|Mike Sullivan||Chris Warren
Takeshita explained the rebellion to us. Seems that a local outlaw by name of Arjan (sound familiar?) had stirred up the peasant folk with some sort of socialist power-to-the-people type of propaganda and was now busily (and successfully) waging a guerilla war against the current War Lords of Guezaro. After that explanation, he invited us to stay the evening if we wished. We accepted (being somewhat tired from the shadow walk here) and once we thanked our host, we headed off to our rooms to have a bit to eat and discuss the situation among ourselves. We then trumped Random to let him know of this rebellion and to give a general report of what was going on.
Random was none too pleased at the news (and also didn't seem terribly happy that we were no longer in Alnos) and generally looked pretty beat. Anyway, during the half day or so we'd been gone the situation with Alnos had deteriorated. Seems there had been yet another pirate attack, and the Alnosian nobles were claiming that they had hard evidence that this one had taken place in Amber waters. Random needed soemone in Alnos who could keep them fairly happy and not be overwhelmed by pressure from the nobles there. As it turns out, he thought I was the man for the job. I quickly let the others know what was going on and then trumped through to Random at the Amber dockyards. He gave me a slightly fuller briefing, warned me about the Marquis Gianelar (the head of the Alnosian spy/police force - a slippery fellow who likes to pass himself off as a useless fop), gave me a letter of ambassadorship, and sent me on my way by courier ship.
Meanwhile, back in Gezaro, the other three decided to stay and see what they could find out. They spent an uneventful night asleep (mostly, Adria spent a bit of time being tricksy and getting a look at the battle maps of the region) in their guest rooms and the next morning began their search. Takeshita had assigned one of the people of the manor to be their guide, and they headed out. Unfortunately, Adria did not have a decent grasp of the scale of the map she had seen the night before and so the group started out on a nice littel jaunt towards a townt hat was about 2 weeks trvel to the south. A few hours into their trip, they realized their mistake, and the guide explained to them that most travelling in this area was done by barge (but if a bunch of Amberite nobles wanted to walk instead, he was certainly not one to argue), and that the closest place to atch a barge was the town they had just left. Everyone grumbled a bit and looked a bit embarressed on the trip back. It began to snow.
They were about two thirds of the way back when they were ambushed by a group of the rebels. Their guide is hit by an early round of bow fire (after declaring to the rebels that the group would never surrender, despite that being what the Amberites wanted). The group dove down the trail embankment and ran for a nearby stand of trees to reduce the effectiveness of the bows. The rebels dropped their bows and drew their swords and follwed. Melee and confusion ensued.
Adria was barely holder her own against these folks. Tom was doing OK, but he only had a dagger with him, for some reason not deigning to carry a sword. Jamie, as it turns out, was pretty good in a fight. Adria set herself up back to back with the groups erstwhile guide (who was a pretty decent fighter, for a guy with an arrow in his side) and just worked on defending herself. Tom moved into a denser area of trees to compensate a bit for the reach advantage the rebels had with their short swords. Adria had a larger sword and moved away to a slightly opener area where she could swing it more freely.
Adria and Tom managed to acquit themselves fairly well and the rebels eventually gave up and fled, leaving behind only one or two in any condition to be questioned. So, they managed to snag a whole one as it was trying to get away. Jamie had not faired so well. It seems that she had come across a better than average peasant rebel fighter, in fact a damn good fighter, in fact decidely better than her, in fact...oops. Jamie had her sword knocked out of her hand and was knocked out by the next blow. Adria and Tom found naught of her but tracks in the snow where the fight had occured. They searched around a bit and found the tracks of the victor in the fight heading off into the storm, apparently carrying Jamie. Adria headed back to the manor to get soem peopel to come pickup the wounded and the prisoners, and Tom set off in pursuit, leaving Adria with his trump as a way to keep in touch.
By this time, I had arrived back in Alnos, this time with a bit more official fanfare in the reception party. The Marquis Gianelar made a passable show at being a brainless fop and we all headed back to the castle. After a bit of pleasant chit chat we parted ways til the formal reception dinenr that evening. The dinner was light fare and no talk of business, just a bunch of nobles playing at nothing at all being wrong in the world - though the Marquis did ask me to discuss a bti of business afterwards. All in all, it was decently pleasant, as such things go. After the desert, most of the guest excused themselves and I joined the Marquis in his office to hear a first hand account from a supposed witness from the most recent pirate attack.
The witness's name was Rufus, and he was a deckhand on the misfortunate ship Flying Fish on its latest and last trip to Amber with a cargo of fish. According to his story, they had been in Amber waters about an hour (3 hours since the previous bird had been released) when the lookout spotted a sail. They tried to run away but it caught up to them and the pirates boarded, Rufus, not being a very brave man, had hidden in one of the life boats as soon as this whole mess had started. The lifeboat was thrown overboard by the shock of the initial ram by the pirate ship, and that's how Rufus got away unscathed. When he peeked out of hiding, both the pirate ship and the Flying Fish were no longer in site. He drifted for a couple of days until he was picked up by an Alnosian military ship and brought back.
It was disturbing and unfortunate if it was true, but the story seemed a bit too glib to my mind to be completely accurate to reality. The main question in my mind was, what was the man lying about. If it was the timing, then we were off the hook (for now, anyway), but if it was something less relevant (e.g. he was a stowaway, not a deckhand) then Amber was potentially in s bit of a trouble. However, I made accomodating noises and asked for a full transcript of the tale to be delivered to me the next day. When I got back that everning I asked my aide (the former Alnos Ambassador) to have a couple of agents report to me in the morning for research assignments. With that, I went to bed.
