An Unresolved Dilemma

A polite cough brings his attention to Lady Genoveve, the queen's private secretary standing in the doorway. "Is there anything I may provide to make that wait bearable?" she asks, her tone friendlier than normal.

Kendall nods. "Perhaps you would care to sit with me for a time?" he invites her.

"That would be enjoyable, I believe," she says, pausing after a step to ask. "Do you think some tea would help?"

He nods, and waits for her to refresh his cup. "May I ask how you came to be the Queen's private secretary?" he asks, attempting to make light conversation.

"I was once her lover," Genoveve says, her open honest tone surprising. "Twas before she became interested in obligations and traditions, a single man instead of a different one every night."

She smiles, holding out the saucer of cookies for his selection. "I'm sure this is most scandalous to you, but at one time Morgana was something of a free spirit."

"Scandalous?" Kendall repeats, a faint smile appearing. He accepts a cookie and picks up his tea. "Not at all. Within limits, most members of my House are free to indulge in their individual entertainments."

"I like that," she says with a smile. "But like here, I'm sure events will always impose themselves upon those that only wish to indulge just a little more."

"That can be the case," he agrees. "But as we are all made aware of our priorities from a young age, most people of my acquaintance appreciate the opportunities for indulgence all the more. They are, shall we say, a precious commodity."

"And if one was given leave to indulge here, how would you spend it?" she asks, not as one looking to corner, but as one seeking understanding.

Kendall appears dumbfounded for a heartbeat. He clearly hadn't given it any thought before. "I should like to see the city," he says after a sip of tea gives hims time to think about it. "But not as a representative of Chanicut. I believe it would be educational to see the people of Amber without having them…react to my identity."

"I could see to that arrangement," is her answer. "But only if one were to keep such favors just between the giver and the gifted."

Kendall takes a bite of his butter cookie, chewing thoughtfully and considering Genoveve's suggestion. "That would be most gracious of you," he says at length. "And what favor would such an arrangement require in return?"

"A understanding to where your allegiances dwell," Genoveve replies as she lifts the pot of tea in offer to refresh his cup.

He accepts the tea and takes a sip before answers. "I apologize, but I am uncertain what you mean," he says, frowning a little in puzzlement.

"We are both foreign to this Court, your loyalty lays with your House. And mine…" she says in a way that can only open possibilities."…only Morgana."

"I can do nothing that would compromise my House," Kendall agrees with Genoveve's statement. "Forgive me for perhaps being too direct, but you appear to… desire something more than platitudes." He gives her an amiable smile, inviting her to lay her cards on the table.

"Nor would I consider asking you to weaken your House upon desires that won't benefit it in some way," she assures him. "Yet, in certain areas, our loyalties are not in conflict and here we could find common ground with goals that could strengthen our own unique and individual objectives within Amber."

"Ah. I see. In that light, I can assure you that, should I find occasion to venture into the city as a common traveler, I would have no reason to divulge any information about how I got there," Kendall says.

"No need…while we may not get all the proper approvals for your little visit." Genoveve says with a smile. "I believe I can get the Queen's, which should be enough."

"You have my thanks," Kendall replies simply, raising his teacup in a small toast or salute to Genoveve. "Queen Morgana appears at casual glance to be one who appreciates giving opportunities to others."

"Agreed…" Genoveve agrees, basking in his praise for a breath. "To where one could even take advantage of it for their own personal gain."

Kendall's eyes crinkle up at the corners, but he's taking another drink of tea so his smile is hidden. He sets down the cup and toys with a cookie. "Is that, perchance, how you became her secretary?" he asks.

"I and Gana are old friends, shared souls you could say…" Genoveve answers, letting her words swirl in his ears as she takes a sip of tea. "I hadn't known the lofty position she attended here till she summoned me for help. If she would have asked me my thoughts before she ascended the throne, I would have advised against it."

"As a free spirit, as you characterized her, it seems rather out of character for her to take a position of such weight and… responsibility. The lure of the power to improve Amber must have been too strong for her," Kendall surmises thoughtfully.

"Gana does entertain some quaint notions about the world, so your observation may be partly correct," she agrees. "Or she could have simply fared as other women do, near wanting men."

Kendall chuckles at that suggestion. "That, too, tis a possibility, though it seems thoughtless to leave you out in the cold, so to speak."

"That is her way as well," Genoveve replies. "I could not even guess the number of lovers she has had… possibly thousands, and none lasting more than a day before being forgotten, discarded, or simply misplaced over the centuries. But such doesn't lessen my affection for her, and it seems my position here attests to her feeling the same for me somewhat in her own special way."

He looks a little startled at Genoveve's words, for though he himself had enjoyed many liaisons, he would not have considered himself quite so shallow as the Fae woman's description of Morgana implied.

Her smile reveals a line of perfect pearls framed with spun hair of gold and elfin ears. "I have no doubt Gana will soon be bored of Amber, Eric, and these children. Ready to seek the exotic once again."

His expression turns thoughtful, remembering something from before. "When we first met, shortly after I arrived in Amber, the Queen did remark on the power she perceived Amber to possess, the power to change people. Perhaps she has been changed in some fundamental way because she was never rooted in anything of consequence prior to her life here. She seemed to imply that I myself would be changed by Amber, though I believe that to be extremely unlikely."

"A flame can also be changed. You can add fuel to have it grow brighter, or take it away so it will dim," Genoveve answers. "Add certain elements, and even its color will change, yet the flame is still a flame in the end, no matter what you have done or will do."

Her smile, so warm and inviting, is one that has been on her lips for a thousand years. "Humans like to think they can change, but you never really do. The clock will tick, tock, tick, each one becoming a link in your chain. Binding you to who you are for that moment and the next beyond."

