Back to the Castle

Everything seems just as silent as before (as silent as the grave) when Desta steps through the rainbow shimmer, finding herself back in the main hall of the castle. If the royals she saw earlier are still around, they're either somewhere else entirely now, or simply being very, very quiet.

Seeing nothing out of the ordinary (or, at least, compared to what apparently passes for ordinary in this strange place), she heads upstairs, eventually finding her way to Dworkin's rooms again. Back in the main room, she remembers that the incredibly messy bedroom is off to one side, with the door she unlocked leading to the study area where she found the Trumps, as well as that reinforced door she never bothered opening.

Which is where she goes, having already looked at the rest of the rooms. Not that nothing could have changed in the interim, but all things considered, that seems highly unlikely. The door clicks open with a solid sound, implying that it isn't locked, but the latch itself was heavily reinforced like the rest of the door.

As the door swings open, Desta looks in and sees what can only be some sort of laboratory. Beakers, tubes, and crucibles sit upon various tables. Shelves line the walls, packed full of various containers and bottles. Odd tools with no real discernible purpose sit here and there, or hang from pegs upon the walls. A number of scorch-marks and stains mar the walls, floor, ceiling, and most other flat surfaces in general.

And then, off to one side, she notices Aiden, crouched and staring at some sort of odd contraption apparently made up of five glass rods rising vertically from a solid black base. He looks up as she enters, and chuckles. "We really must stop meeting like this. People will begin to talk."

For a second, it almost seems like she would smile, but it's not an expression that comes naturally, and the moment passes with only a brief brightening of her eyes. She paces into the room warily, looking at everything piled here and there as she walks slowly along the counter until she finds herself with Aiden by the contraption. She keeps at least a foot between them as she looks at the object, but as he had not made any suspicious moves as yet, she is slightly less cautious. Besides, the bell is still clutched tightly in one hand.

"What's that for?" she asks curiously.

"Honestly? I haven't the faintest idea." She can hear a hint of amusement in his voice. "I thought I'd check Asherah's rooms to see if there was something here which could explain what you and yours are doing here in Amber, or even perhaps find the proximate cause itself, but nothing here seems to relate to the problem."

She makes a hmming noise, leaning over to look at it from another angle. "What people?" she asks.

"Hmm? People?" The doll tilts its head. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"You said people would talk. What people? There aren't any people here," she persists.

"Ahh." The doll nods. "It's just a figure of speech… I meant it more as a joke than anything." Then the doll laughs. "Of course, while there are no people here, there are indeed people here, as it were. Isn't that, in fact, part of the current problem? That there are people here who don't necessarily belong."

Desta nods emphatically. "Yes, that is definitely a problem," she agrees. "For me, anyway. But that reminds me, since I'm here, and we're in a laboratory, I was wondering something. Can I do an experiment on you?"

It doesn't raise an eyebrow, though that's almost certainly more a failing of flexibility rather than intent. He looks at her, somewhat curiously. "I suppose that would depend on the nature of the experiment."

"Simple enough," she answers. She points toward the other end of the room. "You walk over that way, and I ring this bell to see what happens."

"And what would the purpose of that be, might I ask?"

"I do have an idea what'll happen," she admits. "But it won't destroy you or anything. I don't think. Maybe hurt a little bit. But if I tell you what to expect, it might ruin the experiment."

"What a delightfully reassuring response." The doll sounds almost droll. "You'll have to forgive me if I'm not entirely enthusiastic about participating in your proposed experiment."

"That's okay," she says, gravely accepting his apology for his lack of enthusiasm. "But I could have done it anyway without warning you first," she points out

"True, but even had what you attempted worked with no ill effects, you understand that it would have soured the nature of our relationship somewhat." He chuckles again. "And when you think about it, if I asked someone to hold something for me, and told them that I was reasonably sure there was a 90% chance it wasn't going to explode, I'd find it hard to fault them if they decided to turn me down."

"Yeah, sure. That would be a no then," she clarifies.

"I'm afraid so," the doll confirms. "So, apart from mysterious experiments which may or may not harm those who participate in them, have you learned anything new about the current situation since last we spoke?"

Desta shrugs. "This place is real similar to where I'm from, but not exactly the same." She thinks for a little bit. "Not much else. Oh, you've got a Pattern in Arden. Is that the only one?"

"Well, it is true that Shadows are rarely precisely the same as that which casts them, though I suppose we would disagree on which is the source and which is the reflection," the doll agrees. His head tilts when she mentions the Pattern, and not for the first time it occurs that the lack of facial features makes it far too hard to tell when someone is lying. Not that it was all that much easier to detect falsehoods uttered by the Amberite Royals she remembers, even with expressions. Amberites tended to be damned fine actors… and poker players.

"To be honest, I probably shouldn't discuss that with you," he says at last. "State secrets and all that. So perhaps I will merely admit that it isn't the only one, and leave it at that."

