Meanwhile, Somewhere in Paradise

Silence fills the bedchamber again once Lord Kendall and his entourage depart, leaving Rory alone to keep watch over the sleeping Princess. For now, she is quiet, lying curled under the blanket with a pillow in her arms. Out of habit, he spends some time straightening the room, rearranging all the small things just exactly so. The lute with its protective covering must be moved three inches back and to the right. The fabric is twitched into alignment. The chairs are moved back to their proper places and turned at exact angles.

He keeps busy for all of five of Amber's minutes in these small tasks, but truthfully not much had occurred since the last time he came in and tidied; his master hadn't had a chance to make things untidy. Eventually, he must admit there really is nothing else for him to do there. So after pacing about the room for the space of 20 heartbeats, he finds his way to the chair vacated by Desrianne, pulled close to the bed on the side nearest the princess. He sits slowly and gingerly, ready to spring back to his feet and into action should the need arise.

All falls quiet again.

Margot continues to swim in currents of dream and tranquility. Hopes and dreams emerge from a mind opened to the vastness of the multiverse by her walk on the Pattern, crumble against the crags of disappointment and uncertainty, rise again with the springing hope of youth, only to be dashed again in endless cycle. Yet as with all things, even this must come to an end, and so she drifts slowly towards consciousness against the weighty tide of her discordant visions.

She breaks the surface of awareness gradually, the veil between sleep and wakefulness diminishing and fading rather than parting with instant clarity. She becomes aware of tingly fingers and toes, lifeless arms, leaden eyelids. But without sight, other senses come to her aid. She is enclosed in silky softness surrounded by warmth and the faint aroma of cinnamon. Her ears catch the sound of breathing nearby and the faint susurration of ocean waves in the distance.

When finally lids do drift open, golden candlelight greets her eyes, shining from behind her to hold the darkness at bay. With sight comes orientation, so she finally comprehends that she is lying on her side in bed with her body snuggled under blankets and arms cuddling a downy soft pillow. Other shapes emerge from the dimness beyond the bed as her eyes adjust and alertness returns to her: table and chairs, desk, dark rug on the floor, balcony doors. Curtains shiver in moonlight, tickled by the fresh breeze of the ocean.

She recognizes bed and balcony, yet she can't quite recall at first how she had come to be in the bed, nor when she had dressed in the silky soft clothing she now wore.

Weary legs slide between sheets in a slow stretch, her arms tightening around the pillow as a smile plays upon her lips in fond memory. She feels weak and bleary as she rolls languidly to her other side to survey the rest of the room, not yet feeling capable of sitting up. Only then does she realize that she is not alone.

"Good evening, Rory," she greets with drowse lacing her voice. Even with sleep laden eyes, her expression betrays bewilderment and surprise to find him sitting vigil at her side. "I hope you have not been overly burdened." Fingers massage some of the sleep away so she may give him her attention properly.

"Good evening, Princess," comes the reply. He stands and gives her a bow. "My duties are not a burden, thank you. Tis gratifying that you have awakened. Lord Kendallarithan will be pleased. Have you need of assistance?"

"If it would not be an inconvenience," she replies with a weak smile, clearly embarrassed. "It would seem that, for the moment, my body has forgotten how to manage simple acts. I do hope this is only temporary," she frets softly, eyes turning to the ceiling as she sighs. "I really had not envisioned life as an invalid."

With the same gentleness he had shown moving her to the other side of the bed, the manservant leans over to slide his arms beneath the young princess and move her into a seated position. He places one pillow behind her back for comfort and the one she was hugging on her lap before drawing the covers up around her lap and tucking her in for warmth.

Margot glances around from her new vantage, realizing Kendall is nowhere to be seen in all the darkness. Confusion creases her brow and worry brings a frown. "Did I chase Lord- Lord Kendallarithan away from his private chambers?" she asks, stumbling over the name since she did not know how to refer to Kendall in front of Rory. Thankfully, the servant had used the Lord's full name just moments before because she doubted she could have pulled it through the cobwebs still cluttering her mind on her own.

With Margot sitting up and arranged comfortably, Rory manages the tricky feat of being near enough to attend to any need without looming by taking a position near the foot of the bed. "No, princess," he answers with a hand gesture that Margot has seen Kendall make several times, palm down and cutting to the side. Perhaps the equivalent to a shake of the head? "He was called away to attend to a visitor to the Tower and requested your maid accompany him. Are you hungry or thirsty? May I offer you refreshment?"

The princess' eyes drifted longingly to the table as the veil of sleep slowly lifted from her. She was a mite peckish and drink would be pleasant, but she didn't think she could carry herself to the table and didn't know if it was appropriate to eat in Kendall's bed. Of course, she had eaten in her own bed, but that was her bed. And of course Rory would bring her food, but should she allow it?

Margot's mind spun circles trying to suss out what she should decide. "I am a little hungry," she confesses eventually, a contrite expression forming. "If you will assist me, I will move to the table."

"Of course, m'lady," he replies. Instead of moving directly to the bedside, however, the servant goes first to the wardrobe and selects one of the blue robes hanging there. He brings that with him to Margot's side and then assists her to her feet. She recognizes the pale pajamas she wears as the set which had been placed out after her bath, and they are as overlarge as the robe Rory helps her into. However, when she looks about the room from a standing vantage, she spies a somewhat more familiar article of clothing lying at the ready on another chair. Though she may not recognize that specific cotehardie, certainly it was not a thing Kendall would wear.

"Is Desrianne here?" Margot continues, dark concern and confusion knitting her brow once more. Certainly, she had intended to summon the maid, but why was she here beforehand and why would Kendall require her assistance in meeting someone? None of this was making any sense. "Who has arrived? Are you able to share that with me, Rory?"

"I do not know the identity of the visitor. Your maid is here at m'Lord's request. I do not have sure knowledge of why he requested she accompany him," the servant answers while he assists her with moving the short distance to the table. It had been tidied and refreshed since they had last eaten but still held a variety of tiny delicacies for when she awakened. He pours her a small glass of juice as she gets settled.

"I will have to remember to thank him for his thoughtfulness in summoning her at my behest. It is as if he was clairvoyant," Margot comments, trying to sound more pleased than worried that he had called for Desrianne. Someone taps on the door as she sips at the unique savory-sweet elixir. Eyes turned to Rory with uncertainty as to whether she should offer permission or if he should, given it was his master's domain.

"With your permission—" Rory says, taking her glance to be assent.

Margot smiles her appreciation. It was becoming abundantly clear why Kendall held him in such high regard. "Thank you, Rory," she says as he moves to the door, which opens to reveal the familiar figure of Desrianne with her hand raised to knock again.

The maid's expression transforms from borderline scowl to relieved smile as she spies Margot sitting up at the table, and she hurries into the room. She remembers protocol at the last minute and sinks into a curtsy instead of pulling the princess into a hug. "Princess, I'm greatly relieved to see you awake," she says in a relieved tone.

Margot's eyes shone with warmth and joy at the sight of the matron. "Oh Desrianne!" she exclaims softly, reaching for the woman's hand. "It is wonderfully comforting to see you. I was going to send for you, but Rory tells me that Lord Kendall had sent for you while I slept."

Her eyes drift to Rory. "Rory also told me that Lord Kendall had requested your assistance with a visitor to the Vigil?"

Desrianne clasps Margot's hand as she rises from her curtsy. Moving the additional steps forward, she leans over to hug the young woman gently around the shoulders. "I received a letter signed by Lord Kendallarithan," the maid confirms. "I thought it was sent at your request."

Margot gestures both Desrianne and Rory to the empty chairs. "Please. Sit. I can't eat with you both standing over me."

