Conference with Brisbane

Kendall gives Margot a little time to depart from the small chamber where they had talked, before also stepping into the castle and heading back to the Tower. He is aware, with all that is going on — and the rumors that likely have sprung up and raced around the place — that the castle is an even more dangerous place for him to be known as a Chaosian. He takes great care, keeping alert to those around him.

It really was a pretty good idea to leave, and of course stealing the princess away — as he had been instructed — would require being away from Amber. How to accomplish that, however, was something of a mystery. In addition to the challenge of Forest Arden, the Veil posed a problem for his kind. The thought of those words - his kind - brought an unwelcome memory back, of Lady Louella.

Having the Princess in their company might be enough. She was of the same blood as the one who had created it, after all. And it was possible Margot would be able to gain some information. Either way, now was the time of preparation.

Returning to the tower, he inquires with Siorys whether Brisbane was again in residence, and the servant escorts the young Lord to a sitting room. He arrives just in time to see his uncle pour a stiff drink, twice the usual of his favorite vintage in a glass that refuses to remain still under nervous fingers. Unlike he who was saddled with a pretty princess, Brisbane must have talked to the other Houses of Chaos at dinner. And from his manner, it doesn't look like it went well.

The servant discreetly clears his throat, and his uncle looks up. "Yes, Kendall…"

"I have learned that an attack is planned against Amber," Kendall opens. This was information that merited direct discussion. "Though it seems that intelligence is widespread. Nevertheless, I would like to ensure your safety, sir, and begin making preparations to depart."

Looking to the window that has the best of views, Brisbane takes in the scenery as well as another long swallow of inebriant. "Should we help in Amber's destruction?" he asks after two heartbeats. He turns to his young charge and adds, "Not Chanicut, but you and I. Should we, ourselves, make effort to bring down a once noble House simply because the situation offers us an opportunity?"

Kendall hesitates, realizing he hadn't even given the matter much real thought. The destruction of Amber, to him, seemed reasonable. Even desirable. But…

No buts. His expression takes on more resolve. "I have already taken on a task to aid the attackers," he admits.

"Why?" his uncle asks of him. "Mere distaste, or is their house a real threat to us? Or because of the lass? Or just because you can?"

"Because this place is abhorrent and should be erased from existence. If House Amber doesn't know its place, they should be shown to it," Kendall answers, anger coloring his tone. He pauses to regain his composure, himself surprised at the sudden venom of his words.

"And if our demonstration ends in their destruction?" Brisbane questions. "Their survivors tossed into the Abyss or scattered about the various Houses as slaves or breed mares? Will that be enough for you at last?"

"What are you saying, Brisbane?" Kendall asks, sounding uncertain. "Of what concern is it to us whether Amber falls? They are not part of the Courts any longer. They revel in their illusion of superiority, and their desire to be apart from Chaos. Or is it that Chanicut has an interest in their survival?"

Brisbane smiles to this, an expression of sadness and… age. He felt old, and his age hung like a cloak that weighed down frail shoulders. "I find myself a bit envious, even while knowing all of their flaws," he admits. He takes another drink, studying his glass as he savors the flavor before confessing, "I always found it hard to be strict on a foolish child."

Whether this was meant as a gentle jab at his young charge, Kendall takes it as such, and he looks indignant for several heartbeats. But gritting his teeth, he forces himself to wait before saying anything. Even this long habit was sometimes overrun by emotion, but he still wants to wait long enough to think on what his uncle was saying. And not saying.

"The destruction of Amber isn't likely to be some whim," he ventures at last. "Not if someone is willing to employ the Children to aid in the task. It would benefit someone to have Amber fall. Perhaps… a different question would be, is there interest in thwarting that benefit?"

Brisbane nods to Kendall's insight. "Great risks aren't usually taken unless the rewards are great as well," he agrees. "Amber, away out here, is really no threat to us in Chaos. At their worst, they are merely amusing. But someone thought enough to risk standing before the Abyss and calling out to the Serpent."*

Kendall still can't quite fathom any value for Amber, whether that would be value in having them as allies or value in the great risk involved with destruction. Except… "The Being called Amber claimed to be the Royal House of Chaos. Would removing them, and the betrayer of the Serpent be enough to gain the Serpent's favor?" The inquiry is spoken slowly, musingly, as of someone thinking out loud.

"It's possible, and once the former Royal House is gone, another House rises to take its place with the Lord Serpent's approval," Brisbane supposes. Then he shakes his head, dismissing this madness. "Impossible!"

