Mastery: A New Paradigm

Margot rushes to his side, sliding beneath his shoulder to help support his weight. Gently, she guides him to the desk so he can sit and rest. They both look a little worse for wear — Margot with torn dress and bloodied scrapes, while Kendall can only vaguely recall how he became drenched from head to toe. The torn sleeve of his left arm reveals a long, thorny vine embedded in his flesh from center finger to shoulder. The flesh is an angry red where it had recently attached itself.

The ship still shuddered and creaked around them, and the Lord's expression at first is distracted, as though listening to some inner sound. Margot waits anxiously for him to say or do something to let her know all was well. Eyes filled with concern, she glances occasionally to the entryway where she had been calling for Rory until she was hoarse. Once he sits, though, Kendall focuses on her once more. One hand comes up to wipe partially dried blood from her lip.

"All is well, Margot," he says, answering her anxious expression and unspoken concerns though his voice is a mere whisper.

"You are injured," she says. She could hardly tear her gaze away from the vine now embedded in his flesh. She frowns, not knowing what to do or say. "I called for Rory, but I didn't dare leave the cabin. I do not know if he heard."

"Rory is busy," Kendall confirms, his voice a little stronger but still weary. "He has been attending to troubles caused by the explosions."

Margot blinks and her brow furrows in confusion. She knew there was some link between Kendall and Rory, but how did he know what the servant was doing right at this moment? Her hand cups his face, the other smoothing damp locks away from his eyes. "You need to be tended to," she adds, a hint of resolve returning to her voice. "When you are ready, I will return you to our cabin and care for you."

"I am well, though the Rhercyn makes things different," he reassures her. "The ship is almost fully recovered, so our journey to Chaos will continue shortly. You, however, need care." He glances around the cabin again, taking in the poisonous vines and tiny creatures the ship had put into place. Extra security measures surrounded the princess with deadly protections at his unconscious behest.

"I'm fine," she insists. "How does Rhercyn make things different?"

As his awareness continues to separate from the Rhercyn, he begins to differentiate between his own sensory perceptions and the information he gained through the link on his arm. Yet he could still feel the way the ship's new life coursed through her as she shook off her old form and took on something completely different. The sensations rose up through his feet from the floor, the wood itself charged with the Rhercyn's renewed vitality and filling him with a tingling energy.

He holds his left arm up just enough to draw her eye back to the vine. "This provides to me a link to Rhercyn, to know all of what happens on board. I must become accustomed to its presence."

Once more, concern flickers in the young woman's eyes. "You will always have the vine? Or only while we travel?" The Rhercyn had been cordial until it found her to be a threat. If it was a part of him, would it actively try to harm her through him?

"I will have no need of it once we arrive and depart the ship," Kendall answers, his voice becoming stronger as he begins to regain his strength. He reaches up to comb her hair back away from her face, pushing the tumbled curls back so he can inspect her shoulder. Everything looked different now. Brighter. The crisp scent of blood stands apart from the pollens at work in the cabin, and he is acutely aware of the flowery scent of Margot's body as she hovered near him.

"Does your shoulder hurt?" he asks, a frown coming to his face. He stands, assuming a much more normal attitude as he examines what looked to be a dislocated joint.

"Oh." Her eyes follow his to the lame arm, a small chuckle filled with irony soon following. "I guess I've endured more dire concerns since arriving upon this vessel. I fear I hadn't noticed amidst all the excitement."

He moves around behind her, investigating the injury with light, gentle fingers. "This will hurt. Prepare yourself," he tells her.

There is little for the princess to do other than control her breathing while he places one hand on her shoulder, the other palm resting against her sternum. She nods, and then searing pain overcomes her as the joint is forced home with brutal efficiency. Stars fill the young woman's sight as things darken to a fog. Somewhere in the distance, she thought she heard herself scream, yet by the set of her jaw, she could not imagine her teeth or lips parting long enough for a wail.

