Part 26c: Time-dulled memories of intense pain

Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)





Sil- -ave us quite a scare then, Son."

Brilliant light in one eye, then the other.  "Can you hear me, Son?  Can you talk?"

Pale, fuzzy images swim into focus.  A ceiling, windows, an old black and white TV set (or a new, colour TV set playing an old, black and white movie.  Hard to tell yet), men in white coats, a couple of worried-looking nurses.  A hospital then.

Aaron groans.  The oldest man, the one leaning over him, says, "Steady, Son, it's going to take you a few minutes to wake up properly." then, over his shoulder, "Nurse, call the Sheriff, tell him his cousin woke up."

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
He tried to talk, first, but nothing came out. Just a groaning, cracking noise. He felt sick.

Nothing was with him. He had no memories, no recurring thoughts. All he remembered was darkness and silence.


darkness, intense, seething pain, everything, nothing, all at once... whereami... whereami...

For a moment, he passes out from it all. He felt tired, so, so tired. He just wanted to relax... take it easy... maybe sleeping wouldn't be so bad after all... everyone could wait... life could wait...

But no. Inside him, something stirred. Another part of him tried to still it, to hold it down in silence and just let him sleep.

It stirred again, and continued to awaken. Soon, he could no longer keep his eyes shut, and they rolled up as his vision slowly came to.

In his mind, he saw a familiar, barren landscape.
And upon that landscape rose a form, a form he somehow knew well.

You have the universe in your hands. Take it! Master it! Make your life your own!

Then, a singsong...

To Amber. To Amber.

With a slow intake of breath, Aaron coughed and opened his eyes fully. His gaze set upon the man who leaned over him.

He took  measured breaths, slowly regaining what little consciousness he could hold onto.
Aaron's left hand, or where it once was, thudded with a searing pain.
Gritting his teeth, suppressing a groan, he beared it.

A final collection of thoughts, and he posed his first question with a croak.

"How fares San Anyn?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
"San Anyn is just fine, Son.  Nothing much has changed here since they brought you in... "  The doctor pauses, a concerned expression on his face, then, "Well, I suppose you'll find out soon enough, so I might as well be the one to tell you... "
"Do you remember what happened to you?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
His eyes took on the look of a man who seemed to be concentrating quite considerably.

Then, they narrowed, and a frown marred his features.

"Oh, yes I do."

However, he said nothing more than that.

Ignorance, pain, foolishness... perhaps. But sacrifice is what I remember, and an ancient memory came up and awakened my true self forever. Oh yes. I remember very well.

Slowly, Aaron attempted to sit up. He willed himself to use only his right hand, and placed his weight on that arm so he could scoot backwards and lean his back against the headboard.

He felt his body tingle with the activity, as more and more of him began to awaken. His mind was even more so, now, and he seemed energized by the desire to act. Yet, he also knew that he needed to pace himself, for rushing into anything at this stage could cost him dearly.

Turning his eyes upon the older man, he cocked his head upwards and somewhat to the right as he posed a question.

"Tell me, doctor, did they find my left hand?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
"If they did, they never brought it in with them."  Still he looks worried, "Listen, Son...  Aaron isn't it?  Well, Aaron, there's something I have to tell you.  It's important... "
Nervousness seems to flow out of the man now, infecting others in the room.  "But you're in no condition to go getting over-excited, so if you don't stay calm, we'll have to sedate you.  Clear?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Oh, he nearly ground his teeth.

However, Aaron took a deep breath, slowly let it out, and looked straight at the doctor who stood before him. His injury itched, strangely, but he forced himself to ignore it.

"Doc, look. I've been through eight thousand different kinds of hell. Things that would send you into spasms. If you've got a rock to drop onto me, you might as well do it now, while I can still keep myself awake."

Aaron sighed. What else could go wrong?

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
THe doctor relaxes visibly.  Something in Aarons manner perhaps tells him that the man can take the bad news.
"Well, Aaron, it's like this...  We have all been very concerned about you.  What happened is, you lost your hand and an awful lot of blood into the bargain.  You were very weak when you came in.  Some of us thought you might die, but you hung on, we're still not sure how.  Thing is, that was four months ago."

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Four months.

It felt like the day after.

Leaning his head back, Aaron controlled himself by doing the math.

Nothing had visibly changed in the way the world felt, to him. He was familiar enough with his home, and the various incarnations of it, to be able to discern the less drastic changes without grand effort.

But... four months. If he had succeeded, he was certain that something should have changed.

A sparkle...

Something did.

Allowing a sigh, Aaron nodded to the doctor.

"I thank you for your help. You have my sincere gratitude, and I definetly owe you and your staff much, much more than that." With a shake of his head, Aaron smiled for the first time in... well, four months.

