After we finished, I went looking for Samba, and caught up to him maybe 10 minutes later.
"Hey! These times are a-changin'"
I smiled. "What the hell was that all about, Mister?"
As usual, he laughed. "So I shouldn't summon the Logrus in the Castle. I get it now. I owed a buddy a drink, I figured I'd surprise him (or his bartender) with a bar of gold."
Interesting. I raised an eyebrow as we talked. "I see. Siobhan and I had been discussing... succession when you interrupted."
"Ah, how..." He looked around, "What the fuck are we gonna do?" He cleared his throat and smiled. "Currently, It's nice out, let's take a brief walk."
"Sure. I could use it too." We headed for the gardens.
"All lies gone: I was for Otanashi. Which means I'll have to come to terms with Paki. And yes, I don't care about discretion.
"Maybe we should talk to him."
"Well. That was my plan. However, I don't think he doesn't think I'm a traitor. If that makes sense."
"It makes sense," Perfect sense.
"By the way, my previous backing," he made Siobhan twinkle in his face for a moment, "is gone."
"Any particular reason?"
"The realization...and this previous incident wasn't the reason...that she, as a "Holy Person" might be diametrically opposed to, well, half of me, or, a certain sibling/worshiper of ours. And wait, i didn't mean that to sound like I had some kind of special relationship with him...just...you know what I mean."
"I understand what you're saying, and that's my concern as well. One she feels I over exaggerate."
"If we look at history, we have good reason." He looked around again. "I don't think I told you about what I did after we left when we were young."
"She said I can't separate play from reality." Now that he brought it up... "No, you haven't. Would there be a place I'd have only your attention? After all, I tend to get distracted."
"I don't know for sure. I suppose in my lands we might be alone."
"Fine with me."
"It would be fastest to go through your brother."
"Or we could hell-ride..."
"Unless you have a trump for the courts..."
"My brother? oh! Wait...my brother. Sorry. Yes." He nodded towards a shady area, and reached into his pocket, pulling out...nothing. He fumbled around for a bit, then... "Shit. Well, i think some dock patrons might have something to keep them happy for awhile. Actually..."
I interrupted. "I have a card for him if you need it."
"I could kill two-oh." He smiled. "Do you want to make the grand entrance? Or do you want me to carry you across the threshold?"
"Although I have to admit you have me intrigued." How had he lost his deck, again? I smiled. "Grand Entrances are good."
He laughed. "And, well, I do promise to find my old deck when time permits."
"Did you lose the one you got the other day already?"
He smiled and sighed. "I SO had it stored away pretty well. Except, well, stuff happened. However, I won't be entirely callous, I will hunt it down. Actually. Can I see your Eathon card?"
I smiled and handed him the card. "Only if you take me with you."
"Oh, I'm just going to send a message. We could walk faster than the time it'd take Eathon to sober up enough to care what I've had to said. They're somewhere in the docks, I just want to start the rumor amongst my thieves that I'm coming after them."
An interesting tactic. I could see that Samba hadn't really gotten to *know* Amber very well. "I see."
"One sec, Julie." He held up the card, and put a big smile on his face.
I mouthed a question to him. "What?"
He replied in the same manner. "Appearance, haven't con-tact-ted--Hey! I'm better...Holy shit, man...I got shit to do, you got the night open? "A few" might be a long few, but I will. I take it we're not gonna be in the docks? Can I ask you to start a rumor subtly?" I laughed as he talked with Eathon. "Try to, uh, drunkenly burst out that I'm pissed that someone took my trumps. But I've calmed down cuz I know who did it and I know how to find them...Thank you. Hell, next two times are on me. And I promise they will be fun! Later man. uh, Godspeed!" He saluted, and put down the card.
"Oh yeah. Do you remember the last time I lost conscious? When I was born. Anyway...Shall we go through our or my familial friend?"
"What?" He handed me Eathon's card back. "Ok."
"I'm ready. We were going to your place, right?"
"Yeah." I took out Naxx's card, and Samba leaned over to look at it.
"He's been gaining weight since his last cards were made."
I concentrated for a moment, and soon was greeted by Naxx. "G'morning Juliette."
