More Misunderstanding

As Margot's song nears its end, a rustling from the door announces a new arrival. Surprisingly, at least to the Chaos Lord, Desrianne enters carrying a tray of covered dishes. He frowns a little as she pauses to curtsy near the end of the bed. Seeing Desrianne brings the princess instantly alert as well, wondering what could possibly keep Rory away from his master at a time like this.

Noting his expression, the maid explains, "Master Rory asked me to bring your meal, as he is otherwise engaged."

Kendall's expression clears at the explanation offered. As gingerly as she may, the princess slides off of his lap to take the tray. "Thank you, Caresse. Please see that only you or Rory disturb us for a short time. Respite and rest is needed. I will tend to Lord Kendall, but peace and solitude may be the best remedy."

"Of course," the older woman agrees with a nod. Though still mystified by the nature of the situation with the Lordling, clearly compliance was needed, not questions.

The Lord watches Margot as she brings the tray near, hampered by her robe and almost tripping over the book they had both forgotten. "Tis of no concern," he reassures the princess. "Your maid should stay and assist you. You are not yourself."

She turns to stare at him, askance. She knew full well that having the two in one place was like putting oil and water together. Neither she nor he were in the mood or place of health to rein a tongue and she did not wish any more hurt to happen so soon. For her part, Desrianne pauses before taking more than a step, also surprised and waiting to see what Margot would say.

Kendall sets the book on the bedside shelf, trading it for his wine glass. He turns his attention to the tray, sipping the wine as he removes the lid from one of the small bowls to reveal little pink berries that sparkled like gems.

"Tis for you to decide what would serve best for your recovery," he adds, leaving the decision to Margot.

Margot groans inwardly as she ponders the choice between lover and confidante when one could not stand the sight of the other. "Please. Stay, Caresse. For a little while."

"Of course I will, Poppy," Desrianne reassures the young woman, unintentionally falling into the more familiar endearment. She steps forward and helps to remove lids from the little dishes, depositing them out of the way on the table across the room.

Kendall offers Margot some wine. "Be cautious, for this vintage is particularly potent," he comments.

She sips once, barely enough to wet her lips, and discovers it is also particularly nice — smooth and rich, with a bouquet and flavor of flowers and honey. Another sip, and she returns the glass to Kendall with a smile.

"Is there more of this wine to be shared?" she asks softly.

"Rory left the bottle," he replies, eyes lifting to the maid as Desrianne returns to the bed to learn if Margot had any other desires. Kendall eats a couple berries, eyebrows lifting at the unexpectedly tangy flavor, though they did give a nice counterpoint to the wine.

"Poppy," Desrianne breaks in diffidently, trying to keep her focus on Margot and not the surrounding circumstances. "If that robe isn't warm enough or comfortable, I'm certain I could find something more suitable in the chest."

"A heavier robe, perhaps," she answers, not wanting a night gown or anything that would require heavy use of her hand.

A nod with wrinkled brow answers the request. "I'll see what I can find…" the matron replies. She goes over to the chest and begins carefully rummaging through it. As the one who had packed and organized all the luggage for the princess, she was most likely to be able to find what she was looking for with the least amount of disruption.

Margot stands wearily and begins to meander aimlessly and unsteadily around the small space, sampling little offerings from their gilded bowls. Kendall reaches over to capture her hand before she can wander too far away, though, keeping her near while they both nibble and handing her things she can't reach. Pondering how to feed the princess' spirit, it occurs to him that maybe seeing his chest might reassure her.

"Would you like to see how my wound is healing?" he asks.

Margot caresses his cheek with her free hand, looking at him blankly for several seconds as though not sure what he was asking. Then ducking her head, she nods shyly and leans against the bed at the ready in case he needed assistance. He takes a sip of wine and then hands her the goblet to hold, unties his shirt, and pulls it open to reveal his chest for her to inspect.

There was hardly any indication of a wound already. Skin had closed over the hole leaving an indent where the flesh within had not yet fully filled out. Some wrinkling puckered around the area where skin had been hastily regrown. He lets the shirt slip from his shoulders so she could look at his back as well, which looked much the same.

On the other side of the room, Desrianne turns from her own task to look, though she tries to be discreet about her curiosity. She holds up a light, long-sleeved shirt of rust colored red as though inspecting the garment, so she can peek around it.