Rory blinks at the princess in mild surprise as Desrianne sits. "Thank you," he says. "But with the return of your maid, I must see if m'Lord requires my services. May I be dismissed?"

"Of course Rory. But if he does not have need for you, please return and join us. There is more than enough food and drink." Her features still wear fatigue like a heavy shawl, but her gentle and generous temperament seems unaffected. A smile dismisses him and then she turns her attention back to Desrianne. Rory bows to Margot before stepping through the open door, shutting it again and leaving the two women alone.

"I had planned to send for you," Margot answers her maid's question. "But after I woke up. He seems to be very attentive and attuned to my needs." She sips at the juice before selecting some of the nuts. "It had been a trying… the Pattern… and then scaling a cliff… but that is not important. The reason why I wanted to speak with you is something different."

Desrianne looks doubtful at reference first to the Pattern and then scaling a cliff, but she waits for Margot to continue. Her hands are folded in her lap, though tension whitens her elderly knuckles.

Drawing a cleansing breath, the princess fidgets with a piece of cheese, breaking it into tiny morsels. "You know that Mother, the Queen, has given permission for me to return with the delegation to Chaos? I would like for you to join us. Me. Please say you will."

The request is clearly not unexpected. The matron had been fretting at the thought of her Poppy going to that den of depravity all alone so truthfully she feels almost relieved, though her relief could not smother the fear sparked by the idea of accompanying the princess to Chaos. Even so, her shoulders relax as the woman leans back in her chair, pleased that Margot would seek companionship rather than running off on her own. Perhaps the girl had not been completely corrupted by that Chaosian Lord yet and could still see reason.

"Princ— Poppy," she begins and then pauses, trying to decide how to phrase her question. "Are you still…certain you want to go with this Chaosian to his home?"

"I am," Margot answers with a smile of reassurance, though internally she didn't feel as certain any more. Recent memory is…sketchy in her mind. She thought she remembered returning to the Vigil, bathing, eating, and love-making. But things start to become distorted as she tries to remember how she came to be in the bed and she wonders which is real versus fiction. Her dreams had been vivid, demanding, and grueling. Perhaps she was recalling a dream?

"It isn't just a matter of following Ken… Lord Kendall," she catches herself. "Mother believes it is in my best interest from a safety standpoint. She's concerned that…" A frown knits her brows together as she pauses to breathe deeply and keep her emotions under control. "She believes Chaos will be a safer place than Amber for me. And perhaps I could manage diplomacy."

Desrianne's lips press together with frustration at Margot's answer, her folded hands gripping even tighter in her lap. It was not just that the girl was still resolved on this foolhardy plan of action, but that circumstances had so conspired to create a situation where going to Chaos could even be considered better, safer.

"Diplomacy?" she questions with profound neutrality. "Between Amber and Chaos, do you mean?"

Margot swallows uncomfortably. "I was thinking more of…more of an exercise for me as a representative of Amber in Chaos. Not unlike what the Lord is here. But the Queen alluded to the real possibility that Amber may fall under this coming threat."

It was hard to credit such an idea, but Desrianne had never known Margot to lie or even embellish the truth. Though, her dark thoughts whispered, no doubt those were things the princess could learn quickly if she continued associating with Chaosians.

"Poppy, I fear you credit your Lord Kendall far too much," she says carefully instead. "I worry…what might happen should things crumble between you and he, with you so far within—"

The matron breaks off as disapproval, worry, and distaste war for dominance in her face. No matter whether the Lord appeared to hold some affection for her Poppy, that he comported himself well, or that the Queen Herself had given her blessing, Desrianne's sense of Rightness about the Multiverse was having trouble adjusting to the idea of her Poppy in love and finding happiness with a Chaosian Lord. "There will be such great differences between you and he," she finally finishes softly.

"And if we are to remain and Amber is destroyed and none of the Unicorn's children survive? And because of Amber's demise, all shadows attached to Her begin to falter and fade?" Margot's eyes close as she draws a defeated breath. Her head drops and a hand comes up to massage her eyes. "Then Chaos is the closest place to safe and real that exists. So regardless of whether a relationship with Kendall endures, there may not be any other place to call home if this threat is as deadly and devastating as Mother suggests. The Royal Line must survive."

Silence falls between them. Though Desrianne held great affection for the princess — and it was from this affection that she spoke her thoughts aloud — nevertheless her life's work was dedicated to helping make smooth the difficult path of royalty. The queen may no longer have need of her guidance, but the princess still looked to her, and that was important. She eventually sighs in defeat and the tense grip of the hands in her lap eases. With a rustle of skirts, the matron stands to move closer to Margot, clasping her again in a comforting embrace.

"I must…accustom myself to the idea," she says grimly, and Margot can feel her body stiffening with resolve. She takes a deep breath, letting it out in a determined sound. "But I will accompany you."

"Thank you," Margot whispers over the other's shoulder. "You will be the only one I will truly have that I can trust and confide in. I fear for Amber and my family, Desrianne." The princess' voice breaks and she pauses before she can continue.

"Mother was vehement about me never seeing Kendall again. For her to be so eager to send me off with him…" Releasing the matron, Margot turns her eyes to her plate as she whisks away tears. "No sense continuing that line of thought, now is there? Please. Eat with me."

Desrianne releases Margot when the young woman pulls away, stepping back and sitting again. The two women spend several seconds of recuperative silence filling their plates.

"Who was it that arrived where Kendall felt he needed your advisement?" Margot eventually asks, her tone curious.

The maid's expression darkens and her lips firm into a thin line once more. "The Lady Dara of Hendrake has seen fit to grace our hosts with a visit," she says, voice hard and tones clipped. "She did not give her identity at first, claiming to be your lady in waiting. I presume Lord Kendallarithan wanted me to confirm or deny the claim."

"I don't know this Lady Dara of Hendrake. Why would she make such a claim?" Margot asks, her face turning to a puzzled frown. "Who is she and how did she know of my whereabouts to insinuate herself as such? What is she to me or Amber or…Kendall?" Fatigue left the princess with little patience and a shallow well of tolerance. She was not fond of being used as a ploy or ruse or excuse to gain entrance into any location.

The matron picks up an olive from her plate but is not able to bring herself to eat it immediately. "The Lady Dara is, or was, the leader of the armies of Hendrake that warred upon Amber," she answers Margot but stares fixedly at the olive in her fingers with the dark intensity of someone battling dearly to maintain control and comportment.

"They laid waste to Amber, enacting atrocities beyond imagination upon the dead and living alike," she continues, voice shaking with suppressed hatred. The next thought brings a measure of satisfaction, though, so that Desrianne feels able to look up at Margot with a grim smile. "But she and her creatures were defeated, as you know. She was captured and imprisoned deep beneath Amber Castle. I didn't know she had been released, nor why she would have come here."

The younger woman suddenly feels her appetite vanish and she places her linen on her plate. "If she is as terrible and brutal as you say, are you certain she was released?" Her jaw tightens, not caring for an impostor arriving for what could only be nefarious purposes. She felt…protective? Possessive? These were not things she was familiar with; she only felt a slow burn in her belly as she imagined Kendall in the company of a Chaosian lady, a burn quickly moving from mild irritation to agitation.

Pushing back from the table, Margot tests her legs by standing up. Still very weak, she is nonetheless able to walk slowly to the balcony. She felt the room becoming stifling, her own emotions needing an open expanse to dissipate. Her mind churns, wondering what she should do. Remain hidden in the safety of the bedchambers? Face this wicked witch who had used her name under false pretenses?

