Knives Out: A Conversation with Dara

Kendall escorts Lady Dara through the tower to the Hyacinth Room. He had named it thus after finding reference in a book to the gracefully arched flower stalks vividly depicted on canvas in still life above the mantel. While smallish as reception rooms went, it was the most tastefully appointed room of the tower. Already prepared for their arrival, candelabra in the corners filled the space with glowing light and the faintest scent of melesian incense.

Within the chamber, he leads her over to the chair commanding the choicest position and seats her with all due gravity before finding his own seat. Additional pleasantries are exchanged and mutual acquaintances at Court remarked upon while the servants arrange small savories for their enjoyment of the sort that were not presented for Amber guests. These two would not ordinarily have exchanged more than a glance or distant pleasantry if they had encountered each other in the magnificence of Thelbane. But strange circumstances made for strange associations. Though these two from very different Houses would not easily exchange trust, they still might find familiarity and affinity in their individual yet similar exiles.

While the grand old clock in the tower relentlessly sought to control Time's Movement with mechanical exactitude, the Chaosian hearts within this room invited Time into intimate relationship. Here She passed between them with fluidity and ease, free and untroubled. Rory brings a glass of wine from the elite stock to Kendall while Siorys presents Dara with the tray of delicacies to make her selection. Crispy saleth bones with the internal blood sacks still intact, difficult to obtain in the best of times and tricky to preserve and transport. Pickled greth fish with its smoky aroma, tangy reickel tongue, the sweet crystallized tears of shileeth sirens.

The Lord swirls the golden liquid, studying the color in the candlelight before lifting the cup to evaluate its aroma and then take a tiny sip. Nodding his approval, he hands the wine back to his servant to present to Dara. Though far from an ironclad assurance of the wine's harmlessness, such ceremonial gestures still persisted in the highly formalized interactions of Court.

Dara gracefully takes a sip, enjoying the taste of home, even if it was a frail Chanicut's vintage. But then, she would have found Amber's not much better than water compared to the potent Hendrake wines. "How fares Telairen?" she asks, her tone and smile innocent.

Kendall sits silently for three heartbeats at the unexpected question, his head tilting marginally to the side as he processes not just the words but the context and meaning behind them. "I know nothing of her current state. She has long been beyond my grasp," he answers, his own voice a study of calm even though admitting this out loud still brought a twinge of pain to the heart. So this was how it was going to be.

"Let us hope history doesn't repeat itself then," she comments in a strangely Amberish turn of phrase.

Kendall accepts another glass of wine from his servant and pauses after a sip to savor its subtle nuances. It had been some time since he had last had occasion to enjoy a bottle of the olefin, though it was almost a shame to waste it on a Hendrake. Considering the coarse and heavy vintages her House favored, one might as well pour tar into a glass and call it ambrosia.

"Similarities between events will always be found by those who search, but upon investigation these similarities reveal themselves to be quite coincidental," he answers, shifting his attention back to the lady across the room. He considers whether to add anything, but instead leaves the next volley to her. If she was given control of the conversation for a time, hopefully her purpose would make itself known.

"Will you protect her from your sister?" Dara asks.

The same persistent question presented itself to him, but he again refuses to speak it. Instead, he makes a careless gesture with the fingers of one hand. "There will be no need. Our ambitions, as always, are for the betterment of Chanicut. There is no conflict between us." He leans against the back of his seat and takes another sip of wine, watching Dara over the rim of his glass. The empty platitudes of the House could come in handy to deflect such questions, but he knew better than to think his answer wholly accurate.

"She loves you…" A knowing smile, then the twist. "Intimately."

Fingers tighten on wineglass and eyes narrow in hatred as her barb strikes home, both tells almost imperceptible to anyone not looking for them but obvious to one such as she. Though giving her free reign over the conversation could yield results, those results came with a price.

"No doubt those sentiments will be to my advantage when she and I discuss the princess' future with Chanicut," is all he says.

"Let us hope," Dara agrees. "While Milady's health is of my concern, her heart isn't…"

"And her health would be of concern to you why, exactly?" he inquires politely as though asking about someone's ailing grandparent or distant uncle.

"Because her mother asked me to," Dara answers, enjoying his discomfort even more than the watery wine.

He pauses, swirling the wine in his glass in an absent gesture. "Have you a purpose in your visit, Lady Dara?" he asks the question finally. "Or have your defeat and imprisonment in Amber left you empty of all but malice and insinuation?"

"As I spoke at the door, I am here to attend to my Lady," Dara answers, enjoying this fun. "Lady Margot, I believe you know of her… bedded her."

An eyebrow quirks. "I must beg your pardon for not viewing your word alone on this to be sufficient," he replies.

"As once the War Mistress of Hendrake, my word should be enough for a young lord of Chanicut," Dara snaps back, not in anger but a measured response to see how far he will push the point. "As Rights of the Host, you could claim so… in case I was a danger to your guest. Which I am, but not in the way that could bring on the Queen's ire." A smile appears for that riddle.

