Margot & Arabella

(Optional musical accompaniment to this thread.)

She stared with blurred eyes through the wooded passage that Kendall took for some time long after his scent had left the air. A part of her disappeared into that darkness, stealing her breath and her soul with each confident stride. It had been a long time since she felt so… small. So vulnerable. A sudden chill claimed her spine, the specter’s icy nails raking against her nerves. One arm crossed her bosom to anchor her fingers into the opposite shoulder; the other hand wrapped around her waist until the Princess was left hugging herself, and perhaps a little marvel safely kept within.

Margot didn’t know what she expected. He exited her life – at least temporarily, she vowed – as abruptly as he entered. When she turned once more toward the balcony and the meadow, her bottom lip trembled as a smile formed and dew blessed her cheeks at the sight of the rich blue blanket that he had gifted her, neatly folded upon the railing. Slowly the Princess moved toward the comforter and wrapped it around her shoulders, like a grand cloak with train. But, she didn’t notice how foolish she looked, only the warm hint of cinnamon that lingered on the fabric.

The breeze continued and Margot simply stood there in silence, alone, watching the hypnotic sway of the flora below. What did her future hold? Was she with child? Did it matter? What of Desrianne or Dara? Those she was supposed to trust that she sent away because she… because…?

Yes, because she was concerned with their safety. Regardless of how hardened Dara was or how indebted she was to the Queen, Margot was part of this – all of it – including the Heir’s demise, and she could not bear to see others harmed because of her… because of her what? Conviction? Vanity? Loyalty? A combination of all three? Margot tried to force her thoughts to more productive matters, but the seeds of doubt were so masterfully sewn by Possibility that Margot hardly trusted her own sanity let alone the strength of her instinct. What did screech in the silence with a deafening squawk was the realization that she was now alone. No Caresse. No Dara. No Family. No Lover.

Family. Once more her fingers stroked her stomach. She had the start of one, but the Patriarch was about to meet certain doom. What was her purpose? What did she desire? What would she do to return her beloved to her arms and whisk him away from all of this? The heat of frustration crept up once more and Margot found herself trapped between admiring his pride and cursing it at the same time. But somehow, she knew it wasn't a matter of not finding her offer to alight tempting. No, it was about something that he had to face on his own, to finally combat his greatest challenge – discovering whom he was and what defined him. She could not do that for him any more than he her, but that didn't remove the pained frustration and desperation she felt at the thought of his sacrifice for something so… insignificant? Yes, insignificant in the big picture.

Not insignificant to Kendall, of course. His father ensured an insult would shred his heart and a mother’s anguish ensured a hemorrhage that bled away the last of his soul. This journey would lead him to one of two places, discovery or death. What was terrifying was that Margot was uncertain which he desired most at present.

She had promised not to intervene. She had given her word, and yet she felt compelled to petition his family, to beg the Serpent to spare his life. Surely even House-less she had some resources, some who wanted to see Barimen return for no other reason than the blatant rejection of the One that betrayed Chaos in the first place.

She could have been lost in her musings for a day or a century for all she knew, wrapped up in the swirled blue blanket on the balcony, before the faint sounds behind her indicate door opening and activity within the suite. A few heartbeats pass before there is also the sound of a throat clearing from the doorway leading into the room behind her. "Lady? Lady Margot?" The familiar voice is that of one of the servants who had tended her while in Silver. Dilys.

"Dilys," Margot greeted the girl with tired eyes and a belabored smile. "You truly cannot appreciate how good it is to see you." The waver in her voice was nearly masked by the rustling of the wind outside as it played with flowers Margot doubted she'd ever know the names to. But, she doubted that even with the strongest of convictions and a constitution that rivaled the Serpent itself, her misery was truly obfuscated. "Come and enjoy the view, please?" she offered, more as one would to a friend than subordinate.

The servant's mouth stretches into a smile, her eyes alight with wonder and amazement as she looked around at the room of living wood. "Thank you, Lady," she says with a quick curtsy. She hurries forward with her long black dress rustling about her feet to come stand on the balcony and look out over the field of enormous flowers. The light shining down on the balcony glints off of Dilys' dress, composed of tiny overlapping iridescent circles like sequins or insect's wings.

Even though Dilys is also caught up in the sights of this manor, where she had never visited before, she retains enough presence of mind to ask, "Is there anything I can do for you, fetch for you?" She tears her eyes away from the flowers with difficulty, to look at her lady instead.

"Comfort and counsel?" Margot requested with a small scoff of irony. "I'm afraid that I do not care for being helpless." She turned and looked at the girl, her gown perhaps one for mourning. "What would you do if you were in my place? What action would be at your disposal to save the man you love?"

Dilys blinks wide eyes at Margot, her smile disappearing into a sober expression. She lifts both hands, pressing the index fingers of both together as she ponders the question. "That is a hard question, m'lady," she says. "I don't know of any way to intercede with Lord Serpent, unless you went before Him before Lord Kendallarithan has a chance to."

Margot tugged the blanket tighter around her. "If I were to request an audience with someone of House Chanicut, would it be granted given I have the Lady's leave to remain among the Ways as a guest until such time as Lord Kendall's destiny has been determined?" she inquired, wheels working in her mind. It was not in her heart to believe that Kendall would find his demise with the Serpent, and she would move all the Ways in the Multiverse if there was any way to circumvent that.

"Or… how does one go about respectfully seeking Lord Serpent's counsel?" the princess clarified.

"I think… it would depend on who you request audience with, Lady," Dilys answers, eyes even wider than before at the suggestion to go before the Serpent.

"M'lord the Duke does not receive many, and is in mourning. But… you know Lord Brisbane, yes? You traveled here with him from Amber. Perhaps he would be willing to speak with you."

Margot nodded slowly. "Yes, he is one I would like to share a few moments with… to seek guidance and offer my condolences." Removing herself from the balcony, she glanced around the lovely accommodations. "How would one appropriately and formally express their bereavement to the intimate family members of the House? It is important to me to follow tradition and as my heart is consumed with pain and sorrow, there is comfort in expressing their appreciation for circumstances to those with hearts exponentially overwhelmed with emotion."

"You would wear a mourning dress, of green, as that is our House's color," Dilys answers. "You would take a gift, something that speaks well of the deceased. And you would offer to hear a story. Then Lord Brisbane might receive you, if he chooses, and tell you a story about Lord Cedric. A memory. Then you might share a story of your own. Lord Cedric's body will soon be displayed on the River, and any who encounter the funeral boat must pay their respects. Perhaps… you would offer to accompany him to pay his respects to Lord Cedric?" Dilys suggests, though she doesn't sound too confident.

There was a decisive nod. "Yes, please see to it that I have a proper gown to represents respect for the House and condolences for such a tragic occasion. Then see to it that a formal, respectful request for audience is sent directly to Lord Brisbane; for no other eyes. On second thought…"

Margot moved to where a small writing desk was neatly tucked within the branches. A piece of parchment and an ink well filled with the most amazing ichor that seemed to change color with one's mood and intention - for Margot, both heartfelt and heartbroken. The Princess scripted an elegant letter of request filled with the formalities of a Representative of a faraway land and the affection felt for both elder and younger Lords. She found sealing wax that also had peculiar properties. No sooner did she slide the stick of green from its glass encasement than it began to soften at the tip without kissing flame until an appropriate smudge could be made. Albeit tiny by comparison, Margot's signet was pressed deep into the soft sealant, letting Lord Brisbane that it was she who desired his company at this time of strife.

"First, see that this is delivered personally to Lord Brisbane… and do not delay. Then bring a proper gown of a …" Margot hesitated for a moment to decide how to phrase her request. "Of a visiting Princess, a direct line to the throne of Amber and likely one of the few children of King Eric who still draws breath in mourning. One that speaks of respectful grief that this line of the House will soon be at an end."

She gave Dilys an appraising look. "Are you able to do this in complete confidence? Not a word to another save for the tasks you have been given? Rory served Lord Kendall well; I would ask for the same bond be allowed to grow between us. Are you willing to trust me so that I may put my complete confidence in you?"

Dilys looks at the envelope and then back to Margot's face. "I will convey your message and make the preparations, and will speak of this to no one," she agrees. "But visiting during time of mourning, to convey your respects… Is that done in secrecy in your land?" she asks.

"By the most intimate of acquaintances, yes." Margot explained gently. "Grand affairs are left for pomp and circumstance and the masses to utter reassurances and to attempt to gain favor with the family of the deceased. But, only those who are close to the family or a particular family member would dare ask for a few moments to share their distress and offer comforts. It is up to the family member in question to decide whether they find the person worthy of audience."

"As you wish, m'lady," Dilys says. She takes the envelope and gives Margot a curtsy. "With your leave, I will see to the arrangements."

"Thank you, Dilys. Where…?" Margot smiled with a hint of embarrassment. "Where would I find a bathing room?"

A knock at the outer door interrupts them, and from her vantage, Margot can see the door open to admit Arabella, who twirls her way into the main reception room. "Hullo. Margot. Hullo. Margot. Hullo. Margot," she says with each spin, until she comes to a stop by the door across the way, peering in to see if anyone was there. "Hullo?"

"Fair tidings, Arabella. How are you since our last meeting?" she asked pleasantly, a smile forming for the strange woman without reason.

"Oh, there you are…" Arabella replies, her voice slow and dreamy. "I was hoping you would still be here, and the gorlacks didn't come to nibble your toes. You… do have toes?"

The young looking woman was still 'clothed' in a cloud, but it had changed to a dark, steely grey close to black. Little flickers of light blinked within the clouds regularly now.

Dilys curtseys to both Margot and the Chanicut Lady, then answers Margot's question with a low tone. "The bathing room is off of the sleeping chamber. Aelwyn is arranging your things and will see to your needs until I return." With that, she hurries away to deliver the note that had been entrusted to her, shutting the door behind her.

Margot smiled at Dilys, silently appreciating her sense of duty.

"Yes, Arabella… I have toes. And nothing has come out of the shadow or beneath the furniture to snack upon them. I believe your staff should be commended for their diligence in keeping the nuisances far away from the dwelling you have so generously gifted me with for the time being." The smile grew even as the Princess inclined her head out of respect to the Lady, the blanket tugged snuggly around her form. Her eyes studied the ethereal form before her for several moments before she spoke again. "Please accept my condolences for the loss of a cousin and a member of your House. It is a terrible tragedy." Margot's eyes conferred her true distress over the matter.

"May I offer you something to drink?" she gestured to the sideboard in the room. "Or perhaps, you would indulge me with a tale of Lord Cedric?"

Arabella patters over to join Margot in the sitting room, where she flops down in a large cushioned chair with no grace and a great floof! She stretches out her arms and gives Margot a mischievous smile as she brings her feet up to sit cross-legged in the chair. "Sitting down suddenly scares the servants and the scorfs. But do you really want a story about Cousin Cedric?" She blinks at Margot. "Maybe you'd like to hear about Ari instead?"

Margot sat, pulling her legs up and curling in the chair opposite the Lady, wrapped closely by the blanket and the edges of it that hung down neatly tucked beneath her lap so as not to tempt any of these feared beasties. "Would it be too much of an imposition to learn of both?" Settling in, she waited patiently for the prose to begin.

"Hmm…" Arabella sits back in the chair, closing her eyes. "Cedric and Ari don't go into stories together well. It's like putting dullberries into bone soup - makes it all go up in flames." She raises her hand and twitches her fingers like flames dancing above a bowl, smiling at the image in her mind's eye. "But… I do remember one story from long, long ago, before…" Her expression changes from dreamy smile to dismayed frown for a heartbeat, and then the frown eases.

"Before. There was another Lord, I think of Jesby. Or maybe a Helgram. No, no, a Jesby, and you know how they are. This Lord Jonquil or something had managed to annoy both Cedric and Ari. At the same time! I don't know what Ced's grievance was, but I'd guess Ari's problem was over a woman." She giggles.

"Anyhow, that might be the only time the brothers teamed up over anything. I'll have to think on that sometime, and see if any other times come to mind. But they didn't want to kill him, just… teach him a lesson. So Ari, he's a good mimic. He impersonated the Jesby while Cedric kept him… occupied. And the Jesby's fall from grace was beautiful."

Her eyes open and she grins. "I think he might have taken his own life afterwards. I can't recall."

"Ari was brother to Cedric and the others?" Margot inquired calmly.

"What others?" Arabella asks her curiously.

"Diona and Kendall, of course," Margot answered, her intrigue and interest piqued.

Arabella gives a breathy laugh. "Oh, oh. I see. Ari. You call him Kendall," she explains.

