Puzzling the Puzzle

There was no way to be certain how much time passed before Margot closes her book.

"What did you think of Rory's answers?" she asks suddenly, rising to replenish her glass from the carafe at his elbow

It takes a little while for Kendall to return from wherever his mind wandered and realize she is speaking to him. A good 20 heartbeats pass before pencil retracts from paper and he looks up. "They were as complete and straightforward as was possible under the circumstances," he says at last, answering her actual question.

"True. I would expect nothing less from him," she agrees. "Is…should I have asked something else?"

He sips from his goblet. "I can think of nothing else that you would learn from Rory, based on the events you described. I believe you asked a good number of questions," he replies after thinking back on the sequence of questions. He adds, "If the Hendrake was injured in her fall from the heights and in process of healing herself, it is quite possible she was remiss in her duty to your welfare."

"Hm. Thank you." Margot sips her wine as she returns to the bed. Fluffing the pillows, she reclines against the headboard and closes her eyes, hoping to help something come to the front of her memory.

Kendall watches her from his seat at the table. "What distresses you, Margot? The Lady Dara's inattentiveness, or some other trouble?"

She sighs heavily. "Truthfully… It all feels….wrong. Ill-fated. Bungled. Inconsistent. Like…Like I'm being tested somehow, but I don't know the rules. Maybe I'm searching for monsters in shadows that simply don't exist."

"Tests one encounters in real life do not publish rules," he comments.

She smiles, though her voice carries a weight of mental weariness. "While that may be true, such wisdom does not advise me whether my energies are expended needlessly on things that have little value."

"Well, Margot," he says, getting up and walking over to the bed. He sits on the edge, facing her. "I'm sorry I cannot offer more assistance, but I was not witness to the events you described. But you are dismayed and troubled, so I would counsel you to trust your instincts and move forward with your investigation. You have two options that I can see: First, that the berries are basically mundane but had an unexpected effect on you, or second, that you were poisoned with purpose. Apart from asking the Lady Dara directly, is there any way you might discover which option applies in this situation?"

"I will discuss it with her," she assures him, opening her eyes to gaze up at him. "And you have offered plenty. I am merely…" She sits up with a frown.

"I do not like this sense of pessimism and feeling like people want to hurt me and assuming the worst in others!" she declares much as a child might refuse to eat her vegetables, though not nearly as emphatically. "It is exhausting. How do you manage?" And while there was a hint of cheek in her question, her eyes reflected a desire to know the truth.

Kendall's gaze on her is soft, somehow, though it would be a stretch to think he really understood something like compassion. Sympathy, perhaps. He doesn't laugh or even smile at her question, even though sometimes she said things he found incomprehensible.

"I'm sorry again, Margot. I…really have no way to answer that question. I have never known any other way."

"Of course you haven't," she smiles, appreciating his attempt to understand and knowing that he couldn't. She sighs. "The options are simple. One," she holds up a finger, "Dara was being a dear and was genuinely concerned for my physical, mental, emotional, state. Two: Dara was being calculating and decided that she was angry that I kept her from trying to shred the Lady Diona to ribbons for my offense earlier and wanted to teach me a lesson on wasted resources. Three: Another shifter thought it would be delightfully amusing to take on Dara's form, knowing that I'm as gullible and trusting as they come. This would, A: serve to implicate Dara in what I suppose could be considered regenticide, though, by Chaosian standards I hold no real titles; B: provide some sort of amusement to watch me squirm and be miserable; or C: have nothing to with anything except simple depraved indifference that didn't care whether a person lived or died - regardless of where they called home or what blood colored their veins."

Kendall frowns in that thoughtful way he does when he ponders how to explain something to her. He looks down, studying his hands clasped in his lap. He draws deep breath, releasing it slowly. "Taking on the form of another is not something that is done lightly or carelessly," he begins at last, deciding first to address the substance of her words rather than her logic. "It is a risky venture, and taking on the form of someone like Lady Dara would be…"

His voice trails off as he looks back up at Margot. His expression is serious, eyes boring into hers. "Suicidal, if she would learn of it. Better to kill you outright on deck with witnesses than to use something as unreliable as poison."

A small amount of relief appears on her face. "That is good to know," she answers.

