Confusion & Bewilderment

Alone. Margot chuckled, shaking her head, feeling every bit of the insanity as she just witnessed. She picked up the bracelet and examined it. "Why must you rue and torment me?" she scoffed at herself, contemplating tossing it out of the porthole… but, her love for her grandfather and this being the last thing he gave her… she didn't know if she could part with it. Instead, she moved to one of the trunks and in one of the secret compartments, she stuffed it, where the small blade he gave her when she at the academy lay to rest. Locking them both up, she closed the trunk and for a moment, contemplated whether it would be easier to just end it now.

Wandering the room, she tidied, picking up fallen chairs and tumbled goblets and the carafe of wine. A lipped tray was conveniently placed for such things, as was a towel she found and she mopped up any spills. Of course, that would be Rory's or Desrianne's duty; but she did not wish to see them and the look of disappointment dulling their gaze either.

Eventually, with glass and bottle, she moved to the vanity and sat staring into the glass. Spikes and thorns had reached from the wall and almost brushed against her shoulder and arm. She could lean just a touch and feel their prick…

"Diona." She stared into the mirror as if she were staring into a portal. "Why did you leave? I gave you my word that the Hendrake would not touch you and such an abrupt departure has upset your brother." She sighed, pouring deeply into the vessel and drinking deeply from it. "I am Amber's Child, but I am not an Amberite. I do not play by their lies or their treachery. I am sorry, deeply, deeply sorry, for what happened. I hope someday I will understand what happened so that it will never happen again."

"I do not know why you did not take retribution, but I am grateful for your mercy. I don't know how I will be able to prove to you the truth of my sentiment without falling on my sword because there are simply only so many ways I can apologize and so many ways I can beg forgiveness and so many ways I can explain the purity of my intent."

She drank again, staring deeply into the mirror, "I will tell you this… I love your brother with all that I am and he has my undying loyalty. It will not falter. I have sacrificed my entire world and my family to be by his side."

Margot took a steadying breath, "So, believe me when I say, I wish no harm to anyone he cares so deeply for… especially you." Her thoughts briefly followed the daisy chain of how his affections, though genuine, did not match hers. That wasn't important now.

"I don't know if you can even hear me." she shook her head, refilling the glass. "It seems I've angered everyone so that the ship shoots spikes at me." Another deep quaff. "Perhaps you were correct, I am beneath your brother. I am … what did he say … 'country quaint', with Amber being hardly large enough to be considered a backwater hamlet in Chaos. But I'm willing to do anything for him; and even that may not be enough…"

With that, she rose, walking with the goblet in one hand and approaching the spikes with the other. Razor sharp, a pad was pricked, then another, and then another. "No good deed goes unpunished," she muttered, the heady wine taking its effect. With drawing her hand, open wide, she used all her force and impaled her hand, palm and fingers until the spikes poked through the back of her hand…

The pain was blinding, and still, she watched detached as blood flowed freely to feed the ship for the trauma it took from her charge; pain and suffering for her penance. "Admit. No. One." she managed in broken Chaosian as she withdrew her hand with a sickening sucking noise. That's when she began to bleed; though she wasn't particularly worried, somewhere in this prison there were healing spiders that had a taste for her blood. Calmly, she walked to the table and wrapped her hand in the towel, tightening it until the spiders followed the trail she was leaving to their delicacy.

She returned to the wall, bottle in one hand, the other clutching a towel and held to her breast. "I will never betray you, Kendall. I choose my pain, no one else." She stared at the wall, light-headed from wine, adrenaline and loss of blood, "I chose you over all else, over everything. I have never lied to you. I have never portrayed falsehoods. And still… you believe me to do so with the ease of blinking, or breathing, or the beating of my heart. I am not like you. No other is like me." She sipped from the bottle, "What more must I do to prove to you that I will never bring you harm? That I would rather sacrifice myself; die, even at your own hand, than break my loyalty to you?"

Another sip and her hand extends once more to the spikes. She sat down, back to the spikes, eyes closed and her legs pulled to her chest. "Trap me in the spines." She commanded, hoping for a briar bramble, thorny and not caring whether she's pierced as she entangled and caged.

