Amber: Something Wicked

Session 3a: Imperial Entanglements

Cast of hero’s, Gaius Furious, Little Red, Lisette, and NPC Katsume

Session starts with William being called away to do something back home. The
cast is preparing to rest after a large party earlier in the evening celebrating
the “ascension” or pattern walk of Gaius’s mother Claudia and his sister Aula
Meridia. These two spend the night in pattern charged debauchery, as the rest of
the hero’s did on earth after their patternwalk.

The next day finds Lisette and her Trump skills being sought after by Katsume,
she agrees and shrinks herself down to work on one with Kitsune posing AND being
bodyguard of the tiny Lisette. Gaius is volunteered to lead Claudia and Aula on
their first training on shadow walking, which he introduces them to at least the
basics, though he finds managing the timeline himself to keep them on time quite
tiring. Little Red spends time researching through meditation searching for
links to overworld portals and the Tree.

Later in the afternoon Gaius has to call in Katsume to help him with more
advanced lessons for Mom and Sis, she arrives after a delay to make sure Lisette
is well guarded. Mom springs a surprise, She and Nana (empress Prima Octavia)
want to set up a Troop Maneuver exercise to practice moving troops through
shadow, which Gaius has NOT had experience with, this to last a couple of days
probably. Gaius and Katsume are volunteered with Lisette and Little Red
arriving and helping later.

After this the Royals of Rema are happy, Katsume departs for Avalon with the
Royals gratitude, Lisette heads to Shadow Earth to work on some Trump Closets
(also with gratitude), Little Red is thanked and heads to Avalon and Benedict to
continue his research. Gaius spends time with the Imperial Thaumaturgical
College and finding out what info they have on the spirit dragon.

Little Red links up with Benedict and agrees to some magical scouting later then
borrows a couple soldiers as guards and heads out into the woods to meditate on
the the Overworld. (Benedict was curious how the Imperials are doing (Gaius’s
family), to which LR makes a comment about Monkeys and Footballs). LR discovers
energy traces and tracks one to his Trump set, but is interrupted in his
research and experimenting by an attack, two hellmaids and two hellsteeds were
drawn to the area by his power usage. The hellmaids are defeated after killing
one of his guards and wounding the other, LR is wounded a bit, but manages to
distract the final hellmaid while the guard runs her through, he was trying to
take a prisoner but the guard advises against it, Benedict has not had much
success with any Hellmaid prisoners so far. So scratch the prisoner idea and LR
takes their heads for a speak with dead attempt later.
They drag back in to camp, which is already in an uproar, with Benedict having
felt the arrival of the Hellmaids. More patrols and sweeps head out and Benedict
himself goes out and kills more hellmaids that had arrived elsewhere.

Gaius heads to the shadow where he was captured and speaks with the Shadow
Dragon, which is stuck to a rock in the area he found his mother and the rest of
the searchers. The dragon is as helpful as possible, since he really has no
choice. and Gaius finds out that there were two, one who “volunteered” the
dragon and another who actually was the recipient of the dragons “mantle”
powers. Gaius asks if the dragon is interested in revenge, with the thought that
the dragon might be able to mantle him. the dragon declines pointing out the
fact that a battle between Gaius and the other primary wouldn’t leave much of
anything in between.

Lisette finishes her Trump Closets, and heads off to the underworld by trump.
she is looking for armor to go with her very nice sword.
dickers with the dwarves and discusses some of what the elders were doing here
historically.

Little Red calls elementals to do his bidding and creates an elemental ice chest
for the heads. also an air elemental or two to defend him against Arrows (the
Hellmaids nearly got him with some) Works on a way to do “instant on armor”,
once satisfied he walks a couple shadows away and questions the dead hellmaids
using their heads as leverage to call their spirits. gets much more info than
Benedict was able to, then has a fire elemental destroy the heads. He then heads
back to Benedict and reports all the info he got. B is thankful, and they
discuss the spying that the Hellmaids were doing using Crows.. this irritates
Benedict and he goes out and searches his camp and kills every crow he finds in
the area (using pattern). about this time Katsume arrives and finds out what is
going on and She does some crow killing too, though she cant find many. Back
together she is stunned when Benedict will not listen to her about the dwarves
and the underworld, says it is unimportant. She and Little Red discuss the
possibility of mental blockage from some source, possibly the pattern in Amber
since the one they all walked was in Tir and didn’t seem to block any of the
group.

Gaius arrives back in Rema to be shortly trumped by Lisette and then Little Red
who want to be trumped back in. He obliges and they spend a bit of time filling
each other in. The main points are Benedicts ignoring as unimportant the
wellsprings, and the Hellmaid’s GOD, which sounds like it might be another of
the 7 creators of THIS edition of creation, Dworkin and Oberon being two more,
along with the fact that Trump Decks have a tracer signal of some kind.

Lisette requests a location in Rema as a trump target, with the Royals
requesting arms and explosives for “self-defense”. Lisette advises a careful
advance of the technology in this world since it can unbalance the whole system,
finding a shadows that can provide smaller “jumps” in the technology level and
not trying to Jump straight to Shadow Earth level technology. Some items are
suggested for an elite team of royal guards, AK47 special bullets, grenades, 44
Magnum pistols for the royal family, flak vests, etc…
Aula is checked for trump artistry capability with decent results, she could
learn though she might not be an outstanding trump artist.
Lisette calls Flora (her mother) and with the assistance of the group she wants
to take her to the underworld to see the dwarves, and they also discuss
Lisette’s Trump skill of shrinking herself to make better trumps. Flora goes
along and Gaius goes too. Flora is impressed with the Tree, says something about
it sounds like a bunch of patterns going over a waterfall, and singing about
it….
the Dwarves welcome Flora and she requests permission to use some elementals to
lift her up, then clear a view of the tree from here, 100’s of miles away. she
gets that permission and after is quite impressed with the wellsprings. A
discussion follows, where the underworld and the Tree are topics of interest,
along with the findings on Benedict. Flora is no dummy and figures that SHE is
the experiment to find out what is going on. Lisette sets up Flora with the
dwarves for equipment and slyly tries to set her up for a dickering session like
the did to her. (the dwarves were messing with us at first, then they told us
the first item for a family member is free) So Flora requests that if She
forgets like Benedict, Lisette is to insist she walk the Tir pattern, also says
most enchantments can be burned off with a trump. Flora figures that the 7
creators each had a pattern, which puts 3 (4) in close proximity to Amber, maybe
more? and that Oberon might have been captured or killed since the Dwarves know
that there was a disagreement between the 7 , with Oberon coming out on top.