Breathing raggedly, Margot's legs feel suddenly like rubber, but her strong arm still supports her against the stool that Kendall once occupied. He also wraps his arm around her waist to give her support as she recovers. She can feel the odd indentation in his skin where the vine had grown into him.

"This is not the relaxing, peaceful journey to Chaos I had anticipated, but perhaps this is more instructive," he comments.

"Then there is nothing lost in the experience," Margot answers, allowing him to assist her to her feet. Curiosity overcoming weariness, she meets his eyes as she slowly moved fingers to touch where the vine had joined with her lover. "What is it like?" she asks softly.

Through the Rhercyn's perceptions, Kendall could feel Margot as all energy and anathema, while he himself knew protective affection for the Amber princess. He could feel the ship's wordless consternation at this contradiction, even as Margot's finger tickled a nerve that was not his own.

"Strange," he admits, meeting her eyes with a smile. His other arm comes around to pull her close, and she can see an energy in his eyes that is at odds with the coolly restrained Lord she was accustomed to; a wildness that only surfaced during lovemaking.

"Invigorating but confusing as well. I can see where this much sensory stimulation could be overwhelming," he elaborates. He holds himself very still, sorting through the impulses that were surfacing as the Rhercyn's energy bubbled within. "I am standing here, with you, but I can also taste the water we are passing through, and feel the wings of beetles as they fan the hallways. Though it's almost silent here with you, the crew in the forward second are stamping and drumming. And I can feel you against me, but also through my feet."

"But, it does not cause you harm?" she asks earnestly, staring into his eyes. "Your clothes… You are soaked to the bone. We should find you something dry before you catch your death." Absently, her fingers stroke the bond between man and ship with the same gentle affection as always, but with a renewed spark for discovery.

His eyes brighten still more, and he nods. "You should see the Rhercyn now, too," he agrees. "She is much changed." There is a pause of two heartbeats as he stares into Margot's eyes, and then he loosens his grip around her to move to her side so he can escort her to the newly grown doorway.

"I will," she promised, her body aching now that they were moving. "But, let me tend to you, first. Please," she entreats, finding it hard not to be drawn in by the brilliance in his eyes.

"As you wish, Margot, but I assure you, I am well. Very well." He abruptly grins at her, turning to bend without warning and sweep her into his arms, reacting to the pain he could sense through the ship. "Whereas you are rather injured."

She smiles at him, surprised at his energy to quite literally sweep her off her feet, and she wraps her arms around him for added support. "Scrapes and bruises. Of all the things endured thus far, I am hardly touched. But I am… intrigued. Your connection to the Rhercyn… I can only imagine what it is like to be so intimately entwined with another."

Kendall stands quite still after picking her up while her words swirl in his ears, somehow both easily understood and completely incomprehensible. Though he had carried her before, several times, he suddenly finds the endeavor terribly complicated. She felt doubly heavy, her weight both pressing against his arms, but also against his feet as Rhercyn supports them both. He could hear the red water running through her veins, the soft chuffing of her breath, and her scent settled over him like a cloud that was almost stifling in its complexity. Sweet seaweed of hair, and skin like the fruited pollen of silky flowers in a lost, rainbow sea.

Once more, Margot found herself searching her lover's luminous eyes. "Kendall?" she asks, trying to keep the concern at bay. "I am certain I can walk if I am a burden…"

She smells of smokey yearning, the warming spice of loyalty, the salty spray of unfettered soaring on smooth sea with hot sun and fresh wind. Red water with its metallic tang clung to her, and the air vibrations against her skin identified scrapes and bruises. An image formed in his mind's eye, of a fragile flower kept safe amongst protective branches from the ravages of air, sun, water, and beasts that might harm it.

He blinks and his eyes refocus. He licks dry lips, and then turns to carry Margot away from the thorny portal instead of attempting to pass through. "Not a burden, my sweet. It is simply… difficult to explain what the Rhercyn is sharing. The connection."

"Will you try?" she asks softly. "What is Rhercyn experiencing? Is it the vessel's own impressions, or is it your experiences through the ship's eyes?"

