and answered him. "I'm Fiona, I guess for the purposes of this meeting I'm a Sprottle. I come from the second generation of Dworkin's children."
Vin nodded to Fiona. "Several new faces are seen here, which is why us determining this ourselves is.... complicated."
Amina replied. "We all wanted to be here for the show." Samba counted on his fingers. "It is a pity we missed seeing the rest of your children, Amina."
It was at this point that Joan, who until now had been silent, chose to speak up. "This isnt a show, this is serious. You're here to cause trouble." She stood up. "...and I've figured out how. These aren't your children." Samba started to speak, and smiled when Joan interrupted him, waving her hand at the crowd of nameless Igare. "They're you! If you want to play with sorcery, let me show you how!" She began to roll up her sleeves, and Samba got up and walked away from Amina. I began to tap my fingers lightly across the blade at my waist. Things looked like they might get...ugly.
Amina stood. "Don't you threaten me, we all know you're a madwoman."
Andrevo defended his mother. "At least she's honest."
I added my own thoughts as well. "A quality that seems to be lacking in some."
Vin spoke up, attempting to diffuse things. "I don't think this is a place for confrontation"
Samba spoke as well, although it was hard to tell whether it was in answer to me, or Vin. "Wouldn't be the first time, cuz."
Joan pointed at Amina. "Enough of this, disperse these unreal constructs so we can continue."
Vin again interjected. "If they are her or her children is irrelevant. We must decide how to select a new ruler."
How could he not think so? "It is relevant, Sato Vin."
Amina twirled her finger next to her head. While Joan looked around the room, wildly.
Vin spoke to me this time. "How? Do you honestly believe it will change the outcome?"
I leaned over to whisper to Andrevo. "I never thought I would be agreeing with your mother on anything." I stood, my hand at my waist, watching Joan and Amina. If Amina continued to provoke her...
Andrevo spoke up. "If some are here that do not wish to solve this; then they should be ejected."
Samba edged closer to me. "I just want to let you know, if what happens last time happens again, I'll try to help you." I winked at him.
I looked to Vin. "They cause distraction and confusion if they are not who they claim to be."
Vin spoke up again. "My cousin speaks correctly, if you are not hear to help come to a resolution then you should leave. If not I will have you ejected." While I would be more than happy assisting to eject Amina, he might find himself having a difficult time if he chose to eject Joan. Amina looked over everyone in the room as Vin sat back, waiting. I watched Joan and Amina as Joan started staring at Vin. As we waited, I called the Pattern to mind, attempting to use its sight to confirm Joan's words. Vin stared back at Joan defiantly. "Are you and Anima finished?"
"I'll figure out what you did." With that, Joan sat. I followed shortly, still looking over Amina. Samba scooted his chair away from me slightly, possibly sensing the Pattern emanating from me. Vin spoke. "Anima, If Joan is correct and you are attempting to deceive us then please stop."
Suddenly, Eathon shouted a power word. All of the Igare began to ripple, Masamba began to bleed, and Andrevo shivered, as if chilled. Amina seemed unaffected. My attention still on Amina, I handed Masamba a handkerchief as he stopped bleeding. Finally, Amina spoke. "Fine." The rippling Igare began walking, and were absorbed into Amina.
Vin continued. "Thank you, now let us continue. In a more civilized fashion."
I put in the first word. "Aunt Fiona brought up an excellent idea."
Samba spoke, to no one in particular. "Well, there goes the Family reunion."
After my words, Andrevo expressed his. "The best ruler is one that exemplifies the best sum of all traits required to govern. Is my opinion on the matter."
"True. Unfortunately. We are still at war."
Fiona added. "How do we determine that?"
Andrevo answered. "We list traits required to govern; and examine them upon each of those proposed."
I leaned over to whisper to him while we were talking. "I would not deem that to be the last trouble we see from Amina."
As if prophetically, Amina spoke up. "Should we get there resumes and start some interviews?"
Samba coughed and rubbed his mouth as Andrevo answered her. "Effectively, yes. Except we need not actually talk to them." Recognizing his attempts to hide his laughter, I looked harshly at him. We didn't need that now. He smiled and nodded.
I turned to Amina. "Ability to lead in war is important and topical, but never the only factor."
Vin continued his...tirade. "I do nor believe it is wise of us to simply decide who will rule. Such leans towards politics and bribery. Amber deserves more then that, it deserves a destiny."
Samba, ever the joker, inserted his own opinion. "Wow. I thought I didn't pay attention. That is why we were summoned here."
"I am willing to debate what is a good test, yet I do believe a test is in order. One which show which is destined to rule. If the other families really believe it is best to hold a simple vote then so be it, yet it is not the destiny I would seek."
Andreo answered. "Sure. Examination, test, competition. "
Vin addressed the rest of the group. "Ethan, Agnes, Joan, do you have any suggestions or ideas?"
Samba spoke up. "I have a question. Anyone have an idea what the hell they're doing in there?" He pointed towards the door where the "candidates" had left.
Andrevo answered. "I would presume they are either politely pondering what we are discussing, or listening in, or both." My thoughts as well.
Joan answered Vin,"Andrevo is speaking for the Sprottle family."
Eathon did as well. "I'm thinking."
Samba continued. "See, my understanding is they were doing the contest, while we were figuring out what the contest was. Which, really, think about it."
Vin answered. "They are playing poker. Perhaps a bit unfair of a game"
Samba laughed while Eathon answered as well. "They're waiting to see what the contest is."
SAmba added his own thoughts as well. "Maybe it's a test of endurance. Shall we keep talking about it? I got time. I have less birthdays to plan allovasudden."
Amina piped up. "Let us know who wins, so we can know who to solicit the most bribes from." That woman!
Joan was kind enough to answer. "I'd bribe you just to leave." I laughed. My thoughts exactly. Samba coughed and snapped his fingers. Obviously he agreed.
Vin continued his debate. "Andrevo, my earlier suggestion was not meant to be one of simple warfare."
"And mine was not simply a vote. Let's meet in the middle."