Flora heads back to the upperworlds and does “forget” about the importance of
the underworld and the wellsprings of creation.

the session ends there, with so many directions to go….

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Session 2: Cosmography For Dummies (GM infodump version)

Our Heroes: GAIUS, LISETTE, LITTLE RED and WILLIAM, and their companions Big Red and Katsume are in the Otherworld but do not know it.

Vigg (dwarf) lost at Poker to Lisette and agreed to make her a saber on the following day. The game had attracted a small crowd of dwarves; post-game this developed into a party. Platters of food came out of caves that had not smelled of food before. Kegs of beer were hauled out.

It turned out that Amberites didn’t socialize with them normally. This made the party exotic and interesting. The `dwarves’ started shapeshifting to attractive human or near-human forms. Each could casually assume a number of human forms; they referred to the dwarf shapes as `forge-forms’.

Over the course of several alcohol-lubricated conversations with Vigg, Lofar and expecially the elder named Yari they learned——-

They weren’t in Kansas anymore. They were in the Otherworld, other-plane really. The worlds they were familiar with were `Upstairs’.

At the center of the Otherworld were the Wellsprings of Creation and the `Tree’ — a geyser or conduit of creative energy streaking up in a great column to nurture Upstairs/Shadow — which Our Heroes could feel from hundreds of miles away. (If the Patterns of Tir-na Nog’th and Amber felt like numinous arias then the wellsprings and Tree felt like a vast, awe-inspiring choir.)

Also in the Otherworld were the lands of the afterlife, the heavens and hells and so on of the mortals who lived and died Upstairs. Most of whom would eventually be reincarnated Upstairs via the Tree. Plus some other lands, some of them hostile to the Center.

The Otherworld and Upper Worlds had been reconfigured a number of times. They were quite familiar with the last one, about 2-3 millennia past. They suspected the accounts of older ones were loaded with lies.

The current cosmography was thrown together in a hurry as the old order fell apart under the stress of a huge godwar* which some great Makers had been largely responsible for. Seven surviving Powers and seven Eldest Makers cut a deal and shaped a new cosmos out of the ruin. The seven Powers were Oberon, Dworkin, Phraedis, Inanna, Lir, Vall and Bael. The seven later warred on each other; Oberon won.

The `dwarves’ called themselves `makers’. They designed and made new kinds of animals and plants and fed them into the Tree to appear as needed in Shadow. Some of them also made weapons, armor and such for visiting Pattern initiates. From the Makers’ point of view the purpose of Patterners was to make/find/precipitate new worlds , strengthen old ones and protect Creation in general. Helping Pattern initiates survive was part of the Makers’ jobs as smiths/engineers/gardeners/fertility genii of Creation. They’d mostly given up direct participation in the Upper Worlds’ affairs due to some oMoreover, Patterners shadowshifting towards Wanted (especially Needed) Equipment + Dwarves would easily arrive at the Forges. Travel to and from the Otherworld was difficult otherwise. A Patterner’s first item was free (the giant killing, while useful, and the poker game, while fun, were just the Makers fucking with them.

[Experiment showed that the blooded Flora Trumps and the Dworkin Trumps worked between Shadow and the Otherworld. The others — the ones Flora made for the wary-of bleeding-for-the-witch party - did not.]

Gods* in the Makers’ parlance were people who possessed powerful Mantles of Power [think thematic magic power armor] from the ritual offerings of mortal worship. That was what mortals were made for, originally. And, of course, to be flunkies, fuck toys and cheap labor. In the Old Days gods could accumulate massively powerful Mantles usable across the entire Upper World — which was, in those times singular and vast. One of the main selling points of the New Order for the Makers involved was dividing the Upper World into many smaller worlds, the Veils between them impermeable to Mantles. The destructive power of magic was thereby limited and localized.

The old gods, the Makers and various others were different clans of Immortals. Interbreeding was rampant. Some of PCs were probably relatives of some Makers.

[Discussion about Yagamar ensued. The Makers thought that Yagamar had made a powerful Mantle from his many victims, making him very powerful in that world. The Makers could forge weapons capable of bypassing any Mantle. As Yagamar was killing a world they were pleased to help. What they couldn’t make was a Mantlekiller energy cannon. Muscle powered weapons yes. Back in one of the previous Ages the then-King of the World had laid down a fate that `eyes would never see the blade that could slay him’ and none but his loyal guard were allowed to come near him armed. An assassin gutted him with an invisible, mantle-piercing, blade who’s wounds would not heal. Yari was getting into the spirit of making a super-weapon, eyes gleaming… But they didn’t let things like that loose any more if they could help it. Lofar’s great uncle’s Sword of Revenge had played a big roll in the fall of the Old Order.]

Neither Florimel or Benedict had ever told Lisette or Katsume any of this cosmography or history. The past just petered out into Oberon having been around forever.

