On the Hunt

Kendall takes the scenic route around the ship after departing from the cabin he shared with Margot. He wished to avoid Dara on her way to the cabin, surely, but also to see something different. Much time had been spent in cabin or on deck, with little in between thus far. So he takes the first side passage he encounters and begins to wander the inner confines of the ship.

Apart from the endless motion and noise of a ship at sea, his keen senses are buffeted by experiences unique to travel on a living ship. Energy emanates from the wood surrounding him, pressing against him with an almost physical warmth. Tiny creatures click and chirp at their tasks in discordant harmony, and the heavy odors of life hang heavily in the air. But even amidst this cacophony of sensory stimulus, a distinctive scent still catches his notice and piques his interest: fresh blood!

Ever curious, if not always beneficent, the young Lord turns from his original course to follow the scent. The trail takes him even deeper into Rhercyn's lower corridors near the cargo holds where he finds the corpse of a Hooded Man — one of the mindless drones that serve the White Ladies as crew. It lies on its back with its hood still locked and secure; at least the Ladies could harvest the endozoans for replanting. The blood still spread like a scarlet pool, reminding him of days back in his own Halls, but no immediate sign of prints or a living being on which to chain the killing.

Kendall steps near with a frown of thought furrowing his brow. He gathers the folds of his clothes close to his body as he crouches down next to the body, keeping it out of the blood that continued to spread as though in search of a new body to inhabit. He can easily see the killing slice across the throat like a parallel claw strike of great strength.The wound was jagged enough to suggest a large claw or some exotic weapon used by certain House assassins. Demon perhaps, or a Shifter if Kendall had to guess.

He brushes a finger across the edge of the wound, tasting the blood to see if the weapon or killer had left any traces behind. Nothing. But his investigation is suddenly interrupted by a voice.

"Oh, goody… a toy!"

Behind him stands a girl who looks about 12 Cycles old if Kendall's eyes where still safe to trust. Extremely thin, with bones showing, and white hair unwilling or unable yet to decide on a color. The thread work about her collar and cuff indicates its wearer is of House Tinor and related to Countess Anira. Perhaps a niece through a lesser brother?

"Mine!" The unnamed girl asserts as she slips around him in the narrow corridor to jump on the corpse's chest with legs spread. She studies her newest plaything with an intense curiosity. "This just won't do. Time for wakies," she says to herself, paying no attention to the Lord.

She giggles as she lowers her mouth to the wound and dislocates her jaw with a pop. A Shair-ki worm appears, moving out of its nest in its Mistress's gut to explore its new home. Which explains why the girl was so thin; being in Amber must have been very hard on her. Yet clearly the benefits of having such an Abyssal creature available just in case could be large if the correct host was found. Though even the weakest member of the Amber Royal Family could easily overcome the mental domination of a Shair-ki, a court isn't just made up of Royals.

Kendall is at once fascinated and repelled. A child of Chanicut who behaved in such an uncivilized manner at that age — no matter her rank — would be banished to the lower stables to live with the hunting hounds until she learned how to act properly. But Tinor was not Chanicut.

Annoyed, the Lord stands and reaches over to deliberately push the girl from atop the heap of death. "Not yours, yet," he admonishes her as much to gain her attention as anything. "I was not yet finished."

The child hisses and the worm snakes back into her throat to hide. Yet she does move off the corpse as her eyes find the same signs of rank and House on his clothing: Chanicut. A high noble. Ambassador, which is irksome to her fun. Forced to interrupt her play, forced to show deference, forced to still her thoughts in the hopes of survival.

"Bored!" she hisses, slinking back to crouch in the corner.

He makes an amused snort at her complaint, not at all concerned about her amusement. They stare at each other for several heartbeats, his critical gaze evaluating her with dispassion. "I doubt this creature here would give you much entertainment," he comments eventually, looking down at the corpse and moving a bloody hand with one booted toe. "Not as much as the one who killed him."

The child thinks about it for a breath before shaking her head in a firm 'no'. "I do not wish to join it in the darkness," she snarls.

Getting up, the girl turns to leave without offering even a perfunctory bow. "Broke toy, boring toy, scary toy… left alone. Yours now!" she sings to herself.

