Culture Shock: Rory & Desrianne

Part 1: Where Do We Even Start?

Occurs during Treacherous Tango: Margot Meets Dara

Desrianne watched as her Poppy was lead away by the Lordling. It irked her to no end to find herself admiring what a striking pair they made, she donning a gown of green and cream, representing Amber's colors and he in his formal robes of a darkened emerald black. Both with their raven hair, her porcelain skin… a delicate wrist placed just so atop his hand to be escorted formally out of the chambers. The transformation was also striking, how Margot seemed to shed her girlish fraility, putting duty above her heart. Whether she would convince the Hellmaiden that she was hardened, that remained to be seen, for one so gentle and fair cannot keep her heart buried and locked away for long before it seeks freedom to take flight once more.

To say the matron was worried was an understatement. She didn't trust the Lordling; but she trusted the Hellmaiden less. She could not fathom what cards had to be carefully laid for Margot to be left to Dara's 'capable and deadly' hands. Oh, thoughts carrying her down this path did nothing for her mood, agitating the already sour start to her day even further. Moving about aimlessly, Desrianne began tidying up the chambers… no, she would not refer to them as THEIR chambers… not if she could possible avoid it.

It was some minutes before Rory returned from his errand to look to his Lord's chamber once more. There were others who could attend to the little gathering, at least for a short time. Also, the princess' maid had been left to herself, and the Chanicut servant felt the urge to check in with her.

The door opens, and eyes meet. Rory nods and then glances around the chamber. Nothing was amiss that he could see, though it was apparent the maid was suffering from a lack of activities to pursue. The dressing table had been been tidied of the princess' things, robes laid neatly on the bed, and she was currently folding damp towels. The red-haired servant goes to the wardrobe and pulls out the shimmery green silk robe that had been rejected earlier, double checking that it was properly hung.

"Master Rory," she began after several moments of puttering, "how did you come into the service of Lord Kendallarithan, if you don't mind me inquiring?" It was a weak attempt at dialog, but she could think of no other way to open dialog with the redhead who seemed so withdrawn and reserved.

Desrianne carried the damp towels to a decorative drying rack discretely hidden by the balcony to make use of the sea breeze and the sun. Her attention was never far from the red-head, her eyes watching him, though her stare was far less judgmental than when she beheld his master.

The question, while not completely unexpected, does merit a pause before he replies. Smoothing an errant fold in the robe, he replaces it in the wardrobe with greater care. "Lord Kendallarithan was of the age to have his own Ways, and thus in need of a personal attendant," he replies. "I was assigned to this duty, as recommended by my mother, who serves m'lady Grania, m'lord's lady mother."

His answer gives the matron pause, she actually turning with a curious furrow to her brow. "How many generations have your families been entwined?" It was not uncommon in Amber, so she supposed it wouldn't be a stretch in Chaos, though why she found it unusual…

"My family has been Chanicut since the House Banner was raised and given blessing by the Great Serpent," he replies, pride evident as his soft tone warms. "A thousand generations at the least, though I do not keep record of such things." He keeps equal watch on the princess' maid as he speaks, while at the same time retrieving the two blue robes from the bed. He pauses once he has picked them up, a little nonplussed about what best to do with them.

"Impressive to be sure, Master Rory," she replied. Perceiving his hesitation, she gestures to the doors. "Perhaps they could be hung out on the balcony so that could dry out and pick up the fresh scent of the sea."

Nervous energy needed to be expended. She moved to the bed and started fluffing pillows and smoothing the corners of the bed. The bed where her Poppy now called home. The mere thought brought tension to her body and anger to her heart. She wanted desperately to pry, to ask questions.

Rory thinks about the suggestion, realizing that explaining the true nature of the dilemma may not be the most delicate thing right then. Typically the Lord would not need his lounging robe until time came for rest and meditation, and thus the robes would be best put away until then. But with the addition of the princess, it was possible the robes would be needed sooner, though it would be best not to leave them lying about to clutter up a chair. He carries the robes out to the balcony as suggested. They could be moved indoors again later.

"As you can imagine, the Princess is anxious about her travels," the matron observes.

"It will be a vast transition for you both," he agrees. Having hung up the robes in the garish Amber sun, he stands for several heartbeats to watch the maid's nervous tidying. Having someone else touching the Lord's things, even if it was something so impersonal as his pillow and blankets, made the manservant's fingers twitch a little. "If there are any questions I may answer to help ease your transition, m'lord has directed me to be at both yours and the princess's disposal."

"That is very … generous of Lord Kendallarithan." Desrianne moved to the sitting area and looked — with no small amount of displeasure — at where she had originally found blankets strewn about and the table upturned. A frown pulled at her thin lips as her imagination ran wild with what happened there.

Wrinkled hands fluffed throw pillows. "And a very apt observation. I would appreciate any words of wisdom you may have to offer to ease the Princess' discomfort?"

"If I may be bold, Madame, the princess does not appear to be experiencing any discomfort at present. You, however…" Rory lets the thought trail off as he surreptitiously twitches the heavy coverlet on the bed back into the correct alignment and smooths a dent from the Lord's pillow left from the fluffing. "Perhaps if you would care to have a seat, I can bring some tea to calm your nerves whilst Princess Margot meets with the Lady Dara."

Desrianne's lips twitch with amusement, not quite into a smirk, but her eyes warm at the younger man's observation. "Only if you are willing to join me, and share tea and your knowledge. Perhaps we can … help one another in the transition."

"Agreed," Rory says with gravity and a nod. He walks over to the door. "I will return in 220 heartbeats, unless I am called for by m'lord."

He lets himself out with no fanfare without waiting for agreement.

Desrianne waited impatiently, pacing. Her eyes went to the hearth. Moving to the fireplace, she started a small fire, so she could watch how the flames lick against the soot-stained blocks. The attendant was interesting. She let her mind wander from the serenity of Amber and her tranquil scenery to the uncertainty of Chaos, where there would be no allies and no one to trust. Could Rory be trusted? Could the Lordling? She knew she couldn't trust the Hellmaiden.

Deeply sunk into her preoccupation, she hardly noticed his return when Rory entered the room with tea service for two. The soft click of the door followed by a rattle as tray meets table belatedly draws her attention. Desrianne turns around with a pleasant smile on her face. "Welcome back, Master Rory."

"Thank you, madame," he greets her in return, his soft voice almost deferential. "Please sit here, if you would."

He indicates the couch with a nod as he picks up the pot and pours a small amount of amber liquid into one pale green porcelain cup. He sips at it sparingly and then nods approval that the tea had steeped enough. He fills both cups while Desrianne makes herself comfortable at the opposite end of the couch.

She couldn’t help but feel a twinge discomfited, suspecting as she did that the two lovers had copulated there a short while ago; a vulgar expression no doubt forced upon her Poppy who could only feel compelled to oblige. Still, that was not the servant’s error, and it would be uncivilized to strike at him when it was his master she had issue with. She nods her thanks when he hands her a filled cup, unexpectedly noticing how graceful his hands looked with long fingers that curled around his own cup as he took a seat at the other end of the couch near the table.

"You may call me Rory, if you wish," he adds, sitting down with his own cup in hand.

“If that is your preference, then I will honor your request and offer you the same courtesy to refer to me by my given name, Desrianne," she agrees.

"Desrianne," he agrees. "Thank you."

Lifting the delicate porcelain to thin lips, Desrianne savors the complex bouquet and light fragrance to the brew. The flavor and aroma of the tea are light and refreshing, a floral blend with hints of vibrant green grasses and an undertone of spring rain.

“Delicious," she declares with some surprise. She lifted the cup, in salute to him and he returns her salute with his own cup before taking a drink.

"I must admit, some of your fare has been a pleasant surprise to my palate. This tea, for example,” she says after she carefully swallows the warm drink. Her tone for her counterpart was warm, not as maternal as it was when she spoke with Margot but far gentler than when she addressed the Lord.

Rory nods his thanks to the compliment and then opens up the conversation again. "If I may ask, how did you come to be in the princess's service? I confess your relationship with her is most fascinating."

A warmth lit the elderly woman's face that could only be described as love as memories rushed forward in waves, not unlike how the sea crashed below against the crags and cliffs. "I have served the Kingdom for many generations in one capacity or another," she says.

"Her grandfather, Prince Bleys, had seen that I was a part of her mother's life before she was Queen. So, I was then Princess Morgana's nanny and Lady until she came of an age of adulthood. Then I served as a Mistress of the Castle, managing staff that tended to the Royal quarters and overseeing the nursery. But when the Queen bore Princess Margot. She asked that I be the child's personal caregiver and guardian," she explains, her warm voice infused with affection.

Desrianne chuckles. "Of course, the child has had other protectors. I am not as spry as I used to be and what threat would I be to anyone who dared cause harm to the Princess? But I've watched the child grow up and have cared for her as if she were my very own. In many ways, she is… as I chose a life of service over a family." She sipped at the tea, thinking for several moments.

"I suppose that means I should apologize for my brusque behavior," she says at last, resignation in her voice. "Please understand, Rory, I mean you no disrespect; on the contrary, I believe you possess a bottomless well of patience and endurance that knows no bounds. But it has been my responsibility to see to Princess Margot's well being for these last several years and …"

Her eyes drifted to the small pool held within the porcelain. "I struggle against a combination of an old woman's habits refusing to yield and a mother's undying will to protect her child."

The red-haired Chaosian listens patiently with unblinking gaze throughout Desrianne's explanation. He appears to have great ability to remain almost completely motionless, though he does raise cup to lips three times while the maid speaks.

Desrianne's eyes rose once more, her smile sad. "I don't expect you to understand; you are younger and perhaps have not been in the role of actually raising Lord Kendallarithan, though…surely some sort of companionship has to have grown between you two? Where you are keenly concerned for his best interest?" Her question emerges with sincerity laced with curiosity.

