Dance With Me: Margot & Cedric in the Halls of Silver

Kendall bows to her, and then continues several more steps along the shrinking corridor before he pauses once more to look up and around. He reaches one hand over to a fold in the wall, and with one last wave to Margot, is gone.

The sentries wait for Margot to return along the hallway, as silent as the rest of the manor. Their shrouds undulate slowly around their feet at the floor, as though blown by a breeze only they experienced. At the end of the hall, through the doorway, she arrives back in the familiar manor hallway with the same suddenness as she had first moved into the strange corridor. Rory is standing nearby, waiting for her to appear.

Margot’s pensive expression changes to a warm smile at the welcome sight of Rory. Though she was not intimidated by her shadows, she did find the silence unsettling.

"Hello Rory," she greets the servant. "Would you be kind enough to give me a full tour of the Manor? I understand there are places which I will find more suitable for my attention, along with others that need not more than a second glance at the portal which lies behind."

"As you wish, Lady. We shall begin here." The servant begins to lead Margot down the hallway, continuing in the same direction as they had been going before, away from the two suites.

“This is one of the visitors’ wings of the Manor,” he explains. “A sitting area and small library are nearby for anyone to enjoy.” They pass several more closed doors before coming to a double doorway with the opening wide and welcoming. A central hearth blazed with deep red flames shot through with maroon.

"How many guests may this Manor entertain at once?" she inquired, taking in the unusual art and the beautiful flames. She was utterly amazed to find that she was not overwhelmed with heat exhaustion, as one would suspect from a place made of living lava. On the contrary, the temperature was quite comfortable… bordering enjoyable.

"As many as necessary," a rich, vibrant voice answers. "What are a few mere walls, compared with a cycle of diversions?"

A man rises from a seat near the fire. His face shares much with Kendall in features, but where the younger lord’s face and body were slim and refined, the elder brother possessed a rugged cragginess. Slipping a bejeweled object back into the pocket of his vest, a welcoming smile touches his lips as he walks over to Margot.

His graceful stride is more apt to a dance, his whole being holding the tightly coiled energy and intensity of the hunter, with Margot perhaps his prey. His boots were deepest black that seemed to suck in the light around them, set in stark contrast against tight trousers of some shimmering reptilian skin. Looking too long at them in combination causes a queasy feeling in the stomach that is relieved only when Margot gazes at the man's handsome face or bare chest.

Margot's guide draws a quick breath when the princess' question is answered so unexpectedly, an involuntary response to the appearance of this particular person. And then Rory bows, waiting for the lord's permission to rise before he can make the proper introductions.

"What, indeed?" Margot returns to the question with the slightest tug of bemusement crossing her lips.

His bedazzling smile changes to annoyance as he flicks a hand to the sword at his waist that looked like it was trying to wrap itself about his leg. "Pay her no heed," he says to Margot. "She always gets excited around Amberites. A weakness from her birth in Shadow." He gives the living sword a loving caress till it calms and straightens. "I know such coddling only encourages her. Yet she has never failed me in battle, and allowances can be made to any who please me…"

"By all means, a pet should be comforted when it is disquieted, and rewarded when it pleases its Master,” the princess replies. "The apology is unnecessary, I assure you."

With a gracious nod of his head, the stranger acknowledges Margot's wisdom. "As to diversions, my little brother would know much more than I of such things. He does enjoy collecting the most beautiful flowers."

"So I am to understand," Margot replies, unmoved by his attempt to undermine her calm. "And rare, enchanting blossoms from distant places appear to be his preference." Whether she was referring to herself or the exotic blooms he had brought her a short while ago, it was difficult to ascertain.

"His preference at the moment, perchance," he answers, coming to a stop to look down on her. "Having a discerning eye should never be belittled. Yet, there is an art to keeping a flower alive and fresh. Is it better to be the hand that plucks, or the vase that keeps the bloom alive and forever beautiful?"