The younger Chaosian isn't quite ready to dismiss this particular madness as impossible, though. It made a certain amount of sense. But instead of pursuing that directly, he takes a sideways approach. "You said earlier that you were envious, sir. Envious of… Amber?"

His uncle smiles, not surprised by that question. "Not of their freedom of course, merely their steadfast belief in it," Brisbane replies. "It makes me feel young again."

The answer is as opaque to Kendall as the statement that prompted his question in the first place. He hesitates, then opts to just drop the subject for now and address something he felt more pressing. He walks closer to his mentor, his expression and voice earnest. "Regardless of all that, sir, the fact remains that this place will soon once again be the site of a war between Amber and some from Chaos. It would be wise for us to remove ourselves from the site of the upcoming conflict, and it is my duty, sir, to at least attempt to ensure your safety."

"Yes, I agree… Time for us to return home." Brisbane places a hand on his nephew's shoulder, feeling humbled by Kendall's concern for his safety. Yet something in those ancient eyes of his…. hesitates.

Were it not for Brisbane's obvious unease, Kendall would have been elated. He may have even let loose an extravagent display of excitement at the prospect of finally going home. Yet the younger Lord isn't exactly sure how or even whether he can address his mentor's concerns. And there's another issue that needed to be addressed… somehow. "Is it that you would like to prevent another war?" he asks after a moment, trying to divine what was troubling Brisbane.

His uncle smiles, amused by the question. "Coils of the Serpent, no. Amber's participation was assured, even if I failed in my assignment. Conflict to those types is a like drink which they must pour down every throat so all might join them in the fun." Brisbane wiggles his shoulders as he arches his back to gain a dignified posture once again. His old bones crack, making Kendall recall the last time he had a good old fashioned home-cooked bowl of Bone Soup. Snapping the bones apart to suck out the marrow, once the broth was consumed. Enjoying a book, as he did it, alone yet not really with servants about and his sister so near. Good times that will happen again soon.

Kendall nods, not entirely convinced, but deciding that Brisbane would speak of his concerns at some point if he felt the need. "Very well, sir. I'll begin making the arrangements. I expect we shall have enough time to vacate Amber. Did you learn anything helpful from the other House representatives at dinner tonight?"

"Helpful?" His uncle thinks about the question. "Not as much as I hoped, yet neither as gripping as they intended. Most are here to be entertained, which I must say these Amberites did accomplish with a uniqueness that should be applauded." Brisbane smiles, amused at least about this. "Even some asked about you, as to your statues to alliances of the more pleasurable sort."

"Yes, well, as to that, I have hope to have the Princess Margot accompany us back to Chaos," Kendall answers, completely matter of fact.

His Uncle seems surprised to hear that, a single brow shooting up a mere 1/8 of an inch. "I didn't know you where still seeing her after your, ah, difficulties."

"I spoke to her today," Kendall admits. "I was asked by the Messenger to steal her away from Amber. I knew already that she would likely be amenable to leaving, and so asking her seemed the most direct way of ensuring her cooperation. I am also concerned about the Veil. I don't know if she will be able to learn how to navigate it, but perhaps her presence will assist as well. Her heritage may prove a ward against the Veil's effects, especially as she soon will navigate their Pattern."

Listening, Brisbane's features become calm again, relaxed, interested. Yet his attention sharpens, eyes narrowing at certain words: Messenger, asking, and the Veil. His uncle considers all before answering. "We won't be traveling by the Veil, since it's the forward point of their battle lines. It will be a ship for us, which should be exciting. Seas of purest blue, and as still as glass."

Kendall's expression becomes dubious at mention of a ship and traveling by sea. He clearly has some questions of his own to ask about such a venture, but he waits respectfully for his Elder to finish. Brisbane smiles, taking pleasure in the unknown as substitution to his failures in Amber. "Now who was this Messenger?" his uncle asks.

"While you were at the event before, a three-winged crow came to the Tower, which spoke in the old tongue of the beasts," explains Kendall. "It came with a warning that an attack on Amber will soon be occurring, so we may be prepared. I inquired if there was anything I might contribute to the effort, and it told me to steal away the Princess Margot."

"Unusal," Brisbane remarks, mulling over his nephew's words. "A bold gamble, using a beast in a such a way." He pauses, letting himself follow the threads to other insights. "Personal, to you only yet worded in the way of Houses." He suddenly gives Kendall a boyish grin. "I do wonder if the thievery was more for your unhealthy desires or their need?"

