Discovering the Hall of Mirrors

"A lie that countless heartbroken mothers have told themselves," Clarissa replies. "But you are responsible, in the case of your children. No one of note would have noticed… till you had to take that first step. Now on the board are all who would have failed to mark their existence, their use." She smiles, like some crazed killer in a bad horror movie. "You have brought so much attention to yourself, even the Courts are now aware."

"An ancient song, that one, of unearned blame and woe," Belle responds with that same glacial calm. "My twins have been prepared for events similar to these all their lives. As a billionaire, I have always known they would have to survive by themselves eventually. This is as inevitable as the tides."

Margot didn't understand what was going on… why there was this venomous exchange between the women in her company. She found herself almost absently stroking Belle's hand with hers, and tracing the intricacies of Greyswandir's hilt and pommel with the other. Oddly, she observed, both brought comfort.

With that barb now sunk, Clasrissa goes on. "The Houses of Chaos, are not going to be impressed by mere parlor tricks like those back at your home were. Your twins will be evaluated and tested… and if you never do return," she shrugs with indifference, "killed, made into slaves, or if they are really unlucky, married off to some simpleton with the hope a child is born with enough potential to do something besides be a mere buffoon." Then she adds, "Most certainly the Great Houses of Chaos, will not be impressed by what you call wealth."

Clarissa smiles, before addressing Margot. "Don't worry sweetheart, if you find yourself getting in trouble out in Shadow… just inform whomever of your name and title." She nods, as if to reassure, then with a flinch, she addresses the pair without waiting for Margot's response. "Someone not… nice, is coming. I will withdraw then, and allow them entrance." Then with a smile to Margot, she adds as her image in the mirror wavers, "Be a good girl, and make us all proud."

With those words, Clasrissa and the mirror she was in… fade from view as a strong light framed like a door appears at the far end of the hall. Then a shadow blocks the light briefly, resolving into a human shape when it steps through the door into the hallway. Dark haired, dressed in dark green velvet trimmed with gold, he seems to bring more darkness with him as the door clicks shut, cutting off the light. He walks towards the two women at a leisurely pace, examining the hallway and mirrors with interest.

One of the women wears dark riding boots, black trousers, crisp white shirt, a jacket of crimson-and-gold brocade with golden buttons and plenty of pockets. The expression on her peach-pale face remains like flexible stone, revealing naught of feeling or intention, and her midnight hair is bound into a single braid, though wisps have escaped from confinement. As the new arrival walks toward them, she remains silent and makes no sudden moves.

For her part, the younger woman sports black suede breeches with matching vest and a white blouse made from the finest cotton weave. Riding boots, gloves tucked into her belt, and an impressive sword at her hip complete her outfit. Her hair is swept up in a tight braid coiling down her back. "Do you know either of these…persons?" she asks quietly, gently squeezing the other woman's hand. The fingers of her other hand relax and flex as they wrap around the hilt of her blade. The other woman gently squeezes back, shaking her head in the negative.

The man stops a few feet away, glancing first at the younger and then the older woman with his bright, aquamarine eyes. Up close, he's young and reasonably attractive, with black hair and pale skin. The only ornamentation on his heavy, calf-length robe are gold whorls of flame embroidered at cuffs and hem.

His current expression is neutral, though his face looks as though it could be either kind or cruel with equal ease. The eyes betray him, though, their lively curiosity belying his detached air. Tucking his hands into his sleeves, he gives the women a short bow. "Greetings, and fair day to you both."

Margot's head tips slightly, "Good day to you, Sir." She offers nothing more than a neutral expression, save for a small, pleasant smile. Not fully appreciating what or where they are, she awaits Belle's response before offering any more insight.

"Greetings," Belle responds, her tone quiet and pleasant, her Thari strangely accented.

His expression changes to a restrained smile, softening the lines of his face. "I am Kendallarithan, Lord of Protocol and Minister of Friendship to the Court of Amber from House Chanicut of the Courts of Chaos. I must ask your pardon for interrupting you. I thought I heard raised voices."

