After the Ball

Kendall returns to the his suite after the ball, weary and troubled. Upon arriving, he sees Rory wisely had pulled out two options for his master to choose from: bedclothes, or a more comfortable pair of trousers and shirt. Kendall contemplates the choices for a full 20 heartbeats before finally sighing. The nightclothes looked inviting, comfortable, and the urge to climb into his bed, pull the covers over his head, and put off the meeting with Brisbane until later was almost overwhelming. However, he knew that Brisbane would most likely rouse him out of bed anyway, and it wouldn't do to be groggy.

Shedding his robe, he pulls on the trousers, shirt, and some comfortable house boots, then accepts a glass of wine from Rory and takes a book out onto his balcony. The wind off the ocean this high up is sharp and chill. It clears the head and brings him completely alert, as he sits on a comfortable chair, sips his wine and watches the stars. The book in his lap is soon forgotten as he begins to focus on the events and considers what to report of his experiences. Rory unobtrusively puts the wine bottle on the table next to him, and then leaves his master to his ruminations, while Kendall waits patiently for his Elder to return from the festivities below.

As Kendall is deep in meditation, he doesn't notice when Brisbane takes the chair next to him. "Observations?" he says.

Kendall starts, but his wineglass is almost empty anyway, so doesn't slosh on his hand. He sits up straighter, and drops the book on the ground beside his chair. Rory appears momentarily with another glass for Brisbane, takes the book, and disappears as silently as he arrived.

Kendall waits until the servant is gone again before answering. He takes a calming breath, to re-center his thoughts. "There are so… many things to observe," he offers at last. "I am at something of a loss as to how these people defeated Sawall and Hendrake."

"First, they did have help in the Courts," Brisbane remarks. Kendall looks outraged for a moment, but Brisbane raises a hand to stop any protests from his attaché. "It is not spoken aloud, but they… these Amberites definitely had help from other Houses within the Courts." He chuckles, adding, "Though you didn't hear that from me."

The Ambassador looks at Kendall now with a frown, ordering some food to be brought before he continues. "What I found most interesting… if somewhat perverse, is how little power their noble houses have. It seems almost all matters are decided by the king." He pauses here, as if trying to get some unpleasant taste out of his mouth. "He will take their input, their suggestions… but the final decision is his. Insanity!" He shakes his head in disgust.

Kendall's eyes get wide at that notion, but then he nods, tentatively. "However, it would appear he does not have the complete loyalty or obedience even of those within his own Family and they do not follow his edicts. If that is the case, how can he hope to keep the other Houses in Amber in line?" He shakes his head. "I found their 'general' Kiara most… illuminating, sir. She was far less than even the least of diplomats in Chanicut."

"Yes.. I noted that also. It is as if, only by his own wit and strength does he rule. That both gives me hope and fear." Brisbane grunts in disgust, then shakes his head as if dismissing a troubling thought. "As for Kiara, I was warned about her. While she shares the Queen's favor, she is what is called a 'loose cannon' in their young folk's literature." Brisbane grins. "See… even I can pick up some of their colloquial slang here."

Kendall shakes his head. "Their language… is occasionally difficult to understand. I didn't realize there would be so many differences." He frowns thoughtfully. "If you mean, 'loose cannon' as in someone who is unpredictable, I agree. She allows her emotions to override her reason. I found it fascinating for her to say that she was as polite as she was and didn't try to throw me out the window because of her friendship with the Queen. Not because of the King or even Morgana's position as Queen. She appears to believe she is above such considerations."

"Interesting…yet dangerous too," Brisbane says, as he nods and points at a spot between them for the servant to place the food, a tray generously piled with Chaos delicacies.

Kendall adds, "The Queen, now that I have interacted with her more, seems almost childlike in ways. An innocent. I am not certain if this is a very good act, or if she truly is that way. One can't forget that she did summon the Veil, and is certainly not a power to dismiss. But her innocence might be used against her."

"Do you believe that we should exploit these weakness?" Brisbane picks up a treat. "Mmmm… I didn't realize how much a dislike their cooking till now."

Kendall nods distractedly, also helps himself to something off of the plate after Brisbane makes his choice. He answers before taking a bite, however. "It's something to keep an eye on; something to watch for and use to our advantage. Kiara thinks the Veil is creepy, but more than that, appeared to be resentful because the Queen's protection did not extend to cover her domain, Arden. That also may be useful." He takes a bite then, carefully brushing crumbs off of his lap, and picks up his wine again.

"Hmmm…" Brisbane says, taking a sip of wine as well. "So she resents the Queen, a woman she also calls friend." A slight grin comes to his lips. "Somewhat reminds one of home, does it?"

