A Startling Offer

As Kendall stands there, abandoned… a most mannered cough is heard behind
him. A youngish dark hair woman stands there, dressed in black with a black
lace shawl. The Young Lord recognizes her as one of Princess Fiona's
handmaidens, who waits a moment before addressing him. "My Mistress wishes
to invite you to share a moment of tea with her before you must leave for
your next appointment."

Kendall is silent a moment, considering the stickiness of this situation.

[Brisbane had specifically instructed Kendall NOT to talk to Fiona…]

However, it would be difficult to wiggle out of this one gracefully, and
with that he makes his decision. He inclines his head to the young woman. "I
would be most pleased to join your mistress. Please lead the way."

The woman does a quick curtsy in his acknowledgment, taking Kendall along
almost vacant hallways, and back stairs. Thorough a small garden of roses,
up a twisted iron circular staircase that ends up on a small balcony. Seated
there, alone amongst a flock of temple doves, is the Princess Fiona. Her
only response to Kendall's arrival is, replacing her bookmark and putting
down the book she is reading. The doves, coo in welcome as they move about
the potted scrubs, and gold dishes of birdseed. Kendall's escort, the
dark-haired beauty curtsy low, her dress sweeping the stone. "My Mistress,
the Princess Fiona."

Kendall gives the lady a brief nod of thanks, then turns to Fiona, bowing in
greeting. "Good day, Princess. It was gracious of you to extend this

As Kendall says his greeting, another woman moves in to pull out a chair for
the young lord. This one blond, far shorter then even the Princess. Another
one, a redhead this time, places out a tea set. Quickly, and efficient… as
proper servants should. Eyes never touching his, as the Princess hands her
book to the blond."I am honored, that you took time out of your busy
schedule." Princess Fiona responds, polite and proper. "I hope this Forest
Green, is up to your standards?"

Kendall accepts the chair, sinking down and precisely arranging his robe
before folding his hands and meeting the Princess' gaze. "Indeed, the
arrangements are impeccable," he answers with nod and a small smile,
following in the dance of formality. "And finding time for one such as
yourself is not a chore, rather a burden of pleasure. I am honored that you
should inquire after me so soon after our brief acquaintance at the Ball.
How does the day find you? Well, I hope."

"The day has been… interesting to say the least. And yours?" She asks.

"Interesting," Kendall agrees. "I have enjoyed the opportunities I have had
to interact with various members of the Court here, and anticipate many
more. It is my hope that the people of Amber will learn that war is not the
only way we are able to communicate."

"I hope that my nephew wasn't too discourteous to you, he is young and has
some strange assumption on the natural of Reality. Conflict has always been
the simplest of answers to complex problems, in many ways, it is like a
drug. War and sex…. Somedays, I believe those of the only two subjects
that my brothers pursue. I on the other hand, have other interests."

"On the contrary," Kendall answers, "I found Prince Devlin to be quite
fascinating. He has invited me to a… 'bachelor' party. I believe that was
the term used. I look forward to it." He pauses briefly. "I must agree that
though those two pursuits, that is to say war and sex each have their own…
charms," he remarks delicately, "they become stale without other…
challenges to keep one's perspective fresh."

"Bachelor party…" The Princess raises a eyebrow."Did he happen to inform
you to whom these events are being held for?"

"Himself, I believe. He did remark that he must first ask someone a question
regarding it, before proceeding. Something to the effect that if she says
yes, then the party will proceed."

The Princess seems trouble by Kendall's response, covering by a sip of tea,
before saying."And your answer?"

Noting her reaction, Kendall also sips his tea to buy a moment's thought
before answering. "I agreed to attend, of course," he answers then, cradling
his cup in his hands on the table. "I expect it will be an excellent
opportunity to learn more of the people here in Amber."

"Likely, you would…. at least more of the childish behavior of my
brothers." Princess Fiona replies, a coolness flowing back into her
words."I'm sorry, I am somewhat disappointed in my nephew that I wasn't one
of the first to know of his engagement." She pauses to take another sip of
tea."But I would be negligent, if I didn't remind myself, many of the young
share the same failing."

