Aftermath: Recuperation

Lord Kendallarithan returns to Maeve's Vigil rumpled, bruised, and out of sorts.

He stalks through the tower to his private chamber with a single-minded preoccupation that leaves no room to notice much less acknowledge the salutes of his subordinates. The trip from shackles to chamber through castle corridors and swaying glass bridge had been one of the longest and most wearisome of his experiences in this place. Once he finally reaches the sanctuary of his own chamber, he shuts the door firmly, erecting a flimsy yet symbolic barrier against the world of Amber.

When Rory knocks and enters soon after, he is still barely in time to help his master into a robe, as Kendall had rid himself of his clothing as quickly as his fingers could move. The servant takes one look at the young Lord's disheveled appearance, the bruise on his head, the tension in his posture, and says only, "Your bath will be ready shortly." The servant immediately takes himself out without further comment, leaving his master in peace.

Kendall paces over to the mirror to inspect the damage to his head as Rory leaves. It wouldn't take very much to heal it up, though here in Amber it would require attention. But for some unfathomable reason, he leaves it for now and instead goes out on the balcony to stare over the sea. The rolling, glittering waves and wheeling birds do nothing to soothe him, though, and an inner restlessness sends him back inside to pull out his writing supplies.

He brings the box over to the desk and unpacks everything to retrieve a thin metal case tucked away in the bottom. The case is cool and light in his hands, the metal engraved all over with vines and flowers, but he simply holds it for 10 heartbeats before he reconsiders the impulse to delve into its contents. Instead, he sets it down and leaves everything — sheaves of paper, writing utensils, and other oddments — scattered haphazardly over the surface of the desk.

His next stop is the instrument stand in the corner, where he takes up his lute before returning to the balcony. When he strums a few chords, though, he hears the instrument is out of tune and spends several heartbeats trying to tune it before a string breaks, stinging his fingers and eliciting a muttered curse. It takes almost more restraint than he has left not to fling the instrument over the railing into the sea. He sits still for another 35 heartbeats, shaking with the effort to remain calm and keep firm hold on the precious object before finally he feels more in control of himself. He takes the lute inside instead, leaving it on one of the chairs before he collapses onto the bed.

Staring up at the ceiling, Kendall lies quietly in an attempt at patience for his bath to be drawn, for his head to stop hurting, for his mind to settle, and his thoughts to stop spinning beyond comprehension. Useless, it turns out. He is pacing when Rory reappears to report the bath is ready, and almost reaches the bathing room ahead of his servant. He sinks into the hot water with a deep sigh, reclining against the sloped side of the tub while the soothing scent of then'ka grass rises with the steam. Rory sets Kendall's robe aside and then hands him a glass of wine spiced with relaxing herbs, herbs designed to clear the mind and soothe the spirit.

It takes much time, while the bath grows cool and the wine flows freely, but with the careful ministrations of his servant, Kendall slowly begins to feel close to normal. Yet even when his emotions calm and his thoughts slow their whirling dance, he still feels weighted by a darkness of spirit that cannot be soothed away with water, soap, and herbs. Nonetheless, his movements when he eventually emerges from the water are no longer jerky and unsettled, but once more characterized with his typical grace and precision.

He returns to his room to find a meal waiting: tea, small bites of meat and cheese, an arrangement of decoratively cut vegetables, thin slices of bread. Kendall sits at the table but stares out at the balcony instead of eating while the breezes sway the curtains and the sun slides incrementally across the floor. In that span of uncounted heartbeats, his thoughts slowly coalesce and order themselves until finally, mercifully, he feels able to review the events of the day before and the recent meeting with the Queen.

Clearly, a report to Brisbane was next on his agenda.

He grimaces at that thought, looking down at the food for a few heartbeats before choosing a piece of cheese and taking a bite. The first is often the hardest, and Kendall abruptly realizes how long it had been since last he had eaten. He sets aside all further pondering in order to apply himself to the task of decimating the meal his servant had provided. It takes very little time once he is able to clear his mind and focus.

But once the task of eating is finished, Kendall takes his tea out on the balcony to sit quietly and think. It occurs to him, as he ponders the order of operations and his need to speak to Brisbane, that he had already gone through this exact ritual once before. When he first arrived at the Castle Amber feeling the same weight of darkness in his spirit, it had been after his first encounter with Louella. He sips his tea while contemplating the symmetry until his servant returns to clear the table.

"I will need to speak to Brisbane," he says at length through the balcony door. Rory nods in acknowledgment as he carries the tray of dishes out. Upon his return some heartbeats later to begin preparing his master's clothing, Kendall finds himself watching the servant at his work rather than the wheeling birds and crashing waves; the sense of normalcy felt more soothing than anything Amber might have to offer.

Much as he might want to put off this meeting, Kendall finishes his tea and returns to the room as soon as Rory has everything prepared. Dressing is a short affair, even with the time taken to make sure everything is arranged exactly so and his hair is smoothed perfectly in place. And now, finally, Kendall takes the time and attention needed to care for the bruise on his head. The ritual of preparation is another link to normalcy.

The final preparations completed, Rory opens the door to allow Kendall to meet his own master.

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Aftermath: Report to Brisbane

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