"Good Morning to you. Do you mind if Samba and I pay a short visit?"
Samba butted in from behind me. "And for a shape-shifter, I mean come on!"
Naxx continued, ignoring his brother's comment. "Of course, when should I expect you?"
"I don't suppose now would be convenient? And if you wouldn't mind pulling us through?"
Samba coughed as Naxx replied. "Sure."
I turned to Samba for a moment. "Ready?" He nodded, and taking his hand, and Naxx's, we went through.
Samba was the first to speak. "Hey, Naxx"
I smiled at Naxx as Samba nodded. "Thank you for having us."
"What can I do for you?"
Since I was here, it would be good to see what had been going on. "How fare things since last we talked?"
"Not much has changed."
"No change on the front? Have any other Amberites been here?"
He smiled. "It hasn't been that long. No others."
"Good. Can you tell me if any others come?"
"Sure, can I ask why?"
Hmmm. What to say. "Events are...happening in Amber that I believe might affect things here. Soon, we meet to choose a ruler."
Samba joined the conversation. "Would you mind if I were to have something to say, Juliette?"
An odd request. What was he up to this time. "No..."
He turned to Naxx "Your services in accepting us have been received and I am in your debt. Our desires require us to move on, but you shall be rewarded. And Dad liked me more, bitch."
I snorted, as Samba smiled at his brother.
"Ha, dad liked me more, you're were a momma's boy."
"Dude! Yeah, yer right. But Prince of Amber over here!"
Naxx smiled. In some ways, I had to admit I was, perhaps, a bit jealous of their relationship. "Now get outta here. Lords of Chaos Represent."
"Aight, payment comin'"
I gasped in mock surprise as Samba bowed to me. "Oh! May I request a moment of time twixt myself and my brethren?"
"Please, feel free to beat his ass."
Samba laughed, and started to walk away, then turned, giving Naxx an bear hug. Yeah...jealous. Naxx smiled. "You're not trying to start a wrestling match again are you?"
"Oh, I will."
Unfortunately, as much as I was enjoying the camaraderie, we did have things to do. "You know, some of us have places to be...boys."
"But yer dream idol goddess here might mind. See?" He gave Naxx another hug, smiling. "When did you stop being so much older than me?"
"When you grew up."
"haha, so it ain't happened yet. Later man!"
"Thank you Naxx. And keep your calendar open. I think it would be fun to invite you to the wedding." I winked.
"I'd be glad to attend."
Samba coughed and snorted. "The air here... Chaotic... hot."
I laughed, and started for the door. "Let's get going." Samba followed me, and we started to move towards Arrakis. I didn't bother to get faster transportation, as it would not be far from here. Samba was still smiling as we walked. "He's why I don't support Our Priestess. And, thing's've changed, I can get us a car or dragon or flying elephant or something so you can buy while I fly."
"It won't be far."
"Once we're there, I'll try and cut everyone off. It's the best bet we have."
Cant you get a card of this place? Or would that involve an artist ya don't trust. Speaking of which, I have yet to think up a wedding present." Always the joker.
It would involve an artist, and he can't do it. Or at least that's what he said." When I arrived in the shadow, I conjured myself a stillsuit, and we made our way through the desert, occasionally fighting off a worm as we walked, Samba's footsteps not accustomed to the rhythm of the desert. I took her to the sietch where I kept residence, greeting some of my people as I entered. They were still reverent for their hero...it seemed my work was going well.
Samba smiled as we entered my rooms. "Should I take this as a compliment that my family has gotten to you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Once one group of savages starts worshiping you..." He turned to the Fremen who was serving us. "No Offense."
I hadn't thought of it that way before, but he was right. I laughed. "It does have its advantages. My aunt would probably say I'm being hypocritical."
"You know, every time you say your aunt or cousin, it doesn't fill me with answers."
I smiled. "I know who I'm talking about. Siobhan."
"AH. Now I do, and I don't believe she has any weight in calling someone else hypocritical. And," he looked around again, "Now that we mean business. Otanashi: Two things. He's already king of a real kingdom. And, his standing army has shortest journey to the throne. I mean, shit, I'm not in bed with the guy, but look at our options."