"The omission likely was not intentional," Kendall answers smoothly. "As he
has not yet obtained an affirmative answer, perhaps he had not wished to
spread the news to those in his family yet. I believe he mentioned it to me
simply as a way to determine my adventurousness, if you will. The Chaosian
way of obedience to one's House appears to cause distress in most of the
Amberites I have encountered."

"As well as causing a little distress in a young lord from Chaos, when he
sees our individuality and disdain for the common good." Princess Fiona
replies, watching Kendall carefully."Its a most interesting problem to say
the least, and I have ponder much on it. What is a better value, the one or
the many?"

Kendall gives her question serious consideration for several heartbeats,
taking a slow and measured sip of tea. "In Chaos, the many _are_ the one.
Each person is a representative for something greater than ourselves. It is
thus that we each individually follow the directives of our Houses." His
expression turns thoughtful. "It is a burden we all share, which is perhaps
why all may bear it. There are perhaps some who feel the burden more heavily
than others, but is that not also the case for other things as well?
Privilege brings more than prestige."

"Spoken like a true Lord of Chaos, Lord Kendall." The Princess responds. "We
must be scandalous to you, putting our own good ahead that of Amber. But we
too, put the best interest of Amber in front of our own desire some times…
But most often when that happens, Amber's best interest is usually our own
as well." She seems amused by that, her moment of laugher a pleasant sound
to his ears.

Kendall cocks his head slightly to one side. "Unexpected? Yes. Scandalous?"
He pauses a heartbeat. "Perhaps," he finally acknowledges with a quiet
chuckle with her laughter. "It is my duty to find ways to interact with
Amberites, both learn of them and educate them in our ways. I had intended
to seek out the similarities between the two people. However, that has
proven more difficult than I anticipated. I may need to devise a different

"But you haven't failed with everyone, I hear that you and my niece Briar
spent a enjoyable time in the Gardens. The Queen enjoys your company it
seems, and Prince Brin was open at least, to a meeting. My nephew invited
you to his party… not a terrible record in anyone's book. Once my father,
when I was just a child, found me before the Grand Stairs. I was crying,
because I wanted to go back to my room but the stairs seem so high. He told
me, that all journeys begin the same but its up to each person to measure
himself or herself along the way. Some would say, the top of the stairs is
their goal. Others, maybe the first landing… and to a small girl, it was
just four steps. Then four steps again, and again, till she was at the top."

Kendall waits a moment to make sure she's done speaking, nods in
appreciation of her words. "Your words are kind, and most encouraging.
Difficulties and failings are often more memorable than successes. I had not
realized that the goal of understanding would be so daunting. Yet, as you
say, understanding may come in small increments rather than in flashes of
brilliance." He puts his empty teacup down and gives her a smile. "Perhaps
one of those increments may be simply to learn what your interests are."

"My interests are as broad as all of reality, and as narrow as a single
candle flame." She answers, her voice cool and polite."Both share many
things in common, both have a beauty and a terribleness."

Kendall looks avidly interested, but says only, "I look forward to an
opportunity to explore some of them with you while I am here."

"As I…" The Princess answers, then asks."But what of your personal

"Music and drawing. Riding as well," Kendall replies easily. "And…
visiting Amber has been intriguing overall, apart from the surprising
parts," he adds after a heartbeat. He looks briefly as though he hadn't
meant to say that, but then shakes the expression and smiles slightly.

"I am positive that you have given many of my family a equal amount of
surprises." The Princess Fiona replies, almost like a compliment.

And so Kendall takes it, nodding in thanks.

"As for your interests, I would be happy to gift you with a collection of
books dealing with the music of Amber. As for drawing, any window would
do… I have seen others spend years just painting Kolvir. Now riding…
while its not my hobby, my niece Kiara is renown for her love of horses."

"As well as for her hatred of Chaosians," he returns lightly. "Yet the
thought has merit. Thank you. Perhaps some accommodation may be made."

"Agreed… its some times surprising what a small crack can do, when the
right amount pressure is applied to it." Princess Fiona responds."I've seen
whole walls come down, as well as people."

Kendall quirks an eyebrow at her response, but he responds blandly. "We of
Chaos typically encourage self-restraint in our interactions with others."

