I did as I had promised myself. When I reached the center of the
Pattern, I had it take me at once to Laughter. I was a bit surprised to
find her, and my father, at the Pattern's edge, but did not have long to
mull over the depths of the trouble I had gotten myself into, before
fainting dead away into Laughter's arms. Traversing the Pattern twice in
two day's time, given my state of health, had clearly been too much.
I awoke to a comfortable darkness, and I assumed that some time
had passed. I was in the familiar: the softness of my own sheets around
me, the smells of my own room, and Laughter's warmth curled next to mine,
and so I simply placed my arms around my wife and allowed myself to drift
back off to sleep.
The next morning I attempted to repair myself in her eyes, trying
to erase my base stupidity from her mind with close proximity of body.
She didn't appear to be holding a grudge by the end, or if she did, she
hid it rather well. I think she still worries about my mortality, though.
I shall truly have to be more careful, as the Unicorn so bluntly put it to
me in my last Spirit Walk.
I Trumped Random after washing and dressing. The deeds of the
night before had not changed the priority of recovering the Jewel in his
mind, nor in mine, really. Although I was concerned for my abducted
granddaughter, Sky, I had a feeling that in a one-on-one with Killian, she
ought to be able to hold her own. If, however, Claudio's temper at all
rivaled mine, which I hoped to doubt, Killian's longevity was truly in
question. Unfortunately, the quest for the Jewel would remove me from
observation and opinion.
I Trumped Ulysses next, but quickly discovered that he was, at
that moment, working on getting into Killian's Shadow in an attempt to aid
Sky. Loathe to interfere with that, I asked if he would be available
should we need his assistance. He consented and I Trumped Bleys to find
out when and where we were to meet. The edge of Arden in an hour, he
said. I promised Laughter I would be careful, and for once, I think I
actually meant it. I then gathered what armaments I felt to be applicable
and began to walk towards Arden. I had decided I needed some time to
focus, and I always think better when I'm walking.
Bleys looked surprised that it was only I that was joining him. I
explained that Ulysses was otherwise occupied in hunting the other person
that was to be a member of our party, as was Claudio. Bleys then
suggested bringing Kalyn along. I couldn't object, even though I wanted
to. I hid a smile as Bleys put him on point, at least until we reached
the broken Pattern. Once there, Bleys took the lead into the Strangeways,
holding the Book of the Strangeways before him like a priest holds his
Bible. We began winding our way up a high mountain pass, with Bleys
explaining how important it was for us to step exactly where he was
stepping. Rather ironic, I thought to myself, as the path was quickly
deteriorating into loose shale. And shortly afterward, I heard a
stumbling from behind me, a place Kalyn had, until recently, occupied.
When I spared a glance over my shoulder, he was no longer there. I
quickly relayed this to Bleys, who seemed to lose himself in thought for a
bit, coming eventually to the conclusion that since he had no idea
whatsoever as to Kalyn's current location, that we would look for him on
the return trip.
Sometime after this, I noticed that we were being followed. It
was a Fey, and for a moment I was horror struck that Dworkin's pet had
managed to find me, yet again. Closer inspection proved that this was a
different Fey, and closer inspection still proved that the Fey was none
other than the Chaos ambassador, Niccolo. His ability to traverse the
Strangeways was intriguing, and as he had made it this far, I saw no
reason not to invite him along. At least that way we could keep an eye on
him, although a Chaosite along on a quest for the Jewel made me more than
a little nervous. I would have to take faith in Song's and my ability to
stop him, if it should come to that, and a well-placed laser pistol shot
should the first attempt fail.
We continued onward and soon found ourselves at a high mountain
pass. A valley evolved below us and a herd of unicorn's gambled upon it.
I felt about for the Jewel, but it certainly was not close at hand. We
worked our way down the valley until we found a road. This, in turn,
brought us closer to the herd, and we noticed that one of the beasts was
missing its horn. It had been broken off a few inches above the forehead.
I did not see an immediate connection between that and the well-used truck
that was making its way over the mountain road towards us, but low and
behold, they were connected after all. The truck, which Niccolo flagged
over, was on its way to aid the damaged unicorn, containing within it
veterinary students with the piece of missing horn. Niccolo managed to
secure us passage to the next town after their work there was done, and
after a few hours we found ourselves in a tavern of mythic proportions, in
that it was populated with satyrs, centaurs, and the like. Needless to
say, my green hair wasn't exactly making me stand out, at least not to the
majority of patrons. One, however, did seem to take an interest in me. I
was just getting around to inquiring after the reason of his scrutiny when
Niccolo beat me to the punch. The gentleman, Brandle by name, which was a
bit unnerving, had recognized us as not being from here, and continued by
mentioning that he had not seen anyone come through the Strangeways in a
With further questioning, we were able to determine that Finndo
was amassing an army in the Strangeways. Brandle was interested in
helping us stop this, so I mentioned that step one would be getting a
certain Jewel away from him. Brandle had actually seen it, having
recently deserted Finndo's army. He bragged of being able to steal it
from Finndo, which I didn't discourage, but gave him some intelligence as
to the extent of Finndo's power, so that he would not get cocky, and, more
importantly, to keep him from being sloppy. It was decided that Brandle
and Niccolo would infiltrate Finndo's camp, as they were likely not to be
recognized. I didn't feel comfortable with this, but didn't say anything
in front of the ambassador or Brandle. But if they actually did secure
the Jewel, how would Brandle be able to keep it from the Chaosite should
Niccolo decide to take it back to the Serpent? And there was no way I
could trust Brandle, knowing nothing about him. No, Niccolo and Brandle
would go, but I was convinced that they needed shadows.
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