Desrianne's anger drains away, her face becoming dismayed when she realizes how upsetting this was to Margot. She had, in her own distress, perhaps answered less discreetly or delicately than she might have, especially considering the princess' fragile condition. She is caught at first without words as Margot moves away from the table and its sustaining foods.

The girl looked ridiculous in the oversized clothing, obviously borrowed from her Lordling. The presence of the cotehardie, which Desrianne hadn't missed earlier, confirmed that the princess' things had arrived at the tower. Why her own nightclothes and robe had not been supplied to her was a question the maid had ached to ask earlier of the red-haired servant, though the moment had not seemed right. This left her with her own dark suppositions as to the reasons.

The maid eventually gathers her wits back together enough to stand and move to the young woman's side on the balcony, though she gives Margot space. She is merely there to support and assist, having observed the careful way in which her charge moved, as if weary and sore from her travails. The air off the ocean is crisp and cool, much too cold, in the maid's opinion, for someone in a delicate condition.

"I don't know," Desrianne admits her ignorance. "She might have escaped, but I haven't heard any alarm. She was well dressed when she arrived, not in the dirty rags I would expect if she had been in the dungeons recently." She pauses for barely a second before entreating the princess. "Poppy, it's cold out here. Come back inside or you might catch a chill. You still need to gain your strength back."

"I am over-hot," Margot replies, her tone distant. Wind spun dark locks into a frantic fervor, a dance of passion; a dance of pain. "Perhaps the guards were called away in preparation of this great apocalypse. Or, she took advantage of the castle's chaos and stole the life of those who held vigil over her before an alarm could be sounded." Her eyes carried her beyond the horizon, her thoughts leaving Amber with sadness tugging at the corners of her lips.

"I know you do not approve of any of this. Of my decision, of my choices," she continues with remorse in her voice, but not regret. She leans against the marble wall as she watches the white foam and spray coat the cliffs below. "I am so very sorry that I cause you dismay and a constant broken heart. It seems that I have an affinity for failure and disappointing those I care most for. I truly try to do what is right and noble by my heart. I never envisioned that my … ways would cause such …" She shakes her head, unable to give voice to her dark thoughts, and her arms come around her waist to hug herself as she shrugs.

Desrianne stands facing the princess with hands clasped in front of her, watching Margot's profile while she makes her confession. Her heart goes out to the troubled girl, so unsure of herself in spite of her stubborn determination to follow her own heart. "You're right," she admits, deciding to be frank.

She lowers her gaze to her hands, their clasp tightening again in evidence of tension before she looks up again and takes a step closer to the princess. "I don't approve of your choices in terms of this Chaos Lord. It's just that there are so many good men right here in Amber, and you're still so young. I wish, and I don't doubt your mother shares this wish, that you would have been more cautious with your heart, given yourself more time to meet others here in Amber."

A heavy sigh escapes the princess as Desrianne confirms her suspicions. The roar below tries to tempt her attention away from the matron, calling to her with seductive promises. Vague memory tickles the back of her mind of another vow to join the raging waters below, tormenting her further. Perhaps that was where she truly belonged. A chill climbs her spine; the shiver that followed is inevitable.

"But I might disapprove simply because I lack understanding," the matron's words continue more slowly, reluctant yet compelled to offer a concession. "I don't know this Lord as you do. In time, maybe I'll come to appreciate his…better qualities and see the wisdom of your decision." While her tone does not convey much optimism on this point, she is at least willing to grant the possibility.

"But Poppy, disapproval and disagreement don't always equate to disappointment," she continues. Her expression changes in the dim light of starshine and candlelight flickering from indoors, lips drawing upwards in a smile of pride and affection. "You have a kind and generous heart, and the courage to follow it. You have not failed, to my knowledge, in anything you have put your mind to. In fact—"

Another brief pause heralds another concession. "If you pursue the relationship with your Chaos Lord with your usual spirit and determination, I believe you will succeed." A hand comes up to stroke Margot's wild hair. "How could he resist you?"

Her second mother's changed tone draws the Princess from her dark musings. Small, bashful and demure; the smile that pulls her lips upward illuminates her expression amidst the darkness. Oh, what a marvelous dream that was, to capture his heart as he had hers! But she had promised herself she would not follow that fantasy. She gave of herself openly, willingly and without pretense of his affection being equal to hers. He said as much. If she were to start believing otherwise… then what Desrianne said might come true, but she could also end with a devastating heart break.

Her eyes scan the balcony, coming to rest where they had loved each other earlier in the day. She feels anxiety creep back up to crush her chest and her smile falters. "Perhaps you are correct," she says. She swallows, trying to hide her unease. "Maybe I should go back inside."

The maid's expression turns from fond pride back to worry as Margot's melancholy proves itself tenacious. Putting hands to the young woman's shoulders, she gently but with determined pressure turns her to steer her back indoors to the table. She presses her back into a chair and then retrieves the plate of food that the princess had abandoned, dropping several additional items onto it and then placing it in the girl's hands with efficient alacrity.

"What ails you, Margot?" she asks as she walks back over to the balcony doors and shutting them completely against the fresh breeze. As far as Margot can remember, the doors had never been shut before, though she could hardly be styled an expert after having visited this chamber only twice. "You're tired, that I can see easily, but you're troubled as well. Talk to me, Poppy."

"My mind is cracking, I think," Margot offers after several moments of silence. Once more, she places the linen at her lap and selects a minuscule morsel. "My dreams were very vivid and most were unkind. I am…struggling with certain images that tug at my recollection because I do not know whether they are real or imagined."

The matron draws out heavy brocade curtains from either side of the doors, hiding them from sight. She had found Margot's fascination with the balcony railing and waves below oddly disturbing, though she could not have put name or reason to her dread. She felt better with that area closed away for now. Open windows on another wall still allowed the air to circulate, though with less movement.

She returns to the table, thin lips upturned in an encouraging smile that she clearly did not feel. She pulls her chair a bit closer to Margot's before she sits again. "What distinguishes these images from the dreams?" she asks gently. "Are they more troubling?"

Another shiver and Margot shifts in her chair. "I don't know," she admits. "I cannot tell if they were dreams because they were more real than the others. But, they are so strange, I don't know how they can be real. It doesn't make sense. The dreams have been very vivid. Some have been extraordinarily frightening. Terrifying. Some have been simply cruel. Some have been gentle. Some have been riddles. Several have involved harm coming to me — either by my hand, or another being in my image, or someone else that means to do me harm. I recall declaring…tossing myself over the banister as proof of my honor…I get a sense of an afternoon of loving in the sun turning cold and dark and distant and angry with no provocation."

Her eyes close and she gulps in a breath, struggling to remain calm. "None of this makes sense and it only makes me feel as if I'm going mad."

Reference to an afternoon of sex in the sun causes the corner of the matron's mouth to twitch downward momentarily, but she recovers quickly before the princess can notice. This was just another aspect of her duty, and she would adjust. Taking hold of Margot's hand, still holding a bite of food, she squeezes reassuringly.

"You're not going mad, Poppy," she answers with unshakable confidence in her tone. "You're merely tired and confused from your ordeal. It's easy to confuse dreams with reality at the best of times."

She gives a snort composed equally of contempt and renewed anger. "And if the Lord was insensitive enough to force you to bed him after all you had been through, I can easily see how the experience would traumatize your sleep afterwards."

"He didn't!" Margot insists, her eyes filling with the guilt of a child. "He was very nurturing and caring and…It was my hungers that took us to the balcony. Kendall had been noble and gentlemanly in all of my care. He was going to have Rory tend to me, bath and all, and when I was distressed by this… he took it upon himself to tend to me, wounds and all. Not lecherous. Not lascivious. He would not let me leave the table until I ate enough for his satisfaction. He tried to put me to bed… to SLEEP. He carried me everywhere so I wouldn't have to walk."

