Dinner with Eric's Court

The two Chaosians follow the others' lead through into the dining room, taking their seats at the royal table. Both wait for the Monarchs to sit before settling into their own seats, and Kendall waits for Brisbane to seat himself before making himself comfortable in the chair next to him. He looks up and down the table for a moment, as well as at the other tables, carefully straightening his robes absently, looking curiously to see who his right-hand neighbor will be.

It is Briar, she of few words and penetrating stares, who walks to the table and seats herself with the grimly resigned air of someone who is expecting a migraine to strike at any moment and finds herself utterly bereft of Excedrin. Glancing around, however, she notes Kendall looking her way, and smiles an unexpectedly charming, lopsided smile. "Children, you know." She nods down the table toward where Juliette and Hannah are still giggling madly. "From the way you puzzle over them, I'm guessing either the young of Chaos are very different, or else they're not customarily trotted out in mixed company?" She raises her eyebrows inquiringly, seeming genuinely curious, though the smile holds a trace of irony.

Kendall responds to Briar with a tentative smile of his own, warming his pale eyes. He follows Briar's nod down the table towards the two girls, past the Queen's children, nodding slightly. "Yes," he agrees. "Younglings are usually not considered… suited to such events. Among other reasons, they are often disruptive." He brings his gaze back around to look at Briar curiously. "I do not recall you being announced," he notes. "I am Kendall, Second Son of Chanicut. May I know your name?" he asks politely.

"Briar. Daughter of King Eric, and Captain of the Castle Guard." Grimacing, she recites her credentials in a clipped, accelerated way, as though to get them out of the way, and offers her hand. "I suspect they don't announce me because they'd just as soon forget I was here." She speaks lightly, with a hint of laughter; but her smile seems to twist self-mockingly, just for a moment.

Kendall looks at her hand as though he isn't sure what to do with it. "You were here before us, were you not?" he answers her remark. "Perhaps that is why I did not hear it. It is an honor to meet you. I have already made acquaintance with some of your personnel. They appeared… most efficient," he concludes with a hint of irony of his own.

"I'm gratified to hear it. I trust they kept their enthusiasm for their work within appropriate boundaries." Then she chuckles and adds, "Here, take my right hand with yours and give it a shake. You'll run into this again, I'm sure. It's just a polite custom of greeting now, but it originated as a very practical way of demonstrating that neither party is carrying a weapon up his or her sleeve." With a solemn wink, she turns back her sleeve a bit, to reveal nothing except a well-tanned arm underneath.

Kendall examines her arm, then looks back up at Briar. He obediently takes her hand with his, grasping it firmly and shaking once. His hand is strong, but not at all callused. Hers, on the other hand, is quite callused. "Do you now check my sleeve, or vice versa?" he inquires.

"Neither," she says cheerfully, releasing her grip. "That's why you shake. In theory, anything you might be hiding should fall out." She shrugs. "In practice, of course, there are any number of ways around that. But now the next time someone offers to shake hands, you'll know what to do." If she's teasing him, she's doing it very good-naturedly.

Kendall nods formally, reclaiming his hand. He looks at hers again for a moment, and then turns back to the table. "Thank you for your instruction," he answers. He straightens his robe again, and adjusts the hang of his sleeves absently before picking up his napkin, opening it, and smoothing it carefully and very correctly over his lap with both hands.

"You are the daughter of King Eric?" he reconfirms after a moment.

Briar eyes the Chaosian with one eyebrow slightly askew for a moment, then sighs quietly and shrugs. "Yeah, I'm Eric's all right. Hooray for me." And just as suddenly as it appeared, her good mood evaporates.

Kendall looks back at her, askance. "I did not mean to offend," he answers.

"You didn't," she assures him with a short, forced laugh. "You just reminded me that I'm rotten at making small talk. And it's been a hellishly long couple of days."

"Then perhaps you would be able to tell me with whom I might inquire regarding my horse,” Kendall requests. “I would like to make sure she made it safely to the stables here. I would also like to see her, so she knows I have not abandoned her."

Briar reaches for her glass and contemplates it glumly. "I can show you to the stables after dinner if you like. It's been a while since I visited Horse, anyway."

"Thank you. I would very much appreciate having an escort to the stables, though I doubt very much that I will be lacking for escorts for some time." A very short pause, then, "Horse? That is what you call your horse?" he asks.

"Horse," she affirms, nodding emphatically, interrupting herself for a moment to drain her wine glass and set it down. "It's a perfectly appropriate name for a horse - logical, concise, and descriptive. It really only becomes a problem," a suggestion of a smile creeps back onto her face, "if you happen to own more than one horse."

Kendall stares at her for a moment, some sort of thought process reflected in his eyes. He finishes up his wine as well, setting the glass down again without glancing away. Abruptly he smiles. "That may also become a problem if other people decide to be as logical, concise, and descriptive as you," he points out.

"Bloody plagiarists," she says with obviously feigned haughtiness. "However, I am prepared for such eventualities. I've also owned as many as three other horses at the same time: Hayburner, Dogmeat, and Glue. Noble beasts all, and sorely missed." She raises her glass to their memory, belatedly realizing that it's still empty. "Ah, hell…well, it's not like they'll know the difference."