Kendall, abruptly remembering what good food tastes like, finishes off his first treat and follows it quickly with a second. "In that way, yes. But in others…" He pauses in thought, then shakes his head. "Not at all. There is such a lack of protocol here. Everyone seems to do as they like." He grins then. "But Morgana said she'd like to visit Chanicut sometime."

"Visit?" Brisbane says with a raised eyebrow. "Possible… but not now. I wonder if she meant anything else by that comment?"

Kendall gives his Elder a curious look. "If you mean invasion, that's not what she would call it," he offers. "I am hoping to gain some further information through one of the other newcomers," he remarks then. "Moon, and Esther as well, if possible, though she seemed less easily manipulated."

"But isn't she a station-less girl, without Family or House here?" Brisbane asks, somewhat confused to why anyone would share anything important with someone like Moon. "I would think Lady Esther would have been the better target for seduction."

"We might think so, yes," Kendall replies. "But it seems to me that these Amberites don't do very much that I would expect. So why would they start with this?" He chuckles at the thought for a moment, but then sobers quickly back into a more professional demeanor. "I believe the Queen will be kind to her, and that will pave the way for her. Moon also indicated that she believes she holds some relation with the House. If her relation can be ascertained, it is possible she will acquire station and rank."

"Yes… all good points, Kendall. See, I told you that you had the talent for this," Brisbane says, nodding to himself as he takes a bite. "Well crafted words are fine, but it is the eye that matters. One must be able to read a person, without knowing anything about them. Few have that ability… far fewer wish to take the risks."

Kendall smiles at Brisbane at the praise. He nods formally. "Thank you, sir. You are a wise and skilled teacher." He pauses for a sip of wine, then refills his cup and Brisbane's. His expression turns more thoughtful and even troubled. "There is a Hendrake amongst the Amberites. She is apparently attached to Prince Brin. The Lady Emylynne. I was not able to speak to her, as the Prince ran interference."

"Yes, I noticed…" Brisbane answers. "But it was strange that few at the table seemed to have known that. Their King didn't even hide his surprise." He frowns. "Hmm… I wonder if Prince Brin captured her in battle and she worked her way into his bed. It has been known to happen before with House Hendrake. I believe it is a strategy of their breeding program."

"That her origins appear generally unknown is an advantage, though. I was worried that she would be working against us while we are here, but if she isn't able to explain her knowledge, she will not be paid much heed," Kendall remarks.

"Certainly she is working against our interests." Brisbane's says with a grunt. "I would not be surprised that they planned to turn all of Amber into one of their Breeding Pits, a constant line of their Maidens waiting their turns to jump into the orgy with the Princes of Amber playing the role of studs." He swirls the wine in his cup. "We can not allow that to happen. There is too much potential in them to be wasted on House Hendrake's narrow vision of the world."

Kendall looks at Brisbane curiously, claiming another treat from the plate before replying. "I will try to get to know Brin more, then," he answers simply. "He appeared interested in an exchange of information, at least, on the surface. I will work to determine her influence, and undermine it." He nods, and then inquires. "What potential in particular would you like realized, sir? Beyond alliance with their House?"

"It is time you should know this," Brisbane answers. "The Custos have told your father that we as a House have at last found the wall in our evolution. We need a final spark, a last genetic step to attain our Greater Form. The Custos do not believe it resides in Chaos, so we are also here, and out in Shadow, looking for that spark."

"Ah," Kendall responds, his frown of concentration easing into a thoughtful expression. He thinks over the answer for a time, finishing the small tart he was holding and taking a drink of wine. He makes sure no more crumbs have come to invade his person again before adding anything to his answer. "It's gratifying to hear that we have come so close, but… do we know what sort of spark we're even looking for? How do we recognize it? How will we know? And why these Amberites?" he remarks, expression turning to skepticism. "They seem less than… ideal… for our purposes."

"You forget… surprises always come from the places you least expect them to. So this… mission," Brisbane spits out the word. "It serves two purposes, first we gather a valuable ally, and see if they indeed have what we are looking for. As for what the spark will look like?" he chuckles dryly. "I will leave that for you to find in the arms of these harlots."

Kendall absorbs Brisbane's reply, giving his superior a peculiar searching look while he takes a drink of his wine. He sets his glass down with care before answering. "Ah, sir, I take it from what you just said that…" He pauses ever so briefly, regaining his poise before finishing in a detached tone, "You would like me to attempt to lay with some of these Amberite women?"

"No… I want for you to find that which is missing within yourself," Brisbane answers coolly. "And to find what is special, within them."