Reaching the bed, he leans over to lay Margot down. She offers no resistance and slides over to make room for him. He sits on the edge of the bed next to her, his gaze dancing from her eyes to follow the contours of her face and then traveling up to look at the wall and out the window portal at the ocean water that pressed against the membrane. From there, his restless eyes move down to study her fingers as they caress his arm. The nectar-scent of the bed mingles with the smokey essence of his lover. Yearning surrounded them, and her heartbeat was a gentle drumming in his stomach.

"She is… alive," he breathes, his hushed voice barely containing excitement. He looks back up to meet her eyes, his own almost feverishly bright. "She is free! She tastes the water and is happy. She is frightened, too. She is afraid of the Pattern that hurt her, though I have reassured her. But you need not fear the Rhercyn, Margot. She will keep you safe here in this cabin for the rest of the voyage."

"Will the captain not wish for her home to be returned to her?" Margot asks softly, sitting up to caress his face. The warm hand on his face soothes the hard edge of plank and board as it dives through chill water, frightening away fish and the denizens of the deep. "Is there anything I may do to ease her distress? I want to tend to you, and if that means tending Her as well while we travel, then…"

"Captain Adele is dead," Kendall explains, though he barely hears the princess' words. The joyful surge of the ship through the waters and the golden heat of her energy fill him to overflowing, looking for expression and release. He could feel Margot resting against the weight of the ship, could hear her bright, deadly energy humming just below the surface. Her breath was on him, and the Chaos Lord could feel his control wavering as he leans over to claim her lips in a tender kiss.

"I am sorry," she offers upon a whisper, the sound of mourning in her voice for the briefest of moments. Margot's caress continued to flow about his body, seeking new ways to help him release the tension held in muscles and skin. His lips touched hers, and the chill of the sea was fresh upon his lips, the salt mingling with the taste of her flesh.

One kiss leads to another, and another while his fingers comes up to play in the silky strands of her her hair. But then he draws away, leaving heavy breaths and her mew of longing to fill the space between them. He gives her a feral smile with glittering eyes. "Thank you, Margot. Now it is time to tend to your hurts, and I should apprise the others of our status."

"If you insist, but I am not in distress," she reassures him.

"That is well," Kendall answers, running his hand over her uninjured shoulder and down her arm. The fingers of his other hand tap against his leg. "Then perhaps I should simply leave you to rest whilst I tend to other things." He takes a deep breath and then stands.

"I do not understand," Margot states simply. "Please, rest for a touch. You are cold. And wet. Have you not done enough? Exerted yourself enough? Can I not assist you? Or the Ship?"

He paces away from the bed five steps, and then back. "I cannot rest, and it would be unwise for me to… succumb my current urges," he says with a smirk. Another five paces move him away.

"Maybe you should meditate. Come rest." Margot sits up. "I am able to check in on the others. The bed may belong to you."

He thinks on her suggestion for another two heartbeats. "It is possible some quiet meditation would be beneficial for me, but think the Rhercyn will not allow you to leave just yet," he says. Instead of joining her on the bed, Kendall paces away two more steps and begins a series of physical poses — somewhat a mix between a series of sword forms and yoga stretches. Each pose blends into the next, strides small and large moving him around the room.

She rises from the bed, walking around Kendall as he stretches and contorts. "Why would She not let me leave the Captain's quarters? They are not mine to claim," she protests. Her eyes take in the defenses that had been erected on door and walls. They would keep danger in or out, depending on the perspective.

He smiles a little as he twists at an unnatural angle, to Margot's eyes. "The Rhercyn will keep you safe, here," he reiterates. "In her own ways, she is responding to my desire to protect you. This cabin is now most secure, and currently unoccupied."

He closes his eyes as he moves into the next form, which requires a great deal of balance. "You are the Rhercyn's flower," he murmurs, the words flowing from his center as he begins to regain his peace.

"That is quite an honor," she answers softly, turning once more to look at the protective barrier. "How may I thank the ship for protection?" Margot felt a chill beneath her feet, but she let the cool planks temper her warmth. There was so much she did not understand. So much that she was trying to understand.

