Meeting with "Lord" Darren

His return to Maeve's Vigil and the tower housing the Chanicut contingent is uneventful, and his afternoon so far free of engagement. Though the day was pleasant, Kendall would be willing to trade a hail of fire gnats for the opportunity to attend a decent party. He settles instead for a book to pass some time before dinner.

The clocks had just chimed two times when a knock comes to the door of the tower. Its not the pleasant rhythmical method of the castle servants, nor is it the heavy mail fist of one of his Host's guards. Tis a Knock of Equals, common to hear at any gathering of Lords, and Kendall's finely tuned sophisticate's ear easily detects the imperious note in it. He himself, of course, would never deign to answer the door with his own two hands. His servant Rory, on the way to the door, stops to check with his master regarding his decision on this matter of delicacy.

The Chaos Lord thinks it over, having no problem with keeping the one on the other side waiting. "Inquire as to the identity of the visitor," he decides finally. Rory nods and heads to the door to do as he is bid, while the duo of Chanicut guards on either side of the doorway stare straight ahead as though nothing of any interest was occurring at all.

"A Darren Lavelin has requested an audience, under Standards with Cups," Rory pronounces, after his return. Before Kendall can ask, his faithful servant adds, "I can recall no House Standards within our baggage for House Lavelin, nor do I think even at home. For any to keep such a lesser House is beyond imagination. As to the wine served, I thought it would be best for an Amber variety."

Kendall rolls that suggestion around his mind for the space of five heartbeats, taking the time to pick a stray Qur hair from his sleeve. "No, we shall serve Chaos wine in Chaos chambers," he answers at last. "But I do believe Brisbane keeps a bottle or two of Sal'an nectar in his medicinal stores. That will do." Rory can see the gleam in Kendall's eyes that reveals when he is in high mischievous humor, before his master turns to make himself comfortable on the balcony. "See to it after you have welcomed our guest with all propriety for one of his station."

"As you command," Rory replies with the necessary bow, leaving the room so he may see to his duties. In time, once Kendall is ready and the prescribed waiting time has passed, he finds Rory has once again perfectly fulfilled the duties of those that serve House Chanicut.

Upon the wall of the small reception room hangs the House Standard of Chanicut, its bottom folded in such a way to inform that it was in a place not under its House's domain. Yet the Black Branch was above, its Abyssal metal gleaming in the candlelight, a statement to all that while they were not in Chanicut proper, they did speak with the full support of the House. With such, Kendall could declare war upon House Lavelin and this parents would have no choice but to go along even if the slight or insult was beyond minor.

Below the House Standard was Kendall's own, his rankings, accomplishments, and bloodline. It looked so small, when you compared it against his uncle's. Upon the other wall, veiled, was the House Helgram Standard, its bottom folded so many times, the alliance almost being nonexistent. Kendall could almost be said to have more association with the last Amber page child he employed than House Lavelin had with House Helgram. Yet there was a link, and so it was the correct action no matter how laughable.

Below that, it seems this Darren Lavelin hadn't brought his personal standard… if he even had one. The man at the table gives Kendall a slight bow that is the bare minimum required of a Lesser to a Greater. In appearance, this Darren wasn't unpleasant to the eyes, and yet nothing special to remark on or to remember past this meeting. A warrior; his eyes held that as did the other clues about his form: strong arms, balanced stance, and the way he kept a hand free and near his sword. Not Hendrake certainly, yet there was also a mark of strong sorcery about his form, and his aura shows he had transversed the Logrus and lived.

"Thank you, Lord Kendall for seeing me," Darren says, the courtly manner and form correct at least for this setting.

For this audience, Kendall wears a formal robe a notch above his typical uniform, but certain not as ostentatious as what one would wear to meet the King. He inclines his head in response to Darren's bow, precisely matching the other man's politeness. "You are welcome, and the thanks are mine. Tis a pleasure to speak with another from the Courts."

He settles into his chair before speaking again, folding his hands in sight on the table, the ancient assurance that no treachery could be performed without warning. "I hope your journey to Amber was uneventful."

"Uneventful…Yes!" Darren answers with an enthused nod of his head, taking a seat as well. "Yet it was also surprising, Amber being so… different." Throwing his hands out, a rustics way of saying, as wide as the Abyss. He falters, catching himself and smiling before dropping his hands to the table. "I'm sure it was nothing compared to yours."