A flush of color comes to her cheeks. "I suppose I do, yes. Why do you refer to him as Ari?" Margot inquired.

"Mmmm… Why indeed?" she repeats. Arabella turns in her seat, stretching out her legs and slouching down so that her head is supported by the corner between arm and back with her legs danging like twin willow sticks over the opposite arm. "I've forgotten, I guess. Ari, Ari, Ari… It's part of his name, too. Kendall-Ari-than."

Margot chuckles. "That seems a reasonable reason. You would prefer to share tales of Ari, then?" she presses gently.

"Oh… I don't know… I'll miss them both when they're gone. Differently," the young lady replies. She wipes a tear from her eye. "But I've shared a tale of both my cousins. It's your turn now."

"Well, I'm not certain what I could share that you would find of interest. What would you like to hear of?" Margot replied, with an keen desire to comply with her hostess' desire.

Arabella hums to herself while she plays with the clouds of her dress, pulling tendrils up and away from her body, just to let them go and watch them reincorporate themselves back into the bunch. "How did you and Ari meet?" she says after a while.

Margot's eyes took a distant glaze as she tried to remember how their paths became so entwined. "It was in a room call the Hall of Mirrors…" she began, softly. "It's a travelling room in Castle Amber and I was with a newly met cousin and we found ourselves at the portal when we happened upon Kendall. He was very proper and very formal and introduced himself with all the pomp and flair that Kendall possesses. The three of us traveled into the room, where each of us saw something different. I'm not certain what my cousin saw; I had just been torn away from my Shado… I mean Way, that I was taught to believe was my home and returned very abruptly to Amber. I knew nothing of such a place - or Chaos - before then."

Margot pulled the blanket closer around her, her head tipping to breathe in Kendall's aroma. "So, naturally, I saw what I believed was my home reflected in the mirror. It was then when I first met the Lady Grania. She was very regal and astonishingly beautiful… she asked that despite Kendall's shortfalls, that I grant him the opportunity to court me should he dare attempt to. I assured her that her son was a perfect nobleman, of the highest regard." Her smile was sad, as her eyes continued to seek the past.

"Kendall invited us back to the Ambassador's retreat, Vigil, in Castle Amber, for tea and continued conversation. My cousin, I soon discovered had a gift for speaking without thinking. She insulted his hospitality and was shown the way out. I remained long enough to apologize for her transgression and respectfully requested the opportunity to make it up to him with a stroll in the gardens the next day. To my surprise, especially given how my cousin's tongue had a viper's sting, Kendall accepted my invitation."

Arabella stares at the ceiling and the gently moving leaves as she listens to the story, kicking one foot up to point her toes at something only she could see, and then letting it down only to raise the other one. Back and forth, back and forth. When Margot finishes her story, though, she turns to look at the other young woman, clapping her hands.

"So sweet!" she exclaims happily. "I can only imagine everything that must have come after that! There must be such a tale in between, to bring you here, and now Cedric is gone and Ari will go before Lord Serpent." Her enthusiasm deflates and she sighs sadly, both legs falling to dangle over the arm of her chair. "So sad."

"It does not have to be…" Margot replied. "I have trust in Kendall and faith that the Lord Serpent will not be his end… perhaps he will return a changed man with greater insight and loftier goals and expectation of himself and those around him." She answered with quiet conviction, the voice of a true believer that was loyal to the end. "I would like to hear another story. Would you share one?"

"But even if he does come back, what then?" Arabella replies. She repeats the question in a sing-song voice. "What then? What then? What then? What then? Cedric has the easier role. All he has to do is ride in the funeral boat and get tossed in the Abyss. Gone forever. Like the sweetness in a jeckle root after it's been squeezed dry. Gone. Have you ever had jeckle root?" She asks, turning her head on the arm of her chair to look at Margot with eager interest.

"No…" Margot started to giggle at the extreme shift in topics, "I don't recall, at least. I'm afraid I haven't mastered many of the names of your foods; but I have found that I enjoy many of them."

She sighed softly, clinging to the blanket, her eyes holding the softness of someone deeply in love. "As to what then? There is desire and there is duty. There are dreams and there is reality. I cannot speak for Kendall, but, if it were my right to choose… all would be woven into a beautiful tapestry that told of a genesis of something … spectacular." Her eyes fell to the blanket and she fought tears that seemed to care little about sparing the Princess' dignity. "He is an honorable man. People should not be blind to his … assets."

Margot struggled with a cough and clearing her voice. "What of your cousin, Cedric? My time in his companionship was but a blink of an eye. What sort of man was he?"

Arabella reaches above her head in a long stretch, sighing deeply. "He was fun. Ari's never had a sense of humor. Cedric knew how to laugh."

Margot shared a private smile, recalling the warmth of Kendall's laughter as if he were in the room. "Mayhap it was just a question of knowing what Ari found amusing…"

The girl turns on her side, scrunching her legs up to her chest, and blinks at Margot. "Maybe so," she allows.

"What did you and Cedric share that made him laugh?" Margot inquired.

"Oh," her expression turns mischievous. "He could be so wicked, and he knew many jokes. There was this one. Um, a fire angel, a scald, and a hellhound all go into a tavern, and… No, wait. Was it a scald or a kelk? I think it was a scald. And maybe it wasn't a tavern. Where were they going?" Her expression takes on deep concentration as she puzzles through it, trying to remember. "Feh! Anyway, then the hellhound says to the fire angel, 'now you're all fired up!'"

She breaks into bubbly laughter.

Margot had no clue what a fire angel, a scald, a hellhound, or a kelk was… but Arabella's infectious laughter drew her out of her bleak mood, if only for a moment. "What a terrible pun!" she giggled along with the woman opposite her. "Was all that you shared with Cedric were bad jokes?"

"All? Hmm. We weren't close, Cedric and I, but it's probably not ALL. He did many things that were funny. Like… Like the time he convinced the Barathi envoy that dhelt are really cursed succubi. I thought the poor boy would drown trying to kiss one of them, slippery things." She snickers, beginning to braid a lock of her silvery white hair.

"Or the time he loosed a flock of jixters into the manor in Chagodesh before a high feast. Oh! Don't tell the Lady Grania!" she adds with wide eyes. "I think most people still don't know how it happened, but you should have seen them burrowing into the cake and flying up everyone's clothes!" That's enough to produce a giggle.

"And there was that time he seduced Ari's guest at a party. Right out of his arms during a dance. Ari was quite unhappy about that." She nods, solemn.

"What happened? Who was the guest?" Margot asked, after a transformation of animated expressions to mirror the young lady's. "What type of a party?"

"Hmm?" Arabella asks. "Oh, just some ball or other. There are soooo many. Why did you ask about my cousin Cedric? You're only interested in Ari, aren't you? And Cedric is dead."

"I am trying to understand who Cedric was through another's perspective. My … experience with him was … brief. And you are correct, your cousin Ari has my complete appreciation and affection… though, I have never pressed for him to return in kind. He has treated me with kindness and respect; without askance or demands. I know many who have treated me with less acknowledgement," Margot explained plainly. "It is why I am so very concerned for his meeting with your Lord Serpent… it would be a great personal loss, yes, should he not receive exoneration or benefit from his meeting. I would be utterly devastated; but the House will suffer for their loss far greater than I will."

The Chaosian Lady sighs sadly, turning onto her back again and combing out the braid with her fingers. "Ari was always more soft-hearted than his brother," she agrees, voice quiet. "It always caused him no end of trouble. And he was always susceptible to a pretty face. Cedric never had those deficiencies; he was destined to accomplish far greater things."

Margot gave the other a perplexed look; uncertain whether to be insulted by Arabella's words, or complimented. It only took a few moments to decide that she would take it as a compliment; knowing full well that their relationship was more than any 'exotic' appeal she may have. He had taken her into his confidence; something that the cousin would not know. She believed it so; Kendall's heart was tender not soft; circumstance forced him to be ever-vigilant and hard because it was how his world was. It was the combination of these aspects of him that anchored Margot to him, regardless of misunderstandings and miscommunication. She loved the man where everyone else seemed content to see the youngest heir.

"Was it Cedric's wont to take from Ari that which the younger believed precious or desirable? You mentioned the guest previously…" And Margot knew that Cedric had attempted to sway her with his charms. He was just … too much. Coming on like a Tsunami, attempting to swallow a small island; Margot found such heavily perfumed testosterone distasteful; though she could understand how others may find it appealing. He certainly was handsome, and exposed her naivety to how things of this world work. Still, it was unforgivable how he threw a violent tantrum and placed her beloved in an untenable situation.

Arabella yawns, rolls over in the chair so her feet come to the floor, and stands. "Well… they were brothers," she says absently as she begins to dance around the furniture, holding herself as though she was being partnered in a waltzing movement. "Once Ari is gone and you are free, where will you be going?" she asks.

"Are you so certain that his fate is preordained? I am not," Margot countered with a smile as she watched the other float about the room. A thought came to her mind, "What makes you believe I am not free now?"

"Are you?" she asks in return.

"I believe I have free will to choose what my path is… and what my actions are. For the nonce, I desire to remain here for my own personal reasons… beyond that, I have several opportunities before me. What would you recommend?" she asked, as if inquiring of a favorite vacation destination.

Arabella's laughter follows her dance around the room. "If you were free, you wouldn't be here, now would you be?" she asks, stopping at the large chair where she had been lounging earlier to peek over the top at Margot. "Link by link by link by link by link…. What opportunities do you have to choose from, do you think?"

"Would I not? I remain to learn of Ari's fate and respect for him. When he returns, he will need to know who placed their support and faith in him… so many have discarded him, dismissing him as a being of little value. They are most wrong." Margot explained quietly, a powerful, almost magical glow illuminating darkened eyes. "But," the moment passed, and her eyes returned to their normal thoughtful expression, "I hear tell there is family within the realm of Chaos. My role as Ambassador to Chaos will not have changed, and I am most intrigued by the political machinations and social structure that defines Chaos. For example, for a place so prided on its fluidity; I do not understand why there is an ever-burdensome sense of strict doctrine that must be abided by. Eventually, I will request a formal invitation before the Courts; but until such time, I am able to remain or travel as far away from Chaos as I choose to go."

The other young woman blinks at Margot. "You see? You are chained to Cousin Ari. You just don't want to admit it, even though you make it so obvious." She smiles as she slinks around the chair to slide into it once more, this time sitting straight and proper. She scrunches her face up into a serious expression. "What strict doctrine?"

"As an outside observer, there is a great deal of … ceremony and ritual in many things that are acted upon. A singular slight, no matter how insignificant or unintentioned may draw blades and break out into fights or hear the utterance of a blood curse upon the offender. This is not a bad thing; it just is … something that I will have to become better acquainted with."

Arabella looks positively confused, and she leans back in her chair to think. She looks down at her hands, which she holds palms down in front of her stomach with fingers splayed, moving them back and forth in front of her as though watching them move through water. "What does that have to do with fluidity?"

Margot chuckled, "Perhaps nothing; perhaps everything. It isn't so much a disconnect as it is a unique concept that I want to understand - In so many ways and by so many people of Chaos, I have been told there are no rules; and yet, it has been my immediate experience that there are very stringent and rigorous rules to abide by, lest one if forced to face the consequences. It is an interesting dichotomy - residing at opposite sides of a spectrum with a pivot placed in the center."

"Well, of course there are rules," Arabella says, suddenly huffy. "Everyone has rules. Rules are important to keep you safe and alive. I have a lot of rules. I don't swim across the River during Bluesky, or the zo'ks will get in my ears and make everything all fuzzy. But I can fly across; they don't like to fly. But many, many other people can swim in the River during Bluesky. Either the zo'ks don't like them, or they don't care about zo'ks. I don't know. I tried to warn them, but they don't listen. And… I shouldn't speak to Lord Ulrich, but many others speak to him all the time. So you see, their rules are different than mine. You see?"

She beams, and then her expression turns thoughful again. "Besides, sometimes it's better to do things that are NOT safe."

"Such as?" she returned, her expression remaining light despite the brief outburst.

"Hmm…" She looks up at the ceiling of leaves again, lifting her hands to her face and looking between the fingers. "Oh, like traversing the Logrus. That's not safe. No, not at all. And making Cedric angry was never a good idea, but sometimes it worked better that way. And going before Lord Serpent, most unsafe of all."

"And these are unsafe things that you would do?" Margot pressed gently, "What is the appeal to each of these that would make one extend themselves beyond common sense and self-preservation?"

Arabella dips her head back down from her study of the ceiling, to look at Margot through the net of her fingers. "Well, what do YOU think?"

