A Promise Fulfilled

Kendall exhales, feeling sated and pleased. He slides over to collapse onto the cushion next to his lover, half on his back and partially on his side. "Mmm… that was nice…" he murmurs, smiling and closing his eyes. He reaches over to pull her against him for basking.

"Yes," she sighs, reveling in the glow and scent of their commitment. She cuddles against him and wraps his arm around her waist, weaving her fingers into his. She felt… complete. Margot's lazy smile and slowly unfurling lashes would tell him all he needed to know of her feelings, were he to look.

He tickles her skin with his fingers. "Now would be a time for napping, and bathing, and other things," he observes with a sigh of regret. "There was a time when those were my largest concerns."

"But not all need seem so bleak," she says, tipping her head up to kiss the tip of his chin. "This is only the beginning. You are a remarkable man bound for remarkable things. You will return from your audience a stronger and greater man, and I will be here waiting for you."

She pauses, and silence stretches between them for a time. His fingers tangle into the hair that tumbled over her shoulders, enjoying the soft texture against her skin.

"Will you be summoned?" she asks softly, trying to keep the worry from her voice.

"Summoned? No. But I have limited time to set my affairs in order before presenting myself to the High Priest," he answers. "I have attended to the first of my tasks. Next I will go see my mother. Ah, and while on the topic, I should thank you for saving my life. As temporary as the state may be, doing so gave us this time together, so thanks do seem to be in order." The words are delivered in his typical matter-of-fact fashion, but his tone is light and almost careless, as though the words just sort of happened while his mind was doing something else.

Margot slides her leg lazily over his hip, and one hand traces the contours of his chest while the other pillows her head. "You're welcome, but I don't understand," she confesses. "How did I save your life?"

"Had you not been there with me on the platform that tells truth from lie, I may have lied. There are so many possible lies," he answers. His expression turns sad as his mind wends its way along twisted paths of the past.

"Then I thank you for indulging my stubborn streak when I insisted I should accompany you," she says with a renewed smile. She kisses his throat and breathes in his scent, basking in his warmth. She knew she could spend an eternity like this and be the happiest woman to ever live.

"What happens once you meet the High Priest?" she asks after several moments of pure pleasure, returning to the more serious topic at hand with a sober tone. "My encounter with the Unicorn was anything but formal or traditional."

The question returns his attention to this time and place. His eyes remain closed but his voice becomes breathy with drama. "Those who petition the Serpent are taken to the Abyss," he answers. "It is not a friendly place, as you learned from my father's treachery. Foul treachery, in such a foul place. He deserves a thousand deaths for such an act of cruelty and betrayal." His voice darkens with seething hatred and anger.

Margot caresses him in an attempt to soothe his raw emotions, holding him close so that he may feel their hearts beating against one another. Together. "I am sorry that your father was—" She breaks off, not sure how to end that sentence. The only things that came to mind were words like cruel, wretched, foul, and unadulterated evil.

"You deserve better," she finishes instead. "You are better."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. But the Serpent—" he catches himself, and stops that line of thought. His voice calms somewhat as he continues. "The supplicant waits above the Abyss to await the Serpent. If you are lucky, the Serpent will sense your presence, and come before you die. But it is a short reprieve!" he exclaims, again caught up in the drama of the explanation.

He opens his eyes and smiles, his eyes following the glowing light that circled the room above them. "For the Serpent is as likely to eat you as speak to you. More likely, from what the stories say. After all, how interesting could we actually be to a Being of Power such as the Serpent? I cannot say if I would be interesting enough for the Serpent to grant me a boon instead of my death."

He sighs, and tension flows out of his muscles. "And what will you do now, Margot?" he asks. "I can do little for you at this point, but you do still have the Lady Dara to assist you. I believe I can secure safe passage for you to somewhere beyond my House. One last bit of assistance, meager thought it might be."

