Buckling over, I gulped fresh air into my lungs as we landed on solid ground. We had caught the strange entity off guard ever so slightly by splitting up, giving us just enough of an edge to make it to Castle Amber safely. The sensation was not unlike trying to outrun a tornado. My eyes flashed to my side as I saw the empty sheet being thrown to the polished floor.
“Damn all.” I heard Blaine mutter in frustration as he took off down the Great Hall.
I chased after him.
“Where are we going?” I asked as we ascended the grand staircase.
He remained silent.
“Hey, I get it, you’re not the talkative sort, but really where-”
He squinted in dissatisfaction. “I am going to Fiona’s Lab. She’s the most likely to know what should be done next. You can do as you like.”
My blood boiled but I said nothing after that.
We eventually reached Fiona’s Lab on the third floor and Blaine called out her name upon entry. There were a few heads that rose at our abrupt intrusion. One of the small rooms on the far side of the laboratory opened and Fiona emerged. She walked briskly to the front of the room to greet us.
“Ah,” she smiled for a beat before letting it fade, “Where is Alexandrea?”
My eyes looked back and forth as I began to wonder the same.
“Righ- right here.” Garth's voice could suddenly be heard behind us as he leaned against the doorframe. Catching his composure rather quickly, he once again stood tall like some noble giant and stepped forward. “When we got here we saw the bedsheet on the floor, Shade said you two must be here.” He nodded towards Fiona politely, “Your daughter was right behind me, she’ll be here soon.”
We began relaying everything of interest, Fiona probing us for further details till Shade arrived, at which time she quickly ran over to hug her daughter.
“I’m glad you are alright dear!”
“You know I can handle myself mother.”
Fiona bit her lip, “If I had any idea that this could have happened I would have never allowed all of you to leave.”
Shade looked to the side. “Obviously.”
“Your Trump barrier around Onyx, they say that the unknown entity broke through it?”
“Well, I’m not completely sure. We do know Evelyn was affected, most likely by Trump contact. And she didn’t have any cards in her hand so she wasn’t attempting to call out.”
“Yes I see.” Fiona began to nod to herself in thought, ”There’s still so much to learn.”
“So then what are we going to do about this?” Shade questioned. “You said you were able to retrieve Blaine when he was caught in a Trump contact with this thing, so maybe-”
“Alexandrea please.” Fiona muttered exasperated, “It has grown to be much more hostile. Flora will need to be alerted of the situation first, and we don’t even know what we’re dealing with yet. And even when we do, your generation will be kept at a safe distance until the threat has been neutralized.”
“Right.” Shade replied letting her arms fall to her sides, “Looks like you’ve got this covered then.” she finished with an obvious air of dissatisfaction as she walked out of the room.
I couldn’t blame her. I wanted at least some kind of proactive course of action to take place at this point. My life was on the line, and I wanted so desperately to leave Amber. If only this had just been a simple reunion party. As the other voices became background noise to my inner thoughts I began considering retiring to my room. What else could I really offer to this situation? I had been out of the loop and actively avoiding Amber for most of my life. I was probably the least educated person concerning higher powers here.
I was jerked back to reality by Fiona's yell of surprise. I whirled around to see Evelyn, barefoot, walking slowly towards the group. Shade hot on her heels.
“Oh Evelyn!” Fiona exclaimed, “What happened?”
“A Lot.” Evelyn huffed, taking another deep breath. “I’ll explain in a moment.” She looked up studying our little group. “How did all of you get here?”
“You were attacked by the entity. We all felt a tremendous presence, it tried to terrify us. Knowing we were potentially vulnerable, we fled to Amber carrying your body via Trump.” Blaine replied succinctly.
“Your body remained while your mind was trapped Evie.” Garth explained, “We tried to rescue you by splitting up into two groups and Trumping to Amber.” He rubbed the back of his neck as he continued. “But apparently when Naddia and Blaine arrived you were gone.”
I felt myself wince slightly at the word ‘rescue’. Garth seemed to mean well, but from my recollection I was pretty sure what we did was a desperate attempt to save our own hides.
“...I see.” Evelyn nodded, “What state did you find me in, exactly?”