"I think you are a uniquely individual person with great insight and that I am unfamiliar with much of your Chaos and it's wonders. I would not like traversing the Logrus; it makes me quite ill even being close to it. Cedric's rage; well, I suppose that would depend upon what he decided was worth unleashing it for and whether it was worth his energy. I cannot imagine _intentionally_ seeking to encourage his wrath - or any other individual's. But, the Lord Serpent… I admit he intrigues me."

"Why did you come to Chaos?" she asks.

"There are many reasons… to represent Amber as Lord Brisbane and Ari did for so long…. to learn of Chaos from the source with an open mind rather than the prejudices and stereotypes painted in subjective writings stored in the castle Library… and because Ari was willing to bring me here, as a sponsor while I learned of your social ways before proper introductions in the Courts could be made…" she hesitated, deciding dancing around the subject was childish, "And because I love him. My Lady in Waiting is a Hell-maiden… so you see, I'm not a 'traditional' Amberite. My time in Amber was excessively brief; It is my intent to have my time in Chaos last far longer." Margot avoided discussing the Children of the Abyss, or the fact that her family sent her in an effort to protect the Royal line. These were snippets the woman who sat with her need not know; especially since they involved things beyond her control or decision making.

Arabella nods with the solemnity of a child, and then she grins. "So, you see why?"

"See why what?" Margot asked, confusion crossing her brow.

"Why to do dangerous things!" she answers gleefully.

"No," she shook her head, laughing, "I'm afraid not… except my curiosity tends to get the better of me…"

Arabella shakes her head, looking at Margot as though she's daft. She leans against her chair as the excitement floats away, leaving her dreamy smile once more. "Because you get things, of course. We do dangerous things to get good things. Don't you? Sometimes things that are just a little good, like a giggle. Sometimes *very* dangerous things, to get very good things. Like with Lord Serpent."

"And what do you pursue? The little or the grand?" Margot asked, intrigued.

"I don't think I'd care to meet Lord Serpent," Arabella remarks. "He would probably eat me, and then it would all be over."

"Why does everyone say that…" Margot mused aloud.

"Say what?" she asks. "That he would eat me?"

"No, no…. not you specifically. That the Lord Serpent does nothing but eat people that see him. I find it so curious to have so much fear for a progenitor. Respect, yes. But fear?" Margot sighed, "My encounter with the Unicorn was under unusual circumstances, but nevertheless, I was not afraid," of course, the Princess didn't disclose that she was too angry with the one-horned goat to consider being frightened. "I was not eaten, or skewered, though I probably should have been for my blunt statements. I would show your Lord Serpent far greater respect were I to have the honor of meeting his acquaintance."

Arabella's breathy laugh finds its way through the room once more. "Oh, the Unicorn… Afraid of the Unicorn. That's very funny!" She giggles a little longer. "What would you rather people say? A lie? Or a truth?"

"The truth, at least their perception of the truth." Margot answered simply, "And you?"

"Oh, I don't care much most of the time. But I will tell you a truth about Lord Serpent if you like."

"Yes, I would love to know more about Lord Serpent," Margot answered rising to the sideboard to pour two glasses of the blood-red colored wine that awaited consumption in a decorative decanter. She returned, offering one of the glasses to Arabella before speaking again, "Is this a tale that requires serious face-to-face orientation, or can we recline on the bed and speak in a more casual countenance?"

Arabella takes one of the glasses, sticking her finger into it and then licking the drops from the tip of her finger. "Either. Both? Can we do both? That could be an experiment for some time," she answers as she stands up. She begins drifting in the direction of the door that led through the suite to the sleeping chamber. "Though I suppose it would be simple if we both did not have to do both. If you lay on the bed, and I sat in a chair, or the other way round. Do you like being in bed with people? That might be why Ari likes you."

Margot flushed, "I like being in bed, it allows for shared confidence… but if you mean… as lovers, I have known only one." She glanced away as she rose, staring deeply into the glass before taking a long draw on the thick, sweet liquor. "The former reminds me of … when I would whisper with my best friends in Shadow. Or my Home Way. However you choose to understand it."

She turns as she walks to give Margot a look of curiosity, then continues around in a slow twirl. "So in your home, people would speak of important things in bed? I can only imagine the size of the beds needed for a treaty negotiation."

"They can… usually only those they are intimate with - friends, family, lovers…. some betray the trust of the confessor and use it to their vantage; I suppose that is the same here…." Margot thought about some of the things Kendall and Dara had shared or at least eluded to. "The formal negotiations would happen in Grand Halls or Seneschal chambers; not in bed. Or, at least…" Margot frowned slightly, with distasteful images coming to mind, "the illusion of negotiation takes place publicly."

"Oh, so it's not so different after all." Arabella sounds disappointed, no doubt that the beds no longer needed to be quite so large and grand. She tips her glass as they walk, dribbling a little stream of wine across the floor of the entry way from the door of the sitting room to the door of the sleeping chamber. She stops dribbling at that point, licking the edge of the goblet to clean the clinging drops.

Aelwyn is in the dressing chamber when they arrive, visible through the door into the smaller room filled with clothing and mirrors, arranging the clothing that had been packed up in Silver and brought here instead. The servant immediately joins the two ladies in the sleeping chamber when they appear, giving them both curtseys in greeting and sort of looking past them, perhaps looking for her cohort.

"I have sent Dilys on an errand, Aelwyn." Margot answered the unasked question. "You may retire, but remain close, I will require a bath soon." She smiled warmly at the servant, finding her delicate demeanor a reminder of how far she had grown.

"Yes, m'lady."

"No, I'm afraid, politics are the same… or seem to be from what little I've observed." Margot explained to Arabella. "May I ask, why you chose to spill your wine upon the floor?"

"In case some gorlacks DO get in," Arabella answers. She tips back the remaining wine in the glass, drinking it all in one gulp, then hands the goblet to Aelwyn as the servant passes. Then she runs over to the bed and leaps into the air to land in the middle wih a loud kerflop, her cloudy dress dissipating upon impact. She laughs and turns over onto her back. "Maybe talking in bed will be fun after all!"

Margot beamed at the childlike behavior, and perhaps would have indulged her own desire to bounce but her glass was full. "What ARE Gorlacks?" she asked as she slid into the the side of the bed.

"Little creatures this size," Arabella holds her fingers apart about an inch. "But you can't see them unless you have farro root powder. They crawl into your clothes and lay their eggs under your skin."

"Oh, how absolutely dreadful!" Margot declared, sipping her wine as she reclined, the bulk of her weight settled against the headboard. "What makes you happy, Arabella?"

"Hmmm…" she rolls onto her stomach, all pale and skinny limbs with misty white hair. "Wind and lightning and gorly roots and waterfalls and screaming and hellhounds and cake and laughing and spider webs and skipping and… lots of things."

Margot erupted in giggles, "You have to be the most delightful person I've ever met. Is it really all that simple, to not be tangled in everything and to simply find joys in the things around you?"

"I suppose so," Arabella agrees. "But sometimes I wonder… Oh, I was going to tell you about Lord Serpent."

She turns her head and pillows her cheek on her arm. "You wanted the truth, I believe."

"Yes, please." Margot answered with a smile. Setting her glass down on the nightstand beside the bed, she took a position mirroring Arabella's.

The Chanicut Lady becomes serious. "The truth is, Lord Serpent cares nothing for any of us."

She supposed she wasn't surprised; the Unicorn showed little regard for her children. "What makes you say that?" she pressed gently.

Arabella blinks. "Because it's the truth," she answers, as though it was obvious. "Lord Serpent isn't our progenitor, as you called Him. Lord Serpent just is. I don't think anyone knows where He came from… maybe some of the Priests do. I don't know, but Lord Serpent has existed since before the Courts of Chaos even formed."

Margot's dark locks flow as she nods in agreement, "As did the Unicorn, supposedly. But, she is the beginning of our line… after leaving Chaos on uncertain terms and mating with Dworkin, producing Oberon. And from he and several wives, came the nine Princes and two Princesses. My father, the King, was one of those original Princes; my mother - a product of the Ruler of all the Fae realm and another of the original Princes." Margot sighed, "It is a very convoluted family tree, I'm afraid. But, depending upon your view, I am not so far removed from the Unicorn herself, a great-grand-daughter through one line and great-great-grand-daughter on the other." It was not boastful, her tone, rather more reflective as she spoke of such things candidly. "Not that it matters to anyone past, present or future…." there was a sadness in her voice that was clearly darker than merely speaking of her lineage.

Arabella waves her free hand with a giggle. "There you go, comparing the silly Unicorn to Lord Serpent again!" she says. "The Unicorn. Hee hee! She's not near so old as Lord Serpent, not even as old as the Courts of Chaos! Chaos was here long, long before she became Queen. And remember, saying you're related to the Unicorn means you're related to a thief and a traitor. The one who stole the Eye of the Serpent and ran off with it."

Again, Margot nods, sharing in Arabella's infectious mirth, "Thank you for reminding me as such… besides, it is not something I boast about. All people in Chaos have to hear is 'Amber' and they know." She gave a half shrug, seemingly in resignation. "Unfortunately, that does not mean I subscribe to what She stands for. Please, tell me more of Lord Serpent… he sounds absolutely intriguing."

She chews on a lock of hair while she thinks for several heartbeats, then begins at the beginning. "Lord Serpent has been here since the beginning of everything. Back then, there really was chaos. Madness and nothingness and darkness surrounded the Abyss, but there were some patches of ground and people came to live there."

She shrugs. "Don't know where they came from, really. Maybe from Lord Serpent? Maybe He wanted some company, in the lonely darkness… Long, long, so long ago even we don't know the name, one of those early people went to the edge of the Abyss and asked Lord Serpent for a boon, to help hold back the darkness and the nothingness. And that's how the Courts began."

Arabella nods, once more solemn as a child sharing a deep and serious story. "But Lord Serpent exacted a price for these favors. Some went to the Abyss to gain a boon, but others were sent to the Abyss for the honor of giving themselves to Lord Serpent, to pay for the favors. That's how it was, long, long ago, until someone went to Lord Serpent and asked for a different boon. The boon of not sacrificing ourselves to him to eat. And that was granted, and that one became our King, and was of the House Barimen."

Margot's brows rose to her hairline. "That is an interesting tale… and this King, what was his name? And how did the Unicorn come to be?"

"No one knows, now," Arabella says with a shrug that ripples down her whole body. Without the cloudy covering, her body is thin and boyish, with no curves or softness. "After the Queen betrayed her people, stole one of Lord Serpent's eyes, and ran away, the names were washed from history. Scrubba, scrubba." She grins and winks.

"Not many even know the name of their House. Somehow the Queen became the Unicorn, or so it's said. All the King's horses and all the Queen's men went off to wherever they went, to play make believe."

"It does sound like a dreamy tale, something out of Grimm's or Mother Goose." Margot sighed with a smile. "So, the Queen was the King's mate or the Lord Serpent's mate?"

The story mistress' eyes get wide again. "The King, of course. What would Lord Serpent need with a mate? How could someone even be mate to Lord Serpent? The Serpent isn't like you or me, or Ari or Lord Ulrich, or the silly Queen or the silly Unicorn she turned into."

She rolls over onto her knees so she can gesture with her arms, extending them as wide as she can. "Think of a Being of so much power that it can crush you just by being nearby. Think of something that is so vast, timeless, it barely even knows we're here… Think of.. think of…." She extends her arms just a teensy bit more, lengthening them to an unnatural reach, and then she shakes her head.

"There aren't any words to describe the presence of Lord Serpent," she says, collapsing backwards into a sprawl.

"Your Lord Serpent sounds most intriguing." Margot mooned. "I suppose… there's a certain amount of freedom in such knowledge… you could say or request whatever you desire, for fear of something or someone so incomprehensible is illogical."

"Hm. Yes, I guess so. As long as you face Him and he doesn't eat you first," Arabella agrees.

"There you go with that eating again!" Margot laughed. "Does He truly eat people or is that just a way to … control the number of those seeking him out?"

She rolls her head to look at Margot, her expression turning doubtful. "Do you not have eating where you come from?" she asks. "Maybe you call it something else? You have food? Maybe? Do you consume… Like the wine! You drank the wine. Oh, that's not eating. But it's basically the same, but with solid things. Shall I demonstrate?"

Margot laughed, "No, no, no. I understand the concept of eating…. I was just wondering if he was all that hungry for those that worship him and why he would have to wait until someone came to him before he lunched… that seems silly. So, I was wondering if it was … a hyperbole designed to keep people away from the Serpent's doorstep constantly bothering him. Like… they say Faeries steal your children… does that mean you should hide from me because my mother is half-fae?" she shook her head, "Of course not. I have no more desire to steal a stone let alone a child. I have a deep fondness for children, and they are a weakness in my resolve, but only because I care for them…. not because I want to eat them."

