Backgrounding

"I should like to visit the library," Kendall tells his escort after leaving the Lieutenant behind. Again the guards lead, this time to the ground floor and into a library.

With a half bow, an unnamed guard says, "The Great Library, Ambassador…" The young Chaos Lord acknowledges the bow with an absent nod as he enters the room. Both guards follow, stationing themselves at either side of the door.

Kendall judges to the room to be the size of a Kur'sha field, with bookcases of wood as tall as two men. Yet he doesn't see any librarian demons flittering about, and it's hard to see what is so great about this library. From what he can tell, it's quite small and all it contains is books of paper, no Telling Stones or Shruball plants… not even any reading crystals!

The young Lord looks about for a full 10 heartbeats, taking in the furnishings and waiting to see if a librarian would appear. With no one else in sight, he begins perusing a nearby shelf, reading the titles and trying to learn their organization. Before he becomes completely resigned to touring the library by himself, however, a bent old man shuffles his way over.

The man introduces himself as Garet who, after a short discussion, leads Kendall to a selection of books. He is able to quickly point out the ones dealing with Amber history and politics, but as for Chaos… Kendall gets a look that only can mean if we had such books, we would have burned them long ago.

Finding a quiet spot at one of the tables, Kendall begins to read the first book, which is written in a somewhat rustic form of the King's Tongue. After a few chapters, though, it reminds the Chaos Lord of KUS'Hurkal festival cake: looks great on the outside and tastes great till you get to the fifth layer, but then the whole thing falls apart and you're left with a gooey mess.

Self-serving, white-washed, and sanitized. These books appear almost worthless to him in his quest to understand Amber. Several pages into the book on Amber Politics, he wonders why they just didn't save ink by writing on the first page The King's word is law! and leave it at that.

The idea that they really are this clueless darts through his mind, but he can't quite yet believe it. They "won" the war, after all. There's got to be something redeeming about them. Even though insects are mostly annoying, they usually serve some function besides irritation, and Amberites are much more than mere insects.

He takes a brief break to reconsider his strategy, even though his doubts don't completely abandon him. Leaving the books on the table to be reshelved, he spends a little more time glancing at the other titles. At length, he selects a recreational book to take with him before leaving the room. Though he has not completely decided where to go next, he follows the guards into the hall anyway, hoping for some inspiration.

Back in the hall, Kendall sees a man he noticed at last night's dance, though they were never introduced. Beside this unknown noble walks a young boy who appears to be a page of this court, though it seemed a waste of a human child's talent and youth to do a job much better suited for demonkind. The other man is talking with the child, but looks up as the Chaosian and his escort approaches. "Good day. It is Lord Kendall, yes?"

Kendall stops and nods. "Yes? Yes it is. I believe you were present at the ball last Turn," he states more than questions. "However, I must admit you have the advantage of me…"

"My name is Sarith," the other man replies, giving Kendall a slight bow. "An old retainer recently returned to Amber after a long absence."

"Have you found circumstances much changed since you were last here?" Kendall inquires curiously. He completely ignores the youngster, concentrating his attention on Sarith with an intense and steady gaze.

"The Castle is much as it was," Sarith replies. "I was surprised how many things are exactly as I remembered it being. The main change is the people of course. So many more Royals."

Kendall nods, though he looks marginally puzzled. A tiny line appears between his brows. "Indeed, it would appear people are both the common and uncommon denominators in all locales," he observes. "I am certain Amber is pleased to have one of her loyal servants return when she needs him."

"Time will tell," Sarith replies. "Servants of old regimes are not necessarily welcomed by the new. So far, things are well."

"Good fortune, then. Perhaps we shall speak again," Kendall says.

"Oh I think it most likely. I have questions I would ask you of Chaos," Sarith replies.

Kendall blinks at Sarith with some surprise, then waits expectantly. "I may speak only for Chanicut," he answers.

"Fair enough." The other man nods. "My questions are more of a cultural nature. You see, I have always been most curious about the Serpent, hardly a subject I could research here where He is simply the enemy. I wanted a Chaos-eyed view."

"Dispelling misconception is one of my duties while here in Amber," Kendall returns after a heartbeat of silence. "How is it that you know of Lord Serpent while having returned only recently?" he inquires politely. "Did you learn of Chaos in your travels?"

"While I have not been in Amber, I have not remained ignorant of her," Sarith says. "And yes I have traveled rather extensively during my absence."

