|Mike Sullivan||Chris Warren
Anyway, I found a resort where I could change into something suitable and then showed up at the restaurant (Random trumped me in). There I was introduced to Adria, Gerrard's daughter (I hadn't even known Gerrard had any kids at all). A reasonably pleasant dinner followed, during which Random oh-so-casually mentioned this "minor" pirate problem along the Alnos-Amber trade route and 'asked' Adria and me to take a quick look into it. Other than that, conversation was surprisingly pleasant. Random and I talked a bit about flying and gliding - I hadn't known he was quite so reckless in his younger days. Makes him seem a bit more like a real person instead of a stuffy monarch, I guess. Adria and I got to know each other a bit as well. I suppose I was a bit burusque at times, but what can one expect when meeting a family member for the first time.
Anyway, dinner wound down and various folks headed off to their various destinations: Random and Vialle with Flora to sleep at her mansion that evening, Adria shadow walked back to San Francisco, and I just caught a late night flight to the same city - we had decided to set out for Amber the next morning and were meeting at the west end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
My flight over was pretty uneventful. I arrived early in the morning and went off and found a boat. I sailed it back to ear the meeting place, dropped anchor, and headed off into the city for a couple of hours to feed myself and to pick up a few odds and ends that might be useful during the next several days. Adria had a much more eventful trip back. In one shadow she was nearly run down at a cross roads, and when she had picked herself up there was this person looking strangely at her - a human in a shadow typically populated by some tri-legged folk or other. This person, named Jamie, turned out to be of Amber blood, but had no idea. Not terribly long before some strange man (who sounded suspiciously like Caine in description) had shown up at her house, brought her to a place that could only be the pattern, and goaded her into walking it. She had managed it, and the had really vague memories about most of what followed. Anyway, she had ended up in this weird shadow with no idea of how or why she was where she was, and just recently had started wandering around, doing a bit of unconscious shadow shifting along the way. By strange coincidence she happened to end up in the same shadow at the same time as Adria, quite the lucky coincidence, if you ask me.
However, I didn't know any of that when Adria met me that morning with this skinny pale girl in tow. Seemed a bit weird to me, but Adria said it was just a friend who she wanted to show the sites to. They had a bit to eat, and then we set sail for Amber. It was a beautiful ride - a nice breeze for most of the way, pleasantly lively seas, the sun on my face, and the wind in my hair. For some reason I will never comprehend, the others didn't particularly like it. No accounting for taste, especially among family. After not terribly long we ended up in the placid waters of Amber and headed to the main harbour.
Upon arriving, we hiked up Kolvir to pay respects to Adria's dad (he happened to be regent while Random was off at the wedding). Audience was brief, and mostly unexciting except that we met yet another cousin whom I had not previously known, Tom (not yet sure who's spawn he is). He had been hanging around court for the past couple of weeks or so and was getting a bit bored, so he kind of fell in with us as well (it was here that Jamie's relation to the rest of us was revealed). Gerrard basically told us to just run along and play, so without further ado we left. We requisitioned a small fast courier ship and spent a couple of hours provisioning her and equipping ourselves and set sail for Alnos.
Despite some folks wanting to go off looking for the pirates immediately, calmer heads prevailed and we sailed straight for the capitol of Alnos. When we got there we headed up to the castle to make sure that the nobles knew that things were being looked into by Amber, as per their requests. Some noble or other met us and gave us the standard visiting dignitary speil. We also were assigned guest rooms for our stay - however long that may be. All the official stuff being gotten out of the way, we set down to serious business. We hung around the palace until it got towards evening and then we headed out the bars. Adria and Tom headed out to the harbour bars to go wandering and looking for gossip of various sorts, specifically for pirate related ones. Jamie disguised herself as a youngish man and headed for the upscale bars to try to glean some information from the various marchants and merchant groups. I headed to some of the seedier dockside bars to listen to the talk of the sailors and to find out who was hiring and for what - that and to relax a bit and have some fun.
Adria and Tom had minimal luck for the early part of the evening. Jamie managed to get some useful information from this guy that was trying to pick her(him) up - mostly that the merchants weren't all that worried as of yet. In fact, the ones that had not yet been hit were actually reasonably happy with the situation since their cargo was now worth a bit more. The merchant also suggested that perhaps the government was behind it - using it as an excuse to sour trade relations with Amber.
