A Calm Before the Storm

The Ambassador Brisbane stands on a balcony overlooking the sea, drinking a cup of bitter tea and watching the tide go out. He glances at Kendall as he comes onto the balcony, nodding in approval. He gestures to the glass chair next to him, its cushions made of peacock feathers stuff into golden wire. "Come, let us talk of home." He takes a sip of tea before continuing. "We both need cheering up first, before we discuss business."

Kendall settles carefully in the chair, appearing quite subdued. He accepts of a cup of tea from Siorys, then dismisses the servant with a gesture before taking a delicate sip, savoring the flavor. He glances at Brisbane out of the corner of his eye before venturing, "T'Lan told me shortly before we left that he had been selected to be Raylan's apprentice in demonic lore. You remember T'Lan, don't you? A bit shorter than I with red hair and the really annoying laugh. He seemed quite pleased, and I'm sure his parents were happy he was going to be doing something useful and moving up."

"I hope that was a wise decision on their part, that boy has a weakness for succubus," Brisbane comments between sips. "But then, so did Raylan when he first started. But he should fare better than your cousin Eevi. I have heard rumors that she will attempt the Cave soon."

Kendall turns sharply to look at Brisbane with a wide, surprised eyes. "Really! How did she get the backing for…" he trails off and a calculating expression comes to his face. He nods a little to himself, settling back into his chair again. "Never mind." He sips his tea for a little bit, listening to the distant cry of gulls over the surf. "That takes quite a bit of courage to do," he finally says. "I hope she does well."

"It is not talked of, but some of the more…" Brisbane pauses, looking for the right word. "Excitable members of House Chanicut got themselves involved with this little disagreement with House Amber. So even we have causalities that must be replaced." Kendall gives a dry chuckle at Brisbane's choice of words.

Brisbane sips a little tea before continuing. "So you have Eevi going to the Cave before she is ready. But while I have no doubt she will survive, it will be many Cycles before she can again be useful to the House."

"But in the long run, it will be a good thing," Kendall points out. "That's Father's answer for practically everything."

Brisbane shakes his head in disapproval of Kendall's choice of words. "Your father must be a cautious man, so many lives hang in the balance." He looks out over the sea, a tone of bitterness in his voice now as he continues. "To rush is a young man's game, if you haven't heard. Fate seems to favor the young, and spurn the old in those matters."

Kendall doesn't answer right away, finishing his tea and following Brisbane's gaze out to the sea. He puts his cup down. "I meant no disrespect to my father. He has many worries to consider when he makes decisions." His realizes that his tone wouldn't quite qualify as meek, so he adds quickly, "We were going to cheer ourselves up, remember?"

"Yes…" His Elder answers. "Do you know your sister requested I watch out for you? She seems to be worried that we are trying to bond you to an Amberite." He takes a sip of tea. "Silly girl."

Kendall gives Brisbane a startled look, then a closer one, trying to tell if his Elder is joking or not. He covers his lack of an appropriate answer for a moment by sipping his tea, forgetting that he had finished it. He tips the cup, frowns, and glances inside. "That _is_ a very silly notion," he replies calmly, while Siorys hurries over and refills Kendall's cup and then Brisbane's. "But it is very nice to know that Diona worries about me." He smiles. "I wasn't able to talk to her very much before we left. How is she?"

"As well as always… but she does worry. About you and your brother." He places his cup on the table. "She does you great honor, Kendall."

"Yes, she does," he answers musingly, his thoughts going elsewhere. "I thought I heard her singing while I was in the Veil," he adds, not really to Brisbane but more to himself. "I wish we could have talked more when she visited, but things were so busy getting ready to leave…" He trails into thoughtful silence.

"If you wish, I can arrange for you to visit her after we get back." Brisbane says. "I would think that would be a fair reward for a job well done."

Kendall's eyes refocus on Brisbane. "You are most kind with your faith in me, sir," he replies at last. "I shall do my best for you… and the House," he adds.

"I know you will, Kendall." Brisbane answers. "I know that you understand that we have little room for error here. Our position in Chaos is not as strong as it could be." He takes a moment to be sure no one is near enough to overhear. "While House Chanicut is in no danger of falling at this time, certain unwelcome outcomes of this situation could bode badly for us in the future."