What she hoped, desired, in the darkness of the mood that wraps itself about her shoulders, about her head, so to lose herself in its folds. But Rhercyn isn't that type of ship. In fact, the branches of the door begin to bloom in a profusion of, flowers while the nest of Qur start to sing. Iridescent butterflies pull free from the opening blooms to float about the room as the windows reform to give a much more pleasant view of the ocean.

There swimming in the ship's wake, is a trio of nymphs who seemed intrigued by Margot. Shy sea creatures, drawn by the scent of blood yet still able to savor the beauty of the view. Margot, the flowers, the butterflies the singing… even the ship.

The Princess chuckled ruefully at the secret garden that blossomed before her. "I cannot even command a living ship to give me a prison that I deserve… why is it that the cosmos is so eager to foil my good intent and so reluctant to let me suffer at my own hand?"

She looked at the nymphs, "Hello." She greeted simply, setting the bottle down to pet a nearby Qur.

Her eyes followed the butterflies, distracted; perhaps the fanciful, beautiful, tender place was to be her prison. Take away all thorns and she could not offer her pound of flesh? She still had her first blade… after all, was she not nothing more than a commodity, something to be held out as bait to be traded and sought after? That is what Diona implied.

As the Qur purrs with the attention, the center nymph of flowing brown hair calls back. "Greeting, She of the Land."

The other two nymphs giggle in that shy nervous way of young girls. One diving under the waves as a school of fish swim near. The other swims near her sister, to whisper something in her ear.

"Yes, it would be very impolite if you were to eat her," she scolds, to which the younger joins her other sister beneath the waves.

"And I'm afraid I would make you very ill," Margot remarked with a hint of irony. "You should swim far, far away before any ill fate falls upon you; I seem a magnet for the foul and fetid."

She sips from the bottle and the picks up the Qur to snuggle its warm softness in her arms. "Be gone, nymphs and enjoy your swim and freedom before another changes their mind and ensnares you for their game."

The nymph hears the dread in Margot's warning… yet with a flick of her tail, she seems unimpressed. "Then leave the Land, join us in the waves. Let the ocean wash away what ails, and let all who chase see only waves."

"No. My life is on the Land. That is where I wish for it to be and where my heart belongs. Please, leave me in peace." Margot closed her eyes. "I do not wish to have to ask politely again."

With a splash of her tail indeed that is what the last nymph does. The Qur in Margot's arms gives a cough in distress, its lower abdomen getting bumpy under her touch.

"Poor thing," Margot's brow draw inward with worry. Even under the influence of Chaosian wine and her own personal Abyss - she chuckled at the analogy given previously it would have been something as terrivying and simple as Hell - "We need to get you some help." She stated decisively.

Hindered by too much drink and her impaled hand, Margot was forced to leave the bottle on the floor so that she could cradle both wrapped hand and Qur to her chest. "Someone will know how to make you better… I'm sorry I don't know how." she told the sweet pet, bearing its weight on the wounded hands forearm so that she could stroke it affectionately with her good hand.

"Open." She commanded, as Kendall had earlier, letting the floral door openbefore stumbling through it in search of someone who could help. Despite her instinct to call out for Kendall, she wandered to the deck in search of him to seek advice on how to make the Qur feel better.

Before she makes it too far down the dim corridor on her way on deck, another presence looms from a side passage, tall and semi-familiar even in poor light. Maybe it was the way he carried himself or how he moved, but Margot recognizes Rory before he reaches her and pauses for a bow. "Princess…" he greets her.

"Oh. Rory." There was distress in her voice. "It's the Qur. Something's wrong with it. It's sick…. and I… I… I don't know what to do."

The Chaosian servant reaches out to claim the animal from Margot, holding it and stroking it comfortingly while also examining it with careful fingers. "The Qur are very delicate, lady. Even a small amount of upheaval in their vicinity can cause them to become ill. That is their purpose, as early warning."

It was not difficult to discern, even in the relative dimness of the hallway, that not all was well with the princess. She reeked of blood and alcohol to the sensitive nose of the servant. "Perhaps we should have a closer look back in the cabin, where there is more light…" he suggests carefully.

