This was written for the “The Great Game” Amber campaign at AmberCon.
The story begins with the various grandchildren of Oberon being sent off to hold an outpost against the attacks of the Courts of Chaos. Upon their return, they encounter a strange pattern storm, and when they arrive home, its not the same home they remember, and the question is, where they changed by the storm or was Amber changed?
The whole campaign is heavily based on Castle Falkenstein and other steampunk tropes and presented quite a different take on the traditional Amber.
Never had I expected the number of the wounded that I was presented with upon my arrival several hours ago.
This was supposed to have been a minor supply post, but it appears that it was more than minor in the eyes of Chaos, more than had been expected. I don’t understand such things, but perhaps Gérard had known more than he had said when he had asked me to help here, and here I am.
Several Days Later
I have been surviving on less than two hours of sleep per night since my arrival and the days and nights have merged into one long waking nightmare of blood. The only way that I can tell that I have slept is that in sleep the waking nightmare does not trouble my mind, but the only reason that I have slept was because the wounded had stopped arriving.
If there is any personal benefit to this war and all of the shedding of blood it has caused, it is that my surgical skills have been tested and expanded beyond my expected limits, but this war has been a terrible teacher.
At least, I think this is only the next day since I last added to my diary. I have not left the surgery for many, many hours, and even then it was only to carry in more of the wounded from the front lines. The numbers of our wounded here are astounding.
My cousin Tobias has proved to be of great assistance. They say necessity is truly the mother of invention; she has proven to be a terrible mother these past several days. To assist me, Tobias has provided a number of ingenious splints, crutches and artificial limbs that he had made from scavenged materials from some of the enemy catapults.
I must also relate an interesting episode from the previous day.
It took place during one of the infrequent, momentary lulls in the incessant attacks on the camp.
I was suturing Daniel’s leg. It was a long but shallow wound, caused by cannon shot; a long metal fragment was lodged deep in the muscle but otherwise the wound was not serious, merely messy. Normally, such a wound would have been a simple operation, but this time it was a much more difficult job. I had not recently needed to perform surgery on any of the blood of Amber, so I had forgotten how difficult they tended to be as patients.
I could tell he was nervous. It wasn’t the pain so much as the expectation that another attack would be imminent, and the adrenaline was making him react to every suture I made. With each movement, the stitches were becoming more and more difficult to keep straight. I finally became so exasperated that I snapped at him.
“Stop that! Stop … twitching so much!”
He didn’t reply, only glared at me. I regretted my combative tone of voice almost immediately and made an effort to be more professional.
“You could try to relax a little more,” I continued. “The suturing is taking longer only because you cannot keep your leg still.”
“A little something to dull the pain might not hurt,” he replied. “Some brandy, perhaps?”
I snorted derisively. “All of my anesthetics and enchantments have been used for more important uses that a simple leg wound. Nor do I have a gallon of brandy, which is what it would take to dull the pain for one of our stamina, nor would I give it to you, since it makes a more efficient antiseptic.”
“Just kidding …” he said, waving off my attempts to continue my diatribe any further. He accompanied his gesture and remarks with a weary flash of his roguish grin. I tried to continue to glower at him, but his admittedly tired humor was so infectious and his mannerism was such an unconscious or conscious copy of his father’s that I was unable to maintain my anger for long.
I tried to retreat into my most professional manner, and succeed, mostly. “If you really want something for the pain, I can offer you this,” I continued, as I held out a short wooden peg, much chewed, “or …”
“Or?” he replied dubiously.
I leaned over him, opening my eyes wide to meet his gaze. “Or, you can look deep into my eyes …” I continued, my exhaustion letting my voice trail off suggestively with more sly, sultry amusement than is usually my wont.
He didn’t refuse, but he did look away, either in outright refusal or simply disgust. I wasn’t surprised. Amberites, including myself, were notorious for refusing to surrender any level of personal control, even for a … simple application of medical mesmerism. I could have forced the issue without asking his permission, using one of the more useful skills that I had learned from observing Mother, but I had also learned from past experience that it only caused as many problems in the future as it solved in the present.
“Just get on with it,” he said gruffly.
At that moment, we were interrupted by the fortuitous entrance of Tobias, carrying another load of wooden splints and crutches.
“Tobias, I have a problem here; could you give me a hand?”
He carefully set down his load and then walked slowly over to the operating table. “What do you need?”
“I need to immobilize the leg here while I’m suturing it.”
He hummed quietly as he examined the situation from several different angles with his characteristic air of detachment. He stroked his jaw for a long moment, then suddenly smiled to me and nodded.
For Tobias, it was obviously a simple exercise of the proper application of force. His hands were as unmoving as Kolvir, and therefore, so was Daniel’s leg. Without further interruptions on Daniel’s part, I was able to finish suturing his wound within five minutes, and it just took a minute more to wrap a fresh bandage around his leg.
His work finished, I politely thanked Tobias for his assistance before he left, a sentiment that was more enthusiastically shared by Daniel. As he left, I could almost see the wheels and gears of Tobias’ mental processes operating; within the hour he’ll have a design roughed out to perform the same function.
I turned my attention back to Daniel. He had swung himself into a sitting position as he felt the bandage. “Do you believe in souvenirs?” I said, tossing him the sliver of metal that I had removed from his leg. He picked it out of mid-air, turned it over in his hand for a few moments, and said “No.” He tossed the sliver into the disposal bin that overflowed with a number of similarly bloody objects
At that moment, one of the sentries yelled out that the enemy had been sighted. Daniel leapt from the table and ran out of the surgery, pausing only a moment to grab his blade from beside the door. I sighed and checked over the empty beds and began gathering more bandages.