I got fairly lucky at the first bar I visited. After a few minutes of sitting around nursing a drink and beginning to get a feel for the place, some guy came in announcing job openings for something or other. There were almost no takers (which was a bit odd). After he had left I asked the bartender about it and the he mentioned the name Argent before moving off and pretending I wasn't there. After that I insinuated my self into a card game and got the other players talking a little bit about Argent. It turns out that this guy is working some sort of communist/marxist revolution gig and is recruiting members among the dockworkers. He uses minor strong arm tactics and pretty standard claptrap - there was even a book explaining the idealistic stance and all that, probably based of something one of the family accidentally left here. A scarier possibility is that some shadow-walking entity had brought it here with malicious intent - either family or someone from the courts. Less likely, some one here actually came up with it on their own. Anyway, it sounded like this Argent guy was the guy we were looking for - even if he isn't currently involved with the pirates, he probably will be before too long.
During this time, Jamie finally ditched the slimy guy, and Adria and Tom had made the rounds and were moving on to the seedier bars closer to where I was. Jamie did a bit of carousing and after not too long showed up at the bar I was in. I was getting ready to call it an evening soon, but I hung around to keep an eye on Jamie for a bit - not that I didn't trust her, of course, but she is, after all, family...even if she herself only found out recently. During this time, Adria and Tom also happened upon a bar where they heard of this Argent guy and managed to find out pretty much the same stuff I had earlier. I called it an evening and headed back to the palace after participating is a slightly crooked dice game in which I let the con off after communicating to him that I knew what was going on, could be useful alter to have some one here who owes me a bit of a favor (not much, but it's an in). Jamie stayed out to drink fairly late, and Adria and Tom arrived back sometime after I did, but before Jamie did.
We discussed what we had learned over breakfast the next morning. Information was duly shared, and no one was holding anything back that I could tell. I probably should trust these guys a bit more. I mean, they're cousins and all, but we're not really in competition for anything, the throne is pretty stable, and it's generally a calm time politically and familially. However, Benedicts training is not so easily ignored. Regardless, breakfast was pretty pleasant. That day we just wandered about Alnos and played the tourist, looking intoa anything that seemed interesting. I tried a fairly straight forward attempt at contacting Argent's group, with no immediate success (could pay out later though). Jamie spent most of the time recovering form her previous night and jsut wandering around this (to her) strange land. Adria vanished off to do something, not sure what, and Tom wandered around and worked at making himself popular with the locals. We all crashed at the palace again that evening. When we got back to the palace I also found our noble contact as well and he gave me a Official Letter of Complaint or some such to be delivered to the King of Amber. I also asked him if he could get us some police files on Argent. After denying that such a thing would exist, he allowed as how he might be able to come up with a bit of data sometime in the next day or so. So passes day two of our investigation.
We once again met over breakfast and talked things over. No one had made any real progress, though some of us had things in the works that might pay off in a few days. At the end of breakfast I trumped Random and gave a progress report. I also passed along the letter. He told us stay as long as we felt it might be useful, and then we're free to go. After a it more talk, Adria decides that we shoudl try shadow walking to this person. This casued a bit more hemming and nawing, but basically people were bored with this waiting around stuff and wanted to make some quick progress. I was proably the most leary, but I didn;t want these folks to go off and get themselves hurt. Besides, I was pretty interested myself. So, we all got armed to the teeth (well, actually only me, the others just got armor and a simple small sowrd each) and then we set out, Adria driving.
We headed up the mountain, walking and the world changed. Adria seemed to be quite skilled at it. After a several hour hike, we found ourselves if a place looking much liek Gezaro and the changing stopped. We came upon a lord's manor, confirming our location and also causing some concern since it was rather more heavily guarded than it needed to be in peacetime. We decided that the straight forward approach might not be the wisest and we turned aside to look for a smaller settlement where we might be less obtrusive (not quite realizing at the time how much some of us stood out racially). Adria was getting a bit tired, so I shadow walked us to a brook which, surprise of surprises, quickly turned into a stream with a mining settlement next to it.
We soon realized how much we actually stood out, but before we could do anything intelligent we were accosted by a couple of Gezaro bowman who, in badly accented/mangled Thari, ordered us to stop and identify ourselves. Since no one came up with a good cover story on the spot, we just told them we were from Amber. At this they told us we had to go up the manor and talk to the Lord of the area. Seem things were not very settled since the revolution (Revolution?! First thing any of us had heard! Very important that this get back to Amber!). With that, we started off to the manor, our escorts a good distance away, with arrows nocked...