"Naught but an unpleasantness, Lord Kendallarithan," Belle replies, accented Thari again quiet and pleasant. "I am Doctor Rosabelle Jennifer Devereaux."

Following Belle's lead, the younger woman introduces herself, "Princess Margot of Amber." Her fingers never leave Belle's grasp.

"I have met Ladies from House Hendrake," Belle then says calmly and pleasantly. "I have not previously met any of House Chanicut, Lord Kendallarithan."

"Please. Lord Kendall will do," he replies. "I did not realize Hendrakes were so prevalent in Amber."

Margot's smile warms, grateful for the shortening of the Lord's name. Without a fair answer, she allows Belle to further address the observation. "I was not in Amber at the time," Belle responds. "Could you perhaps inform us as to where we are, Lord Kendall?"

He doesn't answer immediately, giving Belle a measuring look for two heartbeats. "This place is unknown to me," he says at last, gesturing at the hall around them. "Yet when I entered this hall, it was through a doorway in the Castle Amber. Are you familiar with this place, Princess?” he asks, turning his attention to Margot and matching her friendlier smile with a warm smile of his own.

"It's called the Hall of Mirrors. It is said that a person may travel to any place from here just by imagining where they wish to be while searching the reflection,” the princess replies softly, carefully. "Beyond that, I am uncertain. This is my first time venturing into this room. If this room is unknown to you, Lord Kendall, what tempted you to cross the threshold to enter it?" Her question comes laced with curosity and a gentle smile; no hidden agenda nor accusation planted within.

"I am here to serve as attache' to the Chanicut Ambassador," he answers, looking at a nearby mirror with a thoughtful expression. He absently smooths away a fold in his robe with one hand. "One way to fill my time has been to explore and learn more about this castle and its inhabitants. My assignment is to learn as much about Amber as I am able, while sharing same with those here who are interested. An effort at cultural exchange, if you will," he finishes, turning his attention back to the women.

"So, Curosity lured you here," Margot observes, her smile growing as she watched his hand smooth his robe.

Kendall chuckles. "Succinctly put."

"She is quite seductive, to be sure." Margot's fingers relax in Belle's hand, and her other hand leaves the tender comforts of the blade at her hip. "Do you have a similar place," she gestures with her free hand, "where you are from?"

His face becomes serious again as he tucks his hands back into his sleeves. "Somewhat similar. The sh'Lyr or'En'an. That would translate as… Hm. Hall of Disappointments is not very poetic, but likely close enough. It is a crystalline labyrinth that reflects the heart and mind of anyone who enters it. If you succeed in navigating it, it will lead to your heart’s desire.” He raises an eyebrow before adding, "Many find themselves in unexpected places, however. It seems the desires that lie closest to our hearts are often hidden, masked by lesser things we believe we need and want."

"Have you journeyed through its Halls, Lord Kendall? It sounds like an enlightening place."

Now that she is no longer leading the conversation, Belle appears content to remain silent, though she listens. She glances to the place on the wall where alleged Clarissa made her appearance. The corners of her mouth turn downward slightly: the faintest indicators of mingled anguish and anger, and she glances to the black panther beside her.

"Cheshire, are there ways to learn if that woman was naught but another hostile Lady of Hendrake?" she asks quietly enough not to interrupt the others. The panther's eyes never leave Kendall's form, recognizing the name of Chanicut, her answer audible to only Belle.

"Not as yet," Kendall says to Margot, giving Belle a curious look. "The Secret Keepers have not granted me access to that room."

Silence for another one or two heartbeats. Belle firms her expression anew, her silvered-sky-blue gaze returns to Kendall, and her warm fingers remain loosely about those of Margot. “I doubt this corridor functions in the same way," she says quietly and pleasantly. "For if that was indeed my alleged biological grandmother, that is not how I would desire to meet her for the first time."

