Between Brothers

The way Kendall chooses for his return to the manor in Thelbane is picturesque, but not direct. Touching hand to lava wall, he surrenders to the familiar tug and the sense of being stretched and wrung thin for less than a heartbeat. He would never have credited how much he had missed passing through a way. Not a door, or a gate, or even a window. A proper way, a portal that took you somewhere besides into just another room. Something that turned you inside out just so you could slip through a crack in reality. Something that made you know and enjoy being back to normal again.

Vertigo. The feeling of his stomach leaping, body falling. Kendall reaches for the wall by habit, and when fingers touch sand, suddenly gravity begins behaving and his feet come to rest on sandy floor. Or wall. Or ceiling. It didn't matter much, since everything snapped back into shape once feet and fingers no longer touched the surface at the same time. He rides the gently flowing lavender sand down towards the cliff face while the cracks in the orange sky met grooves in cliffs and bluffs that had been etched by ancient winds and waters. Kendall adjusts his stance, angling to the center of the cliff while speeding his descent, like skiing or riding a sandy wave, in order to line up with the next way. He could think back to all the times he had practiced this, landing at the way above and angling to just the right place with just the right speed to leap from the cliff face and dive or plummet towards the crystalline crevasse below where needle points glowed with yellow light. If he missed the spot, he would have to shift and rip his clothes in order to avoid being skewered, but that was part of the challenge and fun.

He shoots from the edge of the cliff, leaning forward in a dive while the wind blew by and there the familiar tug of the way reaches him just half a heartbeat before being whisked into another world. This one is dark, and his downward motion is slowed before feet touch some surface in exactly 10 heartbeats, while Gandu flaps his wings and grumbles disagreeably. Eyes adjust, shifting to read heat and cold, and he zig-zags around graceful stalks of red and orange between a ceiling and floor of blue green. His path here is short, listening to the flights of creatures that winged their way in the upper reaches before a blue rock appears to his right. Walking around it two times and the tug of the way pulls him to a field of white blooms the size of dinner plates on stems as thick as his arm. The sky above is grey and lightning flickers behind the hills.

He pauses there to pick three perfect blooms before walking around the edge of the field to a tiny streamlet of clear water. A few steps along, and the next way carries him to a familiar door of black metal edged with green. He knocks five times, and the door slowly opens to allow him admittance to the manor of his birth. Hallways and gardens, servants and ministers, bows and greetings. But though on other occasions he might have paused to talk, the presence of the red bird was enough for all to know of his purpose and stand to the side. The younger Lord had returned from his travels, and was going to visit his mother.

Reaching a certain hallway, he pauses to put all to rights, and even Gandu takes that brief break to settle his feathers and flip his tail. Then twenty more steps bring him to a massive and familiar door. Sculpted in the likeness of feathers and leaves, the doorway held blackness untouched by any sort of light. A robed and cowled attendant waited with downturned head, its white spindly hands steepled in front of its chest in a prayerful pose. It bows as the Lord approached.

"Che'ka," the young Lord says. "My mother has sent for me."

A pause, and white fingers of the servant's hands wiggle like worms attached to a hook. ~M'lord must return at another Sky. M'lady Grania is not available.~ There was something like regret, or perhaps just confusion in the whispery mental voice.

"Not… available?" he questions, his tone darkening with suspicion. Gandu chirps, sounding disgruntled, and Kendall looks up at the bird as it launches itself from his shoulder to spiral up toward the ceiling and pass through the black doorway.

~My deepest apologies to m'lord for his inconvenience. I will notify the Duchess that you paid a call.~

Without another word, Kendall thrusts the flowers he carried into the attendant’s hands before spinning to stalk back down the hall. A way near the end takes him to another level in the same manor. He continues without a pause out to a garden and through another way that took him to a white room with five pillars. He walks over to one that sucks him through and deposits him into a closet lit by a tiny glowing orange wick. The closet door opens to a familiar hallway surrounded by lava where he stops short, surprised by the sight of his brother, Cedric. And while there is no outward sign, like stained lips or nail marks of passion, Kendall can sense Margot's faint presence upon him.

A mere look is required to see his brother in one of his rages. Not a rage like those of an Amberite, nor of any from the Black Zone, and certainly not of Shadow. The rage of a Chaos Lord was truly a sight to behold, though few enough lived to tell the tale. And while the elder son’s rage remained the subject of rumors whispered behind closed doors in the controlled and orderly halls of Chanicut, Kendall had personal experience with his brother’s dangerous moods. Though physical wounds might heal through the power of shifting, other scars still remained.