Kendall watches Briar with an intent but faintly bemused expression, as though he has discovered a bizarre but fascinating creature in a laboratory that he is studying. He looks to his own glass, seeming surprised to find it hasn't been filled yet, frowning slightly as he puts it down again. “I should think such a utilitarian outlook might prove liberating at first, yet confining in the long term. Might I inquire whether this is typical of Amberites?"

"Gods, no. I'm an eccentric. Ask anyone." She pauses, then adds thoughtfully, "Or on second thought, don't. Some of the others would probably tell you 'eccentric' is putting it kindly."

She sits back for a moment and glances around, wondering why most of the table is being so quiet. Reassured that nobody seems about to spear her with a pickle fork to make her stop harassing the Chaosian, she goes on, "In all seriousness, I give unconventional names to things because it amuses me, and it makes people wonder. It's not a family trait, that I know of."

Kendall follows her look around, taking a moment for an exchange of glances with his superior, then back to Briar in time for her last statement. "Ah." He nods, then pauses, thinking on that. "Is it that you like to make people wonder about the names, or because you like the way others react when you tell them?" he asks.

"Hmm. Both, I suppose. Then again, all facetiousness aside, it does have its practical side. People tend to remember unusual names. Even a new stable hand will know which one is mine without having to be reminded."

Eric sits in solitary quiet, as the wine stewards go about their business around the tables, glancing at his wife as she comforts their adopted daughter. Picking up his now fill goblet, he stands and surveys the room. Like the tide under a departing moon, the room goes quiet. The few who didn't see their King rise from his chair, get hushed by their neighbors. Eric takes a moment to look at the blood red wine that his goblet now contains before lifting it up into the air. In a clear voice that carries to every corner of the room, he says. "First I would like to welcome our guests." Eric slightly turns and tips his head in respect to the Chaosian ambassadors before returning to his toast.

"Once, long ago. A very wise man who is now gone to us, told me that all things are transitory. All things. Anger, passion, loyalty, courage, hatred… even love." He gives a dry chuckle. "I disagreed with him that day, and every day since. For there are some things that should not be transient, and love is one of them. Wars will come and go, and passion may last a single night but love… She is not a visitor that we should turn away from the doors of our heart. In the end, the old priest may be right and everything is just quicksilver in the pages of time. But I choose to draw the line, as we all must do. That invisible line that we hold, even as the darkness grows."

He tilts his head to gaze on his wife. "This toast is to love, and all that follows her. For though we can do many harms, this is not one of them." He thrusts his goblet high into the air, his booming voice now echoing in the room. "To Love!" A forest of wine goblets is raised in response as the assemblage echoes Eric’s toast.

A few of the nobles stand after the toast, wishing to offer their own. But all fall back down to their seats as they see Lord Chantris rise to offer his glass to his sovereign. "I have seen many brave men. Some were just lucky, others just foolish. But I rarely have seen a proper King in all my travels…" He lets the hiss of outrage die before continuing. "It takes more then just bravery or a sense of justices. It takes something you can not find in a book or learn on a battlefield." He clicks his heels, raising his glass high. "So I salute you! King Eric, son of Oberon."

Once the toasts are over, servants flood in with trays of food. Roast boar, stuffed peacocks with feathers outstretched, a stag that looks to be asleep on its gold tray The tables are soon overflowing with food, servants positioning themselves at the left elbow of each of the diners to help in their selections. The food is superb as always, the wine flowing, people enjoying themselves as they tear into the food and talk to their neighbors.

Brisbane and Eric talk about the food and wine, keeping it both civil and light. "What is the name of this wine?" Brisbane asks.

Barabal holding her doll Primula, seeks comfort in her mother's lap. "Mommy, I'm scared," Barabal says. "Primula is saying… bad things!"

Gana looks over her shoulder at Gen after giving Eric a loving look for his beautiful toast. For once the Queen did not add her own, letting her beloved have the stage. "Gen what is it?" She asks, leaning back with a smile as Barabal climbs into her lap. The Queen wrapped her arms about the child, smoothing her hair, "Come, whisper in my ear what she is saying."

The silver-haired Bahiya Sa Daenach is speaking to Julian, inquiring about the hunting in Arden. "Do you allow anyone to hunt within your lands?" Bahiya asks, in a friendly tone.

Juliette and Hannah… well, they're acting like teenage girls. "Look… down near the end. He is so handsome!" Juliette whispers to Hannah.

Kiara looks down at both ends of the table and then looks at her daughter with an arched eyebrow and a smile as she whispers back. "And so very off limits."

Maddy is trying not to notice that Flora is giving her the cold shoulder. "At least the wine won't warm up," Sir March mutters.

Bleys is sharing some of his best stories with Manley, his date forgotten. "There I was, a broken beer bottle in one hand and my underwear in the other," Bleys says with a smirk.

Down the table a ways, Briar chokes suddenly on her first bite of dinner, a very peculiar expression passing over her face - the sort of look one gets when abruptly reminded of something one has been trying not to think about. She hastily washes her mouthful down with several swallows of wine, then turns to Kendall and asks, "So, how was the trip here? Did you Trump straight in or come through the Shadows?"