"I will thank her on your behalf," he replies, opening his eyes as he glides into a standing pose.

Margot moves to the portal which held the neural root, staring into the watery depths. Gently, she reached out to stroke a smooth, succulent vine that encircled the opening, careful not to disturb beetle or butterfly. "What urges were you speaking of?" she inquires. "Were they yours? Hers?"

Kendall stands still, pressing his palms together in a prayerful pose. He breathes deep, staring into the middle distance as he listens to both the words she spoke and the wordless language that whispered in his mind. "They are my own, but complicated," he says after a time, his voice once more even and somewhat distant.

"The Rhercyn is large, and senses a great many things I do not in my present form," he explains. "Our communion is new to me, and challenging to regulate. I can feel the healing energy surging through the ship, and I share it to a smaller degree. One way I have often chosen in the past to release excess energy has been sex, and with you here, with all of your yearning emanating from you, it is quite tempting to make love to you."

"And you do not think that is appropriate?" Margot asks, trying to understand. She chooses to continue focusing her gaze upon the inner chamber rather than seeking her lover's eyes.

"It would be unwise," he corrects. Eyes close, and he inhales a deep breath through his nose, scenting Margot's tangy confusion and disappointment and feeling the stomach churning of dismay and uncertainty where the princess' hand touched the ship. "In our present state, without clearly established boundaries, there is a real possibility I could lose control were I to be overwhelmed by passion, both my own and that of the Rhercyn."

"And losing control would be bad because…?" she presses, curiosity brewing. "Never have you lost yourself to the moment of union with me? I know I do not hold back my affections, but I've never felt you distance yourself. Perhaps… that is my own lack of understanding of what we share."

Kendall is quiet some time, eyes still closed, as he sorts through the answer to her questions. Three decks lower, in the forward section, a plank on the hull needed reinforcement after a heavy barrel lost its footing and smashed against the wood.

"You are correct, but with incomplete understanding," he says at last. "There are different layers of self control. In particular, here in Shadow where my body is malleable, and later in the Courts… lovemaking between two shapeshifters can be quite… vigorous. For you, were I to lose control of myself during lovemaking, it could be painful and even dangerous. And without stronger boundaries between Rhercyn and myself, she could overwhelm my psyche."

It is Margot's turn to be quiet, reflective. She is almost surprised that there is no sense of pain; no twinge of insecurity or even jealousy that he did not commit to her completely. Or, maybe he had, and that was why he took such care to preserve and protect her, but the words simply did not provide easy comprehension between them. Nor did she feel inferior; not in the sense of being lesser or weaker. But, she had yet to learn her own body in such a fashion where she could heal herself at will. To change her shape in even minute ways seemed like an incredible if not impossible challenge.

"I do not think you will ever cease to surprise me," she states at last. "Or leave me with puzzles to tie my thoughts in knots." There is a hint of a smile in her voice.

Slowly, she withdraws from the portal, but once more finds herself torn between going to him and simple compliance to rest on the bed. Emotions and desires swirl around her as she attempts to sort through what was being shared and what she was experiencing and what her heart was whispering. "You know I am not afraid of knowing you in all your aspects. And your forms."

"I know," he answers. "And there likely will come a time when seeing me shift will be commonplace for you. It is not that I believe you will be frightened, Margot."

He opens his eyes and looks down at the arm already exposed by shredded fabric. One heartbeat of effort is all it takes for smooth, pale skin to be transformed to hardened scales of iridescent blue sporting thorny spikes. "There are so many ways I could harm you so easily. And you, could harm me."

"I don't want to harm you," she answers without thought, approaching him slowly.

"I realize that," he answers.

Timidly, she caresses his skin once more, ever curious and looking for a new experience, greater understanding, greater appreciation. The scales are warm and even, but the spikes are most assuredly sharp. She finds the texture pleasing, but in a different sense. "Do you feel it when I touch you here?" she asks, smoothing his scales with her fingers and tracing the length of one of the spikes. Her eyes turn upwards to find his. "What does it feel like? The sensation?"

