Attack of the Clones

The main group is in Osric's cloning facility near Erewhon. The clone chambers have been cleared out for about a week. It seems his people didn't finish whatever they were working on there before vacating. Gerhardt is able to capture the last commands in the computer and learns that they left 8 days ago. About a fifth of the clones in production were cancelled and killed during the evacuation.

Lowen senses the powerful death energies of the cancelled clones and attempts to summon the spirit of one of them for information. Suddenly the voice of Benedict starts speaking through him. The group questions the clone spirit for a while. He hasn't been conditioned, is loyal to Amber, and accepts not being the real Benedict. He remembers a lot of lab assistants and robots. Osric is the only person he recognized. From his tank, he could see other clones of Caine, Julian and Benedict being made. The last thing he remembers before the cloning facility is the fight against Lintra where Benedict lost his arm. The group decides the prominence of Benedicts among Osric's forces is a consequence of Osric recovering Benedict's arm, giving him more material to work with than for anyone else. Lowen and the clone spirit determine that they can use the spirit's magical connection to the other clones to track where they went, but that doing so will burn up the spirit. The spirit asks to be released from conscious awareness first.

Elodie is still with Netherwing. She tells him her life story and he listens attentively. Having learned that he is a contemporary of the Unicorn and the Serpent, she asks him many questions about pre-Amberite history and cosmology. In time out of mind, the Eternals warred with one another, causing the Sundering. The Grand Stair was built to connect the pieces that remained. Lucien's theory that Shadow is made of broken bits of Gossamer Worlds appears to be largely correct. Netherwing thinks that what the Unicorn and Serpent have built (Amber, Shadow, Chaos) is impressive, but he is skeptical about it lasting. He lives out on the edge of their lands in hopes of not drawing their attention. He says that if it all ends, he and Elodie should fly away together. Like Flora, he doesn't have any other children.

Hellriding… Jericho fighting threats. Gerhardt navigating, Isabelle on comms. Arriving in shadow where the moon is behind and they are sailing in a cloud. Two castles are below and their inhabitants appear to be at war with one another. But the clones are appear uninvolved. The clone armies are in formation ahead, in an area where the clouds are solid. Jericho prepares by wielding the perfect weapon — a flamethrower. Whoever is organizing the armies is good, but not as good as Benedict. It appears they are going to attack Amber from Tir-na Nog'th using hang gliders.

Jericho wants to warn Amber of the impending attack, but doesn't trust a Trump call to anyone in Amber not to reach a clone instead. He Trumps Elodie in Dragonsport and asks her to carry a message to Amber. Elodie tells Netherwing about the attack, but isn't sure whether she can Trump all the way back to Amber in one step. He uses blood magic to transport her directly to Flora's side. Leaving her mother still stammering with shock, she hurries to pass Jericho's information on to Benedict. Benedict wants the Jewel of Judgement to block the moonlight and hence access to Tir-na Nog'th. Elodie retrieves the Jewel and gives it to Random, who summons full cloud cover. Troops defend the castle. The attack doesn't feel right to Benedict, so he looks for additional forces, spotting movement past the Grove of the Unicorn. High in the air, Elodie also spots it and heads that way.

From the Envoy II, the group observes that a large ground force is deploying through a Trump Gate. Jericho and Lowen attack and destroy it, but not until after over a hundred clones have passed through. Silas' ship carries the group from Tir-na Nog'th to Amber just as the last of the moonlight is cut off. Seeking the clones that came through the Trump Gate, they also head toward the Grove.

Benedict trumps Elodie and tells her to land immediately. Upon doing so, he passes through Caine and Gerard, then comes through himself. Jericho flies in and the Amberites fight to prevent the clones from reaching their apparent destination, the device in the Grove. Gerhardt realizes that the design of the device in the Grove is consistent with Osric's style as a Spark.

Gerhardt gives Isabelle a helmet that amplifies psychic one-shot attack in the area. She psychically examines the clone troops. They've been exposed to complex magical, psychological and biological conditioning. Some of them are deeply locked into following orders, but the leaders are able to exercise more intelligence and independent thought. With a huge effort, Isabelle makes the leaders believe that their troops were intending to mutiny. The clones start shooting one another.

The device activates, forming a rainbow bridge. Elodie flies toward it and Gerhardt drops to it from the ship. They arrive and enter the building together to find that Osric's clones are already inside and at the controls, including a pair of Fionas. Osric Trumps in, then steps onto the rainbow bridge. Gerhardt and Elodie follow hard on his heels and the three of them arrive next to the Primal Pattern. They try to engage him in friendly conversation in hopes of finding out what he's up to, but he proves reluctant to deliver a villain monologue. Osric opens a box and pours out some sand, which scatters across the ground. After further questioning he claims that he is going to revise the Pattern and make it better. Gerhardt can tell he's lying. Osric makes mysterious magical preparations.