Kendall absorbs this news without comment at first, nodding slightly; he had heard some rumors. He takes a breath, letting it out slowly, meditatively. "I would like to know more about those, Brisbane," he answers at last. "Which outcomes in particular you refer to."

"Many are just visions that the Lady Drina has been inflicted with," Brisbane answers. "Others are just concerns of your father's. We of House Chanicut don't want the throne for ourselves of course, but there are some Houses that we would rather not have it either. With the backing of Amber's army or the threat of their backing, we can guide the other Houses into the proper balance and restore harmony." He checks his pockets for a mint candy.

"Your job is to seed… or more to the point, poison the ground about the other Houses And to develop friendships with them, so we aren't the blackhearted demons anymore."

"I have spoken to their Queen." A look of obvious distaste flits across Kendall's face, but is not reflected in his smooth voice as he continues. "She was open to meeting with me again, perhaps even on a regular basis. I hope to use that opportunity to do as you say." He pauses a moment, then adds, "I do not understand why we cannot achieve our House's goals without these… Amberites, though. We have our own army, our own influence." He looks offended, as though the implication was that Chanicut cannot stand on its own.

"It's a simple reason… why waste our recourses when we can use theirs?" Brisbane answers. "Even if we inst… help another House to the throne, we still will have problems to keep a eye on. An army at full strength will help with those problems. And of course, we wish the Amberites gone from our borders. I doubt we will get out without a bonding or two, but it will be worth it if they leave us alone in the end. House Hendrakes has already sent hints that they would be willing to forget and forgive if we are able to arrange a bond agreement with their House and Amber's. Seems that they have their eye on one of the lads that bested them on the field. Brinn or something like that…"

Kendall looks irritated. "So why doesn't Hendrake send its own representatives, then?" he demands. "Why should we arrange their—" He pauses, takes a breath, sighs. "Excuse me, sir," he changes tact. "My real question is: am I to poison the ground for Hendrake, too? Am I to have a list of Houses to discredit and a list of Houses to leave alone? That could prove confusing."

"As to Hendrake, because they where not allowed to. It seems that House Hendrake didn't make any friends in Amber with its behavior during the war. I believe the term 'war crimes' came up a number of times during my talks with your father when I asked that same exact question." Brisbane smiles. "We are not here for House Hendrake's benefit anyway. So speak your mind freely about them to these Amberites. Likely you will make a few friends, if they find you share a disdain for those amazons."

Kendall nods thoughtfully. "I gather that Hendrake went beyond the bounds of honorable warfare… even for them. War crimes according to the Amberites, though? They don't seem terribly equipped to make such a judgement. Their Queen doesn't even acknowledge her duty to her House and Realm or seem to think that "extending the influence" of Amber into Shadow - or whatever euphemism she wants to use - will inconvenience SOMEone along the way." He shakes his head, beginning to look distressed again. "I found her frightfully inappropriate and… confusing."

"Hmmm…." Brisbane replies. "I have heard more then a few disturbing rumors about her. It is said she has great skill in the magick arts, even more so than her aunt the Princess Fiona. But she is young, new to Amber. There is even a rumor that she bespelled the King into loving her." He straightens in his chair, more formal now since they are talking business. "Just be careful around her. It is said that her… passions influence her decisions more than is normal, or wise."

Kendall quirks an eyebrow at that. "Passions? Do you mean specifically sexual, or just in general?" He shakes his head. "Your warning appears justified. It certainly seems like she has little in the way of control. Remember that according to the Knight, the Veil was raised in a fit of anger, and Master Ranguel always told us never to give in to our emotions while spellcasting. Not only that, she admits that the Veil is out of her control. She told me it has a mind of its own." He snorts contemptuously. "Fancy a defensive mechanism you cannot be certain will attack the enemy or your own."

"Don't get too judgmental here, Kendall. We too have our guardians in the Courts that sometimes are temperamental," Brisbane says. "But you still do have a point. They only seem to think of themselves." He nods his head as if in disapproval. "And traveling through the Veil was unpleasant to say the least."

Kendall drops his gaze to the table, flushing - something that doesn't happen very often. "I'd have to agree with you there," he sort of mutters under his breath. When he looks up again, he appears more composed. "When will you be meeting with the King?" he inquires.