"Of course. Nymphs came to the portal. They wanted me to leave with them. They tried to tempt me to join them in the waves, that's when the Qur snugled against me. But I told them to go away." Margot explained as she strode with purpose the few quick steps to the cabin. Once more she commanded the door to open, the few words she had learned coming easier to her tongue. "Please, Rory. Help it." she pleaded. Margot had grown attached to the small furball and couldn't bear to see the poor thing pass. Not one more disaster because of her…

Once in the light of the cabin, Margot's bloodstained state was very visible, though perhaps the princess was unaware of it. The wine bottle had slid a little towards the wall with the motion of the ship, but still stood upright on the floor. Rory's dextrous fingers soothed the tiny creature, which had begun to coo, though weakly.

"Princess, the Qur are sensitive to all manner of negative things in their environment, including the moods and distress of the people nearest. Are you… distressed?" The question was asked for politeness, because anyone with one eye open could see that there was something up. Still, he wasn't given to assuming.

"Oh." she answered softly. "Kendall only mentioned that they were used to signal toxins." Her voice was distant as she fought back the tears, realizing that as she had suspected it was _her imperfections_ that were harming the sweet creature. Moving toward the bottle, she picked it up by the neck and returned it to the stable divot in the table. Almost child-like, she hid her hand and her poor attempt to bandage what she had done to punish herself for transgressions committed out of ignorance.

"Toxins can take many forms," the servant replies. "Some of the most insidious are the kind that are born of the heart and seep into one's very skin."

"You are very gentle, Rory. And patient. And so many other things that … you are a good man. I admire you, Rory." she said, her back to him. "Yes, I'm distressed. But, you know that. You are trained to miss nothing; perhaps that is why you ushered me back to this cabin and it is likely one of your many laudible qualitites that allowed me to be so easily led."

She was light headed, not knowing if she wanted more wine, had too much, lost too much blood, or simply was too overwrought with emotion to manage any more. The gentle sway of the ship did little to help the weakness in her knees. Feeling her knees wanting to go, instinct sent her punctured hand out to the bedpost as she sat - well collapsed - onto the bed, her head resting against the bedpost as her hand slid down.

"Maybe it would be best if you took the Qur out of here. I don't want to harm it further," she says. "I don't want to harm anyone… I only want to help. The Nymphs wanted to eat me, then wanted to take me with them. And here I am… because despite my weaknesses, despite my faults and failings, I want to help. Or die trying… knowing that I was true to my heart and that means being at Kendall's side. I swear my love, my heart, and my loyalty to him. I know it will be tested, I know that he cannot offer the same in return, but none will turn me against him. None."

Rory pauses a heartbeat to think, and then he takes the Princess' suggestion/order. Whispering in the little creature's ear, he sends it through the door, along with any of its brethren still in residence. Sending them all to the cubby he shared with Siorys. They could be returned to the nest here when things had been sorted.

That being done, he fetches more of the refreshing water he had used to cleanse his master's wounds just the day before. He brings the basin and cloth over and crouches to set the bowl down by Margot's feet. "May I tend your hand, princess?" he inquires, looking up at her shadowed eyes.

She hesitated, offering her shaking hand timidly. "Of course, Rory. I apologize for the inconvenience. My thoughts were upon the Qur's well-being, not my own."

"Of course," he replies. He takes the hand and gently unbuttons her sleeve so he can push the stained and stiffening fabric back from her wrist. Then he begins bathing the hand, wiping blood away from the garish wound. Though the spiders had frantically woven a thick mat of webs around the abused flesh, it still had bled freely for a time and even now seeped slowly.

"How did this wound occur, Princess?" he inquires, looking surprised as he takes in the extent of it. Surprised to find her severely injured and alone. He looks up at her. "Shall I fetch m'lord for you?"

"No. He need not know of this." Margot answered, her voice distant, knowing that Rory would share his findings and whatever she disclosed regardless of her pleas.

"I let my mind wander and in doing so commited a vile transgression against the Lady Diona. She had right to my blood, your Lord, despite his rage and grave disappointment in my accidental action, stood between his sister and me. I tried to accept my punishment and let the Lady choose justice and taste my blood or mercy; but Kendall refused to move. The act only dishonored the both of us."