And Rory. The younger Lord’s gaze flicks over to his servant to assess his condition. Rory slumped against the wall behind Cedric, alive though a tad bloody and looking confused. Yet his clothing told more of the story, as Kendall’s keen eyes and senses detect evidence of the Tongue of the Serpent — the Logrus.

Kendall picks out the details with a quick glance. Without being aware of doing so, he takes another step toward Cedric. "Where is she?" he demands, and while he could not match his brother's rage, his voice still brims with animosity sparked by ruse and worry and fed with a hatred nourished over innumerable Cycles. The ancient blade at his side stirs uneasily, tasting its master's anger and feeding on its sweetness.

"Who?" his elder brother asks with a snarl. "Your whore?"

The younger Lord's eyes flash and he brings a fist up to his brother's face in a move that surprises all three in the hallway. Kendall had not struck Cedric in many Cycles. But though the consequences of a certain past argument still sometimes haunted his dreams, it was far from his thoughts right now.

Yet Cedric responds without hesitation even through surprise and a step backward from the lucky blow. Alaisiagae flows into his brother's hand, the living sword wrapping itself about his wrist so there will be no chance to be disarmed. Such use of a Bane weapons upon a sibling would only bring the fury of a parent if discovered.

Kendall hesitates, feeling a tingle of surprise and uncertainty as his brother arms himself. His emotions had placed him again in the path of Cedric's rage, which had never ended well for him in the past. Alaisiagae shared its master’s hatred and would seek Kendall’s blood unrelentingly, and the bite of a Bane weapon could taint him in ways that might never heal.

Nonetheless, his hand closes around the hilt of his own blade. Not alive, yet aware and desiring conflict, it vibrated with anticipation under his fingers. He backs away a step, bringing his guard up while feeling the icy fingers of doubt and fear in his heart. "She is not a whore," he says with some semblance of his normal dignity. "She is the scion of a House of Chaos."

"A House of Betrayal, little brother," Cedric hisses back, not yet attacking as he looks for weaknesses.

"A trait that is shared by others," Kendall retorts, his eyes going to the Bane weapon that hungered for his flesh.

"So true. How much did you dare, when you turned our sister against us!" Cedric accuses, his rage bright enough to feed a dozen Ty'uia demons.

Doubts and fears become ash, no match for the fury that takes hold of his heart. Sword flashes as Kendall leaps forward to cut off the life of the one who would make such a heinous charge. Blades clash and words fall away to leave only skill and will. Every taunt and torture suffered at the hands of his brother, every stolen kiss upon Diona's lips, and every heartfelt endearment whispered by Margot funneled and focused to a single shining purpose. There was no thought involved anymore, merely training and the drive to kill and survive.

Yet while both lords had learned from the same teachers, one had the more ruthless heart and deadly experience. And Alaisiagae proves a difficult opponent as well, flowing and slithering always to block or to strike. The younger lord could not break through, no matter what he tried. Of course he couldn't! Cedric had ever been older, wiser, better, and just plain nastier.

Doubt begins to tease its way into his heart, threatening his drive and commitment. But this was not a fight just to defend what he loved, or even to prove he was better. For Kendall, though he could not understand it yet, this was a battle of heart — a battle to birth his true conviction and transform his soul.

For within every heart lay the seed of greatness. In the hearts of some, the seed burst into growth early on, while in other hearts the seed lay buried deeply and well hidden, needing to grow and mature at a different pace. Yet if it could but sprout and grow, its waking power could smother the cloud of disdain and disinterest which held the younger son of Chanicut in thrall and kept him from taking the necessary steps to greatness. His place: always the second, always behind, always less than or below or lesser. But somewhere inside, he Knew. Deep within, Kendall knew who he was and the measure of his worth. And he knew his Gift could tip the balance.

With a deliberate and reckless move, the young Lord lowers his guard to the deadly blade of his brother's sword. Hatred is his fuel and the courage needed to risk everything on this one chance to bind the flowing blade with the one thing he knew that it did not: stasis. The static essence of Amber. And then to strike the killing blow to his disarmed brother.

Time slows, lingering close, a gentle companion giving them both a chance to see, to appreciate, and to know their final moments. Alaisisagae bites into his body, squirming about in an attempt to cause even more harm, before slowing. Stilling. A shock of stasis reverberates up the hateful blade, taking hold of the elder brother's body before he can realize the trap that had been sprung. And then Kendall's blade tears into Cedric's body in a killing stroke.

Senses dull as they both fall to the floor, bound together in death by blade as they had been bound together in life by blood and hate. Excruciating pain, and then he felt a familiar weakness as his life's blood left his body quickly, eagerly. Almost as though it was overjoyed to free itself of his confining veins.