"You are correct that I have not held the role of advisor for m'lord," Rory begins. "I began my duty with him when he was already eight Cycles of age; introduced to the Child's Court and well on the way to maturity. And like all here of Chanicut, I am keenly concerned — as you put it — for the interests of my House. M'lord is not merely a representative of House Chanicut here in Amber, but also Second Son of m'lord Ulrich, who is Duke and Head of our House. My duty and privilege rests in providing all possible support to Lord Kendallarithan so that he may pursue his own duty."

He pauses a heartbeat, and then he nods, drawing himself up a little. "But tis my sense that m'lord finds comfort in my service. I have known him many Cycles, and can often anticipate his moods and desires."

Desrianne smiles in understanding. "I do not proclaim that my relationship with the Princess is … common throughout Amber, Rory. I wouldn’t even attempt to suggest how rare it is. Most noble Houses and Royals have similar relationship with their attendants and support to what it seems you have to your Lord Kendallarithan.”

The cup comes to her mouth and another minute sip is drawn. Truly she didn’t know why she had expected something foreign, savage, or unsavory. Where the Lordling seemed to be lecherous and uncouth, his Man seemed to be quite cultured and charming.

“You have met the Princess now a number of times,” Desrianne breathed deeply, knowing that the occasions involved sleepovers save for the one afternoon tea. “How do you find her? What is your honest assessment of the young woman?” There was no threat in her voice, but rather entreaty; knowledge sought to help the matron better prepare her for the horrid existence that awaited them.

The question elicits the first obvious reaction that Desrianne has seen in the stoic servant, eyes widening above rim of teacup. Glass hovers at lips two heartbeats longer than normal, before finding their way once more to the saucer. He looks down, trying to decide how to reply. "I apologize, Desrianne. I am unsure I understand your question. Would you please clarify what information you seek?" He looks up again, his expression encouragingly interested.

Once more a soothing smile comes to the crone’s lips. Drawing a cleansing breath, she set the cup on the table and turned so that she could face the Ginger fully. Her fingers knit together as she rested her elbows on her knees, providing a woven pedestal for her chin to rest upon.

“You are a master of observation," she asserts. "I have noticed that you are quiet, discreet. Lord Kendallarithan need merely nod his head and you seemingly appear out of the ether. These are remarkable qualities that serve your Lord well. And given how the Princess has chosen to spend her time, this has given you the opportunity to observe her as well. You have had the very unusual luxury of seeing her at her most vulnerable… undoubtedly skyclad, though I doubt she is aware of such things. She speaks reverently of you, which means you have had some engagement with her to make a lasting impression.”

Sitting back, she rests woven fingers in her lap. “She is a loving young woman with a tender heart and gentleness about her. She is strong of will; do not let her delicate way persuade you that she is not born of conviction… this leads her to want to do right by those she cares about most, often to her own expense.” Unspoken words carried the weight of her concern.

“I would like to know what you see when you look at the Princess? What you feel when you speak with her? I want to know whether she inspires any sense of … compassion or kinship or some small sense of loyalty should things go terribly wrong,” she explains. Her smile returns but it does not kiss her grey eyes. “I am an old woman and I have never been to your lands. I cannot predict what the Unicorn, or your Serpent, holds in the future for me.”

Drawing another breath, she released it slowly. “I would also like to know your professional assessment. What of her strengths will serve her well in Chaos and with House Chanicut? What of her weaknesses does she need to compensate for so as not to be a liability? Because…” The crone shook her head. “…As she is determined to see this through, as her guardian, I must ensure that she less vulnerable than she is now.”

Rory finishes his tea and lifts pot to refresh his cup. He offers to fill hers with a gesture and she extends her cup to accept. "She does have a gentle heart," he agrees, some warmth coming to his voice as hands again wrap around cup in his lap.

"She also is easily led," he says, and some change in tone indicates concern. "It may be merely that she trusts m'lord, and thus allows him to lead her, but such could turn to treacherous habit. She speaks freely of what is in her heart. Again, this may be that she trusts both you and m'lord, and by extension myself. But not all will have the same discretion."

He thinks for a number of heartbeats before continuing. "She speaks and carries herself well. With training, she will likely be able to hold her own in a number of courtly arenas. I have no insight into her abilities to defend herself physically, if any."

Desrianne listens quietly as Rory speaks, nodding at the appropriate places. “We have spoken of such things, her trust and her loose tongue. I do believe that her artless ways are reserved for those she cares deeply for and therefore, while your Lord continues to hold her trust, she will continue to hold him in her most intimate counsel. That is who she is,” she explains with her own sense of dismay and heartache. Her eyes fell into the amber liquid in her cup. “It is my extreme hope that a break in that bond never comes to pass.”

The crone remains still for several moments, watching how the tea ripples in the cup. “Of course she will need tutoring in Chaosian etiquette, as well as your customs and other pertinent social cues. Poppy’s determined; she will master them,” there was a swell of pride in Desrianne’s voice.

“As your Lord knows the blade, perhaps he would be willing to spar with the Princess? She is quite learned, though many would not suspect such things by the look of her and her … gentle ways. She also possesses … other means … of protection, that frankly I am uncertain whether they will be of any value to her in Chaos.”

Again, she fell silent, her expression darkly thoughtful. In her eyes, the Ginger could see the internal war raging. “Is it safe for her to trust you and your Lord?” She raised a hand before he could answer. “What I am asking is… once we arrive in Chaos, how guarded must she be speaking with either of you … or even me, for that matter … in public? Or in private chambers? Do words of affection or words of frustration have to be held deep within the soul even in the solitude of their bed?”

She hesitated, breathing deeply. Her eyes narrow in thought. “You must understand…You are undoubtedly aware that there is a great horror befalling Amber; though I acknowledge that Chaos may not see it through the same lens.”

Setting the cup down, she slid closer to Rory, so that knees were nearly touching, her head bowed down though her eyes were still visible, her words were barely a whisper. “The reality is … Amber may fall, and with it, the royal line will approach extinction. Your assistance in grooming and preparation for her arrival and extended stay in Chaos would be greatly appreciated."

She struggled with the words, emotion strangling her. Sliding back, she turned her head away, retrieving a delicate linen kerchief to discretely dot her eyes. "Old eyes leak for no apparent reason. Don't ever get old, Rory. It is more trouble than it is worth."

Rory stays silent throughout her explanation, watching the older woman with something she might think is compassion, perhaps. His gaze is not cold, at any rate, nor does he display distaste. A pause settles around them after she finishes, and he looks down into his cup before answering quietly, "He does care for her."

His words draw her attention, a line pulling her eyes toward his face. It was her time to show surprise, brows climbing her forehead and mouth slightly agape before she came to her senses and dabbed at her eyes once more. “I… ah…” she lifted her tea but hesitates before taking a sip.

“That brings some comfort; it is good to know…” that what he displays is at least somewhat genuine, she finishes the sentence in her thoughts as she finally takes a drink.

She sighs. “To be fair, it is difficult to see the Princess so … enamored and committed to your Lord, given her lack of formal introductions to those of the realm. I assure you, it would be a challenge to see her so in love even if the Lord was of Amber.”

A weary expression returns to her face. “I worry for her. I’m afraid that I still see the small child that I used to sing lullabies to, and not the grown woman who is capable of making decisions of her own accord… including who she chooses to give her heart to. She will adapt quickly, I believe, once she knows what the rules are. I only ask that you are forthright in explaining rules and boundaries are. That was a hard lesson learned in Amber that cannot be afforded a second time in Chaos. The repercussions are unfathomable.”

She drinks deeply of her cup's soothing contents. Setting the empty cup down, she looked to the Chaosian. “But I have babbled long enough. Surely you have questions for the old crone who will follow in your wake and walk in your shadows, hm?”

"The rules of Chanicut are simple," Rory says in his soft voice. "Duty comes first. All other considerations are secondary. That rule applies generally to the whole of Chaos, though some Houses are less stringent in its observance. However, if it would appear that the princess or you will be going unawares into a situation, I shall… speak to you, as I am able."

"Adaptability will stand the princess in good stead," he adds after a heartbeat of thought. "She shows a willingness and desire to learn and have new experiences. Not all of those experiences will be pleasant, as you know, but that is the way of things, of life. As for speaking of affections or troubles…" he begins to answer a question from long ago.

"My duty, as you are aware, is to Lord Kendallarithan. Anything I hear or see or learn is his know at his bidding. Yet, as I am at your disposal as well as that of the princess, it may be there is dual purpose. No knowledge of potential harm to m'lord or my House may be kept to myself, but other words you speak to me may be held in confidence. Whether the same will be true between he and the princess is not for me to say, but words must always be guarded when in public areas or among others. Privacy is not easily attained for those with rank and privilege."

Once more Desrianne nods in understanding. "So, some things are not so different after all," she muses, allowing the similarities between the two Courts from his vague description thus far marry in her head.

"I realize that your duty is to Lord Kendallarithan." She inclined her head with a smile. "And that you may not be at liberty to state or may simply not know for certainty… but…"

She sighed, trying to find the correct words. "Would you please educate me to some of your Lord's more amicable qualities? Virtues? Help me see what the Princess sees? Why she sees it? I know of very few instances before they…consummated their relations."

Her face turned stern and disapproving. "Which did not earn him any high opinions. Again, I understand, he doesn't care what MY opinion is, but my Poppy does. And for her sake, I would like to TRY to understand…"

"M'lord is," Rory says after some thought. The two words are a statement in and of themselves, the Chaos Lord's merits not something the manservant spent time pondering and evaluating. But, realizing that Desrianne was looking for more, he attempts to elaborate a bit.

"Lord Kendallarithan is still young, but shows potential of maturing into a personality to be reckoned with," he continues, carefully. "He is intelligent, and able to anticipate many paths to others' plans, as well as lay his own. He speaks well and has cultivated patience. He is cautious and understands discretion, and typically exhibits restraint and self control."