"I don't know why Lord Serpent eats us," Arabella says, indignant. "Just that He does. Maybe it's because He doesn't want us coming to the Abyss and asking for favors all the time, like you said." She shrugs. "Maybe we taste good? The King's boon means the Houses aren't required to give sacrifices anymore, but if someone decides on their own to go petition the Serpent, then they're fair game. And if you're not interesting enough, then—" She mimes taking a big bite out of something and chews it happily and rubs her stomach.

"Makes you wonder how well fed the Lord Serpent is, doesn't it?" Margot asked, grinning widely at the other's mime.

The young lady laughs in delight at the comment. "Oh, I doubt Lord Serpent eats us for sustenance, or survival. Otherwise, how would He have survived in the Abyss before the first people arrived," she points out.

"Hmmm…. good point," Margot agrees, grinning happily. "I wonder if true omnipotent beings require food for sustenance or if it is something else; like… spiritual energy. You have a Church of Chaos, correct?"

"Hm. There are Priests, so they might know. I think the Queen took one with her when she ran off with her King and all the others." Arabella lifts her legs and kicks back in forth in a scissors motion. "Every House has its own ways of honoring or recognizing Lord Serpent. Sometimes it's because of their boon, sometimes because of other things. But even spiritual energy would have to come from somewhere, and back before the Courts, there was just madness and darkness and chaos."

"How does House Chanicut honor the Serpent?" Margot asked, watching the woman with interest. Something about her demeanor reminded her of a child and put Margot at ease. More importantly, it kept her from worrying to death of what was to become of her beloved …. or the future.

"Mostly by staying out of His way," she answers with a serious expression. "I think the last time a Chanicut asked to go before the Serpent was over a thousand Cycles ago, and he got eaten!"

"But besides all that, we do have Priests who do… whatever they do. It's either a great honor or a terrible curse to be chosen by the Priests to become one of them; it depends on who you ask," she observes. "There are some rituals, and we have a festival every ten Cycles which celebrates the rise of Chanicut."

"How marvelous… when was the last celebration?" Margot inquired, before asking another question. "Do all the houses have representation as Priests?"

"Uh, how do you mean?" Arabella asks. "And four Cycles ago, more or less."

"Well, I was wondering whether there was equal representation among the Priests in the Church of Chaos from each of the Houses, or if some Houses were more inclined to choose the path to serve the Serpent in such a fashion."

"Oh! No, no, I meant we have Priests here in Chanicut. And they do… whatever it is they do. Secret, you know. Maybe they do stuff with the other House's Priests… Hmm… I've never asked, I guess," she answers.

She turns her head to look at Margot again, flopping over onto her side. "Why? Are you planning to become a Priest? Or…." Her voice falls to a hushed whisper. "Do you really think you want to go before the Serpent?"

"I do not want to become a Priest. Or a Priestess. And remember, as of now, I am merely a … guest, hospitality extended only until such time that Ari's fate has been announced." Margot sighed, rolling onto her back, both hands resting comfortably upon her stomach, fingers interwoven as she stared upward. "And, I have to admit, I am curious to meet Lord Serpent. I like to learn, especially history, and it seems there would be none better to share the creation of the multiverse than He. And I am so insignificant…" she glanced in Arabella's direction, "I believe the Serpent wouldn't waste the spittle on preparing his gullet for me."

Arabella looks at Margot as though she has flying monkeys coming out of her mouth instead of words. "You think Lord Serpent would spend time talking to you *because* you're insignificant?" she asks.

"You did say he was omnipotent… who am I to judge whether I am grand to him or a speck of dust." Margot returned. "I just … have never been one to fear something so much more powerful than me… a foolish aspect of being, I am certain. But, it is liberating to know at your very core that the one you stand before you can end you without second thought or even lifting a finger," she explained as she released one hand and pointed it straight above. Twirling her wrist in minute circles, she watched as colors swirled above her until an image of a couple, garbed in the grandeur of Elizabethan era, began a proper waltz. No bigger than a snow globe, Margot was reminded of the book she had gifted Kendall, and the images changed to that of where she was from and the Victorian style of clothing and movement. Bringing her palm close to her face, she gave the bubble a soft blow and it escaped her grasp and floated among the branches, bobbing and floating in time with the movements of the dancers. "Don't you think it better to expect the Serpent to find no value worth expending effort than puffing yourself up like a cock with a red-breasted chest filled with self-import?"

Arabella looks at her, scrunching her face up to scrutinize Margot. "So.. you don't fear Lord Serpent? Or going before Him to ask a boon?"

"I have respect for the Serpent, and a tremendous amount at that. And would I be nervous? Or frightened? Most likely; but that is natural when you face the unknown. But, fear, in the sense most commonly referred to…." Margot shrugged, her lower lip out in contemplation, "No, I don't think I would be. Perhaps because I don't want more from him that to meet his acquaintance and if he is generous, an appreciation of how the multiverse began, from his words and his mind. I have no desire for gifts or boons, at least not in the traditional sense. But, there are some things I would like to speak to Him about… whether they were of import to him or just important for me to reveal to him…" another shrug, "It's all building sand castles at high tide until a true opportunity presents itself."

"Do you fear death?" she asks, looking curious.

"I don't know, really. I haven't given it any thought." Margot answered. "It will come, someday; whether it's today or 1000 cycles from now. Rather than focus on what is unstoppable; I'd rather live life to the fullest and experience all that I am able to… preferably with those that I care about and care for."

"You can do anything, then! Anything!" Arabella says, delighted. She stands up and reaches up to pop the bubble. "But casting foreign magic in the manor of a Great House of Chaos is a good way to experience death soon," she says solemnly.

"Oh, yes… dear me… I forgot." Margot stated, abashed, "It's just … something I used to do when I was a child and I needed distraction. I don't consciously think when I create dancers… they're like imaginary friends." she sighed once more, letting the magic dissipate with Arabella's touch. She was quiet for a few moments, "What do you mean I can do anything?"

"Without fear, you can do anything at all," she says, smiling with wonder and pleasure as she plops back down on the bed. "Those without fear lead the most glorious, amazing lives. Short, but glorious and amazing."

Margot chuckled, floating with the bed as Arabella's weighted fall shifts the mattress, "I suppose so. Do you know of such people?"

"People with no fear? No." She shakes her head. "Are you sure you don't fear anything?"

"Oh, I've been frightened… please don't misunderstand. Even as early as this Turning." Margot frowned, hoping that translated to day. "Even terrified. It's a natural emotion. But, it's not the same thing. I don't know if I can explain it properly."

"Oh." Arabella looks disappointed. "But maybe it's not the same. I don't know." She frowns then, looking up at the ceiling of leaves for a while as she thinks.

"I just don't know how one can fear that which is beyond their reach." she adds with a shrug, "I mean, what is the sense in being afraid of the Serpent or any grand being when you are so small in comparison? I could be Queen of Amber, Queen of Chaos and Queen of the Faerie Realm and to the Serpent, I could still be of little worth. Or, I could be Houseless and without a single ally and the Serpent could take great interest in me and my future; taking umbrage against any who dare act against me." She snickered at the ridiculousness of both instances, "Either way, I would be me, Margot, standing before Him, Lord Serpent. All the titles and awards and pins upon my chest proving my value mean nothing when alone with such a being."

"Hm?" Arabella comes out of her thoughtful stream with a start. "Oh, you're absolutely right," she agrees. "You're nothing to Lord Serpent. But that's the whole point. Only the desperate or truly fearless go before Lord Serpent, since there's such little hope of survival."

She shrugs, but then her eyes light up as a thought suddenly occurs to her, and she looks at Margot with renewed interest. "But no! We're both wrong! Of course you're not insignificant to Lord Serpent. Not you!" She laughs with glee. "No, no, no, no, no…. Margot of Amber, grand-daughter of the Unicorn? Not insignificant at all!"

"I don't understand…" Margot replied confused.

"Oh-eeee!" And she laughs, delighted. "You did say you are of the blood of the Unicorn, yes? The one who stole Lord Serpent's eye and ran away from Chaos? Child of betrayal and abandonment?"

"Well… yes. She bore my grandfather and my grandfather sired my father. So, that makes her my great-grandmother. I've had the distinction of meeting her once, in the form of a child." Margot answered openly. "But, so are my uncles, aunts, mother and father. My bloodline ties me to Her, but … if what you say is true, then if you look further back, does my bloodline not also tie me to Chaos?"

"Of course! Isn't that what I just said? Child of the Unicorn. Oh… Lord Serpent would not like you. Not one bit!"

"Then why would the Lord Serpent take interest in me, as you say? I do not possess his eye and I have returned to the Fatherland. The faults of the parent, or in this case - the great-grandparent - need not be branded upon the child. Especially one that seeks refuge, prosperity, and a life of devotion."

Arabella shakes her head, rolling over to come to her knees and scrutinize Margot from a right side up vantage. "You poor thing," she says, solemn again. "Do you really believe that?"

"I do." Margot answered with her heartfelt conviction. "People represent their Houses; but they are also accountable for _their_ acts; not those of their forefathers that happened before they were a contemplation in their parent's fancy. Perhaps that is why … " Margot's eyes closed for a briefly as she drew a deep breath, "Perhaps that is why I find Ari so appealing. His strength, conviction, devotion. He… is all that I would seek in a mate - be it in love or obligation to strengthen allegiances."

She shrugs in a careless fashion. "Whatever you like to tell yourself, here in the Courts even an Amberite cannot remake Reality all by yourself. My guess, and this is is a guess mind you, is that Lord Serpent would see the object of His ultimate hatred, and not even pause before swallowing you." Her expression turns thoughtful. "Assuming, that is, He doesn't choose to torture you in some excruciating fashion first."

"Then he would be no different than any other encounter I have had chance to witness by the all-powerful. A pity…." Margot replies, lost in thought to the Unicorn and her indescribable cruelty and selfishness. "To hope that the one betrayed was swifter with justice but more … cognizant… if not benevolent… I expected more, I suppose; though I am not certain. Those who have spoken of your Lord do so with the same fear and reverence as those who bow before the one-horned…" Margot caught herself; using her mother's derogatory expression - one so familiar to her that the child born half-fae did not possess the appreciation and apprehension as one raised to fear the all-mighty Unicorn. "By those who so strictly worship the Unicorn and Her Ways."

Arabella rolls her eyes. "Did you listen to nothing I have said about Lord Serpent? It is like you have little ear filters… Oh! Maybe glibbers have gotten into your ears so you can't understand my words?" She immediately leans over to peer into Margot's ears, reaching up to take hold of her earlobe so she can pull the young woman over.

"Arabella! There's nothing in my ears…!" Margot protested, but allowed the woman her curiosity, shifting with great weight and trepidation. "Perhaps I'm best off being Serpent food. Perhaps I've gone mad. Perhaps I simply want to save Ari from a fate he does not deserve." she continued to tip her head in an awkward angle as the other woman examined her ears. "But, simply being…" she grumbled her frustration. "Does no one act out of Love or Loyalty? Must there be a catch or a price to be paid?"

She inspects both of Margot's ears closely, but apparently does not find anything unusual about them, so she releases the princess and then sits facing her with thin, pale legs drawn up and matching arms wrapped around them.

"I have said, Lord Serpent cares nothing for us small creatures," she says, with a serious tone and expression. "Lord Serpent is a Being of Ultimate Power. My guess is, you have never experienced real Power to even imagine how that would be. Reverence, awe, amazement, fear, respect. One feels these things in the presence of real Power. One cannot help it! To feel real Power is to be made aware of how small and insignificant we are. To come to the edge of the precipice and view the smallness of our own existence. It is to be remade."

"Think about it," she continues. "The nature of Lord Serpent is as unknowable to us as Eternity; our brains are just not big enough to comprehend Him. No one knows what strange errands He pursues, or what convoluted thoughts pass through His mind. He is a Being completely apart, utterly unlike you or me. If He cares nothing for our lives or our deaths, what care would He have for your so-called devotion? Should you stand before Lord Serpent like your traitorous grandmother, He would be well justified to eat you before giving you opportunity to steal another of His eyes."

She smirks. "And before you claim to be so apart from your grandmother, deserving of being judged on your own merits, consider this: We all, even you, have reaped the benefits from our forebears' efforts; I did not build Chanicut up from a mere idea, or chance my fate before Lord Serpent to gain a boon. But still, I enjoy status, rank, power, and many other things that arise from the sacrifices of my forebears. You have the power to remake Reality at your fingertips, but only because the traitor Queen stole Lord Serpent's eye and fled through nothingness to build a new realm and a sigil of power. If we reap the benefits of our forebears' actions, why not share also the failures?