Margot draws a deep breath, exhaling slowly. One hand moves to rest against her belly, where the seed he planted within her would soon begin to grow. "Your gift of life is tremendous. Beyond that, it would be my desire to remain with Chanicut until your return. Our child will have Chanicut blood, and I am willing to remain here so that it may learn of its heritage."

"We will not speak again of this time together, Margot, or the possibility of issue," Kendall interjects in a sober voice. Keeping discussion to topics that require calm thinking seems to keep the lurking madness at bay. "Not unless I return… unchanged enough."

"I don't understand." She props herself up on one elbow so she can look into his eyes. "Is our time together shameful? What do you mean unchanged? Why do you want this to be a secret?" She knew she wouldn't be able to hide the proof for long. Eventually, she would grow round and heavy, and there would be no question who the father was.

"Not shameful," he corrects. "Unwise, maybe. Any child with the blood of Chanicut, or the blood of any House— You are Houseless, my sweet, don't you see? You have little to bargain with. It's best if this were kept secret for the nonce." He lays a hand to her belly, stroking the soft skin there.

"Houseless…" she repeats the word. "There was a House once. There can be again. What would it take? The Serpent's blessing? I want your son to know his father, and if your meeting with the Serpent does not conclude in your favor— I ordered Dara away. If she did as I commanded, it is likely that she will not return."

"The Lady Dara, if she is to fulfill her vow and keep what honor she has, will not so quickly or easily leave you," Kendall asserts. "She is under onus to Queen Morgana of Amber, not to you. Even should you claim the banner of Barimen, you are but one and a House is many. Until you have grown a House, Barimen is nothing but a name. A whisper of the past."

He rolls onto his back, drawing her body with the motion to drape along his side. Her breath warms his neck. "As for me, I will go before the Serpent, and even should I survive the encounter, do you not think I would be changed by meeting a Being of Power such as that?" he asks. "Timeless, measureless, boundless. Were you unchanged by your conversation with the Unicorn?"

"Bolder, perhaps. I don't know," she answers honestly. She pauses for thought, biting her lower lip. What she really wanted was for him to hold her, comfort her, tell her that everything would be alright, and that yes, he did want her to wait for him. She knew he would never utter such words, but that didn't make them any less desired.

"If you wish to stay here in Chanicut until the result of my trial is known, speak not of desiring a child or implanting seed unless necessary. Perhaps," Kendall continues. "But who really can tell? It may all come to naught in any event. Safety can be found in secrecy much of the time, but bold words can also be used to good effect. Opportunities present themselves and you must be ready to take them, yes, even if that means leaving behind a lover or a plan."

"If it is an option, I would like to remain in Chanicut until your return," she answers. "And do we have a plan? How will you find us when you return?" She wondered many other things, including how long she could truly keep a pregnancy secret, even if she didn't utter a word.

"I had the beginnings of a plan," he replies, stroking her back. "But it did not include being so thoroughly thwarted by my brother. Even so, we shall see about securing you a safe respite for a time. Time moves apace, and we must move with it."

"And so, we adapt, but…when do I get let in on the plan?" She looks up at him with a teasing smile curling her lips.

He blinks at her, surprised. "I shared these thoughts with you on the Rhercyn, did I not? Or before then. On the carriage? Before then? After then? Sometime when." He smiles at the rhyme. "I would present you to my House, as a way for the bloodline of Amber to be infused into ours. Through negotiation, you might have even joined Chanicut…eventually. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Or you might secure our aid in reconstituting the House Barimen. Remember? I had spoken to you of considering your position, of thinking on your assets, of deciding what you want."

Margot laughs and kisses him, feeling the urge to unite with him again beginning to stir within. "I thought there was another plan! Is it only the Serpent that changes the plan?"

Kendall's expression turns dark again. "I changed the plan. Unwittingly. Stupidly. Carelessly." He lets free a frustrated sigh. "I no longer have the credibility to lend you any aid or position, Margot. My father is done with me, and has consigned me to my death."