Were it not for her speaking in the first person, it could have been any retelling of any tale; no emotion found. "Diona blinked out; Kendall stormed out enraged. I sealed myself up in the cabin, its walls turned to spikes. When I was away at academy, I used to speak to my mother through the mirror, like a trump I suppose, and so, with wine bottle and glass, I sat before the vanity, in vain, and tried to address the Lady Diona and explain what had happened in some futile hope that she may actually hear and know that I speak from the heart."

"But she did not return and claim her due. She did not acknowledge my offer, my sacrifice. And so…" she huffed a chuckle that bore no amusement in her monotone delivery, "There is a saying, 'no good deed goes unpunished.' If the Lady did not wish to claim her pound of flesh, then I would give it of my own volition."

"It was easier than I expected…" she explained, "And open palm, full force and the next thing I knew the wall's points were visible through the back of my hand. I removed my hand and wrapped it. The spiders would get to me… in time."

She sighed, "I can only apologize so often. I can only beg forgiveness so much. I have chosen Kendall and a life among Chaosians over my family and my world. I don't know what more I can possibly do to prove my dedication and loyalty or my desire to see Kendall happy…" She swallowed, "The Lady made it abundantly clear that I was beneath him and would be nothing to him, regardless whether I bore him a child."

"Why is it such a foreign concept for people to understand that I'm aware of this notion and accept it?" she asked Rory, "Is it so hard to believe that I chose who would pull my strings rather than have that decided for me? How does that make me more the fool because I'm aware of my fate rather than pretending that my lover truly feels the same of me as I him?"

As she delivers her tale, the servant carefully wipes away all the blood with the silky cloth, leaving her skin feeling tingly and refreshed. The scent of the water rises to her nostrils like mist from a rain-washed meadow. Questions bubbled in his mind as she spoke, bursting in his thoughts and combining with others to make a fair froth of mental activity, but he remained quiet throughout her recitation.

The servant was there to be a supportive and relaxing presence, not an intrusive one. So her final question it a little startling, and his eyes widen as he glances up from his work to see if she was being rhetorical or if she really was looking for an answer. It was rare for his taciturn Lord to speak so freely or to seek his counsel.

Seeing she was sincere, Rory blinks in thought. He had only the princess' account of what had occurred, along with what he knew of his master and the Lady Diona. "It may be… that you were not the one being tested," he ventures after a time.

"I'm sorry, I do not understand, Rory. Why would the Lady test her brother? He reveres her, loves her.. she means everything to him. Her respect, her pride, her love… these are what he desires." There was a hint of pain, but more telling was the lack of emotion and resignation of at best becoming second important in his world.

"The Lady is very fond of m'lord." That would be stating the obvious. "She enjoys baiting him."

"Then why torment him if she loves him?" Margot fretted, trying to understand. "I apologize, I have no siblings… or at least… none that can be claimed as such with a relationship. There are centuries apart in ages, others I've never met. I grew up an only child. If he let her harm me, then what does that prove? If he stood against her as he did, what does that prove?"

His master had said that Rory was to help the princess, to be at her disposal inasmuch as that was possible. The servant contemplates this as well as the questions she was asking. He stands, picking up the basin as he does so, and carries it over to set it on the table.

Going to one of her luggage chests, he opens it and pulls out a change of clothing as he answers. "Those things may prove all, or nothing. I cannot say what is in the mind of the Lady Diona, nor of m'lord. But he is in a hard place, between the both of you. It may have been a test of his loyalty, or it may have been a whim, due to madness."

He selects a long, full divided skirt of pale acquamarine from the chest, along with the matching jacket, and brings them over to lay on the bed next to her. "Perhaps if you share with me more about what sort of vile transgression you committed, I may have better insight," he suggests.

Margot stood obediently. It seemed either she was in shock or she had truly become accustomed to having Rory's presence even in her modesty. She allowed him to unfasten the tiny buttons one-by-one and remove the spoiled garments as she spoke, knowing that Rory would not see anything beyond limbs and a torso; nothing attractive or beautiful or alluring.