Her posture remains one of calm confidence; a mountain daring the north winds to rip it from its foundations. Yet, with a delicate hand resting upon Rory's shoulder, she silently bids that he rise. While this was undoubtedly the elder brother she had heard tales about, Rory was her guide and guardian and she would not have him stoop while this Lord flaunted his superiority. And though the gentleman seems bemused by how Margot holds the servant so close like a shield, he still relents, giving Rory the permission needed with merely a look.

The servant stands, clasping his hands together as he looks from Lord to Lady. "Princess, I present Lord Cedric, First Son and Heir Apparent of House Chanicut, Marquess of the Mahratta Line and of the Twenty Twins, Earl of Kalpurthala, General of the Five Scinde Armies, Protector of the Curetanis Mantle." Though he could have gone on much longer, he stops at the customary five titles for now.

Turning back to Cedric, he finishes the introductions. "Lord Cedric, may I introduce Margot Zofia Simone Annaliese Kataryna Barimen, Princess of Amber, Duchess of Asius, Countess of Egyra, Baroness of Cesicul, Lady of Trorand."

Margot's eyes never leave the elder brother's. "Thank you, Rory," she answers, inclining her head to the Lord. "Please allow me to express my gratitude to House Chanicut for its magnificent hospitality, Lord Cedric. I have had want of nothing since I arrived." Dark eyes smile at the man's likeness to her Kendall; similar, but far from the same. In fact, this brother reminded her more of her uncle, sword and all.

"As to your riddle, M'Lord, who is to say the flower must be plucked rather than admired in a garden or the wild? Even if placed in a vase, eventually the blossom will wither and die without the proper nourishment. Flowers are far more responsive if allowed the freedom to grow rather than having their roots severed and trapped for no other purpose than to be admired upon a pedestal."

A smile curls her lips as she extends a delicate wrist to the Lord. "Of course, I can make no claim to fully apprehending the nuances of horticulture," she admits.

"Such disparaging words should never pass such lovely lips," he replies as he takes her proffered hand and raises it to his lips. He first kisses the back as they did on her home Shadow, but then bestows a second caress on her upturned wrist atop the vein. His gesture wins him an appreciative smile.

"I honor the Life that flows within,” he murmurs, gazing into her eyes as his breath heats her skin. "And I respect the Woman who allows me to do so. While in homage to the Princess, I would be truly overjoyed to show her even more of my home. Let us travel to a world of flowers so you might show me the truth. Or upon the edge of the Abyss, we may see the Ryi'a flowers hunt. They fold their toxic leaves about their prey, as you do with your loveliness ensnaring my soul. For my brother must already be dead, to have beheld such an Angel."

Margot retrieves her hand, slowly, just lingering enough to leave a hint of regret that she did not feel. The more the eldest spoke, the more she was reminded of Corwin and their first encounter, when he swept in to her presence and suffocated her with compliments in an effort to make her eyes shine and her soul swoon at his attention. This, and the words of caution from both Dara and Kendall, kept her very aware of what was happening and reminded her that this was not her home Shadow where mere mortals may simply be rogues, cads and scoundrels. Here, she was let loose in the deadly viper’s nest and only had her wits and few companions to see to her survival.

“It is a wonder any woman is able to refuse you, Lord Cedric. Your grace and the pleasure of your silvered tongue are nearly unmatched,” she murmurs. Little had changed in her countenance, though she was willing to allow the elder Lord to enjoy his game of chase. “It must be an enchanted secret known only to the Lords of Chanicut, to utter such words to make a heart flutter and a pulse race.”

Her smile borders on coquettish as Margot moves to his side opposite the suspect sword, and wraps her arm around his. Her gaze met Rory’s, a silent insistence that he remain as chaperone to see to her well-being as they began to tour around the sitting room.