"That may well be," Fiona says."but I'm sure my niece would have enjoyed a
kiss last night."

"Perhaps," he grants her the possibility, keeping his expression blandly
polite though a gleam of amusement flickers in his eyes. "Such activities
may not be viewed favorably by others here in Amber, however, given the
recent hostilities between our realms."

"True… it would surely perturb her father. He wishes to keep his options
open, as they say. Yours, while the first, will not be the last." Fiona
says, her expressions just as polite, with the same measured gleam of
amusement in her green eyes."So there will be more chances for Kiara to toss
some poor lord out of a window for talking to her, and my niece to open her
heart to one that may not care…"

"There are always possibilities," K agrees, falling silent for five
heartbeats before adding anything. "Though while there are other options, as
the saying goes," he finally continues, "Chanicut would clearly be the most
profitable overall."

"I never said it wasn't but then, I favor House Sawall personally." She
answers, her words as cool as her expressions."But I can overlook my own
preferences, when my niece's happiness is concerned."

He looks at her keenly, curiosity overcoming caution. Dropping all pretense,
he simply asks directly, "Why?"

"Why I favor House Sawall, or why I favor my niece's happiness over mine?"
The Princess responds.

"Both, but… the second more than the first."

"I could bore you with the obvious reasons, so I will leave it at this. We
rarely have the opportunity to do a true kindness for another, the world not
allowing us to indulge in such risky behavior. I choose to with my niece,
just this once." Princess Fiona replies."And if she chooses you, I will do
all within my power to see you two united."

"I very much doubt anything you said could be considered boring," Kendall
begins his now-careful reply, eyes troubled. "And I believe… thanks would
be in order for your kind offer. However… a person in my position must
realize that these arrangements may or may not be alterable according to
one's personal wishes."

"While I've never met your father, I believe he would welcome such a
marriage if it brought about a treaty with Amber." She answers."And its
within my power to deliver both, if my niece so desires."

Kendall takes his time answering that last statement, turning things over in
his mind first, but then his troubled expression suddenly clears and he
focuses back on Fiona again. "It is true that my father wishes to foster
amicable relations with your House, and alliances are often made thus.
However, and with all due respect, mayhap you would accomplish more by
speaking with Briar on the subject than than with myself. I cannot speak for
her wishes, after all."

"I would, but my niece is somewhat confused to her desires, her needs…"
The Princess answers, in a tone that one uses with unpleasantries."She needs
someone to show her the way, to escort her to those correct choices."

Kendall smiles slightly to himself, perhaps at the notion of an Amberite
asking a Chaosian to show someone the correct way. "I see. That is a
dilemma. In Chanicut it would not be an issue, again the question of
individualism versus the House. Still, perhaps I can be of assistance to her
in this matter. I… am not adverse to developing a closer acquaintance with

"I'm sure she would like that…" Fiona says with a knowing smile, of a deal

"This may be, although it is difficult for me to assess. Are you not
concerned that some will be displeased with your… interest in this

"Displeasure can be tolerated, only when it cause action do I concern myself
about it." The Princess answers, her tone suggests that she is indeed use to
displeasing those around her.

"Is there something with which you wish assistance, as due for your efforts
on the part of a possible alliance between Chanicut and Amber?" he inquires

'If you bring happiness to my niece, that is payment enough." She
answers."But if further service within this matter is required, we will need
to reopen our negotiations."

He gives her an appreciative smile, raising his cup to her. "I look forward
to it. It will be fascinating to see how the circumstances alter when the
other Houses arrive."

"True… I am of the understanding, many will give much to be our allies."
She replies."It seems, many will give-up their dearest to keep your House
from succeeding."

Kendall's smile takes on some satisfaction. "They know they must give up
much to even hope to compete with Chanicut's resources and opportunities,
slim though that hope might be."

"That is why, my brother may just give it to them." Fi remarks.

"Charity is wasted in politics," he responds calmly. "What do you perceive
is Amber's purpose in entertaining our suits for alliance?"

"To simply see Her options…" The Princess replies.

"Let us hope that one of Her more attractive options would be alliance with
Chanicut," he replies diplomatically.