"There are enemies that are not simple individuals or antagonistic forces. I believe a key factor of such a competition would be them deciding what is truly the greatest threat to Amber."
"I would think that Brand wishing to destroy this pattern would trump that consideration or question; but perhaps I'm a bit biased."
Samba laughed at Andrevo's words...the question that keeps getting forgotten. We needed to resolve this King issue. The others didn't seem to think the threat greater than that. "The sooner this question is resolved, the better. 30 days is too long."
Vin addressed me now. "If one could defeat Brand would not that make them make them worthy to rule?" As if it were simply that easy. "What time frame would you suggest?"
"A week, perhaps two... at the most. Amber's enemies do not grow weaker through our inaction."
Amina decided now was a good time to interject. "And if they fail, maybe Brand would make a better King." I did not know how much longer my temper would hold.
Joan, however, seemed to have reached the end of hers. "One Trump gate."
"Good night everyone." Amina began to walk to the door.
Samba seemed surprised. "what?"
It was all I could do to keep from spitting on her as she walked out. "Good riddance." I leaned over to whisper to Andrevo. "I am beginning to like your mother more and more. He chuckled.
Samba continued. "Okay, I'll be the dumbass, I didn't get the last few minutes of interaction."
Joan answered him. "I bribed her to leave."
Vin turned to Samba. "Massamba, I guess you now represent your family." Samba furrowed his brow, and Eathon shook his head.
Samba answered him. "Well, the real faction"
I looked to Joan, "Thank you, my method would have been considerably...messier."
Fiona looked surprised. "How can anyone not care about Amber?"
I replied. "I don't think that...woman...cares for anything but herself."
Samba coughed. "Birthday presents! But...I think Vin has a point"
Eathon said, "Yes the matter at hand is more important than her, so we're trying to find the middle ground between a competition and a vote."
Vin joined in, "Fiona, I do not have a good answer for you. Yet it is why I wish our next ruler to chosen wisely. Someone who cares more about Amber then personal power."
Fiona added. "There's always the Unicorn."
Samba spoke up again, "I'm thinking, and I may just be voicing words already said or thought, whoever defeats the invasion, by actions or agents employ, would be next ruler."
I looked back to Fiona. "Indeed. I had considered going to her."
Samba continued his thought, "Granted, that leaves us all open to the idea 'What If Whoever Wanted To Be Ruler Killed Gramma And Created This Demon Invasion.'"
Vin nodded to Samba as Eathon spoke. "The invasion could be years. And we'd probably stand a better chance united as opposed to competing to stop him."
I added my opinion of Brand. "I don't think we could stop him if we were not united."
Andrevo decided to put in his opinion, "I believe the point is to find a sovereign so that we may address these issues in a unified Amber."
I and Samba both agreed, and he added, "And what the hell do Unicorns have to do with anything?" I guess that was something he had missed in his short time in Amber.
Vin added in, "Is that in its self a test? If those who wish to rule can not find unity among themselves then can they be worthy?
Fiona added another point. "There's also the matter of the jewel, how many of them could understand it?"
Siobhan...I decided it was worth mentioning. "One already does."
And Samba felt it necessary to add in his opinions of Siobhan. "Well, those who understand the Jewel might not be the most fit of rulers."
Fiona answered, "Yes, but to be a fit ruler one must understand it."
I agreed with Fiona, and Samba continued his statement. "It goes back to the warrior thing. Just because someone is great at one particular skill, be it jewel usage or kickin' ass, does that make them the best to rule?"
"Not the only factor, but it must be a quality."
"Well, yeah, but there are many things that must be a quality."
Eathon joined in again at that point. "So for qualities we seek, we want someone who can be a general and understand the jewel. As well as someone who will unite us."
I decided to speak up then. "Ideally, the test would be tailored to test those qualities we find important."
Vin started to list off what we had talked about so far, "So for qualities we have - leadership, unity, warfare, and intellect. What others?"
Fiona added, "I was thinking that if we cannot decide a competition it might help to eliminate those who do not have those qualities."
Andrevo added a quality, "Sacrifice."
Fiona added one as well, "Faith?"
Andrevo had several others to add, "Loyalty, and mastery of arcane art." Obviously an addition from some of his family.
Vin nodded to both in agreement, and asked, "Which arcane arts?"
I put in my opinion then. Pattern Mastery would need to be included. "I would say...any."
"Or all?"
Andrevo then clarified his statement, "Sufficient understanding and power in it to our satisfaction, whatever that may be."
Fiona summarized what we had decided. "So we decide a list of qualities and test each of them for these qualities?"
We had already put together a list, and I stated as much. "We have a list."
Eathon added a question, "Then score them on each and decide the winner?"
"I have heard no objection to those mentioned...unless there are additions?"
Fiona asked at that point, "Do we test them by word or action?"
Vin asked, "All categories equally?"
Fiona added, "We should probably try and group them and keep the list short."
I didn't want to see a score sheet. A little too...objective. "I don't think we need a score so much...a consensus among the families should suffice."
Eathon agreed, and Andrevo spoke up, "First we filter people out who lack too much in any category; then test the remaining to compare the aggregate value of each. Through competition."
Eathon spoke up again, "Alright then, let's finalize a list of qualities."
I listed those that had been mentioned so far, "Leadership, Loyalty, Arcane Mastery, and Faith."
Vin agreed, "That is a list I can accept."
Fiona and Andrevo agreed as well. Eathon then spoke up, "I don't know that I agree on arcane arts, if skill at arms is not one as well."
It had not been my purpose to disclude it, by any means. "In my opinion, skill at arms would be included in leadership...but that's just me. I did not mean for it to be simply disregarded."
Vin then added his thoughts, "Eathon does have a point. There are some who are personally skill but can not lead others."
Samba decided to speak up as well, "I also think the test should be to see if the candidate can find some way to employ these characteristics. Granted, we might be choosing a 'Ruler And Allies' more so than a ruler, but would that really be that bad?"
If they really wanted to, "If it would be more...accurate, include the martial arts seperately, that still leaves us with five."
Andrevo agreed, "Let us include it then."
Eathon added, "I'll agree to those 5 qualities."