"She was hurting, distressed," the princess says. "Not behaving as one would expect. Kendall was concerned with her lucidity; a valid concern given the strangeness of her behavior. I was hoping that maybe… there was something that I would see that Kendall could not. She spoke of strange powers, old powers. I was simply contemplating, wondering, considering how I would do such a thing. I am not full-blooded, you see, and part of my heritage is of another magical race. A true race, like Amberites or Chaosians. It is a magic that I have shared with Kendall many times; unobtrusive. My fingers danced along a charm bracelet that my grandfather gave me."

A sadness fills her voice along with no small amount of remorse. "All I wanted to do was try to ease Diona's suffering and in doing that, ease some of Kendall's distress. That was my motive, that was what was in my heart. I had hoped that Fae eyes would bring a different insight, a different perspective. I pricked my finger on the castle charm on my bracelet, blood touched the charm, and then the next thing I knew… there was a flash of red and gold and the Pattern was summoned."

"I don't know how it happened," she insists. "I was more surprised than the siblings; and as quickly as it appeared it was gone. The Lady drew blade — or formed the blade from her hand and Kendall stepped between us. There was no small amount of hostility in the room. I don't know how to summon the Pattern… I swear on my life. I was not trying to do such a thing. And I was willing to let the Lady claim her due."

She closes her eyes and takes a gulping breath. "I knew Dara would come storming in and I ordered her out of the cabin after she burst the door down, as I vowed I would do. There was not to be any interference between the insult I commited inadvertently. I placed the balance of my life in Diona's sense of honor, justice, and mercy… and I did not back away even when Kendall would not budge when I tried to have him stand aside so that he did not have to choose between his sister and his… investment. She said something to Kendall that I didn't understand. She seemed amused, and then she vanished and Kendall stormed out."

"I would never, ever, do anything intentionally to harm Kendall," Margot finishes, her voice filled with conviction. "And that includes seeing to his sister's wellness. But, I'm an outsider. I am a child of Amber, therefore I have to have treachery in my heart." She breathes out again. "I don't. I don't know why that is such an impossible notion."

"I have no insights in regards the Pattern, but keep in mind the Lady Diona had just met you," Rory begins, speaking carefully, trying to explain without offending. "No matter what m'lord knows of you or your heart, she does not. You are of Amber, and we of Chaos are not trusting. We do not ask first whether the one who cast a spell intended to do so. We defend and, as the case may warrant, retaliate. If the Lady is mad, then even more care must be taken."

"I understand that," the princess agrees. "And I was willing to pay for my crime against her. I did not back down, nor did I utter threats. I tried to explain as best as I was able, was willing to suffer consequence for even the slightest, unintended infraction. I did not cower. I met her crazed gaze. Yes, I was terrified; yes I knew she would have taken my life so much as she would have taken her next breath. That wasn't the point. I was wrong and I was trying to make amends or face the result of my carelessness; no matter how noble the gesture or concept."

Margot sighed heavily. "I do not know how to make amends."

Rory helps her into clean clothes with efficient dispatch, as businesslike as she would expect of him at this point. "So you caused injury to yourself as a means to… make amends? Is self-injury in this circumstance a common action?"

"In some cultures where I grew up, the dishonor I caused… I should have claimed my own life in a very sophisticated ritual. I am not of that culture; but self-punishment is still acceptable when there is no other option is available to prove one's remorse and conviction… and honor."

"Would you have preferred if the Lady had claimed your life?" Rory asks, still curious.

"I would have preferred that Kendall not have to stand between us. By doing so," her eyes fell in shame. "He had to choose and regardless of whether he was protecting me as his lover or his investment or just being stubborn… the result only added tension and conflict between siblings so in love with one another. In my eyes, that only aggravated the situation rather than alleviate it."

It seemed that Margot did not see the action taken by Kendall as one to protect her so much as one to stand up to Diona, prove that he had done fine without her influence and that he needed to trust her in how to best manage the situation. Like, he was no longer a child; but an adult; and she — Margot — was his tool to be used with purpose, not Diona's to dispatch.

"I see," Rory replies, enlightened and pleased to have that clarified. Finishing with her clothes, he leads her to the mirror so she can inspect herself.

