No sooner do I Alana and I finish talking about The Crone, than I sense the influence of The Talisman upon The Vale. Specifically, someone directly connected to The Talisman, and at his behest, had just blocked a Trump connection between Zarurra and another. Sense communication jamming generally precedes something nasty I decided to get to Zarurra as fast as I could. Figuring said something nasty could happen to Zarurra while I was gabbing with Alana, I decided that explanations could wait, and proceeded strait out of the ship with my sword drawn and ready. Naturally enough, Alana followed. Pat, perforce, followed her following me. Sparrow, saw the strange man onboard and, not knowing how he got there, followed him following Alana following me.
Quite quickly our little procession arrived at the front gates to The Castle of The Vale, where a set of guards proceeded to bar my way. I tried to just slip past them, but they were actually skilled enough to close off that maneuver. That’s… never… happened to me before. Of course, once I cam skidding to a halt, they demanded explanations of me. Since I was a totally unknown quantity to them, I had no idea how to give them a succinct explanation that they would be willing to act on immediately. I’m… not used to having to explain myself to peons at all either. Nor am I used to encountering guards that are both technically on our side and still alive. So, for a few precious moments I was somewhat at a loss for words.
Into this awkwardness arrived everyone else. Apparently, the guards new Sparrow and were willing to let her vouch for me, but she was, quite understandably I must admit, reluctant to let an armed ‘excited’ individual such as myself into someone else’s palace on her own head. At that point, Alana went off on me about my rapid response. Since forward progress had been halted, and a speedy response to whatever was happening with Zarurra was no longer possible, I went ahead and took the time necessary to explain to her that I sense Zarurra had somehow had a brush with The Talisman, and that I had felt time was of the essence in responding. She found this to be unacceptable. Regardless of how eminent or severe the danger to her sister was, I should always take the time to expound, even if I didn’t have any specifics to offer, before any attempt is made to head off such danger.
Well, since Alana didn’t need me to help her sister, I didn’t have any need to try and talk my way past the guards, so I went back to the ship until such time as it was fully determined that Zarurra was certainly in need of assistance. In the mean time Zarurra had made contact with someone else, and was in the process of ‘sending through’ most of her gathered clique. Alana and Sparrow arrived just in time to get in on the end of that, thanks to following my rapid response I might add. Not that any of them appreciated that. I felt Pat follow.
As I am walking back to the ship, I get a contact from Julius. Apparently, Zarurra and Co. have landed right in the middle of a boarding battle on a spaceship between the previously mentioned Cosmic Vampire Nazi Overlord and a pack of rebellious vampires, led by a young vampire from Amber named Ian, intent on wrestling control of ‘The Reich’ from its rightful Führer, this elder Vampire from Amber named Eric. According to what Julius told me, if Ian won, he’d use the resources of this vampire space empire to attack Amber and claim its throne. Not to mention we could both feel the influence of The Talisman in this. Julius felt that he needed to go cut this attack off at its source, but was concerned that there were individuals where he was currently who could thwart his movements. So, he wanted to use a combination of The Tao and Pattern to switch places with me. Trusting his judgment, I allowed him to proceed.
So now I was caught between two armies of space vampires.