Samba spoke up with a question, "I'm sorry, I was momentarily distracted, what were the five qualities?"
Vin clarified, "I agree to Leadership, Loyalty, Arcane Mastery, Arms mastery, and Faith"
Andrevo agreed, "I agree to those as well."
I nodded as Samba spoke up. "Loyalty to what, Faith to what? Inspiring loyalty? I understand, but doesn't that lump it into leadership?
Several of us voiced the same thoughts as Fiona spoke, "I think loyalty to amber and faith in the unicorn."
Andrevo had a slightly different view. "Loyalty to Amber, your family, and to the persistence of the Pattern."
Samba wasn't satisfied with the answer. "Alright, Loyalty to Amber, family, and pattern is important. What the fuck does a mythological beast have to do with anything?"
Fiona sighed as I said, "I'll explain it later, Masamba."
Eathon spoke up then, "Essentially, Masamba, THE Unicorn is the Mother of the Pattern."
Well, so much for waiting. "That works too."
Samba had another question. "Is this a fact?"
I merely answered in the affirmative as Eathon was more...correct. "For expediency's sake."
"Then wouldn't it be covered under Loyalty to the pattern?" I rolled my eyes at him, and he started to suppress a smile. "I mean..."
I replied. "Faith...is different." Siobhan would have been proud of me.
"If we're talking about devotion to the pattern, does it matter that it's the alleged creator or it's honest substance."
Vin added then, "Perhaps we should discuss how to test it then?"
"Good point!"
I thought it best to start with the simple subjects. "Skill at arms and the arcane arts should be fairly simple."
Eathon added, "I can see where faith and loyalty would be the same."
Samba raised his hand then, "I am completely and totally devoted to the horny horse that made everything" does that mean I passed our last requirement?" I frowned at him. His humor was not appreciated at this moment, and on those subjects. "See, the Pattern and Amber are what matters. Are we a... say," He looked to me, "cyber-papacy that requires faith in all our subjects?" I stared at him for a moment. I was *not* amused. He tried not to smile and turn red at the same time, but it was a hard struggle.
Eathon answered, "To be loyal is to be faithful, and to be faithful is to be loyal. Perhaps four then: Dedication, Skill at arms, Skill to lead, skill at magic."
"Less government, Juli-ette. Yes! Hear the man." Vin nodded, and I said I would agreed. "I am loyal to rock-a-billy, but I am not faithful that Elvis still lives. That might not have made sense to some of us."
Vin spoke up then, "Unless you can explain how to separate a test of loyal from that of faith Juliette?" I shook my head. While I knew Siobhan would see them differently, for now I could not speak to the separation.
Eathon spoke again. "Eaton's would agree with those 4. Donaghues have, what of Sprottle, Sato and Igare?"
Samba spoke for his family, "The Igare agree to those four. And, shit, Joan, do I owe you something now?"
Andrevo for his, "Sprottles agree to that list."
Vin for his, "I agree."
Eathon concluded, "Then we have the criteria. Now we need the test."
"samba looked at me. "Shit, I didn't think that far ahead."
"I am inclined to simply name the criteria, and leave them to their own devices."
Fiona had a slightly different proposal. "I propose an arms contest, to knock out two qualities at once. Any that would let it get out of hand, would lack the dedication needed to rule."
Samba nodded. "Ah, okay."
"Same for the sorcery contest. Does that make sense to everyone?"
"It makes sense, but I have to ask something...Are we going by one's individual skill or the skills they can employ?"
"I dont think the best should matter, but how they handle themselves."
I put in my thoughts, "If we let them use the skills of anyone they can employ...it would show their leadership capabilities as well."
Samba clarified, "As in, I might not be the best of warriors, but if I were to be able to employ the services of Brand to help me out."
Vin spoke up, "I agree, it is a test not just of who wins, but how they win."
Eathon answered Samba, "But it would escalate things and bring in innocent bystanders."
Samba looked to me, "Yeah, exactly."
"I think it best if we kept a limit on things"
Andrevo proposed a slightly different idea, "Let each choose three to help them."
Samba answered, "Well, then we need to do what we can to eliminate the threat of hurting innocent bystanders. Good idea!"
Eathon spoke to Samba, "Some maybe chosen by more than one individual."
Andrevo clarified further, "No judges, no other contesters. If there is overlap, then let both have them."
Samba began to speak, "Well, then it would be up to the individ-Oh. Well."
Eathon answered Andrevo, "...and three still seems large to me if we speak of royalty."
"That would be the leadership aspect."
Andrevo changes his proposal slightly, "Yes, three is too many now that I consider. Two."
Samba agreed, "Good idea."
The only family that had much numbers outside of the contestants and the judges were the Sprottles. "If neither contestants nor judges are allowed to join with others, then it should be individual."
"Well, perhaps we device a criteria to keep the judges completely impartial."
Andrevo suggested a compromise, "Or perhaps one judge, and one not?"
Vin put in his thoughts, "I think we should all act as judges."
Samba put in his thoughts, "And I only say this as a judge who knows no one will be asking him for help." He smiled.
Vin reiterated, "That the five who represent the families are excluded from providing help, serving only as Judges."
Eathon put in his thoughts, "Each of those who would compete to be ruler, already has people at their disposal. Perhaps half of dozen of their own men only."
Fiona added, "That would give benefit to those of larger families."
My thoughts exactly, "It would indeed."
Vin replied, "Or those who can gain the assistance of other families. It is a test of those that would be king."
I repeated, "Either the judges are allowed, and we rely on the other judges to keep things impartial, or individuals only."
Andrevo spoke on the benefits of large families, "Which is a benefit to those worthy to rule."
Samba added in his thoughts again, "Perhaps we let intrigues decide. If the would-be contender is capable of gaining the favor, then perhaps they are more able at leadership, loyalty (or perhaps Arcane Mastery)." Vin nodded. "I say we let whomever choose whoever... Yet if contender number one and contender number two chose, Bill Amberite, than Bill Amberiate needs to choose which he backs." I agreed with him, and Andrevo just shrugged.
Eathon asked, "What of judges contending?"