"Where?" he interrupts her retreat by moving into her way, his question and demeanor expecting a response. "The scary toy that is mine now. Where is it?"

"You already know that, Lord of Chanicut. You always knew that. It walks behind you, even now."

He backhands her as a matter of principle for her lack of manners. The pain elicits a furious hiss, yet the child takes the blow as she did so many others.

"Begone," he orders her, glancing involuntarily at the passage behind him to see if indeed anything of interest lurked there besides the half-mad ramblings of a feral child.

Gaining the stairs, she stops at the highest for one last taunt. "She's not done with you. No. The Horn tisn't done with you just yet." And that brings a smile which would chill if he were not of Chanicut. With that, the girl makes her escape into a creature hatch where she can crawl into the bowels of the ship.

Kendall stands in the vacant passage staring at the body for the count of 20 heartbeats, his thoughts temporarily but unavoidably caught up by the last taunt tossed his way by the Tinor child. No matter how much he would have liked to brush her words off like an insignificant piece of lint clinging to his clothes, a chill at his spine refused to relent its hold. He found himself for the first time entertaining the thought that the true threat to his life had not been from Morgana, but from Amber herself. And that was a threat he would do well to bear in mind. That she was a creature of the Courts, with all that implied, he had no doubt.

Even though his body had been healed, it still held the memory of the cursed sword that had almost claimed his life. But apart from the death of the Knight — which while unfortunate and perhaps even tragic, was still hardly significant — Kendall could think of no offense that warranted such attention from the Unicorn of Amber.

A sudden dip and sway as the ship catches a rogue wave breaks through his preoccupation. The corpse still lay there, and he was no nearer to learning more of the story behind it. Possibly the child had been sent as a distraction, or was directly involved, or it was all complete coincidence. Pushing his other worries to the back of his mind, he steps cautiously over the body and continues along the passage to see what else was nearby.

Checking the first storeroom, he finds nothing out of place when he reviews the seed boards. Though he does wonder what Tinor was thinking when they picked some of these goods. Among the places where beads for the natives wouldn't go over well, Amber would top the list. Other items, now gone, indicate personal indulgences during the long stay that speak poorly of House Tinor's denizens.

The next storage room presents a puzzle, though. The lock is easily overcome, and the dim light at first makes the inventory board difficult to read. And most of the listed goods appear normal enough till he sees the mismatch. He sets a sub-board especially crowded with buds against the main one, but even that does not resolve the question. He scowls to himself and then hunts around in the dimness until he finds an appropriate sub-root to feed through both boards.

Buds and trailing vines shiver at the contact for eight heartbeats before the boards finally flower with the real cargo: poisons, some weapons of questionable value in Amber, and a disease. Things that House Tinor must be holding for Hendrake just in case, since he knew it unlikely anyone in Tinor would have the chutzpah to use them in a place like Amber. But even then, one more puzzle remains in a container that stubbornly remains obscure.

Now thoroughly curious, he searches the control wall for another healthy bud. It only requires the merest wisp of energy redirected from the ambient life of the Rhercyn to graft the bud onto a root that still refused to flower. It shivers as the connection is fused, the tiny petals curling open with deliberate slowness. The container reads empty and the board requires another graft using buds from the other room before it reveals the former contents: Tr-kuna energy storage crystals. A king's ransom in them, no less, which isn't surprising upon consideration. It would take that many to blow up Castle Amber if it became necessary. But they were gone now, and a handful in a fire for a few Turnings would be more than enough to blow half the ship to splinters.

The container had been emptied within the last Turning. Kendall surmises the thief was removing the crystals out when the Hooded Man stumbled on them and got dead. Though the theft shows a level of skill and schooling that would be only available to a Chaosian noble or agent of a Great House, it's also sloppy enough that he was able to notice it. That ruled out Dara or his Uncle. And anyway, he knows Tr-kuna crystals are rare and pricey enough that most folks wouldn't use them to try to blow up enemies that could be taken out with cheaper methods.

Kendall does not waste time in the storage room once the theft is revealed. He spends just enough to cover up his discovery of the coverup. Given the state and contents of this room, it seemed only a select few had access normally, and it was not likely those few would give the room a close inspection any time soon. He pauses at the door to make sure there were no sounds or movement on the other side before slipping back into the passage. Looking first one way, then the other, he moves stealthily in the direction indicated by the scruffy child earlier.

