Train of Thought 05
Interludes – Sable City, 20 June SY 105
In the days following my delightful trip to Manira, I’d checked in with Michael at the Sable Royal Hospital most evenings to get updates on our newly-discovered brother. Michael was dealing with his care personally, and he seemed to be making progress. Grey had also reported that Captain Duart was alive and had managed to make it to Khachuran, where he was currently in one of our field hospitals. At least that was one letter of condolence I wasn’t going to have to write just yet.
More than anything else, though, I’d been monitoring Manira itself, and the situation there wasn’t getting any calmer. The winds were still as violent, and the seas remained treacherous. When I called Wilhelm, to give him back the Trump Mina had lent Heydrich, he said that he’d sent Conrad Berthelmes to Manira to try to persuade the surviving Waffen-SS leadership there to evacuate, but I hadn’t heard back on how that had gone. Neither did I ask if he’d heard anything about Rupert, as I knew he wouldn’t want to answer.
On the evening of the twentieth, I called Michael for my usual check-in, to hear the good news that our new sibling was awake, and at least mostly lucid. I went through, and we headed to his room. The difference was startling. He’d obviously been absorbing significant amounts of protein, as he’d filled out considerably since I’d first seen him. His blond hair was brighter and less lank, and his colour was considerably better. I could see the family resemblance, now. As we walked in, he looked at us both, and then focused on me.
“I think I know you…” he said, uncertainly.
“We met in the cave where you were hiding. After you were hurt.”
“Right…yes, we did.”
“I’m Robert de Lacy,” I said, taking one of the chairs beside the bed, and my brother sat in the other, “you’ve obviously already met Michael.”
“I have,” he answered and looked at Michael, “thank you, Doctor de Lacy. I feel much better now.”
“You’re welcome,” he answered, with a reassuring smile.
“I’m Nicholas,” he said, and then looked at me again, obviously trying to puzzle something out, “Robert de Lacy. I’ve heard that name before…hmm.”
He lay back and I saw his eyes close, and wondered if he’d dropped off, but suddenly they snapped open again and he sat up.
“Yes. Grandfather mentioned it. You’re my brother?”
“We both are,” I answered, “but you and I also share a mother, whereas Michael only has our father in common.”
“Aha. You’re the one she had to let go. She talked about you sometimes. When she was around. Which wasn’t often.”
“It was probably still more often than I saw her,” I said, ruefully, “she left when I wasn’t much more than a year old, and I didn’t see her again for something like three hundred years.”
He fell silent again, and let himself lie back down, propped up by pillows.
“You mentioned your grandfather,” I asked, “Suhuy, I assume?”
“Yes. He brought me up.”
“So you were born in Thelbane?” Michael asked.
“I was. Lived there until I walked the Logrus. After the Madness I wanted to see the world.”
“How did you end up here?” I said, puzzled, “it’s not exactly on the map anymore.”
“Don’t know. I made it to the Amber end of things. Met someone who said he was my brother. I knew I had brothers, so I believed him. Big mistake. He took me to a place of water.”
“Rebma?” I asked.
“Think so. Showed me the Pattern. Said I could walk it. It was our father’s heritage. He told me what to do, so I did it. Didn’t like it much, though. Hurt like crazy. Worse than the Madness.“
“That was probably the Pattern interacting with the Logrus.”
“Realised that later. He showed me how to use it. We travelled, then went our separate ways. One day neither Pattern nor Logrus worked for me anymore. Did for him, though. Couldn’t figure that out. Really annoying.”
“I’m afraid I turned them both off when I put the barriers up around Sable,” I explained.
“You can do that? Very inconvenient.”
“I’m afraid I wasn’t thinking about the convenience of my Amber relatives,” I said, with a shrug, “I didn’t want anything more to do with them.”
“I wasn’t impressed, either,” Michael commented, lightly, “but Robert was pretty firm about it. And for the most part I wasn’t too hampered as I’m a Trump artist, which deals with most of my travel needs. About eighteen months ago, though, he managed to figure out how I could walk his Pattern, which makes things easier.”