Then, in all seriousness, he looked back to the doctor.
"Is that all, or is there more to this?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
"No... that's pretty much... " the doctor is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Aaron's great-grandson.   "Morning, Doc.  Is it okay if I spend a little time with my cousin?"
"Yes, Sir, Sheriff.  I thought you'd want to, that's why I had the nurse call you."  The doctor smiles at Aaron, and ushers everybody else out of the room.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by The Sheriff
The Sheriff pulls up a chair and sits, as the door closes behind the last of the medics.

"Well, I've seen you looking better, Grandpa, but only in pictures."  A pause, then, "Why'd you do it?  That thing grew a good two, two and a half feet because of what you did.  I thought you were here to smash it?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Cocking his head to the side as he considered his grandson's question, he then looked to him and sighed.

"There are many reasons, most of them due to my inability to consider the whole picture. However, let me point out the obvious things, first."

After clearing his throat, Aaron began.

"You and I are related to a realm known as Amber. This world, or so it is said, was birthed from a power that causes Amber itself to cast reflections, or as some would call them, "Shadows."

Taking a breath, he continued.

"Now, don't be shocked when I tell you this, because frankly, there are so many debates on what Shadow is, it's ridiculous to argue. Anyway, these Shadows are supposed to be worlds, worlds that are basically reflections of the 'great, mighty, beautiful, random adjective, kingdom of Amber."

"The gigantic key that makes these reflections occur is the Pattern."

Here, Aaron's eyes sparkle, and a bit of that energy resurfaces.

"The Pattern is what holds everything together, what keeps every realm stabilized and in an ordered state. The true Pattern exists only in Amber, deep within a great mountain, upon which the castle of Amber sits. Only those born of the royal blood of the Amberite king, Oberon, have the ability to walk this glowing patchwork of lines."

With his good hand, he poked his granson in the arm.

"You, your children, have this blood. As do I. With it, I was able to somehow sense the Pattern before I bonded myself to it, walking it and making it a part of myself. Using the Pattern, I walk between dimensions to accomplish my goals. With it, I can craft any world into what I desire, or gain whatever person, place or thing my heart requires."

Now he leans back and releases yet another sigh, this one a bit sadder than the others.

"However, there are other, darker things that our blood is capable of accomplishing. Our physical blood, or so the stories say, has the ability to destroy the Pattern itself." he shrugs. "I can't say for sure whether this is true, but when I reflected upon it, I believe it to be so."

"And that gets me to my point. I shed my own blood upon the orb, because it was built with a Pattern base. I have seen the inside of an orb, and at its center is the Pattern. A very small representation, but the Pattern nonetheless. And it isn't broken, either... for broken Patterns do exist. No. This one was solid, and interconnected to some magical form of circuitry."

"So, casting my blood into it, I expected it to react negatively. Sadly, I was wrong."

Narrowing his eyes, he glanced at his grandson.

"However, upon further consideration and reflection, I have come to a singular conclusion. Your blood, while connected to Amber via a very thin connection, may be connected to the orbs. I believe if you or one of yours cast your blood upon the orb, that something may occur."

He chuckles, a smile slowly creeping upon his scarred face.

"Oh, I know it's crazy sounding, but why were you the only one who deduced that the orb was connected to the drastic, but interspersed changes upon San Anyn? The big question I wish to know is, when every other member of my family left and decided to destroy me, why did you stay, when you could have left with them? Not only that, just how did your siblings gain the ability to break through the barrier of reality to search for me?"

Agian, another chuckle.

"Perhaps I'm simply scattering my thoughts to the wind. After all, I could just be speculating and you decided to stay here... just to stay. But... think about it. Maybe the orb wanted you to stay here? Perhaps my daughter and your siblings are somehow bonded to the orb, as I am bonded to the Pattern? It's a lot to think about, so I'll give you time, if you wish."

A yawn, then, and Aaron slowly closed his eyes.

"Oh, and one more thing," he says, opening one eye to look beside him.

"What's your name?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Ishmael
The Sheriff grins back at Aaron, "Call me Ishmael."
"Nobody in the family was ever just named Bob, or Joe.  Not christened as it anyway."

A sigh, and a long pause, "I guess I stayed because I had to.  Everybody else went off on the hunt for you.  Somehow I just felt that somebody had to stay behind and look after the store.  Somebody had to protect San Anyn."
"Add to that that I didn't trust that thing in the basement, even if Grandma Lin did put it there.  I had nightmares after I first saw it, dreams that one day it would come after me and kill me.  I guess from what you've said, and what I've seen, that it's been killing everybody here, inch by inch."

"Anyhow, I believe your story about this place, Amber, and the Pattern, because I've seen it in those dreams.  The sphere would open, and the inside would be full of glowing lines and circles, and then I'd be pulled in and swallowed by it."

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
With a small smile, Aaron nodded.

"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ishmael."