"It is an imperfect similarity," Kendall replies to Belle. He trades her look for look for a heartbeat before observing, "You appear dismayed by the meeting with your kin."

Silence again as she listens carefully, her head tilting slightly to the side, as an unconscious habit. "Only two so far. I cannot accept the pleasant without also accepting the unpleasant," Belle replies. She briefly smiles then, for the first time, and though lovely, her rare smile is both sad and crooked, as though she was badly injured in the past and it has not yet healed properly. "Thank you for advising that Princess Margot and I have not yet left Amber. You spoke of a cultural exchange, Lord Kendall. I am not from Amber, and can tell you little about it. I would be interested in learning about your world of Chanicut, however, as I am interested in learning about Princess Margot’s world too."

"That is gratifying to hear. It would be my pleasure to continue this discussion over tea at some point," he replies, with a nod. He turns again to Margot. "And you, Princess, would be most welcome as well. Have you recently arrived in Amber?"

"Thank you, Lord Kendall." Margot smiles, continuing with a glance at Belle, "I've only just arrived. It is my understanding that the Queen will be hosting a formal ball to officially introduce me to the Kingdom and all her guests."

Kendall's expression tries to do a couple different reactions when Margot mentions a formal ball, before settling on a kind of bemused resignation. "Splendid," he says. "I would be pleased if you would reserve a dance for me."

Her cheeks redden slightly, embarassed by his response or sharing her mother's intent, the reason isn't clear. "Of course, Lord Kendall. It would be a privilege to share the floor with you."

A pause. "What was the last formal Ball like, Lord Kendall?" Rosabelle inquires pleasantly, her strangely accented Thari delicately drawing attention away from Margot’s embarrassment.

In turn, he has to consider what to say for a heartbeat before answering, perhaps perceiving Margot's embarrassment as due a faux pas on his part. "Delightful, of course. Quite delightful. I learned a great deal about the similarities between Amber and Chanicut during the ball on the first night we were here," he says, every inch the diplomat, though a tinge of irony seems to underlie his words. "I am certain your ball will be one to remember, Princess" he says to Margot. "It is merely an unfortunate result of my rank that I have attended… many balls."

"Please," Margot opens, "I do hope you will attend… but, do not feel obligated to do so. I would ask that you attend not out of duty, but out of interest and enjoyment, Lord Kendall." The flush seems to disappear, though a rose hue remains. "I was sincere in my word… I would be honored to share a dance with you." She glances to Belle, flustered by her foolish tongue. "Forgive me, Lord Kendall. Title and Station are a relatively new experience for me. I did not grow up here in Amber, and it wasn't until recently that I had a full appreciation of who my parents were. They have always just been, well… my parents; and I, Margot." The flush returns; revealing that this may in fact be the reason for her embarassment. "It is something that I am struggling to grow accustomed to."

Margot pauses, collecting herself, "Please forgive any faux pas I may have commited. Again, many of these nuances are new to me and I fear that my learning them will be a folly with scrapes and bruises along the way." She smiled, warm and trusting.

He smiles back at her, and his bright eyes warm for the first time. He gives her a deep bow, flowing and graceful in its execution. "No apology is necessary, Princess. Indeed, the apology should be mine to give, for acting as an ungracious guest in your fair land."

Margot inclines her head, "Thank you, Lord Kendall. You are most generous with your patience." Her eyes met his, filled with both shyness and self-assuredness. She was an ingenue, full of grace.

Silence for one or two heartbeats before Belle draws breath and speaks. "There would seem to be a purpose for all three of us being here in this Corridor of Mirrors. Though whether for beneficial or malicious purposes, I cannot say," she says, again quiet and pleasant. "Shall we explore this Corridor of Mirrors further?"

Kendall turns back to Belle, with an inquiring look, still with that measuring quality to it. "A purpose?" he asks. "What would suggest such a thing to you?"

