Barrier to Chaos: Sargasso Sea

Under Kendall's watchful eye, following the Black Road below the waves, the Rhercyn makes excellent time in the following Turns as they journey toward the Courts.

Close to the Chaos energies of the Road that cut through Shadow like an oozing welt, Kendall feels more at home than he ever did in Amber. His duties become numerous now, far more than his previous purview over the Chanicut contingent in Amber, and he thrives on the activities and attention required by ship and crew. Though somewhat irritating, especially when his quiet rest was interrupted, Time is a friendlier companion when he is engaged in activity.

But for Margot, the closeness of the Road leads only to a deep and abiding queasiness in the pit of her stomach. Though the Rhercyn may not have allowed her to pass through her cabin's door without Kendall's presence, shortly after they renew their progress, the princess had no inclination to.

Responding to her distress, the cabin blooms and showers her with beauty, becoming a garden of dreams to make each hour spent within seem not as long as it might have been elsewhere. And there was no shortage of people to care for her. Dara visits, her own maid attends her, and even a nest of Qur moves in to keep her company. But none of these attentions, not even her lover's gentle touch, can keep away the misery of traveling so close upon the Black Road.

The Countess Anira Tinor remains comatose on his orders, since they had no Givers to heal mind or body of her trauma. As for the Countess' scapegrace sister, Kendall finds the Lady Kali much like those he had just left in Amber — her concerns were only for herself, and she makes it clear she wouldn't mind a few moments alone with her sister if permitted.

But though giving Kali access to Anira was tempting, if only to remove the troublesome younger sister from his concern for a short time, a curious sense of pity for the Countess prevents him from turning a blind eye to Tinor's inner politics. As well, his patience for the younger sister quickly finds its limits, so he confines her to a single deck with as many entertainments as could reasonably be provided.

Her only answer emerges as screams of anger at his interference, which he simply ignores. She would keep well enough for the rest of the trip, and after that, she would no longer be his concern.

As to the rest, Kendall can feel the barbaric girl-child running and crawling in places she shouldn't. Lady Kali shares that she had taken back her daughter's name as punishment till the wild child learned to control at least the biting. Yet Rhercyn finds it hard to deny passage to such a creature, wild as the sea and with so little malice — unlike her mother, the Countess, or Kendall himself.

But all of those smaller irritations fall away as they enter the becalmed Sargasso Sea, the last barrier before they would pass into the realms where the Shadows ran wild. He was only somewhat familiar with it, as their trip overland to Amber had taken a different route. Yet he knew it was a stagnant place, one that could prove fatal to them if they should fall victim to its stillness. Care was needed, and so he sets aside all distractions and sends a request for an audience with the Lady Dara.

Excused from her duties, she presents herself before his door wrapped in robes that speak of the Night and the Dance of Cycles within the Courts. For his part, Kendall is garbed in formality as always, the green and black with gold setting him clearly apart from those of Tinor who now served under him.

He bows when she appears, all the while keeping his cautious gaze on her. This was the first he and she had spoken privately since Dara had presented herself in Amber as the Lady of the Princess Margot. Much had occurred since then, and now Dara had learned more about the Lady she served.

"Lady Dara," he greets her simply. "Thank you for answering my request. We have arrived at the Sargasso Sea. Do you know of it?"

She gives a simple nod of affirmative, and he clasps his hands behind his back as he looks down at the Captain's Log which lay open on the table in front of him. He had been reading entries from the Rhercyn's first passage through this sea. But nothing in the old log could take into account all which had changed for the return trip, in the makeup of the passengers as well as the ship itself.

"Like so much in Chaos, the only predictable aspect of this Sea is its unpredictability," the young Lord says, looking up to meet her eyes again. "We are less likely to be becalmed than if we were on the surface, but dangers aplenty still lurk here below. I would make a request of you, to ply your skill with the Logrus to assist me with this passage."

"It could make things worse," she answers, turning her own attention to the book. "It was always thought by some that our Watch Towers caused the stagnation. Now that I have seen and experienced Morgana's Veil, it may be indeed Oberon at fault here."

He ponders that. "Are you suggesting that Pattern might be of greater use?"

"I can only speculate, but never have I heard of an Amberite having problems in this place. Though I will admit, tis a very small pool of subjects from which to draw that conclusion," she adds.

He hmms in thought, then decides to state the obvious. "We do have one with the ability to use the Pattern on board. Though she is currently quite…discomfited by the nearness of the Black Road, she may still be able to assist. Unless you have another suggestion?" he inquires, giving her a bland smile.

"Not be on or near the Road when you try it," Dara replies. "Last time I was here, it was at the head of an army. And like any army, we used brute force to punch our way through."

She waves a hand to encompass the room and the ship. "This is no army, so we must use other means, and if someone proves herself surprisingly helpful, I think it would make both our lives easier later."