The Makers, being fertility genii of sorts and fairly isolated, had a strong interest in personable Fresh Meat. Hook-ups happened. Andvari’s blue liquor helped. Vigg spent part of the night with Lisette despite losing the card game.

In the morning Vigg started in on Lisette’s saber early in the morning. Somewhat later Big Red was found to have transmogrified back into a gem and a skull. That and the notion of creating a new body for BR got the Makers very interested. The group worked out a design over a couple of days. Meanwhile, Lisette got one of the Makers to teach her how to shrink herself. Once the design on Big Red Mk 3 was done the group went with a bunch of Makers to the Tree to execute it. They called and negotiated with storm-steeds — intelligent, massive horses with some magics and minor Mantles that let them run on air and call winds — for transport. Flying was new to all but the Earthborn, and flying on horseback new to them.

The Tree was about five miles in diameter. Up close it was like looking into the Face of God and listening to Her Sing Her Heart Out. The makers set up a good hundred yards away. Lil Red asked what would happen if someone touched the Tree. Lots of things, most of them bad, might happen. If he must, please do it way around the curve of the `trunk’ please… He didn’t.

The bodycrafting went smoothly with three makers working together and a double dozen more doing Conjury support. Big Red had a body like his old one, minus scars. He was also stuck in the Otherworld for at least a month, maybe a year as shadowshifting could destabilize his new bod.

Gaius and the Reds decided to hold off on their first (free) orders.

Lisette received her saber; it was magnificent.

As they prepared to leave Katsume talked Big Red into trading his Trumps (which wouldn’t reach the Upper Worlds) for a Really Big Favor or Favors to be named later.

The Reds parted wrenchingly. Lisette Trumped them to Earth.

Gaius gathered things to try out at home: black powder, some handguns, a block of C4, diagrams, blueprints…

Lisette Trumped them to a shadow well away from Earth and Gaius led them toards the world from which he’d been abducted. He found something that looked like the Questing Beast he’d followed, killed it and took it with him the last little way there…

And was surprised. There were Legionaries in the woods who were very happy to see him. The legion he’d had hunting the Q Beast was encamped where he’d confronted the dragon. Around an Imperial camp and an Imperial Thaumaturgical College camp. Claudia was here. The Imperial Heir and her son embraced in Stoic Reman style. He introduced his allies. The dragon, or a half-spirit version of it was confined inside a magic circle among the wizards.

After Primus Magisterus of the ITC not-to-subtly checked Gaius out for enchantments his mother allowed Gaius to talk her into meeting his allies in her tent without any witnesses. The imperial wizard did a cone of silence spell. Lil Red did one too, just to be sure.

Gaius explained. That took a while. She took his word for it that they smelled like family. (Her nose was not as good as his.) She had them demonstrate a Trump’s uses. They went outside to try out the guns and explosives. Black powder = twice as big a boom. Handgun = exploded. (Katsume had a special glove, wasn’t hurt.) C4 (a small bit), set off with simultaneous lightning from LRed and bullets from Will and Kat, about three times as energetic as on Earth. All with the wizards monitoring for magic.

The Princess gave orders to break camp, they were returning home. She had a private talk with Gaius. Did he really think these people would be real allies and assets? If not they should he killed now. Gaius said yes, they should be very useful. Right then, allies so long as the Empress agrees.

As to why they’d come after Gaius, he’d vanished from the legion he’d had chasing a single beast. When he didn’t come back within a week she put her foot down (with the Empress’ permission) as Godborn, damaging the Imperial Marshal who disagreed to vigorously. She’d brought in as many wizards as were necessary to force the portal (shadowpath) open and keep it open, then the next two, found the dragon-spirit, captured and subdued it. It had been both bribed and intimidated into helping Gaius’ captor, adding its power to his to take Gaius down. Then the captor split from the dragon, produced a small device (Trump) and vanished with Gaius. While Claudia was Unhappy with Gaius’ choices they weren’t entirely his fault; the wizards had found traces of mindbending enchantments and all the weres had smelled and been affected by the scent of the Questing Beast. Still, the empire expected more from the Godborn.

Back in Rema the foreigners were shown to luxurious rooms with hot and cold running slaves. Gaius was ordered to a private meeting with the Empress. Grandmother crooked her finger at him. When he was close enough she clouted him up the side of his head with the Imperial Scepter — solid bronze in the hand of an old but vigorous werewolf. Then she had him stand still and sewed up the head would herself, something she hadn’t done since he was a child, all without a word, but her touch was gentle, her suturing adept. She agreed with the idea of alliance.

They all attended an imperial banquet reclining on couches, eating a wide variety of good or fantastical food (though none of that vomitorium crap, werewolves aren’t that stupid) and entertainment in the form of acrobats, dancers and music of the small harp and pipes variety.

Then business: The Imperials wanted to get Gaius’ mother and sister Initiated as soon as possible. Both were potential targets of whomever had captured them. They were also very interested in Earthly weapons and technology. And Trumps.

Lisette said they could buy all the guns and explosives and so on as they wished from Earth. It shouldn’t be hard to manufacture bullets with less powder, for instance. They could hire experts (adventurous and greedy hobbyists) from Earth to teach what they could. Transport might be a problem. As to Trumps, they could work something out keeping in mind that time flowed half as fast on Earth and one fifth as fast in Amber and either Lisette or Florimel had to make them themselves. And both had a lot of work to do already. Lisette Trumped Flora and was told she was busy but would have an opportunity to call back in an hour or two — 5-10 hours.

