Eric uneasy on the throne; shipping has been harassed by water transport troubles: rumors persist that the Rebmans have been using a sea serpent to accomplish this in a bid for more power. Florimel has been making mild rebellion against Eric, and some popular opinion is with her because of the food shortages due to the shipping issues. Eric has requested that all loyal Amberites return to Amber for “an accounting”. Oberon has been missing for several years.
The net effect of this gathering has been to bring many of the children to Amber after long stints again, namely Rogan, Ciara, Ava, Frederick, and Lucius. Val, son of Florimel, is also in Amber, and is known to have a very rocky relationship with his mother; he’s known as a bit of a rogue. The elders present have all been busy in very important meetings, all of which we’ve been excluded from—including Lucius, who feels he ought to be, given Oberon is his father. Notably, Benedict and Caine haven’t appeared.
Over drinks with Val (Florimel’s partially estranged son) various rumors are discussed—the trump calls, the sea serpent, the corpse of the out-of-shadow messenger—and various grievances with the elders are aired. During the conversation, A and C are individually contacted by a mysterious presence via trump, an experience they’ve never had before, but both manage to elude the gauntleted, six-fingered hand that tries to detain them with help from others in the room. They make a report first to Julian, then to Eric and Corwin, and have an impromptu conversation in the hallway with Fiona, who delivers them some advice on how to deal with the situation, which mostly amounts to keeping guards and lovers close while they’re sleeping. R, L, and F have a look a the corpse of the shadow messenger. L gives up after a cursory examination, F takes some crude samples in a burlap sack to feed to dogs (“testing for poison”), R takes some cleaner ones with his analysis kit (actually testing for poison).
When A and C return to the Blue Room for more drinks, they find L drinking, Val missing, the servants assaulted, and after following the servants to the infirmary, are both attacked by the black trump contact again. The ensuing commotion calls L, R, and F to the aid of the girls, arriving just in time to fail helping, as L helps A when it becomes clear she needs it, and Corwin helped C with Greyswandir.