"You didn't answer my question." Margot pointed out calmly, her patience waning. "And clearly I am struggling to explain my perspective. If honor and duty are not so difficult to grasp - at least as your Ari tried to assist me in understanding and appreciating and recognizing the similarities in our Schools of Thought… I do not understand where it is I am failing to follow suit." Once more, the Princess reclines, staring up at the vines and branches inter-woven; her hands resting at her stomach with the palms moving in a slow, soothing circular motion.

"Maybe you just don't want to understand the answer because it doesn't fit with what you want," is Arabella's reply, stated with no malice or venom. She observes it like one would observe a bird flying high above.

"Aren't you in the least bit curious to meet Him? I find it exciting and titillating. Call it foolishness or naivety or overpowering belief in who I am and the Self… but I believe that an interview with the Serpent would be a fascinating opportunity. But, I suppose that is another discussion for another time." she glanced to the pale creature next to her, "What would you find exciting and titillating?"

"Oh, lots of things, I guess," she answers, seeming distracted. She reaches above her head and stretches, then clambers over to the side of the bed and jumps down to the floor. She begins twirling around, slowly, and as she does, the clouds that had dissipated when she flounced on the bed begin to thread around her, like a spool being wound with thread.

"Such energy you possess… you are nothing short of effervescent!" Margot exclaimed, watching the girl that made her seem stoically calm and patient. She knew she fidgeted, but this girl seemed utterly incapable of finding solace in a single place for more than a few heartbeats.

They both hear the sound of the outer door of the suite opening again just beyond their sight, and it isn't long before the servant that Margot had sent with the letter appears at the door to the bedchamber. She pauses with a curtsey.

"Welcome, Dilys." Margot addressed, rising from the bed. "Do you have news?"

"Yes, m'lady," she answers, looking from Margot to Arabella and then back. She rises from her curtsey and enters the room. "I attended to what you requested, and the response is favorable." The answer is vague, out of respect for the princess' request for discretion.

Arabella stops twirling to look curiously at Margot but doesn't interrupt just yet.

"I only wish to wear the colors of mourning and condolence and share my sympathies with the family. Nothing more. I fear, the items that I brought from home … well … I did not anticipate such things."

She returned her attention to Dilys, feeling dizzily weary. "A bath? Would you prepare one for me please?"

"Of course." The servant curtseys to both women, then departs to the bathing room to make sure all is arranged.

Arabella looks at Margot with a little smile on her face. "I was thinking, do you mean if I could meet Lord Serpent without having to go through the rituals of preparation and then climb to the edge of the Abyss where I might get sucked in by the Entropy Winds or eaten by Abyssal creatures, and then I knew for sure that Lord Serpent would talk with me, not eat me? Like, sitting down to tea with Lord Serpent? Would I want to meet Him then? Is that what you were asking?"

"That is a great number of steps…" Margot chuckled, amicably. "But, yes, I suppose… if given the opportunity to share a glass of wine with the Serpent without all the …" she waved a hand about, "All the other trials you just identified, would you?"

"I've never really considered the question before," she says.

Aelwyn appears at the door to the room and curtseys before approaching Margot. "M'lady, may I assist you to undress for your bath?"

"Well, now's your chance to do so…" Margot grinned at the Lady. A nod to Aelwyn informed the young woman that indeed, Margot would appreciate the assistance. "Would you and what would you like to discuss with the Him?"

Aelwyn moves around behind Margot to begin unlacing her dress.

"I… suppose so," Arabella answers slowly. "After all, if there were no barriers to meeting the Source of all that exists, why would one not?" She begins to drift around the room to look at the various art pieces and curious, decorative viney twists that covered the walls. She hold herself almost dancer-like, but without any obvious 'partner' in tow. As if her feet were following the sounds of silent, but solitary music.

"I must give the matter of what I would discuss with Him more thought, however," she concludes after a long period of reflection. "This is not something one would want to do on a whim. I would not want to waste Lord Serpent's time asking silly questions I might learn just as well from other sources."

"A prudent decision," Margot agrees, standing still as Aelwyn worked the minuscule pearl-like buttons that ran her back. "Whether it would be a philosophical debate or merely an enlightening and entertaining discussion upon the peculiarities of the multiverse. Troublesome choices, indeed."

"What sorts of peculiarities?" Arabella asks, twirling around to look at Margot as Aelwyn helps her out of the first layer of clothing. The Chaosian's cloudy "dress" is a bit longer this time, of a dark, stormy grey once more.

"Oh, it was just a turn of phrase, Arabella… weighing something deep and contemplative versus why the … Z'chyi Beetle has yellow spots versus blue - which would help it blend better into its natural habitat better. Seems exceedingly proud or suicidal to have your presence so boldly announced to your enemy and predators. See?"

"Ahhhh…. I was just wondering what in particular YOU wanted to ask of Lord Serpent," she responds. "Mayhap your question from before? What was it about? Love and honor or some such?"

Aelwyn remains properly quiet throughout the exchange, peeling the remaining layers from the princess' body and setting the clothing aside. Once Margot is bare, the servant helps her into a robe.

"Mayhap," Margot replies with a reflective tone laced with bemusement. "I would be very interested in the Serpent's desires and vision… even if they were far beyond what a mere speck of dust could comprehend. A dialog with Him seems like an … enchanting opportunity… to learn at the feet of the Creator, to hear tales of what All was like as it slowly evolved into what has become the multiverse…" Margot mused aloud as she cinched the belt about her waist. "I find the whole concept delightful."

Arabella follows her into the bathing room, which is similar to the one in Silver as well. That is, there are several pools of various sizes, some for washing, some for soaking, and a large one for swimming. Or a group bath. Hard to say. Dilys has gathered bathing supplies near one of the small pools. The basin is all of wood covered with intricate carvings that looked like primitive animals and plants all woven together. The lines of the continuous drawing are traced with gold, which stands out from the darker wood.

"It sounds like a terrible bore, unless one asked only for a highlight of the interesting parts," Arabella remarks. "The history of the Courts is vast, and hearing the whole of it would take almost a lifetime."

"I suppose that's the nice thing of not worrying about how time passes… you are able to afford the courtesy of undivided attention." Margot returns pleasantly as she disrobes, slipping into the depths of the warm water. There MUST be something in the water, for as soon as Margot's shoulders sink beneath the water level; her body seems to expel all the tension and raw adrenaline she had been holding on to since Cedric abandoned her. Her eyes drift closed, "Would you not find the story of creation an intriguing one?"

Dilys takes the robe from the princess and Aelwyn steadies her as she descends into the water. Then they both begin assisting her with her bath, Dilys taking charge of undoing the elaborate hair-do while Aelwyn works soap into a loofa to begin gently scrubbing the princess' skin.

"It doesn't matter," Arabella answers abruptly, losing interest. She wanders back to the doorway. "I will never go before Lord Serpent, so there's no point in wasting time on pondering such imponderables." She mimics a heavy male voice on the last part of the sentence, and giggles at the sound of those two words so close together. The echoes linger even after she disappears from sight, leaving Margot to her bath.

"Dilys? What do you know of the Lady Arabella?" she asked softly after the young Lady departed.

The servant is carefully unpinning and unrolling locks of hair, setting the implements aside on a tray next to her. "Ah… she is the daughter of Lord Trevaall and the Lady Cenda, who are both cousins to Lord Ulrich," she answers. "She is of Lord Cedric's… generation? Am I using that word properly? And… she was once a Lady of formidable skills and powers."

"If her parents are Lord Cedric's aunt and uncle, then yes, you are using the term correctly. They would be cousins… at least in my Way." Margot listened to the light clinking of metal falling against the wooden vessel.

"No, no. They are cousins to Lord Ulrich, not aunt and uncle to Lord Cedric," the servant clarifies. "But she is of an age to our deceased Lord Cedric, I believe. Somewhat older, by several Cycles."

"Ah," Margot says in note of the clarification. "Once a lady of formidable skills and powers? What happened?"

Dilys is quiet for two heartbeats, and then adds even more quietly, "She never recovered from the Cave."

Aelwyn looks up from cleaning between Margot's fingers to give her "sister" a reproving look, which Dilys meets with a defiant air.

"What is the cave?" Margot asked, her attention drawn between sisters for a moment before she closed her eyes once more.

"The Cave of the Logrus," is Dilys simple answer. Finished pulling all the things out of Margot's hair, the servant helps the princess lie back against a rounded hollow in the edge of the basin, which turned out to be a very comfortable neck rest so that Dilys can begin washing her hair.

"What is such a place?" Margot asked, glancing up over her forehead at Dilys.

"You… do not know of the Logrus?" Dilys asks, while Aelwyn presses her lips firmly together and attends vigorously to Margot's bath. Perhaps a little more vigorously than needful.

"I know very little," the servant continues. "I am only a close-mates of the Selinie, as I have said. The Logrus is a source of Power that is granted to those who are worthy, but it is not an easy power to gain or learn. Those who are succeed and survive, frequently go mad upon their success. Some never lose their madness."

"And there is a cave of trials?" Margot inquired. She turns her head to give Aelwyn a look that bordered stern. Looking chagrined, the other girl scrubs less harshly against the princess' delicate feet. "I thought the Logrus was what powered Chaos, that it was everywhere and in everything. Educate me in my errors. Please."

"I'm sorry, m'lady. I know only that to gain the power of the Logrus, Lords and Ladies who are deemed worthy must essay it," Dilys replies, sounding unhappy at not having more information as she lathers sweet scented soap into Margot's hair. "They enter the Cave of the Logrus. Knowledge beyond this is kept by the Lords, Ladies, and the Keepers of the Bloodlines and the Loreholders."

"You have nothing to apologize for," Margot replies, with an amused smile, as if a secret was shared. "You know what you know and you are granted privilege to share what you are able to share. I have the luxury of question; you have the pleasure of duty. That is not to say that I doubt your answer; on the contrary, I believe you completely."

Margot's eyes opened once more, dark brown shining with sincerity. "But, I also know that while your Master and Mistress have been generous enough to allow you to keep me company, that companionship and fealty are not one in the same."

Dilys nods and silence falls for a short time as both servants continue with their tasks.

Margot's mind turns to other things, and she ventures another question. "Were you me - both of you - what would you do? What would you desire? Please do not fear in answering… our words are confined to this room. You have my word and my honor."

"I— I apologize, Lady," Dilys says hesitantly as she begins pouring warm water over Margot's head to rinse her long locks. She trades a glance with an equally mystified Aelwyn. "We don't understand what you're asking. Do you desire to venture to the Cave of the Logrus?"

"Or," Aelwyn breaks in, though she has to pause a heartbeat and steel herself to even ask the question. "Are you serious in your desire to petition Lord Serpent?"

Dilys' eyes almost pop out of her head when her closemate speaks of meeting the Serpent, and Margot has to work to suppress her laughter. She dips her mouth below the water line so her delighted smile might not be so obvious. It was sweet, adorable even, how both went to the worse possible conclusion.

"I suppose… but, truthfully, I just want to know what you would do if you were me in my circumstance. I'm sorry that my mind wandered while we were talking about the Cave. I was merely reflecting upon how sometimes things that appear to be so different on the outside really are not as such when you take a closer look. Your Cave of the Logrus does not sound all that different than traversing the deadly, mystical lace hidden deep within the Castle known as the Pattern. I am first reminded of how far removed I am from things that are similar, things that I can draw strength and comfort from, and then we speak of a secret place of mystical power that if one survives the trials, gains greatness."

Her arms fluttered in the water below the surface. "I am… put at ease with the notion that not everything is so foreign. It's silly, I suppose… to find ease in such a thing. But, my time here hasn't been terribly restful thus far. But, to answer your questions, while I am very curious about both, the Cave of the Logrus and petitioning the Lord Serpent, my question was far more mundane. I just wanted to know what you would do if presented with the events that I have been; your honest, heartfelt opinion on how you would proceed… given status and circumstance."

The two close-mates trade another mystified look. "What…" Aelwyn begins, and then trails off as Dilys interrupts her.

"Are you asking about your relations with Lord Kendallarithan?"

"The concept of an open-ended question is not familiar, is it?" Margot asked, her head tipping in reflection. "We may start there if you wish… or whether to stay in Chaos… or whether to petition House Chanicut for the guardianship once offered by Lord Kendallarithan… or to vanish with the next breath… or to dance in the Lava and not have a care in the world."