"We are to have a dinner with the King tonight," Brisbane answers.

Kendall nods. "Very well," he answers. "I understood from one of the many guards I spoke with that this dinner is to be at… 6 chimes? I believe that's what he said."

"It was just 837 heartbeats since their clock chimed five times," Brisbane says.

Kendall nods, though that doesn't supply any information such as how much longer they had until dinner. He waits for the servant to refill his tea again, then sits gazing into the distance at nothing for a time before turning his attention back to Brisbane. "What do we know about this king?" he inquires finally. "Do we have any idea what to expect? It would seem he has allowed us into Amber first, but that doesn't necessarily make me feel more confident," he admits.

"He took the throne recently," Brisbane says, after taking a sip of tea. "I would say that since his rule is relatively new, he will try to be tough. As for being first, it was only due us using our influences both here and in the Royal Court to gain this advantage." He sets the teacup on the table. "An advantage that we must use."

"It may be possible to reach him on two fronts," Kendall suggests. "Queen Morgana apparently believes herself irresistible. If I am able to arrange to meet with her, I may be able to work on her ego, bring her to look upon Chanicut more favorably. Thus both you and she would be talking to the King." He frowns with an expression of utter distaste again, muttering to himself, "Though I still can't believe she kissed me."

Brisbane sits upright in his chair, surprised by what Kendall just muttered. "She kissed you?"

Kendall's looks both annoyed and embarrassed, and he looks down and away from his Elder. "Yes." His tone is almost offended, and he can't suppress a shudder. "At the end of our conversation. She… leaned over and kissed my cheek as though… it was just something people do." He reaches up reflexively and rubs the affected area of his face.

"Did you check yourself after for any contaminants?" Brisbane asks, worried now. "Please say you did."

Kendall gives Brisbane a blank look for two heartbeats, but then waves his hand dismissively, clearly believing the older man to be overreacting. "I took a bath right after, sir," he answers. "I came in, talked to you, and then took a bath. It was only a kiss," he adds, "I mean, really, not like—" he breaks off, looking distinctly guilty for a split second before resuming a far more calm expression.

"Lafe, please fetch the Misauvir Crystals," Brisbane orders one of the nearby servants. "Best we be sure about these things."

Kendall sighs, looking resigned. He watches the servant hurry off to find where that particular item is located in all the baggage that is partially unpacked, then looks back to Brisbane. "So, ah… what was the Veil like for you?" he asks finally. "You didn't get lost or separated from the group?"

Brisbane hesitates, his face lined with worry before finally saying. "No, I wasn't separated… but it was a very unpleasant ride."

Lafe returns with the shielding case, placing it on a table. Brisbane gets up to open it, inspecting the nine crystals inside for any damage or contamination from their journey. Fingering the emerald one, he says. "I think it would be best to check for sorcery first, since that is her strong suit."

Kendall plays with his tea while Brisbane fiddles with the crystals. He looks up again and nods though, to show he was paying attention. He stands, straightening his robe as he steps away from the table, performing the necessary preparations. "Perhaps we should both be tested after our trip through the Veil," he suggests.

Brisbane looks at Kendall for a second, finally nodding. "A wise precaution, Kendall." He steps away, addressing Lafe. "It seems that you must do the honors, trusted servant."

Lafe nods, picking up the emerald crystal first. Noting its faint glow, he runs it across his body. Satisfied that the glow hasn't intensified, Lafe does the same with Brisbane. There are a few flashes, as the crystal passes over Brisbane's ring Rhec and his badge of ambassadorship. Once done, Lafe starts on Kendall, the crystal glowing only brighter when passed over where the Queen kissed him.

Kendall looks alarmed at the reaction of the crystal. He shifts uncomfortably, looking at Brisbane. "Do you suppose she tried to cast a spell on me?" He asks, his voice a little strained. "Or… perhaps she simply uses sorcery so much she leaves some sort of residue behind?"

"I am unsure…" Brisbane answers. "Lafe, the smaller crystals if you please." Lafe reaches into the case, pulling out a smaller metal case. Opening it, he hands to his Master. Brisbane picks a small pale green one, running over his attaché's cheek. Then a blood-red one, and last a milky one. "It seems to be just random stray residue," he decides. "Be at peace."

