With a focus on the Sixth Weirmonken War, and the asymmetrical tactics involved in its prosecution
(all references also the Work of the Learned Author)
Beginnings are Difficult times.
Things start small, and at a thing’s Birth many factors can retard or damage growth. For instance, for a mighty wave to dash the shore with Destruction and Ruin, things must be just so. Whatever disturbs the Water must be at the right Depth and Distance. The sea floor must conform to a certain Height and Gradation of incline. There must be no random Islands in the way, or the Force may be twisted off course. The sea bed itself is inconsequential, so long as the right form exists – the rush and anger and Power of Nature happens on the surface.
For all the great Wave’s potential, small things may sap its Power far from shore. But when all the Elements are in place, the effect can be singularly devastating, a Force Multiplier of incredible dimensions.
On the eve of a great war, weakness at home and in one’s allies is a Strategic sin.
So Amber was found, and while the first stirrings of Amber’s defense had seen success in Shadow, it had done nothing to Thwart the Black Road on Amber’s very border. Queen Erica and the Elders of the Blood undoubted had plans within their plans, but for us of the latter generation, employed by Royal Decree, we needed to gather more information; we could Fight at least its offshoots in Shadow, but what of the Prime Road? Before attending to an Official invite of the Queen, and an opportunity to present the new Cousins, we made some plans for our Campaign;
Primus – Sioned, a Conjurer, it appeared, was to make some form of Empowered hood for Emil. See Tertius.
Secundus – attend to Diedre, at the Court of Rebma. She had travelled deep into Shadow to ascertain the whereabouts of the previous Roads. Perhaps she may have some Intelligence that could inform our future Endeavors.
Tertius – travel to the mouth of Garnath, and defend Emil while he gathers what Knowledge he can of the Road. A secondary Objective was to capture, and interrogate a Weirmonken Soldier, or even Officer.
Alas, the best laid plans.
Sarrat is a small town south of Amber. It exists as something of a Leper Colony, which might be found in lesser Shadows. In Amber, it was the home of what was called the Honored Dead – those unlucky of Amber’s Soldiery that had succumbed to the inimical taint of the Weirmonken. They were allowed to live – an oversight, in the Author’s humble Opinion – while their families in Amber had already mourned their Death.
It was weakness, to have such a number of Compromised individuals to close to Amber, and one had escaped into the City while we were in attendance. We tracked the Creature, trapped it, attempted an interrogation, and were forced to kill, consecrate, and burn the poor Wretch. This shook some of our number, but also showed, with the Road so close, that the Mercy that allowed Sarrat’s existence was one that may not be easy to Afford.
Regardless, Sioned promised to create her trinket, and we attended the Queen. It was a Fell gathering of the Family – Gerard, glowering at Hagen; Florimel, all charm and light and with, I have no doubt, a poisoned Stiletto in reach; Julia, close and guarded, Caine, soothing the Waters as well he may, our own number, and of course, Queen Erica, herself (NOTE: GM, please correct if I’ve forgotten someone). I presented Lara and Sioned to Erica; I made myself their Sponsor, a calculated risk.
There was much talk, some of it even Civil. The Palace’s kitchens outdid themselves, and the wine was a Baylesport, possibly older than I was at the time (see: Grape and The City – Fermenting Unrest in Baylesport, single volume), and perfectly matched. Sioned may have made an impression upon Julia – it was and is hard to tell. Lara was commendably Reserved. Emil, if I read him aright, was composing a song about Awkward Dinners. Hagen pricked at Gerard. I tried to take the Weather Gauge of Erica and her Kin.
And so, the Morning after. We Trumped into the watery ways of Rebma, calming those not used to the City. There was another, albeit larger dinner, before-which I was approached by Madoc, one of the Royal Family and a fine surgeon in Amber’s wars (see: Elixirs for Providing Recovery, and Vigor, in a Number of Rare Occurrences, Vol IV). He was a-feared of the possibility of the taint of the Weir in the City, and intimated a certain… distrust of his Sister. There was dinner, wine, brandy. Hagen apprehended Diedre, with little Profit, Emil and Sioned repaired to the Pattern Room.
I admit to a degree of frustration. I had plied the Queen somewhat, presenting her a gift of a Favor to be called upon as she Wished, and our later discourse revealed a complete distrust of Erica, that simply would not do. And then Prince Random appeared, and perhaps… I did not think. I wanted a confrontation. I directed Lara to raise the Pattern in her mind, and see the world through it, as would I. I wanted a fight, and I had a two Suppositions to test. Queen Moire was an interesting disappointment – she was free of any sense of the Weir, unlike Lara herself, who seemed to have some affinity with that Foreign power. Given the tension of Rebma, I ordered to take the first Trump she could find and leave.
What would have happened then, I am unsure, because Moire took me in her Train and we repaired to her Quarters. It seemed… convenient, and were this a more Lurid volume I would not fear to express a certain surprised and detailed Pleasure (see: Pleasures Infinite – The Shadows of Sin, Vol VI) in the encounter.
Lara and I had directed Hagen to the Pattern Room, to appraise Emil and Sioned of the need for a possibly Hasty retreat, but he find the Pattern aglow, as it is when freshly Assayed. I repeat here in brief: while I enjoyed the company of the Queen, and Hagen labored to the shore, Lara, Emil, and Sioned had all managed to – and only the interference of that Creature called the Unicorn could account for such – find the remote, far-removed in Shadow prison of Brand. There was something of a Dragon, a rescue, and a return to Amber, with an ill and weakened Brand in tow.
There was something of confusion. Emil was, I understand, pleased with the discovery of his Father. Seonid was Flushed with her victory, and Pleased for her new Friend. Lara was, as ever, reserved. Hagen and I arrived late, and I had my first intimation of what was Afoot when I spied Sarina, Brand’s wife, Emil’s mother, hurrying behind me to the Palace. Brand, one of Clarissa’s get, the branch of Oberon’s Blood that had destroyed my own…
I will give Erica this. When I arrived to see Brand… weak, helpless Brand, and I but Looked upon him, it was her arrival that stayed my Hand. I am not sure She would have been unduly upset had I slain him, but it did not suit her at that time. I left. I brooded, I am not ashamed to admit it. All my life I have lived with the perfidy of Oberon’s children by Clarissa Feldane. Hagen joined me. We talked.
It pleases me that we are together in Arms again.
Later that night, relating the events of the day to Erica, of the Weir in the lower city, of the taint somewhere in Rebma, and of the Queen’s lack of loyalty, I was given my first direct commission, and a dark, Foul act it was to be. I will let history Judge that. History and my Friends.
Beginnings are Difficult times.