"Do you have thoughts on who might wish you ill?" he inquires. "Given that your identity is not generally known as yet. It is possible, of course, there are some here who know you for who you are."

Margot studies his expression before turning her gaze elsewhere. "Who does know my true identity?" she returns, asking him gently for an inventory.

"Members of the Chanicut entourage," he answers. "Lady Dara, possibly some from Tinor who have knowledge of the members of Amber. Members of your family."

"And the Chanicut entourage is limited to those we arrived with, correct?" she asks.

"Yes, though I suppose we could add Diona to the list, since she has met you personally here on board ship," he agrees. He gets back up to retrieve his goblet from the table.

She remained quiet, letting the list of usual suspects fill the space between them. "When you said it would be punishable by death to impersonate Lady Dara…is that Chaosian law in general or just insanity given the person whom they would be impersonating. I mean, would the same be true if someone attempted to impersonate your or your Uncle or someone from a House that wasn't Hendrake?"

"It is not forbidden by law, though impersonating others is, ah, frowned upon. Children do it, which is tolerated to a point," Kendall explains as he returns to sit on the edge of the bed again. "There are few reasons to impersonate someone else except to lay a false trail and false blame. If, for example, someone impersonated the Lady Dara and succeeded in killing you, it is even odds who would have the most motivation to hunt down the real culprit. The Lady Dara would be vicious and thorough in her punishment, which is why the real culprit would do well to succeed in their aim. If the aim was to kill you, poison is uncertain and can be reversed. If the aim is to make you more distrustful of your Lady in Waiting, then it has succeeded, but that seems a weak motivation for taking such a large risk unless it is only one move in a larger scheme."

"We know that I am an unknown quantity. There is the potential for greatness; but not before you've properly groomed me and introduced me. Until then, I'm rather … insignificant," she comments.

"There is always a potential for someone to discover your intention to travel to Chaos. Certain knowledge about your potential or your intentions are not required for threat to be perceived," he answers, looking into the distance as he thinks. "It would be easier to evaluate you while en route than after you are behind the walls of Chanicut."

Margot tries not to laugh; in truth it was a damned serious conversation and she was not in much of a laughing mood. She just did not feel herself to be a threatening to a fly let alone the mighty and unwavering Courts of Chaos. Imaginations ran wild, it seemed.

"Then I should give others far greater credit for their ability to read omens and portents," she remarks with a sigh. "I'm sorry, Kendall. I should just… close my eyes and try to let the stress go and perhaps the monsters that are lurking just beyond my sight will fade with the tension."

"There will come a point where you will no longer linger over such things for so long," he says, though whether it is meant as reassurance is hard to say. "You have information, nothing more. Make note of it, add it to the information store you gather, and proceed as usual. Then you will pay heed only when patterns or unusual items emerge."

"Thank you, Kendall." She smiles up at him. "That is advice I understand and hope to put to valuable use."

"You are welcome, Margot," he answers with gravity. Before he can add anything else, there is a rustle at the door, as though someone was seeking permission to enter yet again.

Kendall gets up, tying his robe shut as he walks around to stand at the end of the bed. "Come," he invites.

The door rustled open to indeed reveal Rory and Desrianne once more, each bearing a tray with covered dishes and a new carafe.

Margot looks to the servants and then to Kendall "What's all of this? I don't recall asking for a meal. Did we miss the formal dinner with the Captain?"

"I ordered it," he replies, going back to the table and picking up his things so the servants would have someplace to put the trays.

"Lord Kendallarithan asked me to bring you something to eat, Poppy," Desrianne explains. "To help with your healing."

The two trays barely fit on the table, and Kendall hands his things to Rory while the maid begins taking lids off of containers. The Chaos Lord pours some drink from the carafe into a small glass and carries it over to Margot.

Margot accepts the glass out of habit, her attention still centered on the bustling industry in the cabin. The glass, perhaps surprisingly, holds juice instead of wine, which is sweet with a tingly spiciness reminiscent of mulled cider.

"This is going to be like the last time where I'm going to be forced to eat even if I am not hungry, isn't it?" she questions, though the tone and the following sigh made it more rhetorical than anything else. "You have been injured as well, Kendall. I do hope that you will enjoy what has been brought with me."

