Laying the Ghost

Kendall’s footsteps lead him once more to the manor in the Courts, where he must walk amongst the darkness of mourning. The very walls of Chanicut wept at the death of one son, while the other prepared to meet his own destiny. Black vines covered with red thorns and black flowers crawled over the walls, choking doorways and covering windows. Silken webs covered all the portraits within the halls save those displaying likenesses of the fallen Cedric. Water trickled down walls and seeped from under doors, the tears of the House and mourners too much to contain. They flowed through the halls to the sacred River that fed the House with life, joining with the waters of Chanicut itself.

Through ways and halls, down into the deeps below the manor into the most ancient of caverns, Kendall lets his feet guide him when his eyes could not see. He had been to this cave several times in his life, but he never expected to make this journey to see his brother’s ghost. He waffled between hope to see his brother, living to dead, and hope that Cedric would not even be there. Not all ghosts made their way to the Cave of Reverie — what he had always thought a singularly poor name for this place. Not all ghosts went there, but he had an obligation to look, nevertheless. An obligation of courage, if nothing else.

Pausing at the bottom of a rocky stair, a small ledge held the needed items: a jar of powder, a small bone knife, and a crystalline cup that he dips in the small stream that trickles nearby. The powder he brushed on his cheeks and eyelids, to allow him to see Cedric’s spirit if he was there. He takes a sip of the bitter, metallic tasting liquid, and pours the rest over his fingers and the knife. Water from the River drunk from this cup would allow them to converse.

And the knife? The knife would cut the ghost away from the lingering aspects of life that still tied it to this plane, freeing it to move to wherever the ghosts went next. Kendall had never inquired on specifics; he always figured he’d find out eventually for himself what awaited after death. And whether Cedric would want to be cut away was another question. Some ghosts preferred to linger. But in any event, Kendall would see his own obligation taken care of this way.

The young Lord pauses at the opening of the cave, which was only brightly lit from within. He realizes his heart is beating hard and he is sweating. It was irrational, he knew. Cedric was dead; the only thing the ghost had to use against him was words. He knew, though, that words alone could do damage, could even kill. Taking a breath, he steadies himself, firms his conviction, and enters the cave.

Shielding his eyes, for this cave wasn't the endless dark of most… but the glaring white light that hurts almost all sensory organs. It was ever so in the Cave of Reverie, and to even ask to the 'why' was discouraged. And really, if one was to think, with the nature of things like Life and Death. A cavern of pure agonizing light, where no shadows could ever exists, wasn't that bad of a place to met a shade. Even if it was one, that would claim to be his brother.

Kendall looks down, placing his feet carefully on the uneven floor. Three steps was all that was needed for him to be inside the cave and surrounded by the light that almost hurt his skin, so he stops to look around and wait to see if his presence would draw anything to him. He swallows, feeling the dry mouth brought about by the minerals in the water.

"Cedric!" he calls into the whiteness. His voice echoes surprisingly loud. One would expect sound itself to be burned away, but the cave amplified more than just light.

Its first the noise, as soft as his breath… the slow shuffled of feet coming. Next comes this weird echo, like the non-existences wind calling out his name.

"Kennnndalllll…"

The young Lord tightens his grip about the bone knife with one hand, stubbornly refusing to wipe a sweaty palm against his clothes. "I am here, Brother," he answers, forcing his voice to come out strong and with confidence he hoped to soon feel. "You know why I'm here."

Tis the sound of a sword being drawn, which comes next. Then comes another, a dozen, a hunderd, a thousand, till the sound becomes so garbled to become just unrecognized noise.

"Cedric," Kendall says, standing his ground. "I am unarmed, save the ch'ela*. Come speak to me, say your final words, and allow me free you."

"You were always my doom…. even before your first breath." A voice in the Light hisses with a hate that for a brief moment that burning glare dims.

"That was your doing, Cedric. We could have been allies," Kendall counters.

"Nooooo…" Says the voice, come ever closer. "Grand Issua saw it in the Fates, yet Father still decided to have you."

Kendall absorbs this answer, allowing the first response to die unspoken. "Why?"

The figure, that moves into, is, the Light. Yet its a chuckle, that greets Kendall's question. "Why to the Doom, why she saw it, why in the reason he still had you? Always unfocused, little brother…"

The angry response comes quickly to mind; Cedric had a way of making his younger brother fume with rage. Kendall has to pause to rein in his tongue before attempting to answer. "Why would Father sire me if it meant your doom?" he clarifies, speaking slowly and carefully.