She smiled invitingly to each girl. "Think of yourself as ME. How do you see your options? What is your next move? What is your greatest desire? How do you go about acquiring it."

"We understand open-ended questions, Lady," Aelwyn answers softly. "It is simply that… a Lady such as yourself asking servants such as ourselves… We would prefer to have a grasp of what you are asking, in what context, so that we may answer clearly and with accuracy."

There is a momentary pause as the two close-mates both ponder Margot's question, and then Dilys speaks in a quiet, yet intense tone. "I would depart, go to seek my fortune elsewhere. If I was not tied to a House or a Lord or a Lady, but could go anywhere, I would go somewhere new, somewhere interesting. See so many things. This is the first time I have been away from Shadow Silver and the manor there for over 20 Cycles. Before then, we were servants in Chagodesh, and knew nothing else. There are many more places to go, and if you are able to go into Shadow, even more besides the Courts. That is what I would do," she answers all in a rush, her head bowed bashfully or in shame, while Aelwyn stares at her sister in horror.

Dilys helps Margot sit back up, water streaming from her hair. Both the princess' body and hair having been thoroughly cleaned, they both sit back and wait for indication whether Margot wanted to depart the pool and dress, move to another pool to soak longer, or something else.

Margot slips through the soapy water to the other pool meant for relaxation. Both servants help Margot move to the other pool, steadying her wet feet though in truth the wood was not nearly as slippery as tile or stone would be, and was easy to traverse.

"And what of you, Aelwyn?" she asked, allowing the other a moment to gain her composure. Dilys would of course chase the stars. Perhaps that was what she found so fantastic about the young woman and what created this sense of familiarity in Margot's heart.

"I cannot say," Aelwyn answers. "I am not m'lady, and know very little about you, your background, your resources, your goals or plans or, well, anything at all that would help me to understand your frame of mind. Why are you are asking this of me?" She almost sounds offended, like she feels Margot is being disrespectful.

There was a look of confusion that flickered in Margot's eyes. "I ask because I am curious as to how your mind works and how you suss out a decision. I ask because I find your answers insightful and intriguing. I ask because… it is good to walk a mile in another's shoes to understand their perspective." Her voice remains calm, though her expression takes a neutral mold, "I ask because I seek guidance and because I believe you to have knowledge and wisdom that is undiscovered and perhaps even undervalued. It is merely hypothetical… there is no obligation to participate in such fancies if you are uncomfortable with sharing your thoughts." A spritely twinkle came ot the young Princess' eyes, "Or… you could ask your questions to retrieve the information you believe you need to make the judgment and then we may both learn a little something."

"No, m'lady," Aelwyn answers with great dignity. "Only this. Why do you suggest that I have knowledge and wisdom that is undervalued?"

"I do not, Aelwyn; or at least… not in the way that you believe." Margot answered unwavering. It was interesting to see the demure one show some teeth; though the thought was fleeting as the Princess tried to explain herself. "Where I come from… and by your own admission… servants are not sought out for their advisement. In my heart, this is a foolish and arrogant mistake by those who believe themselves superior. Perhaps I misunderstood your words…" Margot acknowledged, giving the other woman the opportunity to explain herself with greater clarity.

Dilys remains quiet throughout this exchange, kneeling next to the pool on the opposite of Margot from Aelwyn, on hand for anything but with an uneasy expression.

Aelwyn bows her head. "You and many others in the House exceed us by rank, but all ranks have attendant responsibility and Duty. Those of my House understand the respect that is required between our corresponding positions. I do my duty with my all, just as all members of Chanicut are expected, even up to Lord Duke Ulrich. To imply that those in my House would undervalue me simply because of my station would be an affront to Chanicut and my family, so it is well that I misunderstood. Yet, to purposely ask someone such as myself a question that I have no ability to answer well, is a breach of etiquette and… disrespectful to me."

"Then I owe you a grave apology, for it was never my intent to insult you or House Chanicut. Yet, I offered you the opportunity to seek the information you would require to answer my questions. It was an opportunity for… sharing, consultation and perhaps even growing confidences," Margot answers solemnly.

The princess inclined her head, bowing deeply to the servant. "Thank you for your gift of knowledge. I shall keep it dear to my heart." There was little doubt that the bathing woman was deadly serious in her declaration, no matter how softly it was uttered between the three of them.

Aelwyn presses her lips together and nods silently in acknowledgment, clearly unhappy with Margot's justifications, but deciding that further attempts to clarify would be pointless.

"I believe I am ready to leave the pools now," Margot announced a short time later, glancing to Dilys with a reassuring smile before sharing the same warmth with Aelwyn.

Both servants nod on cue, at precisely the same moment and in the same movement. Aelwyn is stony and silent, and Dilys seems abashed. They both rise and help Margot from the basin, and Aelwyn fetches the robe while Dilys towels Margot down. Once she has been dried and is wrapped in the towel, the two servants usher her to the dressing room, where the gowns that Dilys had sent for were hung for display. There were five of them, all in shades of deep green, though the styles varied widely.

The servant had promised to bring gowns that were all suitable for Margot's intent, so it was merely a question of choosing one she would prefer. No doubt, had Kendall been in her place and made the same request, only one garment would have been chosen by his close servant. But Rory had served Kendall since he was a mere boy, and knew his master's moods, preferences, and whims the way a seamstress knew fabrics, threads, and patterns. Dilys had far less experience to base her guesses on, yet she had still narrowed the options down to these five, based on what she had seen in the princess' wardrobe.

"Dilys, each of these are so lovely," Margot admired, running her fingers along fabrics that her skin had never touched before. "And so very unique in their own way."

She gave each a discerning eye before discarding the last as being far too festive for such a somber occasion. It was obvious that she was struggling to make a decision between the remaining four, favoring the first and the last as she held them close to one another. "And each of these are appropriate in a time of mourning?" she asked aloud, to whomever would answer.

"Yes, Lady," Dilys answers quietly. "Fashion and taste depend on the wearer."

"Do either of you have an opinion upon any of these four gowns?" Margot asked, curious as to what would be suggested. Yet, she couldn't help but wish for Rory's keen eye and precise attention to detail when it came to matters of dress and affairs of state.

"No, Lady," they both answer in unison. They help her move the gowns to whatever positions she liked, and even hold them up against her in front of the mirror so she can have a look at herself with them.

Arabella glides into the room, now garbed in black… butterflies? She wore what appeared to be a dress of butterflies with their wings spread. The light catches subtle shading in their wings as she moves, revealing stripes and spots in the light.

She sighs, her head tilting to the side as she takes in Margot in her robe and the five dresses. "You poor thing. Are they forcing you to make a decision all on your own? How cruel. Maybe I should make it for you?"

"I am seeking opinions, yes," Margot smiled at the the young looking Lady.

"This," she pointed to the deep forest colored gown with the peridot underskirt and embroidered leaves. "This is something very traditional from my House… but is even more conservative than my liking. Yet, I do want a proper gown for mourning and visiting members of Chanicut to share my condolences. Regardless of my relations with Kendall, a Prince has lost his life and it would be exceedingly rude not to share my heartfelt sorrow with those of the family."

She sighed, moving on to the next two dresses, very similar in their ethereal material, one with a plunging neckline, the other almost identical to the silver gown she wore when she stood by Kendall's side as they 'visited' Lord Ulrich. "This is not unlike a gown that I favored before, only the previous one was in silver - like the rains."

The thought brought a sad smile to Margot's lips. "It is beautiful, but, again, is it appropriate for the moment? The long-sleeved version, I have similar doubts with its plunging neckline that kisses the navel. Neither of these speak to the solemn nature of the visit."

Finally her attention moved to the most exotic of the gowns. The swirls of greens and the bead-work on the bodice were exquisite in their arabesques, almost as if vines of life stretched across the heart and body of its wearer. It was actually three pieces; something very similar to a corset with tiny beads fastening it in the back, a full skirt of sumptuous material that seemed to fall like the tropical rains to pool at her feet and a shawl, sheer and still both accessory and garment all in one. "This is extraordinary, I'll admit…"

"Did Ari not tell you anything at all about Chaos?" Arabella asks. "He was always such a thoughtless boy." She closes her eyes and walks over to the five dresses, spins about three times, and then reaches out to randomly choose one.

"This one." She holds up the fabric, still keeping her eyes closed. Her fingers cling to the sheath dress with the decorative scooped neck. "But it doesn't matter. You are not of Chanicut, so your style is your own. You wear the green and gold of Chanicut to show your respect, and you conduct yourself with gravity and concern. Clothing is what you make of it."

"So everyone keeps reminding me…" Margot remarked with a hint of sarcasm.

She pauses a moment, then continues in a much more civil and sociable tone, "Yes, Ari spoke of Chaos and attire, we just hadn't quite gotten to the nuances… yet. Yes, Arabella, this is a lovely gown, and your garment is beyond stunning."

She nods, accepting the advice. "Aelwyn, please assist me in dressing while Dilys, would you be so kind as to fashion my hair once more?" Margot returns her attention to Arabella. "Do you have any other words of wisdom to share before I share my condolences?"

Arabella's eyes open as the two servants curtsey and then move into action. She stares at Margot with a guileless expression. "You are planning to go see someone?" she asks curiously. Margot had been very vague about her intent, when explaining to the Chaos Lady earlier why Dilys had gone in search of gowns. "Do you plan to call on Lord Ulrich? I would advise against that, and also the Lady Grania."

"I was planning to call upon Lord Brisbane," Margot answered simply, moving to the vanity and taking a seat. "He has been a great comfort to me in my travels and I understand that he and Ari shared a bond. I wished to… connect with him during this tumultuous time."

"Oh, that's good of you," Arabella agrees, smiling at Margot in her rather abstracted way. Aelwyn works on gathering underclothes and other things while Dilys comes over to the seated princess and begins brushing her damp hair, drying and untangling it so she can begin to arrange it. "Brisbane may be upset that his project was a failure."

"What project is that?" Margot asks, glancing toward the Lady with curiosity.

Arabella spins around in front of the mirror to look at her shiny black "dress" from all angles. "I never care for black, but this will do," she comments, perhaps in reference to Margot's compliment from before.

"Cousin Ari," she adds vaguely, still studying her reflection and touching certain butterflies so that they turn or move, adjusting the way her garment appears.

Dilys begins weaving Margot's hair into tiny braids laced with gold ribbons. The small braids she then twists together into thicker ropes that then she wraps in an elaborate knot held in place with emerald studded pins.

Margot admired the dexterous fingers at work. "How was Ari a project? I thought he was attache to the Ambassador for the duration of their stay at Amber."

"Yes, he was Brisbane's project," Arabella confirms. "I suppose now that Ari is gone, he'll have to find another one."

Aelwyn finishes with her own tasks and joins the others now, helping Dilys by holding Margot's braids and handing her sister various implements. The entire complex rope is threaded through with a wide, green satin ribbon that matches the dress that had been chosen. Margot's hair, in spite of the complexity, is already almost done.

"How so?" Margot pressed gently, rising when indicated to do so. Dilys removed her robe while Aelwyn began assisting with the undergarments. Far less restrictive, or perhaps more liberating, the few items that were worn beneath the gown were only to assist with the line of the fabric and, perhaps entice any would-be onlooker as the wearer disrobed.

The shorter Lady seats herself on the riser before the large array of mirrors, her dress fluttering to take on a different configuration. "But maybe this isn't a failure," she muses as though she hadn't heard the question. "If he survives, this could be a great triumph for Brisbane."

"I do not understand. How would this be a great triumph for Brisbane?" Margot continued politely, her attention given to the ethereal Lady alone.

"Oh… Ari's always been a problem," Arabella answers, lifting a butterfly on one finger and petting its hard, black wings like a pet. The antennae wave gently. "Brisbane always had some fond hope for him, though, so he agreed to take on Ari's training. It was a little more complicated than that, I suppose, but that's basically how Ari came to be assigned to Amber. And if he survives an encounter with Lord Serpent, Brisbane could be credited with some of this success."

"But why was Ari a problem?" Margot asked plainly.

"I don't know," the Chaos Lady says. "I never asked him why."

She giggles then, making the whole flock of butterflies flutter again as her body ripples with mirth. "I do recall this one time, Ari was assigned to host a guest from House Xenadon. I don't rightly recall why they were here, but their envoy got himself stuck in the Pearly Gates." She begins snickering at the memory, and even the two close-mates share a smile.

"We had such a time getting him unstuck! Lord Ulrich almost gave up and fed him to the Gate ants, but that would have annoyed House Sawall, so we had to pull him out. We still have pieces of Lord Kren in the Gates to this Turn! It causes no end of inconvenience for the Guard, and most of the Family don't even use the Gates anymore because of it. Sad, really, because they're so pretty." Her mirth fades away at the thought.