Kendall shakes his head. "In fact, my journey was not terribly interesting. One could even say twas a relief to arrive in Amber, since the trip was so very dull. Here, however, as you note, there is always something interesting or at the very least, puzzling, to encounter."

"Shadow, the Black Road…" Darren nods with understanding, then adds not as a point but to gauge a reaction. "And Amber, a House that isn't a House."

Kendall chuckles. "A House that would like to be an entire Kingdom," he suggests.

"True. Yet in my time at the Royal Court, I did see more than a few who believed the same of their own Houses," Darren replies, his eyes sharp. His words could be equally sharp if Kendall decides so and takes them as an insult. "So many, trying to tell you they act alone, for their own interest. Yet tis all a grand dance, blindfolds on everyone, all steps in perfect time with the others… Even when they try not to be."

"You have been to the Royal Court, then?" Kendall inquires with interest. "Our records here away from home are understandably sparse. We found no record of your name associated with House Lavelin. An oversight, of course. When did you last look upon our fair Court?"

"Far too long ago," Darren says, his eyes speak of memories of the kind that are not willingly shared. But as quickly as they show, they're gone from his eyes as Darren goes on to say. "But understandable, with a premium of traveling space. Yet if it's the wish of House Chanicut, I could gift them with a House Lavelor's ancestry book so that neglect will not happen again in future meetings."

"That is a generous gesture, and I am pleased to accept, on behalf of my House," Kendall answers. "We are always gratified to add to our lore of the Courts. Thank you. Now that is settled, may I offer you some refreshment?"

"Most welcomed," Darren agrees, taking whatever is offered. "With only a half dozen bottles of their wine sampled, it makes me miss ours even more. Theirs seems… drab in comparison." His manner is easy, off-handed, yet there could also be a trap there. Few, a very few, tolerate their wine or food insulted by outsiders.

"Wine, as with many things, is an experience that is much influenced by the surroundings," Kendall says, nodding to invite the servants to attend to the two Lords. Though in a tower attached to the Amber palace itself, with the Chaos standards placed on the walls, the heavy curtains muting the annoyingly bright sunlight, and the silent servants performing their duties as expected for a Great House, it was almost possible to imagine they were sharing conversation in Chanicutways instead of in Amber.

Wine poured, a toast given to the host House, and a sip. "Hmm… an interesting choice," Darren says with a raised eyebrow, perhaps confused to the meaning within.

Kendall sips sparingly at the wine himself, not wishing to burn the tastebuds off his tongue too quickly. "My House endeavors always to supply as many experiences unique to Chaos as we may, while here in Amber," he answers, setting his glass down. "May I ask, then, how you came to represent your House in Amber? I understand you are a special guest of one of the princesses here?"

"Yes, the Princess Sand," Darren volunteers, before taking another sip. "But while I take an interest in my House affairs, I am here for other reasons."

Kendall nods. "We all have many interests in Amber," he agrees. "What sort of things attract the most interest for you?" he asks.

"Their Patron, and its gift, the Pattern," is the answer, this time paying close attention to Kendall's reaction.

For his part, Kendall frowns a little in puzzlement. "When you speak of a Patron, I understand you to mean what they call the Unicorn, a Being that some here appear to believe is similar to our Blessed Serpent," he says. "Have you an interest in religion, then?"

"Beliefs… no. Results, yes!" Darren answers. He takes a moment to gauge Kendall's reaction. "A hundred Houses, great or small, could fall into the Abyss, and the Serpent won't care. He only takes an interest when the moment takes Him to do so. But here in Amber, for each of Her children, tis said, the Unicorn sheds a tear when they die."

"Just think," the Lordling continues, eyes bright with excitement, his voice rising. "A Deity that cares not of your world, country, city, your house, even your family… but you." He smiles like that, of the reborn. "Think of the power, one could wield with such concern, such devotion."

Kendall's concentration becomes almost palpable as he listens to Darren's excited words, his gaze so penetrating it's like he wishes he could see through the other Lord's skin. "I see you have a full cup of ambition," he compliments Darren when the other falls silent. "It would appear you have already thought long about the power that could be found in the bosom of their Unicorn. But power to what purpose, I wonder?"

