One Last Errand

After departing from his brief conversation with Brisbane, Kendall calls the servants together to issue orders. They are brief, and simple: make preparations to leave soon by sailing ship, at the invitation of Minor House Tinor. He leaves the fine details to their discretion; certainly he has no desire or need to know how best to pack the household. That was why they had servants. Siorys would know what to tell the servant from Tinor who is sure to call requesting details on what will be needed to host their honorable guests during the trip back to Chaos.

The front reception chamber, with its muted light and subdued silence, is a refuge from the Amber sun and the sounds of activity as servants and guards alike begin preparations deeper within the Tower. Hanging still on the walls — indeed the things that would be removed last — the ensigns of his House and the Lords in residence provided a comforting touch of Home, a reminder of what they expected to return to. Kendall sprawls carelessly on a couch near the cold hearth facing the banners to consider what to do with the intervening time.

His thoughts turn briefly to Margot, and the ordeal she would be facing. It was, perhaps, similar in concept to the Chaosian essay into the Cave of the Logrus. Deadly dangerous, but with the promise of great power and influence at the end. He was aware of feeling anxiety for her, that she would survive through the ordeal and come out in one piece. He wasn't sure how he would know of Margot's fate one way or the other, however, and so he turns his mind to think on other puzzles instead.

Amber. Thought of this place brought mixed emotions. From one perspective, the place was not all terrible. Certainly it was static, and provincial, and distant from much that was interesting, but… it could perhaps be a Shadow suited to a rustic hunting lodge. Provided the game one planned to hunt ran on two legs and not four.

The small joke brings just a brief flicker of a smile to his face before he turns serious again. No, really, he realized he ought to be taking this all much more seriously. Brisbane had raised some questions that Kendall ought to think about. His uncle periodically said rather unusual things, but Kendall was usually willing to at least think about them, even if he didn't always ultimately agree. The question seemed to be… what? Whether or not Amber really was enough of a threat, or posed even enough interest to merit destruction? Or was it a question of whether Chanicut should be involved?

He leans his head back against the couch, looking at the streaks of sunlight sneaking through the chinks between the heavy curtains, invading the space to stripe the ceiling with golden light. Certainly, he had little reason to care about this place. His time here had been filled with confusion and annoyance, disrespect and indigestion. No, Amber wasn't all bad, but most of the good had to do with the scenery as far as he could tell. Get rid of — or better yet — subjugate the people properly, and it might have use.

But there were those who wished its entire destruction. Did Amber deserve destruction? Much as he would take pains to avoid admitting it to anyone, Kendall privately knew well that his own importance was fairly minor. Petty insults to his own honor and position weren't something that would merit any retribution from his House, though probably his death would have brought some comment.

The thought of possible death sends his mind into amorphous speculation for a time, with ideas, feelings, opinions all bubbling below the surface of consciousness, not yet ready to be nailed down with specific words or conclusions. Drawn again into his inner world, Kendall stares at the ceiling for uncounted time, mind distant and unfocused, until a loud THUMP breaks him from his distraction, bringing him back to time and place again with a start.

He sits up, purely by reflex, and looks in the direction of the noise, which sounded perhaps like a trunk being dropped. But silence fills the entire Tower for the space of 20 heartbeats and no one comes seeking the Chaosian Lord, so Kendall slouches back down on the couch and turns his attention back to his musings. His previous line of thought having been interrupted, his mind settles instead on something completely different, of more personal interest.

Mention of siring a babe through the Princess had quickly brought to mind the tragedy surrounding Lady Louella, a topic he had tried to avoid thinking about as much as possible. Perhaps indeed he would be able to leave that behind once he left Amber. The thought was at once a relief and yet… not at all comforting. Regret wasn't an emotion he had been well acquainted with in his youth, but something he had steadily found himself gaining knowledge about since arriving in Amber. The loss of the Knight was regrettable enough, but thought of the loss of the babe caused a distinctly uncomfortable feeling—the tense tightening of muscles in the stomach and the chest. He knew the sensation, but hadn't before been ready to identify it as sorrow, even… grief.

Filling with an abrupt restlessness, Kendall jumps from the couch and begins pacing around the room with quick steps. How would things have turned out differently if he had approached that situation differently, he wondered. But then again, the question would be, how could he have approached the situation differently? Could he have reasonably done anything differently? Would it have mattered? And why should he have had to be so different? He tried, really he had, to be reasonable and come to a peaceful solution.