Kendall's loyal servant, caught by accident in the web of this conversation, walks behind the two as a silent shadow except for the occasions meriting his action — opening a door or retrieving a cushion. Still, the older brother had not dismissed him, and the young princess had indicated he should stay, so he was trapped in a sense. Like so many in his position, Rory's expression remains neutral and non-committal, but they all knew he missed very little.

"Thank you for such a marvelous invitation," Margot continues. "But surely your duties as the heir-apparent keep you far too busy to attend to the simple curiosities of such an insignificant guest to one of Chanicut’s many Ways. Still, perhaps a tour of the Manor would suffice for the nonce until Lord Kendallarithan resumes his duties as host. It is an extraordinary coincidence that your Highness would find himself here, in Silver –- undoubtedly on a brief respite –- to entertain me just at the moment that your brother has been summoned by your mother. Intriguing, wouldn't you agree?”

"Summoned by our Mother?" Cedric says, his tone crestfallen. He shakes his head as if to clear it. "I do not accuse, but you must have misheard, Princess.”

"I assure you, I am quite certain that she sent for him. I believe the lovely beast's name was Gandu?" she spoke with a warmth and confidence of one in the know. "An extraordinary bird, beautiful and powerful and exotic."

"Gandu…yes," Cedric says with a nod, yet clearly he is still concerned about something and falls silent for a time.

"I would loathe to be the source of your consternation," Margot opens gently after several quiet steps. "What troubles the soul so suddenly and envelops your warm spirit in a dank cloth?"

"I really shouldn't be telling you this," he answers after a pause as he leads her down a different hall that hadn't been there previously. A wide, ornately framed window at the hall’s midpoint gives a rare view of the lava falls, and they pause to observe the flowing river of fiery stone.

"In these troubled times, Chanicut is taking steps that wouldn't have happened a mere Cycle before," he goes on, his smile fading. "Of course, being first, and still single… I had thought I would be first on the block. Then of course, my beloved sister… Even in Amber, I believe, the Ladies are the first to be chosen in arranging a political marriage. So let us hope my brother's meeting is about you and not another."

Margot notes how Cedric both reveals his concern while also attempting to cause distress and disappointment in her heart. "I am aware of your mother's feelings toward Kendall, and he indicated this meeting would be brief; nothing of import," she offers reassuringly. Her hand caresses the top of his in a soothing gesture.

"It seems to me that M'Lord's concerns are needless and misplaced. As your brother has been absent from Chanicut for many cycles while acting as attaché to Lord Brisbane, the Ambassador to Amber, it would seem to me that her invitation would revolve around joyous reunions rather than official briefings." She kept her tone conversational, as if they were talking about the weather rather than the man who possessed her heart.

"I also find it difficult to believe, in my humble opinion, if you would allow it," Margot adds with a smile for her escort, "that if negotiations were in progress to bolster Chanicut's strength, that the Heir-Apparent, especially one so beguiling, would not provide a far better temptation to another House than third-born."

Cedric smiles to her kindness, her calming words lessening the worry lines about his face. "If only that was true, for…hmm…" He gives a glance to his brother's most loyal servant as he reconsiders his words. "My mother is a worthy match to the Head of Chanicut, and I of course, am the jealous older brother. And it seems you are the one thing more I need to add to that list." He gives her his warmest of smile.

"You are far too generous with your compliment, M'Lord," Margot chided gently with a blossoming smile.

"I merely speak the truth, so there is a difference," Cedric assures her.

"But I'm sure one so commanding of presence has very little to be jealous of,” she insists. "I suspect you rarely go unnoticed when entering a room; your carriage speaks of breeding, confidence, and elegance. Surely there is another flower or three that has captured your notice and held your attention for more than a few passing heartbeats?"

"Tis true, but I hope it is not too forward for me to suggest you and I share more than you may think. My brother has always had a life of his own, while I doubt you and I can truly say the same. We live by a different and far harder measure than the rest. I have not met many in your family, Princess, but I know in my heart, theirs isn't what Fate has given me. While perhaps not cast by gods, the shadows in which we walk are nonetheless very tall."