Now, he began to mull over the possibilities. He kept rolling the questions about in his head, how to do something about the orb. Yet, he kept getting the same, dead answer. One of his kin would have to die to stop the orb, and even then, San Anyn was probably already past the point of no return.

A sigh, then:

"You obviously have a grand connection to the orb. Tell me, do you believe you could... contact it? I don't know. I'm taking what I know of my Pattern and attempting to apply it to your orb. If Lin placed the orb here, then she and her children are bonded to it. Perhaps you can control it in some form?"

Aaron shook his head, gritting his teeth in annoyance.

"Agh. This agitates me so. I contiue coming to the same conclusion: The only thing that will crush these orbs are the blood of my children. Even then, that's only the case here on San Anyn. Who is to say that other orbs will even be affected by it?" The frustration was apparent in his tone, and he was nearly shuddering with the effects of it.

Aaron took a breath and began to calm himself, bringing his mind into a more focused standpoint.

"Whatever the case, you and your children are a grand find. You have a connection to the orbs, and I believe keeping you alive is far more useful than killing you off." With a shake of his head, Aaron's mouth turned up in a smile.

"And you're the only family I have left that hasn't tried to shaft me. The only other answer I can come up with is that I take you and yours off of San Anyn, to one of the more safer places I know of in reality. Perhaps other answers will reveal themselves in time, and with more thought, but that is all I can think of for now."

Finally, Aaron leaned back and slid further into bed. He felt quite tired, and he knew he needed his rest.

"I will need to recuperate before we can begin any great investigation. That will take time, but I will be up and about soon. Give me..." he did the calculations in his head.

"Three months. Maybe less, and I'll be right as rain."

Looking over to Ishmael, he reached up with his good hand and took his grandson's own within it.

"Think upon my offer of leaving San Anyn. It may not be the only answer we can find, but it may end up being our final option."

Releasing his hand, Aaron turned his head to gaze at the T.V.

"Been a while since I actually watched anything on one of these."

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Ishmael
"Well, I'll leave you to it for now, Aaron.  Got work to do anyway.  That's how I got here so quick, was already on the way over.  Seventeen bodies in the morgue after a gunfight in a strip joint over on Main Street last night."  Ishmael turns to leave, then hesitates, "I hope we've got those three months."

Even the door clicking shut behind him sounds worried.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Three months.

Aaron began his recuperation the next day. The first thing he did was get out of bed.

His legs were shaky, of course. Four months in bed? It'll do that to you.

After nearly falling down once, he told himself he'd beat three months.
Two. Two and a half. Maybe.

Then, he began to walk. For the first few days, it was simply down the hallways of the hospital. Always, a nurse or an orderly would be there to keep an eye on him, but he learned how to escape their scrutiny.

Sometimes, he didn't need to try. New patients were coming into the hospital on their own. Eventually, the doctors hardly paid attention to him, except for the daily checkup. Then they were out the door, some gunshot or an accident.
It got worse the more time went, and made Aaron even more determined.

By the third week, he was jogging laps down the street. Four days later, he was running. He was a machine.

At the end of the month, he was strong enough to leave the hospital. Not wanting to give Ishmael any more trouble than he already had, Aaron took a room at a motel in the center of town.

The second month found Aaron alternating days. One day, he would run and practice a form of hand-to-hand combat that focused on using his whole body as a weapon. He may have been missing an eye and a hand, but that didn't stop him from being able to defend himself.

The next day, he would sit in his room and focus his mind. Picturing the realm of focus that had stayed with him since the day he lost his hand. He did this for two weeks, and continued doing so afterwards, whenever he had the time. Focus, exercise, focus, exercise.

He rested for a day, then continued.

One day, jogging down the main street, a gunshot resounded just to his right. He literally felt the bullet whiz by his face.
Out of reflex, his good hand flew up, reaching behind his right shoulder.
And found nothing.
He saw the shooter escaping down an alley and was about to chase him down, when a couple of police cars from Ishamael's small force roared down the street and turned a corner, apparently on their way to cutting the perp off.

Sighing, Aaron took a deep breath and turned around, walking back to his room at the motel. Closing the door to his room, faint, dull light filtered in through the closed blinds.

Leaning against the wall beside his bed, rested Ilsefranvir.

"I will never be the tool that takes your life, Aaron of Amber."

Not only did he hear it, but he felt the scathing tone of voice that Arianne used. He thought he had lost his blade, and had put it out of his mind during his recuperation... but how it had gotten into his room...

"My power is yours to control, but if you cannot control yourself..."

With those words, Aaron moved across the room with more purpose than he'd had in days. Gripping Ilse by the hilt, he felt the blade shudder in his grasp, before it began to melt.

The hilt reshaped itself in his grasp, and as he drew the blade, he felt Arianne's psyche probing his mind for something, anything resembling what she had felt in the basement of the museum. What she found, was resolve. Purpose. Intent. Strength. Old feelings that she hadn't felt from Aaron in centuries.