"The instant Princess Margot and I tried to step through a mirror, there was a distraction," Belle says, not at all concerned by his measuring of her. The steady silvered-blue of her gaze does not waver.

"I see. A distraction. The woman to whom you were speaking? Was that your grandmother, who spoke of the Courts of Chaos?" he asks.

Margot's head gave the slightest of nods, but she watched Belle, curious to her response. The interaction *was* with her, after all. "The woman I was speaking with, yes," Belle replies. "She seemed to be the mother of my alleged biological father, Prince Brand of Amber. Shall we explore?"

An eyebrow quirks, but the Chaosian nods in acquiescence. He gestures for the women to proceed, which elicits an expression of vague surprise on Rosabelle's pale-peach features at his courtesy, as though she is not accustomed to such things. Turning her attention once more to the dusty antique mirrors that hang upon the walls, she glances again to midnight Cheshire, then to Lord Kendall, then to Princess Margot. "So," she says in her accented Thari. "The desire of my heart was to return to my home, but as hostiles are watching, that seems unwise."

A pause as Rosabelle gently releases Margot’s hand from her own. She starts down the corridor in the direction of the doorway where Kendall had entered this strange place, further wisps of midnight escaping from her braided black hair, black riding boots clicking on the stones of the floor with each stride that she makes. Margot smiles her thanks and appreciation to Lord Kendall before following in Rosabelle's her wake.

Kendall gives the demon a musing glance, the first indication that he even notices it's there, and turns to follow the others back the way he had come. He is in no hurry, examining the artistry in the mirrors as they pass. To Margot, he asks curiously, "You have known Doctor Devereaux for some time?"

"Actually, no. We've only met recently over biscuits and tea." Margot smiles congenially. "But, it is important that she have all the support she needs when seeking out her heart's desire." Her lips pull to one side. "A bit naive on my part perhaps, but we all play our parts."

Kendall digests that. "And what of you, then? After Doctor Devereaux attains her heart's desire, will you be free to pursue your own?" he inquires. His question has a sort of distant, clinical quality, as though he is gathering data for some research project.

“You could call me Lady Rosabelle if you wish, Lord Kendall. I have not worn my title in years,” Belle says quietly as she halts before the door that allowed Kendall into this place. She touches the door with one gloved hand, pushing lightly upon it, even as she checks again on the location of Cheshire. The panther lags behind, looking still at the mirrors with her tail flicking.

Beyond the door, it looks to be a castle hallway in much the same style that Amber features. Two annoyed Knights in mail stand in a nearby alcove, awaiting something or someone. “But that is the wrong way around, actually. Margot, it is your birthday. If this place does function like the sh'Lyr or'En'an that Lord Kendall spoke of before, perhaps we should try to find a mirror that will grant your heart’s desire?” Her pronunciation of sh'Lyr or'En'an is not quite accurate, as she has heard it spoken only once.

Margot paused, head tilting to one side. "Belle, I am honored to be at your side in your efforts; grateful that you would allow me to help in any way that I am able. I do not mean to insinuate…" she frets, struggling with the words, proper etiquette and all the things that she should just *know* and feels like she's fumbling. "I have yet to discover what my heart desires," she finally utters, with a half-shrug. "It never occurred to me to seek something beyond helping you." Her cheeks redden again.

Kendall waits patiently for the others to decide what they plan to do, observing the conversation with a faintly bemused expression on his face.

"It is okay. Why not do both?" Belle asks quietly after she listens. Another rare crooked smile briefly occurs, warming her cool silvered-sky-blue eyes, as it did before.

As they pause at the door, there comes a cracking noise from the oldest mirror at the opposite end of the Hall, drawing the attention of everyone in the group. Though its decayed silver backing barely reflects even the spot of light from the door, within its bounds grows a network of shimmery lines, as if spiders of glass have chosen to spin their webs there upon the mirror's surface, permitting a figure - feminine with noble bearing - to become visible.