Nicholas paused again, reaching for a glass of water and taking a drink, before putting it back on the side table.
“Hmm. Me too, maybe?” he asked, hopefully.
“We’ll see,” I answered, “or I can help you get back Outside. The doors are open again, even if I’m still avoiding most of the family. For now, though, please go on with your story.”
“Hmm. He came to find me. Took me to a busted version of the Pattern. I walked it and I could travel some. Not well but better than nothing. Said he was going to stay at that place. Take it over. Wanted me to help. I said no. Went our separate ways. Been wandering around ever since.”
“So how did you end up back there?”
“About a month ago, men captured me. Wore robes. Knocked me out. Next I knew I was back there. My brother said he needed my help. Didn’t give me a choice, though. Couldn’t fight back. Drugged, I think. They kept taking my blood. Could only just keep up making more. Took me back to the busted Pattern. I didn’t see my brother. Other people in robes did some kind of magic. Used my blood. Boom. Now I’m here.”
“What was the name of the person who said he was your brother?”
“Kelric, son of Finndo.”
“I do have a sibling by that name, but he’d only be your half-brother on your mother’ side,” I said, puzzled, “plus laying aside the fact that Kelric would has no interest in the Inside, as he has his own realm in the Amber universe, what you’ve described seems way too complicated for something he’d come up with. He was never the sharpest tool in the Family box. What did he look like?”
“Bit taller than you. Black hair to the shoulders. Odd green-black eyes. Thin.”
Beside me, I felt Michael do something with Trump, and then there was a card in his hand. I smiled to myself, as I thought he was taking far too much pleasure in being the God of Trumps. Still, at least he’d probably only use his powers for good, unlike Rupert would have done if he’d got there first.
“Is this him?” he asked, showing it to Nicholas.
“Yes. That’s him.”
Michael nodded, and handed it to me.
“Chartris,” I snarled, feeling a flash of anger, “Bloody Chartris.”
“Not any more, I think,” Michael commented, “concentrate on it.”
I did, and then realised “It’s warm. This is a Trump, right? Not just a picture?”
“It is…or perhaps was.”
“So he’s finally dead.”
“It would seem like it.”
Puzzled, Nicholas looked at us both, trying to figure out what was going on.
“You’re pleased that my brother is dead?” he asked, looking uncomfortable.
“Well first, he wasn’t your brother,” Michael explained, realising that if he left it to me, there would be cursing, “he was your great nephew. His real name was Chartris, not Kelric. His father is Andrew, Robert’s oldest son. His mother was Queen Regan of Rebma, which would explain how he could get you to that particular Pattern. He was cold, ambitious, and didn’t care who he trampled over as he tried to accumulate more and more power, including his own parents. Regan was murdered over thirty years ago, and Chartris was responsible. He drove his father to the brink, too, and ultimately caused him to leave Sable and never come back. Robert banished Chartris for his crimes.”
“It doesn’t sound like those thirty years changed him, either,” I commented, surprised at how much it seemed that Michael had disliked him, as well, “apparently, you were just the most recent person he used and threw away.”
“He doesn’t sound very nice, that’s for sure,” he said, looking serious, “but if Finndo isn’t my father, who is?”
“His name is Delwin,” Michael supplied, “he is of the Amber bloodline, but not in particularly good standing.”
He did the trick with the cards again, and handed him a picture of our father.
“I don’t know him,” Nicholas commented.
“We see him about as much as we see my mother,” I answered, “which is probably just as well. He and I don’t get on. His politics and mine are incompatible.”
He lay back again, and we could both tell that he was tiring.
“We should leave you to rest,” Michael said, getting to his feet, and I did the same, “thank you for talking to us. For telling us your story.”
“You carry on recovering,” I answered, “Michael’s are the best hands you could possibly be in…I don’t know a better physician for shifters. Then, once you’re fit and well again, we’ll see where we go from there.”
“Okay. See you later then.”
He was asleep before we got to the door.
“I need a drink,” I said to Michael, as we stepped into the corridor.
“To celebrate?” he answered, and I thought he sounded slightly disapproving.