"I... know you!"

He drew steel.
The blade of Ilsefranvir was three and a half feet long, now. Her blade held a solid, single edge, made of pure dark metal. There was a slight curve to the blade up to the tip, and as Aaron turned the blade, he saw that there was a finer, almost invisible second edge, on the opposite side of her blade.

Gripped in his hand, she slowly took on a hazy blue glow, and Aaron found the familiar etching of the Pattern upon the flat of her blade.

Nodding, he sheathed her.

The beginning of the third month, and Aaron divided his time between practicing ancient, remembered forms with Ilsefranvir, maintining his mental state and keeping his physical form in shape. He took up his old routine, and added Arianne to the mix. Soon, they became a single unit, and Aaron was beginning to feel better than he had in... well, at all.

The third week of the third month, and Aaron had to change one more thing.

He shaved, for one. The long, scraggly beard was gone, leaving his face bare. Practicing in the sun, though it had been rare, had lightened his long, brown hair a surprising shade of dirty blond. Aaron figured old effects of radiation may have had something to do with that.

Then, he went shopping.
A dark shaded trenchcoat, matching trousers, a black silk shirt that hung untucked over his belt. Leather boots with steel toes and even a pair of oval sunglasses to cover the worst parts of his scarring. Looking at the man in the mirror, he felt like his old, old self.

Two and a half months after getting out of bed, Aaron strapped his armor on over his shirt, spun Ilsefranvir into her sheath, and went out to find Ishmael.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Ishmael
Aaron finally finds Ishmael sitting on the steps of the museum basement, gazing at the orb.
"Aaron.  Guess somebody at the station told you where to find me?  Been spending a lot of time down here just lately, thinking things over."
"I've decided I won't be leaving with you.  Some of the old history books upstairs call you The Last Protector of San Anyn.  Well, I guess that'd be me now.  Only I haven't been doing too good a job, and I'm damned if I'm going to run out on it."

Ishmael sighs, then gets up and walks across to the orb, starts to reach out to it, then changes his mind.  "I want you to take Chrissie away with you when you go.  You said you know a safe place?  My boys say they've seen you training, seen you a few times myself.  How soon will you be ready to go?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Aaron's eyes beheld the orb as if gazing upon an ancient, well-known enemy.

"I'm hoping to leave as soon as possible," he says, his legs carrying him down the steps before he sat himself beside his grandson.

Folding his hands between his knees, Aaron looked to Ishmael, making sure he caught his eye.

"If I take Chrissie, you may not see her again. Do you understand?"

Taking a breath, Aaron considered it. He had thought it over during the days of his training, and had figured Ishmael would make a similar decision. Having felt it himself, he knew that his grandson would not surrender San Anyn to an enemy presence.

Always, his blood had been connected to it. Anynia, body of reason, idea, and purpose, the land of it had called to him, even at his worst times.

San Anyn, all of her incarnations, each of them was endangered now. More than likely, all of them were reflecting a similar fate.

Something else struck his mind, then. Something dark and foreboding.
There may have been more than one orb, interconnected in every reflected San Anyn.

Another sigh, for that and for his decision. It didn't matter if there were one more or one hundred more orbs in every San Anyn imaginable. As long as there was a key to them, they had a chance.

Yet now, as San Anyn had called to him, and Aaron had shed his role of its singular protector, his other home called to him. And that call echoed through to his soul.

To Amber. To Amber.

"When I do take her, I will take the safest routes. None will harm her while I live."

Aaron placed his hand upon Ishmael's left shoulder and squeezed. He rose.

"Nothing will stop me. I will find a way to defeat our enemies, and the sacrifices that have been made in the face of these machinations will not go unacknowleged, nor the horrors unpunished."

With one final squeeze, Aaron turned and proceeded up the stairs.

"I'll leave when you've prepared Chrissie. You know where to find me."

Exiting the museum, Aaron proceeded down the street, through an alleyway. Soon, as he walked down boulevards and avenues, he came to a flat field. A field he remembered well.

The grass was browning, more than likely a result of the orb.

Sitting in the midst of the grasses, rested the gray, hollowed shell of what once was a collossal tree.
The stone that had been placed before it had worn away with the passing of eons.
Aaron knelt upon the dry earth, and closed his eye. A reflection he could not old back caused it to dampen.


His left eye could not weep.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
Two days later, and Ishmael turns up at the motel with Chrissie.  The girl has been crying, but her face is set in a look of stony determination now.  She will not cry again, not in front of this stranger who is apparently her great-great-grandfather, even though he looks younger than her dad.

She is carrying a small suitcase, and it's obvious that Ishmael has made her dress sensibly.  The hiking boots are probably much more practical than the sneakers Aaron had first seen her in.  The orange showerproof jacket is clearly not the height of teen fashion.