A sudden insight freezes him in his tracks. He needed to finish with that episode, in order to leave Amber behind. Something else needed to be done, but… what?

Confusion, frustration, and worst of all, some unexplainable pain all crowd in to his mind, distracting and blurring his thoughts, making him long for the peace of a book or the comfort of his lute. Clenching his jaw in annoyance, Kendall instead closes his eyes and silently battles for clarity. Deeply absorbed in his mental task, unnoticed at first by his conscious mind, his feet again begin moving, pacing the now familiar path around the room as he thinks.

The truth was, he had no idea what these Amberites did with their dead. He knew vaguely of a procession of Knights to honor some other dead woman, an event that had occurred shortly after he first arrived. What actually had happened to the woman's remains afterwards was a mystery, however. And even if he knew, what of it? Yet just the act of asking that question to himself makes his mind receptive, and a deeply buried thought emerges.

Regardless of all else, the Lady Louella had been the bearer of his child. In death, that was to be remembered even as life. He needed to pay his respects, both to her and the dead babe that had never had an opportunity for more.

As those thoughts crystalize in his mind, Kendall finds himself once again standing before the cold, dark hearth. Above the mantle, the mirror reflects a face back to him that he wasn't sure he recognized. Having decided on a course of action, his expression now displayed a look of intense and serious concentration that had previously been most typically reserved for such important matters as what ballad to play to woo the latest pretty face into his bed, or how best to avoid a tutoring session.

Completely unbeknownst to himself, in that murky, disjointed way that young people moved into adulthood, he had matured. It wasn't an instantaneous or complete change, but rather a process of moving towards thoughtful responsibility and away from the frivolous pursuit of personal pleasure. And yet, even that sudden realization and self awareness is another step on the way to true maturity.

He takes only a heartbeat to study the new person he could see beginning to emerge in the reflection before turning away to return to other matters. Time was of the essence, if he were to proceed with the germ of an idea that had come from his silent musings. Back down the halls and through the doors of the Tower, Kendall finds his way back to his private chambers.

Very little had been changed there, as the two Lords' belongings would be left undisturbed as long as possible to ensure their continued comfort. Though he rarely dealt directly with his own clothing, certainly Kendall knew where it was and how to dress himself, and his own agitation left him unwilling to wait on summoning his servant.

He dons a formal robe of green, checks his hair and the hang of the fabric, pulls on comfortable boots, and then straps a stiletto knife to his arm — mate to the knife that had been taken from him previously. Once his appearance is in readiness, he pauses again, indecisive, eyes roaming around the room and the scant possessions he had there.

Alighting on an idea, he retrieves another box from the wardrobe shelf, and from it takes a narrow gold ring. A minor heirloom of his House, it had been given to him many Cycles ago by his sister, a token commemorating his transition from the Child's Court to the court of his Elders. The fine gold is decorated with a filigree and finished with a single stone of deep green. Placing the ring on his own finger for the time being, he closes the box and leaves everything for Rory to tidy.

It takes a mere handful of heartbeats to inform the Chanicut guards standing vigilant watch at the entrance to the Tower of his intention to take care of an errand in the Castle proper. After that, a short walk across the glass and metal bridge, and a knock at the great doors.

"I require escort to see the Queen's secretary, the Lady Genoveve," Lord Kendall informs the guards at the far end.

Seated before her desk, a glass of wine in hand, Kendall awaits for Genoveve to arrive. Casting an eye about, seeing beauty there in the choices yet not of the person behind or to the whys each was made. Did the white coral upon the desk, which served as a paperweight, say more then just its need? Nothing spoke to him of her besides the portrait of the queen behind her desk. Lovers once, far away when Morgana was younger… Yet Genoveve was not of Amber, for her people were called Fey, long-lived past even what Kendall would consider reasonable, their Court just a faltering shadow of his Courts if he had to guess. And so Genoveve's only loyalty, her only bond, was to Morgana and not to Amber or any of its citizenry.

"I am to understand, your desire to adjoin?" She asks, strolling into her office as if last night never happened.

Dressed in a silver gown, her hair up with gold ivy weaved within, Genoveve smiles as she pauses so Kendall can drink in her beauty like a rare wine. Yet it was a wine with a bitter aftertaste… for whatever passion he felt or task undertook, it would be only a passing fondness for her like a sniff of a pretty flower. And that, could make Kendall pity Morgana to have one such as a lover. For the marriage with Eric, Margot's birth, even Gana's own words would mean nothing to such a creature. A passing moment, of no consequences to their eternal love. And that, could make Genoveve the most dangerous woman in Amber!