"I guess Ari was off doing some sort of project of his own, or so he said. Got all distracted and forgot to watch the envoy. Lord Ulrich his father was not at all pleased, but Ari was still young when that happened, so the punishment was light. He only spent a few Turnings in the Halls of White, not an entire Cycle as I suspect Ulrich would have liked."

"Is Lord Brisbane brother to Lord Ulrich or Lady Grania?" Margot inquired, curious to see where the bond stemmed from.

"Oh, Lord Duke Ulrich's… uncle? Great uncle?" She trails off, thinking through the convoluted relational lines.

"It is good to see that Chanicut's family tree resembles a bramble or spider web just as Barimen's. Yet one more observation I may take comforts in," Margot suggested with more than a little wryness lingering in her voice. The sisters completed their task, and it was difficult to deny Margot's radiance or that she wore the rich shade of emerald with the delicate beauty of ivy climbing the walls of her Victorian estate. Properly primped, she looked very much the part of a noble guest or distant relation to the House which claimed the same colors as her very own. So many similarities and yet so very, very different.

"Is it customary to don black? What, if any, symbolism does it possess here in House Chanicut?" Margot inquired, admiring her appearance from all angles in a full-length mirror. Silly little habits she had already picked up from Kendall - smoothing a line here, realigning the cascading folds to be in perfect symmetry. Her eyes searched tirelessly for anything that may be out of place like a wisp of hair. The sisters each took a place at her side and in tandem secured emerald earrings to dangle at her lobes.

Very faintly, the group sequestered away in the dressing room can hear a knock at the outer door to the enormous suite.

"Black is the color of everything, and Nothingness," Arabella answers solemnly. "Like the Abyss, which is the beginning and end of everything."

Margot's eyes drift to the balcony and the great horizon beyond. "Then it is a fitting color indeed…. perhaps there is more shared between the polar worlds that either care to admit at first glance," she suggested in a breathy, grave tone.

"Probably. Amber came from Chaos," Arabella remarks. "They rejected the Courts, not the other way around."

She returns the black creature she was holding to its fellows and looks up as the last in the trio of servants, Sulwyn, appears at the doorway. "M'lady, ch'en Rory is here requesting to see you."

Margot nearly comes out of her skin at the gruff sound of Sulwyn's voice; though it wasn't gravelly so much as it was deeper and darker than her sisters. A quick turn in response to the sound, and Margot's fidgeting fingers ceased their dance.

"Of course. See him in and to his every comfort," Margot replied to the attendant, knowing that Rory would likely refuse her hospitality. After dismissing Sulwyn, Margot turned to Arabella.

"Please excuse me. Rory was one of the few I had hoped to share a few intimate moments with," a chagrined smile pulled at her sanguine lips. "Thank you for your kindness and generosity." With that, she inclined her head to the ghostly Lady and excused herself from the other's presence to see what word Rory had for her.

Each step knotted her stomach, what little contents churning and rumbling with the real threat of forceful expulsion threatening over head. She would not let anyone see her fear, her worry, her emotions. To the best of her ability, she would keep them hidden, but she knew before she passed through the archway that Rory would know her very soul. Still, there were eyes watching and she must maintain appearances. It would be what Kendall would want… or expect… wouldn't it?!

The next thing Margot realized, she had crossed the distance that seemed hectares away. Her hand rested upon the filigreed handle and suddenly, the princess was overwhelmed with fear and dread, so much that her knees buckled, forcing her to brace against the door for a few breaths to regain her composure. Regardless of what Rory shared, she would have to remain calm.

Margot pulled the door open and stepped through the threshold. "That will be all for the moment, ladies." she stated, dismissing the three sisters for privacy. Slowly she approached Rory, but waited for him to speak before greeting him in return.

Rory is waiting in one of the sitting rooms off of the main entry way. He looks exactly as Margot might expect, his black clothing decorated subtly with bands of green at cuffs and hems. He is holding a small something wrapped in blue cloth, and bows when Margot enters.

"Princess, you look well," he greets her with his soft voice.

"Thank you, Rory," she replies with gentleness, closing the distance between them to a familiar, comfortable one. "How are you faring?" Her smile was brave, even as her eyes beckoned comfort from the man she had come to appreciate and adore.

"I am well, thank you," he answers. His gaze searches her face, missing little. "You appear to be faring as well as expected."

His answer a simple nod, Margot's fears that her voice would crack strangling her throat. After a few swallows, she smiles. "And your bride? Have you been reunited once more?" she asked, hoping that at least one person would find happiness in all of torment and ugliness. She had hardly noticed the cloth in his hands, hers wrung into such a jumble that she would have done a shape-shifter proud.

"Not quite yet. I have one last thing to attend to," he answers, becoming serious again. He looks down so that he can unwrap the object he is holding. The dark blue cloth isn't secured with a tie, so only a couple quick moves reveal what he is holding: a ring adorned with tiny crystal flowers.

"Lord Kendallarithan asked me to deliver this to you, before he… departed."

That is all the encouragement the young woman needed before dark lashes moisten with emotion. A hand comes to her thinly-pressed lips while the other remains lifeless at her side. Silence screamed in their ears for several heartbeats as she simply stared at the bauble. "Is there… a message that comes with the gift? Perhaps a tale of its origins?"

"No, he sent no message," Rory replies, giving her time to regain her composure. "This ring is a small heirloom of our House, given to him as a gift when he was born. Similar items were also given to Lord Cedric and Lady Diona. When worn by a woman with child, the crystal is said to imbue the unborn with the mother's fairer qualities."

"A beautiful gesture…" Margot wiped at her eyes before clearing her throat. "It will never leave my hand."

Suddenly feeling awkward and gazelle-like, she held her hands out, uncertain whether she should take it or if it was to be placed upon her. Rory supports and steadies her right hand by placing his fingers against her palm, and slides the ring onto her middle finger. It slides on smoothly and then rests at the base of the finger as if it had been molded to it.

"He will overcome this trial, Rory. Kendall is an extraordinary man." Words she intended to speak with conviction cracked and emerged as a mere whisper, and Margot found herself wondering how she was going to possibly stand before Brisbane let alone any other if she could not maintain her composure even with her lover's servant.

Rory's expression turns thoughtful at her words. "He may," he agrees. "But even if he survives, he will not be… who he was."

"Are any of us?" she returned, capturing his hand in hers and staring into his eyes. "With each Turning and each Cycle, we become more than what we were before. We change. We evolve. Some experiences leave a greater mark upon us that others, but with each breath taken, we are changed."

Sober wisdom whispers over her lips as she tries to smile. Reaching on tip-toes, she pressed a chaste kiss to Rory's high cheekbone before resting her head briefly against his. "You did well by him… I fear he was so lonely and only you gave him the peace he craved. Thank you for that… and for delivering this precious memento."

Rory clasps her into a gentle hug. "You are quite welcome," he answers softly.

Margot withdrew, radiant despite her emotional instability; though, she had not yet released his hand. "I have requested an audience with Lord Brisbane, and to my humble surprise, he has accepted. Would you honor me with an escort?"

"I would be honored, Princess," he says, taking the request in the spirit in which it is offered. "However, it would be wisest for you to have Lady Arabella escort you through the ways to see Lord Brisbane. The ways are tricky, and can be difficult even for us to navigate as one travels closer to the manor in the Courts. The higher Lords and Ladies of the House are much more…suited… to escorting guests than someone such as I or your helpers would be."

"Then, to the portal with which Lady Arabella and I will have to begin our travels?" Margot smiled. "You are a joy I wish to keep close in kinship."

He nods in agreement.

Turning, she sees Lady Arabella waiting in the doorway, leaning against the frame and studying the golden leaves of a vine that dangled above her like mistletoe. She doesn't appear to be paying the others any mind, though how much nonchalance might be for show is impossible to say.

When the two stop talking and Margot turns, though, she looks at the two standing in the center of the room. She reaches high above her head and then moves away from the door so she can stretch and bend. "You are ready?" she asks Margot for confirmation.

"Please," Margot answered, glancing to Rory to accept her hand in formal escort.

He takes her hand and accompanies her, though rather in the way of an assistant rather than escort. But still, he goes with her to the door where Arabella waits. The Lady stands up straight, looking with amusement from one to the other. She turns on her bare heels and leads the way to the door to the hall, which is opened for them by Aelwyn.

Margot ignored the snicker behind Arabella's hand at her conduct. Rory, servant or not, was a noble heart and one of the last connections she had to Kendall. As they walked, she caught herself staring at the new ring on her finger, her lips forming a sad smile.

Once in the hall, Arabella looks left, right, and upwards before deciding to lead the way to the left down the long hallway of woven vines and carved wood. She marches along with high steps, as though moving with a company of soldiers, her expression serious and intent. She eventually pauses in front of a very large trunk and looks at Margot and Rory.

"We'll be going, then," she says.

She takes Margot's hand in her small, pale one, and steps forward through the wood of the trunk, tugging Margot with her. The princess feels the now somewhat familiar pull as she's led forward, and then she's into the way with its all-too-familiar wrench and spinning. The difference is that the spinning doesn't end on the other side.

Arabella's hand on hers is the only thing that grounds the princess in a dimness filled with fluttering or flapping. Directionless orange light glows on broken surfaces and around the edges of things only half recognized. Leaves, or wings, or pieces of fabric flutter in the chilling wind as Margot is pulled upward through a… room? A tunnel? Hallway? The two women spin in the wind together, and the almost unseen fluttering things brush their bodies with damp and chilly fingers.

Before Margot can get a good sense of direction or have more than a brief glimpse of where they were, blackness and the sudden feeling of being squeezed through the eye of a needle announce passage through another way. A twisting wrench and they're falling through blinding brightness. So bright after the dimness that Margot is caught without sight as they float downwards.

"We'll be landing soon. And…now," Arabella announces, her hand still firmly holding Margot's. It's doubtful that Margot could release her escort easily, even if she wanted to. They land when Arabella helpfully says, ploofing against what might seem like cotton.

The young woman could not help but wonder if Arabella was taking the scenic route to see what affects it may have on her. The problem with that theory, spinning and disoriented, was that Margot was never in a place long enough to enjoy the fascinating aspects. So, hold on she did, trusting that Arabella would deliver her to Lord Brisbane and not to a pit of hungry beasts.

The princess' eyes are adjusting a little to the searing white light so that she can pick out a few features of the place. What looked like walls of stone lined in grey lie nearby across a white plain. But she's not given much time to take this in, either, as she quickly realizes that they did not land somewhere firm. Instead, the cottony "ground" gives way beneath them and as they slide into its scratchy softness, Margot feels the tug of another way beneath her feet before she's pulled through once more.

The cottony whatever it was swallows them up and they are sucked through to a chamber of pale orange stone with eleven arched openings which all lead into darkness. A dizzying mosaic of brown and white tiles arranged in tilted concentric squares worked into the orange stone floor tricks the eye into seeing a spiral that isn't there. Arabella makes sure that Margot doesn't get too close to the edge of the mosaic, and carefully walks around it after she looks about the room and identifies the arched door she wants. Each of the archways bears a carved symbol to help with identification. They pass through the arch, which is frigidly cold in addition to the now normal wrenching squeezing spinning, and suddenly they are once more in a place cloaked in mourning.

The walls are tall, incredibly tall and made of green marble draped with black shrouds. They are in a grand hall in a building, it would seem, yet the floor is composed of grassy hills like a meadow. The hall is divided by a wide river with a smooth surface, the river that brought life to the Halls of Chanicut. Barely a ripple shows its steadily moving course, and on its surface floated a boat bedecked with finery and covered with candles, bearing the resplendently displayed corpse of the beloved dead, Cedric.

Upon a hill of blue green grass stands a couple dressed immaculate in House colors of mourning. He, elderly and familiar. She, regal and proud as she holds him so only his tears fall upon she. They mourn, as Cedric floats near, not only for the boy but chaos the Death will bring. Luminescence emerald fireflies arise from the grass like a shroud for the grieving pair, becoming a angry red like a thousand suns. Their clothing, alight in flames in the firestorm. The very grass upon the hill joining the scarlet tempest, it's screaming breaking the silences.

And Cedric just floats by, oblivious in death…

Arabella stops at the edge of the river, her expression now sober and sad. She wipes a tear from her eye as the boat approaches, guided by some unseen hand or spell. He was seated aft, his back to the high, wide stem draped with satiny curtains. Dressed in resplendent robes that hang from his shoulders to pool about his feet, his pale hands and face are all that are visible. Though pale in death, his face still held a commanding presence, and his powerful hands clasped a rolled scroll in his lap.