Ishmael smiles at Aaron, without much humour in it, and rests one hand on Chrissie's shoulder.  He just gestures towards her with the other, and even the humourless smile falters...

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Lowering himself to his granddaughter's height, Aaron leans on the balls of his feet.

"Chrissie. I'm very glad you've decided to join me," he says, and smiles.

Glancing up at Ishmael, his eyes met those of his grandson, and told him all that he could.
Stay strong. She will draw it from you.

Looking back to her, he glanced from one side of the room to the other and then leaned forwards slightly. His voice was almost a whisper, as if he was atempting to hide something that was a secret to only those within the room. For all intents and purposes, it was.

"I'm not sure whether your father told you or not," he begins, and leans back again, "but did you know that you are a Princess?"

He chuckles, then clears his throat and rises.

"It's true. You might not think that you're my great-great-granddaughter, but because you are, it means that you're also a princess, one of many from a far away kingdom known as Amber."

Looking to Ishmael again, he sighed.

"Well, it seems to me that your father decided that his beautiful Princess had to travel with her weird, ugly grandfather just so she could return to her kingdom, which she seems to have forgotten about." Shrugging, he glanced at Ishmael as if he was disappointed in him. "I, personally, can't believe he never told you."

He takes a moment, and seems to be thinking something over. Shaking his head, he turned to his granddaughter stood straight.

"I suppose," he says, and then sketched a bow before her, "that I'll have to protect the Princess until she can get there."

Glancing up at her in the midst of his bow, he raised his eyebrows. Well, the only one that he had left.

"What do you think, Princess? Would such a strong young lady like yourself enjoy seeing far away kingdoms and the places of your dreams?" and his eyes glinted, flickering with centuries of knowlege, history, and the visions of worlds he had seen.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Ishmael
"That depends," Chrissie replies, "on whether or not you always talk crap like that."

"Chrissie... " Ishmael's tone is full of reproof, but it seems he can't muster up anger right now, "I've explained to her, most of what we spoke about Aaron.  About the war that's coming soon, and how she'll be safer with you.  And that when it's over she can come home, or I'll join her."

He moves his hand and starts to nudge her forward, then changes his mind and pulls her into a hug, whispering to her.

When they part at last, both are crying.

"Take care of her Aaron, because if you don't I'll lead the next hunting party that comes after you."

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Ishmael may not have been able to muster up the anger, but boy, Aaron could.

He let it boil, for a small while. Nursing it. He had a feeling he'd need it later.

Clearing his throat, he eyed his granddaughter with both eyes, now. The sunglasses had long been removed. He sighed.

"Well, as long as she knows the story is straight. It's up to her whether she wants to be a princess or a prisoner. I can walk both ways."

He let them say their goodbyes. When they were free, he pulled Ismael away for a moment. His voice was low, so only they could hear.

"Nothing will stop me. Despite what I said, I will do my best to keep her safe." Glancing over his shoulder, he eyed his granddaughter, and sighed.

Stepping back, he clasped wrists with his grandson, wondering whether it was the last time he'd do it.

Then, he proceeded out the door, and paused just outside his motel room. He produced a cigarette from his jacket pocket and placed it between his lips, though he failed to light it. The glasses went on, and Aaron turned to his granddaughter.

"After you, princess," he said. It sounded more like a command than anything else.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
Once more Aaron is walking, and once more he has company.  Chrissie may lack Dog's friendly and talkative nature, but at least she doesn't smell nearly as bad.

After perhaps two hours of walking in silence, she finally speaks.  Surprisingly, perhaps, it isn't to complain, "Aaron?  What I said back there.  I'm sorry.  It's just that Dad is all I have, and he sent me away.  I guess I was just taking it out on you."
Apology over, she moves onto her real reason for speaking, "Y'know, I must have come past this way, like, a million times in the car... and I don't recall ever seeing that old windmill before, and it is kinda hard to miss."

San Anyn.
The Sjardring House Museum has a visitor.  A police cruiser is parked in front of the entrance.  Inside, the floor of the main hall bulges up in the centre, cracked and broken.  A single gunshot shatters the quiet of the place, and moments later a brilliant white light shines up through the breaks in the floor, then the tiles and stone fall through to the basement.
Ishmael lays down there, surrounded by fragments and shards of stone and metal, the latter still producing a dense red smoke and dwindling away until no trace remains of the orb.  In his left hand, the Last Protector of San Anyn holds a crumpled note which he had hoped would explain his actions.  In his right, the gun.
Oddly, there is little blood.

"So, I was wondering... where are we?"
Before Aaron can answer, the still air is suddenly stirred up by a strong breeze blowing back along the road to San Anyn.  The freshest air he has smelled since returning to that accursed town.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
We've found a kind of paradise. Here, the flowers bloom...