Adria and Tom had by this point followed the tracks of the unknown fighter a goodly long ways, and well out of the golden circle - thus confirming that Arjan was working with a shadow walker (family or chaosian), if not one himself. They decided that the had better take a slightly different approach since they didn't seem to be catching up at all, and in fact might very well have been misled. Instead of trying to follow the tracks, they just tried shadow walking directly to Jamie. They gave that up as soon as it became clear they were caught in a loop. Whoever was behind this was a pretty sophisticated manipulator of shaodw.
A brief discussionled tham to the conclusion that they would have to try quite a different approach. First, via trump, and then if that didn;t work by trying to shadow trace a bit of debris that they had found at the scene of the fight. They headed to a convenient shadow inn where Adria bought some drawing supplies and settled down for a while so Adria could attempt a quick trump sketch of Jamie. Tom had brought his musical instrument with him and played quietly to pass the time (he is, it turns out, an exceedingly good musician).
When I woke up in the morning, there was a large stack of papers from Gianelar waiting for me on my desk. I took a brief glance at them to confirm that they were what was expected (a transcript from Rufus' interview, a glossary of terms I had asked for (not needing), and, of course, an officious set of demands that I was supposed to sign and thereby have Amber accept all blame for this and pay Alnos lots of money, etc. etc.). They were put aside to be dealt with later in the day. My two researchers, Mutt and Jeff, arrived as I was finishing breakfast. I sent them out to find all they could about Rufus, the Flying Fish, and anything else that might provide clues as to the pattern of pirate attacks. Then, I sat down for a serious read through Rufus' report.
It took a few hours, but I finally found the likely hole in his story. Seems he was a bit too quick in deciding what exactly the hours of his watches were, and he seemed to have had an awfully long time between when he woke up and the beginning of his first watch. Doing the times out back to the ships departure, it became clear that the times were just plain wrong. A bit before lunch, the Marquis sent over a messenger to ask if I had yet signed that 'bit of bureaucratic mess' that was sent over with the transcript.
It seems that the Marquis was involved in a croquet game that afternoon, and I felt that rather than simply sending back the messaenger, I would meet Gianelar at the game and talk to him in person. My secretary (a well meaning by slightly slow in the head young thing) made sure there was an opening, and I prepared to stall. When I got to the croquet grounds, I explained to the Marquis how all those complicated technical sailing terms had made my poor head hurt, and I simply hadn't gotten around to looking at it as of yet. I then proceeded to make the game drag on until just before dinner.
Mutt and Jeff reported in that evening. Unfortunately, Rufus had left early in the morning for an un-named destination (and with a substantial bit of cash). Most regrettable. I really wanted to ask dear Rufus a few more specific questions. I put it on my mental list of things to attend to when I had time. They also told me a bit about the flying fish and the other ships that had been attacked. Some interesting stuff, but nothing immediately useful. I turned in for the evening.
I spent the next day basically ignoring the thing that Gianelar wanted me to sign, and instead looking at nautical maps for area around where the pirate attacks had occured. As it turned out, if I adjusted the times in Rufus tale to what I thought they actually were, they was a small chain of islands pretty close to the shipping routes. With the islands there some of the rest of the story became a bit more plausible, like the speed of the pirate ship suddenly fell in the realms of believablility. Upon plotting the supposed attack locations of the rest of the ship and adding ellipses of possible true location, the islands looked like a pretty good bet. A bit before dinner I sent a message over to Gianelar asking for a complete and complex breakdown of all the supposed dmages listed on the thing he wanted me to sign, figuring that should keep him busy for a caouple of days at least. I then trumped Gerrard and let him know what I found out about the island chain. I checked in on my earlier request for an intelligence report on Arjan and found out that it was being delayed by 'unknown' forces within the Alnos intelligence agancy. Oh well, it had been worth a try, but I suppose I couldn't really expect Gianelar to be at all cooperative at this point. Having successfully stalled for another day, I turned in for the evening
Tom and Adria made several attempts to contact Jamie via the trump sketch. First just from the inn, and then all the way back at the battle site, and then as close as they could get by walking through shadow. All met with equal and complete lack of success. However, it was unclear whether the problem was in the contact or simply that Jamie was refusing calls (in particular since she had had no experience at all with them and was quite possibly just finding the attempts frightening and confusing and blocking them out in reflex). So, they gave up on that idea and instead started shadow walking using a bit of a sowrd tip they'd found as a compass of sorts. They followed it to a fairly far afield shadow and were approaching a goodly sized city when they came across Jamie walking towards them, carrying the other part of the sword.
Jamie explained that she had been knocked out in the fight and had awaken groggy but much earlier than her captor had expected and was able to surprise and over power him (it was a him). She left him, perhaps dead, and took off with the only sword handy. She had since been wandering the shadows looking for her friend Adria, now that she knew how somewhat. As the three together again were about to turn around and walk back, Adria got a trump call from Random. Random was glad tehy had found Jamie, unhappy at the proof that there was a shadow walker of some sort involved, but mostly just wanted them back in Amber to help deal with the increasingly touchy pirate problem. Tom and grabbed Adria's free hand, and they trumped through, leaving Jamie behind to pursue her own ends...