Genoveve being a distinctive creature, Kendall as always pays her the compliment of standing as she enters the room. His small bow to a mere secretary — hardly more than a nod — is a gallant concession to one who is unique and remarkable. The Chaos Lord also is one who appreciates beauty of all kinds; his smile as he beholds her is admiring but not at all lascivious; the salute of an artist who recognizes true artistry when he sees it.

"Adjoin?" he inquires, raising an eyebrow in curiosity. "I do not apprehend your meaning. I am here to speak on a matter that may be considered… delicate by those who are native to Amber."

"Adjoin… making contact with, adjacent." Genoveve response, her lips form a slight pout after mulling the matter over for a few seconds. "Perhaps it was a wrong selection… Thank you, I will banish that word from my mind." Taking her chair behind the desk, this exotic woman takes an interest in him for the moment. "And that would be?"

It wasn't a usage he was familiar with, but that was not something he was unaccustomed to. He waits for her to get comfortable before answering the question. He settles back into her chair, picking up his wineglass again and taking a sip.

"I am interested in learning how to pay respects to those who have gone to the — who have passed away." He sort of remembered that euphemism from one of the books he read.

"That would depend to whom those respects are being devoted to," Genoveve says to his odd request. "For some, mere attendance at the burial site would be suffice, others a token of sorts… flowers, poems, words spoken to the decease." She pauses here, glancing to a book in her bookcase. "As for recent Royal Members, I would be impelled to inquire to be accurate."

"No," he says. "My inquiry relates not to the item, so much as… means. The Lady Louella, Knight in the Queen's household. Where would her, ah, remains be located?"

"At the moment, her remains are being stored in the Royal Crypt by the Queen's decree," Genoveve replies. "To their final resting place, I believe the Queen has yet to make that decision…"

He nods to himself. "Ah, good. I will go there, then, so I may pay my respects to the Knight, as I will be leaving Amber soon," he says. "Thank you."

Genoveve pauses here, considering before replying."Without the Queen's permission, such a visit could prove difficult to say the least. The Knights of the Ten Thousand are a proud and noble band of mortals, so only Gana's mastery has kept vengeance from being extracted upon you personally."

Kendall grits his teeth, annoyed but not wanting to appear so. He should have known the Amberites would manage to over complicate even so simple a thing. He had no interest in dealing yet again with the Queen. He was on the way out of Amber. Home. There was no need to make nice at this point.

He is silent for the space of 10 heartbeats before venturing any sort of reply. "Is it possible at the least to know where the Royal Crypt is located?"

"Yes…" Genoveve answers, amused by the question it seems. "I will arrange a guide."

Standing, she moves a few books over in her small bookcase to pull out a small silver cage with an ailing imp inside. "Danish…" It squeaks out, to which Genoveve shakes the cage, uncaring when the demon screeches in pain.

"This nasty beast was found living in Prince Bleys's suite and claims to have detailed knowledge of the castle." She shakes the cage again, sending the imp into agony. "Whether tis true or not, I have yet to ascertain, but he should be knowledgeable enough for your small request."

Kendall also stands, reaching out to accept the cage with the imp inside. "And the price for such assistance?" he asks.

"Whiskey…" The imp croaks in the Lesser Demon Tongue.

"Price?" Genoveve asks over her shoulder, bringing order back to her books and the shelf. "Whatever for?"

Kendall ignores the imp at first, replying to Genoveve. "Is that not an expectation here? Favors and barter?"

"For what?" Genoveve asks, turning back to him with amusement. "I merely give a demon back, to one from their realm. Vile things, demons and such, have no place in Morgana's world, as do others that fail to find their place within her vision."

Vile things… "Very well, then. I will be on my way, and take this back where it belongs," Kendall says. He gives the elf a parting nod as he carries the cage into the hall. Looking around, he realizes he must have left by a different door, as the hallways is unfamiliar and his escort is mission.

But that was all to the good. Once past the door, the Imp gives praise. "Good Lord, Gracious Lord, mighty in his mercy to save such one like I!" It bows in a sickly reminder of those done here in Amber. "May I request, implore, we stop at the kitchen during your Lordly business?"

He stops in the hall and hears the Imp out. It was such a small thing, and of so little consequence, but yet… He feels another stirring of that traitor impulse, a sympathy for another who is caged far from home.