Too close to Amber for my comfort. "Yeah... I think he's the biggest threat."
"Well, Threat is dependable. My second choice. Actually, I told you my first," he smiled, "you tell me yours."
"I think my first choice is Paki, as I outlined before." Samba laughed. "A compromise."
"So, you stole my words from my mouth, and as you've seen, no love lost between him and I."
" I heard I'm good at stealing hearts too. What is your issue with him, if I can ask?"
"If I could summon an exclamation mark over my head, I would. Actually, my feeling is that it's the past, and I was going to attempt to reconcile. However, I have yet to do that."
"Perhaps I can assist, in some way."
"But, it's the whole 'I hate my family' vs. his 'he hates the (believed) traitor' vs. my 'he fucking shot at me when I tried to reason with him' thing."
It was hard to keep myself from laughing at that last remark. "You have to admit it was a little tense when he shot at you."
"Yeah, the thing is, I'm willing to let it go. I dunno how well he is."
"I could broach the subject to him..." I might be able to help.
"well, if we go by Otanashi's...uh...agenda, I'll be talking to him soon anyway. However, I will appreciate any...uh...cushioning that might be given. Just let him know I have no beef, but...that still leaves us with three wild cards. One is green, one is red-head (no offense) and one is gay."
I didn't know how much I would be able to help, but Paki would probably at least take some consideration of my words. "And I would be interested in any more information you have about Otanashi."
"Not much, outside of Honor. Remember that he cut off my legs? Well, it's only cuz I, uh, took that much from him." That explains much, although I didn't want to think about how Samba had done so. "And now that we're even, we're even. Actually, that's why he took a shine to me. Is that my willingness was perceived to him as being an honor thing, which, though I try to be a lout, even in my asshole definitions, an eye is still an eye, and 50 lbs of leg is still 50 lbs of leg." That was a story that would need to be heard. "My theory: if he were to honestly lose whatever contest is established, he will not be a problem. The funny thing is, no matter what the contest, it's not who wins, but who loses. Otanashi is the only one I don't worry about losing. Actually, Paki might be lumped in there, too, as I don't perceive them of being sore-loser unreasonable revenge."
"I think Ambrose would be ok, depending on who he lost to."
"Ambrose, yes. Agnes, Andrevo, yes."
"But Joan? Speaking of Joan...What's up with you at her side?"
What the hell was he talking about. "what? Me at her side?"
"Like...someone summons the Logrus...and the left and right hand of doom come after me."
So who was left and who was right? "You mean Siobhan."
"OH. Yeah. Sorry."
"We were having a family discussion..."
"...And she sensed a disturbance."
"...which was basically me telling her she was a fanatic, and her telling me I was childish."
He laughed. "This may belittle things, but I agree with you not just cuz we're friends."
"I think that my family and I may not be on the best of terms right now."
"Well, I know my fam...oh. Can I see your trump deck?"
What is he up to now? "I suppose..." I handed it to him.
Samba flipped through them, picking one out, and handing the rest back. "This is mum. You DO NOT want to meet up with her." He tried to rip the card up, cursing as he failed.
"Excuse me?!" What did he think he was doing?
That mattered not. "It was *my* card, thank you."
"I've found out she's done some pretty bad shit."
"Like what? And don't you dare try to rip up any more...some of them are...special." If he had touched my brother, or grandmother...or dad.
"Don't use it, put it somewhere away."
"I would not dream of it if I didn't know." He handed the card back to me, and waited to continue until it was away. I put the card at the bottom of the deck, checking to make sure the others were all there. "I have learned I would have plenty more brothers and sisters if it wasn't for her."
"I'm sorry to pry, but what? Tell me to fuck off if you want."
He laughed, then wiped his eyes. "She is still alive. She is hiding. She is powerful. She is willing to sacrifice her children. You can see why I'm a little scared."
How...I didn't know what to say. "Sacrifice? How horrific. Understandably." And I wasn't fond of my family...
"I don't want to go into it, but don't use that card. And if it takes a shine to you, get rid of it. It might want to destroy you for whatever selfish gains." He smiled.
"If it takes a shine to me..." I shook my head. "Sometimes...I hate this family."