Kendall looks positively relieved. He picks up his wine again, tension leaving his body like a ripple of water. But then, the expected puzzled expression takes over, and he frowns. "Special in them?" he asks, mostly to himself, then shakes his head. "I haven't any idea what you're talking about Uncle," he says with rare frankness. "However, I… I will try. For my House."

"As will we all… as will we all," Brisbane mutters, silencing the uneasiness that rages in his soul with a long drink of spirits.

Kendall watches Brisbane with troubled eyes, and stands when the older man rises. Brisbane walks towards the door. "It is time to meditate on these events. Good Turn to you, Kendall."

"Thank you, Elder," Kendall answers. "Good Turn." He watches Brisbane until he is gone from sight, then looks down at the leftover food and wine on the table. Picking up his glass, he finishes up the last of the wine inside in a gulp before walking over to the railing to look out over the darkened view.

In the shadows, Sonnagh clears his throat to get Kendall's attention, before saying. "If the young Master wishes, I can have the Harness Golem set up for him in one of the far rooms."

Kendall starts, turning to look at the servant in surprise, his thoughts already having gone far away. He thinks on the offer for several heartbeats before nodding. "That would be satisfactory. Thank you." The servant bows himself out, and Kendall wanders back into his room to find his weapons already out and ready. He doesn't bother to change, instead donning the harness with Rory's assistance before beginning warm-up exercises.

As they lay out the combat mat and set up the center control, Sonnagh exclaims, "My Lord Kendall, the control collar has War Master Elek's seal on it."

Kendall approaches and takes the object from the servant, glancing at it with a closed expression. He weighs the collar in his hand for five heartbeats before nodding in acceptance and handing it back to Sonnagh. The servant places the control in its slot and switches the mechanism on.

Once the switch is thrown, Kendall feels the tingle in his arms and chest as the vest and arm sleeves go through their self-checks. A series of clicks inform him that all is well. Kendall only has to wait another dozen heartbeats till the Lens opens up, the creation beam throwing up a column of light.

It takess a bare heartbeat for the beam to get in the proper focus, Kendall shielding his eyes during that time with his hand. Once in focus, a swirl of colors start their climb up the column until, at last, the column becomes a person… War Master Elek to be exact. The image becomes more solid; Kendall is even able to see the stern lines in Elek's face.

"Kendallairithan…. if my seal was disturbed or you are at the moment unable to give your full attention to your training, please step off the mat. You have five heartbeats before a confinement ring energizes."

Kendall stays still, settling more securely into his ready stance with his sword and parrying dagger raised, and counts the heartbeats until the ring energizes. At the appointed moment, the outermost ring of the mat flares red, and Kendall can hear the whir of the harness clasps as they lock, securing the vest on his person.

Yet Lord Elek's image does not disappear. If anything, it becomes more solid. In his right hand is a blade shield, his left holds a hook blade sword, and he steps forward, raising his blade. It seems that Lord Elek had programmed the machine with his own imprint. What is even more more worrisome, the Lens on the center column does not close - sure sign that Lord Elek has programmed ghosts to appear as they battle.

Kendall attacks right away, not waiting to give Elek an opportunity to unnerve him any more than necessary, engaging in the exercise with far more ferocity and enthusiasm than he ordinarily displays. This is all to the good though, as over the next hour, Kendall is fighting for his life in a grueling workout that leaves him bone tired, the sweat pouring off of him.

Even a reflection of Lord Elek proves to be a challenge beyond the young Lord's skills. Kendall's body aches from the countless wound shocks, but he can rest satisfied in the knowledge that he lasted the whole program cycle. As the last ghosting opponent fades before the swipe of his blade, he hears the whir of the harness clasps unlocking.

The confinement ring fades away, and Rory comes forward with a tall glass of spiced wine for his master. "I take it that your nervous energy will not interfere with your rest period now, Milord," Rory says, motioning the other servants forward to start packing away the Harness and mat.

Kendall accepts the wine gratefully with his free hand, while Rory takes his sword from his sore hand and bends over to pick up the broken dagger from the mat. Kendall takes several gulps before even managing a weary nod to Rory's observation.

Yet for all his exhaustion, his eyes are bright with satisfaction from the workout and his showing. He may feel like death, but he wasn't 'dead.' The thought passes through Kendall's head briefly that he hoped a record of that session would get back to Elek sometime, as he shrugs painfully out of the harness, then heads once again for the bathing room.

He bathes quickly and then collapses into his bed, so tired at that point that he didn't even have a chance to toss and turn from its unfamiliarity before darkness claimed him. He sleeps deeply and remembers no dreams.

Back to the list of Kendall's game threads
Breakfast with the King

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