A pause for thought, and then the servant adds, "He has not always attended to his duty to full expectations, but that is also often a foible of youth that still may be overcome."

Desrianne studied the younger man for a few moments, contemplating her next statement. "These are certainly fine qualities in a nobleman. Especially one, who it seems has the potential to someday take leadership of House Chanicut, correct?" She as simply looking for a nod of confirmation, though if she was misunderstanding the succession, he was welcome to correct her.

"That is a possibility," he agrees.

She decided to approach her quest from a different angle, determined to try to gain some appreciation for what her Poppy saw in the Lordling. "Rory, have you ever experienced or thought you may have been in love? At the very least, held another in a very personal, very intimate, high regard? Not duty-bound, not service-bound… where you were emotionally drawn to that other individual… where you cared for them?"

The matron carefully echoes the word the servant had selected to describe Kendall's feelings for Margot. Not knowing Chaosian social stigmas or his personal proclivities, she did not wish to insult the Ginger with an assumption that the object of his affection was female.

He is much quicker to reply to a question directed solely at himself. His solemn face relaxes enough to reveal a smile, though it is a brief window into the other servant's world. "My Pavan, who I have not seen or spoken to since departing Chanicut." The smile fades at the thought.

"I am pleased that you will be reunited with your beloved soon," she expresses with complete sincerity. "Are you able to share with me some of the qualities that your Pavan is drawn to, that makes your beloved yours? And what draws you to your beloved?" There is a matronly, almost grandmotherly warmth about Desrianne, eyes losing some of their coolness and brightening in hue.

It is not hard to see where he is being led, and he drinks tea to fill time while he thinks on his answers. "Pavan says that I am quiet and accommodating. I tend to her desires as though she was m'lord. She possesses a fiery and passionate spirit."

Something in his words stung her heart, tugging at old memories and wounds that generations and several lifetimes never healed. "And betwixt you, as a couple, there is balance?" The linen kerchief covered her lips once more as she collected herself. "Please, may I have more tea?" she asked softly.

"Your description…" she sighed, watching as he refilled her cup. "It reminds me of a tale revolving around a lass and her lad; he patient and grounded, she tempestuous and impulsive… engaged to be married. That tale has returned to me several times as of late."

Her hand returned to her lap. "Yes, I am overjoyed that you will meet your Pavan soon, Rory." She nodded to herself, answering some unspoken question.

"Thank you, Desrianne," he says with a formal air.

"What I seek is a similar understanding of your Lord's and my Poppy's dynamic… from an objective perspective. She gushes to me and my protectiveness overpowers me. I struggle to see the same vision that she does," she tries to explain.

She chooses her next words with care. "You have shared there is some connection, but you are also better equipped to provide an objective assessment of why she cares for him and he, her. It is this that I am trying to wrap my head and my heart around so that I can let go of …" She closed her eyes. "So that I may be a positive influence in her life."

"I have little knowledge of the princess and her predilections," Rory responds, grave and solemn once more. "However, I do have some insight into why others have found Lord Kendallarithan attractive. M'lord can be generous and patient with his time and attention. He has wit, and the heart of an artist. He pays heed to the pleasure of those he takes as lovers. And he is influential and has the favor of both the Lady Grania and the Lady Diona, his sister."

It was difficult to not frown. Instead, she gathered up the tea and sipped from cup for several moments, letting the soothing properties work their magic. "Then perhaps you can ease my heart and share with me some insight as to what draws your Lord to my Poppy?"

She pitches her tone with hope, seeking any way to find the positive for the sake of her beloved child. While having favor with the matron of the House and his sister would help with Margot's acceptance, she did not know them and would not seek them outright as allies. Not like a Chaosian courtesan or ambitious minor House trollop. Desrianne was simply at a loss, she didn't know how to dispel the demons that haunted her.

Yet now they were treading back into more challenging territory, where Rory had to weigh what to say and not say about his Lord. No matter how much the matron was attempting to be open-minded and appeared to be genuine in her efforts, the strictures here were crystal clear in the manservant's mind. He had already said more than was appropriate.

"Many apologies, Desrianne," his soft voice is regretful, and he looks down at the tea wrapped in long fingers. "I have already broken m'lord's confidence in speaking thus of his regard for the princess, in an effort to ease your spirit. To elaborate more on the subject would be unconscionable for someone in my position."

"Of course," she says, choking her disappointment back. "Thank you for your candor, Rory. I do appreciate that which you have shared."

It was near impossible for her to keep the despair out of her voice, her eyes also searching the deep pool of her own cup in unconscious mirror to the other servant. "You serve out of loyalty and duty; I serve out of love. I doubt that if examined closely we would find tremendous difference between motives and commitment to our Master and Mistress. I also believe that you would do anything, and sacrifice all, for your Lord. It is as it is."

"But just because she has taken a lover does not remove her innocence; though some believe bedding a man seems to make a woman suddenly worldly," she observes. "As if the Heavens open up and pour the knowledge of the Cosmos into your tiny little mind. She is an Amberite, but she was not raised in Amber and she was not raised by Amber's rules. This is a double-edged sword. She has not been here long enough to learn; but she also has not been here long enough to become bitter, skeptical, hateful, distrusting. She shared how your Lord would answer her questions when she asked them. Now, he did not have to do that… though I will admit that I do not know what he exactly told her and how much she defends him because she protects him from my ire."

Desrianne smiles ruefully. "It is funny how he has given her more education, supposedly, about her heritage than in many ways her own family… But if I cannot discover the information I seek, then perhaps your awareness of these things must serve as good enough."

She sighed and a pained look fills her eyes. "I just wish that…when I saw how your Lord looked at her, how he caressed her, I did not see a lecherous hedonist taking advantage of a young girl's affections and heart only to cast her aside at first opportunity once returned to Chaos. Is there any way you can at least dispel that fear from my heart?"

"I suspect not," the red-haired servant says, still regretful. His gaze rises from the depths of his cup to return to her face.

"I reveal no secrets when I say m'lord has had many lovers; he has admitted this to the princess, as you have also heard, and tis well known within my House. He has stayed with some for longer times than others, and there are a small number to whom he has returned on multiple occasions. But there is no way to know with certainty what will happen once we arrive in Chanicut," he explains. "I know only that I will still serve Lord Kendallarithan as I have for many Cycles. Tis possible you will find answers to your questions between now and then."

"You cannot even tell me if he's playing her the fool?" she insists, clearly exasperated. She only wanted to protect the child, not unlike what he was doing for his Lord. "Then advise me on how to aid her, how to prepare her for a broken heart if it is so written that her dreams will be dashed sooner rather than later. Because when your Lord abandons her, I will be all she has… and when I pass, she will have nothing."

She tried to keep the bitterness out of her tone; she truly wasn't angry at Rory. He was doing what he should, and she respected that. He had to see that, see the pain she felt for her beloved child. She hated feeling helpless, without means, watching and knowing that her Poppy was blind to it all.

"I understand your dedication to your lord, and you should be commended." She manages to smile though her eyes revealed the ache in her heart. "You have to understand that I, too, have to do what is best for the Princess, regardless of what she believes that to be. I come to you, grovelling for assistance in that because I want to understand so that I may see what she sees and appreciate your Lord for his strengths and virtues."

Desrianne shook her head. "I don't know how plainer I must speak to get the information I request in a fashion that does not put you in direct violation of your ethical code and moral obligation to your Lord." The crone sighed, defeated.

"He cares for her," Rory repeats with confidence in his soft tone, undaunted by Desrianne's frustration and ire. "And… Lord Kendall is not cruel."

He sets his cold tea aside, speaking more assertively now. "And how would you prepare her for a broken heart, Desrianne? Tisn't something that can be prepared for, yet tis something many experience. I saw earlier that pain has touched your heart. I, too, have known this sorrow. M'lord knows the heartaches both of loss and unresolved longing. Tis a piece of life. While I have spoken, somewhat, of his strengths and potential, it may be that there is some nuance I do not ken, a difference between Amber and Chaos in what you seek."

A chuckle followed his words. The crone was definitely feeling her age. "You have done fine, Rory. Perhaps what I seek is simply … unattainable. I want the monsters in my mind to be vanquished. I want to see sincerity in his touch. I want to be able to trust that when he states that she will be safe, that he will protect her. She tells me these things when we are alone, and I want to know that he means them as much as she believes them."

Her fingers pinched the bridge of her nose. "Margot once told me that she was well aware of the fact that people would see the crown and their tongues would wag at the chance to seat the throne; to gain her Father's favor. All she wanted was to be able to choose who it was that would take advantage of her station rather than have it be determined for her. While that sounds fatalistic and duty-bound… she is young and has a heart filled with romantic and loving notions…"

"And mayhap I am simply too old for these games." She chuckled again, sipping from the tea. "I've become complacent and set in my ways. Virtues and easy to follow when they are never challenged, yes?"

"Yes," Rory agrees succinctly. He refreshes his cold tea with some still warm from the pot.

"It would appear the princess has made her choice, will or nill," he adds. "And you will see what you see, what m'lord chooses for you to see. Do not antagonize him, and he may grant you privilege of remaining close to the princess even when we return to Chanicut. I speak of when she is in his chambers, which are ordinarily closed to outsiders. Your presence is tolerated here only because we have plans to leave this place soon, and thus the Princess has not been given her own space to occupy while she recovered from her ordeals."

"It is not of my mind to antagonize him as it is of my mind to shield her. If my attending to her needs causes him discomfort, it is not intentional. It is why I have come to you now, Rory, in confidence, seeking understanding of motives and mannerisms so that I see what is there and not what is inferred. Seeing actions as a singular, separate event out of context with no impact on prior actions or prediction of future behaviors… it is not a natural flow of thought or way of processing information. Why do you think I want so desperately to understand?"