He breathes out a grunt of amusement at her question, the deep blue of scales finding harmony with the pale blue of his eyes. "What does it feel like? Grass tickling a rock in a breeze, or… I think more like the warmth of fine wine against my throat as I swallow." He moves his arm to rest his claws against her cheek, stroking her skin carefully with the backs of hard, cool points. "What does this feel like?"

A shiver claims her quite thoroughly, and instinctively she reaches to his body for strength and security. She closes her eyes and tries to find words to describe the sensation. "It is not unpleasant…" she begins. "It reminds me of running through a field of thistle and heather, or resting against an ancient tree with its bark being both rigid and smooth. I think of the warm summer months of my youth, and being wild among the garden labyrinth."

His other hand rests against her back, helping to support her, feeling the dual sensations of her breath and warmth against his body and the sense of a sunny breeze warming the solid wood of the hull. "And what does this feel like?" he asks as he moves his claws to press their points against the skin of her neck. His tone remains calm and distant, continuing with the experiment. Or the lesson.

The claws press hard enough against her skin that she can feel the indentations, instinct telling her that a wrong or sudden move would pierce the soft barrier and draw blood. He moves one finger just enough to scratch her skin with needle-like precision. Plagued with another bout of weakness, Margot's breath is stolen as her eyes flutter closed. Her hands grip his sides tighter, digging into his skin. Trapped, instinct alone prevented her head from lulling forward and forcing Kendall to take the whole of her weight.

"Like…" She swallows hard. "Like I want to feel this sensation along my spine… drawing long strokes against my skin… lost to something…" Another hard swallow as she gasps for air.

"Lost to something decadent and … intimate. It conjures primal images. Lion and lioness in the Savannah… sunning and hunting and mating all with the same vigor and intensity." Her scent drifts like warm sand of relaxation laced heavily with a hot breeze of arousal.

Kendall chuckles quietly at her answer while scales and spikes fade and flow, rippling back into flesh and bone. He brings the transformed hand under her chin, holding her head steady as he leans in to lay kiss to lips before he steps back to look down on her again. "I can only hope that I am as trustworthy as you deem me, but it is because of such abilities that I cannot lose myself utterly while with you, Margot. Not even at peak. But this is not to say that I hold back on pleasure, merely that I must control my body. This distinction is difficult to explain to someone who does not know the fluidity in which I exist."

"You are trustworthy," she affirms. "I cannot help but feel… guilt. For not being… enough, so that you may be completely free. But words do not exist for me to share with you how your consciousness touches me."

His expression becomes more intent. "Neither my limitations, nor my freedoms, are tied to you, Margot. You should not take on guilt or responsibility for how I am."

A hand leaves his side to smooth his brow. "Guilt is not the correct concept. Longing to grow and evolve to be more compatible? Even that is a poor substitution or explanation. It is merely a desire to experience you as openly and freely as possible… and perhaps in doing so, discover a greater understanding and appreciation for all that I feel for you."

"I will try to understand," she adds. "And perhaps once secure in our final destination, we will discover that fluidity is not as challenging for me as it has been for others before me. Fae are tricksters and masters of glamour and transformations by their own right. They have been known to take many forms. Perhaps your Chaos will awaken that aspect of my heritage," she says.

"That may be," he agrees. "You have the blood of Chaos in you, as well, though it has been changed."

She looks down and takes his hands in hers, turning them and caressing them, drinking in the warmth even as his clothes were slow to dry. "The more I see and the more I learn, the less I believe I belonged in Amber. I see how everything… transforms. You. The ship. Even the Countess. It is both exciting and… natural? Yes, it feels natural to be surrounded by such fluidity."

He listens and analyzes and thinks as she struggles to find words to express herself. "Do you mean fluidity of body, rather than fluidity of concept, or situation?" he asks at last. "Very often, when you ask questions, it seems as though you wish to affix a certain structure or specific answer to a particular question that you would like to apply to all similar situations."