"There is much to be said about duty, responsibility, loyalty and honor," Margot replies with sympathy ringing in her voice. She surveys the picturesque tapestries depicting victorious battles and the vanquishing of enemies. "But, if I may be equally forward, M'Lord, what is it that you find in your heart and how has Fate eluded you? Are you so certain that it has?"

He gifts her with a smile. "Eluded, I only wish… I have been denied, and will ever more. I am my father's son, never to doubt my place in life. Much like a flower grown in a garden with always the same light, the same water. Never to know the freedom of the field, never to just let my seeds blow wild in the breeze."

Cedric turns to face her and sinks to one knee. He takes one of her feet, and at her nod, lifts it to cradle in his hand. His shoulders offer a secure place for her hands to keep her steady. "Tis like your delicate foot in this courtly shoe. For I know you would rather be running barefoot on one of the islands or watching the lava falls while resting in a lover's arms. Not to worry about before, or the after; merely to enjoy the moment."

With a caress, as if committing the grace of both shoe and the foot within to memory, Cedric releases her foot. He bows his head low as if begging for forgiveness. "I know all of this, for I too, wish the same."

Whether his words were genuine or illusion, his emotive way of speaking did have an impact upon her nevertheless. "These are fetters that you place upon yourself, M'Lord. Release yourself and grant yourself permission to experience life. To live rather than to exist,” she urges him. She pauses for a breath before giving voice to encouraging words.

"It will be you, Lord Cedric, who will take up the mantle and represent House Chanicut in the future, with all its power and holdings,” she continues. "We must experience the world around ourselves to gain wisdom and empathy for those you will rule. Duty commands that you serve the will of your House, but it is Responsibility to the self that will ensure that everything you do is for the benefit of your family, your lineage, and most importantly, your House. We are who we allow ourselves to become. There are infinite possibilities; we need only envision their transformation from dream to reality."

Margot offers a hand to assist the Lord from his position, and he rises to stand close — so very close and far too handsome in the scarlet light. This close, there is no escaping the distinct resemblance to her lover, and she would only be lying to herself if she insisted it was merely the atmosphere and not the man himself that made her heart beat a little faster.

His stare burns into hers. "Then my little brother has found his, and he is so much more the fool for leaving such a treasure for a mere moment with Mother. If you were mine, at this very moment we would be dancing upon the lava. For in Chaos, all is possible."

Then the sad, sad smile returns. "Yet if you wish to help these shoulders to bear all of Chanicut, then you could place your hands upon them and allow me a dance upon the flames. If I must dance to my doom, I doubt I would find a better partner than you, sweet Margot."

Gentle and inviting laughter passes over her supple lips. Unlike her Lady Dara, cruel and eager to cut to the quick, Margot remains amused and pleasant. “M’Lord, how you do weave an enticing tapestry before a person’s very eyes. You have a poet’s heart, I believe, that which is given only to the most passionate of bards.”

Once more, she turns to enjoy the spectacle, facing the majestic view of falling lava rather than the handsome man playing the part of Serpent to her Eve. "But, let us be honest, for just a moment. Since your mother is, as you say, a worthy contender to the Duke himself, we both know that a summons met with a delayed response — no matter how preciously treasured the jewel — would only draw the ire of the one demanding audience. The choice requires little thought, with trust invested in the attendants who will tend to the safety and well-being of the delicate flower left behind until the summoned may once more return."

She falls silent for a few more moments. "And to your request for a simple dance… I will honor it when my official introductions have been made to the Court. And before those in attendance to bear witness, we shall have our dance. But until then, our engagements will remain as these moments have been — delightfully enlightening."

Displeasure — nay, sudden rage — radiates from Cedric to rival the heat beyond the windows. He says nothing, but Rory gasps and steps back instinctively as the Chaos Lord reaches into thin air to summon the Logrus and Margot is engulfed by blackness.

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