As if trying to disrupt the movements of The Talisman’s Vampire space fleet all by myself isn’t chore enough, I sensed an attack on Zarurra and her siblings. At first I wasn’t concerned, as Zarurra had Derix, Fritz, and Alana with her, and they were only fighting a group of Ardent Blacks. We’ve faced them before, and those three have proved adequate to the task. However, as I got more in tune with my feelings in the Tao, I began to realize that something more was wrong. These Ardent Blacks were supremely confident in their victory, yet all expected to die in the attempt. It didn’t even take me a half a heartbeat to realize that this was some type of suicide “bomb” run, and the battle was just to distract the targets and keep them from running from the really big boom. So I was forced to drop what I was doing, and go assist.
I was pretty much right about the correlation of forces. Although they took some pretty serious hits, Zarurra and her allies had pretty much won the fight, and it was just about all over except for the shouting. And the really big boom of course. Since I didn’t know what part of them the bombs were concealed on, or perhaps “in,” I had to pull them and all of their equipment in total into The Myst and then eject them into some random fire pit in the depths of chaos. This proved a little difficult because of Fritz and Derix. Fritz the vampire was feeding off of one to heal his battle wounds and replenish the vitality he had expended in combat, and I didn’t dare spare the time for him to finish. His hunger did not react well to having his meal snatched, literally, right out from under him. Zarurra solved this problem by offering him her own blood, despite the fact that she had lost a significant amount of it through battle wounds already. Not the smartest thing for her to do, but, well… Its Zarurra were talking about here. She collapsed into a near faint by the time Fritz was done, and he had to carry her in a somewhat delirious state to the hospital. Fortunately, the entire spire is essentially one big hospital, and the very best one in all of Chaos at that.
The problem with Derix was that he had eaten one already, and I can’t pull something out of someone with The Myst. Since I wasn’t particularly interested in letting the bomb blow up inside of him, he’s far too amusing to let die, I had to bring him bodily into The Myst and use my knowledge of Atemi to induce vomiting to get it out of him. Needless to say, he didn’t enjoy the experience. He would have enjoyed the alternative even less. When those bombs went off, they were revealed to be nukes. Not city-buster nukes, but COTENANT –buster bombs. Someone really wanted this job done. Since it was the various Ardent Blacks carrying out the attack, one would have to assume Brand is ultimately behind this.
During this whole mess, Lorellai was popping in and out, and she informed Zarurra of my presence. Zarurra decided she needed to talk to me, and began try to command my presence before her, and even determined to be psychically annoying until I showed up. She doesn’t seem to understand that I’m an empath, not a telepath, so trying to psychically scream my name out to be annoying isn’t really going to work. While I can pick up on that through the Tao if I’m in close proximity and paying attention, I don’t have to pay attention to it if I don’t want to. Also, in her delirious state, she seems to have forgotten that, even though she has a strong psyche, she’s not a telepath either so she can’t actually do that. I decided to wait to talk to her until after she had received treatment, and was capable of thinking in a coherent fashion. Well, as coherent a fashion as Zarurra is capable of anyway. I take that back. Zarurra is capable of thinking coherently; it’s just that she so rarely bothers to do so…
While Zarurra and her siblings were getting patched up, I did some digging around in the Tao to try and analyze the attack and its implications, and I coordinated my efforts with Uncle Julius. What we came up with was that Brand has a cache of Ardent Blacks outside the Burl, and that he has committed them to this invasion of Amber. The attack was not really expected to succeed, but it was launched specifically to draw me to Zarurra with bait I couldn’t refuse so that the Talisman would follow me to her in the Tao, and realize her importance. He has almost certainly now noticed the Tao bond between Julius and Zarurra, and I was really hoping that would wait until after the battle. The way the attack was organized also indicated to Julius that an elder Amberite named Fiona, who has significant influence in chaos, is involved with Brand and The Talisman. If what I remember from Ratatosk’s lecture on Amber, Fiona is indeed a heavy hitter. Worse, it appears that Brand is somehow exploiting his status as an elder power through his Divided-Purpose aspect to somehow circumvent the rules surrounding the segregation of the Burl. We’re not sure exactly how or exactly what he’s doing with this right now, but were going to have to be wary of this none the same. The good news, if you can call it that, is that the Divided-Purpose in Brand does indeed appear to be subtly sabotaging his efforts. If he had merely told the Talisman what Zarurra was up to and let him investigate on his own, we would not have realized the depths of Brand’s involvement in this war, the fact that he could circumvent the Burl, or that Fiona was directly involved with him and The Talisman. Julius and are going to have to think on this some more, I’m fairly certain there’s more to it than what we’ve figured out so far.