Kendall could barely twitch a hand yet, much less remove the blade that still lodged itself into his chest. Even so, the sight of Cedric's blood catching flames fills him with something like pleasure though the emotion feels far away as he fades towards unconsciousness. He hears a distant outcry, but cannot identify who made it.

His inner world beckons, a place populated by all the things he wished he could say, and do, and be. Yet even the voices and images of the past fade as he searches for something else in those last, stolen heartbeats. He doesn’t know exactly what he might be searching for, but a desire to search is the only motivation needed. In the growing silence, other voices call from somewhere within, voices that are sweet like honeyed birdsong, and beckon him to sweeter memories.

There is the voice of his mother, but from so long ago he scarcely remembers the lilting song she sang above his head as she bestowed his name. His sister, with her peals of unbridled laughter, holding his hands as he took his first steps. Margot's velvety voice, singing a haunting melody on a beach far away. But more, even more, beneath those sweet sounds there were others, almost too distant and quiet to hear. He must put the others behind him, move deeper into the darkness before he can hope to pick out the notes.

And as he reaches, touches, hears, he finds an ancient song of his ancestors deep within his blood and bone. How many, like him, had been born third, or fourth, or tenth, and yet had still dared to reach for the pinnacle? How many would sacrifice all that they were to gain something more? And how many would die and leave that sacrifice empty?

Duty, Desire, Death. These three were all that mattered now. Which would see a triumph? In Death, all would be calm and quiet. Yet Duty and Desire still beckoned, one with its complex simplicity, and the other with its sweet fulfillment. The voices of his past, of his blood, grow louder in his heart as death carries him towards them. They fill his mind and his soul, burning his sense of self away, smothering the fragments of awareness until — in a moment of realization — Kendallarithan disappears.

And in that moment between heartbeats, suddenly he Sees. Beyond all, beyond everything, the life of the Multiverse flows through him and around him. He becomes but one in the trillions of motes in the Multiverse, one that realizes… this was not all.

His blood and bone and heart intertwine with the visceral chant that underlay the very foundations of his House. The chant surrounds and cradles him, buoying him upwards away from silence, away from apathy toward awareness, pain, and life. Sweet life! It burned within him still. Somewhere, a heart still beat, though slowly, and a body still fought against writhing blade.

Identity emerges. He was Kendallarithan of House Chanicut, who had been blessed by the Serpent before. Memory returns of that singular moment when he had called on the power of the Serpent, and in the blink of an eye, had been made whole. With memory comes conviction; he had so much more to do. Death could not claim him yet.

Kendall opens his eyes and reaches for his brother's blade to pull it from his body. Weak and bloody, his arm barely responds, but he pushes against and then beyond pain until his shaking fingers rise from the floor. Realizing his intent and determination, the blade squirms from his body of its own accord, shifting into a far more humanoid form. At least before his possible death, that question had been answered; the damn creature was a demon after all, though his older brother would never admit it. And while her hollow form is paper thin, it still possesses enough strength to rip Kendall’s own blade from his brother’s body before lifting Cedric and rushing to the Gate and escape.

The two figures had barely winked from sight before the sound of the gong warns of another arrival, not through the Gate, but by way of magick. In the space of an eyeblink, Margot appears in the hall just as the Gate itself closes and locks against further intrusions and enchantments.

Quick steps bring the Amberite princess to where the Chaos Lord lay. She falls to her knees and lifts him into her lap. His body is limp and heavy, and his torso is almost torn in two with a jagged gash from shoulder to the center of his chest from Alaisiagae’s attack. The sword’s writhing had ripped sinew and muscle from bone and shredded veins.

“No, my darling. No,” she pleads, her voice shaky on the edge of tears. “You need to live, Shay’na.” He tries to say something, but nothing emerges except a cough that causes his eyes to glaze with pain. But though he has trouble focusing on her face, her voice, scent, and energy are recognizable.

“Shhh. Don’t say anything….” She whispers, cupping his hand with hers at her face for a few loving moments before she returns it to his chest with her fingers entwined. “Just…. Live.”

Her voice trembles with emotion, but aside from that she maintains a soothing countenance. “Focus on healing; take from me all that you need.” Margot strokes his hair as she hums a soft tune, something from when she was very little and almost completely forgotten. Leaning over, she presses tender lips to the place between his brows, before resting her forehead to his.

It was faint at first, but grew stronger quickly. He could feel Margot reaching for him, sharing energy and strength with him as he had once offered to share with her. His body might yet recover, though there was no way to tell immediately. He could feel tissues and fibers growing and connecting, attempting to return him to normal. But slowly, so slowly, wracked by the chilling disintegration wrought by his brother’s wretched Bane weapon. He reaches up with one bloody hand to touch her cheek, and gives her the gift of accepting her energy without demur.