“You ah, Your eyes had glowing green lights floating within your pupils. Beyond that you were just stiff as a board and catatonic.” I offered in response.
“Perhaps those were the lights I saw in my vision, everything was taking place within my mind.” Evelyn puzzled half to herself, half out loud.
“No, it was more than a mental connection.” Blaine shook his head. “How else can we explain your body missing when we tried to transport you here.”
“What vision?” Fiona stared at Evelyn with heavy interest.
Evelyn began recounting the details of what had transpired as best she could remember. She had been transported to a strange and extremely foggy area that gave off the sensation of being submerged in water. Beyond tiny green sparks of light flickering in the distance it was a dark place. She didn’t seem to get any traction when she tried to move, and she found it impossible to break the silence there.
“I couldn’t breathe. So I took out my Trumps and I called for Eric-”
“Eric?” Fiona's gaze softened somewhat as she looked at her niece.
“Evelyn...” She spoke gently, “Eric is dead.”
I cocked my head at the sudden tender turn our conversation had taken. I had only met him in brief when I was studying in Amber as a youth. I really only knew of Uncle Eric as recounted in stories. Uncle Caine had spoke well of him, and said in the end he died protecting Amber. Evelyn’s skin gave her away as it started to flush. “I know.”
“Who else do I have to call?” She remarked in a tone that panged of a loss.
My heartstrings were uncomfortably tugged as her voice rang in the air. For better or worse my empathy forced me to know we had both experienced terrible things; the loss of that which we love. She very well could be cold and cruel, as I constantly told myself was the case of every Amberite. However in the end, even after Amber has her fill twisting and rending those that we loved and trusted unrecognizable, underneath we were all still people. That pain of this truth was unavoidable.
Distance had made it easier to dehumanize the ruthless and sanctimonious nature that Amber exuded. Now suddenly standing side by side with them my anger was giving way to sympathy which only breed a bitter frustration as I stood there watching her. I could no longer presume to view her as just an Amberite, and I was sure this course of action would never be genuinely returned in kind.
Fiona nodded and tenderly urged Evelyn to continue her recounting.
She tried to use the card, and instead of no response as would be expected, the image shifted and transformed, draining it’s colors in front of her eyes. In a jarring fashion she was transported to a cluttered attic, Shadow unknown. There she met and spoke with Great Grandfather Dworkin. This was something that interested everyone greatly. Dworkin was an original Chaosite and the first of our family. He created the Pattern that only those of his bloodline were able to use for expert Shadow travel. And ever since was always taken seriously due to his sheer power. The man was known to be enigmatic to put it lightly, though Evelyn believed insane to be the more fitting word. She recalled that he couldn’t offer any particularly useful information or advice but was able to return her here, to Amber.
Fiona had been silently soaking everything in, a radiance of calm. “I’ll continue to look into it. We’ll have to postpone festivities until we’ve sorted this out.” She sighed picking up a notebook on the table at her side that an assistant had left amidst our conversation. “Random’s grand announcement by the way, is that Vialle is pregnant. I also must tell all of you that Martin has been taken and is currently in the same condition in which you found Evelyn.”
“Why didn’t you lead with that?!” Evelyn exclaimed as I leaned slightly to the side observing the room that Fiona had exited when we arrived, wondering if that was where they were keeping him.
“Clearly, there is something about the third generation, and clearly, there is little safety to be had anywhere, so you’ll all have to be kept here and under careful watch for the foreseeable future.” Fiona finished as she flipped a few pages in the notebook, scanning them.
“Where is he?” Eveyln spoke, with a hint of desperation. “Where is Martin?”
Fiona looked straight up from her text, meeting Evelyn's gaze. “He’s resting. Merlin’s with him.”
“And you can’t help him?”
I saw Evelyn’s face twitch for a fraction of a second and then she whirled around and slammed the door behind her. I folded my arms in disatisfaction as Shade left again. It was good that Evelyn had returned and was still alive, but on the whole this day had been almost exclusively bad news. I excused myself and made my way through the castle in a partial daze. As the tapestries and ceiling adornments passed by I felt as though I was walking deeper and deeper inside a dream. In the course of a mere few hours my life had been completely flipped upside down. What was going to become of me now?