"Sure, sure," she agrees without evidence of concern. "It's just that the Royals where I'm from keep it in the cellar below the Castle. Just thought I'd ask, since I haven't been that way yet here." Turning, she walks over to the door, getting ready to continue on her way.

"Hmm." The noise he makes is clearly acknowledgment of her statement, but it doesn't seem like he's inclined to further that line of discussion. Perhaps it's merely a question of state secrets, as he suggested, or perhaps it's something that doesn't interest him very much. On the other hand, maybe he's just playing things close to his vest, the way most of the royals from her Amber would.

"Oh yeah," she stops at the door and turns back. "Is there a way I can contact you later on, in case you find something out? I wouldn't want to be out of touch."

"Hmm. I suppose it wouldn't hurt if I were to give you a Trump…" And with that, he pulls a deck out, rifling through the cards until he finds the one he was looking for, and then extends it towards her, held between his index and middle fingers.

Desta walks back into the room to accept the card, looking at it briefly but not spending a lot of time over it. She'd already seen it once, after all. "Thanks! I don't have one to give you, but I'm guessin' you'll get around that if need be."

At a glance, the card she takes certainly looks the same as the one she saw in the library. At her comment, Aiden nods. "Indeed. I don't think communication would be a problem, should I wish to speak with you again."

"All good, then." She makes for the door again, then stops as another question occurs to her. "Oh yeah. Do you know anyone who uses the device of a gold star on a blue field?"

"Hmm?" He pauses for a moment, as if thinking. "I believe Asherah had a crest that looked something like that, actually. Why? Where did you see such a device?"

"Something on the desk out there when I passed through here earlier," Desta says with a vague gesture back to the other room.

"Ohh?" From the tone of voice, Desta gets the distinct feeling that there was a strong implication of Why don't you show me? inherent in that sound… though since it wasn't an explicit question, she could probably fake ditsy-ness and pretend she didn't catch the meaning. Aiden would probably just ask outright then, though.

"Yeah," Desta says, herself uninterested. "It's not there anymore, though."

"It disappeared?" He raises his hand to his chin, as if thinking. "Odd. I don't believe any of the others come into these rooms, and I know I didn't take anything from the desk… Do you think it might have been taken by one of your fellows?"

"It may have been," she replies seriously.

"Interesting. I hope it wasn't something important. Or dangerous." He waves a hand to indicate some of the assorted objects around the room. "Asherah had a reputation for being something of a tinkerer. And sometimes, she tinkered with things that weren't necessarily safe."

With that, the hand gesture indicates some of the scorch marks. "I'm not sure I'd be entirely comfortable fiddling with something of hers if I was completely ignorant of its properties."

And then he shrugs. "What did it look like? Perhaps it was something a bit more innocuous."

"There's always someone who mentions how dangerous things are," Desta says with an answering shrug. "It'd be handy for you, though, wouldn't it? Let us all kill ourselves off and then you wouldn't have to worry about it anymore."

"Perhaps some of my siblings would feel that way, though I'd like to think that not all of us are so… crass." And then he laughs. "And, of course, even the crassest among us might be somewhat wary if, while blowing yourselves to hell and gone, you wind up taking us with you."

She cocks her head to one side, visualizing that. "Also possible," she admits.

She pauses for a time, still thinking. Then pulling out her deck of Trump, she pulls the top two out without pulling the others out at the same time. The second one in the stack should be the ring of stones where she most recently visited and saw the green glowing Pattern. The castle itself would be on top, as that was how she returned. She walks back over to Aidan and extends the card displaying the ring of stones to him for inspection.

He takes the card, looking it over, flipping it over between his fingers, looking at both sides. "Hmm. The Ring." A short pause, before he looks up at her, holding the card up to show her the back. "I take it that this is what you were referring to? I'm going to assume that, since you seem to have a case of your own, you're aware of what Trumps are." He makes a sound that almost sounds like clicking his tongue - an impressive feat considering he doesn't actually seem to have a tongue. "Do I need to warn you about the potential dangers of using Trumps drawn by people you don't know, showing scenes you don't recognize?"

And then he tilts his head, as if a new thought occurred to him, "Was this the only card you found, or were there others?"

In turn, Desta nods, nods again, shakes her head, and then tilts it to the side. "There were a few more," she answers the last question.

"Hmm." He pauses, as if thinking. "May I see them? Perhaps, if I recognize any of them, I can at least warn you whether or not they might be particularly dangerous. Otherwise… You might as well keep them. Perhaps they are in some way key to the current mystery. Then again, maybe not. But better to investigate than to dismiss them completely, I suppose."

"I had thought that possible, too," she admits. She also gives the idea some thought before going over to a relatively clear space on the counter and laying out the cards she had found. "I thought it interesting that there are thirteen of these cards, with a thirteen pointed star, and there are thirteen of you. I had thought first that there might be a link between each of you to one of the cards."

[End of Game, apparently]

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