"Which, in turn, might make things much more or much less open toward Paki. Yes, so do I." He looked me in the eyes. "There is no one I am afraid of in this family except for her."
For once in his life, it seemed, Samba would be serious. It must mean a lot to him. "I see."
"I mean, I'm no badass. I know i can be taken down," he nodded to my sword arm, "or I'm insignificant to some."
"Do you think she is allied with Brand?"
"No. Her number one interest is her."
I suppose that was a relief. "I see. Let's talk about this more over dinner."
"But she is the only one who I can see destroying others of us just cuz she can. No."
No? "Just because she can?"
"I won't speak of her again. She has reasons I don't understand myself."
I could respect that. "If you wish, although I meant the general subject."
"But I've seen, a, a brother mine, who is now no more."
I reached over to put my hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry."
He coughed, straightening himself and patting my hand. "I'm sorry. I do not feel safe mentioning her ever again. If you ask me again I will feign ignorance. It is safer for both of us."
I nodded. "I know what it is to lose a brother...and I understand." Indeed I did.
Samba smiled weakly. "Anyway, on a lighter note. Who's gonna kill who to be king? or queen?
I chuckled some, trying to lighten the mood. "Did Otanashi come to you, or you to him?"
"He came to me. He perceives me a man of honor, and as of yet, I have not betrayed his ideas. In fact, the one task he assigned me to, I achieved much quicker than he thought. His... uh... offspring."
"Perhaps I should speak with him," At least try to find out what his angle was.
"I hate to be a partisan. But, well, he's been a king of a prosperous country, and he has a nearby standing army."
"Yeah, but king of two countries?"
"Two mirroring countries. When have Amber and Rebma ever been in conflict?"
He did have a point. "Very true"
"Granted, I am more than willing to see arguments against. I am not, um, 'married to him' as it were."
"I just don't really know much about him."
"I spoke with him to get to know him better."
"So, something that does come to mind, with all this talk..."
"To know him better than whats in the history books...yeah?"
"Well, this is supposed to be a competition..."
"What the hell are we gonna have them do?"
"Ya know, I have no fucking idea. Actually, I do have one idea. 'Let Julliette and the others who give a shit figure it out.' But I don't think that'll pass."
Great plan, as usual. "Thanks."
"Um. I mean, i don't think it'll pass cuz I'm too passive. Either way, my opinions are going to be balanced by Paki's. Which is why I want to get to know him better."
"Well, only one of you will be 'judging.'"
"Well...therein lies the problem. I don't want to come to blows with him again. I want to like the guy."
"Maybe if I talk to him first, then set up a meeting with you."
"Yes. Though, from what I've heard, he's not ruled by passion. So whatever beef he had with me, emotionally is over. I just hope he doesn't think I'm still trying to kill him. Which reminds me, I need to find my dopplegangar."
"Peter...the one that assaulted him."
"Who exactly is Peter..." This was a question that needed more examination.
He smiled. "I don't know. If you were a shape-shifter, it would be easier to explain. But he is a personality I created who is me yet is not me."
"Um...I see, I guess." I didn't. At all.
"He is the only one I created whom I didn't have complete control of. And, well, I've learned my lesson. I do plan on hunting him down. But I might have other ways of bringing him back to me. Either way, he is, for the most part, a non-issue (I'd like to think)."
"For now, at least."
"By knowing me, I know him. And he's buying his time. And I know he has no direct interest in the matters of the throne. When it comes to eliminating the enemies to Amber, then I shall seek him down." I nodded. "But as of now, we can't do the latter without doing the former."
"We need to get this throne out of the way so we can concentrate on the enemies of Amber."
"Much as I'd like."
"Yes. You know what?"
"We forgot to ask Naxx how things are in the Courts."
Well, I did ask him one or two things, but not about the Courts directly. "True."
"Granted, he gets pissy when he gets upset, so it can't be TOO bad. Then again, he did just meet his God-Empress."
Why does he always bring that up? "I can talk to him again later. It's not quite that bad."
"Actually, we should both talk to him, as I know we'd both get radically different responses." I smiled. He was probably right. "Neither one or the other closer to the truth."