"As the latter would show the contenders' ability to lead. It will happen."
Andrevo added his thoughts, "Let us exclude five that are judges entirely. Period. And otherwise give free reign upon all others."
Fiona spoke up, "Who are those five?"
Samba had to add his two cents, "And the original contenders need to chose and/or bribe the judges accordingly." Starting to sound slightly like his mother on that one.
Fiona answered herself, "I suppose i know that actually."
Vin spoke up, "I stand for house Sato."
Then Andrevo, "I stand for House Sprottle."
Then Masamba, "I'm, well, unless I get absorbed into mamma's blood, Igare."
Fiona reiterated before I or Eathon had a chance to speak. "Sato Vin, Andrevo Sprottle, Juliette Donaghue, Masamba Igare, and Eathon Eaton will judge a contest of dedication, skill at arms, arcane mastery and leadership. The contest will be some form of combat, with rules to protect innocent bystanders. Am I correct?"
Samba said yes, and Vin added, "I believe so, save that it might in fact be more then one competition."
I spoke up at that point. "Are we excluding the judges from competing or not..." If we did, then the Sprottles would have an advantage, or so I saw it.
Samba agreed. "I say no exclusion. After all, a good leader will be able to garner the best supporters."
I agreed with Masamba, while Vin spoke on the earlier subject, "For example Juliette might setup a test of arms while I might do the one of arcana skill."
"All or nothing."
Eathon added a voice of reason, "So we are not limiting the number of allies or who they are? That could extend the time frame a great deal. And we should set a goal."
Samba answered Eathon, "True. Though King Arthur had his Lancelot and Merlin (no pun intended), if he was able to choose each and any of his followers, it would have taken forever."
I added, "I say two allies, but they can be anyone."
"I believe Andrevo suggested two..." Indeed he had.
Vin frowned, "I believe two is an acceptable number, I am however concerned about the Judges taking part."
"And yes, they can be of anyone. And the assistant can choose who they assist."
"I had hoped that we would perhaps be the ones to be tested against."
"Well, then, wouldn't that be a test of the ruler's ability in politics and leadership?"
I jumped into Vin and Samba's discourse, "We have five judges...no more than two will be competing for any one competitor."
"And, really, when you meant tested against..."
Eathon jumped in as well, "Then lets vote by family where there is disagreement."
"That would lead more questions, who would be what tested for who?"
"How many votes for a limit of 2 allies?"
I replied to Samba's comment about the testing, "I am afraid we would not see the true extent of skills if we were to be tested against."
Samba replied, "I agree, Eathon"
"We shold consider the two issues together."
"And I agree with Juliette. I am also known, by some, as Mister Agreement." Samba snorted at the joke.
"Or, at least settle the question of whether judges will participate first." If judges couldn't participate, then the advantage fell to the Sprottles by far. If they could...
Eathon replied then, "Alright then, can judges participate, yay or nay?"
Samba felt it necessary to add more, "Well, I hate to nay-say, but are we now a five-family democracy?"
I turned to him, "Yes."
He smiled as Vin spoke, "We are until a new ruler is selected."
"What of our... uh... great aunt?" Samba looked at Fiona.
Andrevo thought for a moment, until Fiona answered, "If I'm a Sprottle, then Andrevo represents me."
"After all-Ah, good." He bowed to Fiona, "So, judges participating, as the man," he nodded to Eathon, "suggested. I say Yay."
Vin, "I say Nay."
Andrevo, "Nay."
I looked to Eathon, waiting for his vote. It was only the two of us left. Samba looked to me as we waited longer, until I finally capitulated, "I say Yay." Samba nodded.
Eathon then cast his vote, "I say nay."
"So decided. Question the second."
Samba spoke up, "Alright. Yes."
Eathon continued with the second question, "Then of the number of allies to be two. Yay or nay?"
Samba, "Yay"
Myself, "Nay." Masamba looked at me confused, and I put my fingers in a circle. I wanted none.
Vin interrupted the voting, "So should we now discuss the specifics of competition?"
Andrevo, "Yay."
Eathon spoke up before Vin voted, "Yay." With that, there was no need for Vin's vote.
I sighed and leaned over to my fiance. "Well played, dear." He smiled.
Samba spoke up the, "I, I hate to interrupt-er...So yeah, what was the specifics?"
Fiona had a suggestion, "I have an idea for the competition, let us make them claim the jewel."
That idea was...not well received. Vin frowned, as I coughed in surprise. Samba looked at Fiona before Vin finally spoke. "That is perhaps a test of arms." Indeed it would be. And exactly what Grandmother probably wanted avoided.
Samba addressed Fiona, "Go on, Ms. Fiona."
I decided to at least let her elaborate, "Perhaps you could be more...specific?"
Fiona continued, "Perhaps, if the judges hide it, it could be a test of all. Give them all lands with borders, hide the jewel, and see who can use their resources to claim it without over doing it."
"I will not let the jewel out of my sight."
"Then create a reasonable facsimile or let them fight over you." Fighting over me? An...amusing idea.
Samba added then, "And what were to happen if one of our many invaders or possible betrayers were to take it."
Vin had a suggestion, "Might I suggest my shadow realm them. It is setup to allow such a competition and would protect bystanders."
I answered Samba, "That is why I will not leave it."
He continued, "And, since we agreed us Judges will not be a part of the competition, how can we allow a copy of one of us to be the ultimate test?"
Eathon added, "Doing it within one shadow realm could help lower the chance of innocent bystanders."
Vin had another suggestion, "Perhaps the five of us should work together to protect the jewel."
Samba agreed on the general idea, "But I do agree with this contest taking place in a shadow realm." I agreed with him, "But, we just agreed we wouldn't be part of the competition!"
I elaborated, "We agreed we wouldn't compete for the competitors."
Fiona fleshed out her idea more, "I don't mean for her to protect the jewel, I mean to test what they will do to get it. Nothing we do will be as great a threat to them as what they do to each other to reach it."
I agreed with Fiona, and Samba spoke more, "I agree with the latter. And didn't we agree that we'd need something, well, tougher than us to be the competitors?"