Kendall smiles faintly, hardly any movement of eyes and mouth betraying the expression. His arms cross in a habitual movement, hands disappearing into the depths of his sleeves. "What in particular would you like to know about the Serpent?"

"Has anyone ever seen it?" Sarith asks.

Kendall again doesn't reply immediately, the faint smile sliding into an equally faint frown. His gaze turns inward as he contemplates the answer to that question for five measured heartbeats before refocusing on Sarith with his intense gaze. "I understand your question to imply seeking the verifiable existence of the Serpent. I am uncertain, however, what type of reply for which you are searching. Many in the Courts have seen the Serpent, insofar as such a feat is possible."

"Well Amber's Unicorn is elusive," Sarith replies. "Rare glimpses to people in the right place at the right time, and afterwards many aren't convinced they actually did see it. I was curious if the Serpent behaved similarly."

"Ah," is all the Chaosian offers to that at first. "The Serpent is elusive. However, it is difficult to know if that is because It wishes not to be seen, or because tis difficult for beings like us to see a manifestation of such power. My own glimpse of the Serpent was just that, a glimpse." He falls silent abruptly.

"A life-changing experience I feel sure," Sarith comments.

"Indeed," Kendall agrees quietly. He pauses another heartbeat before adding, "I would venture to guess, from my experience, that any difficulty with seeing Lord Serpent with physical eyes lies with those attempting to see It. I very much doubt the Serpent in any way behaves similarly to your unicorn."

"It would be quite a surprise if it did," Sarith agrees. "Well I have kept you long enough, Lord Kendall. My thanks for speaking with me."

"Certainly," Kendall replies simply. "You may contact me if you have any further questions with which I may assist you." With a nod, he continues on his way.

Returning to his quarters, Kendall sees the Goldsky Meal is laid out for him and the Ambassador. A variety of pleasing scents tease his nose as his Elder strolls into the room a mere two heartbeats after he arrives.

"Ah.. Kendall. I hope your walk was enlightening," Brisbane says, taking the chair Siorys pulls out. Sonnagh uncovers the dishes and pours the wine. Brisbane takes a moment to look over everything before nodding his approval. "I must say, their King is certainly a charming man." He takes a sip of wine before adding. "But charming will only get you so far in this Multiverse."

Kendall takes his seat after Brisbane has settled himself, and spreads his napkin on his lap with thoughtful care. He uses that time to consider Brisbane's words before replying. "If charm is much of what he and his Queen have working for them, then perhaps our assignment will prove more profitable than we expected," he remarks at last, picking up his wineglass and swirling the gold liquid before taking a sip.

"Yes… though charm can also be the gleaming edge of a dagger, poised above your heart," Brisbane muses. "But we are not looking for profit; we are in search of allies. Short term allies, but allies nonetheless."

Kendall nods and waits a moment while the food is served. "Their attitude towards our visit seems curious to me," he says after a while. "I was able to explore much of the castle… insofar as possible while being constantly guarded. It was almost as though I was being humored in my attempt to learn my way around. I also stopped in their library." He doesn't even try to hide his disdain. "The histories I was able to find were useless. Only the sanitized versions are available there."

"You should know by now you only write the truth about your enemies," Brisbane responds with a hint of amusement. Then he amends with a chuckle, "Well, most of the time. Likely if the day comes that you are escorting one of them through our libraries, they would think the same thing." He raises a finger. "Those books which show our true face are buried the deepest."

Kendall nods in reluctant understanding. "I was curious to know what would be available to those who have an interest in learning about Chaos. It would be helpful to know what they know — or think they know — when I speak to people." He pauses a moment to poke at his dinner a bit, then adds, "I did make arrangements to meet regularly with the Queen, though."

"Commendable…" Brisbane replies. "My afternoon was less successful. Their King is a cagey fellow. If I didn't know better, I would think he was from Chaos. He rarely gave me an opening to explore our common interests. King Eric seemed to be simply satisfied with minor chit-chat. It was quite annoying."

Kendall nods again. "They test us in strange ways," he responds. "Yet there are those who express interest in Chaos, in knowing more." He smiles to himself without amusement. "Their interest is most likely similar to our interest in Amber, however. Perhaps the King was trying to measure our desperation to establish an alliance. Appearing too eager is usually undesirable, as you know."

"No, it's more then that. I think he has already made up his mind who his allies will be," Brisbane says, pausing to try the Kis-Gurall. "And all of this dancing is simply a way to get the measure of his new foes."