"Do not antagonize him," Rory reiterates his advice to the newcomer. "M'lord can be generous, but will not long tolerate inappropriate… interruptions, disrespectful words or actions. He will quickly find your interference vexing. He will do as he wills."

She pauses a moment, sussing out something that he stated. "Will she not have her own chambers assigned to her when we arrive at Chanicut? And if she is in his chambers, will you be attending to her needs until she is returned to her own chambers should she have them? Is that even acceptable to be scurrying about between chambers?"

"I do not know," Rory confesses. "This circumstance is… unusual. She will no doubt have a private space of some nature. Lord Kendallarithan has not made his wishes known to me on the matter yet."

"Are you able and willing to discuss this with your Lord and share the results of that conversation with me so that I may prepare Margot for whatever the expectations are once we arrive in Chaos?" she entreats. "For example, she is quite pleased that her beloved has named his chambers and his bed…'theirs'. Without knowing what accommodations are available on the ship, I can only assume that quarters are limited and there will be similar arrangements. I would like to make sure there is a full and complete understanding on the Princess' part that this…honeymoon…for lack of a better word, is short-lived. This is only to prepare her for the loss of companionship rather than have her disappointment be a surprise, acute and painful."

The Chaosian frowns in puzzlement at the unfamiliar word, but the maid appeared not to put much stock in it, so Rory lets it pass for now. "When I know of the arrangements, I will inform you of the particulars," he assents. "For the princess, he may make explanation himself, but I do not know. I suspect he will desire to—"

He breaks off, suddenly realizing he was just about to say something insensitive that might upset his companion.

Once more the teacup is gently placed on the table, Desrianne visibly shaken for a moment before returning to a neutral expression. "Forgive me, Rory. I have overstepped my boundaries, even with those I would consider colleague. Thank you for the tea and your hospitality. You have been most gracious with your time and most generous with your companionship."

She rose, smoothing her gown, and bowed her head to him, attempting to maintain a shred of dignity despite the wound. She had taken a risk, and perhaps that was a mistake. "I appreciate your patience in helping an old woman learn to see through a different lens. As with most things in life, if it were easy to master, it would not be worth achieving." A smile curled her lips, though small, and her eyes mourned that which she failed to acquire: understanding.

"As you wish, Desrianne," Rory replies. He also replaces his cup on the tray, lifting it as he stands. "You are quite welcome. I am sorry that I could not be of more help. Perhaps there is something I can bring you to help you pass the time?"

Desrianne considers what other tasks she can busy herself with to take her mind off of the dangerous liaision her Poppy was engaged in with the Hellmaiden. "The Princess packed in haste. I attempted to round out the wardrobe to the best of my understanding, but an inventory or manifest, or even your eye for detail and any recommendations you may have that may be better alternatives… as we have the time, there is no reason she should not be as prepared as she can be. Of course, there is no way she will be able to emulate Chaosian fashion, though, I'm not certain that is necessary…"

He nods. "Anything that the princess lacks will be provided for her," he says. "From what I could determine from my cursory look while obtaining clothing for her, all her needs should be adequately met for the journey at the least. You did quite well. Should time allow, I would be pleased to help you evaluate what more might be needed in the princess' luggage."

"Thank you for your counsel and your generosity," she returns. "For providing for her needs, I mean. That will ease her mind and you may trust that she will not abuse your generosity. While she does appreciate finery, her mother raised her in a Shadow and with values and virtues that are not…commonly reflected in Amber's nobility," the maid says, delicately dancing around her phrasing.

"Some of which you've observed: Gentleness, thinking of others needs before her own. Her mother gave her a strong respect for what she has rather than longing for what she does not possess… Though, honestly, I am not certain why given the natural order of things." Desrianne let the implication hang in the air.

"My point is, I suppose, that you will not find the Princess making outlandish or frivolous requests," the maid continues. "She will make do with what she has unless what she has is absolutely not functional or acceptable. You may have to insist, in fact, if there are certain things she will require because it is socially preferred. She does not like it, as I suspect you have already noted, when people make a fuss over her; she feels like she's imposing."

The red-haired servant stands holding the tray while Desrianne explains the princess, exuding the air of someone taking mental notes on everything being said for future reference. No doubt he had a vast catalog of information to add this latest to.

A conspiratorial smile curled her lips as she reclaimed her place on the couch. "How do you address her, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Princess Margot, or m'lady appear to be acceptable," he replies to the last question, a little bemused by the woman's apparent lightning changes in mood. "If there is something more appropriate, please let me know and I will convey it to the other staff."

"No, no, not for the other staff. For you, Rory. As I suspect you will become a regular and intimate part of her life." Lips pressed thin and eyes narrowed as she judged carefully. "Do not be surprised if, in private and when your Lord is not around to bear witness, the Princess will insist… command… that you drop her title when you engage her. She does not care for it, in truth, and she wants that sense of kinship with those she trusts and intimates with. Titles do not allow for that. It is my gift to you… a promise of what is to come."

Again the wide eyes — part surprise, part consternation. "Thank you, Desrianne, for informing me of this so that I may be prepared," he replies after some hesitation. "But such a thing would not be proper, you understand. M'lord would not stand for it."

"Which is why she would not insist while your Lord was present. But if there is a cultural issue, you may have to explain it to her gently… and I am willing to help bridge that gap when the time comes." She was particular to say 'when' and not 'if'.

"In Shadow, she was my Poppy; and I was her Caresse. We returned to Amber and I was all but beaten within an inch of my life by referring to her as Princess. We came to a compromise. In public, she is Princess, in private, she is Margot or Poppy, as she was in Shadow." Desrianne smiled warmly. "Her intent would not be to cause your lord ire or create stress for you, Rory; it is to create a nest of trust, security and comfort around her."

Rory nods, filing more information away against future need. "Many thanks again," he replies. "The issue will be addressed in due time. If there is anything else that the princess would desire that I may provide, please do tell me." There is a slight, probably unintended emphasis on the 'do' in that sentence, gratitude to the maid for giving him warning of potentially awkward upcoming conversations with the princess.

"Of course," she nodded in return. Turning away, she couldn't help but begin to pace, her mind wandering once more now that she was not distracted by conversation. "What sort of reception do you anticipate upon the Ambassador's and Lord's return?" she asked glancing over her shoulder as she began wandering once more, looking for something to adjust, clean, or fluff.

"Too many factors impact that, so I cannot predict it," he says apologetically. "I suspect it has to do with their success with m'lord Duke's objectives in having them come here, which I am not privy to."

"Oh," it was Desrianne's turn to appear nonplussed. "I was merely curious if there would be any form of fanfare or formal ball. I would think there would be reason to celebrate the safe return of family and loyal servants of the House."

"Ah," he says. "I misunderstood your question. No doubt there will be an event, of considerable pomp if Lady Diona is involved in its preparation."

"Why is that?" she asked curious. "Is the Lady Diona known for her gala events?" A slight fret creased the matron's brow, worrying whether there was something appropriate packed for such an event.

Rory pauses, searching for the right words. "Lady Diona favors the younger of her brothers," he says at last. "She will be pleased to have him returned to Chanicut."

"I believe you mentioned that…" Desrianne stated slowly. "I guess I am merely concerned that the Princess will not be appropriately attired if the Lady is a fan of grand balls. It would be a terrible misstep for the representative of Amber's crown to show up appearing like some … country bumpkin." a small smile formed on aged lips, "I understand that is already the perception that is held of Amber; she need not have to deal with snickers behind hands because she is ill prepared to otherwise dispel these beliefs."

"I assure you, Desrianne, that Lord Kendallarithan will ensure the princess is attired properly for any event," comes the confident reply. His Lord had an image to maintain, after all.

"Speaking of which," her head canted slightly. "May I ask you a question of curiosity that is truly not meant to offend but has been tickling at the back of my brain since I arrived to these chambers?"

"You may ask anything you would like to know," Rory answers, patience personified. The unspoken part of his answer being, of course, that he may not be at liberty to answer. But Desrianne knew that, especially now.

"Surely you noticed what a handsome couple they made as they left; Lord Kendallarithan and Princess Margot," she begins. "I realize there was no way of knowing this meeting was taking place with the Lady Dara; however, should they have needed to travel beyond the comforts of Vigil, surely your Lord would have donned one of his many luxurious robes; proudly representing his noble House."

She paused. "Was there any conscious consideration given to which dress you laid out for Margot and how it would … harmonize with what the Lord would wear?" There was no malice in her expression or in her tone, just a keen interest in trying to garner some form of appreciation for his thought processes.

"Ah, I see," he says. He smiles a little self-consciously, looking down at the tray. "M'lord enjoys blue, but has indicated a preference for red on the princess. However, I didn't want to disturb your fine packing more than necessary, and so not easily finding anything in either hue, I opted for green as an acceptable substitute given the circumstances."

A reassuring smile warmed her expression. "There is nothing to concern yourself with," she insisted. "That particular gown happens to be one of the more formal ones her mother had made for when she is to attend Court. So, it is accurate as it bears the colors of the Crown; just on his arm… forgive me, but they look like a matched set and I did not know if that was intended or an awkward incident that should have been corrected before they left to meet the Lady Dara. Please, at least concede they looked charming… I will swear on my life not a soul will know… not even Margot."

Eyes rise back up to meet the matron's, a fierce pride evident within. "Yes, they looked stunning," he agrees. "Nothing less would be acceptable."

His pride is met with her own swell of similar pride. "Then we agree on that as well. Which leads down a slippery path that requires your deft navigation. How much harmony should be coincidence versus strategically planned?" She didn't want to use words like coordination, or complement, though it was implied as today was now the example.