"And this is me talking about someone I love, so I'm not just trying to be an ass."
"Well, I mean, he is my brother." He blushed.
"Yeah...I didn't really get to know mine very well. I miss him now."
"I don't mean this to sound rude. Did you love your parents?"
A sore subject, dear Samba. "My mother wasn't always around...I think she was somewhat ashamed of me. But my father...every time I was sick, every sniffle, every bruise...he was there." Damn him! He was going to make me cry if we kept going on.
He held out his arm, trying to comfort me. A sweet gesture. "I'm sorry." I leaned against him for a moment, taking in his strength, then sat up. "I... I didn't mean to bring up...I...uh..."
"See, Naxx and I hated mom and dad. That was our bond." I nodded. "I mean...he taught me how to shape-shift. I mean, like, compare that to using your sword. That's why I'm so close to Naxx, more so than anyone else. And, no offense, more so than you." He turned red. "Um... sorry."
As much as Samba tried to act like he didn't most of the time, he did care. "I understand. Forgive me for sounding maudlin, but you know who taught me to fight, who pushed me to be more than I was?"
"Er... no, sorry."
"My grandmother, and I didn't even know it was her until she was dieing." I shook my head. "Enough of this pity party."
"Oh. Whoa. Yes. So. I... I didn't know this was all personal for you. But I am now taking that into consideration. Your plan again, I hate to make you repeat."
I had to get it off my back, to tell someone. "While we were apart, I had a tutor, a mentor. I didn't know exactly who it was, but it was definitely an Amberite."
"I remember the main part."
"That's what she meant when she said she raised me for this." He smiled, and then it started to fade. "Until that moment, I hated her for taking everything from me and giving it to my brother."
"I knew there wasn't a reason I was so worried you so readily took the... uh... item."
"Thanks for your faith. I think you're the only one who has it."
"Oooh... Mountain still cold?" He brought that up...
"As for my plan, it was Paki as king, with me as Lord Protector, Ambrose and Fionn as Admirals, and Eathon as captain of the guard."
"There is one hole."
"It's warming up quite nicely, actually...but it's more that we're still learning about each other."
"And the whole is green and smells like fish...and I'm so not trying to make a crude joke."
There was my Samba. I laughed. "I understand."
"As for that, I'll say this but I know you know it already: Don't let that fuck hurt you."
I smiled warmly. "Are you going to be my big brother and beat the shit out of him when he breaks my heart?"
"Hahaha. Shit. Like I could beat up someone you couldn't. But, I mean, if you ask..."
"You might be able to if they overpowered me. I suspect you're stronger than I...and it means a lot to me you feel that way."
"But I also don't suspect that he'll overpower you, cuz, i mean, we've seen his sled."
"But he has been nothing but a perfect gentleman."
"And, yeah, I... I care fer what family I do have...and family doesn't mean blood-ties."
"Once we got over trying to size each other up, and tried to actually know each other."
"How'd that go?"
Once again, he tried to sneak that by me. I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you."
He blushed. "Ain't nuthin I don't think you'd do. Thankfully I haven't met any...uh... 'triflin' women."
I smiled, a bit shyly even. "It went well, we even kissed."
"well, none that I've fallen for...Oh. Wow. Granted, as of right now, that puts him on par with me. Which is leading us down a path I'd rather not think about."
I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. "Ours was slightly more...passionate." He snorted. "I mean, mine and his..."
"So you weren't embellishing when you said he was passionate?"
"He is a man of many passions...including, it seems, me."
"And yeah, I got the last part. Really? I mean, I could tell he cared about his painting and his country...and that fucking horse."
Oh god. That horse. "He hasn't taken the horse riding with me. Because I don't like him."
"You know what the problem is with that horse? Ever since the idea of a talking horse came into my brain, I Thought, 'Shit, that would be fucking fun to have.' Perhaps it's a man thing. But there've been many a drunken night that i-oh. Crap. Eathon!"
"I hate it...don't know why. What?"
"Oh, wait, it's only been, like, 4 minutes for him..." Samba explained he had set up an drinking date with Eathon, and should be going soon. I invited him to enjoy my hospitality, and we parted, for now.