Familiarity with ships in general helps, even if he was not exactly at home on this particular vessel. The Rhercyn presents the occasional odd turn or blank wall where she was in process of change or healing some seagoing hurt, but generally she yields her secrets to him without complaint. And perhaps it was the fragile bond between them, forged first in battle and then later in healing, that lent him a certain fondness for the vessel. A hand on the smooth, aged wood below decks is comfortable and lends him a sense of the ship's mood as she splashes through the waters under the setting sun.

Thoughts of the Tinor child and her silly taunt had fallen away, leaving him once more focused on the matter at hand as he glides through the lower decks of the ship with senses extended. His progress is silent save for the swish of his clothing and occasional click of a boot as it hits the wood just right. He moves mostly by instinct based on sketchy knowledge bolstered by his own sense of the sneaky. And two passages away, down a ladder to the lower deck, he discovers his first clue: a tiny sliver of crystal easily overlooked if one was not looking for it.

Even looking for such things, Kendall may have missed it if he had not perceived a certain incongruity in the shape of the corner of wall and floor of the passage. He crouches down, inspecting the splinter, which likely had split from a flawed crystal and worked its way out of the box to fall where it may. It was mere coincidence that it had happened here and now, perhaps, but it pointed him in the direction of where he would go.

The dim passage yields nothing more. If he needed more light, he could have awakened the colony of sleepy curly worms, but that would have been clear evidence of his presence. Instead, he pockets the splinter and pauses to orient himself by placing a hand to the passage wall.

Dimly, a sketchy sense of his current location comes to his mind, not so much a picture as a feeling of depth and encasement from above — deep in the ship near the bilge. Realization dawns that the bilge offered a unique staging area for the crystals, a place from which they could easily be set to move to their intended targets throughout the ship and begin to gather energy.

A pleasant chime sounds through the Rhercyn, resounding loudly in his mind still tenuously linked to the ship: the dinner bell…and their promise to dine with the Countess! It takes him all of five heartbeats to decide to ignore the summons, as dreadful as such a social gaffe might be in the sight of their host or, worse, Brisbane. He was close, he knew. He could feel it.

And then it occurs to him that the dinner chime would be perfect cover to place the crystals while crew and passengers moved busily about. So he moves forward instead of back, counting on social status and his ability to smooth over any indignation, and driven to solve the puzzle and find the crystals before they found him or someone else important to him.

Close to the door now, Kendall gets a feeling like…home. The feeling surrounds and envelopes him gently, filling his spirit with an almost physical ache. Home. Even with all the hardship, trials, and traumas, there was still something enticing about the familiarity and comfort of home. Memories arise, unbidden. Of sneaking into the servant's kitchen to steal hot c'ran nuts. Hopping across the fire pond using tortoises as stepping stones. Flying to the very highest pinnacle of the main Ways to look down on the sprawling domain below. Snuggling into Diona's arms after a nightmare had driven him from sleep.

He pauses to press fingers to his temple as he wards off the sudden psychic onslaught. Such warm memories evoked here in the deepest part of a ship at sea — a ship of another House entirely — could only portend danger. Gathering his energies, he pushes aside the warmth that beckons him to relax and be at ease. And then he opens the hatch.

A brine demon. The Lord immediately recognizes a familiar specimen of demon that serves the Houses in many roles. Merely calling it a 'water' demon is imprecise since any fluid could make up the creature's body. In the bilge, sea water could be the only choice. And in such a climate, minerals native to the fluid would only make the demon tougher. Its flowing hands hold several crystals, and its watery features display surprise.

Kendall looks around the gloomy space as he advances on the demon, quickly seeing if anything or anyone else is about. "Give those over to me," he orders the thing, as though it's perfectly natural for him to appear here and give the demon orders. Indeed, as a member of a Greater House, apart from Dara or Brisbane, he was the ranking Lord on ship. And, sometimes, trying the direct approach could occasionally yield surprising results.

Its surface layers ripple with what could be the demon word for "shit", and then the demon and the crystals collapse into the ankle deep dark waters. A wave ripples outward, the creature's center already lost in the large volume of water.