The young Lord smiles at the question. "It's convenient for me on a number of levels," he admits. "I'm curious, though. If getting around the Veil is as simple as sailing a ship, would not the attackers choose that route? Why come over land this time?"

"I, in fact, asked the same," his uncle responds. "Turns out these Amberites can control this outlandishness they call weather." For him, home at their Ways, the worst 'weather' that could happen would be a bluster from the Abyss. "From my understanding, a storm at sea would be dreadful for large troop movements."

"I see," Kendall says, nodding with a distant look as he visualized what his uncle had just described for several heartbeats. "Have you a ship already in mind, or is that next on my list to do?"

"I've already secured a ride with another House," Brisbane answers. "I had thought it would be best to relax around our fellow kind, even if it's a minor house in the service of Hendrake. House Tinor was honored by our request to play host, and…." The old man pauses here to give his nephew a significant look. "Their Ladies aren't too distressing to one's senses with such a long journey ahead."

"Always a thing to bear in mind," Kendall agrees with all gravity, though it's clear he's amused. There's a brief pause. "Did you hear what the Amber child said in the ballroom?"

"No." His Uncle seems disturbed, perhaps even puzzled. "I heard her speak, yet I found myself unable to interpret the vocalizations with any coherent significance." He looks to his nephew, to be enlightened to this amusement. "I was not the only one at our table that had this difficulty."

Kendall blinks, nonplussed. "I'm sorry, sir. Are you saying you could not comprehend her words?" Though he had never known his uncle to hold to such elitism, it was not unknown for some of the Courts to feign a lack of understanding of 'primitive' or 'barbarous' speech.

"Correct," says Brisbane. "It was a most unpalatable experience during the meal. Ruined the night for me," he confesses.

The young Lord hesitates, unsure whether or not to admit that he had been able to understand the girl child; not sure what that said about him. But then, this was Brisbane… one of the few people he trusted. Probably the person he trusted most fully. Cautiously, he replies, "I was able to understand her. According to her, she brought her 'children' to Amber so that they could flourish, safely away from the Serpent."

"Flourish away from the Serpent?" Brisbane stutters out, as if the very idea was beyond belief. It takes a few deep breaths to compose himself before asking. "Are you certain you heard correctly?"

"Yes, sir. She believed that her children, as it were, could not flourish in Chaos." Though he of course would not do something as disrespectful as shrug, his tone conveys the same sense. "They speak of the Serpent's, ah, carnivorous habits, but it is possible there is more that I wasn't able to glean."

"That hasn't happened since the Royal Throne was established," Brisbane explains. "And if you go by Testament, our own ancestors who did so felt honored by the request." Then his expression turns rueful, and he adds, "Yet it was determined the practice was playing havoc with our efforts to constitute the bloodlines, so the Houses decided to have someone implore the Serpent to halt the practice."

"The House of Amber," Kendall finishes the thought for Brisbane. "The Royal House of Chaos."

"Dubious…" his uncle objects. "While the true name or names aren't recorded in any text I've seen, it had to have been one of the Greater Houses." Brisbane looks to his nephew. "Whom else could it have been?"

"I can't vouch for the accuracy of their claim. Only that the Being who spoke to me earlier makes the claim that this… that Amber and the people of its House are the Royal House of Chaos. She is the one who caused the Serpent to halt the practice, as you put it, and She it was that stole the Serpent's Eye," he responds.

"That has not been confirmed, of course," Brisbane points out. He pauses for thought then, for such men like him must try to keep an open mind in such affairs. "And even so, the Courts of Chaos need no such jesters before the Throne, nor upon its blood-scaled cushion issuing commands." He shares a smile with his nephew. "The other Houses already do a fine enough job at that."

"But if Chanicut would care to put a puppet on the Throne of Chaos, it may be one from Amber would do much better than one from Chaos," Kendall points out.

"Prince Brand himself put forward such a argument to your parents," Brisbane remarks. "Though not quite in that candid way of yours. I would advise not to have anything to do with Brand. Even more so after tonight's events. I take it, you think Margot has the necessary abilities, even if you dismiss her youth?"

"What abilities need she have to be a figurehead?" Kendall replies. "Obviously, she is not entirely suited just yet. But with some coaching, she should be able to perform adequately, perhaps even admirably. She has learned much since we met, and quickly."

He pauses for one beat of the heart. "It was merely a thought," he adds.