As the figure in the mirror becomes recognizable, Kendall's face drains of all expression, and his posture stiffens. The Chaos Lord stares for the space of five heartbeats as she within the Mirror casts her gaze upon the quartet. When she raises a single brow, however, he turns to give Belle and Margot a polite nod. "Please excuse me," he says quietly.

"Of course, Lord Kendall," Belle responds just as quietly. She does not move, though she does allow the door to close as she watches this new woman in the spider-webbed glass of the mirror.

As Kendall walks briskly to the end of the hall, Margot offers quietly, "This is the most curious of places…"

"Absolutely," Belle murmurs in response to Margot. "I did want to meet my grandmother, alleged or otherwise," she adds after another few moments, her tone sadder than before.

Stopping in front of the ancient mirror, Kendall salutes the woman therein with a bow so deep his left sleeve stirs the dust of the floor into tiny dancing spirals as he extends his arm to the side, right hand laid across his waist. "Mother," he greets her simply, waiting on her permission to rise.

"Kendallarithan, my son," Lady Grania replies, the barest of waves signaling him to stand again. "You look well…" Her eyes, strict yet forgiving out of sympathy for where he was, still are unable to stop assessing his clothing, stance, even his very words chosen. For that was the way of Chanicut - to measure and judge always, even dealing with those that you cherished. Far worse for a mother, whose dreams for her youngest have been frustrated so often by the very same lips that once suckled upon her breast.

His face still reveals nothing as he straightens, two discreet twitches of his fingers ensuring that his robe is once again hanging precisely so. He clasps his hands behind his back, and only then does he smile, bringing warmth and life back to his features. "Thank you. It is a pleasure to see you," he says.

Lady Grania grants her own smile of indulgence, giving a slight nod of approval. "Is Amber agreeing with you, my child?" She casts her gaze beyond. "Has my son been the proper gentleman, worthy of his House, Princess Margot?" Lady Grania also asks, her eyes stay on Belle for a mere flicker before returning to the young girl.

The younger Chaosian looks at Belle and Margot, allowing the Princess to respond before giving his own answer. Margot leaves the comfort of Belle's side, stepping forward to stand by Lord Kendall's side. "Lady Chanicut, Lord Kendall has been a most gracious acquaintance," she compliments with a smile, inclining her head. Her fingers lace in front of her, arms relaxed.

Kendall's eyes gleam briefly in appreciation. "The Princess is too kind. Mother, please allow me to introduce Princess Margot's companion, Doctor Rosabelle Jennifer Devereaux. Lady Rosabelle, my mother Grania, Lady of House Chanicut."

When this dance of words comes around to her, Rosabelle shakes off the thoughts that were occupying her, and paces forward to stand beside Margot. "Lady Chanicut," she says pleasantly.

Lady Grania gives just the slightest tilt of her head in acknowledgement, before returning her attention back to the Princess within the group. "Princess Margot, an acquaintance is such a poor word for my son. While he can be difficult, even willful at times, I wish to believe my Kendall will make a fine husband." She lets this sink in, before continuing. "He isn't prejudiced, having already romantic encounters with a handful of ladies from your Court." She gives her son a breath of her gaze. "You could do far, far worst when time comes for a selection of choices."

Color comes to Margot's cheeks in a blaze. "Lady Chanicut," she begins, surprised at the calm in her voice. "Thank you for your insights. While premature, I appreciate your," she breathed, "counsel in such matters." It took all her will to put forth a facade of grace. How could someone just discuss such manners as if discussing the weather? Surely, this must be some test… Exasperated, her heart raced at the implications. "I am certain that the King and Queen will also have valued advice as to whom shall win my hand."

"Mother," Kendall breaks in, an edge to his voice and his face losing its warmth. He steps forward to stand between Margot and the mirror. "With respect, Amberites pursue their bondings in quite a different manner than we of Chaos. And in any event, such a discussion is inappropriate under these circumstances, as well you know."