Her hands cover her face as she gulps back sob. "I. WANTED. HIM."

Desrianne feels herself pressed against the back of her chair, as though driven back by the princess' intensity. She's at a loss at first, both for words against such a strong defense, and suppositions about what it might mean for Margot in the future. But, eventually, she is able to let her breath out in a soft sigh. Clearly now was not the time to debate the relative virtue of what had happened versus what could or should have happened.

"If that's the case—" she begins hesitantly, not wanting to appear as though she's disagreeing but still retaining a healthy skepticism about the Lord's motives. "Then your dark memories are most likely to be just another dream."

Leaning forward again, she pulls Margot's fingers away from her face so they can look eye to eye. "I understand that you're resolved to go to Chaos with him, and you've explained why. But what you should realize is that even with enough resolve for two Margot's, this is still a time of much anxiety for you. For everyone. You're intelligent enough to admit that going into such an unknown with someone you barely know is frightening at the very least! Why else would you have hesitated to ask me to accompany you? It's terrifying for me, too. I think it's to be expected for these fears to bring darkness to your dreams, and some of that darkness will touch the Chaos Lord, no matter how gentle and caring he might seem in the daylight."

Her companion's words seem to ease Margot's heart, if only for the moment. She hoped that was all that it was. Hope was a good thing. "Thank you, Desrianne. You have always found a way to soothe me when I could not see to my own consolation." Her eyes drift to the door. That was another concern entirely.

"Do you think I should confront the one that used my name as a ploy? This… " the princess waves her hand as she tries to conjure the name. "Dara? Make my presence known? Is it cowardice if I remain tucked away hidden in here like some delicate flower or fragile jewel? Or am I intruding if I step out of these protective walls and take my place on this very different stage?"

Anxiety grips Desrianne at Margot's suggestion, the certainty characterizing her previous words now wavering. The matron's protective instincts demanded one answer, even though she knew Margot could not always be kept safe. The princess was embarking on a great unknown. Quite probably, safety would become an inconstant or even impossible state to achieve once they arrived in Chaos. Though, truthfully, safety even here in Amber was no longer a sure thing with attack imminent.

"Oh, Margot," she breathes, almost robbed of voice at the thought of her precious Poppy in the same room as Dara of Hendrake. "It might be best to leave the matter of Dara to our hosts. Lord Kendallarithan appeared to have things well in hand." Her answer addressed the immediate situation, but left untouched the necessities that would be encountered in the future.

"But, is it perceived as cowardice if I stay tucked away safe in private chambers rather than roam freely among the confines of Vigil as if… " She draws a heavy breath and exhales in a sigh. "As if I considered it as comfortable and soothing as my very home? I mean, if her intent was to intimidate a fledgling princess…?" Her brows rise with uncertain entreaty, seeking counsel and wondering if she was sussing things out appropriately.

Desrianne, typically so certain and assured about the proper ways of doing things, hesitates with perplexity apparent. "I don't really know… it's hard to say whether… her intent was to intimidate you or… perhaps… intrigue someone else," she suggests.

"I don't understand…" Margot answers slowly, though a darkness returns to her expression as possessiveness wriggles free from the recesses of her heart.

The matron's lips press together with worry, making her face a study of discontent. She realizes she had not fully explained the circumstances and events earlier, caught up as she was in relief over seeing Margot awake and the dismay she had felt over the Lady Dara's presence in this very tower. She felt unsure, though, how much she should share with the princess in her current fragile state.

She gives up on the plate of olives she still held motionless in one hand, setting them back on the table and then pouring herself a glass of juice to match Margot's. She picks up the glass but holds it in her hand without taking a drink at first. "I had been here for several hours, watching over you while you slept, and Lord Kendallarithan was nearby throughout. It had been quiet, and you were sleeping peacefully, but then Master Rory and a guard came to the Lord's door to inform him that someone requested access and claimed to be your Lady in Waiting. Of course, I knew you don't have any Ladies yet, so that was first suspicious."

Desrianne gives a soft sigh. "The Lord was counseled against admitting the visitor, including words about their Serpent," a statement that causes an uncontrollable shiver. "But… he decided to investigate instead. And now the Lady Dara has been invited into the tower."

"And you believe… she wanted to pique his curiosity? Or… something else? What purpose would she have with stirring intrigues? And that still doesn't address her deception at my expense." Her lips tug down in a scowl, feeling irritated once again. Anger twists her stomach, making her less hungry, but one look at Desrianne and she knew she had to placate the matron with at least a few more bites.

"So…" she hesitates, trying to find her words amidst the anger licking the sides of her heart. "You would recommend that I remain here and not interfere with the affairs of Chaosians. Is that correct?" she breathes deeply, trying to keep her displeasure and possessiveness at bay.

Desrianne takes a sip of her juice as Margot speaks, then finds herself drinking deeply of the unexpectedly delicious liquid. She nods firmly as she sets her empty glass down, this one question amidst all the others having a clear answer for her. "Prudence is often mistaken for cowardice, Poppy," she counsels.

She pauses as a thought occurs to her, and she attempts to divert the princess with a question instead. She did not like the dark expression that had taken over Margot's face or the anger in the girl's voice. "Even if you did confront Lady Dara, what would you hope to accomplish?" she asks gently.

"I…well…I…" She turns away, her face falling once more. "I wouldn't be perceived as weak or frightened or…or childish. I don't need to confront her verbally to do that. But allowing my presence to be felt, then that shows I'm not captive or a prisoner or a…" she rolls her eyes. "A slave or anything else. That I am here on my own free will and pleasure and independence."

Once more she rises, one hand reaching for the back of the chair and the other going to her head as black starts to fill her vision. Eyes close as she fights to maintain consciousness; her hand on the chair tightening to white knuckles and her jaw clenching. "Besides," she mutters through a tight jaw, "I am far too wound to sleep."

Her maid rises quickly as Margot begins to swoon, catching the princess by the shoulders. "Pushing yourself well beyond your limits is not a sign of wisdom aborning," Desrianne says with asperity in her tone as she steers Margot back to the bed.

Margot does not fight as she is directed back to the bed, though she had little interest in sleeping. Still, sudden movements seemed to catch her off guard. "Then what shall I do…?" she asks, sighing her frustration as she struggles to remove the heavy robe.

"Why do young people always view resting as inactivity?" Desrianne asks the ceiling in perplexity as she helps Margot with the covering garment. She looks back down at her young charge with affectionate frustration as Margot reclines on the mattress, arranging sheet and blanket over her. "You may not feel as though you're active, but your body is healing itself while you sleep and eat. That's as important as anything else you might want to do. I'm sure the Lord will send word if you're needed, but when he left you were still soundly asleep."

Dimly remembering the excitement and yearning of new love, she adds, "You might spend your time anticipating the return of your Kendall, Poppy. That may occupy your mind for a time."

Margot considers that as she tries to push her hair away from her face and get settled under the covers. But her fingers catch in snarled knots, tugging painfully. "Mayhap if you brush my hair, that would soothe my nerves enough for me to sleep once more," she suggests.

"Of course, dearling," Desrianne agrees with a smile. She returns to the chair where Margot's belongings lay at the ready, retrieving comb and brush while the princess sits up. She feels relieved to have such things available without having to wait on Rory or rummage through the Lordling's possessions, and this helps bring a calming smile back to her face as she carries the implements back to the bed.

Sitting down behind the princess on the edge of the bed, Desrianne clucks in dismay at the monumental task at hand. "Goodness, it looks like it hasn't been combed in weeks, though I know I arranged it for you just yesterday."