“Just in general,” I replied.
He did something with Trump again and jumped us to his office.
“You’re going to lose the use of your legs at this rate,” I commented.
“Just saving my eldest brother’s dodgy knee,” he answered, with a mischievous look in his eye, as he grabbed a bottle of brandy and a couple of glasses out of a cupboard, and poured.
“Cheers,” I said, as we chinked glasses.
“You don’t seem particularly cut up by Chartris’s death,” Michael observed.
“The ‘hallelujah’ gave it away, huh?”
“Just a tad.”
“No, I’m not. But I’m angry that he took advantage of Nicholas on the way. I do feels that its poetic justice that he died in the pursuit of even more power.”
“You think whatever he did with the Maniran Broken Pattern caused his death.”
“I do. And knowing that he’s dead, I wonder if it hit me so hard the other day because there was a Death Curse involved. Maybe he realised he’d overreached, or maybe he was trying to abort what he was doing?”
“Or perhaps he realised he was dying, and Blessed his endeavour?”
“Possibly. I’d love to know where he was when he died, though.”
“So you can try to restore what he took to Manira?”
“If it’s even possible, but it’s getting into metaphysics I haven’t thought about as yet. I’ve certainly got to do something about the mess he left behind, before the instability caused by the Broken Pattern’s departure does some serious damage to the worlds around it. The only other thing I can think of would somehow be using the imprint within Nicholas as a template, but I’m not sure I want to subject him to anymore metaphysical experimentation after what he’s been through.”
“I wouldn’t let you,” he answered, simply but firmly, “but I’ll have a think as well – see if I can come up with anything as well. And I’ll keep you appraised of his progress.”
“Thanks, Michael. In the meantime, mind if I keep the card of Chartris that you conjured out of thin air? I might be able to use it as a focus.”
We lapsed into silence and sat for a while, sipping our drinks and enjoying some peace and quiet. As we did, I found myself considering both the brother in front of me, who I realised I was only just getting to know properly, as well as the one lying downstairs in the shapeshifter ward. Then that train of thought led me to a completely unexpected destination: I realised that I was missing having contact with Rupert. He was infuriating, and dangerous, and ambitious, and power hungry – rather like Chartris, really – but it was odd not talking to him.
“Have you heard how he’s doing?” Michael asked, demonstrating his disconcerting ability to know what I was thinking. He’d always had an empathic streak, but it had become more specific in the last couple of years.
“Are you reading my mind?”
“Not intentionally, but since we both walked the Aurellian Logrus, I sometimes get flashes of what you’re thinking. I think it’s a Trump thing, kind of like when someone spies using them, but without the conscious intent.”
“Well that’s not terrifying in any way.”
“Don’t worry. It isn’t often. I mean, I didn’t get anything when you were rolling around on the floor screaming the other day, about which I’m afraid I wasn’t too upset, except in the sense that I don’t like to see you in pain. It’s mainly when you’re thinking about family. Especially Claire, Rupert and Andrew. Oh, and even me, occasionally. So, have you heard anything?”
“Nothing. On the bright side, there also hasn’t been a death notice in the papers, so presumably he’s out there somewhere. Sadly, I didn’t have enough contact with Tristan Heydrich to be able to come up with a card on the fly… although I bet you could if you wanted to.”
“Maybe. I haven’t met him. Would Conrad know?”
“Probably, although I think he’s on Manira.”
“You could give him a call…” he suggested, and momentarily there was a newly minted card of Conrad Berthelmes in his hand.
“Perks of the job. Plus that ‘let’s piss off Rupert’ party I attended in Berlin got pretty intense. Good for getting impressions for drawing Trumps afterwards..”
“I can imagine,” I took the card from him and pocketed it, “thanks.”
“I should go. It’s getting late. Thanks for the drink and the cards, and let me know how he’s getting on.”
“Will do. Probably talk tomorrow.”
“Indeed. Night, Robert.”
Just to make a point, I got to my feet and headed out of the door, rather than Trumping out of my chair, but as I closed it behind me, I heard him chuckling to himself.
Time for some blue sky research.