Katsume said that her father would be happy to meet more family members. More, the Reman legionaries were very like one of his favorite types of soldiers: professional, cosClaudiailetan, tough, skilled. She Trumped him and once contact was made, slowed down about 2.5×. After a few minutes she went through to him. Then he Trumped Lisette and came through to her. He bowed gravely to the Empress, then the Prima Principessa — “Sister” — and Secunda Principessa Aula — “Niece” and to Gaius — “Nephew”. Then he did his Command Presence thing and sucked all the air out of the room for a Claudiaent. Without any mention of favors exchanged he agreed that the princesses were targets and were due access to the family power. Like Florimel, he required them, including the Empress, to swear to never attack Amber — and he would swear to see to it that Amber never attacked their Empire. Oaths were exchanged. Aula (most expendable) was selected to go first.

Benedict Trumped to Amber to see if it was possible to do it immediately. He Trumped Lisette a little over an hour later and informed her that the weather was cooperating. Aula, Gaius and Lisette went through to Benedict, just outside the Pattern chamber of Tir-na Nog’th. He sent Lisette up to watch for clouds. Aula got the standard warnings and brotherly bucking up from Gaius and a little Command Assurance fro Benedict. She succeeded. They returned to Rema and Claudia said she was ready to go now.

Benedict hadn’t really expected Claudia to go before Aula could be checked out. He raised an eyebrow, “Very well”, and Trumped out. When Lisette, Gaius and Claudia were pulled through they were outside in the moonlight of the ghost city. Benedict directed them below. Again, success. They climbed the long stairs and almost exited the castle doors but stopped. There were a score or so of Amber guardsmen strewn about, unconscious or with broken legs. Benedict was by the top of the stairs facing another man whom he disarmed, stunned with the flat of his blade, grabbed and threw sliding towards his other victims. The next man got a broken leg instead of stunned. He looked back at them, nodded, saluted down the stair with his sword, “Eric”, stepped back and saluted the downed men and pulled out Katsume’s Trump while striding through the doors. Gaius, Lisette and Claudia went with him to Kat who then joined them when Little Red Trumped Lisette and pulled them all through.

They hadn’t been back ten minutes when Florimel Trumped Lisette and came through to Rema. She apologized for her lack of time. All of Lisette’s agreements regarding Earth and trade she agreed with in advance. As for the family… that would properly take days but regarding the abductions she wouldn’t rule out her any but two of her brothers, one of whom they’d met and one — two — of her four sisters. There could easily be other suspects she was unaware of. Trumps… they’d see what they could do. And now she really had to go.

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Session 2: Cosmography For Dummies

We rejoined our heroes/heroine in the Halls of the Dwarves . . .

After actually talking to our hosts, rather than bargaining with them for trinkets, it became clear that our cosmology was not as it seemed. The current “shadow” structure of the world exists largely because Oberon and Dworkin (along with some other, unnamed people) set it up that way to avoid multiverse-destroying magic. Magic doesn’t work well across shadow boundaries largely to prevent people like the Ghost-Skinner from constructing mantles of power that are too powerful for the fabric of reality.

Speaking of Mantles of Power, the fastest and easiest way to set yourself up as a legend is to build one. Most mythical creatures (especially those that break laws of physics) are endowed with a mantle that gives them most of their power. The more you know . . . !

However, that left us with the unfortunate drawback of having to buy weapons and armor that are magically delicious from the Dwarves . . . who are able to build that stuff since they tend the wellsprings of creation. Since Princes and Princesses of Amber are generally a force for creation, they’ve got a soft spot for us. It also turns out that they can build anything, given time, and that they don’t always go around looking like forge-stereotypes.

That includes a new body for Big Red. So long, frequently-forgotten plot hook! Big Red traded his Trump deck to Benedict’s daughter before we left.

Having established that competent gene-tweaking is available (including super-opiates and deep-power weed), our heroine and heroes departed for Gaius’ Birth-Shadow, to deliver the good news to both his mother (a princess of Amber herself) and his sister.

Gaius is reunited with his family, who have all come looking for him after he went missing.

We introduce and demonstrate firearms.

We return to the palace, where we are treated to a massive feast.

(Personally, Little Red interjected, I don’t like the idea of being the barbarian. My birth-culture knew how to make real steel, not barely smelt iron. We have chopsticks, not fingers and knives. And no matter what I do, there isn’t any way that alchemy can replace the wonders we’ve seen in Flora’s world, where there are mills to make powder, and machines that can turn out perfectly identical rifle barrels in the hundreds. We should import spring steel for crossbows — at least then there’d be a local source of ammunition.)

Benedict and Flora were Trumped and introduced around.

Then Mom and Sis found out about the pattern. And ’nanna said that Sis would walk it immediately, with Mom following if she succeeded.

So they did.

(These are the joys of autocracy, Little Red quipped. Mom wouldn’t have made it if we hadn’t had Benedict to hit everybody who wanted to stop us with his penis. I mean sword. No, I think I did mean penis. Anyway, I hope that we haven’t picked up a serious debt or political enemy here. And what do I mean, “we”? The only way I’m paying is if Benedict says “Do it or I’ll kill you”, and he could do that anyway.)

Anyway, it appears that what Gaius’ world really needs is the ChickieNob — will he get it? Stay tuned!

Calvin

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Session 1: Meet Cute Part One

Our Protagonists:

Little Red, an escapee from one of the mage academies/feedlots (“Voldewort’s”) run by Yagemar, the Unspeakable Evil, ruler of Yagemar’s World. (Tech is sort of failing, over-magicked high Renaissance; world is at least half-wrecked by mage wars.) Well-trained mage. Carries the gem-and-skull remnants of his half brother Big Red. Largish, black, male, reddish hair.

William Somethingorother (ATTN: Colin), Anglish assassin/minor crime boss and despised non-local in Veniccia, one of the Italies. (Renaissance-ish.) Probably his world’s best assassin, and a minor mage. (Casting: Michael J. Fox. Only a lot scarier at need.)