"Tis probable you will have another, better opportunity to seek settlement of the matter between you and the Lady," he adds, brushing some lint from her back. "The Lady is a periodic visitor to m'lord's ways."

The reflection searched the other's eyes. "What would you do, Rory?" the meekness in her voice sought the intimate counsel of a father-figure rather than a manservant. Without her bracelet, which she would never wear again after what happened, she didn't know where she could turn to for that advice.

A sad smile forms. "I would ask my grandfather, even rhetorically, but… that would require my bracelet, and I won't put it on if it will in inadvertently summon the Pattern," she confesses, ashamed.

"The bracelet is a gift from your grandfather? Prince Bleys of Amber? I would not spurn such a gift too quickly," Rory says, meeting her eyes in the mirror, his expression solemn. "I would investigate it and how best to use it. We don't hide knives or swords in drawers after we cut ourselves; we learn to have more care when using them. And I would suggest you speak to someone who is knowledgeable about the Pattern, so to prevent such a thing from happening again. As I said, I have little insight in that area, but if the Pattern is anything at all like other higher powers, it will influence everything you do."

Slowly she rose, uncertainty plain in her expression. Moving to where she had locked away the bracelet, she retrieved it and held it out to Rory to see. Slowly, she began to explain what each charm signified, from the teddy bear, to the crystal heart, the sliver of metal that represented a sword, the book, the pearl, the faerie, and finally the castle. Her entire life, chronicled on a single piece of jewelry. There was no small amount of sadness as she explained the pieces.

"Would you please?" she asked softly, holding the bracelet out in her palm.

Rory hesitates for a mere heartbeat, hesitant to touch something closely associated with the Pattern, but then reason reasserts itself. She had worn that bracelet many times and no harm had come to either himself or his lord. So he accepts the jewelry, manipulating the tiny clasp with nimble fingers and encircling her delicate wrist again.

Once done, he looks up at her again. "Princess, all that you say and do, your words and very being, are saturated with a sense of despair. A despair so acute the Qur were unable to bear it. You say you knew accompanying m'lord to Chaos would be difficult, and so it has proved so far. He has told you that Chaos is a hard place, and the people who survive there are equally hard. I don't ask this to test you, but to help you. Now that you have made it this far, are you still sure this is what you want to do?"

"I am," she answered without hesitation. "May I…" she looked up at him with uncertainty. "May I hug you?"

He nods, accepting her embrace. Though societal strictures might lead one to think such things are unheard of, Rory knows how to give and receive a hug. He pats her back gently.

Margot clings to the paternal figure; a surrogate father by any other means. "Thank you, Rory," she mumbles, her head on his shoulder. "I apologize for inconveniencing you. But, at the same time, I am very grateful for your time and attention. Your presence is very … soothing." Slowly, she released him.

"You will share this with Kendall, won't you?" She wasn't angry, it was merely a question of confirmation.

"Share what?" he asks. "What you say to me is in confidence, apart from direct concern to m'lord's safety or the welfare of Chanicut."

She smiled at him with great affection, kissing him on the cheek. "Thank you, Rory." She released him, "I think it would be best if I took some fresh air. Would you join me? I am unfamiliar with the ship and do not wish to wander to places I am not welcome."

He steps back and bows. "I would be pleased to attend you, Princess," he agrees. "Would you like to go on deck, or to another observation portal?"

"Either would be wonderful. I just believe," she glanced around the room, stifling a shiver, "That I've spent enough time in this room for a while. A change in scenery would do me well." Moving to where her cloak lay across a chair, she lifted it to wrap around her shoulders, forgetting herself and that Rory would finish the task before she had hardly begun.

That is, in fact, what happens. The cloak is plucked from her hands with dispatch and laid over her shoulders, adjustments made, and hair laid gently over all. He precedes her to the door, opening it and bowing her through before following her back into the passageway. "There is no place like the deck of a ship at sea to have the winds clear one's mind," he comments.