Timid fingers touch the skin around the wound, and tears well in Margot's eyes once more. A piece of her mother had done this to him. That was all she could see when she stared at the healing wound. And I made my choice. For good or ill, her life would be with her lover, and she chose his salvation over her mother's twisted reflection.

Leaning over, she brushes her lips over the wound and then rests her forehead against his chest. "You are quite resilient," she remarks, trying to sound far more at ease than she felt. "Do you understand the choice I made?"

"No," he barely whispers. "Not without your help."

He hooks fingers under her chin, lifting her head so he could look into her eyes, which were moist with renewed tears. He studies her intently, then leans in to place a kiss against her lips. It was not a kiss of lasciviousness or carnal desire, but neither was it chaste or simple. There was seeking and yearning in the meeting of their mouths, an attempt to reconnect to the young woman he had promised would be mother to his child.

She melts against the kiss with a sense of relief. Tender, loving, and vulnerable. Fingers cup his face, gently caressing the skin as if he were the most precious thing in all the multiverse. Her eyes remain closed, afraid of what she would see or what she would reflect as her forehead rests against his.

"A part of my Mother attacked you," she explains. "Tried to kill you. I had a choice, and I made it without a second thought."

He sits quietly for several heartbeats, stroking her hair with the fingers of one hand. Margot's perspective on things was so different from his in so many ways, he had to consider how best to reply to her words. "Do you weep for the shadow sorceress, or for your blood innocence now lost?" he asks softly.

The maid, all but forgotten at her task, drifts closer to hear the quiet words passing between the two lovers, but did not venture to interrupt. The delicate fabric of rust-colored blouse wrinkles in the tense and unmindful grip of the worried matron, though she could think of nothing to say or do.

Margot rests against him, letting his touch comfort her. "I weep because, even as we left, by her word and honor, we were betrayed and savaged at sea. I weep because I took a life, even if it might have taken mine. I weep because what you said is true: I'm not who I appear to be. And I don't know what I will see in your eyes or in a mirror's reflection."

Slowly she lifts her eyes to his. "But I do not weep because I chose you. I do not regret that. Not now, or ever."

Kendall's brow remains furrowed, still thinking hard about how to answer. "The sorceress who attacked this ship was not your mother," he says quietly.

"She was a shade of her," Margot replies. "I saw her. When time and everything changed, I saw."

"Yes, but she was not Morgana, Queen of Amber," he asserts, sitting back a little so he can look into her face more easily. "Not in truest essence. Only those of the Blood of the Houses have true Power, Margot, the Power that dwells in you and me."

"The creature you slew was at most a mere Shadow of your mother," he explains. "In the way that Shadow reflects the True Realms with imperfection, so too does Shadow bring to life only aspects of those who bear the Blood of Power. Remember, too, that the enchantress attacked this ship. My injury was merely… an accident."

Margot did not believe his injury an accident, but she would not argue that point. It was a matter of perspective, and from where she stood, there was a singular motive designed and achieved. And maybe that lay at the core of her dismay; realizing that she could believe her mother cruel enough to do such a thing.

"I understand that it was not the Queen of Amber. But that she would have such an aspect to her being… Can she not control those which were spawned in her stead to protect the boundaries of Amber?" she questions.

He looks beyond her as he thinks about that question. "Ideally, yes, she would control the things she creates," he agrees eventually with a nod.

He looks back in her eyes as he continues. "However, she does not always. In the case of the Veil that surrounded Amber during the war with Chaos, she raised the barrier with great desperation and in high emotion, or so the story goes. She admitted to me that she does not control it. That it has a mind of its own; a will beyond hers."

Kendall makes a small dismissive gesture with one hand, like fingers flicking off water. "But those facts aside, I do not believe that one can control the Shadows that crop up in reflection of Power, Margot. Even a mere Shadow creature, once created, has a mind and hunger of its own. It attacked the Rhercyn perhaps in hunger for you, perhaps in hunger for some other essence."

She nods, following his explanation, but no further questions presented themselves to her.

He pauses again, and for the first time in quite a while, notices Desrianne standing idle at the end of the bed listening in to the conversation. Caught in his bright gaze, the maid fidgets a moment but then stiffens her back and raises her chin before going back to the chest with great dignity in her bearing.

Kendall gives his attention back to Margot. "This is one of the reasons I insist you learn to control your emotions. Feel them, use them, yes. But do not let them rule you. Your decision and actions on deck, to strike back at the enchantress… they were fueled by emotion, yes? Fear and anger?"

Once more, she nods, still wordless.