Lisette, beloved daughter of Princess Florimel, native of Flora’s World (our Earth circa 1978), a Trump Artist, world-walker*,co-owner of Flora’s many companies and properties, trained to survive, thrive and be able to escape from anywhere. (Casting: Eva Green)

Gaius Furius of the Imperatorii, prince of the Oberon-descended uberclan of the werewolf overclass of a strongly Romanesque Empire. (Early medieval at best, but with full-on Roman engineering and such.) His mother is heir apparent. World-walker and extraordinarily good (but wolf-themed) shapeshifter. (Casting: Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing)

Little Red is on the lam in Yagemar’s World. While returning to a hideout after raiding a village (stealthily) for food, he is ambushed by a masked, cloaked, black-clad fellow who is 1) stronger, 2) a better fighter, 3) armed with drugged weapons and excellent info. LR is rendered unconscious.

He wakes up naked in a lab which he would describe as confusing and strange but we see as Girl Genius meets 1960’s Soviet Baroque. He is strapped down, very securely — inch thick, 4 inch wide, rhino hide — to a thinly padded board. His brother the skull is nearby. Three doctors are examining him with weird instruments, some of which feel magical to LR. He’s run, and rotated, through a sensor pod, fitted with a brain scan helmet which feels like needles piercing his skull and stimulating various pain, pleasure and other centers while the Three Doctors — Dr. Grahl (old, thin, dry, dispassionate), Dr. Dunin (a spritely Mengele type) and Dr. Skiba (nervous, young, nerdy) watch the results on a chalkboard-sized scanner. All three doctors suffer from skin conditions.Little Red can’t understand a word they say, not that they’re talking to him. There’s some moderate electroshock. There are a lot of drugs tried out. After a very, very long day LR is taken to a spacious, Spartan cell by the six hulking orderlies who’ve helped with muscle in the lab and otherwise stayed at dull-eyed attention. Said orderlies are big men with grayish skin bulked up by grafted on muscle, stronger than normal humans. LR is fitted with substantial, steel manacles and leg irons and not given any clothing.

The cell is smoothed concrete with a pipe constantly running water into a depression in the floor draining into a 6 inch diameter, barred hole — the toilet facilities. The door is 4’ wide, steel and has a grill to look through and a slot for dishes. Lighting is a bare bulb behind 4 inches of armor glass set into the ceiling. Food appears eventually, unappealing gloppy, nutritious stuff and not nearly enough of it.
Little Red softly Chants the Freedom Song and his bindings snap open. So does the door and loud hooting alarms, flashing red lights and the pounding of Orderly feet ensue. Little Red kills some but is swamped by the many, fearless, meatmen, their clubs and their cattle prods.

Little Red regains consciousness as Dr. Dunin sews his lips together, then explains via pantomime and chalkboard drawings that Red will be fed through a tube from now on. The glop was better.

Little Red spends much of the next day in a sensory deprivation tank and the Bad Doctors discover his psychic communication with his brother. The skull is locked in a shielded case when they aren’t studying them together. On the plus side LR and Big Red (skull brother) have learned a few words of not-Polish. Also, hasn’t been caught, skinned and soul-eaten by the Unspeakable One. Yet.

William has accepted a hefty commission to cancel the Honorable Giacone, Ironworker Guildmaster. When he shadows Ser Giacone into the large garden where the hit is to take place, he feels something is wrong. As in, 1) the garden is an illusion, 2) he’s not in Veniccia, 3) he’s not in his world, 4) the Giacone illusion drops and it’s a fast-moving man in black with a really effective armored cloak which blocks Will’s thrown knives as the fellow produces a card, looks at it and disappears in a rainbow shimmer.

There’s no food. Every animal and most plants are dead, apparently eaten by some sort of fungus that then died itself. Water, yes and what wine was sealed in glass and lead. Days go by. Will gets weaker and slower. He makes himself a fort, booby traps the hell out of it and waits, conserving energy.

On Day Seven, the Bastard in Black comes back with a small horde of desperate fellows driven before him to trigger all the traps. They talk from extreme accurate knife throwing distance. The Bastard’s patron requires Will’s presence. They can do it the easy way or the hard way, he says, and tosses some manacles to Will. Put them on and they leave now. Otherwise the man will be back in a couple of days when Will is even weaker. Will declines and chases the Bastard over roof tops but is slowed by starvation; and the Bastard is damned fast. The Bastard rainbows away.

Will returns to his fort and finds the Bastard there before him tossing the last of the only meat in this city through a rainbow. Hilarity ensues and Will loses, though not by much considering that the Bastard is armored and well-fed. Will’s lights go out on the sight of the Bastard cursing and applying spelled items to a shallow poisoned wound on his arm.

Will awakes with the Bad Doctors to a near match of Little Red’s experiences. He demands food, like the Bastard promised. Sadly, LR is unable to convey a warning by banging on the wall and shouting nasally so Will conjures his manacles into life and unlockedness. Alarms, Orderlies, beating, cattle prods, lips sewn shut.

Both Little Red and Will work on scraping a link of their manacles into sharpness to cut their stitches.

Lisette is taking a vacation from being Boss — Mom has been mostly occupied being a diplomat or a hostess for King Eric in Amber for ten years, Earth time — on the island of Fiji. Beaches, surfer boys, drinking, ganja, snorkeling, a little surfing.

While snorkeling with Joey and Andy (Adonis-like, sexually talented examples of amiable but not-so-bright young manhood) Lisette is extremely surprised to find herself looking at a 30’ gold-and red sea serpent or Chinese dragon which slaps the boys aside, clamps lightly on her shoulder and constrictors itself around her. Neural Disrupt gets Snuffed to uselessness as the coils contract and force the air out of her lungs, and a psychic contact peters out with her consciousness. WTF is something like that doing on Earth?