Kendall stares at Genoveve, temporarily struck speechless. It felt as though the woman's words revealed a pit as deep and empty as the Abyss itself, so devoid of hope were her sentiments. But then he suddenly realizes he's staring at her with a sort of fascinated horror and looks away, down at his teacup as though to check the level of his drink.

"In your estimation, then," he asks, "have you been this cynical throughout your whole life?"

Genoveve replies, a bit puzzled. "I thought you would understand, being from the Dark Court."

Kendall is caught out by that observation, at this point unable to gracefully hide behind the facade of the hard-eyed and experienced Chaosian diplomat. "Putting that perspective — that viewpoint, rather — into words gives it an entirely different weight," he replies slowly and thoughtfully. "Perhaps it gives voice to something I've never understood before."

And tis then, as if hexed by a curse, the Queen of Amber makes her reappearance. Upon noticing her, Kendall immediately stands and bows.

Genoveve also rises, performing a low curtsy. The Queen sits back down again after waving them both to find their ease.

The elfin woman moves to Morgana's side to speak with a teasing tone. "It seems our fine Lord desires a visit to the city without hindrance so he might enjoy the sights in peace."

"If you would…though I am still concerned with your safety…" she begins.

Kendall sits with his hands folded in his lap. "Tis unnecessary for me to be completely unaccompanied, if that would prove difficult," he says. "Merely anonymous. Obviously an armed escort would draw attention. Perhaps one bodyguard? I would be willing to disguise myself."

"If you are disguised and take a body guard I think that would suffice," the Queen agrees.

"Your majesty is most kind," he replies. He pauses a beat before adding, "May I ask what conclusion you have reached regarding the Lady Louella, if any?"

Morgana nods her head, sitting up a bit taller. "I will not have her gone from my household. Louella will not go to Chaos. I have told her my will regarding this pregnancy and the child of it, but I am concerned, Lord Kendall. You know how…abhorrent she finds this all." She opens and closes her mouth as though to say more and then opts for silence.

"Yes," Kendall says.

"The offer to join my House was just that — an offer," he continues. "We will not abduct her or force her to go to Chaos against her will. All the same, I am also concerned regarding the well being of my offspring, given what she said to me earlier. Of her wish to be rid of it. You wish her to carry the child to term, though, am I correct?"

The Queen nods. "Yes, in that we agree. Unfortunately I am not in a position to use magic to remove the fetus or waylay any concerns she may have."

"And if she carries the child to term, what then your majesty?" he asks, voice and expression neutral. "What are your plans for your Knight's child?"

"I would see the child protected and raised here in Amber with knowledge of its dual heritage and knowing its father and his House," she answers, matching his neutral tone and expression.

"I see." He smiles slightly to himself as though at some private reflection. "The decision has been made, then. Thank you for discussing the matter with me, Majesty." He gives her a deep nod from his chair.

Morgana inclines her head. "Certainly, Lord Kendall."

She looks to Genoveve and then stands. "I fear I have other matters that require my attention."

Kendall stands when the Queen does. "I will discuss the logistics of my visit to Amber City with your most capable secretary, then," he says, indicating Genoveve with a nod.

He hesitates, then adds quickly, "Please be assured I would be open to discussing the matter of my offspring again should the need arise. However, my understanding from this meeting is that the matter is now out of the purview of House Chanicut. My offspring will not be of my House, and we release it from any and all obligations that might have been placed upon it, while likewise relinquishing any and all priveleges that Chanicut may have granted to it or its mother. To my understanding, my offspring will be House Amber." His eyes are troubled as he asserts this, though his tone remains calm and detached.

"Lord Kendall, I suggest we table this discussion until your child is actually here," Morgana answers." That is of far greater concern. Once that has happened we can discuss obligations and rights. I expressed my wishes but even a Queen's wishes need to be flexible to things greater than herself."

It's clear from the blank expression that passes across his face that she has confused him. "I… apologize, Majesty," he manages to answer after a pause of three heartbeats. "I thought the disposition of my offspring's status in regards to its House and future was the point of this conversation, and that you had decided the child will be raised in Amber. Lady Louella's circumstances were ancillary to the discussion."

For a moment the Queen looks a bit tired. "My Lord Kendall, I think the difference in our political dynamics are showing themselves. Basically I am giving you what we call wiggle room. I have expressed my wish but have not made a decree. I have also stated that I think the child needs to be born before we worry about where it is raised and whose surname it takes. I do not think Louella intends to take this child to term."

"So, to recap," she continues. "I do want the child raised here but I will not have my desire hinder the relations with Thelbane or your House, if it comes to that. And I am not insensitive to your wants as this child's father. But in the bigger scheme I am worried that Louella will abort the child and or kill herself before she will bear it. I can't do anything magically about that right now. There may be some one in Amber that would and if you need someone of skill and craft, tell me or Genoveve and we shall see what can be done."

She smiled but there are lines around her eyes. "Is that more clear, sir?"

An expression of intense and almost palpable concentration dominates his face as she explains her perspective. When she is finished, he thinks on her answer for another handful of heartbeats before nodding. "I believe I understand now. Thank you again, Majesty, for your patient explanation. I appreciate your efforts on behalf of my child."

Gana inclines her head again and then waves her hand, dismissing them both as she sits back down in the chair.

Kendall bows himself out, but just before leaving, he has one more small inquiry. "Queen Morgana," he asks quietly from behind her. "Would you grant me permission to meet with the Lady Louella again?"

There is a pause. "Yes, Lord Kendall, you may," she agrees at last, half turning her head.

He nods and then departs to leave her to her meditations.

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Courting Amber's Court

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