That merits some thought, and the Chaosian opts to return to the couch as well. He sits with the tray balanced on his knees. "Anything which both will attend together would warrant some coordination," he says at last. "Though… there are times I am incorrect as to what m'lord wishes."

His answer seemed to both please and perplex her. "Forgive my ignorance… but would that not indicate or infer a more intimate and personal relationship? Not that I am complaining, on the contrary, I am rather relieved if this is the case… I just want to make sure that this is the intended message. I am not questioning your Master's motives or desires, just trying to understand how Chaosians would perceive Amber's Princess on the arm of the Duke's son and dressed in harmony. Here, I would know how that would be interpreted and I would know how to advise the Princess accordingly. But, as you are well aware, I am out of my depths in your realm."

Given his position, Rory has amassed a vast store of knowledge about etiquette and protocol within both Chanicut and the Royal Court of Chaos. And so, with great patience and detail, he answers all of Desrianne's questions to whatever degree she wishes. He clearly establishes that some of his explanations are mere conjecture, in terms of Margot and Kendall specifically, because his Lord hasn't made his wishes on the matter known and Margot's status is unique in Rory's experience. But he can supply more general guidelines.

Indeed, Desrianne soon realizes that they likely could sit and discuss all the minute details for days, given the size and complexity of the circumstances involved. For as she quickly discerns, Amber itself is quite tiny in comparison to Chaos. The entirety of the castle may be essentially the size of a small manor that someone like Kendall could have for his own personal use. The whole of Amber's lands would only compare to a small portion of Chanicut's holdings in the Black Zone shadows that lay near Thelbane. And Chanicut is but one House in Chaos.

It was impossible to not be awed by the sheer size of Chaos. She was feeling the weight of the daunting task to educate Margot on all the nuances in the minuscule amount of time allotted, the displeasure plain on her face. It seemed that no matter what she did to prepare her Poppy, she would be at a disadvantage.

At a break in the questions and answers, Desrianne glanced to the door. "How long do you think this … engagement … will last? With the Lady Dara?"

The servant's hands resting on the edges of the tray grip a little tighter as he considers that he was here while his Lord was elsewhere, perhaps needing his expertise. But— Siorys was there. He relaxes again, reminding himself of his duty to the princess' maid as directed to him a short while ago.

"Time does not regulate engagements between Lords and Ladies of Chaos," he remarks, which could be a fancy way of saying he didn't know. Or maybe the question was irrelevant in his eyes.

"Yes, well… of course," Desrianne replied awkwardly, noting his body language. Clearing her throat, she stood, smoothing her dress. "It seems that I have disrupted your routine long enough, Rory. If there is nothing that I am able to do to assist you, I will inventory the Princess' belongings and then stay out of the way until I am called upon to assist you or your staff."

Her smile returned to its grand-matronly warmth and kindness, "Thank you for your gift of time. It is one that I will treasure… a peaceful temperament and soothing patience is a rare gift not appreciated and rarely acknowledged. Your mastery of both is astonishing," she bowed her head to him in respect.

Rory also stands and bows a little in acknowledgement. "It has been no burden," he replies. "I will be nearby at all times in the event that you need assistance."

With that, he escorts Desrianne to where the princess' luggage is currently being kept in an unoccupied room of the tower. There is a fair bit of other luggage also stacked here, as well as a Chanicut guardsman outside the door. He goes to the door after showing her the princess' trunks, but pauses while the maid opens the first. He has to decide what to say, if anything.

"If what you seek from Lord Kendallarithan is lechery and debauchery, that is all he will permit you to see." When at last he volunteers this tidbit, his soft voice is assured. "He will see your hostility and protectiveness as an amusement to pique at his pleasure or a nuisance to be rid of, but not something to assuage."

Her expression turned thoughtful, contemplating the wisdom bestowed. "I will endeavor to discover his noble, honorable, and generous qualities. After years of service, it is most certain that your presence has had a positive influence." The compliment was genuine and well meant.

"Tisn't for me to influence m'lord in any fashion," he replies, giving her a quizzical look. It was rather bizarre to think otherwise. "Is that your aim? To gain influence through your position with the princess?" The question is asked with all apparent seriousness, without condescension, suspicion, or sneering.

"You miss my meaning, for that I apologize," she smiles a bit embarrassed, "I was merely stating that you have displayed these qualities and that in your servitude you must have modeled these with such ease and sincerity. Not only in patterning such qualities, but also, and perhaps more importantly, you have given me a grand pool to seek reflection within."

Her expression was a blend of sadness and heartache, "No, Rory, I do not wish to gain influence. Not as I think you are envisioning. As I told you earlier, I gave my life to serve. My reasons were very personal, very private. And in doing so, I have sacrificed much; but raising Margot as my own has been the greatest reward making all those missed opportunities worth while. I only wish to offer her the same love, support and protection as a mother or guardian would. It is my hope to provide education and understanding so that she has all the information she requires to make informed decisions. Nothing more. I only want what is best for the Princess, Rory. Nothing more. On my life."

"As you will," he says, seemingly not at all concerned either way. It was a common enough tactic to take, attaching one's self to a promising individual or situation, in hopes of enjoying some measure of success in their wake. There was, to his mind, no particular question of morality or ethics involved. Her stated motivations made sense, in their own way that seemed peculiarly Amberite. "I will leave you to your activities here then."

"I look forward to seeing you again. Our time together has been most enjoyable for me. I have learned a great deal. Please do not hesitate to summon me to assist in your preparations."

Part 2: Uncomfortable Suppositions

Occurs during Dancing in the Dust Motes

Desrianne was left to her thoughts, something that she was not certain she was grateful for. Her mind spun circles with the wisdom that Rory had blessed her with. Oh, how it vexed her so… that the Lordling would even consider molesting her Poppy in the maid's presence for the perverse pleasure of watching her mood darken, both knowing she could do little about his taunts given the difference in station.

THIS realization only irritated her more, because she knew to the very essence of her being that he was well aware of the bond she and Margot shared. Her pride rivaled any Lord's and her protectiveness of her Poppy knew no bounds!

Which led her down the unfortunate garden path to a dark place. Darker than any she would ever care to tread. If she loved her Poppy as she said she did, then how much was she willing to sacrifice for her? Further, given the conviction of which Rory spoke of his Master's affections, however guarded, and her Poppy's fierce defense of him… and the tenderness she witnessed when she arrived last night with her disquieted Poppy cradled in his arms…

Could it be that her assumptions, her expectations… her image of the Lordling was skewed with her hatred of Chaos? How could that be? He had slain one of the Queen's Guard, one he had planted his seed in! Surely that was done to guarantee no Amberite would bear his child. Wasn't it?

Could there be more to him than cold calculations and manipulations, attempting to pull strings and maneuver her Poppy; playing Puppetmaster to a child who didn't know enough not to trust? Did he, as her Poppy said, truly see her beyond the crown? Was it possible the young, trusting ingenue was correct and the crone needed to open her eyes and heart to the world around her, to remember what it meant to connect and feel and trust once more?

Oh, these thoughts did nothing but add confusion and frustration to her current state. A nice glass of Burgundy, maybe two, would help clear her thoughts. She turns her attention back to the trunks. Many of Margot's things had been reorganized and inventoried; by both color and level of formality and fancy. While this made the most logical sense, she clucked her tongue at herself as she began closing the lids, her thoughts going to how much easier this will make life for Rory.

Perhaps she should label which colors are in which trunk… Damn it all! That was nonsense and going too far! Sighing, Desrianne wondered how often her Poppy would truly require the bedclothes she had packed.

"Oh, Poppy, why did you have to grow up so fast…" Grey eyes blurred as she closed the last of the trunks.

The maid moved on to her own trunks, not nearly as numerous as her Mistress', looking through her items to make sure she had everything she would require. After that, she would review what was packed for toiletries. It would be some time before the princess would return and some of her favored scents may be difficult to come by. Honeysuckle and lilac, rose and lavender and jasmine; oils and bars and crystals all carefully wrapped and stowed for the long journey. That reminded her the Princess may require riding gear… oh, dear, perhaps she should pack both leathers and riding dresses; or maybe consult Rory as to what is most appropriate for a Lady of Court.

Rory, Rory, Rory… She had shared a tremendous amount of information with him. More, in truth, than she should have. He was so careful with his Master's confidence and she did not pay Margot the same kindness. But, desperate times called for desperate measures. They were travelling into uncertain dangers and Desrianne needed someone she could trust. And if not Rory, then who? She and her Poppy would be truly lost…

So the crone waves off her indiscretion as a necessary evil, and something to be done in the best interest of the Princess. After all, that was her ultimate charge, to see to the Princess' well-being no matter what. Thankfully, Margot's story was a sweet tale, innocent in its making, though it exposed her naivety. And it was so important for the Chaosian servant to understand how precious his Master's treasure was. Did the Lordling even appreciate what a beautiful gift he was blessed with when he lay wrapped in her arms? Could he?

This returned her to the interesting conversation with Rory once more, mulling over all the information that was shared, and that which was not disclosed. She admired how little Rory gave despite how frustrating it was for her not to have anything to truly ease her heart and mind regarding the Lordling's motives and true intentions with Margot. Still, the servant insisted that his Master cared for Margot; not once, but twice. He seemed quite sure of his statement, though softly uttered, perhaps in shame for revealing that much.

Rory also spoke of what others found attractive in his master, apparently not able to fathom what her Poppy may find so desirable, so enchanting, that she would follow him to the ends of the Cosmos without a second thought. He is not cruel. He is of a powerful House, son of a Duke who stands fair chance of leading the House at some point in his life. He possesses the favor of two very powerful women within the House, his mother and elder sister.

But… with the exception of how he had treated Margot, which the girl repeatedly declared emphatically had been with respect, kindness and generosity, how much of that would the princess have truly known? The name of the House was meaningless to her, no different than Barimen or Sawall or Hendrake. While she could conclude that he came from a powerful House, she would have nothing to compare that to; no frame of reference.