Lisette awakens with the Bad Doctors in attendance. Scans and so on take place. She attempts Feminine Wiles, at which she is expert. Dr. Grahl displays an iota or two of pity. Dr. Dunin doesn’t want to damage a work of art. Unless necessary. Dr. Skiba wants to rape her and Grahl reminds him that that would be Contrary to Orders. (Lisette speaks Earth-Polish and understands much of what they say.) She concentrates her efforts on Dr. Skiba who eventually injects himself with some sort of anti-aphrodesiac; one of the Orderlies gets an erection watching her act.

Meanwhile Lisette’s Trump sensitivities are assaulted by a constant attempt to contact her. This turns out to be a madman, staring at her trump which is over there, about 100’ away, strapped to a chair with his eyelids taped open. After some time there are two madmen staring at it, then the first goes away — shift change.

Lisette does not attempt anything magical in her cell. She does brain-burn the current madman Trump call blocker in a fit of pique. Alarms! Orderlies take her back to the lab. A generator starts up and Trump static blankets the area — everybody’s skin itches, even the orderlies. Dr. Grahl tells her calmly that psychics don’t grow on trees and she must be punished. Electroshock, much worse than before. Grahl says after that he’s sure she can see reason. And a new psychic is on-line.

When Lisette has her self back together she waits for shift change and kills both psychics, using a Burst of Psyche to be sure. As a result she’s beaten and cattle-prodded. Then Dr. Skiba is allowed to administer some 30 long, shallow cuts to her, all over, which are then salted and washed with a weak but very painful hydrochloric acid solution.

Gaius Furius receives word that a strange beast has been harassing a nearby settlement. Something like a scaled cheetah with a long neck, the size of a large horse, very quick and intelligent. The beast ate a few pigs but hasn’t attacked people directly though many were injured chasing it. Many dogs lost the same way and two local lords (werewolves) failed to catch it.

Gaius decides that he’d rather kick it in the ass than piss on it and calls up a legion to act as beaters. It evades them. It climbs trees. It mocks them. It farts in their general direction.

Eventually Gaius breaks down and chases it himself — the beast’s fascinating (and enchanted) scent has something to do with that. It’s a trap. Gaius follows it through a stealthed shadow portal and the beast turns, grows, becomes draconic and chases him. It’s bigger, a little faster (or maybe he’s a little groggy from its magicked scent) and catches him, knocks him down and breathes powerful knockout gas in his face. Lights out.

Gaius wakes to the sight of the Bad Doctors. The usual routine follows but Gaius freaks and his Automatic Shapeshifting kicks in. He starts sweating and pissing out the drugs, breaks a wrist strap, grows a foot taller and breaks all the straps as the Orderlies beat and zap him and he grows armor and becomes less conductive. ALL the alarms go off. Gaius goes apeshit wolf-man on the Orderlies. Almost all the Orderlies pile on. In the struggle nearly everything gets broken, including the Bad Doctors; Grahl died well, trying to bring a bazooka-sized Maser Cannon to bear on the berserk werewolf by being hit by an Orderly. The alarms quit, somehow broken or turned off accidentally.

Will and Little Red free their lips enough to magic themselves free of their manacles, and the doors open automatically. Their one guard can’t hear over the alarms and is staring the wrong way. Gacked. They enter the guard room and discover shotguns and pistols — Will recognizes them as firearms, LR not so much — as well as more clubs and cattle prods.

Lisette gets the madman to pull her through. With his teeth. Then gets him to let go. She’s in a room with six sleeping/drugged psychics, a glass case crowned with odd machinery with a skull in it, a big safe and the Madman Trump Viewing Chair. The one attendant (not an Orderly) is scared shitless of the noises coming from the main lab and cowers in the corner at her evil look. She gets picks her manacles’ locks and goes to work on the safe when the alarms quit.

Little Red, Will and Wolf-Man Gaius meet and greet. Since the wolfman is covered with the blood (and more) of their enemies he must be OK. They hope. LR senses that his brother that way. In the other lab with the naked chick (too pale, too skinny) playing with the big metal box. He offers to open it with magic. She declines but gives up after a bit because people won’t be quiet! Her Trumps are inside, plus LR’s talisman and their other goodies. They acquire spare (unbloodied) lab coats. Lisette says she can get them away. They find the file room where Lisette can sort of make out the not-Cyrillic writing; they take two cabinets. Will would like the Maser Cannon but it is cracked and giving off the odd spark.

Lisette Trumps them to a lounge in the Nepalese Fortress. The others are Really Interested in this Trump stuff. Florimel felt the Trump use (and knows it’s Lisette) and runs into the room, stops dead. Who are They? Fellow captives. Gaius shifts to human and asks, “Why do you all smell like family?” Introductions. Flora orders a fast dinner for 20, as eclectic a menu as possible, with plenty of Lisette’s favorites. Flora’s Gurkha chief of security (Nepal), Cpt. Thapa appears and watches carefully. Flora use him as an example of local male attire and says she’ll bring them some clothing. Will notices Cpt. Thapa’s pistol and SMG and military bearing and wants to know All About Earthly Firearms. And food.

Food is served, most of it cold — it’s about midnight. Flora brings in a big armful of clothing in Little Red’s and Will’s sizes. There will be a tailor and a cobbler later. And a masseur from the village. Their rooms are being prepared. There are baths.