Relieved, Kendall lets out a breath he hadn't been aware of holding, finding his chair and relaxing back into it. He takes a drink of tea, then looks over to Brisbane. "How much do you know about Amber's history and relations with the Courts?" he asks curiously.

"I know some… but there are limits to my knowledge," Brisbane answers, handing the crystals back to Lafe who bows and departs.

"Have you ever heard of a Lord Nigel?" Kendall asks. "Supposedly he was an important figure a very long time ago, in ancient times for Amber, and he is back. I have been warned that we should make lasting peace, or he will crush us," his tone is heavy with ironic skepticism. "Do you know anything about this person?"

"Yes, he was the one who lead their armies. But I was told that Nigel was a woman," Brisbane says. He sits again, though does not pick up his tea. "Hmm… interesting. I will dispatch a request to our Historians. Who told you that, the Queen?"

"Ah, no," Kendall answers. "It was… one of the Knights who escorted us through the Veil. I was, ah, separated as you know. We talked a bit on the way through." He fiddles with his clothing. "She told me that Nigel had been reborn recently, whatever that might mean. He apparently died some years ago - many years, as a matter of fact. I'm not sure what the connection to Nigel is with the Knights." He looks back over to Brisbane. "Regardless, she said he had been waiting for the 'promised time' and was warning me that if Nigel fights in the war with Chaos, that nothing good would come of it."

"Do you believe her?" Brisbane asks. "Not want she said, but her warning. The truth of it…"

"What's the difference?" Kendall asks. "Her warning goes hand-in-hand with her statements about Nigel. She said he was alive when war itself was created. He is something of war's avatar. But I cannot conceive of the Courts being defeated by these Amberites."

"My point, Kendall, was… Was she truly trying to warn you or merely parroting a line?" Brisbane says. "And its not our concern whether they do or do not defeat the Courts, our concern is that they do not defeat House Chanicut."

Kendall pauses a moment, considering that. "True. Though Chanicut is part of the Courts. As for whether she was trying to warn me or not," he continues, "I have no idea. She seemed quite serious, and for a House uninterested in conquest, they have a very large number of knights. I will keep a watch out for more information if you think it might be important."

"I think everything is important, Kendall. It's the small details that usually ending up killing you," Brisbane answers. "We just need to work on your skill to notice what will get you killed, and what is merely trivia." He grins then. "Houses have been built on unwisely spoken words that were overheard by the vigilant."

Kendall nods, looking rather satisfied. "I will work on that," he answers earnestly. "It will be difficult, I know. I already know I don't understand these Amberites, if the two with whom I have interacted are any indication. But," he adds with some hope, "perhaps the men are different. I have only really spoken to women."

"Hmm… Could you share your observation?" Brisbane asks. "Paint me a picture. Let me view these Amberites through your eyes, Kendall."

Even though he doesn't actually move, Kendall gives the distinct impression of someone wanting to squirm with discomfort. Instead, he frowns thoughtfully, clasping his hands around his wineglass and sitting still. "I suppose Louella was fine," he answers at last after ten heartbeats of silence. "Very frustrating, but her motivation is easy to understand. What really was most annoying about our conversation was when she started telling me about this Nigel. She seemed to be very serious about warning me, because she doesn't want to fight another war I think, but then she wouldn't give me any real information."

He sighs in frustration, looking up at Brisbane. "I even told her that if I was going to convince you of anything, I needed some more information about Nigel and the Promised Time and the rest of the mythology surrounding him, but she refused. When I inquired why, she said because I'm the enemy. But then why did she even start the conversation in the first place? And the Queen." He shakes his head. "Nothing at all like I could anticipate." He falls silent.

Seeing Kendall's discomfort, Brisbane holds up a hand to stop him. "Enough… Kendall. Better I see the Queen through my own eyes." He stands, tugging on his robes to straighten them. "It is time to get ready, clean the mind of muddled thoughts before we met our hosts." He shoos away a servant, walking to the doorway, stopping just long enough to add, "Maybe, just maybe… this Louella has in her heart something beside hatred for you." Then the Ambassador, Lord Brisbane leaves Kendall alone to watch the fading sun, the cries of gulls the only sound that fills his ears….

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