Placing his hands in his pockets, Aaron looked to the sky and saw the dark, dreary clouds part for the sun.

Aaron knew. He had known when Ishmael had jokingly threatened him in his motel room.

"I accept your apology, Chrissie. I... forgive you, too." was his response to her, and he continued walking.

The world changed.
He would continue to do it in a gentle manner. Thrusting his granddaughter through reality like a bat out of hell would not do her mental facilities any good. And honestly, Aaron wanted to take his time and enjoy it.

"Oh, we're still in San Anyn," he says, and looks to her with a smile. "It's just not your San Anyn."

They're out of town, now. Aaron stopped by the side of the road, pausing beside a gnarled tree. A medium-sized stone was there, also, and as Aaron rounded the tree, he spotted what he'd wanted.

A hiker's backpack, hanging just so it wasn't visible from the road. Just large enough to fit his granddaughter, actually.

"Hand me your suitcase," he said, but took it anyway. He was swift and exact, placing things in just the right spots so the pack wouldn't be too heavy. It wasn't light, but it would suffice.

"Here." he says, and hands it to her.

"Trust me. Nothing would give us more of a headache than if somebody stole your suitcase. You shouldn't have to worry about that, now."

Placing the suitcase between the tree and the stone, he then began walking again.

"So, aren't you going to introduce us?"

"I was getting to that. She'll have to learn eventually. About you, and about a whole lot of other things."

Glancing over his shoulder at Chrissie, he chuckled in a knowing way.

"Oh yes. You'll have to learn quite a bit."

Self-defense, social tact (him! Teaching tact!), survival techniques... much, much more. He knew that he would do his best to protect Chrissie, but he also knew that he couldn't be everywhere at once. If she needed to take care of private business, and somebody tried to take advantage of her... well, he'd make sure they'd regret it.

Nobody would get the best of his granddaughter. Not while he lived.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Chrissie (NPC)
From that point on, a sort of truce is declared.  Chrissie starts walking with Aaron, instead of a variable distance behind him.  It becomes a way for her to pass the time, spotting unfamiliar objects and buildings in familiar places.
Sometimes even the places are unfamiliar.

Now that she can see the changes for herself, she is coming to realise that maybe, just maybe, Aaron isn't as full of crap as she had believed back at the motel.

And so they walk through a gently changing landscape, until finally Chrissie is forced to admit that she hasn't seen a landmark that she recognises in nearly two hours.

They round a long slow curve in the road, which Chrissie clearly remembers as being paved, and there is a wayside inn, exactly where Aaron knew he'd find it.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Before entering the Inn, Aaron turned to Chrissie and adjusted her backpack.

Looking into her eyes, he made sure he had her undivided attention.

"Listen carefully. I don't expect any trouble, but you never, ever know what's going to happen in the worlds you visit. Stay by me at all times while we're in here, so I can keep an eye on you. This place may seem nice, but you find all kinds of people in reality, and not all of them are nice."

He nodded once, then turned to the Inn's entrance, entered, and held the door so Chrissie could follow after him.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
The inn is clean and tidy, and smells faintly of cedar.  Inside the entrance a short passageway leads to a flight of stairs.  A door to the right has a sign which reads, "Common Room", while one to the left bears the legend, "Rooms" and a removable board bearing the word, "Vacancies", just as Aaron had known it would.

Evening will be here soon, and remote and lonely roads are often not the best places to be at night.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
A night and a day. Aaron had decided to take a breath and inform Chrissie a little more on just what, exactly, he was doing and how they were going about it.

He explained the Pattern, how he walked it, his relation to Amber (what little he knew of his geneaology), his own abilities, and Ilsefranvir.

Aaron explained ancient San Anyn, as he had known it long ago. He got a bit more personal, telling Chrissie about her great-great grandmother, Aaron's own life up until her death, and then his travels through Shadow.

As time and his story wore on, he decided to stop it just at the point after he walked the Pattern and met Jack.

The next day, upon leaving the Inn and setting back out down the road, he asked her.

"Your father and I got along alright up until I left, though he never did tell me about your mother." Glancing over in Chrissie's direction, he kept his eyes open for any signs of discomfort on her part. "Did you know her?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Chrissie (NPC)
"Oh yeah, I remember her.  Mostly I remember her being mean and drunk.  I think I was about six when she walked out.  Sometimes I wonder what happened to her after she went, but then I wonder why I'm bothering to wonder."
She stops in the middle of the rutted dirt road and looks down at her feet, "I'm glad Dad made me wear these boots now, my sneakers would've been ruined.  And thanks for finding the pack, it's better than dragging that dumb suitcase about."
She raises her eyes at a sudden noise from along the road, "Hey!  Cool!  Where did that come from?"