Standing beside Margot with her boots placed precisely so upon the dusty flagstone floor, pale blue eyes and expression remaining calm, Rosabelle listens carefully, but remains silent herself.

"Is a mother tending to her son's future… inappropriate?" Lady Grania replies. "Do such words not need be spoken? Your father and I agree, the Princess would be a good selection for you. This is not only our assessment; others have relayed adequate counsel for our consideration as well."

Her eyes catch Margot's. "Indeed Princess, there are those within your Court who believe in the desirability of this union and have convinced me of the benefits to House and to my son." Her gaze returns to her son. "He is a willful child at times, but I have faith he would make himself a good father and a fair husband." With just a shift in her chair, Lady Grania takes both in her view. "I understand in the end, only you will decide, Princess. But with such a union, peace between our realms would be assured. Allied, we would be able to help each other in the troubled times ahead."

Margot steps forward, again taking a place at Kendall’s side. “You flatter me, Lady Chanicut. This is only our first meeting,” she glances to Kendall, “and Lord Kendall has been nothing less than a gentleman of the highest regard.” She gives him a smile before returning her gaze to the image in the mirror. “However, as I stated earlier, your proposal is premature. If you and your husband truly believe a union between our Houses is critical to prolonged peace between our realms, I would encourage House Chanicut to request an audience with the King and Queen so that this discussion may receive the full consideration it so richly deserves.” Margot maintains her pleasant, polite manner; but her tone is steady and firm.

Kendall frowns at Grania's response, a thoughtful expression, pausing to consider her words. Margot's careful reply appears to cover all the bases, though. He raises his eyebrows and smiles faintly at the young woman's temerity, then looks expectantly to the figure in the mirror for her reaction.

"House Chanicut will in time comply with the proper dictates, Princess," Lady Grania replies. "But due to unheralded events, I perceived a need to bring this to your attention directly, since it will be your own decision in the end." She pauses here, the calm within her eyes and face legendary even within the Courts. "That is the the type of princess Amber needs now, one who envisions the coming needs of her people and acts upon them."

"Princess Margot," Kendall breaks in again, turning to look at her. "Please allow me to explain. Lady Grania understands that you cannot make such a decision at this very heartbeat without first consulting with your family. She is merely asking you to consider the matter seriously, in the context of the greater good of your House and Realm."

He hesitates, the pause less than a heartbeat as he orders his thoughts before continuing. "As I noted previously, these matters are handled quite differently in Amber than in Chaos. Here in Amber, it has been my experience that the individual members of the family have a great range of choice even in matters that may have large effects on your House, or Realm. Thus, my mother is presenting the possibility to you directly first, as a courtesy, to consider whether you are open to creating a union between our Houses that is symbolized with a union between the two of us. If you decide this is a viable option, after consulting with your parents, then House Chanicut will make the necessary overtures through our representative, Ambassador Brisbane, who is currently in residence."

Margot faces Lord Kendall as he explains the nuances of the conversation. She listens patiently, eyes thoughtful, expression calm. A small appreciative smile forms at her lips, brightening her ebony eyes. “Thank you, Lord Kendall, for your patient explanation. It is most appreciated.”

She returns her attention to the woman in the mirror. “Your counsel is most thought-provoking, Lady Chanicut,” Margot replies calmly. “I am grateful for your candor and the courtesy you’ve shown me on our first encounter.” She pauses, glancing toward Lord Kendall for no longer than a breath, before returning her attention once more to the image. “You have given me a great deal to consider; along with the significance such an affair may have upon the immediate future.” She inclines her head slightly, “Thank you for sharing the gift of your wisdom. It will not be dismissed frivolously.”

Lady Grania returns the respect, hers just a wee bit less. "Thank you for your kind words and understanding, Princess Margot of Amber." Her eyes fall to her son, and a smile of pride comes to her lips. "As you can see, my youngest shows amazing promise at times. And as he hopes to inform you later, rare is our House so open with such things." Those eyes, so serene, flicker back to Margot. "That is the promise I see within, Princess." A hand shifts slightly, telling her son this audience was over and the pair dismissed.