"Worried… I'm surprised," Darren starts with, becoming suddenly relaxed. "House Chanicut, like the other Great Houses won't normally fear a single man, even in these extraordinary times." He gives a chuckle, as the gears turn behind those eyes. "Yet I have no desire, none really with the Courts anymore. Any help I could give to my House, would likely devolve into harm. Her place isn't Chaos after all." He raises a brow. "Or am I wrong?"

Kendall's lips turn up in faint amusement, but he answers seriously enough. "We do not fear one man," he assures Darren. "Yet we have an interest in the activities of all who claim kinship to the Courts, such as yourself. I wondered if you had forsaken ties and loyalty to your House. Individuals have limited ability to effect the Houses, but can do damage nevertheless, before being dealt with."

"Some Houses do need to be damaged." Darren replies, and a smirk plays on his lips for a breath before disappearing. "But that would be a disserve to my sponsor and Amber, if I was to bring inconveniences of a personal sort to their door. But my House does still matter to me, even when private concerns have taken me far away." He leans back, getting comfortable again, eyes going to the House standards.

"Power for the sake of the one achieves nothing but destruction," Kendall says, giving Darren the expected response in order to see what the other would say or do with it. "It fills to overflowing and burns to ash without the cooling influence of the House to shape and contain it."

Kendall's response brings a chuckle to Darren's lips, as satisfied with thoughts unspoken. "You speak like one, who has heard those words use before… but to be posted in Amber." He raises a brow. "Not a position you would expect to find a black sheep in, yet I can infer you don't always agree with your House's decisions on more personal matters. Am I correct?" Darren asks.

A hesitation, and then a nod, a rueful expression coming to his face. "That is true," Kendall answers. "The demands of my House are not always… pleasant."

"I could tell," Darren says, the tone of his voice sympathetic.

"The only solutions I have heard for this affliction are to leave the House or become its Head," Kendall answers. "Have you any others?"

"Or bend Reality itself to your whim," Darren says with an arching brow.

Kendall thinks on that answer for several heartbeats, his gaze steady on Darren as he considers the implications. "Or create your own Reality?" he suggests.

"Take that feeling, and consider." Darren says with pride. "It's the same as what the very Founder of your House must have felt. A betrayal… No!" His words rush out, a fanatic to the cause. "To not do so, that's the betrayal!"

"So you seek to Begin?" Kendall asks, expression fascinated. "Here in Amber?"

"Why not Amber?" Darren poses. "Or did House Chanicut even bury the truth about the Unicorn?"

Kendall searches his memory for any real information about the Amber Unicorn that might be useful in this circumstance. Coming up dry, he shakes his head, looking perplexed. "What truth might that be?" he asks, voice faintly uncertain. "There are many truths in the Courts."

"There has only been one true Queen of Chaos…" He says dramatically. "And her name is the Unicorn."

Kendall does not have to feign surprise at that suggestion, blinking in surprise at the declaration. "How do you mean? You are saying the Amber Unicorn is a being of Chaos?"

"Yes, these people was once the House Amber," Darren says, his grin arrogant indeed. "The first Royal House of Chaos, earned by ending the demands for sacrifice by Lord Serpent! And the Unicorn was the greatest of their Queens, till her betrayal of House, King, and the Serpent itself."

Darren nods, as he sees the wheels turn in Kendall's mind. "She seduced the Serpent, then betrayed and blinded him, stealing the Eye that allowed our Lord to see beyond the Courts." He waves a hand, encompassing their surroundings. "With it, using the power within, this and Shadow was created to be their refuge."

"That…. that is ridiculous!" Kendall exclaims, leaning back in his chair as though trying to avoid any chance contact with the idea. "These people have some kinship to Chaos, I will grant you that… but even if once they were a Great House, they have fallen so far from anything akin to the honor of the Courts…" He shakes his head, totally unable to wrap his mind around what Darren is suggesting.

"But She hasn't…" Darren says with a raised brow of triumph. "A 1,000 cycles, a blink to her. 10,000, 100,000 cycles. A yawn!"

"Why, then?" Kendall says, voice sharp. "Why the betrayal? If she is the true Queen of Chaos, why did she leave the Courts?"