"We're not competing with them, they're competing with each other."
I answered Samba, "Than each of us...the five of us..."
He replied, "Unless they decide, using leadership, to combine their forces to defeat us all."
"If they do...then they must have also decided who will win..."
Fiona added, "The judges shouldn't be trying to look for something stronger than them for them to defeat, we should look to see how they act amongst each other. I do not mean to include me as a judge, forgive me for misspeaking."
Samba interjected, "Who says we shouldn't be looking for something stronger?"
Andrevo added, "These are all semantics that will be clearer once an actual general contest is chosen."
"After all, we're looking at someone to defeat some mythological uncle of ours, shouldn't they be able to defeat us?"
I added my thoughts, "They are competing against each other, not us."
Vin spoke, "That is a good point and I have a suggestion."
"Okay, we need to list what we've all officially agreed upon and what were suggestions."
Eathon added, "I do not like the idea of competing with them personally."
I added thoughts about Fiona's idea, "I thinks Fiona's idea...that they simply have to get it from me, is an excellent one."
Vin changed the idea somewhat. "We make duplicate jewels and give them to each of the constants. The first to collect them all wins."
Fiona continued, "Or you could use a fake one. and there should be time, so once someone takes it from you, they can fight amongst each other for it."
Eathon agreed with Vin. "I could agree with Sato. Is time fast in your shadow?"
"So wait are you saying..." Samba paused.
Vin answered Eathon, "Time is as I wish it in my shadow."
There needed to be some kind of time limit, and I said as much, "There should be a time limit."
Samba continued, "So there would only be five."
Eathon spoke to Vin, "I also agree we should do it in your shadow then."
Fiona pointed out Samba's miscount. "There are six competitors."
Samba agreed with Eathon. "Yes, shortest-time shadow."
As did Andrevo, "The location is acceptable."
And myself, "The location is acceptable to me as well."
Samba continued, "Okay, six Jewels, six Judges"
I corrected him, "Six jewels, six contestants."
Samba agreed. "Yes. Shit. I'm liking this."
Fiona corrected Samba's count. "There are only 5 judges now, because there are only 5 families."
"Well...one jewel fer family...er...contestant. Therefore, even if they each have one tie..."
Fiona opined, "Unless we limited the contenders as we do the judges to one per family."
"I disagree with that."
As did I, "No."
"Simply because, well..."
Andrevo added his disagreement, "No."
"12/14ths of my family just now appeared. Like, yesterday."
I spoke up, "There are three nos." That ended that ill-thought idea.
"If we give them each one, then we may have a tie."
"And, some families, particularly..." he looked to Eathon, "have only have one anyway."
"I say we make it only one."
Eathon spoke up then, "So, the 5 judges will divide the area in Vin's shadow into 5 ambers, place a jewel in each, and set each person to rule with the goal of collecting all of the jewels. I mean 6 ambers."
Andrevo spoke up, "Then we do a tie breaker."
Samba had a question, "I'm sorry, which family had two contestants?"
I and Andrevo answered at the same time, "The Donaghues...Fionn and Siobhan."
"I think it should just be five, one per family. Simply to denote impartiality." So now he changed his mind? I thought the subject had been dealt with.
Andrevo spoke up, "How is that impartial?"
Eathon meant to end it. "Then another vote. Only one contestant per family. yay or nay."
Samba continued, "After all, we have six contestants and five families."
Vin proposed a compromise. "Perhaps we offer them a chance to compete together, to decide among themselves who will take the crown if they win?"
I shook my head at Vin's proposal as Andrevo added his vote. "Nay."
Samba continued again, "At some point, that would mean some family has two contestants."
I added my vote, "Nay to Eathon."
"I think...As many contestants as available, but only five faux jewels."
Vin frowned as Eathon spoke up, "Then nays have it. Perhaps 7 jewels."
I proposed, "One jewel."
Samba responded to Eathon, "Now we're getting silly."
I kept going, "Then there can be no ties, no favoritism."
Fiona spoke up, "The goal isn't the jewels, but how they act, the person who gets all the jewels might lose."
Vin responded, "One jewel creates a race for time and not strategy."
Andrevo added, "One per contender is fine."
Fiona continued, "If Unicorn forbid someone just slaughtered all their siblings and picked up the jewel, we don't wan them to rule."
Samba agreed, "Yes, whoever has the most jewels goes to the judgest and declares why they feel they won."
Eathon decided to put the matter to rest, "One per contender. yay or nay? Yay."
Andrevo, "Yay."
Samba asked a question, "We have six contenders, correct?"
I answered yes to him as Vin put in his vote, "Yay."
"Before we decide, does one need to get all or majority? Well, never mind."
I continued, "Tell them they need them all. It's not the point."
"Well, wait, we've been tossing so many ideas around, what is the point? and don't say 'to be the best.'"
"To see how they win."
"Well, how does one win?"
Andrevo nodded to him, "Having the most at the end."
"After all, if one doesn't collect any jewels and says they won..."
Fiona added, "The point is to observe how they act in the competition, then the judges will reach a consensus on who should rule."
"Thank you."
Andrevo spoke up then, "It ends when we call for it; ideally a set time."
"The most wins, then yes, one per contender (even though that vote is over). So..."
I added then, "It can't simply be who gets the most."
"Do we have a specific time limit?"
Andrevo groaned as Fiona answered, "Having the most jewels does not show the qualities we seek." Samba was definitely being...dense this evening.
"I understand that."
Andrevo spoke again, "The contest is to see who has the most; we don't judge by that."
"I'm just saying, what are we to tell them?"
Fiona answered, "I understand Andrevo now."
Andrevo repeated himself again, then Samba seemed to understand, "Get the most or maybe not, just have a good bullshit story."
Eathon continued, "OK, then when does it start and when does it end??
Vin interjected a comment about the previous discussion, "The one with the most jewel is likely greatest in either arms or magic, yet that is only two of the qualities we seek. Those other two are base on how they act."
I answered Eathon, "I say give them a month in the shadow...but we shouldn't take more than a week or so here." We needed to end this, to get it over with.