Flora says she wants to check up on their possibly blood relation to her and Lisette and The Family. It will involve a drop of blood each and a spirit to ‘taste’ it. They are dubious. Flora starts to explain about the Family then breaks off for a demonstration — to show them the prize that makes the Family bullshit worth it . They troop outside and Florimel first takes the opportunity to raise her power over Earth (Control of Destiny) and make it unfindable for anyone but a very few; our protagonists feel this as the world shuddering around them on a deep and distressing level. Flora says she’ll show them just how good the family power is with a quick tour of Shadow. Little Red points out that two of them have been victims of world-walking traps. Flora, not fully powered down from altering the world’s fate, looks them over and says with casual conviction, “This world is my place of power. If I wanted you captured, you would be captured. If I wanted you dead, you would be dead.” There follows a two hour hike through dozens of worlds, with Flora altering their clothing (all but Gaius’ shapeshifting togs) appropriately for each place. "This is what membership in the Family means. That and a bunch of relatives who are … " she pauses, “I wouldn’t want to get myself into trouble here… wonderful in every way, though a couple of them (Benedict and Gerard) are even more wonderful, and I get along with Llewella well enough — I mean, she’s extra wonderful too.”
And, very likely, one of them is responsible for their acquaintance with the Bad Doctors and Orderlies.

Flora will arrange for them to have a shot at the family power, which might kill them though she’s never actually heard of a specific instance of that happening, if they swear to two things: Never Attack Amber (the city, not the family members) and swear to help each other, including Lisette, out of their current problem.

They agree, get spiritually taste-tested and it seems that they are indeed nephews of Florimel.

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Session 1: Meet Cute Part Two
A blog for your campaign

Florimel informed Our Heroes that she had made arrangements to allow Lisette to attempt the Pattern in Tir-na Nog’th (— insert explanation—) in two days hence, Earth time.

They healed up, ate well and pursued, variously, the mysteries of Earthly firearms and a glimpse into chemistry and metallurgy, driving cars and motorcycles — in Rio de Janeiro’s outskirts since the roads of Nepal were not suitable, and generally learning about Earth’s resources and how to use them: television, video recordings, telephones, currencies, IDs (furnished by staff somewhere or other and Trumped in), how to use Trumps, Earthly manners, flashlights, lighters… much of it rather haphazard.

The Time arrived. Flora Trumped through to the peak of Kolvir and confirmed the lack of watchers. She Trumped the aspiring Pattern initiates through and led the way up the semi-transparent stairs with their profound lack of structural support up to the ghostly city. Gaius was left, with a Trump of Flora, to watch the near cloudless skies, just in case. They walked quickly through the ghost city to the ghost castle (all the ghosts seemingly oblivious to them but somehow not walking through them) and down the long stairs to the Pattern room.

Lisette went first; Flora insisted. The others may have been reassured by that.

The GM having had little success in creatively describing Patternwalks — let alone four in a row — gave a sketchy account of each ending with near exhaustion that rapidly faded after minutes and turned into the exaltation of being filled to the brim with the fires of Creation. Lisette wished herself up to relieve Gaius, he Walked the Pattern after William. Little Red went last carrying Big Red though Flora said she had no idea how that would work out. From nearly the first steps Little Red took, Big Red was there with him in ghostly transparency that gradually turned solid (with the sparks of the Pattern fountaining far higher than they had for any of the others) until the two of them finished just a step apart. The death-divided brothers hugged either in exhausted joy. They Trumped back to Nepal.

Rio seemed a fine choice for burning off some of the new initiates’ excess of energy. Flora got them suites in Rio’s ritziest hotel, passed out substantial credit cards to the guests and left them to their debauchery.

Lisette took them to some of her favored night spots in a limo and began their night with dancing, drinking, sampling of recreational drugs, the odd very short physical altercation. Gaius found and killed a vampire set to prey on a young woman. Lisette: “I thought they were all destroyed.” The party moved on to the hotel where they rented out the deluxe rooftop spaces and invited massive quantities of Rio’s attractive people up to party with an open bar and endless food. They had to tap Lisette’s own credit card (unlimited) to handle the massive expense. Gaius took the opportunity to duplicate the demigod Herculius’ legendary boning of fifty priestesses in a night. The others took less focused approaches to indulgence. Police were called and paid off; some joined the party, er, stayed to keep an eye on things.

They wandered over to the Rio mansion a couple of days later. Rumors were already circulating that several of the mortal partygoers had experienced astounding cures to ongoing medical conditions, apparent de-ageing, spontaneous psychic powers or broken addictions.

Flora had the others occupy themselves (there were tutors now available for most anything but especially for Thari, the language of Amber) while she took them one at a time to her art studio in Firenze (Florence, Italy) for Trump sittings. Little Red noticed the massive accumulation of free magic with a strong Trump flavor and that the studio was built over intersecting ley lines. He mentioned the latter and Flora told him she’d moved them. What, no earthquakes? A smug look: No, I smoothed them out. Wearing his chosen garb but his stance and lighting adjusted by Flora, Little Red watched Flora and five identical but silent conjured Floras work at six easels paint quickly with very small brushes for about two hours. The result were six identical Trumps crackling with energies and Flora tiredly sending Little Red on his way.

Florimel did two sittings a day, including one for Lisette whose old, pre-Patternwalk Trump images would no longer work. Once finished, Flora presented all her guests/new allies with full Dworkin made decks as well as the newly made Trumps of each other. They tried them out.

The following morning Flora, dressed for Amber, informed them that Eric, the King, had recalled her to Amber as soon as possible, cutting her vacation short. She suggested that Lisette Trump Benedict to see about getting some training in shadowshifting rather than blunder about on their own. After a big hug with Lisette she Trumped away.