"Ask her," Darren answers with a shrug, still hiding some bit of fact for sure but perhaps not really knowing the true answer to Kendall's question. Or perhaps he does not care, he himself already having admitted to the same crime of abandoning the Courts.

"Perhaps… I will," Kendall says thoughtfully. "But you wish now to make another Amber?" he asks, waving his hand around vaguely to indicate the whole of the kingdom. "One for yourself? Your own realm?"

"The Unicorn didn't establish Amber, her children did themselves," he replies, now giving truths with little care for their value. "But later, She did approve… the Pattern being evidences of that." Darren grins, plans fit only for the mad dancing in his brain. "Shadow will be enough for me, after certain changes."

"Shadow!" Kendall waves a hand dismissively. "You must have quite a few changes in mind…"

"Not surprising a opinion for a Lord of the Forever," Darren says with a hint of amusement. "When the Unicorn blinded the Lord Serpent, it was that Eye that was able to see into Shadow she stole. So again, its not surprising you hold such a belief. Why care for something your very Lord God can't view or influence?"

"Well, then," Kendall replies. "Why indeed? What of value can be found in Shadow?"

"If someone had an idea… and the means to bring it forth," Darren says, just a little wary. "Shadow could be changed, not a gazillion worlds but one. Which I would gladly rule without bothering Amber or Chaos."

Kendall waits on his answer, looking at Darren with a sort of… evaluation. "I believe that would fall under the category of quite a few changes that you have in mind," he says, impressed in spite of himself. Darren did indeed have a full cup of ambition, full to overflowing. "But you have not yet found the means, then?"

"Means, yes. Convincing?" Darren shrugs his shoulders. "The Unicorn isn't the easiest deity to arrange an appointment with for a chat."

"That could prove a difficulty," Kendall agrees thoughtfully, already turning his mind to possible ways around the problem. "There is also the little matter of motivation," he adds. "Why would the Unicorn help you?"

"Because I'm one of her children…."

"I… see…" he digests that answer for a couple heartbeats. "So you are a descendant of House Amber and Chaos both?"

"Yes, my father left Amber centuries ago.' Darren explains, getting a step ahead as he adds. "And I believe it was by chance he met my mother while exploring the Courts. In fact, he had little interest in House affairs besides what affect his wife or I, nor did he engage in activities that others of Amber has been accursed of within the Royal Court."

"What is your lineage to Amber?" Kendall asks curiously. "And why did he not then bring you to Amber to learn of your heritage here?"

"My father is a errant Prince of Amber, like his sister at one time," Darren answers. "As to why they left, I do not know… but Delwin, my father, never spoke of Amber till a few Cycles ago." He shrugs, this issue either unimportant to him or an attempt at deception. "Princess Sand is his blood sister, greatly beloved, and my patron at the moment," he adds, only to complete the tale.

Kendall nods, tallying up all that the Lordling had told him. "And what is it that you want from me?" is his next question.

"You personally, a beneficial positioning," Darren replies. "Of your House, services rendered and exchanged."

Kendall takes that in without comment at first, weighing what little he knows of Darren and his ambitions. It was always tricky to make deals with madmen, especially when one finds out they weren't actually mad to begin with. "You have presented an enticing proposal," he finally says. "Naturally, there are risks, just as all ambitions hold risk. However, I must of course consider all you have said and do my own research before making any definite decision."

"Of course, Lord Kendall," the Chaos Lordling answers, his arrogant smile returning, believing the Chanicut representative too conservative to take the chance.

Kendall takes a last sip of his drink and then pushes his glass aside, not yet done with the liquid but having no more ability to palate it. "Thank you for your visit, Lord Darren," he says. "The conversation has been… enlightening. I hope to have occasion to speak to you again soon, of Chaos and other topics."

Cued by his Lord's words, Rory appears, ready to escort Darren from the tower. For himself, even if Darren had misunderstood the dismissal, the appearance of the red-haired servant was enough prompting. He also takes a last drink of the wine, draining his goblet, and then stands.

"And to you, Lord Kendall. I look forward to speaking again, on any topics of interest to you." Teeth gleam in the muted light as he sketches a bow.

Kendall returns the other's bow with a nod of his own, but stays seated at the table for many heartbeats after Darren had been shown out of the tower and the glasses had been cleared away.

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