He nods. "I will give the order to leave the Road, then, and you shall speak to Margot to gain her assistance. She may also need guidance from someone with previous experience with this area in Shadow, and I would like for you to assist with that, as you are able."

"She won't trust it from my lips alone," Dara says, those playful eyes becoming like a cat's.

He tilts his head to the side, his own expression reflecting agreement. "Your relationship with Margot, how the two of you come to accord, is a matter for you and she to settle. Though I do have some insights into the princess' heart."

"Of course…" Dara agrees, before heading back for the door. "But you do know this won't end well for you. What you have about her throat is so fragile." Amused, she can only smile. "Soon, very soon, we will be able to see how adept you are once home."

"Whether the ending goes well or poor depends on the goal," he remarks. "But I am far more curious right now, whether you and I can come to an accord of our own. Must we must really battle against each other in pursuit of our goals?"

"Even now, I'm still a Hendrake," she answers with a sad shake of her head before leaving for other tasks.

"But battles are more easily won with allies," he murmurs to the empty space where she had vanished from sight.

He stares for 20 brooding heartbeats into the empty space where Dara had disappeared, but no matter the circumstances with the Hendrake, there was urgent need of other action for now. That first portion of the plan having been taken care of, Kendall sees to the Rhercyn for the next part. They turn from the familiar path of the Dark Road, leaving behind its comforting and tantalizing taste of Chaos in favor of the wider Sea.

Beyond those changes in crewing and direction, he also takes time to commune with his ship, bringing her more tightly under his direction. He would have his attention well occupied during the next phase, not only in giving crew direction in this treacherous space, but also with soothing the Rhercyn as she once more encounters the Pattern.

She would not respond well to having the damaging power unleashed once more within her hull, but losing control of the ship was not an option. So, like the warhorse he had compared her to before, he shortens rein and holds her fast, projecting calm and confidence to reassure both ship and crew.

Yet once the ship is well underway on the new course away from the Black Road, and all preparations that he could anticipate had been taken care of, he is at loose ends for a time. And not for the first time, he becomes acutely aware of being alone on the ship.

In fact, there were many on the Rhercyn who were all quite peculiarly alone, a circumstance that bears pondering as he paces the corridors of his ship in search of distraction. Brisbane, though of Chanicut, was his superior and mentor, not a peer. And for that matter, Brisbane himself was alone in his position and rank.

Dara the sole Hendrake, but not quite even that much due to failure and banishment from her House. Margot the sole Amberite, who happened to possess the power that could free them from the placid trap of the Sargasso Sea. The Countess Anira, alone in rank of her House, and lost and alone in her malaise. And the Countess' sister Kali… well, his thoughts weren't troubled by her overmuch.

He pauses in front of a portal to watch the currents pass as the Rhercyn made her way through the dark waters. He wasn't sure what to do about his observations and musings. He preferred to be doing something, and waiting was always the most challenging of tasks. He wondered how long he should wait before checking on Margot and Dara.

Would the princess be able to do this thing? He had no doubt of her willingness to TRY, but to succeed? If not, then they would have to find their way back to the Black Road, where additional efforts might be needed. His feet move on their way, as though by instinct, leading him to the door of Brisbane's cabin. Kendall pauses in uncertainty before venturing to send a handy Qur inside to announce the younger Lord's presence.

"Come in, lad," Brisbane's warm voice flows over him even before the Qur could give a purr of understanding its mission.

"Jus'hur tea?" He asks when his nephew joins him, sitting at the table with a book in his lap. The book's binding betrays which of his favorites it was, and whom had gifted him with it. "Is she about to start?

"Fair turning, sir," Kendall greets his uncle, taking a seat as invited. He picks up the teacup and inhales the aroma, letting the scent play with memories.

"I have not had news about the princess," he answers. "And am hesitant to interrupt she and the Hendrake. We should be 20 krell away from the Black Road in… 1000 heartbeats. I will need to follow up then if no word has reached me."

"I no more look forward to it than she did with our own Road… but it was the proper decision. No doubt your sister already brought word back to your brother and mother. The more time we spend out here, the more firm will be their opinions."

Then with a sip, he adds, "And with this Brand on the loose, I will feel far safer behind our own walls."

Kendall nods, thinking for the space of a sip of tea before replying. "Would it perhaps be wise for you to go ahead, to reach that security more quickly?" he asks. He's thinking about Trump, of course, and whether Brisbane would wish to travel by such a means, given that they were so much closer to the Courts and no longer had the cursed Veil or other impediments to worry about.

"I doubt the child could harm me after so long in Amber," his uncle says, running a hand upon the cover of the box to enjoy the texture. "So the question could only be, what wild boyish adventures are you planning, that you don't want your dear old uncle to know about?"