Andrevo had a slightly different proposal, but the same time line, "Let us start it two days from now; and ends 5 more past that for an even week to conclude."
Eathon addressed Vin, "How short can you make a week, Vin?"
He answered, "Make the 5 days here be 30 days in shadow, is the acceptable?"
Andrevo answered Vin, "And scale that time appropriate in the Shadow, yes."
Samba had a change to the proposal, "I say we start immediately and give them a week. After all, if they aren't able to deal with non-preparedness, how would they be the best?"
I answered Samba, "If we are doing it in shadow, a month is better." Give us some time to observe them.
Eathon disagreed, "I dislike allowing a week to pass in Amber."
Samba conceded to me, "Alright, but I say we start now."
I answered Eathon, "What about 2 or 3 days?"
He replied, "If we can control time, we should work it to our advantage."
Vin spoke up, "I can control it so that 30 days in shadow is but one day here."
Samba spoke up, "And Eathon has a point, we are losing six of our strongest in this, w hat if our enemies choose to attack now?"
He did have a point, "Then one day."
Eathon agreed, "I can agree with a day."
Samba tried to summarize, "So our two decisions."
I thought I should add something about our protections, "I have forces sufficient to protect Amber for a day...as do others."
"When should it start...."
Eathon answered, "Now."
"...and how long (their time) should it be, I agree with now."
I answered him then, "Now, and 30 days."
Eathon corrected me, "Well, when we prepare the shadow."
I chuckled as Vin proposed a change, "I propose that they have one day here to prepare and politic for who will accompany them. Then we travel to the shadow and start the competition."
Samba spoke up, "We can delay this conversation while we prepare this."
I smiled, "They are already preparing, Vin." They were probably listening to every word we said.
"Are we denying them whatever powers they have to communicate with us once they're in the shadow?"
Eathon had a proposal, "How about we announce to them the contest, and it starts when we are finished preparing the shadow, giving them a few hours to politic and prepare."
Unfortunately, Samba's proposal was just not advisable. "We have to keep some lines of communication open. Just in case."
"I think they'll have plenty of time to politic once there."
"The few hours while we prepare shouldn't be too much. And we do have to do so. As well, I seriously doubt that any of them don't already know what the contest is." They would be foolish not to.
Vin answered our changes, "I an agree to that."
"And are we all agreed on 30 days?"
Eathon, as seemed usual this evening, attempted to end this question as well, "Then lets vote on my idea, if it fails we'll vote on the next. yay or nay."
Samba raised his hand, "In case I didn't make that clear."
Eathon, "Yay."
Vin had another proposal, "As for communication I propose that all communication to any of us from those competing is sent to all. Yay."
I voted Yay. Samba interrupted, "Wait, what was your idea?"
Vin clarified his vote, "Sorry, Yay to Eathon."
I answered Samba, "30 days in shadow, to start once we're finished preparing."
Samba continued, "I think...well wait. When do we tell them...is my question."
Eathon answered, "We announce to them the contest, and it starts when we are finished preparing the shadow, giving them a few hours to politic and prepare." In answer to Samba, he said, "Now."
"I would like to tell them of the competition as soon as it starts...so Nay."
"But we have four yays."
"Although I think I'm already out-voted. Yeah. Fuck y'all." He smiled.
I leaned over to whisper to Andrevo, "Tell your Uncle I wish him the best of luck...well played. Oh, and before we leave, I need to talk to Agnes or Joan. I need a trump gate."
Eathon clarified his statement, "I'm sorry it was 3 yays."
"Still. Majority. And what was the other thing we were gonna vote on?"
"Alright lets announce the contest and find the fastest way to vin's realm. I believe we are all in agreement." Vin nodded to Eathon.
"I thought someone had something else to vote on. Well. Okay."
Vin spoke, "We do have the issue of communication still."
"so we're all agreed. Ah. There we go. I wasn't hallucinating."
I spoke up, "Any communications should be sent to all, I can agree to that."
Eathon asked, "What's the issue with communication?"
Masamba looked to Andrevo, "And I thought I was the apathetic one."
Vin answered Eathon, "The issue is what communication we allow between the judges and the contestants."
Samba put in his opinion, "I think they should have whatever options they were allowed."
Andrevo finally spoke up, "I agree; no secrets to any of the judges."
"After all, cunning, et cetera...oh...well..."
"Ultimately I don't think it matters."
Eathon brought the matter to a vote, "No secrets among judges, yay or nay. Yay."
Samba continued speaking, "Isn't bribery a skill in Leadership and slash or Arcance Masters. Nay." He smiled, "And tie goes to the one with the most family members."
Vin answered, "Yay to the question."
"Aw man."
I had changed my mind, it could prove useful to us, "Nay."
"C'mon...no whammy! wait...yes!" He offered me a high-five, but I shook my head. That could be...painful. He beckoned me over, and I leaned to listen to him. "we totally gotta talk later, don't we?"
"Sure, but please don't touch me, it will hurt."
"Like, who the fuck is this Fionna?"
"My Great-Aunt."
"Ain't the first time i've heard that before. While we're at it, don't drink the potion if I hurt."
"I figured. Honestly, this is the first time I've been able to do this."
"I don't know what we're talking about. But, that's for later, huh?"
I turned back to Eathon speaking, "An official yay would be nice Andrevo, unless you changed your mind."
Samba spoke, "I say absences tends toward nay, what with wife-to-be and all."
Andrevo spoke up, "I have changed my mind; nay."
Samba jumped, "Wait, which side was I on?"
I needed to address Samba's other statement, "I would not presume to speak for him, anyway."
Eathon clarified, "Then their may be secrets among the judges. Shall we leave now?"
Samba spoke, yet again. He *was* feeling talkative today, "Shit. Actually, I think we should all just remind everyone. What we've agreed on. A test to get each jewel, one for each family." Andrevo managed to insert a No. "The contender is not allowed to ask the judges for assistance. I'm sorry, one for each contender."
I added, "And can only have the assistance of 2 others."