Benedict arrives at the device and secures it, but supsects that someone has been sent to the Primal Pattern. Jericho also heads there. Silas considers crashing the Envoy II into the device to prevent it from functioning, but thinks better of it. He tries to Trump Gerhardt, who doesn't take the call. He then Trumps Elodie, who pulls him through. On arrival, he begins feeling sharp stinging pains on his legs. He sees that his legs are being swarmed by tiny brown dots. He collapses to the ground and Trumps Jericho. Silas is unable to speak coherently by the time he succeeds, but he is able to allow Jericho and Lowen to come through. Both are similarly attacked, but Lowen proves too tough to be harmed and Jericho shapechanges, jettisoning his compromised legs and taking to air.

Meanwhile, a young man appears, as if by Trump, at the center of the Pattern. None of the group recognize him, but some wonder if he could be Osric's son. Osric Trumps to him and they continue obscure ritual preparations.

Gerhardt attempts to Trump Dworkin. It takes a protracted effort, but he eventually makes contact and explains the situation. Dworkin comes through, examines what Osric is doing, and concludes that Osric does intend to alter the Pattern, thereby becoming the creator of the Pattern in Dworkin's stead. Dworkin expects to die as a result. He tries to talk to Osric, but Osric has little to say beyond, "It'll be better! You'll see!"

Elodie examines Silas with Pattern sight and determines that Osric's "sand" is composed thousands of tiny construct creatures, each with many legs and each with the Pattern inscribed on its back. These "Pattern fleas", under Osric's mental control, are spreading out around the Pattern, and some are starting to walk it, successfully, causing the Pattern to flair just like when someone ordinarily walks it. Each flea probably has a speck of Osric's blood inside. She attempts to make them stop attacking Silas, mainly to study how difficult it would be to wrest them from Osric's control. She doesn't stop them, but Silas is eventually able to ward them off with his own Pattern defense. Having evaluated them, she moves on to trying to prevent them from making further progress on the Pattern.

Meanwhile, Jericho flies high above the Pattern and fires at the stranger, wounding him seriously and knocking him down. Osric and the stranger argue briefly and quietly, then the stranger Trumps out with seeming reluctance. Lowen takes dragon form and flies low over the Pattern. He lands on top of Osric, who grapples with him. The air above the Pattern stirs as the Pattern prepares to retaliate against Lowen's intrusion.

Suddenly a massive concussion blast erupts out from Osric, throwing everyone else away from the Pattern. Before anyone recovers, the fleas finish reaching their positions, distributed along the entire length of the Pattern, all of which is flaring like it does when someone walks it. With a flash, Osric and all of the fleas on the Pattern disappear, and the Pattern subsides. The remaining fleas fall inert.

Dworkin, Gerhardt, and Elodie examine the Pattern and consult together, agreeing that it seems unchanged and fully functional. Elodie asks Dworkin about the letter he sent Osric, where he had said that he wouldn't help Osric with his plan. Dworkin struggled to remember, but eventually said that he believed Osric had a theory that the Pattern could be used to activate the Unicorn power in Amberite blood at a higher level than walking it normally does, effectively allowing ascension to godhood. Dworkin is displeased with Random for not securing access to the Primal Pattern better and learns from the group about the ongoing succession crisis.

Silas attempts to Trump Osric and disappears, leaving all of his magical items behind, including the Trump. The next thing he knows, he is lying naked in a field near Ygg, with the Unicorn nearby. She appears tired and worn. He has a burnt spot in the middle of his chest. Later, after she walks off and he has shadowwalked to new clothing, he remembers that he appeared in front of Osric, who attacked him, but that the Unicorn interposed herself and carried him off. Jericho, noticing Silas' fallen Trump of Osric, Trumps Silas and brings him back. The group returns to Amber.

Back at the Grove of the Unicorn, Lowen examines the bodies of the clones who died in the battle and interrogates some of their spirits. He learns that Osric's forces had orders to kill and replace all of the Elder Amberites and some of the servants with sleeper agents. Some of the dead believe themselves to be the originals and remember fighting to oppose the clone invasion. He learns that one particular servant was killed and replaced.

The group aids Caine and Silas in examining everyone to see if anyone was successfully replaced. Gerhardt Trumps to Erewhon before they can get started. The clone detector reports the servant that Lowen identified is real. Caine asks Elodie to examine the servant with Pattern sight and she detects a subtle irregularity. He is interrogated and his memory of recent events is found to differ from that of the other servants. Apparently the latest model clones can fool the detector. Caine says no one can trust anyone and Elodie reminds him that as Amberites, no one trusts anyone anyway, but they still work together because it's necessary.

Elodie casts Trumps and learns that Osric has subsumed the place of Brand's power. He's being opposed by Oberon over Fiona. His next step is to destroy Corwin. Jericho suggests waiting until he finishes to go after him again. Elodie thinks the cards may be referring to the Oberon clone under Fiona's control and to Corwin's Pattern.

All of the clones that the group encountered since leaving the cloning facility only account for about a third of those that were supposedly produced there.

S:3, L:R, J:R, G:R, I:R, E:R

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