"You acted with decision and purpose," he says. "You removed a threat to the ship and yourself, and emerged victorious from your first blood battle. Those are good things, things to celebrate. Yet it seems you also acted in haste, without forethought, leaving yourself vulnerable. You acted in the throes of emotion, and now are left… confused and empty. There are many possible reasons for this, my sweet. But it will become easier with practice and knowledge."

A sense of relief takes hold of her heart at the endearment and tender words. Everything he said made perfect sense. She had no argument; nothing to counter, no questions. For the first time, all the pieces seemed to fall together in her brain. She leans forward to kiss his lips, seeking that connection once more.

"Thank you," she whispers.

The sound of a throat clearing nearby breaks into their quiet harmony, and Margot steps back. She covers his wound one more, feeling as though it was something intimate between he and she. Kendall helps her pull the shirt back up over his shoulders and folds the fabric over his chest as she rises and moves over to where Desrianne waited. He leans back and relaxes again, then begins eating some more to help his body finish deep healing.

Desrianne had retrieved a sleeping gown from the bottom of the chest, long sleeved and warm. Comforting. Standing between Margot and the bed to act as imperfect privacy screen, she helps the princess out of the light robe and then assists her into the gown.

"I'm very glad you're safe, Poppy," she says as the robe slips from Margot's arms, not sure what else to say, but wanting to offer comfort. A sour pang had pierced her heart as she watched the Lordling comfort the young woman, all gentle words and kisses.

Margot turns, and with the sort of lost affection that a child has for a mother, embraces Desrianne. The hug is not fierce, as she is tired and emotionally lost, but is still filled with the loving need to renew their bond as well. No more tears appear yet, but her eyes close.

"I'm very glad you were safe below, Caresse," she says with emotion shivering her voice. "I would never forgive myself if any harm came to you."

"It was frightening," the maid admits, taking this cue to share her end of the tale. She hugs the princess back, the strength of her embrace making up for any weakness in Margot's. She strokes the long, tangled hair.

"I confess I'm not a very good sailor," she adds. "And when the ship turned about, leaning and tossing, I felt sick with fear for you, since I didn't know where you were. But what ends well, is well, as they say," she says.

The matron leans back to study Margot's face at that assertion, trying to decide if things had ended well after all. Margot tries to smile in reassurance and then kisses the matron on the cheek.

"It will be well. I believe. Our captain and the crew will undoubtedly see that no more surprises reveal themselves. Don't worry. We will talk after I have had chance to rest and process. I promise," the princess promises.

She felt sure the talk would be painful and she would likely lose Desrianne, but she did act out of love and defending those she loved aboard the ship. Margot clings to that thought.

"I hope so, Poppy," Desrianne replies. "I will worry incessantly until then."

She squeezes the princess tightly once more and then steps back. "Let me pull back your hair," she suggests.

Margot allows herself to be led to the chair and seated, eyes closing to relax as the comb draws through her hair in long, gentle strokes. Having her hair done was one of the things she didn't think she could ever tire of. She loved it especially when her lover did it, but that was different. Intimate. With the matronly maid, it was just affectionate, like a mother soothing a child.

Knowing how soothing the simple chore was for Margot, Desrianne prolongs the hair fixing. First she must pull the pins out that held it back from her face. Then comb out the snarls wrought by wind and water. Finally, a brush smooths the strands of hair to satiny softness.

The silence in the cabin remains unbroken for quite some time, but the tension in the young woman's face slowly begins to melt away with each stroke of Desrianne's comb. A quick glance sneaked toward the bed reveals the Chaosian with his eyes closed, and something in his posture and the lines of his face hinted that he had fallen into slumber. Feeling a sense of privacy now, Margot struggles to put words to her emotions.

"Caresse… You know I love you?" she asks softly. Her eyes rise to meet the matron's in the reflection. "And as long as I am able, I will do whatever is in my power to see no harm comes to you…or Kendall?"

"Of course, dearling," Desrianne says, sounding a little surprised at the question. "And I love you, like you were my very own daughter." The words come out with some wistfulness.

"Even if… Even if it was defending your life?" she asks slowly, eyes sorrowful. There was shame, guilt, woven into her words, so laden with love.

The matron's lips press together into a thin line as she thinks about the question, if indeed it was a question. "I expect it would be especially. We all want to protect and defend the things we love, from all sorts of real and imagined dangers."