"Yes. And we tell them it's a test of getting each jewel. But truthfully, their actions are what's judged, not the amount if false trinkets. Started...Starting..I forgot the response...tomorrow? Ending 30 plus one days from now?"
"When we have prepared the shadow, in perhaps a couple of hours after it is announced."
"All right."
"Ending 30 days in shadow...one day in Amber."
"Perhaps...I am filibustering." I shoot him a look. We had been at this long enough. "So anyway..." He smiled, "One jewel per contender, and there's six of such. They can speak with any judge they wish in secret, But asking a judge for assistance is taboo."
Eathon spoke then, "Then everyone who is not a judge, leave here, I'll announce to them the contest, then come here and we will prepare."
"Aren't you a judge?" Vin nodded in agreement with Eathon.
I stood, as we seemed to be done, and walked over to Joan and Agnes. I told them I had a favor to ask of one of them, and would be stopping by after we finished to speak with them.
Eathon answered Samba, "Yes, but someone has to tell them what it is. Is everyone agreed?"
Andrevo nodded while Samba continued. "Then it should be the one of us who doesn't have direct links." He looked to Fiona.
Vin stood up and walked over to Joan as well, "Before we continue I wish to apologize for earlier, but I did not wish for this to be a place of conflict."
Eathon answered Samba, "The judges can't compete, so its probably us who should tell them what it is."
Joan was polite to Vin, "Yes, well, I suppose it was for the best."
Samba pointed out to Eathon, "...Us" as Joan, Agnes, and Fiona left.
Vin spoke up, "I don't see a reason Eathon can't explain the competition. It isn't like he is going to change it or anything."
I looked to Samba, "I could announce it, if you wish. I don't really care, personally, who does it."
Samba started to answer, "Well..."
Eathon, however, did not seem to want to waver on the point, "I will."
"We just said we...oh...could have secrets. Alright. He can announce it."

Eathon left, and returned a few minutes later. "What is the fastest way to the shadow and what do we need to do to prepare?"
I spoke up, "I have something I need to arrange for before we leave."
Andrevo added something as well, "I have a disposable army ready to be placed there to fight with, over, and in." Interesting...
"To prepare, I don't think we need much. Vin, you said your shadow as built for competition? Is there somewhere we can observe? I can create just about anything we would need."
Samba felt he had to add his own observations, "I uh... could..."
Vin answered me, "Yes, an observation location exists."
"Turn into a frog." Samba cursed to himself. "We have to observe this, don't we?"
He continued, "Travel could be done quickly with sorcery or trump. Trump being the least difficult."

I walked back to my seat, brushing up against Samba and poking him as I did. He smiled, briefly "melting" away from my touch, only to stop and snicker. "You okay?"
"I'm fine."
"A little bit, why?"
"Can ya subtly bring yer hand to yer mouth?" ok...
"Can give ya more medicine right now."
A kind thought. "I'm not that tired. But thank you."

Vin kept speaking, "Once there we can craft the shadow to match what we desire"
"Then do we really need to bring anything?"
Eathon spoke up, "Then why don't you travel to your home with sorcery and we'll trump to you." An excellent idea.
Vin answered my question, "Everything can be provided there. Though it would be wise the defenses of Amber be put in place before we leave."
I spoke up, "I don't have a trump of Vin. I will take care of that. The defenses, that is."
Samba spoke up then, an intelligent comment even, "Hey, um, aren't our defenders either contenders or Judges?"
Vin answered me, "I do not believe a trump of me exists"
Samba added, "It ain't in the royal deck"
Eathon spoke up, "we have lots of good trump artists in this family. We can ask Agnes."
I answered Samba as well, "I will move some of my troops here...they can notify me, and I others, of an attack. As well, Paki's troops are already in place."
Vin sighed, "That is perhaps best. My family has seen the need to reclaim me."
Andrevo spoke up then. "Things that need be done but cannot be done now."
Eathon asked "so shall we go?"
I needed to get these troop movements taken care of. "I will join you shortly, once I see to the defenses."
Vin replied to Eathon, "We can go."
Samba replied, "There are some defenses we might not think about. A certain, uh, nearby person told me about those nearby forces."
Andrevo left the room without further comment. I replied to Samba, "Then come with me, Samba.
He nodded, "Certainly, I was about to ask you the same." With that taken care of, I left as well. I decided to talk with Andrevo. His mood had seemed...foul when he left. I tried to trump him, but he did not accept, even after several attempts. A few moments later, I felt a contact in return. If he was going to be that way...I didn't accept. Soon, a servant stopped me and told me that Andrevo wished to speak with me in person, and was still about. I went to meet him. On my way, I ran into Eathon, who handed me the sketch of Vin, so that we could use it, and told me he and Vin were leaving together.
I found Andrevo in the dining hall, "You wished to see me, dear?"
"You wished to talk with me, I heard."
"I wanted to know if there was a problem, or if you were simply tired."
"No, I had left to get the sketch that wasn't ready."
I walked over to him, laying my hand on his. "This one? Eathon gave it to me. He's leaving now. I need to talk to Masamba, then move the troops, and I'll be ready to leave." I smiled slightly, "I guess we're stuck together for the next month, now."
"I will meet you there; I also have some things to set in order. It shall be a busy one."
"Still, I am sure we can sneak a moment or two. Um...I guess you will make your own arrangements?"
"I will, to be most proper."
"Then I will take the sketch with me, for Masamba and I." He nodded, "There is a small box in my room, full of spice. Will you grab it?"
"Of course."
"Thank you. I will see you soon." We shared a romantic moment together, before Paki came in. He asked us if the plans were to have everyone leave Amber, and I told him it was, but that I would be moving troops here to bolster the defenses. Paki seemed satisfied with this answer, and left us. We, too, parted ways, and I went to find Masamba.
I happened upon Masamba in the halls before beginning my search in earnest.
"So, Juliette."
"I heard the mountains of Dreverwhatever were cold again."
I laughed, "What makes you say that?"
"There was quite a quiet storm just recently at the end of things. Please tell me I'm wrong." His concern was sweet.
"He didn't seem upset with me...quiet the opposite in fact." I could feel my face warming as I remembered.