There is a horse and buggy in the shade of an overhanging tree about fifty yards ahead.  The horse is breathing hard, and looks to have been running, but there is no sign of anybody that it might belong to.
A large straw hamper is strapped behind the buggy seat.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
"Ahh. How convenient. I wonder where the owner went off to?" is Aaron's comment on the matter.

He carefully approached the animal, slowly raising a hand in its drection as he neared. Making sure the horse got a good scent of him, he patted its nose and ran a hand across the back of its neck.

"Been running for a bit, it seems." he said, as he calmed the animal.

Hopping into one side of the buggy, he leaned over and helped his granddaughter into the opposite side. Then, reaching behind the seat, he opened the hamper.

"Well then. It seems the remainder of this trip won't be nearly as tiring as I thought! Take a breather, Princess, and feel free to help yourself to what's available."

Raising a hand to her, he cautioned. "Don't take too much, though. It's always good to save some supplies for an emergency."

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
The journey suddenly becomes a lot easier, and Chrissie is soon happily eating a few sandwiches and drinking a can of soda.  The slogan on the can catches Aaron's eye, and he smiles to himself.  The Real Thing... yeah, right.

The dirt road dips into a forested valley, and runs through a green twilight world filled with strange noises.  Across a wooden bridge where a joung lad sits on the rail, fishing, and gives a slow, lazy wave as they pass...

Out of the forest, and the hills are much lower than they had seemed from the other side of the valley.  To the south a vast city pumps out huge clouds of white vapour...

Through a narrow twisting gorge and out onto the shores of a shallow lake where giant reptiles raise their heads on long necks, and trumpet their alarm at the buggy's passing, before returning to their meal of vegetation...

A black-surfaced road, dead straight across a dusty plain where a tornado dances in the distance...

Through a foreboding ruined city of bizarre and eye-twisting cyclopean structures...

A crossroads, where the other road is paved with yellow bricks...

More woodland, and a large branch has fallen across the road, blocking further passage.  As Aaron gets down to shift it, an arrow thuds into the ground peside his foot, and a voice calls from among the trees, "That's a fine horse you have there!  We'll take it, and any valuables you have.  If you don't resist, well Gaerton is only a short walk along the way, and we'll let you both go in peace!"
A dozen armed men, clad in ragged clothing suddenly appear from the undergrowth.  All are armed, but none of them has a bow.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
One, two... he counted twelve. All of them armed, but none with a bow.
There was a thirteenth...  or that and a fourteenth, somewhere around.

The first thing he did, after gauging his opposition, was raise a hand to Chrissie. His eye was clear.
Stay exactly where you are.

Aaron was surrounded and more than likely covered by the archer(s). He'd had a lot of time to rest and prepare himself for combat, but he had to think about his granddaughter. He couldn't just loose blade and have at them. Not like he used to. When he'd had Arvais and was alone, twelve men and one or two archers were nothing. Now, though... now, he had responsibilities.

Let's see. A horse, a wagon, whatever was in the case. Anything they took from he and Chrissie could be easilly replaced once Aaron started to Walk. Ilsefranvir, but even then, she would more than likely "disappear" from their stolen goods once he really started looking for her.
And Aaron doubted she'd be a polite prisoner in the least.

Aaron faced the person who spoke, and slowly removed his sunglasses. He knew he didn't need to act intimidating to look it. He also rolled up the sleeve on his left arm, revealing the stump of his wrist.

"We're merely travelers with very little to go on." he said to the bandit. "There are certainly others about with much more goods and far better horses than that which we carry." Raising his hands, showing he had no weaponry within them, he gestured to Chrissie.

"You can have the horse, the cart and whatever's in the basket. Just leave myself and the girl alone."

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
Strangely enough, the men lower their weapons.  Several turn away, and one raises his hand and clenches and unclenches is fist three times.  His sleeve falls back for a moment, and Aaron catches a glimpse of mail beneath it.
"It's not him!" one of the men complains, thrusting his blade into the ground, a blade which is, Aaron now notes, of exceedingly high quality to be in the hands of a mere highwayman.
"Of course it's not.  I can see that, can't I?" replies the one who had raised his hand.  "The thing is, what do we do now?"
"What is your name, traveller, and where are you bound?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Cocking his head to the side, Aaron considered the men before him. He still kept his hands up. One could never be too cautious.

"They call me Aaron."

Slowly, very slowly, he lowered his hands back to his sides. Gesturing with his head towards Chrissie, he locked eyes with the one who seemed to command this ragtag group.

"My cousin and I were returning home from visiting somewhat distant relatives when you nabbed us."

He didn't pose any questions. Yes, they had lowered their weapons, but Aaron still didn't feel comfortable enough to start making demands. Ramble how you want about "royalty" and "being of Amberite blood", when it comes right down to it, royalty didn't mean squat when a blade was at your throat. Again, Aaron took in his situation and remained cautious.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
"My apologies, Aaron, to both yourself and your cousin." he executes a short bow in Chrissie's direction, "Sadly, I am not at liberty to offer you my name, nor that of the intended target of this little masquerade.  Suffice to say that a person of some notoriety would, we were informed, be travelling this road today."