Brisbane considers it for a moment. "As possible as any other candidate I suppose, yet the Princess would have to have a level of commitment to the task that I doubt she would be able to maintain." He looks to Kendall, watching his face closely. "And without that, she is useless to Chanicut."

Kendall nods. He's aware of the way things work, and if he's personally invested in having Margot succeed in Chaos, he doesn't reveal it at this time. He thinks about Brisbane's response for a short time, though. "You have doubts based on what, sir?" he asks, not at all meaning disrespect, but really curious to know. As far as he knew, Brisbane hadn't so much as said good day to the Princess.

Brisbane, his proud and prim uncle, raises a brow as to the question. "Because of you, my boy," he remarks with a smile. "Any girl good enough for our Throne would have never allowed her parents to treat you so. Even as a marionette, House Chanicut requires a certain… strength. To do otherwise, well, that would be like asking a master puppeteer to use mere twine and sticks."

Kendall absorbs that answer in silence, thinking carefully on Brisbane's words for a time. He takes a few steps toward the window, then paces back. "Your point is well taken. She is sorely lacking in the proper training for leadership and responsibility; a shortfall due to her parents' decision to raise her in Shadow, no doubt. Why such an innocent would be brought anywhere near Court is beyond any reasoning I can imagine, but it was my thought that this could be remedied. I have cultivated her trust, and certain unplanned events have aided in that effort. I would be held responsible, I am certain, for the success or failure of the endeavor."

A dozens breaths pass before his uncle responds. "Tis good for young hands to stay busy with productive projects when not busy with House duties." Another brief pause for thought, before adding, "And she is exotic enough to keep one's interest kindled long enough for a child or two. You could do worse…"

The events involving a certain Knight of Amber are still recent enough that the younger Chaosian is not able to remain completely unperturbed. He winces, looking away off through the window to the ocean beyond. Any mention of children would conjure up that failure in his memory for some time to come.

Even so, he knows that in the eyes of his father, his ideas must be backed by reason and planning, not passion or fanciful optimism. "Should that be required of us, it could easily be accomplished," he agrees after regaining his composure during the short pause. He turns his attention back to Brisbane, and a flash of his normal ironic humor appears in a brief grin. "And I venture to guess, based on what I know of her, rectifying the Princess' shortcomings will keep me busy for quite some time."

"I'm sure her bedroom skills are hideous," jokes his uncle, enjoying this time with his nephew. "Perhaps one could ask his sister to help, to at least mold that into something passable."

That suggestion provokes thought as well. Diona wasn't always the most patient or warm of companions, but she could be a valuable aid in trying to create a proper lady out of the Princess Margot. And it was possible, perhaps, she would do it as a favor to her favorite brother. The request would require careful phrasing and timing. Something to think on.

Brisbane gives a shrug. "That alone could earn her a place in the Royal Court, if only a minor one." With reflection, the old man changes his opinion. "Tis doubtful she could tolerate the Hendrake Maidens, and them pawing her."

"Not likely," Kendall agrees, still with humor. "And who can blame her? Their affections barely register as civilized during the best of Turns. Still, right now even that sounds appealing right now. Like… home."

"Indeed…" Brisbane agrees. "I can't wait to soak my feet in a bowl of fresh Glirith blood." Which by saying, shows how old his uncle is getting. "I would advise taking your 'project' to our Black Zone Way to ease her in gently. It wouldn't do anyone good if the poor dear got herself into a fit just because some hell pup nipped her in hello."

The young Lord nods, laughing now. "Please, Brisbane. You think me completely without sense?"

"If I really did think that, you would be still at home attending to your mother inclinations," his uncle responds.

"Thank you, sir. I agree, she comported herself well when speaking with my mother, but that was in a private audience here in the confines of Amber. It's cause for cautious optimism, but I daren't bring her into Chanicutways proper until I have some assurance she would survive passing the doorway without being eaten by the Gorth."

"And it would be a shame to give such a loyal creature a tummy ache besides."

"No doubt," Kendall agrees.

A short pause ensues, as Brisbane sips again of his wine, and then the younger Lord adds, "Unless there is something else you need, I should probably start the arrangements for leaving."

His uncle dismisses him with a slight wave with his right hand, but remains in the room as his nephew departs. Standing there, framed in the candlelight and the boring backdrop of this dreadful place called Amber. Which in a few Cycles, would only be a bad memory.

*As in, putting your very life on a 1000 to 1 shot.

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One Last Errand

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