"I was too tired to be bothered after my bath. Kendall was kind enough to dry my hair without mussing it as much as possible, but I didn't brush it." Even the thought of having someone tend to her hair seems to have a marked effect on the princess' disposition, soothing her restless and agitated spirit.

"Ah," was about all the maid could think of to say in response. There was that name again. Desrianne purses her lips as she begins the hard work of bringing order back to the princess' hair, and the comb picks gently at the knots and snarls in silence for several minutes.

Margot sits still, her body too weary to even wince at the inevitable tugging. She lets her mind wander, pulling the cinnamon-scented pillow close to her chest and hugging it tightly. "Desrianne?" she starts after several moments of peaceful quiet. "Have you ever known love?"

The matron does not answer immediately, frowning a bit to herself as she finds a particularly difficult snarl. She would work at the strands as long as she needed to, though, rather than be forced to cut Margot's luxurious hair. "Yes, Poppy," she says, her voice sounding distracted. "You have asked me this before. Don't you remember?"

"Oh. Yes. Of course." Margot's answer comes in a trance-like tone of relaxation. "What were you willing to sacrifice for him? And he, you?"

"Sacrifice?" comes the questioning reply. "What sort of sacrifice do you mean?"

"What were you willing to do? Give up? Endure? At what lengths would you have gone to see your Pietre happy? And how far would he have searched to discover your heart's desire? Would he have traveled to the ends of time? Was there a risk too great for your love, Caressé?"

Desrianne combs for several seconds, thinking about Margot's question. Looking back on the blush of teenage love was different, more distant with the years, experience, and — yes — cynicism that had come to fill the time between.

"Pietre had the more romantic heart between us," she says at last. "He often said he would have gone to the depths of Rebma or the heights of Kolvir for me, if there had been need." She laughs. "I do recall him promising to visit the ghost city of Tir, to discover in the visions whether a flower could be found more beautiful than me. But he was prone to such flights of fancy."

"It sounds like he was a very sweet man and that you were very in love with him," Margot observes softly. "But, if you had to do without, suffer? What challenges would you have faced? Dragons would you have slain? Or… is that just a thing of … faerie tales…?"

More silence fills the space between them as Desrianne ponders the question, but the girl goes on without waiting for an answer. "How was the strength and tenacity of your loving bond tested so that you knew with certainty that nothing — not even death — would separate you?" she asks. She turns her head to give her maid a searching look over her shoulder.

"Because, that IS true isn't it?" she asks. "You didn't take another lover into your heart after Pietre, did you…?"

Desrianne smiles and gently turns Margot's head back so she can continue with the combing. But the princess can still hear the smile in her voice as she answers. "There is nothing quite like your first love, no matter if fulfillment comes or your heart is broken," she answers, her tone as dreamy as Margot had ever heard it. "I did have a few other suitors, though. I didn't immediately become an old maid." Her tone is still teasing, knowing that wasn't what the young woman had meant to imply.

"If anything but death had tried to separate us, I would have traveled mountains and seas to be with him. But I was lucky… very lucky…" Her tone changes as she continues, as though speaking aloud brings realization. "Our union was blessed by our parents and friends. We had few trials to overcome, and so our brief time together was full of joy and love."

She laughs a little. "That's not to say that we never had problems. Naturally, we had misunderstandings and arguments sometimes. I once even caught him kissing another girl!"

"He did? Oh Caressé! What did you do?" Margot frets, drawn into Desrianne's story. Gana never shared her exploits, so Margot had little advice to guide her in matters of the heart; nothing but her imagination and books to fill her mind with conclusions. It was comforting to hear warmth and joy in Desrianne's tone revealing fond memory.

Desrianne's tone turns rueful, though still fondly amused at the memory. Oh, how young we were! "First, I wept. I was heartbroken. Then I was despondent for a time, and refused to see or speak to him. He was at wit's end, trying to discover what ailed me. Eventually," and here her story is broken by another laugh. "After about a week, he waited until after dark and climbed into my room through the window!"

The matron's voice becomes hushed. "Very scandelous if anyone had discovered him, mind you. And with my sister sleeping just feet away! He woke me up, and had to hush a scream, which he did with a kiss to my lips. I had forgotten all about that."

"Did you fight? Did you melt into the kiss? Did you stay angry at him? What was his answer for kissing another girl? And how did he possibly make amends to you?" Margot was enrapt with the story, fighting the urge to turn around and give Desrianne her undivided attention.

"I most certainly did not melt into his kiss. I was quite indignant, to tell truth, and pushed him away. I suspect that hurt him terribly," she replies with regret now in her voice. "At first, I put my fingers in my ears so I could not hear him, and he pulled them out. That my sister remained asleep through all this was a miracle. Or, perhaps she was awake and kept silent."

Finishing with one section of Margot's hair, she moves the now smooth locks over the girl's shoulder to get them out of the way before moving to the next snarl. "Eventually, he convinced me to tell him why I was upset, and he answered that the girl I saw him kissing was his cousin, visiting from the south. And he had only kissed her cheek in greeting. I met her later, and she was very nice. I don't think he ever told her what happened, which was a blessing. It would have made things…awkward."

"I will tell you, though," Desrianne adds with her tone more serious. "I watched both he and she like a hawk during her whole visit."

"Was he surprised that you had spied him kissing another girl and that you were upset with him afterward? Why didn't he tell you he was expecting his cousin? Did you trust him — fully — ever again?" Margot's questions bubble out of her in a never-ending stream.

"He was surprised," the maid says. "I think he was also a little hurt that I… oh, that I jumped to conclusions? Did not ask him? Did not trust him? So many things. Perhaps because by then I loved him so completely, so… yearningly, I was afraid to lose him."

Her sigh is heavier this time. "I don't recall exactly why he had not told me of his cousin visiting. Perhaps because he didn't know, or it was supposed to be a surprise. But as for trusting him… yes. Yes, I did. Eventually. I did look for proof, but she really was his cousin, and he had only kissed her cheek. They weren't overly friendly any other time, and I did spy on them a few times. I had blown the incident out of proportion. I was fairly tempestuous as a young woman, you see."

"Did it serve you well… being a tempestuous young woman?"

"Not always," the answer comes with a regretful voice. "While it can make for some excitement, it can also lead to deep regrets. It's usually best, I have found, to have temperence."

It was Margot's turn to sigh, one of contemplation. "Do you have many…? Regrets, I mean? Not the sort of … mistakes that you wish you hadn't made, but true moments that you'd do anything to erase or wish for another chance to set right?" It seemed like Desrianne was … perfect. It was so easy for her to judge and be disappointed, it weighed heavily on Margot's shoulders. She feared that her only friend and confidante in Chaos would live in constant shame and disappointment.

Desrianne puts comb down and moves around to face Margot, sliding from the bed and crouching in front of her young charge so she can look into her face. "Poppy, you have an unusual number of questions for me today," she's smiling as she speaks, as though she wants to reassure, but concern lurks in eyes that peer into the princess' own, searching for explanation. "What is this about? You're still troubled. About the Lord? About Lady Dara?"

The girl sits very still. Very, very still. Slowly a shoulder lifts slightly and falls with the same uncertainty as her head bobs the smallest of motions. "There is so much I don't know… I don't understand. I think we fought, but I am not certain… and then when I woke to find him not here…" She closes her eyes, trying not to cry but feeling the warmth welling beneath her lids.

"And now there sits one of his own exchanging pleasantries from a place he's craved since arriving…He loathed his assignment to come here and…and…I suppose she is as beautiful as she is lethal." Margot's hands cover her face again, her fingers kneading her eyes.