"I am told I have an uncle that spend all of his time on the sea, but I've never met him." Margot explains. "It is beautiful. You may not believe this, but my father, when I was little, no more than 5, used to get me up before dawn and bundle me up, and we'd ride to a pond. It looked like glass and the steam would rise from it, the mist and fog taller then me so that I would get lost and call out to my father. We'd put our boat in and fish. Well, he mostly fished, I ate honeycakes and drank hot apple cider and watched the world wake up. But I did catch fish, too. Just baby ones that had to be put back with their mothers."

It was a fond memory; one that spoke of joys lost, innocence shattered. "But, that was the closest I really got to the ocean until coming to Amber."

Rory makes a murmur of acknowledgment as she tells her story, listening attentively as she leads the way towards the deck.

"Where is the best view from the deck that is granted to passengers?" Margot inquired. "The past, present or future?" she pointed indicating the back of the boat, the side and the front with each indication of time. The sun was bright, the living ship ripe with blossoms and buzzing with creatures. "Please, I leave myself in your capable hands, be my guide."

With the air scented by the sea, and the boat's own floral weaved about the doorway, its a relaxing few steps into the warm sunlight of midday. Lord Brisbane at a nearby rail, watching the horizon in silent meditation as Kendall is talking to his sister on the prow. Diona is dressed differently, and the conversation seems most gracious even as Kendall looks a bit distress about something he just said.

Of the crew, the Hooded Men go about their tasks as the ship's Captain is on the aft deck talking to the steer-woman about today's course. A pair of gulls float near, upon the same wind that keeps the sails alive with motion and purpose.

Rory shoots a quick glance at the princess as they both pass into the sunlight, easily observing her reaction to seeing the two siblings in conversation. Neither other Chaosian had noticed her appearance as yet, but Brisbane was nearby. He thinks briefly on her request, to be her guide. Touching her arm gently to get her attention, he nods to the older Chaosian Lord, before leading her towards him.

With obedient grace, Margot is led to Lord Brisbane and waits quietly to be addressed. She supposed it was a mixed blessing that she had developed her ability to mask her true feelings from completely showing on her face in such a small amount of time. With no outward signs of shame or negativity, she had a warm, fond smile for the elder statesmen as she waited for him to acknowledge her presence.

"Yes, Princess…" the elderly gentleman says after a dozen breaths. "Of what service do you require, on this fine day?"

Rory bows to the elder Lord, and takes a step back so that he is behind Margot again. His eyes wander around the deck of the ship, taking in all the activities inherent in being on board a ship currently at sail, pausing on the small clear space where the two siblings once more chatted. The crew gave all those from Chanicut a wide berth. Then the servant brought his attention back to Brisbane and Margot. He vaguely hoped the older Chaosian Lord would be able and willing to answer some of the princess' questions. Being an initiate of a greater Power, he might have some helpful insights. If not, the older Lord had already shown himself to be a kindly teacher and mentor to Kendall, so even just passing a short conversation with him might be reassuring to the princess.

"I require nothing, Lord Brisbane. I hope to share the beautiful scene and perhaps you would grace me with some of your wisdom." She smiled, but her eyes fell to his chest before turning out to the sea.

In response, he begins to qoute.

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

So Lord Brisbane ends, this odd poem now finished. Whatever wisdom within hers to find, as he adds, "A sorrowful man named Poe wrote that, who died in the street not much older then you, Princess."

Completely enchanted by meter and cadence, Margot listened as the story unraveled, breathless as her mind filled with images. So as not to betray her questioning gaze, she sought comforts in the deep, endless landscape of blue reaching for the horizon. "It is only sad if you think of the loss… there was a love and loyalty that transcended death. Nothing to break their bond to one another; nothing could sever their connection. The tale is tragic, but it is not sad."

She was silent for several moments, quietly wondering if there was comfort to be had in the sharing of the poem or if it was a gentle way for Kendall's father figure to explain the unique dynamic between brother and sister. The question didn't dare form on her lips; Margot simply pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders as she enjoyed the view. "Are you an expert on this poet, Poe? Do you know other works that he has written?"

"No…" The elderly man admits. "In the travel to your home, I came across a book that had some of his poems inside. In the Courts, it would be judged a tad childish by most. For while we have many skilled and honored Poets, I can not shake this belief that when your life is just a thread… it adds a strength to your words."