"It came be, if a certain member of the House begin to court a certain
someone of Amber." Fi responds, all dazzling smiles under emerald eyes.

Kendall chuckles. "Indeed. We shall have to see how all plays out."

"Agreed… Let Fate decide this matter." Fiona replies, but there is a
undercurrent in her tone that suggests, she is holding something back.
Something to Kendall's own personal detriment, at the very least.

He cocks his head slightly at her response, watching her thoughtfully. "Do
you feel concern for your niece's well-being?" he inquires, deciding to try
the direct approach for the moment.

"Yes.." Fiona answers, raising a eyebrow just a little due to his question.

K nods to himself. "That is well. Such an endeavor as we have agreed upon
contains risks, and it is impossible to predict the outcome. However, I can
pledge it would not be my intention to cause strife in Briar's life. And she
is aware of the risks involved as well."

"I am sure, if you put in the effort, Fate will reward you." Fi answers,
much like a cat would with a mouse in her paws.

"The Serpent rewards all of Its faithful children, especially when they do
their duty to their House," he replies, his calm voice a little forced. He
glances at the view over the railing of their little balcony to give himself
something to look at besides her, painfully aware of the hairs prickling on
the back of his neck. "But these exchanges are pointless. What assurances do
you require?"

"No… as we sat here, I already made the necessary changes and set in
motion the proper people ."Fi answers."I understand your narrow timeframe,
so willing to make allowances."

"You are most gracious," Kendall replies. "Perhaps I should seek out the
object of our arrangement and begin my work." He's almost successful in
keeping the irony out of his reply. It only peeks out a tiny bit there
before getting himself back under wraps. "She shall not hear of this
agreement from me."

While Kendall does indeed keep his tone civil and polite, she doesn't fail
to notice the trace of irony that he tries so hard to hide. In her answer,
each word forged in the hottest hells and quenched in the bitterest cold of
her heart. A tone that reminds Kendall of his mother's, when she is flushed
with angry. "I take this matter seriously, and the Fates reciprocate my
wishes." Princess Fiona, says with a cool gaze.

He winces, realizing his error. "My apologies, Princess," he replies
quickly, soothingly, forcing himself to meet her icy stare. "I meant no
disrespect to you. I was merely reflecting on… the convoluted nature of
diplomacy in these… circumstances. I understand your concern for your
niece, and will do my utmost to ensure her safety."

"Then I will give you some free advice, Lord Kendall." She replies, the
coolness of her tone easing."There are those within the Court of Amber, who
wish to return to the more narrow, and better defined method of interaction
between our two realms…. I believe it is called, staging a invasion."

Kendall had by now, quite unconsciously, dropped all hints of ease he had
begun to disply before. The resemblance to Grania was all it took, his face
and particularly his eyes resuming their coolly polite neutrality, posture
exactly correct. He smooths the fabric of his robe in a habitual gesture
before folding his hands in his lap and becoming still, almost remote. "That
would be detrimental to both sides of the conflict, though with
understandably fewer complications to manage. I appreciate your perception
of this, and your willingness to explore alternate means of assisting in our
two Houses' cooperation."

"I do what is best in Amber's interest, nothing more." The Princess answers,
the coolness evaporating to a more civil tone. "It is simply our good
fortune, that my niece's lack of a romantic interest coincides with your
mission of friendship to Amber."

"Indeed." He pauses two heartbeats, according to the dictates of courtesy,
before changing the subject. "Thank you for your kind hospitality, Princess.
It is conversations such as these that reinforce the belief that our two
Houses may succeed in finding common ground."

"Yes…." Princess Fiona says with a arching of her eyebrows, after waving a
hand slightly. A servant, dressed in black, her hair flowing down her back
like a river of ebony appears next to Kendall silently as all good servants
should. "This is Kai, and she will be showing you out." The young woman,
curtsying as Fiona introduces her.

Kendall gives the servant a tiny nod of acknowledgement, then stands and
bows deeply to Fiona. "I hope we may speak again soon," he tells her

Still seated, the Princess inclines her head respectfully."Indeed…"She

Kai stands and with Mistress's last words, motives Kendall to follow her.
Leading him to the door, then into the next room, then the hallway.

Back to the list of Kendall's threads.

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