"Everything in my mind is a kaleidoscope, swirling and changing, morphing from beautiful to grotesque to strange," she laments, her voice muffled behind her palms. "I don't know what I should do, or how I should behave or if I should be concerned. My heart aches and I feel possessive and worry for Kendall but I don't know if I dare have claim to do so, especially if we fought. I don't remember!"

The matron's heart goes out to the young princess, and she returns to the bed so she can pull the young woman into an embrace. She strokes Margot's temple with one hand. "I'm sorry, dearling. I haven't been very understanding, have I?" She sighs as the princess melts into the hug, sobbing silently.

"I know very little about Lord Kendallarithan," she begins hesitantly. "But all your words to describe Kendall have painted a glowing picture. Tender and caring, thoughtful and attentive. When I arrived, you were asleep in his arms, and he did not leave you alone even when called away. First Master Rory was here to watch over you, and then he gave me leave to return to tend to you. I truly don't know why he felt the need to invite in the Lady Dara, but his invitation was formal and polite."

"He…" Margot sniffles and hiccups before she can finish. "He was holding me when I was sleeping?" her voice carries more curiosity than hope. "That must have set your teeth on edge."

The frank observation is surprising, but she can find no fault with its truth. "Yes, I admit it did. But—" Desrianne hesitates again before confessing, "Twas a tender portrait to see when I arrived. You were sleeping peacefully, and yet when he released you, you became restless. He laid a kiss to your temple to calm you. I'm not entirely sure why he summoned me to care for you, but it's possible he believed having me here would help you, and that's a very caring thought, isn't it?"

Slowly, the sensation of a nod brushes against Desrianne's shoulder. She breathes deeply, her tears ceasing. "I wish I could remember such an experience," she whispers. A growl emerges from her abdomen, though she felt no pangs of hunger. I suppose I shall die of a broken heart like one of those frail women in my novels, too distraught to eat.

"I've never seen my parents argue," she explains to her maid. "For me, it was always joy and love. I don't know what to expect or how to deal with the inevitability of it happening."

Desrianne begins to slowly rock the young princess, a soothing motion of swaying side to side. "All couples have disagreements and misunderstandings," she says with conviction. "Believe me, I have seen many a loving couple snarl at each other like stray cats, and your mother, bless her heart, has a temper to match her fiery hair. But there is no shame in being spirited, Poppy, as long as you're also willing to listen to the one you love."

She shakes her head. "One thing I do regret is that I don't think I listened to Pietre enough, truth to tell. He was a quiet sort, and I think he was often just swept up in my tempest without much say in the matter. With you and your Kendall, dearling, it will be even harder. I don't mean to be harsh, or— or unsupportive, but the fact is you and he come from vastly different backgrounds. If you argued earlier, it was probably due to a misunderstanding brought about by that, and open hearts may make amends."

"I just…" once more the Princess hesitates, an internal battle raging over how much to disclose for fear of judgment. "We were playing. Laughing. Enjoying one another on the balcony. I had never seen him so at ease and peaceful. Contented. Happy."

Remorse fills her voice. "And then something changed; I don't know what. But, in his eyes. I saw it. He withdrew, put up his walls. It was… eerie. Frightening. I don't know what I did. But I thought maybe…I should go to bed as he had been insisting all along."

Tears trickle down her checks once more, her voice cracking with suppressed emotion. "I walked away but words followed, something to the effect of never meeting anyone who was truly what they appeared to be, in Chaos or in Amber. I returned and challenged him to prove how I deceived him. I yelled, I screamed. I remember… " She shakes her head.

"I remember staring longingly at the surf below. And refusing to go with him into the bedroom." Her voice falls to a whisper. "…I was only playing…"

Desrianne suspects this is not something she could help with directly, except to be a supportive presence. To that end, she rocks Margot as the tale haltingly emerges. She had no experience with Kendall, save what little she had observed of him, but she knew her Poppy always spoke truth. Something had gone terribly amiss, and now the young woman blamed herself; indeed, she was tearing herself apart with guilt.

"And then what happened, dearling?" she asks in a gentle voice. "Can you tell me the rest of the story?"

"We…" She shakes her head. "He was upset. I was upset. I remember staring at the waters below and wanting to join the surf. Then I was in bed, crying, and he knelt before me. His voice was soft and he offered me wine. I was hurt. I didn't want to trust him because I was hurting. But his eyes were filled with concern and he entreated. Then I was sleepy. He promised I wouldn't be alone and was sitting next to me on the bed. I think he carried me from the balcony to the bed, but I was so upset, I don't fully recall."

She trembles. "I just know that he was so beautiful and at peace one moment and the next it was gone and I don't know what I did to make him withdraw and put erect those walls around his heart. Or for him to say such a mean thing. If that's what he even said… I don't know." Margot leans against Desrianne, her expression defeated and deflated, her aching heart and insecurities easily observed.

"I'm sorry I don't have answers for you, Margot," Desrianne says regretfully. "You shall have to wait to speak to him. But you can have reassurance that, whatever happened, he has not removed you from the tower or even his chamber. He has kept you here and cared for you, waiting for you to wake."

She pauses a moment, thinking while still rocking the desolate princess. Clearly the Chaosian had drugged Margot if she was able to sleep so soon after such stimulating events. Her stomach roils uneasily at the thought, not sure what to do with such knowledge.

"Poppy," she says at last. "You shouldn't fear to tell me all if it… if it would help to ease your heart. Did anything else occur that you can remember? Did he shout at you or…strike you or…" Her voice trails off questioningly.

"Oh no! Caressé, he has never raised a hand in violence or anger. Or even…" Margot struggles to penetrate the veils of confusion in her head. "I don't think he even raised his voice at me. I screamed at him. I demanded answers…. I was the one out of control. I… I…"

Tears begin flowing again. "I told him that I would throw myself from the balcony to prove my honor and that I had never lied to him, ever. And I wanted to. I wanted to."

Flashes of memory flickered in her mind, disjointed and fuzzy. "He swept me up in his arms and away from the balcony and called for Rory, but that was the only time he raised his voice. When he called for Rory. He put me on the bed and I scrambled away from him, angry and hurt and distraught and confused. He dressed and I pulled covers about me. Wine came. He was gentle. He knelt before me. His eyes were filled with concern. He still clung to his walls, but perhaps they were … weaker? Thinner?"

The sobs subside after awhile, her crying jag exhausting her further. "I can only guess that he dressed me knowing how modest I am and that he's the only male who has seen me skyclad." She shrugs. "They have no female servants here. He must have known I would have felt uncomfortable waking to find Rory here and me without any clothes."

Desrianne removes her arm from around Margot. Taking the girl's arms in both hands, she turns her so that they are facing each other and the matron can look sternly into the princess' fact. In spite of the red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained cheeks, Desrianne speaks forcefully and with conviction. "Poppy, I need you to promise to me that you will never consider taking your own life again. Promise me!"

The sternness cracks, revealing terror and pain.

Several moments pass in what felt like an eternity, Margot overwrought with guilt and shame. She had confessed too much; was it a promise she could truthfully keep? Looking into Desrianne's eyes and seeing the worry, the genuine heartfelt concern… "I promise, Caressé."

It was hard to know how stern or forceful to be with the fragile princess. On some level, Desrianne knew this was not a promise Margot would remember if she found herself again in such a circumstance. The maid could only hope that such a circumstance could be avoided in the future, and for the first time she feels a moment of relief at the thought of accompanying the princess to Chaos.

Her rigid shoulders and firm grasp relax as Margot makes her promise. Her lips press together in thought as she studies the girl for a few moments. "Margot—" she breaks off, not sure how to say the next part, but determined that she must at least broach the topic.