Kendall digests that assessment in silence, taking a sip of wine while he thinks. "I will look for an opportunity to learn of the Queen's opinion on the state of affairs during our meetings. She appears to hold a different opinion than her husband, but may be able to influence his decisions." He quirks an eyebrow at his Elder as he adds, "It is not inconceivable for these Amberites."

"Yes, his Queen does seem to have a larger then normal influence on his decisions," Brisbane says. "Even more then your own mother does on your father."

"At least in Mother's case, the influence is warranted," Kendall remarks absently, going back to his dinner. He begins making some inroads on the quith, having a taste for rare meat.

"Did you see your Captain of the Guard in your stroll?" Brisbane asks.

"No. She was not available when I inquired after her." He pauses, shaking his head and picking up his wine again. He doesn't take a drink right away, instead watching the liquid ripple as he continues in an irritated tone of voice. "These Amberites and their people… Her Lieutenant had the gall to ask me if it was important." His grip on the stem tightens, and he puts the glass down again before he breaks it. "Their rudeness is almost beyond comprehension."

"As you will find many share," Brisbane answers, looking up from his dinner with concern. "Kendall… banish those emotions, they do you no honor. If these Amberites are mere children, shouldn't we as wiser adults forgive them for their mistakes?" He picks up his glass to take a sip. "One of the rarest of skills in our job is the ability to forgive… and once you have learned it, there is no limit to how high you can go."

Kendall remains silent during the older man's lecture, staring at his plate and waiting until his Elder is finished talking. He doesn't reply right away, poking at his meal a little while with the air of someone who has something to say but has decided holding his tongue is the wiser course. The silence stretches for 20 heartbeats before the younger Lord finally answers.

"I will think on what you say, sir," he replies, looking up at Brisbane. "It may be that I will be able to do as you suggest."

Returning to his meal, Brisbane says after a few bites, "And Kendall, I didn't like it much when my teacher lectured me either. As I'm sure your apprentice will feel… when you lecture him."

Kendall snorts at the thought of having an apprentice, relaxing and becoming more interested in his meal. "I'm less worried about lectures than I am about interacting with these people, sir," he answers seriously enough. "On the other hand, as the adults in this situation, I may be able to help them along. The idea of them being children has a certain appeal."

He and Brisbane share an amused glance, but then Kendall takes a breath to stifle his chuckles, becoming serious again. "I shall speak to the Queen about their plans for the future alliances then. The King's daughter might have some insight to offer as well. Is there anything else you wish me to do?"

"Just be your charming self," his mentor responds. "And enjoy, be relaxed. Calm your heart. While a Word is rumored to have started the World, I very much doubt any of yours will end it. To be young is to make mistakes. And to be old is to be afraid of making them again. So Kendall, live in that moment. Live in your youth! For the Lord of Coils awaits us both in the Abyss."

The Ambassador raises his glass in toast, which his protege' echoes, and they both drain their glasses. The servants remove the two Lords' plates and bring the wine bottle around again. Kendall declines more, though Brisbane accepts.

"Are we both expected for some formal gathering again?"

Brisbane answers with a knowing smile. "While we both are invited to their dinner table, you don't have to go if you have other plans for the time. I've always had great luck too, with moonlight picnics."

"The chief benefit of spending time with the Captain of the Guard would be the lack of guard escort," Kendall answers, deadpan. He hesitates and then stands, adding, "I will do as you suggest, sir. Please excuse me." He gives Brisbane a bow.

"Enjoy your evening," the older man answers.

In his rooms, Kendall finds a note waiting on the desk from Lady Moon, asking for him to pay her a call at her studio within the castle. The Chaos Lord has to think hard for several heartbeats, his mind so sidetracked all that Turn that he has almost forgotten who Moon even is. Oh yes. A bird chirrups through the open door to his small balcony while he considers what to do. Finally, he puts the note down on the dresser and calls for parchment and pen, with which he pens the following note:

Prince Brin,

Tis unfortunate we were unable to meet to discuss the cultural variances between our two Houses last Turn.
Should it suit your schedule, I would be most pleased to meet with you on the morrow at your convenience.

Regards,

Lord Kendallarithan qil Chanicut
Minister of Friendship and Lord of Protocol

After folding and sealing the note, he checks his appearance in the nearby mirror, making sure everything is acceptable. Then he leaves the suite to find a means of delivering his note. It does not take long for the note to be placed in a page's hands, whereupon Kendall asks his escort to take him to the Lady Moon.

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