"Thank you, Mother," Kendall gives her another low bow. "I am pleased to do my duty, and will convey your wishes to q'Lin'dyn Brisbane." When he straightens again, he adds, "Please give my regards back home, and… be well."

Margot lowers herself into a deep, graceful curtsy, solemn and regal. "I look forward to our next encounter, Lady Chanicut." Rising again with practiced fluidity, she looks to Kendall to lead her away. He obligingly offers her his arm and escorts her back to Rosabelle, who had been standing patiently in the wings.

Margot's posture is one of relaxed nobility; though her delicate fingers tremble slightly against his robe as he escorts her to her friend. This and the slightest blush to her cheeks are the only outward appearance of her nervousness at the exchange with Lady Chanicut. Kendall politely ignores Margot's discomfiture, but when her hand trembles, she feels his fingers brush lightly against hers in a reassuring gesture.

She smiles, warm and almost shy to Lord Kendall, "Thank you." It was apparent that she wanted to say more, but couldn't find the right words, so opted to let the simple statement carry the weight of her appreciation. Her hand rested comfortably against his arm for a moment longer before she retrieved it for fear of being inappropriate. Reunited once more with her other hand, her fingers lace in front of her, eyes searching Belle's for what her desires are.

Once they reach Belle, he allows Margot to reclaim her hand, crossing his arms and tucking his hands back into his sleeves in what appears to be a habitual pose. "It has been an honor, Princess. Shall we depart this Hall now?" he asks both women, since that had apparently been the plan previously.

"Sure." Belle says, accented Thari quiet and pleasant, in answer to his question. Wisps of escaped midnight hair once more returned to her tight single braid, mirrored sunglasses now hiding her blue eyes, holstered pistols and sheathed knives returned to their place at her hips. She turns to the doorway behind her and once more pushes upon the door lightly with one of her hands.

Margot watched as Belle and Cheshire lead their misfit processional. Glancing to Lord Kendall, she nods in the direction of the door, a small smile, perhaps apologetic. "Then I suppose we should follow her." She gestures, hoping that he will follow her and they will walk together.

Kendall looks behind them at the mirror once more for the space of two heartbeats, but he turns back to Margot when she speaks. "Certainly," he says with a nod, and accompanies the Princess back down the hall, expression abstracted with thought. "Lady Rosabelle," he inquires when they reach the door again, "have you another means to achieve your desire?"

"No, Lord Kendall." Belle replies. "But leading hostile surveillance back to my children does not seem especially wise."

"Oh, Belle," Margot frowns, a hand reaching out to her friend in comfort. "Is there nothing that we can do?"

The Chaos Lord raises his eyebrows at Belle's statement, then nods in understanding. "I see. You have my sympathies," he says, a roughness to his voice revealing some emotion he otherwise controls.

Kendall's tone surprises Margot, causing her to glance to him, head tipped in contemplation. Her eyes searches his, hoping to coax understanding from his response. She had hoped that Belle wasn't referring to the Chaos Lord as the eyes of the enemy; but she suspected that this may be the understanding Lord Kendall gleaned despite the formal gentleness he had conducted himself with thus far. Her gaze only lasts a few breaths, offered friendship in her eyes, before she returned her attention to Belle.

Silence for five heartbeats. Belle has the vague manner of a woman trying very hard not to cry when she speaks again, her blue eyes hidden by mirrored glass. "The universe does not care," she says finally, her tone still calm, steady, pleasant. "We are the ones who have to care, or there is no point to any of it. I had hoped my biological grandmother would care, but you both saw how that turned out." Another brief silence. "So, I am with child, dancing in the dark against hostiles I cannot see, and my biological grandmother is naught but another raving and heartless nutter. I suppose if there is anything left that my heart desires, it is somewhere safe to birth my newest child, but the chances of that are not high." Another silence. "Thank you for your sympathies."