"I would grant you freedom from the cage if you would swear your obedience and allegiance to me on the Breath of the Great Serpent," he offers. "You know that those of Amber would not spare you any mercy if you stray from my presence and protection, and my patience with disobedience is short."

"I swear service and loyal to yor'Lord till upon the door of your Great House." The imp swears, the ancient bidding upon his words. "I spit upon this place, malicious edifices and people, not fit for my fine service!"

A grim sort of smirk flickers over Kendall's face, but is gone almost before it appears. Sympathy or no, his expression as he stares at the creature through the bars is dispassionate; the face of someone who little cares whether the being within lives or dies.

"Very well," he accepts the oath with a grave nod, opening the door to allow the thing to escape the prison, offering a wrist as an alternative so they can talk easily. The imp bounds upon his wrist as light as lover's kiss in the morning. Its tiny claws find purchase on his sleeve as Master and Servant study the other. To Kendall's eyes, this demon would be the little yelping terrier that Margot spoke of once.

"Yes, Milord?" The imp asks.

The Chaos Lord tosses the cage carelessly into a corner to be picked up by someone else. It may be there a while, but that was not his problem.

"Give me your name," he commands.

"Tis Chalchuayeychtli, master," the creature rasps, its tail twitching to keep its balance.

"You have some knowledge of this place?" A glance takes in the whole of the Castle. "I have need of a guide to the Royal Crypt."

"Ah… I do, I do, Master," the Imp says gaily. "Cold place, yet fewer nasty interlopers to worry about as one goes about his profession." The small demon crackles in amusement, tiny claws clicking. "Right fun, down there in the cold and dark."

With his new escort's help, Kendall finds himself in front of a iron door in the bowel of the castle. A single oil torch sheds a wavering light upon the bony skeletons upon hinges that show the door swings outward. And then, its the large two key box lock and handle. The top keyhole, small with a slot at each compass point like some sort of cross-eye. The keyhole below, looking more for a common skeleton key they use here.

The imp just shrugs, useless at the moment even if the demon had gotten him down here without interference.

Kendall reaches into a pocket to see… there might be… yes, a few stale nibbles of sweet bread, put there as a treat for a wayward Qur. He pulls them out and offers them to the malnourished imp while studying the two locks. Sorcery wasn't his strongest suit, but having some knowledge of the Queen's abilities, he still takes a moment to attempt to sense whether there were arcane wards in addition to the physical locks barring his way.

Opening his awareness, Kendall feels a bit queasy as his inner senses get battered by the Pattern so near. Its energies roll out in waves, washing over all and firming up the door even as he stands here. Sorcery would only be viable between the waves, as would physical force to break the door down.

As for sorcery upon the lock guarding against such as he, it would have to subtle and powerful. Interwoven with the very Pattern itself, which makes it ever more improbable that they would do so. This lock was pure mechanics, which makes it ever more dangerous for him or a foolish Amberite. Skill would be required, which is something he has his doubts any in Amber would take the time to learn.

"Imp," he directs his words to his newest underling. "I require a lookout. Warn me of the approach of anyone and anything." He indicates down the passageway and the nearest turning. The imp disappears from view and only the galling sound of its claws upon the stairs going back up give the tidings that Kendall's orders are being followed.

Kendall turns his attention to the regular lock first, pulling his blade from the sheath on his wrist. Inserting the stiletto into the lock, he attempts to open this barrier.

First is the look, which seems normal enough for these styles of mundane locks… nothing seems too exotic. Now back in his House, such a door would either have a Blood Lock or a Living Lock, those strange organic mechanism that alive. He's seen the memories of those who failed in bypassing those types of locks, the ugliness of their deaths. Here in Amber, the best they can do is put a lock a child could defeat to a room one would think should be important.

So either there is more to this lock (or locks if one is accurate), or Kendall is overlooking something. Tapping finds, the cylinder lock is a bit loose as well as face plate that is suppose to prevent what he is doing. Withdrawing the tip of his stiletto, and thinking about it… all Kendall has to do is, jam, twist, and the lock should open. Being skilled is required of course, but nothing he would consider specialized. Looking it over again, the whole lock from box to parts are uncommonly thick, and of heavy iron.

And so he does that thing to the lock, looking for the promising click that would indicate mastery over the first challenge.

Placing the tip of his stiletto against the cylinder, which with a quick twist and then press on the bolt and the door should open—and it's here it all goes wrong. The tip of the stiletto bites deep into what was supposedly hard iron, the metal upon the bolt like paper in that one small spot.