"Yes…" she answers slowly. "It is not so much to affix rules as it is to draw correlation between what I know and what I have experienced, attempting to understand the circumstance. To find likenesses within where differences appear on the surface."

"That— yes," he agrees with a nod. His expression is of intense concentration as he attempts to zero in on the crux of their misunderstandings. "Learning comes with experience, and wisdom from applying experience. But in Chaos, many of the circumstances, and the understandings that guide them, are fluid and subject to much interpretation. Which is why so seldom can I answer your questions with great specificity."

"Then, were I to seek information, what would you— No." She pauses to reframe her question, her expression earnest. "How is the best way to phrase things to reduce confusion when I ask questions? With the understanding that exception to the rule is as common as the rule itself," she adds with a smile of amusement.

Kendall shakes his head. "I am not certain yet, but still pondering it," he answers, a smile appearing. "For the nonce, we will simply continue as we have thus far."

He falls silent, looking down at her while removing his hands from hers to run his fingers up her arms to her shoulders, then back down to take her hands in his and raise them to his lips. "Was there something else on which we were speaking?" he asks. He turns to lead her back to the bed. "I fear I have forgotten…"

"We have spoken of many things," she answers gently. "On which of us required more rest and time to heal… On sensations and what it is like to be aware of… of the ship. On how you named me Rhercyn's Flower… How you were feeling tremendous desire and concern over your ability to remain in control."

She smiles up at him as she takes her place, sitting upon the mattress. "And how you did not think She was ready to let one so delicate wander where there may be dangers."

Her eyes leave his to note the extraordinary precautions taken for her protection. Black and withered vines brought a certain dimness to the cabin. Toxic thorns faintly perfumed the cabin with a sticky sweet odor, and small movements in the leaves hinted at unknown sentinels waiting to attack an unwary visitor.

"Yes, those topics were all touched upon, and I thought, also resolved," he says. "But you will have all you might need here. Your maid, Dara, and Rory will all be able to serve you."

"And what of you, if that is my desire?" she asks with sincerity. "Does this mean that I am to remain here for the duration of the journey? Are we no longer sharing quarters?"

"Yes, and no," he answers, smiling down at her once more. "The remaining portion of the journey should not last much longer, and all things considered, it seems the Rhercyn has things well in hand. But as to the second, you need not fear being lonely, my sweet. I will continue to share cabin and bed with you.

His smile turns mischievous. "I believe only a short while ago you desired a reason to hide away and stay in our bed for the entire journey, and now you have one. I would suggest you remain here in bed, thinking longingly of me as you do so well. I will feel your longing throughout the Rhercyn, and will seek to return here quickly."

"And then, perhaps, Rhercyn will learn not to find me such a threat if She was to know more of me?" Margot asks, her tone floating the thin line between innocent and not. Her expression reflects both her disappointment at no longer being free to wander the ship, and amusement at the idea of being trapped in an elaborate, living cage.

He looks down at her again, searching her eyes as he pushes her rumpled hair away from her temple, not noticing at first that the fingers had become the hardened claws that had so aroused her earlier. It didn't help that she was so tousled and rumpled, with torn dress and flyaway hair. Th allure of this look was a mystery, but perhaps — one part of his mind analyzed while another pondered what he wanted to say — the tousled and rumpled look made a person appear more attainable, more real, and less a distant image.

"Once we reach the Shadow where you will stay, you will be in a different sort of confinement," he says after a bit. "And Chaos, ultimately, is a study of confinement — of the body, the mind, and the spirit. The denizens of the Courts seek to explore all of these, visiting them on themselves and others."

She nods in acknowledgement as much as understanding, for his touch was distracting in its gentleness and seductive caress. "That will be something I will contemplate while I become acquainted with my protector," she says, turning her head to kiss his clawed hand. Then another thought occurs to her, wiping away any sense of playfulness in her eyes. "Have all the crystals been expelled?"