Samba thought for a moment, "Should I start packing snow-shoes?"
"You have totally and completely lost me."
"As in..."
"Just be blunt with me...really."
"The chill air was aimed toward me. No. I get metaphors, I can do this. Shapeshifter and all."
"I think he was just...frustrated." Towards the end, Samba wasn't high on my list either.
"Ah. Should I ask about what?"
"I also suspect he may not be too happy with you right now, for other reasons."
Samba seemed taken aback. "Really?"
"Just the repetition."
"Not horribly so, but he was none to pleased with my little...adventures."
"Oh. Oh! Speaking of which."
"And he probably wishes you wouldn't take his wife-to-be to her deathbed again."
He laughed, stopping for a moment, then laughed again. "I also wish she wouldn't take me to my deathbed, too."
"I might have let it slip I wasn't alone in that little adventure."
I smiled. "Like I said, nothing too serious."
"He woulda found out. He's a smart dude. By the way..."
"Did you enjoy your wine?"
"There was a concoction left for you. And yes, I did."
Ah, yes. That. "With your letter...yes, I got it."
"He is a most gracious host."
"He is indeed. And a gentleman."
"And I hate to keep bringing up the subject. But said medicine," he wiggled his fingers, "I should have given it an expiration date."
I'll have to keep that in mind. "Oh, ok."
"It's a cheap substitute for...Um...Solutions I have given you before."
"I see." He cracked his knuckles, as if exercising them almost. I almost forgot to tell him. "Oh! The whole don't touch me thing."
"Yeah. I actually forgot about it. But yeah."
"I was able to call the pattern to mind, finally. Pattern + Chaos = ouch."
"Ah, okay. Oh, trust me. I know."
"As do I. That was not a pleasant walk, by any stretch."
Samba looked pained. "I am very truly sorry, Julie."
"It is not your fault."
"And having elements of chaos doesn't not deny one the pattern. But anyway..."
"I think it was...the active element, if that makes sense."
"Actually. It does. Shit. I was a fool to think I made a complete, safe change. Oh, speaking of pleasant thoughts, You saw Mother in a most agreeable mood. That was," he looked around us, "That was after about a good 30some of my siblings died walking the pattern. On the plus side..."
It was almost enough to make my blood boil again, "I heard."
"I could easily make duplicates of myself."
"I am truly sorry, and if I never see that woman again, it would be too soon."
"Well, I do suspect my sense of humor is not entirely un-inherited. The conversations I had with her were...eerie."
I interrupted him. "Masamba, forgive my bluntness, but I have a question."
"As in, a darker version of myself might have been saying them. Go ahead."
"If I were to meet her again, alone perhaps, my temper might not be so easily appeased."
"Don't. You will most likely destroy aspects of her, be they limbs or new brothers or sisters. But she doesn't fear The Blade as I do."
"For good reason?"
"She doesn't have my father's blood mixed with hers."
"My own weapons are still formidable."
"That's what that..." he wagged his fingers at the Pattern Blade, "...thing does. Well. See, You saw all those multiples of her will, correct?"
"And you know the amounts of personal limbs I have sacrificed. I can only imagine."
"All the more to kill again later."
"Well," he furrowed his brow, "I don't know what to say about her. She's done magic that's much like my own, only better."
" Unless you wish me to stay my hand, Samba." I would do it for him, if he wished.
"Hell, shit I've never even thought up. Oh, no, I don't. Go ahead. It's just I believe she has enough safeguards set in place to be unkillable. After all..."
"That may well be the case, but I would not wish to cause you sorrow."
"Oh. No. Go ahead. The only sorrow that would be felt is if any harm came to you." I nodded, "Unless...Remember when we first fled, what was the name of the place we went to?"
"My home?" I suppose you could call it that. It was as much that as any other place I had lived. "Arrakis."
"Okay. Sorry. She is a shape-shifter after all. Hell, I'm still not sure you're just not a creation she has made to test my own devotions."
"I assure you, Samba, I am quite real."
"Oh, I believe you and all. Sometimes, I wish I never knew what it was like to be a shape-shifter. Once, I thought about erasing a painful memory. I never did, cuz that opened floodgates, which has left me second-guessing myself forever since, after all..."
"And I could imagine that the manipulation of ones body chemistry could become...quite addicting." I know it would...and could be if I wasn't careful...for me.
"Who knows what i may have done and eliminated from my memory. Oh, it is."
"There is no point in worry about that which you can not change."
He looked at me, "Do you want me to destroy the grape juice?"
I smiled, "No." I would allow myself that luxury.
He smiled, as well, then frowned. "I will not give it to you again." Then he snorted, "Cherry, on the other hand..."
I laughed, "I think it would be acceptable...as long as it were not too often."
"Oh, it won't." He laughed as well, "In fact, it is very easy to become...um...part of it. Do you remember the last time you saw me honestly, legitimately sad?"
"Not really."
"Neither do I. Not that that's a bad thing. But shit. It's okay to be addicted to something you control the flow over. But...anyway..."
I should talk to Agnes before too soon. "I need to take care of something real quick, if you would excuse me?"

I went to find Agnes, to ask about the trump gate. She explained to me that moving the troops here, and holding open the gate, was something I could do myself with the gate of Amber. It would, however, be very taxing. Armed with that information, I went back to find Masamba.
"You alright?"
"Yeah, but I'm gonna need your help. In order to get the troops here." He could either assist himself, or at least keep me up until we were done."
"Um. Three Questions: Troops? Here? And me, how?"
"I am bringing some of my troops from Arrakis to here to help defend while we are gone. I can use my trump of Amber to send them through, but I may not have enough...stamina."
"So, I need your help, either with the sending...or the stamina. If you don't have anything else to do here, let's go."

I took him to the airfield, where I borrowed one of Paki's jets. It would be the fastest way to get there. Once in Arrakis, we took turns transferring as many of my troops as I though I could get away with to Amber. I set them in Forest Arden, and around the Castle. I also made sure to position some guarding the Pattern room. Once everything was in place, and I had coordinated with Paki, we set off for Vin's shadow.

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