"Why would he not?"

The question was a little confounding, and Kendall frowns in irritation. It seemed so obvious. "Father always has favored you, Cedric," he answers. "Why would he choose to sire a child who was supposed to be your doom?"

"He only favored me, because he had no other choice…"

"Then your quarrel is with our father, not me," Kendall answers.

"Yet whose hand was on the blade?" Cedric's shade ask. "Yet, you always been only a link in the chain. Over and over, yet only a link till those at the end, ended me."

"A link in a chain? Or puppet strings?" the younger Lord questions. "Our strings have always been held by others, Cedric. That is the way of our House. But you brought on your own death, baiting and taunting me. Always sure of your superiority. I am not remorseful."

"Yet you are here, Little Brother. The only one, so far…"

"My hand was on the blade," Kendall agrees, his voice sober. "This task is mine to accomplish. Is there anything more you want to tell me before I cut you free?"

"They move…"

In spite of the gravity of the situation, Cedric's answer still induced a short, quiet chuckle from his brother. Speaking of being vague and unfocused….

"Who is moving? And to what purpose?" he asks.

"They, our family enemies. Did you really think your blade could end mine, without the cost of your own." The Shade smiles to this, twisted and frightening. "You only brought forth the opportunity, unless you still wish to be the only cause. But in a way, that's also true…"

"This wasn't the way it was supposed to be," Kendall says, quiet and sober. "But that doesn't mean I will claim responsibility for your actions, Brother. We are equally at fault. The only difference is that I survived to face the consequences, though you came near to ending my life with your demon sword."

"The Dead are never at fault, they are merely dead… that's a Living term, and one you must fact if you truely love our sister and mother."

Kendall is quiet for some time after that, digesting the ghost's words and finding them to be quite unpalatable indeed. A steadying breath before he answers. "Fine. Yes. The only way out that I can see, is a boon from the Serpent, as risky and uncertain as that is. A boon for our House. I just… I don't know what to ask yet."

He had never thought there would be anything harder than killing Cedric, but he was wrong. And it takes a little work to nerve himself up to speak again, to ask his brother for advice. He licks dry lips, and swallows. "What— Do you have any suggestions?"

"Easily Little Brother. Myself alive once more." Cedric's shade says with a laugh, a impossible amongst impossibles. Not for the Serpent, but for Kendall to ask.

A snort of amusement, in spite of his disappointment. "That would not solve Chanicut's dilemma, nor mine, so I shall decline. But I see that your counsel is likely of no use to me, after all."

"That was always your problem, Little Brother." Cedric shares. "Your mind is too small."

"Oh, please," Kendall says, tone laced with sarcasm. "Please do enlighten me. How would having me bring you back help either of us?"

"I would be alive, so once more Heir. Mother, would regain her son. Our sister, a brother. Our enemies, a foe… and my little brother, would gain once more the freedom to do as you wish. Any other boon, would be chains even if appealing to one's eye at that moment. Father could only mark you as a enemy, and to survive you would become so. Click, would go the locks as you sat where he did. Click, as others push you towards the Throne. Click, would go the lock as you would married another because you must. Click, goes the lock, upon the heart of the woman you murdered me for. Click, would go the lock to whatever dream you once have. But I, I am a key…. yours if you wish, to free you from all of that. We would hate as before, but that is only right for us two…"

The younger brother weighs the words, listening to their undeniable ring of truth… and falsehood. "Oh, how blessed I am to have such a brother as you to save me from myself," he says, still sarcastic. "I could only aspire to be so self-sacrificing, to take on ambition like this for the sake of others."

"I will admit, its self-serving…yet we both in the end want the same. House Chanicut to preserve, our mother to sustain her position, and sister to at least accept her fate. If any other gift from the Serpent, any other chain of thought can get that then I'll gladly fade into the darkness. But if your thoughts go elsewhere, like with that girl, Little Brother. We might as well end our chat here!"

"Are you so sure we want the same things? Because I am not," Kendall says. "I could never have what I wanted with you in the way. And yet now with you gone, it is still beyond my grasp. What pathetic irony." He looks down at the knife in his hand, turning it over in the bright, bright light, and then back up at his brother. "Good-bye, Cedric. Perhaps… if we could be brothers who did not hate each other… But you know as I do that I must not pass up this opportunity."