Kendall had been sitting quietly after King Eric's toast, surveying the scene and the food being passed around, sipping at his wine. He chooses of the dishes carefully, having a tendency to pick things that either Brisbane or Briar have.

Brin leans forword a little. "Excuse me Lord Kendall, Lady Briar I do not wish to interrupt, but I was wondering if you would tell us about House Chanicut after you said how your trip was."

Kendall's gaze flicks over to Brin. He nods, taking a drink of wine, looking back at Briar. "We did not Trump," he answers at last. "It took us many Turns to ride here through Shadow, and the trip was uneventful-" He seems about to say more, but falls abruptly silent. He looks at Brin. "What is it that you wish to know of Chanicut?" he inquires then curiously.

"The customs of your House. I know that each House is different. Most of the troops that we ran into in shadow were lead by Hendrakes." He takes a drink of his wine. "We also ran into a few surprises from House Lurid." He says the last part as if it leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

Kendall takes a meditative breath, frowning in thought. "Chanicut is one of the oldest Houses, with a very long tradition. It is difficult to know exactly what to discuss about our customs without some point of referent. Or some place to begin. The Queen and I began comparing bonding customs, or as she called it, 'marriage.'" He mispronounces the word slightly, though for the most part his Thari is very correct, precise and formal. "Are you curious about a particular area or tradition?" he asks politely. "I am curious about the attendance of children to this event." He glances at Briar, nodding slightly. "It seems only certain ones are present. Is this customary?"

"I don't think there are any hard or fast rules with regards to youngsters attending Court functions," Briar says, speaking a bit cautiously as a non-parent. "Or if there are, the King and Queen obviously have discretion to make exceptions. I'm sure Kiara would know more about such things. But I was going to ask you earlier, what exactly was the point of contention you had with the Queen over 'bonding customs'?"

"Ah. Kiara. That would be the woman with Prince Julian?" Kendall confirms. "In regards to bonding, I believe the differences most simply amounted to the purposes and expectations of such an arrangement." He seems to have forgotten about the food on his plate, all of his earnest attention on Briar and Brin. "In most Houses, bonding is done in the interests of the House. Here, it seems individuals are more apt to choose their bondmates for love. However, my initial observations indicate you also have a much less formal House structure." Something about his tone gives a hint as to how alien he finds that concept, both questioning and doubtful, as though he doesn't really want to believe what his eyes have told him.

Brin nods. "I'm sure we would find many customs in Chaos strange to those that we have here."

Kendall nods to Brin's words. "Not everyone can survive in Chaos," he answers simply, as though it was an axiom. "Was there anything else in particular that you wished to know?" he inquires politely.

"There are a few things," Brin says with a smile. "But it would be best to ask about those away from the dinner table."

Fiona touches little of her food, as she watches the others. Sir Marc just shovels in the food as he tries to answer Vialle’s questions. "Tis not a task, to look after children," Sir Marc answers between mouthfuls.

When his wife's attention is elsewhere, Random gives a 'wink' to Emylynne, moving his chair just a little closer. "So, what is a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" Random asks.

Emylynne raises a questioning eyebrow at Brin after Random winks at her. Brin smiles and gives her a look that tells her that this is normal for his uncle. After taking a drink of her wine. "My young prince asked if I would join him for dinner," Emylynne says to Random’s question.

"And what would you say, if a older prince asked for you to take a moonlight walk with him later?" Random asks.

“Vialle…scrotal tap your husband," says the Queen, standing while still holding Barabel. She looks briefly at the King. "Please, continue, I need to give something my attention," she says in a demure voice before leaving.

Kiara's too far away to lob a grape or a saltshaker at Random’s head without risking someone else standing up and getting whacked. She glares down the table towards him and then looks at Julian. "Vialle is too good for him."

Seeing that Random is doing a good job annoying everyone but him, Brin turns from his conversation with the Chaos representative to place his arm on the back of Emylynne's chair. "The lady already has plans for later this evening," he says to his uncle with a smile.

Emylynne smiles as she runs her fingertip along the lip of her glass. "It seems I will be busy, though I'm sure your lady will welcome that moonlight walk,” she says to Prince Random.

Random grins, chuckling at Emylynne’s and Brin's responses. "I'm sure you two will be… very busy."

Still chuckling, he turns to his wife. Vialle is still talking to Sir Marc about guarding the children. But before Emylynne can return to her dinner, Random spins around to say, "Kes nay colo."

"Nau si lou." Emylynne responds almost immediately, the words coming to her lips without thought. After the words escape her mouth, the blond turns a bright red as she turns to her date in embarrassment.

Kendall, getting ready to say something to Briar, snaps his gaze instead sharply in Random's and Emylynne's direction, looking quite surprised. He breathes out the word, "Lithiarr.”

But before anyone else can react, there is a crack like a rifle shot. Random goes tumbling back with his chair, the wine goblet in his right hand showering a wave of scarlet on everyone around him.

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In Amber: Dinner Distractions

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