Kendall sits on the end of the bed, lounging onto his side and propping himself up on his elbow. His robe, barely tied closed to begin with, rucks up to reveal his long legs and hints of other parts of his lower anatomy.

"I shan't force food down your throat, my sweet," he says. "The aim is simply to provide it in the event you find yourself feeling a need for other sorts of nourishment than what you have already enjoyed, to revive your body and spirit." His smile is mischievous, making no mistake that he refers to their love play. "I have been feeling somewhat hungry, too," he adds.

She smiles, a hint of the imp claiming her to let him know that his word-play had not gone unnoticed. "I very much appreciate the beautiful gesture. I believe I will take a small plateful and one for Kendall as well, please."

Desrianne, with Rory's assistance, prepares two plates and brings them to the bed. "Thank you," Margot says, smiling up at both of them. "I believe we will call for you should we require anything else."

"I have information for you regarding the berries from the ship's physician, Princess," Rory says. "Would you care to hear it now, or wait for a later time?"

Kendall sets the plate down on the bed near his elbow and begins evaluating its contents. Everything that Rory had selected, with explanation to Desrianne as he had made the arrangements, were foods to rejuvenate and revive the body and spirit. The princess had been most troubled recently, and it was hoped she would find some ease after tasting the morsels. There was the delicate flesh of the surrefen fish, left raw to preserve its potency and anointed with sweet bee nectar, whole geirof flowers coated with find powdery sugar, tender gembre root pickled in wine, spicy soft cheese laced with qynnep blood, and several other offerings.

"OH. I did not think you would have acquired the information so quickly. Please, share what you have learned, Rory." Margot looks at the her plate with uncharacteristic hesitation. The berries Dara gave her were supposed to make her feel well too. It was a nonsense fear; she trusted the people in the small cabin with her life. Eventually, she gives over to the temptation of experience and brought one of the flowers to her lips, nibbling on the petal before realizing that it was really a single-bite morsel.

Desrianne stands nearby after giving the plate to Margot, hovering really, also feeling nervous and uncertain in the wake of the previous incident. She idly wondered if having a bowl nearby at the ready for the princess to spit out noxious foods would be too grotesque or perfectly acceptable. It was hard to tell with Chaosians.

"I was able to retrieve the stem from the berries from the deck," Rory explains. "Most providentially, though the stem tumbled from your fingers, it wedged itself into some ropes near the rail. The ship's physician confirmed to me that they are kr'rr berries, or as Tinor calls them, malesscus, and are intended to function as a, ah… pick-me-up. I think that was the slang I heard in Amber once. As m'lord said, a stimulant. Sometimes they can cause a disorienting experience similar to inebriation, but are for the most part, harmless. Sendarr, the physician, noted the stem was not contaminated, but that it did come from very close to the mast root, where the berries are the most potent."

Kendall chooses a piece of the surrefen, licking the nectar from his fingers after eating the tender flesh, listening to Rory's report but with his eyes on Margot.

Margot's expression remains pleasant and appreciative. "Thank you, Rory. I appreciate your due diligence in this matter. You have aided me in ways I cannot being to express." Should any of Rory's remarks have any impact on Margot, she does a stupendous job of hiding it. Save for her fingers gently fidgeting with the sheets, she remains the picture of calm.

Rory smiles. "You're very welcome, princess. It's my pleasure to be of service to you. Is there anything else that we can assist you with? More wine? Different foods? Massage?"

"Perhaps later, Rory, Thank you." Margot looks up at Desrianne at her side. "I will be fine, Caresse. A massage sounds delightful, after we've had a moment to digest."

"If you say so," Desrianne says, obviously still concerned about her poppy, not to mention a tad wrung out from all the emotional dips and heights of the past couple hours. "Or I can stay and help you with… whatever you need."

Rory nods and bows to Margot, then looks to his lord. Kendall wags the fingers of his free hand towards the door, not interrupting. Taking his cue, Rory leaves the bedside to go to the door, pausing to see if Desrianne would stay or leave with him.

"What you need, Caresse, is to care for yourself. Eat, drink, rest. I am certain that Rory wouldn't mind assisting you in finding things that will help replenish your health as well. You will be of no use to me if you fall ill and I believe that in the coming cycles I will need you more than ever."

"Yes, Princess." Inclining her head, she offered the lordling the same gesture of respect before falling behind Rory.

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