After Zarurra was finished with the healers, I popped in for the chat she wanted. As I anticipated, once free of the effects of pain, fatigue, and blood loss, she was much more coherent to the point of even be accepting of my reasons for delaying our conversation. What she wanted to discuss was the disposition of Rook & Eureka’s child and Lorellai’s compunction that I should be involved in this. Zarurra seemed to be under the impression that I should spend the rest of my life cleaning up that assholes mess, and furthermore, that I should consider this an honor. Set her strait on this matter of it being a privilege to clean up after Rook. No, I take that back. I informed her of my perspective on the mater, and secured her agreement not to try and intrude her highly skewed perspective of it on me, although I’m sure she’s still enthralled with her silly notion. Anyway, I agreed that I would provide assistance on that subject when it was my help that was needed. I’m not going to be at Eureka’s beck and call, but when I understand a need they have through the Tao, I will provide the necessary intersession, and no more. This is something I would have done anyway, but formally verbalizing it was apparently enough for Lorellai and it secured Zarurra’s promise that she would provide any resource that was in her power to give. The first of which was her brother Knox. She took that better than I had expected she would, immediately giving him the necessary kick in the pants to get going. Knox was a little nonplus at the sudden reordering of his life, but he took it in stride, as the Tao said he would, and dived right into it.
Of course, just being in a reasonable frame of mind did not cure Zarurra of her need to whine about every little hardship, nor were the healers able to cure her of her notion that she, among all of the beings in the multivers, is undergoing the most hardships. Alana started off griping in a similar manner, but at least she was receptive to the possibility that she might not actually be the only one having a tough time. Perhaps there’s hope for her yet. Yes, Zarurra is having to watch the man she loves marry another, but at least she knows that he does lover her. And Ratatosk is not trying to cut Zarurra out, she’s perfectly willing to let them decide the parameters of their relationship, even to the point of giving the two of them sole rights to decide her own place in it if they so chose. Things could be much worse. Zarurra doesn’t appreciate what she has, nor does she consider what the rest of us go through to support her. While she’s dodging around chaos seeking allies and indirectly undermining the Talisman, I am having to directly confront the bastard through the Tao in order to delay his inevitable march on Amber long enough for Zarurra to finish her machinations. This one bitch of a job. Not to mention I have my own egregious family problems to sort out, which I can’t do because I’m having to spend all of my efforts in helping her deal with her mess. I could go on at length, but I’m sure anyone but Zarurra would get the point that we’re all having a bitch of a day, and one little assassination attempt isn’t that impressive a thing to whine about when I’m risking having my metal essence crushed into pulp on an hourly basis just to delay him long enough for Zarurra and Co. to get their act in gear. Argh!
Anyway, I was a little tired of hearing her whine, so I let slip her marriage to Julius through the Tao in front of Alana and Knox. I did this for three reasons. One, was that I didn’t think Zarurra had bothered to really think about what the two had done, and realize that she was already married, and that all of this pomp and ceremony to plicate the denizens of Chaos and Amber was nothing more than that: A placating gesture. Despite whatever drivel the lawyers and gossipmongers may spout, this “marriage” between Ratatosk and Julius has only as much real substance as the three of them chose to give it. Therefore, despite the hubbub that Zarurra is allowing to distract her, Zarurra and her beloved are still in control of their own destiny, and if she’ll stop to realize it Ratatosk is actually an ally in this effort. Which, miracles be praised, I think she actually is beginning to realize. Two, I pretty sure that Zarurra doesn’t really understand the full extent of the nature or consequences of that bond Julius set up between them, and I wanted to set up a situation in which she would either ask me about it or at least be receptive to letting me talk to her about it because it’s important, no essential, to what’s coming for her to understand it. And third, I wanted to cause Alana and Knox to have a cow right on top of Zarurra so I could giveth her back some of the hard time she’s been giving me. This plan worked like a charm, especially goal number three. It was glorious.
Naturally, Zarurra assumed that my little revelation was a naive “mistake” on my part to let such sensitive information out in public. Once again, she continues to underestimate me. It was a very calculated bit of dissemination. Despite my admonition to Alana and Knox to keep it under their hats, with the Talisman already aware of the bond thanks to Brand’s little ploy, there is little reason to hide this. Everyone who has bothered to pay attention already knows that Zarurra and Julius are…”heavily” involved. Anyone who would understand enough about the bond to care about its presence between them (such as myself) will have already sensed it. Anyone else who didn’t already know about it won’t have enough understanding of the Tao to care about it considering it is an open secret that they are already sleeping with each other. Those people will either only be concerned about the social-legal perceptions, or they’ll already be as cheesed off as they can get. I won’t say there is no risk involved, but it is a minimal one, and the maneuver was well calculated as the potential benefits far outweighed the risk. Benefits which have already paid off, as Zarurra has indeed allowed me to explain the full implications of that bond, she is beginning to understand that she really does have Julius, and Knox and Alana were just perfect in their reactions. I suppose I should be pleased that my manipulation was not truly perceived, as that was also one of the goals, but darn it, I’d like for someone to give me a little credit now and then. Other than our adversaries of course. I’m pretty sure the Talisman isn’t sublimating my efforts to frustrate his troop marshaling. He’ll be sure to give credit where credit is due, much to my chagrin I’m sure.
Hmmm… I can sense a shift I the emotional structure around Zarurra, Ratatosk, and Julius… It appears that Zarurra is beginning to truly accept Ratatosk’s presence in their developing family structure. Excellent. I wonder if it will turn into a truly triangular structure as my own father’s family is, or if it will end up somewhere in-between. Not that it really matters as long as it’s something their all comfortable and happy with… And as long as they can get the basic structure cemented between themselves before going into battle…