"You recite the work well." The young woman compliments, "As if it holds meaning in your heart. Is it special to you in some fashion? Do you have an Annabelle Lee?" She asked softly, her eyes out to the sea so as to give the elder his privacy with her intimate question. Her tone remained gentle, the askance that of a child seeking council and understanding and perhaps through the experience of others, the ability to discover her own path to travel.

"No, not really… And unless one was truly foolishly honest, only the tasks my House had set for me." He reconsiders, his eyes still upon the sea. "One of these Cycles you will learn the same as well."

"You seem like a man that has known the type of love conjured in the words you shared." Margot stole a glance at the man, shifting his coat to bring her scarf around his neck to keep him warmer. "You deserve happiness and to have those pretty eyes of yours twinkle like the stars above. I hope your return to home means that you return to open arms and a loving home. You have been away far too long."

She turned, pulling the hood up and letting the wind keep it in place, her back to the railing and her hands stuffed deep into her sleeves to keep each other warm. It was painfully obvious that her eyes avoided the siblings just beyond them, and that her attention was either focused upon the horizon or Lord Brisbane; the distant or the immediate. Nothing more.

"To what I deserve, I leave that to my betters within our House." Brisbane says after a moment, his eyes cast upon a trio of shapes under the water. "But I do look forward to retirement and later, teaching." Slowly, so not to alarm her, he gives a few light pats to one of her hands. "I'm sure under my nephew's tutelage, we will see much of each other till your debut in the Royal Court." The elderly man like a father, tames a windblown strand of her hair with a tuck behind one of her ears. "And there, I expect great things…"

Margot smiles at the elder man's touch. It was uncanny how he at times reminded her of her grandfather. At times it soothed her heart, and others, it made it ache more. This was one of those soothing moments. "It would be my desire that our time together would in fact grow, not diminish, once all was settled and official in the Royal Courts." His hand tamed her hair with a loving tenderness reserved for a daughter or grand-daughter and on impulse, she brushed her lips chastely to his cheek. "You are a kind man and have treated me well. I would hate to lose contact with someone who I hold as dear to me, as if they were my own kin."

"The Cycles will bring what they will bring," he answers.

Two figures embrace as the ship's prow sends a spray of sea wave high above their head. The water sprays dramatically and Margot retreats, inadvertently spying the embrace. Once more, she turns her eyes outward to the sea, trying hard not to let the doubt and shame corrupt her imagination. Nor did she wish to concern herself with the Courts and what that may bring. "What is it you have desire to teach, My Lord?"

"What do you desire to learn?"

A curious look crosses the young woman's face. "Well, as much as I am able." she answers simply. "History, culture, art. I would like to know what happened between Chaos and Amber to make their people's such bitter rivals and vehement enemies." She added sadly. "It seems terribly wasteful of energy and resource to do so when so much may be gained by exploring opportunity. Instead, it is my uninformed and untrained perspective that both sides would rather rally around ancient transgressions in vain attempts to keep the sabre rattling visible and the treachery alive. We would all benefit more if we stopped seeking blood as the solution to problems older than day's dawning."

"And what if, its mere boredom?" He asks. "A means to pass the time, between your people and mine."

"Then I do believe it is time that we evolve past blood sport as the favored choice of entertainment," Margot replied.

"Ah.. to be young again." Brisbane replies with a smile, his tone not patronizing, more wishful for a time when the world was new to even he.

A little distance away, Kendall and his sister turn away from each other, and he begins making his way along deck to where Margot and Brisbane are speaking together. As he nears, Margot can see he is carrying a Qur, the furry creature nestled against his body in the crook of one arm. To all appearances, the younger Chaos Lord is once more his usual calm, serious self.

Margot looked up at the elderly man, a smile forming. "Dreams are not for youth alone; they are the creation of those wise and experienced; a gift of inspiration can shine brighter than the sun." Her eyes turned to the sea, "If well placed and generously received."

"Yet dreams can become nightmares," He replies." both for the young, and old."

"Ah…" Brisbane adds, seeing his nephew making his way over. "I believe it may be time for me to find another dance partner." He looks to the wheel. "See if the Captain has any ideas to our next port of call."

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Reconciliation

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