The rest of the manor falls away, locked within a circle of containment to prevent the spread of whatever intrusion had sounded the alarms. Running feet and claws approach, but there was a small window of time that held just Margot and Kendall. A time of feeding his body the strength it needed to continue fighting.

A hand at Margot’s shoulder breaks their communion, and she looks up into a strangely flattened face with reptilian eyes. The tongue slips out and in, tasting the air with its contaminating odors, and the hand takes her arm in a firm grip to tug her to her feet. She stands as gracefully as she can under the circumstances after carefully lowering Kendall’s head to the floor. She can now see other reptilian creatures approaching Kendall's other side, and Rory is on his feet as well, helping to lift the injured Lord onto a fluttering gurney comprised of hundreds of buzzing chorl bees.

Confusion and uncertainty take over Margot’s expression, but those impulses give way to panic when she looks down at her hands and dress painted red with her lover’s blood. She barely notices the strange, almost ethereal golden threads that clung to her arms and body. "Please," she pleads to the guard next to her. "Let me go with him. Please.

Supported on the buzzing platform, Kendall's weak body hovers in readiness to be transported elsewhere. Blood still oozed from imperfectly healed rents in his flesh, lapped up by the tiny murets, their furry bodies shivering in excitement as they devoured the blood that had pooled and now smoldered on the floor. In the space where Cedric's body had lain so briefly, the rock floor of the hall had been scorched by his burning blood.

She looks frantically to Rory for assistance. "I'm his… I’m his companion…" she interjects on shaky breath, choking back her tears. Crimson covered fingers press against her lips in an effort to help her fight for composure.

Between Lord and distraught Princess stands a small mountain of a creature, craggy features curled all about with vines and studded with flowers. It looked as though it was in charge of leading the burdened bees to their destination. Several more of the unspeaking, flat-faced guards close in around Margot, clearly cutting her off from the rest of the operation.

But though unable to speak himself, the young lord was not without will. Kendall reaches out to grasp his servant's wrist, and a long moment of silence passes between the two before the Lord lies back again. Rory, still pale and obviously shaken, nods to his master's bidding and turns to approach the knot of guards surrounding Margot.

"N’ca. M'lord Kendallarithan bids you to allow the lady to accompany him," he addresses the one who had approached Margot first, apparently the leader. It hisses and clicks something at the servant, who nods. "I realize that, but she was not involved in the conflict here and m'lord requests she be released."

Helpless, Margot stands silently watching Kendall and the ordeal around him. Pleading eyes thank him for his message, though she still swallows hard as she waits for the guard's final say. Absently, she begins smoothing her clothes, trying to do something — anything — to create a regal countenance and trustworthy facade.

The reply is short and easy to understand, even without translation. Rory looks at Margot and then back to his master, who shakes his head. There was a higher authority afoot here, and there was nothing Kendall could do about it. The faithful servant returns his attention to Margot.

"An investigation must be conducted into your use of magick to enter the halls of Chanicut. You are still our guest, however, and so you will only be restricted to your suite for now," Rory shares with her while the humming gurney bearing the Lord begins moving away down the hall.

"I urge you not to raise alarm, or attempt to remove the kel’tha threads that cling to you, or they will bind you until you are freed or smothered,” he adds. “Your lady will be with you to answer questions and assist until you may visit m'lord."

She stares at the servant, stunned speechless. Under investigation? Under House arrest? Her eyes dart to the gurney, following its progress until she could no longer see her injured lover. Concern and worry permeate her very soul. But then she blinks twice, quickly, to shake off the cottony daze that threatened to ensnare her mind and suffocate her thoughts. She straightens and smooths her expression as one might smooth wrinkles from a piece of fabric.

"Thank you, Rory. Of course I will comply with the wishes of the House. Please send my heartfelt wishes to the Lord for his rapid recovery." A small smile speaks of sympathy for what the stalwart servant has been tasked with throughout this whole ordeal.

"A question, though, before I am escorted to my chambers,” she adds. “Is it possible to change out of these garments and wash without doing anything that would raise alarm or excite this web to end me?"

Rory shakes his head. "I will send something to you to remove the blood, but please remain as you are."

Clearly done waiting, the lead guard lizard creature hisses at her and then points down the hall in the opposite direction. They turn as a group and begin walking, taking Margot with them regardless of her wishes on the long walk back to the door of her suite.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Blessed: An Angel Bearing Gifts

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