"But when the Serpent blesses you, what does that do to the dynamic between you and your father?" An elbow plants itself just above Kendall's shoulder so that she can meet his eyes. The other hand continues to stroke his chest and face tenderly.

He stares into her eyes, his own gaze bright and intense. "I don't know. I will be more than him, but beyond that, I cannot say."

"Then we will deal with that moment when it arrives at our doorstep," she declares. She slides atop him so she can kiss him fully, and he returns the caress, letting her taste as deeply as she desires even as he renewed himself from her. She nuzzles her nose against his when they finally break apart. "These precious moments should not be wasted upon bleak possibilities."

"Hm. You are absolutely right," he agrees. He sits up and disentangles himself from her, moving her none too gently back onto the cushion. "Time continues her familiar dance, no matter my desires. I have much to do before I stand before the Priest, so we must go see my mother now."

She lands next to him in an untidy sprawl, flabbergasted. "Now?! You can't be serious," she pleads, not because she didn't want to see his mother, but only that she wasn't ready to leave their private universe and sacrifice any remaining time she may have with him.

"Yes, now," he answers as though it should be obvious, giving her a faintly puzzled smile as he tries to assess whether she was being serious. "I have much to do and a short time in which to do it."

"Oh," she answers softly. "I suppose I'm selfish for wanting to steal every second with you. It's just that… You don't have to be stoic or strong or anything special in front of me. I just… I wanted to be that strength for you so that you were… comfortable enough to… But it doesn't matter…"

She trails off and smiles bravely though she could feel tears threatening. She brings her legs up and wraps her arms around her knees, blinking rapidly as an internal war surges within her between what her heart wanted and what her head was telling her. Neither seemed willing to compromise. "I know that some things are lost in translation; be it words or cultural differences. You know that I love you with all that I am. I know you are fond of me. This is a dark time, but it is not your end. But I guess my delaying you doesn't solve anything."

Kendall thinks for five heartbeats and then crouches down in front of her, taking one of her hands in his. "I'm sorry, Margot," he says, very quietly. "I have been insensitive of your emotions, how you must feel about watching me go to my death."

He sighs, his gaze dropping to their hands. "You do not have full understanding of what all occurred in the Hall of Verity, where I stood before my father. Nor I do not have words to fully explain what happened in that chamber. To me. To my heart and my spirit. My father's lie was so deep, so powerful, it fully broke the barrier to throw me into the Abyss. He revealed the depths of his feeling, and consigned me to my death."

He looks up at her once more, staring into her eyes and now allowing her to see the bleakness within his own. "I know you would like for me to tell you that I love you. That your belief in me brings me hope. That your love and a child together will be enough to bring me back from the edge of oblivion, but… I can't tell you that, Margot. Not right now. My heart is dead, and the feelings do not exist for me. I have attempted to give you a child, as I promised. That is all I have right now. If I face the Serpent and against all odds, survive…"

He trails off and shakes his head. "I cannot envision beyond that, Margot. I'm sorry. I don't know who I will be then."

She nods slowly, though tears still cling to dark lashes. "I know you cannot, Kendall. And I know that fulfilling your… obligation… That was very important to you, and it honors me that you would do so with the future so uncertain. I know who I am and what I am to you, Kendall. And that is enough. For now." She sniffles but then graces him with a smile.

"Good," he says, serious and sober. He stands up and extends a hand to her. "Now I will go before my mother, and she will have no kind words for me. But I must speak to her before I leave, nonetheless. She is my mother."

"You cannot face her looking like a pauper," she remarks and she takes his hand, accepting his support as she rises to her feet. She wraps his hand around herself and moves close. "Do you wish to speak with her alone? I would like to support you and be with you until you must leave for the Priest, but I will accept your decision if you'd rather me simply return to my chambers. I may need an escort, however. I don't think I could find my way back alone."

"You are correct," he agrees. "You cannot navigate the ways without a guide, or you would become hopelessly lost, at best. We shall see if some arrangement can be made for your accommodation whilst I attend to my errands and my ultimate task. You shall come with me to see my mother."

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