Kendall smiles briefly at the jest, recognizing the humor in spite of his preoccupation, but not letting it distract him. "I am concerned for your safety, of course," he says. "In case Brand might make another attempt against the princess. There is some strategic value in not having all the Qur in one basket."

"I am not even a little comfortable with the thought of leaving you behind as bait," Brisbane replies. "Yet neither am I happy with the thought of being such myself, if this Brand is really after one of us instead. Even if she is his niece, I doubt with a thousand cycles we could polish her up to be a decent knife for her uncle's heart. Not that I like to speak ill of that delightful girl, but you can stand on the edge of the Abyss all you want… and still not see the Lord Serpent."

"No, you're right," Kendall agrees with a resigned tone. "I'm not sure what use she will be to Chanicut. And even if I wanted to keep her simply as a companion, that would cause more trouble than it's worth, with Cedric at the least. Unless he is kept otherwise occupied, he might decide to break her, just to annoy me."

He falls quiet again, staring into space as he sips at his tea, a silent battle going on within. Some part of him, the practical and hardhearted Chaos Lord, could see the value of casting the princess off, declaring her a failed effort and moving on to more profitable endeavors. She would even be better off now than she would have been previously, what with having Dara as her companion and assistant.

Yet… he cared for Margot. He could not deny this even to himself, and he found himself unwilling or unable to discard her so unfeelingly. Not right now. And his practical side could also acknowledge that breaking Margot's heart and leaving Dara to help put the pieces back together… probably would not be the wisest course of action anyway.

He sighs once more. A dilemma.

"Yes, your older brother will be a serious test for the both of you," Brisbane agrees. "And you just can't hide the young paramour, since he is family. Perhaps you should seek alliances with the ladies that are hoping to catch your brother's eye. That is, if you are willing to give short term pain to the child's heart. Since we both know Margot could never be convincing unless she believed it was true."

Kendall turns that suggestion over in his mind as he sips his tea again, looking at it from different angles. The idea had merit, except… "Unless I am able to soon gain intelligence about who Cedric is, himself, interested in, the ploy could very easily backfire."

He sounds skeptical, since he had never known Cedric to actually care much about anyone except Cedric. Not that there was any particular morality attached to that fact; they were all raised and trained to look after their own interests first and foremost. Selflessness was not a trait often rewarded in the Courts.

"Beyond the competition of brothers, Margot has the potential attraction of the exotic," he goes on. "And though she is currently loyal to me, she is young. Inexperienced. That loyalty would simply present a challenge, and he would use her pain at my perceived infidelity against her. But I doubt I could convince her to play the conquest, even if a short-term submission would have long-term benefits."

He isn't thrilled with the idea of Margot succumbing to Cedric's charms, either, even in a counter ploy against his brother's interference. First off, there was always the chance that Cedric would indeed charm her away from Kendall permanently; his brother did have advantages over him.

But he thought it more likely his brother would discard her quickly, bored or impatient with Margot's… peculiarities. It was just a question of what condition she would be in at that point, and whether she would still desire Kendall or be broken beyond repair. Yet he was practical enough to see the potential gain and evaluate the possibility.

"Dara has predicted this would end badly for me, and I am beginning to believe she is correct," he muses.

"Then use her," Brisbane says, off-handed as he opens his book.

An eyebrow quirks and a half-smile appears. "Oh, I intend to," he agrees. "It's just a matter of how best to do so. I do appreciate your council, Uncle, and intend to keep all options in mind. I am more concerned with how best to present Margot to Mother, though. Have you any insights into that you would care to share?"

"Not to doubt your keen mind, Nephew," the old man says, caressing the page. "But I was speaking of Dara, and your brother. Margot is only interesting because she is yours. But Dara is a known factor, and even in disgrace, she does have a value to one like your brother."

Brisbane taps the page now, trying to work on a better solution. "Your mother, it really depends what you wish to present Margot as. A hobby or sport would be far easier than future mother of your children."

Kendall blinks, because though he had meant exactly to use Dara as much as he could, the option of using Dara as interference for Cedric had not yet occurred to him. The idea had elegance, and immediately sent him into a flurry of thought how to proceed, so that he has to pull himself back with effort to attend to the answer to his other question.

"Hobby, most likely," he agrees. "Hobbies are often given more leeway than sports, but rarely taken so seriously."

He pauses a heartbeat, then adds. "And my thanks, for your thought about Dara."

"Twas my pleasure…" And with that, Brisbane dives in to re-read his favorite novel, one that Kendall himself had gifted him.

Kendall smiles and then finishes up his tea in silence, letting his uncle read while simply relaxing for a time with someone he could be comfortable with. But it isn't very long before the cup empties, the time arriving to proceed with the next phase.

The younger Lord stands, smooths out his robe, and then bows before taking himself out without interrupting his Elder's leisure any further.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Dear Princess: A Favor

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