"I … ended … the threat upon the ship," she murmurs, eyes falling from her maid's reflection in the mirror.

Desrianne nods, expression set in calm determination. She takes a deep breath so she can answer firmly, even though her heart was breaking for the girl. Her brush keeps moving through Margot's hair in slow, gentle strokes, though the motion is more therapeutic than necessary at this point.

"Good," the maid says, her voice firm and strong. Though she might have wished the young woman wouldn't have had to be the one directly involved, that was not how things had been.

"No one can know!" Margot says in a hushed panic. "It's bad enough that Dara was there and Kendall was harmed, and… I didn't know what to do, and then things just happened and it was over. I don't want him to be in trouble because of me." Tears well once more, spilling down cheeks already red from weeping.

"Oh, dearling…" the maid's expression changes to worried concern at sight of tears in the mirror. She sets the brush aside and comes around to crouch down in front of the seated princess.

"You have my word, Poppy, I will never breathe a word of this that you don't wish known," she assures the young woman. "But what happened? Please tell me. I can see your heart is aching."

Margot glances at Kendall, not wanting to disturb him. "We broke free, thanks to Kendall's quick thinking and the captain and her crew. Dara, Kendall and I were on deck discussing… I don't even remember what, and then the beast attacked him! It stabbed him, and he was run through! I caught him. He was falling, but I caught him. He was so heavy…"

She pauses to gulp back tears, struggling to remain calm. "I broke off a piece of the spear made of the creature's hair, and— I hurt him! I don't know how, but…"

She sobs, pressing her hands to her face. "Oh Gods, Caresse! There was blood everywhere! I took his blade, and ordered Dara to tend him, and then…"

Margot's hands fall from her face and she stares at the wound in her palm. Tears drop from her face to splash on her wrist. "The world… shifted. Changed. I can't explain it, but I could see the sorceress who was attacking us. I knew her name. Her True Name. Words spun in my mind, and the next thing I knew, I had sliced my hand and was bleeding into his blood and the limp hair."

Her eyes close again. "A curse from my heart extinguished the life that dared threaten him. I've never had any of that happen before. I don't understand how or why. But I know that I murdered the one who attacked this vessel."

Desrianne hugs Margot, and the girl lays her head on the matron's shoulder. The explanation shed light on some things, but left others still shadowed with questions. The ship had been attacked, that much was clear. And the Lordling had been run completely through? He already seemed recovered. No doubt, that accursed shapechanging.

It was all very confusing, and no doubt had been even more so on deck amidst blood and fear. But beyond all those questions, Margot had taken a life, and there wasn't any way to undo that act, or the way it would hang heavily on such a gentle soul.

"I know you wouldn't have done such a thing if you didn't feel it necessary, Poppy," the maid attempts to soothe. "And with your Lord's severe injury, it's very understandable that you reacted as you did. I wish… I wish it hadn't happened, dearling, but you probably did the right thing."

The crying subsides enough for Margot to find her voice. "Interesting that you and he agree on something," she mutters into the damp shoulder.

Desrianne stiffens at the comment. She has to give herself a few seconds before she replies, fully aware that he was still in the room. She wasn't in a position at the moment to check on his current status, and, oh, that was just distracting her from Margot.

"I can't speak for your Lord, of course, but I suspect we are merely reflecting similar understanding that you acted out of love and fear, not maliciousness," she says.

"In point of fact, I said nothing of your actions being right or wrong," Kendall's voice breaks in from across the room. "But either way, you acted with decisiveness and proved your mettle, in this circumstance at least. Tis possible you will have greater success at winning the Lady Dara's respect, should you discuss the events with her at some point. She very well could offer useful advice."

"I suppose that's true," the princess answers softly. She sits upright and wipes her eyes, not really addressing either and turning once more toward the mirror.

Desrianne's face settles into a scowl at the turn brought about by unwelcome intervention. Margot had finally begun to open up, process, and express herself. And then the Lordling had jumped in and look at the result!

"Caresse, please may I have more wine and something cool to wash my face with?" Margot picks up the comb and begins pulling it through her hair again. It never ceased to amaze her how Kendall could take something that he had said in tenderness and twist it into something callous.

"Of course," is the matron's answer. She levers herself back into an upright position, her old knees not quite as accommodating as they used to be. With a sigh, she goes to fetch another cloth from the cupboard and pour water into it from the carafe.

"Thank you," she whispers, a tiny smile revealing how truly grateful Margot is for her maid's consoling presence.

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