"You paint a glowing picture of your Chaos Lord, but… you do know he cannot be all perfection, don't you? He will have flaws—we all do," she adds hurriedly, not wanting Margot to take these words as an attack on her lover.

"I am aware," Margot sighs heavily. "He is over cautious. I think he sees ulterior motives in all actions. He has grown up in a life of political intrigue and machinations and therefore is driven by them. He will do whatever is necessary to advance his House's agenda. I don't know if he will ever come to trust or love me, even if he had deep feelings and affection for me. I…"

She frowns, lying down on her side with a pillow beneath her head with the other was tucked beneath her chin and held close. "I doubt that …I…my…invitation to Chaos was made for completely altruistic reasons…no matter what my heart wants to believe. But, if I am to be a pawn, I wish to be one with eyes wide open."

The matron gives a sad sigh, patting the princess' hand. This was not the sort of love that either of them had hoped for Margot's future. "Then…perhaps…the difficulty between the two of you on the balcony earlier…Perhaps you may not hold sole fault for it, Poppy. That is all I am trying to say. You should not borrow blame needlessly."

"But, I don't know how to manage…recover. How to fix it," Margot laments. "No one has ever fought before me. At the school, people were disciplined. Momma and Papa just…glowed. Always. Whatever ire they felt, they left here when they escaped to my shadow. How do I know that any of what we had will endure this…insanity? My hysterical madness?" It was becoming clear that she was almost more distressed about the consequences following the events rather than the events themselves.

"I don't… I don't think you do," is the disappointing answer. Desrianne found herself wishing the Chaosian Lord would conclude his business quickly, return, and begin some resolution to the matter. Clearly Margot would continue to fret until she gained some answers. Patience was not yet a virtue well cultivated in the princess' heart.

"But mayhap you can still take this lesson to heart for the future," she suggests instead, looking down at her young charge with a grave expression. She takes the girl's hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze. "Much has happened to you in your short time in Amber, dearling. You have been introduced to a new world, a new title, a new way of life and thinking. Moreover, you've now experienced your First Love."

No matter the circumstances of this first love, the idea is still enough to change her face from grave to smiling, sharing the special warmth of that unique feeling with the princess, memory of that feeling newly awakened. The smile fades, though. "More troubling events have occurred as well, which I won't enumerate now, but the crux of the matter is that you have experienced a great deal in a very short time. This may have caused you to become… overstimulated and… overwrought. One sign of wisdom is knowing when to take measures to rest and heal before that happens."

Margot nods in concession. It was something she had heard a couple different versions of since she had arrived at the Vigil. Between Desrianne and Kendall, she feared she would never miss a meal again. Not that this was a bad thing; but visions of being force fed with one strapping her to the chair whilst the other slipped morsel after morsel into her mouth danced in her head.

"Yes, Caressé. I have already been scolded for my lack of regard for my own health and well-being by Kendall. He has threatened to hold me down and force feed me if I do not take it upon myself to do so. He also informed me that I will not enjoy the process."

The matron blinks in surprise, but takes advantage of the unexpected support by standing up and going to the table to fetch Margot's abandoned plate. Putting several more items onto it, she picks up the juice and returns to the bedside. "Here, then," she says. "Eat up, so the Lord has no need to worry over you."

Reluctantly, Margot pushes herself up to rest against the headboard, pulling the blankets up to her hips. The floppy, over sized sleeves were starting to irk her as she folds up the cuffs in irritation. Taking the plate, she begins to eat, slowly but steadily. A biscuit, a few pieces of krinth wrapped around nubs of sausage, a few berries. Margo munches in somber silence until only a third of what was placed before her remained. "Must I eat it all?" she asks then, her brows rising in question.

Desrianne hovers, not interrupting Margot while she eats, but not settling back down either, as though waiting to see if anything else was requested or needed. When she pauses, though, the maid holds out the glass of juice. "Drink some and rest. Then you may want more."

Sipping from the glass, Margot enjoys the way complex flavors swirl over her tongue. Before she realizes it, the glass is empty. "Thank you, Caressé. For talking. I don't have anyone."

The matron's smile is warm and full of love, and she sits back on the bed after putting the empty glass back on the table. "Of course, Poppy. I would have you feel free to share anything with me, anything at all. Yes, even if you want to talk about… bedding your Lord. I do have some experience in that arena, as you know." She laughs a little deprecatingly, color coming to her thin cheeks.

"I can't promise to always be happy with everything you say or do, but I suspect the feeling is mutual if you're honest with yourself," she continues with a wink. "I'll do my best not to be severe, but I fear old habits stay with old women for a long time. Just promise you won't lose faith in me, either. We'll be on our own together."

"If I didn't have faith in you, Caressé, I would not have asked you to come with. You are the only one I know who can help me navigate these waters," Margot insists with an affectionate smile. "You are strong, brave, wise, and you've always treated me like your very own. I cannot imagine doing this without you."

Desrianne pulls a kerchief from the sleeve of her gown to dab at moist eyes. "Thank you, dearling." She blinks rapidly for several seconds, muttering, "Must have gotten some dust in my eyes…."

"Now then," she says, that being done and kerchief disappearing back up her sleeve. "Did you need anything else? Any other questions. Oh, I should finish your hair! You're half rat and half princess right now."

"No, my nightmares and other dreams can wait… that is, unless you know how to interpret such things…?" Margot questions, half teasing and half expecting Desrianne to have that mystic knowledge. She moves around so that her knotted hair was accessible again.

Sitting behind the princess again, the maid pulls the still knotted half of her hair into position and begins her work. The room has grown warm with the doors to the balcony shut, and the candles do not flicker.

"I'm sorry, no," she says as she works. "I've never learned the art of interpreting dreams. My thought has always been the mind holds back our terrors while we're waking, but sometimes they slip free when we sleep. My grandmother, who was ancient even when I was young, held that there were things that we could only learn in dreams, because we are not tied to…to believability? I don't really recall the word she used, but in essence, dreams don't have to make sense."

"Mine certainly did not," Margot agrees. "Some were cruel, some were strange, some were kind. They were all very, very vivid. And exhausting. I don't think it was very restful, this sleep."

"Would you like to share some of them? Would that ease your mind?" comes the question.

"I don't know. One had the Unicorn-Child incinerate me from the inside out because I was the last remaining Amberite. Another had me attacked and stand accused by different distorted images of me stepping out of mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors." Margot shrugs. "One had me scaling the cliff I climbed today, failing, the cliff crumbling beneath my hands. Another was with Grandpa. Another was about the Unseelie. Another was on a Desert Island that used to exist just off the Labyrinth in the shadow." She glances over her shoulder. "Long story."

Her glance shows a wide-eyed Desrianne, a bit taken aback by the quick summary of graphic details. "I— see," she answers. Going back to her combing, she begins working on the last of the snarls. She's not sure what to say, but it seems as though not saying something would be worse in this situation, so she begins to think out loud as she works. "All of those things sound terrifying, but from rumors I have heard about your debut dinner, the first one is not inaccurate, is it? It's alright to be afraid after seeing such horrors."

Margot shakes her head. "It wasn't much of a debut, no. I didn't care for the Amber-Child, either. And I'm afraid I told her as much when she tortured people for her own amusement in front of everyone."

She shivers. "Prince Brand was bleeding out of everywhere. Wailing and screaming. It was horrid, and she just smirked. Amused! And then announced this deadly threat she knew was coming and while she knew how to defeat it, would not share her knowledge and would not help in the cause. Amber needed to be cleansed. She had failed her children. Or some other tidbit of insanity. She's condemning innocents — not the Princes and Princesses that she clearly abhors — to a horrible, torturous death because she seems to find some sick joy in eradicating Amber and starting with a clean slate! It makes me violently ill."