Equally, his status as son of a Duke would mean nothing with, again, no frame of reference beyond her status as Princess. And while being well connected and possessing the favor of powerful people is vital to those who are politically ambitious, Margot did not know who these women are and even if she did, she was not politically ambitious.

Could that mean…?

"Oh, Hells Firey Bowels, Swallow me Whole!!!" she cursed aloud, irritated even further. "I would have been better off not inquiring about your Master and staying with my own delusions!"

The woman flopped down on a piece of furniture, closing her eyes and massaging her temples. Too much thinking. If all this supposition even held a modicum of truth to it, this could potentially change everything and she didn't want things to change. She didn't want to have cause to tolerate the Lordling. Worse, like him. Or even worst of all, to approve of their…arrangement.

Desrianne's mind drifted to something that Margot had told her on more than one occasion; only now, she wondered how much of it also rang true for the Lordling. He doesn't see the crown; he sees me. Was it possible that he enjoyed the same serenity and lack of pretense when they were together in private? That he truly was … her Kendall?

The crone feels anxiety, apprehension, panic, desperation, and confusion rise up to fill her body with anxious energy. How could this be happening? A singular conversation with his man and her world view shifts? Did he drug her? No, she did not feel out of her senses and he did not seem capable of such devious deeds. No, no, NO! She did not want to have this change of heart; she wanted to be angry at him for taking advantage of her innocence. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks as she realized she could no longer find her way home through the fog.

Part 3: Returning to the Ground

Occurs during Dancing in the Dust Motes

Part 4: That Inconsiderate Lout

Occurs during Rest & Recovery

It's obvious that Desrianne is far from pleased at the arrangement, but again, there was a time and a place, and this seemed like neither. She gives Margot a hug when the young woman steps close to kiss her cheeks, but then releases her and waits until the door shuts after her before navigating along the dim corridor back to where she was housed. She fumes quietly to herself, and wonders if she ought to give her counterpart an update.

Desrianne finds Rory very quickly, almost before she had for sure decided to touch base with him about the state of their two charges, near her tiny closet-cabin. She was given a private cabin only due to her status as a female servant attached to Chanicut (somewhat), whereas the others were all berthed together somewhere else in the bowels of the ship. Caught up in her musings — or fumings, as they might be more accurately characterized — she nearly collides with him in the dimness as she rounds the corner.

"Apologies." Desrianna offers gruffly, eyes cast to a place further than the confines of the ship. Glancing up, she sighs, "Forgive me, Rory." A withered hand going to her forehead. "It… must be the mode of transport that has me forgetting my manners." It was a thinly veiled lie, but what more could she do with the Lordling's man standing right there. Telling him what a despicable south-end of a donkey would serve no one and likely only give her greater headaches than he was worth.

"Desrianne," he greets her with a smile and a small bow. "It's fortuitous to meet you here. I was not sure if you were still attending to your Lady, or if you might share with me an update on the situation." He pauses for a moment's thought, then adds, "It may be more discreet if you would permit me to join you in your cabin?"

"Of course." the matron tries very hard not to focus her ire for the master upon the man. "Please, follow me." She led him through the corridor to the closet she had been assigned as a room. "Please, forgive the stark amenities. Wine?" she asked sliding around the place without much room for Rory. "I'm afraid the bed is the only place to sit. On my honor, I'll do nothing to spoil your sensibilities." There was a hint of sarcasm, her mind going back to the lovers she had just left.

Rory's eyebrows go up upon registering the flat notes of sarcasm and annoyance in the maid's voice, following her into the cabin and closing the door behind him. "Thank you, no," he declines the wine, then crosses the space in a step to sit at the foot of the narrow bed. Given the likelihood that Desrianne had only just come from attending to Margot, it was safe to guess that the woman's ire centered around that in some way, but Rory found himself at a momentary loss for a subtle way to open the conversation. "Is your mistress well?" he attempts.

"She is as to be expected after a traumatic experience," Desrianne responds, taking a long draft from the glass she poured before refilling it and taking to the glass with greater civility. "She seems contented to allow your Master to tend to her needs, leaving me incapable of seeing to her properly. Your Master seems to be …. recovering at a much faster rate than Margot believed possible."

"He has great resiliency," Rory replies. "Tis good to know the princess is well. I gather from m'lord that she was injured in some way during the attack, though he did not give details. She will recover quickly, I'm certain."

"From what I could tell, her hand and arm were slashed," Desrianne confirms. "And already bandaged with silk by the time I was summoned." There is no small amount of wounded feelings in the last statement.

"But at least he has a calming presence for her," she adds. She draws a cleansing breath as if to say why I have no clue. "And our joined forces seem only to upset one or the other."

"Bound with silk?" he questions, then his expression clears as he realizes what she is likely speaking of. "Ah, there must be a supply of luvo spiders on board." Long fingers are woven together on his lap and he sits with that almost unnatural stillness even with the rocking of the ship. It was not so much that he did not move with the ship, as that his movements seemed completely in sync with it.

"M'lord was also gravely injured, as you may already be aware," Rory continues. "I must apologize for putting you into a situation where you were almost guaranteed to gain his ire. I'm afraid I misjudged the circumstances when I suggested you look in on your mistress." He sounds chagrined, realizing he had meant well but as occasionally happened, good intentions had fallen short.

"There was no ire," Desrianne reassures him. "There was nothing save for frigid civility. Your Lord even attempted to abandon the situation, I believe, for Margot's benefit… leaving her to my care But she'd have nothing of it. And so, as her caregiver, I left when it was determined my skills were no longer required."

It was possibly this slight that bothered the matron more than anything else; a feeling of being replaced so soon upon their journey.

Rory blinks at her, looking briefly surprised. There's an uncomfortable pause, or perhaps it was just Rory who was uncomfortable, even though he does not move. "The princess loves him very much," he remarks. "She most likely wishes to remain near him out of worry over his health."

He smiles reminiscently. "It is natural for new lovers to wish to prefer each other's company for a time, and she in particular is still flush with new love. This *is* her first love, is it not? Try not to take her actions as a rejection," he counsels.

"It is," Desrianne confirms, with a hint of defensiveness but not towards her companion. "And I have been …. reassured that your Lord possess affectionate feelings toward her." Too much the pity it is not the same, Desrianne thought soberly. "I appreciate his desire to see to her well-being." Again, she held her tongue, wondering why she could not see sincerity or genuine concern for her Poppy.

"As stated, he tried to leave his quarters…. she asked that he stay. She didn't show any emotion until after he fell asleep and once he woke, she ceased to do so once more." Desrianne also found this disturbing; part of what Margot herself was her emotive, expressive heart.

Desrianne scoffed into her goblet, "Mayhap I'm simply too old to remember…"

There was a pause, the matron's head canting to one side. "I don't want to know what these spiders are, do I?"

"Luvo spiders," the manservant answers first. "They are very good to bind wounds and stop bleeding. To put it simply, the silk was their webs, weaving a bandage within and around the wounds."

He pauses a heartbeat, and then adds, "I'm afraid I can offer very small comfort to you, Desrianne, since I do not know the princess as well as you. Perhaps she wished to protect m'lord from high emotion while he recovers."

For the moment, Desrianne waves it off with a smile. "High emotions? I am rarely accused of such an excitable feat." She regards the manservant for a moment or three. "How severe was the wound your Master took?" she asks in a tone that held an unusual level of concern for the Chaosian Lord.

"I apologize for being unclear. I did not mean your own, but that perhaps the princess wished not to distress m'lord while he was recovering. I did not see his wound until he returned to his cabin, but it appeared to be serious. He explained to me that the ship was attacked by an enchantress of Shadow who had ensnared us with her hair. The captain and crew worked quickly to escape, with m'lord's assistance. I believe the Lady Dara was present and she protected Princess Margot. It was during this that some manner of spear struck him, and he was run through here."

Rory indicates on his own chest and back where he remembered seeing the marks of hastily healed injury on Kendall's torso when the servant had assisted with undressing and washing all the blood away. "Some time and energy will be required to fully heal such a wound, though all should be well within six Turns." He sounds confident, even though he knew there was more to the injury than mere impalement, some complication that seemed to have drained the Chaos Lord more than expected.

"He was run through?" Desrianne asked, shocked. "Oh dear, how dreadful for your Master and for Margot! Did she witness the event? Of course she did; she told me as much…." A pang of guilt touches the matron's heart; so consumed by Margot and the Lordling's "evil'"influence on her that it never occurred to Desrianne that Margot had been trying to tend to Kendall's grave injury.

And that alone, perhaps, could have explained the sudden lack of emotion… that Margot herself did not wish to upset her lover with the nonsense of tears when he faced death. "And he will be alright?"

"Undoubtedly," Rory answers the question with complete certainty. "Once I finished attending to m'lord, I had hoped your presence would assist with soothing the princess. It was my supposition that she is not yet familiar with violent action."

"She certain is not accustomed to such things, I can assure you," Desrianne agrees emphatically. Another sip of wine to calm her nerves. "I appreciate your thoughtfulness for her well-being nonetheless."

He nods. "You're welcome. These sorts of occurrences are not exactly commonplace in the Courts," he says thoughtfully. "But most denizens are familiar with some level of violence and discord from very early in life."

The matron shakes her head. "I'm afraid all Margot was aware of was in her fantasy story books with ghosts and goblins and evil wizards that were doomed to fail because they were not pure of soul."

She pauses to think on that. "Tell me, Rory, are children allowed to be children in the Courts?"

He thinks on her question for a short time. "How would you define a child being a child?" he asks curiously. "I would prefer to discover if our assumptions are similar."

"Opportunities to use their imagination, to play and … run about and laugh and read tales of fantasy and just … find the world wondrous."