Margot's heart breaks with Belle's explanation. "We will find a way for you and your child to be safe. And we will find a way to save your son," she says, her tone calm, confident; refusing to allow odds unseen to deter her. "You have my word as the Crown Princess of Amber and more importantly, I hope, your friend." Her eyes meet Belle's, full of conviction, strength, and hope.

"I appreciate the thought, Margot. But I do not ask anything of you… there will be enough people badgering you for things in Court. There always are, and it will rarely be for your benefit," Belle says simply. She accepts Margot's offered hand in her own gloved hand, however.

"Your situation appears to be quite tenuous, Lady Rosabelle; it is good that you have garnered the support of such a staunch ally," Kendall observes with a warm smile at the young Princess. Margot's eyes returned to Kendall, this time her smile shining in her eyes. She only gave herself a moment to meet his eyes with her own before returning her attention to her distressed friend.

"While I do not have the means to assist you directly at present," he continues, "there may come a time in the future when House Chanicut might be a resource to take into account. Please consider calling on me if such a situation should arise, to discuss the matter."

"I would offer my own hospitality on the Sunshine Coast, Lord Kendall, but alas, we now cannot travel there," Rosabelle says, her shoulders squaring again as she rebuilds her composure, the vague evidence of unshed tears in her tone vanishing as if it had never been. "Not without leading the unknown hostiles to my twins, and that is not acceptable. My only hope is that their true location remains unknown."

Margot gently sqeezed Belle's hand. "I give you all that I am able freely… no imposition, no expectations," she quietly confided in Belle, reassuring her that there was no obligation to help. "I will not press anymore for the moment," she promises. Her smile is warm, promising friendship and aid to her cause.

A brief pause. "So, did someone mention tea and cultural exchanges awhile back?" she says, deliberately attempting to change the subject.

Kendall pauses thoughtfully while Margot reassures her friend, and then nods to Belle's question. "I would be pleased if you would both join me for tea in Maeve's Vigil," he says. "That is the wing of the castle where the Chanicut delegation is housed."

"Thank you, Lord Kendall." Margot turns, smiling at him. "That would be lovely." She returns her attention to Belle, hoping that her friend would agree.

Vague relief appears on Belle's peach-pale features as her attempt to change the subject of conversation away from her train-wreck succeeds. "Thank you, Lord Kendall," she says calmly. "I am curious. If you do not mind my asking, were you able to tell if the woman in the mirror was truly your mother?"

Kendall carefully considers the question, and his answer. "If you wish to discover whether the woman to whom you spoke was indeed your kin, I am afraid I cannot assist you," he says at last. "I can only say that the woman to whom the Princess and I spoke gave every indication to me that she was who she portrayed herself to be." He stands by the door to hold it open for the women.

Margot smiles her thanks, stepping forward and escorting Belle out of the corridor lined with glass. Once outside, she turns, waiting for the Chaosian Lord to join them.

Vague surprise again briefly appears on Belle's face as he moves to hold the door, as though this is not something that occurs in her usual life. "My impression is that Lady Chanicut is rarely so blunt. Or so hasty," she says quietly as she checks on the location of Cheshire before departing this dusty Corridor of lovely antique Mirrors.

"That is correct, and it is my hope that the Princess will find it in her heart to overlook any impropriety that might have occurred or caused her discomfort," he replies. "Nevertheless, any doubts were allayed during the course of the conversation."

"All is well, Lord Kendall," Margot replied demurely, "Please, do not worry." Her sincerity showed itself in her face and in her soft brown eyes.

"You have my thanks, Princess," Kendall says, shutting the door behind them. The two Knights who were still waiting in the hall move forward to take up position close to the Chaosian. "Please come this way," he invites them, ignoring the Knights.

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Tea for Three (with Margot & Rosabelle)

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