The story was ridiculously bizarre enough to have some measure of truth, but that did not make it agreeable or wise. And that Dara represented any number of possible dangers would be evident to anyone with half a wit to call upon.

"Yet even if I take you upon your word, I fail to see why this arrangement between you and the Queen is of any particular concern or interest to me," Kendall returns, his expression one of bemused puzzlement. "I can as yet see no incentive to assist you with seeing through such a charade."

"For without me, you will never see Chaos again. At least, not alive," Dara states, displeased she has to be so honest. "I am, what you say, an… insurance policy." Her brow furrows, yet she stays with that wording.

Kendall shares her puzzlement as to what an insurance policy might be. Even contextually, it still didn't make sense to his mind how Dara - Dara of Hendrake, War Mistress who had laid waste to portions of Amber and killed thousands of the people the Queen claimed to care for - could possibly be considered any sort of assurance.

He sips his wine. A very long time ago, Brisbane commented that he believed the Queen of Amber to be mad. Kendall had been dubious at the time, still being new to this place and its people. Yet his extended stay in Amber had not allayed all suspicions on that point.

"Your offer of service is most gracious," he says at last, the opening to an equally gracious refusal. "However, Chanicut will be more than able to provide any and all the princess may require."

"Tis not your service I'm obligated to, but Lady Margot's," Dara replies, amused at the line he is attempting to draw. "Otherwise, death will seek you in Shadow as they go wild in Her rage."

"Princess Margot is in my care," he replies with simple authority, ignoring her threat. He had already tired of Morgana and her games of psuedo power. The princess had entrusted herself to him, it was his scheme to put forth Chanicut with the blood of the Unicorn within her, and so the responsibility fell to him.

"That was never in doubt, nor do I wish to be discourteous to the fine hospitality you've shown me," Dara says. She raises a finger. "Yet Shadow was never ours, nor should it be. Shadow, with its numerous worlds and realms, belongs to Amber and those of its renegade House."

She waves the finger now. "And once midway, the Royal's choler could become strong enough to cast storms within Shadow." There, Dara smiles like his mother in praise. "Horrible storms, devilish creatures, even the Realms coming asunder with you as their only target."

Kendall stares at her, still… bemused. "Lady Dara," he says, slowly as one would when speaking to an especially dense child. "I feel sure many promises and pronouncements were made concerning Shadow with whatever specter concocted this scheme with you. Yet that has no bearing on my decision. The only thing more mad than this proposal is believing I would acquiesce to it."

"No doubt, Lord Kendallarithan. Yet one may consider, too, what awaits in the center of the web." Dara smiles knowingly before taking another sip.

He stares at her over the rim of his glass, his expression still calm though his eyes are no longer amused. He knew the Concords between the Houses of Chaos included provision for the discharge of debts. If Queen Morgana had not only released Dara but also spared her life, the Chaos Lady could in turn claim a life-debt. And to fulfill such a singular debt, she could invoke her own House Hendrake and draw upon the traditions of the Courts themselves.

Even with his Uncle's help, it would be dangerous to tug at the web of obligations binding the Houses together, for he easily could create a knot that would be impossible to untangle without giving his own enemies or other Houses an opening to strike. Should the strands weave just the right pattern, Kendall could even lose Margot, his father forced to assign her to another.

"I cannot imagine there could be more to this than what you have shared already," he says at last, his tone burnished with sarcasm. "Else you would have left me to my fate already. You have presented me with warning and consequences, which I have not heeded. Yet… you persist. Perhaps there is some other obligation that ties you to this… duty. Duty to the Queen of Amber. Is it that you can accept the words only directly from the princess' lips?"

"That is agreeable," she concurs.

"Then you shall be made comfortable until such time as the Princess is apprised of your visit and has decided whether to see you," he replies. "Sometime during the Amber morning."

"I will wait," Dara agrees, getting cozy in her chair. "Here is fine."

He finishes his wine and stands. "Have you a letter or other introduction I may give to the princess; she has no acquaintance with you to draw upon," he points out.

Dara pulls a sealed letter from a pocket of her dress. Kendall nods to his servant, who fetches the envelope from the Lady and presents it to the Lord for inspection. It bears the official seal of the King and Queen of Amber: a pair of crowns in golden wax and tied with a purple ribbon.

When he looks up again, the Lady of Chaos is smiling broadly, already knowing what was inside and hoping Kendall would ask. His jaw clenches but otherwise he simply nods, unwilling to give her the satisfaction of an inquiry. He would know what it contained soon enough since Margot would tell him after she read the contents.

"Very well. I will see this finds its way to Princess Margot's hands. Until then, please take your ease here," he adds, as though she hadn't already invited herself to do so. With a final nod to the Hendrake Lady, he departs to see to his young charge.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Making Amends

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