"I know, Poppy," she agrees soothingly. "I can't fathom it either."

The princess breathes deeply. "It was disquieting. The dream I mean. I don't know why … " Margot shakes her head. "But that wasn't nearly as frightening as the dream in the Hall of Mirrors. The images called me all sorts of terrible things: selfish, deceiver, a monster, disloyal."

A sigh. "They were chanting in unison and encircled me and were so cruel. No matter how I tried to escape, a new mirror appeared with a new distorted image that stepped out of the glass."

The matron squeezes Margot's arm reassuringly. "You don't really believe you are any those things, do you?" she asks, her tone assured and gentle. "It was but a dream to echo your conflict with Lord Kendall, dearling. Nothing more."

"You don't…think so? I mean, isn't leaving Amber…?" Her head falls.

"Isn't leaving Amber what?" Desrianne asks, hoping to draw the princess out more while she continues working at the diminishing knot.

"An act of selfishness, betrayal, disloyalty, monstrosity."

"Did you not say earlier that your mother gave her blessing, in hopes this would assist with preserving the Royal Blood of Amber?" she asks.

Reluctantly, Margot nods. "She did. And grandpa gave his blessing as well, for what it's worth." She breathes deeply. "I also had a dream about when I was tricked by the Unseelie; but this time Mother wasn't there to save me and I didn't know how to save myself. That is a part of my heritage I know so little about. How is it that I have all this potential… power…Amber's blood and the Fey's blood, both mixed in my veins and I be so…impotent?" she asks with quiet exasperation.

"That I can't say," Desrianne replies with an answering sigh. "But you are still so young, Margot, and have just now awakened your heritage. Remember, the power of the Amber Royal Blood is very mysterious, and much of the knowledge and experience of your elders has been learned through centuries. You are just beginning, while they have taken many steps. I know that's not a comfort now."

"Maybe …" she agrees though her insecurity and doubt remain palpable between them.

Silence falls for a time, Desrianne working at the knot in the princess' hair while simultaneously working at the knot of the young woman's problems in her mind. "Poppy…." she begins at last, trailing off hesitantly for a moment. Then deciding to take the bull by the horns, the princess' maid takes a breath and continues.

"Suppose after all this, the Lord— the conflict between you and Lord Kendall cannot be resolved and you decide not to accompany him to Chaos. What would you do then?"

Margot thinks on the question for what feels like an eternity. "Regardless of what happens between Kendall and me personally, the Royal Line must be preserved. And if the Queen felt the best chance for that was for me to be dispatched to Chaos to achieve that, then I will obey the Queen's order."

"Ah," the matron replies, not sounding exactly non-committal so much as though she was thinking. "Do you… do you know how you might pursue that plan without your current, ah, patron?"

Finally finished with the last knot, Desrianne puts comb down and picks up brush, pulling the bristles slowly through the princess' hair in long strokes from roots framing face to the far ends.

"Make arrangements with Ambassador Brisbane. I have been assured sponsorship by House Chanicut. While there is little comfort in not having an intimate relationship with Kendall, in the end, that will not ultimately serve the objective. It will be considerably lonelier and far more challenging, but it doesn't change the facts of where we need to go, when, or why," Margot says, her tone measured and determined. In fact, she was trying to do as Kendall does, see the duty beyond the heart, no matter how it pained her.

Margot can hear some conflict in Desrianne's tone when she replies, sadness and pride warring for dominence. "That is an excellent plan," she says. "I'm glad you've been thinking about it. Do you still think going to Chaos makes you a traitor or deceiver?"

Slowly, her eyes flicker to Desrianne. Reluctantly, perhaps because of her own battles, Margot shakes her head. "Not if I am honoring who I am and my purpose, no." Still, there was a question in her eyes, perhaps seeking approval or affirmation that she was correct.

The matron meets the princess' doubtful gaze, and a smile touches her lips. "Good," she says, tone firm and final in its agreement. "There is no shame in finding joy while also working for the betterment of others. Surely duty need not be all grave solemnity. Look no further than your own mother and father to see evidence of that. Being the King and Queen of Amber, especially in recent times, can be most challenging and trying. Yet they still find joy in each other, as you do in your Kendall."

Margot turns and throws her arms around Desrianne, hugging the other's shoulders tightly and pressing a kiss to her soft, aged cheek. "If you are not careful, I may start to think you are a romantic, Caressé," she teases softly. "Thank you. It is … difficult to have faith in myself when I…don't know anything."

Desrianne hugs her back, laughing at the notion of being a romantic. "I do know a thing or two about being in love," she admits.

Sitting back again so she can look Margot in the eye, her expression becomes more serious. "But that's nonsense about you knowing nothing. You know many things, some of the most important things for anyone to know."

"I…" Margot blushes, not really certain how to respond. "Thank you for believing in me, Caressé."

Sitting back, she glances around out of habit, forgetting for a moment the lack of a timepiece in the chamber. "I wonder the time."

She rises then and moves to the table, her sea-legs feeling a little stronger. "I'm still a little hungry," she admits. "Do you wish for something?"

By habit, the maid opens her mouth to chide Margot for acting as servant, but she catches herself in time, shutting her lips again abruptly. It was enough that the princess was relaxed again and seeking out food for herself, and so she nods. "I could do with some more of that juice, perhaps some cheese and sausage, thank you dearling," she finally says. She sets aside the brush and comb, picking long hairs that had come loose in the grooming process from the lap of her dress.

"As for the time, I think it might be time for you to sleep more after you have eaten your fill. I might take some rest with you."

Margot nods to the request, filling plates and glasses and bringing them to the bed so they can both sit and snack. "I think a nap sounds marvelous now. I don't know when I'll be leaving this room anytime soon… I might was well use it for its intent." She smile weakly.

Desrianne accepts the plate and juice, placing food in her lap and picking up a morsel. "Would you… would you care to walk about before resting again?" she asks. "To help ease your mind."

Margot shakes her head. "No. I don't think wearing a hole in the carpets here would help ease my mind. And I'm not dressed for walking around publicly." She sips some juice. "Talking has helped, though, I suspect more dreams will come and my rest will not be…peaceful. But I probably should make the attempt; I don't know when or if I will be called to some sort of duty." She smiles awkwardly, thinking of Dara.

Though she had been the one to make the suggestion, Desrianne is still rather relieved to have Margot decline. They both eat and drink in silence for a little while, until the princess' plate is empty and her stomach is full. The maid also finds several of the items from the table pleasing, her appetite returning now that it seemed her Poppy was on the mend.

Once done and dishes returned to table, Desrianne takes some moments to braid Margot's hair loosely to protect it from becoming so tangled again during sleep. Then she tucks Margot in warmly, bidding her lie close to the center of the bed. It would appear the maid intended merely to sit with her back to the headboard against pillows, rather than lie down in the Lord's bed.

Resting upon her back, one hand at her abdomen, the other slips beneath the pillow. Margot looks up at Desrianne, her eyes starting to look drowsy. "Caressé, please, rest. Lie down. We will both need our strength and I suspect that moments of solace will be mere oases in our journey."

The matron hesitates, clearly torn between the idea of lying down in this particular bed versus the wishes of her princess as well as the comfort of reclining. At last, she relents, at least to a point. Shifting to lie down on the bed atop the covers, clothing and modesty intact, she means to close her eyes for only as long as it takes for Margot to fall into sleep.

Time passes, the even breathing of the two women joining the sound of distant waves. The candle burns lower, dims, and finally goes out.

Back to the list of Kendall's threads

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