Kendall reaches above to grasp a root with his free hand so as not to be pulled underwater by the demon, should it decide to grab hold of his feet. Thus stabilized, he makes a clicking call to wake the small glowing worms that made their home in the nooks and crannies of the roots. His call wakes the slumbering colony to bathe the compartment in their reddish glow. Not bright by the standards of Amber's sunlight, but enough to illuminate the compartment.

But even as the worm glow spreads, the water begins to rise only about him like some huge soap bubble. While drowning wouldn't be a problem, being crushed to death could be. He quickly lets go of the root above so he can cup his hands together into an empty sphere, emulating the shape of the space where he was enclosed. Bringing hands to mouth, he breathes his spell into the enclosed space, letting the power build for several harrowing heartbeats before opening his hands to set the spell free.

The water around him freezes solid under his charm, yet the counter attack comes just as fast as a dozen ultra high pressure jets of water come shooting across the room. Kendall avoids gaining several holes in his body only by dodging behind his ice shield, but one single jet strikes his left thigh like a drill, cutting a deep hole into his flesh.

He hisses at the pain, angry now as he scans the room to find the collar that would identify the demon's brain. But luck was not with him. Even with the light from the glowing worms, the many hiding spaces among the ship's roots conspired against him. Once more anchoring himself with a grip around a root, Kendall summons a wind that blows the water with sudden gale force into one area of the bilge to confine it, releasing a containment spell into that area to capture the demon.

But unexpectedly the demon shows some brains, using the crystals floating in the water to absorb the spell energy like a hungry Pit hound. The creature's ingenuity catches Kendall off guard. Perhaps this demon is a rebel of sorts due to its stay in Amber? Of course the storage wall panel mischief is a bit above what's expected of these types of demons…but probably not completely out of the question. These thoughts barely flicker across the young Lord's consciousness before he banishes them as irrelevant to his immediate situation. He needed to finish this disagreement quickly before the demon's master or cohort appeared to complicate things.

Reaching out with his mind, Kendall imposes his will upon the crystals, forcing the demon to yield control. His spell energy is still trapped inside a few, ready to be tapped for other uses. The others lay fallow and ready. He considers chilling the water to slow the demon down and using the crystals to draw its lifeforce in. Or he could turn the demon into steam and just send it out into the ocean through the waste pipe. Those would take additional time, though, and this little exercise had already become more annoying than entertaining. Plus, Kendall still had somewhere else to be.

And so the demon becomes the victim of a Chaos Lord in a hurry. His patience for this encounter reaches its end, and without any further consideration he releases all the mental checks and balances that chain his shape to the delicate, courtly form it currently holds. The surge of raw power and energy that pours through him is more potent than any drug as limbs and body grow and twist into a form of true beauty, one that could only be fully appreciated by one from the Courts.

Scales wink in the dimming glow of the curly worms as Kendallarithan advances to the demon's position and devours its very essence within two heartbeats.

The demon doesn't go down easy, nor does it sit well in his stomach, yet its energy fuels the rest of the Lord's healing till he feels as good as he did before he arrived in Amber. Apart from the slight belly ache. Five crystals lie about in the water, not the smallest nor largest, but the middle sized useful for many things. Since Kendall came upon the creature near the roots that service the cabins, likely these crystals would go near there and charge on the ambient energy intended for the comfort of crew and guests.

He gathers up the crystals in one clawed hand and then pauses to listen for a time in case someone else might decide to join the party. But with nothing stirring nearby, Kendall sits down to rest in the slimy and stinking waters of the bilge. While not the most comfortable or enjoyable places, he still felt like a deep, incessant, and unreachable itch had finally been scratched. It had been much too long since he had shifted out of his human form, not since they had reached the unfavorable Shadows near Amber. It felt glorious.

It was unfortunate the demon had been devoured. Whoever had planned this escapade had planned well, to supply a liquid creature on a seafaring vessel. Which argued in favor of the culprit having been on board since before the vessel arrived in Amber. But. Mystery aside, he still has somewhere to be and a role to play.

Much sooner than he would prefer, he climbs back to his feet so he can search the bilge compartment for any additional crystals. Then shifting once more, he begins the long climb up a certain root to his cabin, clinging to the crystals and the root with a hundred tiny tentacles.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Dressing Up for Dinner

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License