The group determined to first go check out the site of Lisette’s attack and abduction. She Trumped them to Fiji. Lisette’s snorkeling partners, Joey and Donnie, were happily astounded to see her alive and well. They gave her their description of the sea serpent creature and said they’d dived the site looking for traces of her but found nothing but three of the creature’s orange-gold scales. They’d also spent several days totally trashing the bungalow she’d shared with them and mourning her loss with beer, ganja and sex. One scale they’d given to “that chick with the tits”, one was found in the bottom of a water bong and the last one they’d given to “Dolf”. Dolf turned out to be an Austrian surfer, a biologist on vacation, who’d been very excited to have tangible evidence of a real, previously unknown, large animal. He’d sent part of the scale to the University of Dresden, contacted his professors, this would be huge…Lisette convinced him, using a lot of Psychic pressure, that he’d made big, grass-fuled mistake. And confiscated the scale. The “chick with the tits” — Julia — had jetted away to, they thought, England by way of Australia. And maybe India. Little & Big Red’s Gaius didn’t find any odd scents on the beaches near the attack site.

Lisette Trumped Benedict and after a short delay he accepted. (She felt him touch her Trump…) She told him that she had some people he needed to meet. He pulled them through to an army camp where he’d been watching two companies train, the temperature about 45 degrees F, the wind brisk. Lisette, in a bikini, started to shiver. Gaius morphed his baggies to a full outfit and Will and the Reds conjured temporary clothing. Benedict whipped his cloak around Lisette. (Meanwhile, when their commander pulled five mostly naked people - one a babe- out of the air, the troops barely broke training at all. Discipline.) Benedict brought them to his tent and ordered hot drinks from an orderly.

They told Benedict their stories. His questions elicited every useful detail and went on to asking them about themselves. He seemed a bit surprised, though approving, that Flora would abandon secrecy to the extent she had. Lisette gave him one of her new Trumps. Benedict congratulated them on walking the Pattern and welcomed them to the family with a testing handshake. Gaius seemed equally matched; Benedict said, “Eric and Corwin and I, and you.” He told them that, so far as he knew, none of his siblings could shape-shift. (Glancing here at Gaius.“Wolf?” Gaius nodded.) But he wouldn’t be surprised if one or more could. The ‘Bastard in Black’ could be any of the men, or even Deirdre or Llewella in disguise. As to training them, he was busy with a small war and could not spare the time for days or even weeks. But wait a bit. He left the tent.

Lisette felt a Trump being used some tens of yards distant. Ten minutes later Benedict returned, followed by a fit Eurasian woman, something of Benedict’s features reflected in hers. “This is my daughter Kitsume. She walked the Pattern years ago and is competent to train you in its use.” Introductions all around. Lisette noticed accent, body language and introduced herself in Japanese. Katsume replied with an Osaka accent, then English flavored with Oxford. She looked at her father, “Apparently we had no ‘need to know’ about one another. It is just a little annoying. It would have been nice to have someone of similar background to talk to. Shopping. Shoes. Though Father is of course an excellent shopper if you are looking for weapons.”

Katsume addressed them all, “I too am a logical target of whomever tried to enslave you. I can set my duties here aside for a few days and show you the basics of Pattern use. Are you ready? Can you ride? Horses?”
The Reds said not.
“A training run then. Commander, with your permission?”
Benedict nodded. “Enjoy yourselves.”
“Let’s be about it. Don’t worry about clothing or supplies. I will provide them.” Katsume left the tent and started jogging. They followed.

Katsume made her first shadowshift while still inside the camp. She soon shifted warm clothing and boots onto them (aside from Gaius) and had each of them jog near her in turn as she described what she was about to do and then did it. It was a good six hours before the first rest break. She covered the basics of shadowshifting, of altering probabilities (shifting towards a particular future), and so on. Useful scenarios to shift for, such as ‘the treasure wagon with it’s defenders and attackers mostly dead’. The next day they covered using the Pattern for defense, shifting to shadows with different time rates (slippery) and finding things in shadow. The students were doing nearly all the shifting now. Will decided to find a rapier capable of withstanding his full strength. After some difficulties, Katsume told him that, according to her father, with muscle powered weapons it usually came down to dwarves.

Will took them to an expansive cave-forge with two ‘dwarves’ working it: five feet tall, massively muscled chests and overlong arms, exaggerated features out of fairy books, wearing only leather aprons, using oversized hammers like switches, reeking of magic. The larger introduced himself as Lofar, who asked their business. Neither her nor his fellow looked worried. Will told him he wanted a rapier, built for his more than human strength. Lofar looked him over, squeezed his arms, tried matching grip strength with him — Lofar was stronger. “As I thought. I had a notion to make one of those thin swords suitable for gadabout insect and finished yesterday. The Fates like their little jokes. Here it is. What do you offer for it?” It was beautiful and fit his hand and arm perfectly. But Will hadn’t considered payment. Lofar took it back, grinning. “A giant up the hills a ways killed my brother some time ago. Stomped him into pudding. Kill him and the blade is yours.” Lofar scratched three runes into the hilt and handed the blade to Will. “If you don’t kill Glumdalklitch first thing the blade will betray you.” Directions followed. Will headed into the hills. They let him go, apparently thinking ‘one giant, one Amberite’ was fair.

Two more dwarves ambled over, armed but mostly curious. Lisette informed them of her desire for a saber suitable for herself. And that she’d like to play cards for it. The gnarliest of the dwarves offered a deal, if she won he’d make her a damned fine saber, fit for a young goddess. If he won she’d fuck him silly all night. Lisette, expert card shark, shook hands on it. Lisette produced a deck. Vigg, the dwarf, inspected it. They settled on Poker, Texas Hold’em. They decided to play with 100 pebbles each, for markers, until sundown. Despite all Lisette’s skill, with rampant cheating on both sides, it was a near thing. But Lisette won.

Meanwhile, Will found Glumdalklitch and took some serious bruises evading the giant’s massive club while killing him by inches until, hamstrung, the giant fell and got the rapier through an eye. Will took a rather distinctive ear as proof. Plus the gallon or so of nasty, stinky, crusty giant blood all over him.

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