As the boat nears the water's edge, Margot can see that the interior is littered with small items. Tokens, perhaps, for the departed dead. Flowers, gems, pieces of jewelry, small weapons, books, and other less recognizable things lay against the green velvet within. Arabella plucks a butterfly from her garment and passes her fingers over the fluttering wings, whereupon it becomes still and transforms itself into a figurine of gold. When the boat reaches them, she crouches down and places her token with the others, then looks expectantly at Margot.

Ablazed does the couple walk, Lord Brisbane and his Wife. The angry fireflies become peacful again, finding newly grown grass to nest within. In her hands, till a small chest of dark wood as silks of rare earth and gems rise to cloth their forms. Tears from each, are added to the blood seal that adorn its the front of the chest.

Little understanding, and less to offer, Margot selected one of the many hairpins adorned with Amber's precious stones. Looking upon it, she whispered the following verse:

Our introduction was abrupt,
Your grandeur filled with flair,
A beauteous countenance that drew angel's tears,
How passionate your heart burned
A candle quieted before allowed to glow with light.

She did not care for the man floating down the river; yet, wishing ill upon the dead was not done. Like it or not, she was apart of the events that had come to pass, and her token, while small and insignificant, represented their brief encounter. The butt of the pin dazzled with emerald and peridot crystals; while the tips were sharp enough to bite the skin of one not fortunate to possess shape-shifting skins. A rose; beautiful to admire but dangerous to behold… it somehow seemed a fitting metaphor so many things as of late.

Margot rose, smoothing her mourning gown and turned to address the Lord and Lady, but waited until they had their private moment to mourn and place their offerings in the vessel carrying the beloved Prince.

The Lady, once the way is clear, moves closer to the boat to give of their gift… and a kiss, upon the dead lord's brow. Then Lady Osdra rejoins her husband, taking his offer and letting him hug her lovely so, even in front of one not of the House. A stranger, so a possibly enemy and definitely a threat. Yet the comfort he offers, is what she needs as the boat starts to move to continue its sorrowful journey.

Margot waits, eyes cast down to give the couple their privacy. Only when the time is acceptable does she dip into a graceful curtsy, deep and perfected from years of practice so that even in this foreign place, muscles recall the action even if the mind does not suggest the act. "Lord and Lady, you have my sincerest sympathies for your loss and the loss to the House. I had met the Lord only once, but his impression upon me will never be forgotten." Margot remained deeply seated, her eyes upon their toes until beckoned to rise and speak to those she addressed.

Eyes of amber, look to Arabella for the truth amongst the lies. Unlike her husband, the ambassador, Lady Osdra was ever straight forward, since that was the way of her House. Yet even she has heard of the child that has caused so much chaos within Chanicut, and pleased she wasn't.

Arabella is watching the boat as it floats to its next destination, wherever that might be. She twirls slowly around until she's looking at the small group once more, wiping her eye with small fingers. She looks from Lady Osdra to Margot with a little smile appearing, and she tilts her head to the lady. The princess' words were careful, but the childlike Chanicut lady could hear the truth they contained, even though they veiled deeper truths that were not so pretty.

"Arabella, thank you." Lady Osdra says after a moment, holding out a hand for the girl to take. For in her birth House, physically contact was encouraged to the annoyances of many in Chanicut. Yet never once did her husband complained, still the same held true past the bedroom doors. "And you, Princess Margot… even if, they were half-hearted."

Arabella accepts the invitation with relief, hurrying over to the lady and throwing her arms around her to embrace Osdra. She buries her face into the lady's dress for a time, before releasing her to step back. "The young Lady had wish to speak to Brisbane," she explains. "May we go hither while they do that, and speak of Cedric?"

"Shh… child, its alright." The older woman comforts, stroking the younger girl's hair. "I know of a place, we may view again and speak of him." Her smile, one of love and encouragement. "We can have tea and cakes, the ones you love."

She smiles and nods before turning to Brisbane. Her expression becomes grave once more as she looks from the elderly Lord to the princess. "I will not be far, for when you are done," she says, mindful of her assurance to Kendall that she would watch over Margot.

Margot remained quiet, biting her tongue at the stately Lady's dismissive response. Regardless of what Margot felt regarding Cedric; in her heart she believed what she said. It was a tragedy, and by no means would she forget how Cedric behaved. Instead, with a calm facade and the proud stature of one of high birth, she accepted the fingers, bowing her head with the symbolic gesture of a kiss to the hand without lips touching flesh before standing. "You have a beautiful realm. Even in mourning, it summons a plethora of emotions." Releasing the hand, she maintained her compassionate expression, her own mourning very real, even if it was for another Chanicut Lord.

Margot remained neutral, letting the words swirl around, and curses abound, leaving a perfectly cordial, sympathetic expression upon her lips. She made no attempt to hide the ring from the Lord and Lady, the piece prominent on her hand. She doubted seriously that they were unaware of its significance, but remained as relaxed as one could possible portray in such circumstances. "We all mourn the loss of the first Lord, yet so few seemed bothered by how delicate a balance the younger brother's life is placed." Margot observed, holding her small ground. "A tragedy… the vibrancy of life and possibilities dimmed by the age-old custom of sibling rivalry. One loss is insufficient it seems; the House will only be satisfied if both heirs perish." Margot observed pleasantly, turning to watch the funeral bier float serenely along the river.

The princess glanced to Brisbane, sharing her mourning through her gaze even as the rest of her expression remained calm. The exchange however was brief; he knew how much she loved Kendall and how fond his favored nephew was of her. "Please, Lady, as I have yet to grasp the nuances of your more … primal tongues," Margot smiled, "A favor? I request a translation of what you uttered with such vehemence… if I too am to be doomed," Margot continued, a pleasant expression shining in her eyes, "I would at least like the advantage of knowing what that fate may be."

"I will leave it to my beloved, to render my words into a form you might understand.~ Lady Osdra states, before offering a hand to Arabella for them to use a Way that will allow them to travel within the Manor.

Margot watched as the Lady coddled the child-like Lady. "I look forward to your return, Arabella." Her smile blossoming for the woman. "I have learned so much from you and find your spirit very bright and liberating." Her eyes lingered for a few moments upon the ethereal lady before returning to Lady Osdra, awaiting an answer.

Brisbane gives a kiss to his wife, before allowing herself to be on her way. Always the corner stone in his life, even if at times it felt like she was about to crush him with it's weight. Amused to the fact, he never learned to speak demon. Or at least, not its form that the Summoners and Blinders do within the Royal Court.

Once his Lady is gone, Brisbane admits. "My lovely, dear wife doesn't much like you, Margot."

"It's a circumstance I am surprisingly becoming accustomed to." Margot admits with a sad smile, before turning her gaze toward where everything seemed to vanish into nothingness. "I do not speak falsehoods… there has been a great tragedy… and my heart and spirit are deeply encumbered… yet, regardless, I am without a House and seen as the catalyst that caused brothers' to draw blades against one another. Everyone has their own perspectives, objectives, goals, and desires. It is what it is and it will evolve or dissolve as events reveal themselves."

Her bright countenance returns, even if her eyes hold the emptiness that spoke of love lost. "But, enough about a single speck upon Chaos' grand landscape. How are you faring, …M'Lord?" Margot nearly fumbled, revealing daughterly affections for the old man and referring to him by name.

"With being a outsider, its easy to blame you. Yet you do share, this time." The old man says, even holding up a hand to stop any protest. "While I love him deeply, Kendall was ever the fool when it came to women. Perhaps his sister is to blame, or his mother, but come next Cycle I will be burying two boys I once cherished." He looks to the young girl, tired etches in all his features. "If I had known, I would have never brought you here to Chanicut. So you see, even I have my share of blame…"

"That is something people continue to tell me; how he was so easily swayed by a feminine demure. I'm not certain whether I should be insulted or flattered… since I have no skills or experience in seduction… it's a wonder why I stand here at all." His words wound, but she does not share how deeply in her expression. "Isn't it phenomenal how clarity comes to our vision when looking to what has passed." Margot continued, "Had I known such events would have unfolded… and yet, I must admit I am confounded my many things that have occurred and that I've observed." She stared up at the man with whom she felt the paternal tugs so similar to what she felt for her grandfather. "I seem to have a penchant to deliver disaster despite best intent… yet, I have faith that Kendall will return. I believe in him and my conviction is bountiful."

Margot stared up the elder statesman, her hands crossed comfortably in front of her. "Why is it no soul I've met thus far feels the pangs of loss for Kendall; so quickly he is discarded with no sign of recognizing his ingenuity?" The words come slowly, as she tried to think of a way to not further insult the House. "He is a survivor, a fighter; filled with conviction, honor and a love for his House."

"For above all else, Chanicut prefers order… because of what Kendall did, not thousands but ten of thousands will die. Take pride in that, Daughter of the Unicorn. By your actions, you took a great house and left it bloody and weak." He smiles, sad to the fact that he too may be dead by the next Cycle. "A lesson there, to my faults, of not paying better attention to the legends of your Gran." Brisbane looks to the river, trying to imagine what his funeral boat will look like, and if his children will be spared. As to his wife, without a doubt, she would be at his side even on this journey.

Margot listened, emotions cycling through her heart; pain, rage, betrayal. Still, she remained quiet and respectful until he had finished. "I take pride in nothing that has happened." she answered patiently, her eyes revealing the emotions she kept from her voice. "Quite the Contrary… with the worst of insults being the constant reminder of the monster who's line I belong. I did not follow Kendall to destroy his House; and to insinuate as such…" she shook her head, unable to find the words to articulate how deeply he wounded her.

"Even if I remained in Amber and died with the rest with the black plague," she referred to the rabid masses that were announced to be coming to consume all of Amber on her debut; the day the Unicorn attacked her own children and announced that She claimed the welcomed the destruction of Amber and all that were bound to her line …. that this massacre would allow her to start a new line. She is mad," Margot uttered, her emotions barely kept in check. "I never, ever wished for any harm to come to you, Kendall or your majestic House. I dared to dream, to hope, to be a light in Kendall's life… to grant him a small place of respite - to be the man that I fell in love with and not the Lord faced with politics and betrayal. I never betrayed him… or you. I apologize if you see my actions as such… but… I, too, mourn for all that has happened."

She set her jaw. "I suppose your advisement would be as all who have shared their wisdom… that I should leave as quickly as possible and never look back. Never to return. Rest assured, the hospitality…. offered me only lasts until word of Kendall's return is received. So, you see… my ejection from the House may not be enough to unmake the catastrophe everyone is so quick to assign to me, my hope for any future is equally bleak."

"But, you should know, Lord Brisbane, as I did with Diona… I would stand before Lord Ulrich, Lady Grania, even the Serpent himself and meet my accusers and take any consequence. I love your nephew with all of my being. He has given me more than I could ever dream… and had done so not because I was a distraction, but because he held genuine feelings in his heart for me." Her smile for the elder man was sad, "It was selfish of me to come to you in a time of mourning to seek wisdom." She dipped into a deep curtsy, her countenance woeful and humble, "Please accept my heartfelt condolences for the loss of Lord Cedric, beloved heir apparent by all of House Chanicut."

Margot's words are mere chattering to him, her betrayal of him and the death of his favorite nephew causes his heart to go into spasms of pain. How he hated the Young, cursing them all under his breath. Yet in the middle of the curse, Lord Brisbane notices the ring on her finger and finds a little hope, for perhaps in time she will grow-up and be worth the sacifices of his House.

"Chanicut welcomes your kind words, as do I." Lord Brisbane replies with a respectful nod. "But know this as a Truth, only our Founders and a handful more, have ever returned from a audience with Lord Serpent." With a pause, he adds to these fact. "And even if your hope was true, he won't be the same. No one can be, after talking to Lord Serpent. The lad we both knew, is dead…"

"It is the man we both knew… that aspect of his core… that will see him through his audience. Everyone transforms," she found herself fiddling with the ring upon her hand and forced herself to stop. "He will be different, but he will not be dead. Rest assured, Lord Brisbane; Chanicut will have its second son return once more. Kendall is unique, remarkable and beyond compare." She rose from her submissive position. "Wounds are slow to heal… perhaps someday we will all find counsel in actions of the past. Forgive me, Lord Brisbane, you should be with your family and following the processional of the eldest son of Lord Ulrich. My presence is not only inconvenient, but the salt rubbed into a wound. Please, rejoin your wife and the enchanting niece with whom she takes comfort with. I will see to my own affairs; it is the only way to not burden the House any further."

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