"And so we laid this little trap for him, which you have inadvertantly sprung.  We do not require any of your possessions, Aaron, only a certain item that this person holds.  We play the part of highwaymen, so that he will not suspect who has really taken it from him."

Behind him the branch is removed from the road, and his men start to fade back into the forest, except the two who stand ready to replace the roadblock.  The leader stoops and tugs the arrow out of the road.

"A thousand apologies for this, too.  I hope you will believe me when I say that you were in no danger.  The man who shot this clothyard is my best marksman, able to bring down a pigeon in flight."

"You may continue on your way, and I wish you a  safe journey.  I must request, however, that you give me your word not to speak of this matter."

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Nodding curtly to the leader, Aaron proceeded back to the cart. Swinging himself back up into the seat beside his granddaughter, he bent forwards and looked to the man once more.

"Not a thing will be said of this, by either of us. You've my word on that."

With a snap of the reigns, Aaron once more set them upon their journey.

Once satisfied by distance, he began to mold their path once again. He let out a breath he'd been holding since the arrow had landed near him. Replacing his glasses upon his nose, and hitching his sleeve down once more, Aaron sighed.

"That... was interesting." he said to Chrssie, glancing in her direction for a moment. "Are you alright?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Chrissie (NPC)
"Yeah, I'm doing okay." the girl replies, "I thought you'd fight them.  Dad told me that you could be a real asshole sometimes.  I'm kinda glad he was wrong."

They travel on through the day, and Chrissie sleeps from time to time, though Aaron stops only to let the horse rest, before continuing with the journey...

Through the night, and into the next day, while Chrissie tries, with varied success, to teach Aaron the words of several songs that she knows.  Some he has no problems with, others are just too bizarre.  Why would anybody, for instance, ask to be hit "one more time"?

Afternoon finds them in a mountain pass, descending to a stone bridge across a wide gorge.  There is a city beyond the gorge, and beyond that, nought but blue, and the scents of smoke, and of the ocean, are in the air.

The wheels rumble across the bridge, and a guard steps out of a shelter at the far end, raising his hand to Aaron, to halt his progress.  "Welcome to Cadiniagart, traveller.  Where are you bound today?"

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
"Cadiniagart is where we're bound, good sir." Aaron states to the guard. "For a place to rest and recuperate from our extended journey."

Something..., insight maybe, ticked in the back of his head. Had he heard of a place named Cadiniagart before? It seemed... somehow familiar, though not extremely so. Perhaps he'd visited a place with a similar name in the past. Whatever the case, he ignored it.

Gazing into the distance beyond, Aaron turned his attentions back to the guard.

"Any news regarding the current goings-on within the city? My cousin and I may wish to take in the sights, if time allows."

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Dworkin (GM)
"Well, things aren't so good for sight-seeing just now.  There's been a little unrest with a sudden change in rulership." the guard replies, "Things are settling down now, but it's probably safest to get indoors and not wander about too much."
"Here's a list of reputable inns.  Ones that are reasonable quality, and won't charge you for luxurious quality, if you see what I mean?"
He hands Aaron a pamphlet, and the Amber man can see that a few of the names have been crossed off.

Then he feels it.  A familiar sensation, as if somebody is standing close behind him, looking over his shoulder.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
Aaron collects himself long enough to take the pamphlet and nick the horse forwards. Continuing on their way down the main road, Aaron soon slows the horse and stops the cart completely.

It was too damn familiar, now. It felt like a comfortable request in the back of his soul. The carressing sensation of intimate communication that only a rare few could comprehend truly.

Someone was Trumping him.
The mental reflection he got as he opened his mind surprised him even more.

If Chrissie questioned, he would do little to respond. He was too focused at the moment.

Cyan? Is that you? If it is, I'd be more than happy to know where you are! Is Jack with you? What's your situation?

Was it Cyan? It certainly felt like her. If it was, he and Chrissie were about to get a one-way trip to one of the places he was heading for. Amber would have to wait. For now.

Re: Part 26c - Time-dulled memories of intense pain by Aaron
The blood in his veins froze at Cyan's words. Rounding up his decisions, he turned his head and extended his hand to Chrissie.

"Take my hand, right now. Our journey just got a whole lot shorter."

Closing his eyes, he focused on Cyan. He felt her fear, her confusion through the link. He had no shortage of newfound confidence, however, and he let that show through in his mental voice.

We are stepping through. I believe we may have the answer you need.

Temporary... indeed.

Whether his granddaughter questioned or not, he made sure she was in tow. Aaron reached for Cyan, stood, and seemed to step right off of the cart, straight into rainbow memory...