Decision Made

The return journey through the castle is brief, and filled with the same stony silence as before. But at least the coming festival, no matter how modest it might be, serves to keep the halls in the Chaosians' out-of-the-way part of the castle nearly empty and unobstructed for any journey required by Duty. Then once safely returned to Maeve's Vigil, the young Lord is again alone, his mentor having already departed to attend the celebration.

The tower feels quietly watchful, as always a refuge from the bustle and boisterous castle. Left to himself, he settles in for the regular menu of solitary activities: a long relaxing bath, good food, and one final book from Amber's library.

His bath is accompanied by wine and private thoughts on many topics: Louella, his son, his injury, the child Amber, the Queen, Margot. His body, its long fast only recently broken, makes its hunger known when recent memories of dancing and intimate caresses shared with the princess dominate his mind. Indeed, had the two of them not been so closely observed, he may not have been dissuaded from gratifying Margot's passion and his own one last time.

Allowing his thoughts to continue along that track leads him to spend some time addressing his own needs in solitary activity. Twasn't nearly so enjoyable nor satisfying, but it would suffice for now. Afterwards, the warm water feels far more soothing.

Those matters accomplished, he settles in a comfortable chair near the tiny hearth in his room with book and winecup in hand. But the book is as uninspired as he had predicted to the strange child who had visited him earlier; merely another retelling of Amber's greatness, this time veiled as a novel of dashing romance. So it is with some relief, along with surprise, that his solitude is broken.

A flap and a caw at the nearby window, and he sees a most unexpected sight: a three-winged crow! It sings a welcome in the Old Tongue of Beasts, a language learned by all of Kendall's station, to command the ranks of those servants too unintelligent for more refined speech.

A song of welcome from a beast seemingly not of Amber? Kendall sets his book aside and goes to the window to open it himself and allow the crow to perch on the sill. In its own songlike language, the Chaosian inquires of its purpose and mission here in Amber.

The crow gives its thanks for the invitation. It flexes its three-wings after such a long flight, before answering the Lord's question. ~To destroy… this Place, its Crown, and the Whore that dares calls herself the Unicorn,~ it says.

Kendall brings his hands together in a single clap, such a noise causing the crow to flutter its wings again and dance nervously on the sill. ~Splendid,~ he says, an automatic and unthinking response that arose from the well of antipathy that had grown in his heart for the many Cycles he had been in Amber.

Deeper than the petty day-to-day annoyances and insults, a deep pool of resentment, anger, and hatred newly fed by recent trials now bubbled slowly under the surface of his mind and heart. Emotions barely noticed, much less acknowledged.

~What is the plan for this?~ the Lord asks.

The bird pecks its approval, pleased at the Lord's response. ~We plan on its Heart, the Horn, to die. Once that is so, invasion will be easy.~

Kendall nods. ~Is there a way I might assist?~

The Crow considers Kendall's question. ~Steal the young Queen,~ it sings.

~The Queen?~ he frowns in consternation for a heartbeat, but then the rest of the sentence sinks in. The young Queen… Margot, probably. ~That should not be difficult,~ he says. ~When will you strike?~

~When we position the Moon,~ comes the answer.

Kendall nods. ~A signal would be helpful, if it can be arranged. Thank you for the news.~

He dismisses the crow and then calls for his servant. He had preparations to make.

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