Great… Just Great…
Zarurra’s contact here was The Führer’s granddaughter and Deputy Führer, a woman named Piper with the power of Pattern. I could sense that Eric was still alive, even though his Trump was not responding. I could also sense the presence of Rook, which indicated that Menelaus had some type of interest in this as well. We headed to the bridge to assist Eric. On the way, we ran into Jill of all people. Shockingly, she stated that she could not allow us to attack Rook. Most of us blew past her, but Sparrow and Inque stayed behind to distract her. I wasn’t sure if that would work since there were as many of her as she needed, but I had little time to worry about that. We quickly reached the bridge, where Eric was engaged in sword combat with Ian, and the multiple Rook corpse littered about them indicated that he would soon rejoin the fray as well. Our way was barred by two vampire Cardinals of The Talisman, who were penetrating all of our mental defenses to read our surface thoughts at range
I allowed the others to deal with the Cardinals, and focused my efforts through the Tao at the battle that mattered. I used the Tao to restrain Ian and leave him vulnerable to Eric’s assault. As I did so, I sensed that Ian had gained the powers of the Cardinals. The two other Cardinals did not possess the power of Pattern, but they had plenty of other abilities. When one of the opened up a gate right on top of Alana, I realized that this Alternate Talisman must have defeated the coalition of friends that had defeated the original Talisman back in the Burl. A quick scan of them confirmed this. There stolen powers included the creation and forging abilities of Zarurra’s uncle Lenard, and Onuban’s ability to duplicate any power he witnessed. Not good. Sparrow arrived with Inque, and they engaged the Cardinal who had gated Alana away. Zarurra and her dragon together tore the other one to pieces. Unfortunately, Piper managed to slip through the cardinals and interfere with Eric’s battle. Instead of allowing Eric to cut down Ian and thus end his threat, she used the Pattern to remove Ian from the universe. Then she initiated a Trump call to Eric right as Rook returned, distracting him at the critical juncture and leaving him open to Rook’s attack. I tried to compensate, but Jill had returned and through up and erected some type of abyssal barrier which being outside the confines of existence, the Tao could neither affect nor pass through. Thanks to his granddaughter, Eric was slain and Ian escaped. If I didn’t know better through the Tao, I’d swear Piper was part of the conspiracy against Eric.
After it was all over, Jill remained. I struck up a conversation with her to try and figure out why she had been helping Rook, and by extension Menelaus master of The Black Spiral which she had previously sought to destroy. For making this enquiry, Piper, the new Führer, swore to hunt me down and kill me. Damned arrogant, incompetent, Nazi, bitch. It seems we now have a female version of Rook to deal with. I’m going to have to do something about her before she can become a problem for me.
Anyway, Jill said she had fallen in love with a priestess named Cynthai, whom had asked her to look after Rook. She asked if I would like to meet Cynthai, and after consultation with Julius, agreed to do so with Inque and Sparrow in support. Jill took us to meet her new beloved. Cynthai turned out to be yet another high-ranking vampire in yet another vampire kingdom. Although the emotions of Jill and Cynthai matched their claims of mutual adoration… Their behavior was off… Jill, the proud, powerful, elder force of nature that went where and when she wished doing as she wished acted with the mannerisms of an abject slave. Although Cynthai never asked this of her, and indeed gave her tacit permission to not play servant in our presence, it did not counter the fact that Cynthai regarded this as normal. I could tell from the fact that she regarded us as equals, that this was off. If she had truly fallen in love with Jill, the proud, powerful, elder force of nature that went where and when she wished doing as she wished, who is a greater being even than Sparrow a true goddess, then she should have been loath to see Jill act in such a servile manner. But she was clearly not. Yet I can sense no means of coercion at all, nor is there a disturbance in the Tao that would indicate the abrogation of Jill’s free will. Something is defiantly very wrong here, especially sense I can sense the hand of Menelaus in this somehow. Cynthai had already admitted to an alliance with Menelaus, but had said she was helping him to en d the great evil represented by the Vampire Nazi Eric. That Menelaus was clearing the way for a greater evil with his removal was news to her, and she promised that if she could bring her proof of this, that she would recommend to her mistresses that their alliance should be terminated. I sensed that she was sincere in this, and that she honestly believed it likely that her queens would follow such a recommendation. However, I could also sense that he was somehow involved in the creation of this relationship between Jill and Cynthai, and that it continued to benefit him in some way.
While we were having our conversation with Cynthai, Zarurra was helping the spirit of Eric posses one of the Items of Power possessed by Piper. So when we reunite with them in Amber, well be hauling around to Vampire Nazi overlords. (No, Piper herself is not a Vampire, but she is their overlord.)
So, to recap: The individual we were trying to save was led to his death by his closest ally, whom we brought into the fray with us, and said individual also helped Ian escape to benefit from the death of Eric.
That little adventure just didn’t work out so well for us…