"Ah," he nods. "Yes, certainly. The extent to which such period lasts and what limits are placed on it depend greatly on the parents, of course, both their temperament but also their rank."

Desrianne nods; that didn't seem SO dramatically different than Amber or her shadows. "And what sorts of things do children play?" Her mind drifts to Margot and the Lord; predominantly him, wondering how little time he was afforded to simply be a child.

"Oh, the popularity of a particular game will wax and wane," Rory replies. "I remember one from when I was small that is still common, usually called Seek, where the participants search for specific items or people. Tis an identification game. There is Hide, which is most often for small children, for practicing their shifting. Word games assist with learning to speak well, matching games for teaching history and important lessons."

He hadn't had much cause to think on children's games for quite some time, so he thinks again with intent to give as complete an answer as he may. "If the child will be growing into a particular trade or position, there are often games specifically intended to help them learn about important things about them," he adds. "By the time children of rank are introduced to the Children's Court, they are typically beyond such games and their time is devoted to learning their duties and the things attached to them."

Part 3: Hellfire & Damnation

Occurs during Secrets & Confessions

Behind Margot, a loud thunk and a gasp herald's Desrianne's reaction as she turns with dressing gown in hand and realizes what was happening between them. Right then. With both she and Rory still in the room! Eyes wide, she opens her mouth to say…she doesn't know what, but a hand over her mouth interrupts her. She turns her head to find Rory had intercepted her, and then he shuffles her toward the door and out of the cabin with surprising strength and assertiveness. It was all so astounding she barely had a chance to register what was happening before the door rustles shut behind them.

But the world beyond the mattress makes no impression on the lovers. Lips find lips again, speaking of their desires in a language without words. Fingers trace the lines of her ribs, down her spine, around her shoulder blades, enjoying the sculpture of her torso before he pulls her down on the mattress with him.

Beyond the cabin door, another couple moves in a very different dance; far more aggressive and spirited. Desrianne fought and spat, tugging at the hand clamped over her mouth. Only when they were a safe distance away did Rory release her. "AND WHAT WAS THE MEANING OF THAT?!" she bellows, her brassy tone echoing throughout the passage way.

He releases her, but then stands between her and the cabin they had just vacated just in case she would take it into her head to go back. "My apologies, Desrianne," he answers in his soft voice, not rising to meet her volume. "I do not care to take such actions, but it seemed most… prudent. It appeared to me that you were on the verge of… of… interrupting."

It was an awkward ending to the sentence, as befitted the current awkward situation.

"And this is… acceptable?!" she was aghast. It was completely illogical, and on one level, she was very aware of exactly what the two were engaging in behind closed doors. Her Poppy had all but drawn pictures for her. But, to be so… open… and unchaste about the matter! Like rutting wildebeests! That was completely unacceptable by any standard.

"How many times have they performed with an audience?!" she presses on, then throws her hands up over her ears and squeezes her eyes closed. "No, No, NO! I don't want to know…. I'll be sent to my grave, watery as it may be."

Rory relaxes when it becomes clear that Desrianne doesn't intend to attempt to go back to the cabin and barge back in, but he frowns a little with confusion. Taking the older woman by the elbow, he continues to lead her back towards her tiny closet cabin. "Is sexual interplay forbidden or anathema in Amber or your Shadow?" he asks. "I had not gotten that impression before, but your reaction…"

"No, no, of course not!" Desrianne snapped back, dismissing the ridiculousness of it. "However, it is not common for lovers to flaunt their carnal desires like rutting beasts before public eyes!" she frowned. "That's not true either." she sighed heavily, feeling her age. "She is a child and your master is far her senior and I fear she would be far less eager to put on such displays were it not for his influence. And because of her youth and the way love blinds her, she does not realize how such actions cast dispersion's upon her character. And your Master's spell has her so enthralled that no amount of reason seems to find its way to her ears."

She looked up at the Younger man, "She doesn't not appreciate that which she wields and how her desires …" another sigh, "If they do not take care, mock my words, there will be another arriving with this party to Chaos… and an unfortunate surprise for all."

At the door to Desrianne's cabin, Rory opens the portal for the maid and waits for her to precede him through it. Once inside, he closes the door securely before answering. A breath and a forceful exhalation, as though to steel himself.

"Desrianne, please understand, I stepped in as a courtesy to you as much as to m'lord. Believe me when I tell you his patience is limited, and the margin for error in this particular circumstance is nonexistent. The only people who may dictate with whom m'lord is allowed to fornicate is his father the Duke, his mother the Duchess Grania, and his elder brother, m'lord Cedric. Additionally, m'lady Diona, his sister, has been known to advise, and her advice is often heeded, but under no circumstances would a servant make comment on the sexual activities of the son of the Duke."

"I understand that you are protective of the princess, and do not approve of her choice of Lord Kendallarithan for lover," he goes on quickly before she can interject anything. "Given your special relationship with her, it is entirely possible you will continue to counsel her when the two are engaged in separate activities, and your concern is understandable and possibly valid. But in situations such as this, you must learn to hold your tongue. M'lord will do as he wills in the privacy of his personal cabin, and it is my duty to see to his comfort. As their closest personal attendants, we are not 'public' eyes. If the princess is willing — and he would not bed her if she were not — I cannot permit you to interfere or interrupt. Such an intervention is inappropriate, and would end… badly."

Desrianne sinks into the nearest place to rest. "I do not counsel her against having your Lord as a lover," she confessed. "I do not _understand_ what she sees, nor do I find the merits that earn him her unwavering loyalty to her dying breath. I worry that a young child has been thrust into a game of thrones and swords with no education and that …" she glanced up at Rory, "Forgive me, for you have not given me the same concerns, but that your Lord would see to her ruin as easily as he would see to the end of a meal."

Her fingers wrung together, "I know the love she has for him." her eyes lose their focus. "It is a blinding love, both empowering and debilitating. And you are correct, Rory, I do worry for her. I worry that she will give all of herself to your Lord and he will not appreciate the treasure that he is receiving… and that to him, she is just another to lover to take for pleasure or pass the time or to abide his boredom. You are fortunate to not have to provide her with comfort or wipe her tears when her heart is broken."

She looks beseechingly up at Rory. "What will happen if we arrive in Chaos and the Princess is with child?"

Rory clasps his hands in front of his waist once more. "I cannot say; there are too many variables. Any child of m'lord would have claim to a place in Chanicut, if that were amenable to all involved. But both the princess and m'lord are taking precautions, Desrianne. He has no more desire to impregnate her than she wishes currently for a child."

The maid gives him a dubious look, but says nothing. She was not convinced. Young love was such a dangerous thing; and as events proved earlier, the Princess was ill-equipped and lacked the appreciation of all that she commanded.

Instead, she attempted to answer a question from earlier. "Amberites are more than open with their affections and desires and passions. It has been my experience - my very many years of experience in the castle - that most dalliances are not put on for public display, including the staff. That isn't to say that I've not observed nobility wander their private chambers in nothing but what they came into the world with, nor that I have not seen the afterglow and tender caresses of lovers barely awake after a night of passion."

Desrianne became rigid, "But those were the Princes and their lovers. Or visiting Nobility. To see the Princess behave in such a manner…" a hand came to her lips, "It is as if I am watching my own child performing for coin rather than love. Begging for attention that is not returned. I see many, many paths… and so few are resolved with her happiness. And that, dear Rory, is a path I too, I've walked and know what awaits."

"We have spoken of this, Desrianne. I know tis difficult, but you cannot shield her from life experiences, no matter how painful they may prove to be. The only way to love is to risk," Rory says gently.

At some point, her gaze returns to the present, "I know we discussed that you do not have children, but that you and your mate wish to have children some day. We also discussed that you have been in your lord's service for many, many years. Do you share any sort of … bond or connection … where you see him as a part of you and your life? Family? Do you want what is best for him?" She knew they were simple questions and even in their simplicity, the notions were too foreign for Rory to answer. And yet, she knew no other way to convey the way her heart ached when she should have been overjoyed to see how intimate and affectionate the Lord was. He did save her life. Why she could not move past seeing a manipulative monster when his Man was obviously so kind.

"M'lord does not encourage such familiarity," Rory admits. "I began my service with him when he was already eight Cycles of age; already quite beyond need of additional parenting. He has, on occasion, asked my opinion on matters that are troubling or confounding him, and he has, on occasion, been willing to speak for me. But in terms of… bonding…? I have not previously given it any thought."

He pauses then, obviously turning the idea over in his mind, trying it on for size.

"Yes, yes, I know we've discussed it; but there is a difference between speaking of something and witnessing something first hand." She dismissed. Desrianne thought for a moment, "Do you love your Lord? Not in some sort of honor-bound fielty sort of way; but as a member of your 'family'?"

"Yes," comes the quiet answer. "He is not my brother, or son, or father, but in a sense, all of those in a House are family. He is my cousin, and I do feel… affection for him."

Rory's expression turns reminiscent, suddenly thinking back to the early days with the young, surprisingly inquisitive, occasionally impetuous, and decidedly imperious lord. "He has always been quite lonely," he remarks.

The words slip Desrianne's lips so softly, that she isn't certain they are more than a thought, "Then there is something that the Lord has in common with the Princess after all…"

He nods. "Tis one price paid by those with the privilege of rank."

A momentary pause, and then he adds, "I am sorry I cannot be of more assistance, Desrianne. Have you not asked the princess why she feels so strongly for m'lord? I can only tell you that he does appear, to me, to feel genuine affection for her. How far that affection will take them, or if it will last or grow into something more, is a question that only Time can answer. But your other questions may be addressed by the princess more immediately."

"Do you recall the vigor of youth, Rory? How passionate you once were and so full of fight and conviction? All youth are, to some degree." Desrianne chuckles softly to herself, sharing in some private joke.