Kendall looks up into the middle distance above her head, and his silent inquiry summons the layout of the newly formed Rhercyn to form within his mind's eye. "The crystals have all been drained of their power, and locating and obtaining them is a simple task for me now. I will gather them and ask Brisbane how best to dispose of them."

"Oh," she says, somewhat disappointed. "I was going to offer my ability to draw all the crystals to one place, but again, it seems that my… assistance is not required."

"How do you propose to do that?" he inquires, curious. "Not by using Pattern, I hope."

"The same way I moved the crystal from beneath the Countess?" Her expression becomes chagrined. "That must not have been appreciated by Rhercyn."

"Among others," he agrees with a rueful quirk of the lips.

"I apologize," she says with a frown of dismay. "It seems that I am only good as a guest, to remain in one place and to acclimate myself to … I don't know, being helpful by being unhelpful."

"But you acted," he points out. "You did not freeze from fear or indecision. You stood firm and faced the danger."

Margot turns away to give herself some space to remove her gown, beginning to undo the tiny buttons at her neck. "And this is a good thing? Even though I delivered suffering when I was trying to save others?"

"We cannot hope to always act correctly, but to act or not is always the first test," he says. "You have the fire needed, Margot. All you require is time and experience to temper and refine your natural impulses."

He moves closer, kneeling on the bed to help her undo the buttons she cannot reach. "Apart from that, consider the greater harm that would have occurred had the crystal not been destroyed before the spells that Brand activated came to their end. Sometimes a small harm is needed to prevent a much larger harm."

"I could sense them," she says. "The moment the Pattern became active within, I knew that was bad. I just… I wanted to get them off the ship as quickly as I could. But, Dara stopped me. And then there were other explosions. I'm sorry if I triggered reactions, I was … Goodness, even I grow tired of hearing me say the same words again and again." She closes her eyes and sighs heavily.

"My point is, you did not know that Dara would return and destroy the crystal. Nor did I, and I do not know what she did to destroy it," he admits. He finishes with the buttons and pushes the gown off of her shoulders. "So, not knowing, you proceeded as best you were able."

"Speaking of which, what was your plan?" he continues. "After you moved the crystal out from beneath Anira."

"I was in the process of summoning all of the crystals to me… manipulating Shadow, I suppose. It was all instinct," she confesses, fighting with the buttons at her wrists. "My only thought was to eliminate them from the ship, so I was going to draw the crystals with me out to the open water and deposit them there. With hope of being able to return to the ship before they detonated. If I didn't, well then… Then I didn't return. But those upon the ship would have been free from harm, and that was my priority."

She pauses, body becoming still as she lets her words spill away into silence. "I will need a few items," she says then, changing the subject. "A basin to wash my wounds, a dressing gown, a comb. I do not think it wise to have Caresse tend to me. She smells of Amber and Rhercyn has already proven herself to be wary of such taint. Would it be possible to have Rory retrieve these things? If he is not overwhelmed with other duties, perhaps he will be willing to sit with me and help me pass the time."

Kendall hesitates, and then simply relents for now. "Of course, Margot." He kisses the nape of her neck and moves off the bed, tugging his clothes into place as a matter of habit. They were far beyond the point where merely straightening them would make them look anything close to presentable.

"Anything that you might desire will be supplied to you," he adds. "And having your maid here will be less troublesome than you might think; she does not have the Pattern imprinted within."

Margot turns and looks up at him as he stands. Her gown barely clung to her bodice, and her hair forms a tangled blanket that tumbles over her shoulders to her waist. Claws dig deeply into the palm of the Lord's hand, the pain hardly noticed as blood oozes from the wounds to gather in his fist.

"I trust in your judgment, and my needs are minimal," she insists. "I just…do not feel comfortable using items that belonged to the Captain. Whomever you send will be more than acceptable."

He nods. "Very good, Margot. I will return as soon as I am able."

With that and a bow, he turns and departs up the new winding stairs, absently shaking the blood from his hand and leaving the droplets to smolder against the wood.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Interlude: A New Normal

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