Before he even gives the chance to withdraw, a flare of scintillating light and the choking smell of brimstone pours from the keyhole. The lock becomes red hot as all the little bits instead fuse into one big mess of iron. The trap: simple chemistry in what must have been a false lock. A hollowed-out lock bolt filled with the compound with a thin covering to avoid exposure to air. Now the lock is a melted mess, not opening for any key and with a cloud of noticeable sulfur flumes moving up the stairway to reach the keen nose of any nearby guard or servants.

A sigh, and after wiping the tip of the knife with his kerchief, Kendall slides it back home in its sheath on his arm. So much for that. Clearly his efforts in Amber had been cursed in some way, perhaps by a rival at home, or by someone here in Amber. Nothing had gone well for him in this place, and now it seemed as though the best that could happen was to survive long enough to get out. Still…

He walks back along the hallway where the imp had disappeared earlier, calling the small creature back to him.

Chalchuayeychtli appears at Kendall's knee and looks back to the door with rumination before saying, "There is another way in… actually two, if you still want in." It looks at its new master warily.

Kendall returns the imp's stare with a cool expression. The obvious answer to the question would be: he hadn't asked.

"What perils do these other entrances involve?" he asks.

"One is small, only this size for vapor's conveyance," Chalchuayeychtli shares, indicating its own diminutive form. "The other, more audacious. Access by way of caves and a seaside cliff opening."

Well, the small opening was not an option for the Chaos Lord. Even if he wanted to shift into something that could fit, the very thought of trying to do something like that so close to the Pattern after sensing so much of that distasteful energy a short while ago was enough to turn him cold.

He toys briefly with the idea of having the imp deliver the trinket to the Lady Louella's resting place by means of the small entrance. But in such brief acquaintance, it was impossible to know yet whether the creature was trustworthy enough for such an errand.

"Very well, show me the sea side entrance, and we shall discover whether tis suitable."

His imp — there was really no other way to think about it at this point — leads Kendall up and out even as a patrol comes near wondering about the smell. A quick dodge into an anteroom, gallery, up some stairs, and then outside into the cool sea breeze. Upon the wall, sentries used to folks coming up for the view pay the Lord no mind as his guide points to a small rock outcropping about 100 yards down with a claw finger. "There…" Chalchuayeychtli hisses.

Kendall finds his way down the cliff and into the dimness of the crypt with fair ease. The rocky face is barely as steep and dangerous as a pleasurable romp through the Avenue of Long Kisses. The birds call and the surf crashes far away and below — almost soundless. But the tugging of the wind is very real as he navigates his careful way. He missteps only once, at a heartbeat when his attention is taken away from the climb by the call of a bird nearby, the mournful cry sounding almost like a baby's cry.

He catches himself before he slips too far, some pebbles rattling down towards oblivion, and turns his attention back to the here and now. There would be plenty of time later to dwell on other things. Right now, he had only to think of his errand inside.

And indeed, tis only a short time later that he finds the entrance, and only a short search after that in the dimness before he finds what he seeks: the Knight lying in icy repose, resplendent in her armor.

Her body lay upon white marble with her Unicorn Sword in her hands upon her breast. Its blade was now tarnished, empty of power as the woman who once held it in glory lay now empty of life. Dozens of timeless candles burn, each a mark of the honor bestowed by her fellows. Citations and commendations heaped beneath a Unicorn Banner. Her helm was covered in flowers, the perfect small white petals which bloom only where the Unicorn had manifested.

The room is chilly, with an eerie sense of being not alone…

Kendall stands still for many heartbeats, looking at the Knight while thoughts skitter through his mind at random — memories, regrets, and random non sequiturs that would seem unrelated until closer scrutiny revealed their links. But his contemplation is disturbed before such scrutiny could begin, the sense of the room being alive around him prickling his skin and making him squint about the space to see if he was being observed.

Logically, of course, if someone was here, they would have raised a hue and cry immediately upon his entrance. Yes. Exactly. Firmly pushing aside his disquiet, he pulls from his own finger the ring he had brought as a small token of his regard for the woman who had so briefly held his legacy. Twas a strange thought, for Kendall. Nothing he would have expected, certainly not at this time and in this place.

Reaching over to the body, it occurs to him to send a brief thought to the Unicorn — or the girl Amber, mayhap? Who knew, really? He send a silent request to allow him to give this token to the woman lying on the cold bier. Twas meant as a sign of respect and regret, nothing more. Taking her right hand, he slides the band onto her little finger.

Back to the list of Kendall's threads.
An Unexpected Meeting

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