"Why?" He asks, even more noble then he with the blade.

"You suggest I stand before the Serpent and ask a return to the status quo? To how things were before? With you alive and we two still rivals? But we both know, even with your returned to life, there is no going back for either of us. Particularly not for me."

"But the status quo was what you always did counted on." Cedric replies. "Cut it's throat, whom knows where it will bled. Toss it into the Abyss, and the whole of the Courts will be open before you, yet so are the risks. Awake with my boots sewn to your feet, with even family expecting the same as they did with me. Amusing don't you think, that by killing me you become me. And that bit of irony, almost makes my death bearable."

Kendall shakes his head. "Enjoy your irony all you wish, but it will not happen that way, as you well know. Father would not willingly declare me heir, even if I survive a meeting with the Serpent. Not even if I vanquished Amber and laid all of Chaos before him." He is not bitter, merely stating a fact. "But, mayhap, a child of my line could rise up instead, and that would be best served by a vacancy brought about by your demise."

"If the Serpent doesn't eat you, what other choice could you have?" Cedric asks. "Founder your own House, that's really your only choice with that amberite child. But if you stay in Chanicut, you will become our father's enemy." His brother pauses here, thinking to a fact. "But your child, perhaps…. Old things have been moving, I've felt them since I've been dead." Cedric's shade looks to his little brother. "Perhaps all of this, is due to their machination that we never saw. Another bit of irony, that makes death less foul."

"For what it is worth, which is nothing, I'm sorry we could only ever be enemies," Kendall tells his brother. "I didn't want to hate you, but you made it impossible to do otherwise."

"I'm not, even now." Cedric confess. "As enemies, we force each other to grow in ways we might never. Even in death, you are talking paths never would you thought of taking before. Which I doubt you can say the same with our woman… Margot will never do the same for you, for she thinks she loves you. But hate, that we do understand and trust. Hate is a boot, that propels you forward while love is just a pillow on a bed." He chuckles. "Even after we done here, you will still hate me… because you must."

"You don't think we each had plenty of enemies to hate besides each other?" Kendall asks with an ironic smile.

"But each can understand the other's hate, added I never wished you much harm that wasn't mine in the making. After all, you are still my little brother."

"Then tell me, as one boon from granted from older brother to younger brother, what one thing do you say I should do to be as successful as you?" Kendall asks.

"You do understand, I am dead?"

Kendall laughs out loud, which is a rarity. "If I am warned ahead of time of my doom, I hope to avoid starting a sword fight with it," he points out. "Otherwise, yes, I am curious. You say that Father favored you because he had no choice. But I see it very differently."

"Do we not pick at a wound, even if it pains us?" His brother answers with a laugh. "But for the other, I'm sure there was more besides just my doom. Things don't just work that way, Fate is never so kind. Whatever was said, I only saw that about my doom. Perhaps more of what's coming was predicted, and Father fears it."

"That may be so," he remarks in a thoughtful tone. "I shall have to ponder how best to serve our House when next I am called upon."

"That, too, was always your problem. You take too long with mulling over a task or opening. If I haven't conviced you to return me, at least don't waste my death! Use the doorway of my corpse, to do something great and grand. Take Chanicut, make it your own. Or at least, something within the Royal Court." He shrugs, not pleased to the last choices. "Prehaps your own House, not my preference but workable with a few of my choices with ladies to breed. At least, HER House could be considered if we wished my name to be a stain with yours. Better that shit Brand, so at least I could take comfort in that little prize." He smiles, relaxed in finding a truth revealed. "It was always my wish, you weren't of our House… and now, with my death, you aren't! Not really, as long as Father holds the chair. To be of Chanicut, you must become Chanicut. So funny in a way, for I doubt I could had said the same if it was you standing here dead."

"This may be the longest conversation we've ever had," Kendall observes. "No doubt if we spoke long enough, all of my faults would eventually be laid bare. But you have my thanks nevertheless, because I now know what I must do."

He nods, resolved. "Good-bye, Big Brother. It was…. good to talk to you." He smiles at the unexpected realization, and the irony.

A single stroke, well placed, and it's done. The light vanishes from the cave as the ghost of his brother is swallowed up into the nothingness of death. Kendall stands alone once more.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Burn the Past, Walk from the Ashes

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