"I know exactly how the Princess feels… and I have little doubt you do as well. She loves him with all of her being. Mind, body, and soul. She will do whatever necessary to prove her loyalty and honor her vow. She knows he cares for her, though she will not name the level of affection; but she is content knowing that what he does feel, according to him, is genuine. She wants to make him proud and do his House justice. She longs to be everything he requires, dreams, desires."

She pauses, making a helpless gesture with one hand. "She is in love, Rory. Nothing more and nothing less."

"And do you trust her?" he asks curiously.

"I trust her heart to choose the right thing. She is a good person. A compassionate, loving person filled with conviction and a desire to see wrongs righted."

There was silence, "We both know that first loves do not always become life-long loves. I fear she is swept up in a notion that she may still have this, in some capacity. She is so radiant in his presence." She confided in Rory. "It troubles me to know that such a glow will not last. She deserves such happiness. And if you would forgive my saying, your Lord seems … peaceful and contented when they are united. I would hate to see that lost as well."

"I have told you that Lord Kendallarithan is not cruel, Desrianne, except to those who have wronged him," Rory says after some thought, returning to something that Desrianne had said earlier. "While he may not have the same depth of feeling for the princess as she does for him, he would not purposely seek to ruin her. And though one love may not be life-lasting, after the pain, there can be other loves."

"It is true, I do not care for your Lord; but I am not so blind by prejudice, Rory." She admits with a small smile, eyes glossy with watery weariness. "I feel my age when I see them together… and all that has been lost. I know that actions are taken at times to raise a response out of me; I also know that I do my part by keeping his Lordship guessing as to whether or when such taunts and barbs will earn the desired affect."

"I know I do not hold my tongue when I should, nor do my eyes offer the level of respect that I should. But, I cannot help it… love and protective instinct seem to command my every move." Desrianne sighed, "I fear I am out of my depth and should have refused the Princess her request to join her and now I will fail us both." Her eyes had long stopped meeting his, staring out to someplace beyond the walls of their room and far away where she knew her Poppy loved freely and wholly.

"I see evil in your Lord because it makes it easier to hate him. It makes it easier to be strong for the Princess. I see a man who is manipulating her and using her as one would use a kerchief because, if I do so, then I do not have to acknowledge how tender he is with her. Or how his expression softens and the tension melts when she appears and he believes no one is around to notice. I can pretend that his acts are wholly self-serving…" she shook her head, "But on more than one occasion now, I have watched your Lord personally stain his hands with her blood when she was ill and not let any care for the Princess save for himself. I have watched him sit at her side with worry creasing his brow. I have seen relief flicker in his eyes and smile, if only for a heartbeat before anyone can notice, when he finds her safe and well."

Her hands caught her face, "I am beyond confused. I am lost when I was sent with the purpose to be the light and I no longer know what it is I am to do."

Rory moves over so he can pat the woman comfortingly on the shoulder. "What options do you see for yourself?" he asks after a time. "I ask only because you may see things differently than me, including what paths are before you."

He sits down on the pallet as well, folding his hands in his lap and waiting for her to regain her composure.

"I serve the Princess." She answers simply. "I gave my word I would not abandon her in Chaos, and I shan't. But I fear the young have a far easier time accepting change and evolving than those how have seen too many cycles and have become much like the landscape; rigid and off in the horizon."

"The Princess has right to be here; she may even come to belong in Chaos and truly call it home." There was no small amount of loneliness weighing heavily in her statement. It was true, both knew, the Princess would have little to do with the relic, save for a reminder of her childhood; and while Desrianne needed the Princess, she was starting to wonder how long the reverse would remain true.

"Duty can often weigh heavily," Rory agrees, sober and sympathetic. He, who had not been asked whether he would be willing to go to Amber, but merely expected to fulfill his duty to his Master, no matter where that might take him.

"It can and does." she paused, "At times." she added with a smile. "It is of little matter, isn't?" She sighed, "Your Lord detests me and there is little I can do about that and sooner or later my Poppy will cease to have use for me." It was a hollow feeling, to not be needed or wanted. Desired, well, she had not been longed for romantically for so many years, she was fairly certain she wouldn't recognize interest if it bit her upon the nose. "He makes her happy." She added softly, trying to remember what that felt like a million life times ago.

"And she trusts him more than her own blood. While I am sure you are aware, she took a great deal of punishment in Amber because of your Lord… her aunts and uncles too busy in their own little preoccupations to answer her questions. When no one else would speak plainly to her, for good or ill, your Lord did. She paid for it; and the price extorted was not cheap by any means. Perhaps that is the damnedable thing of all of this; the Princess fell in love with the man, not the Lord… the Lord just happens to be a singular aspect of the whole."

The red-haired servant contemplates the maid's words. "I am not aware of what punishments she may have endured already for her choice," he admits after a time. "Were you able to help her with those? I suspect you will always have place with the princess, and she will have need of you for some time to come. When we arrive in Chaos, it is unlikely she and m'lord will be spending every waking moment together. He will have duties and pursuits to attend to, and she will have her own affairs as well."

Desrianne regarded the man at her side for the moment. "Are members of your lot … rather stoic? I dare not say emotionless, but you do not seem moved to a reponse beyond logic in one swing of the pendulum or the other. It is not a stain upon your person, Rory, I just am… perplexed. Could you help me understand?"

He smiles at the woman's words. "One of the desirable characteristics of a person in my position is stoicism," he admits. "Some might even call it fatalism. While there are many things that I cannot influence, I will always have a place in my House. That is often a comfort and a pillar of support in trying times."

"Yes, I can appreciate how that would ease one's soul when the question of the unknown meets one with blade drawn and teeth bared." She too smiled, "Forgive my gallows humor. I feel adrift and alone and we have not yet stepped foot upon your lands. I was supposed to be the rock for the Princess and yet she turns to you and your Lord for guidance and comfort; leaving me to needle-point." Desrianne stared at Rory, "You have no idea how much I loathe needle-pointing. It is wasted on the infirmed and the incompetent," she scowled, then fretted, then simply sighed.

"It will not always be thus, though," Rory points out. "The princess is flush with new love." He smiles reminiscently.

"Ah, yes. Something you will soon be returning home to." Desrianne recalled.

"Somewhat," he agrees. "Though we have not been flush with new love for many Cycles, I will be quite happy to be in my love's presence once more. But we have long been in the comfortable phase of a relationship. Forgive me for being forward, but the princess is experiencing many new things emotionally and physically. I believe you sell both she and yourself short when you say she will soon have no use for you." He still speaks softly, his tone almost gentle in its earnestness.

"She is far more adaptive; and is flush with love and has committed herself to your Lord and his causes til the end." She chuckled, "I feel my age around them," she confesses.

"Yes," Rory agrees. The maid had expressed that in some form several times, but Rory wasn't sure how to address that problem. "Either way, your duty still lies with the princess, so the choice to me seems clear. You would continue your journey to Chaos to see this through, or ask the princess for her leave to return to Amber. She also has a duty to you, to ensure you have a place and that your needs are met insofar as she is able."

Immediately after this assessment, the manservant's expression changes, as though reacting to something that Desrianne can neither see or hear. He nods and stands. "Forgive me, Desrianne, but m'lord has summoned me. It is possible the princess may also desire your presence. Will you accompany me back to the cabin?"

"Of course, Rory." She rose, then hesitated. "They will have… " she coughed, "Concluded…?"

Rory's smile is sympathetic. "Without a doubt. We are not required to serve as audience or witness, Desrianne. In the case such as what happened earlier, m'lord has made it clear that I am permitted to leave even if he has not expressly dismissed me. There are few duties that cannot be postponed."

He gestures to the woman to precede him through the portal and back down the passage to the cabin, at her own speed.

Desrianne smiled, a blush coming to the woman's cheeks that hadn't been rosy in several cycles; likely both out of relief and her naivety. She stepped through the threshold and walked at Rory's side, with much to contemplate and more to consider in how she formed her perspective.

Part 5: Pain & Lamentations

Occurs during Dressing Up for Dinner

Rory feels something perilously close to gratitude for the excuse to depart from the cabin containing far too much tension. In the narrow and dim passage, he turns in the direction of the tiny closet that had been set aside for Desrianne's use.

Wails, something foreign and not quite human, squeal from the other side of the woven door. Oh, the poor elderly woman; how could she have endured centuries of Amberite Royals to be reduced to nothingness by the grotesque sight of that THING her Poppy was so enamored with. Flashes of hot and cold sweep through her body as her color transitions from green to grey to red and back again. Frantically, and futilely, she searches for a tincture or tonic that would take away the pain… or at the very least make her forget.

The servant hesitates, struck unexpectedly immobile by the sounds from the other side of the door, but then he remembers his duty. The princess had asked him to check on the maid, and so he…. he would. He knocks against the door frame. "Desrianne?" he questions. "Can I aid you?"

Silence. The room is suddenly quiet. "Of course, Rory, do come in."

The portal opens, and Rory peers in, not sure what to expect, given the sounds from before. Blood on the walls? Gnawing insects? Dead babies? Though the last option seemed unlikely because, where would the babies have come from?

"The Princess Margot asked me to see to your welfare," he says. "You appeared to be ill when you left the cabin…"

She slumps on the bed. "I was…overwhelmed and ill." She looks at Rory for a long moment. "Do all of you do THAT?"

Rory looks positively confused. "Do what?" he asks, automatically. Then his intuition kicks in and he adds, "Shift?"

"I suppose that is an apt description for that ghastly action. First it was the Lady Dara and her hands that turned her into a half-dozen seamstresses to tailor one of the Princess's gowns. NO! To completely redesign and create a new gown while the Princess wore it, sewing it to her form. Then she did something else and with tentacles wove the Princess's hair into an intricate plait. And then that talking, hairy, life-sized caterpillar turned out to be your Lord…! It was just too much!" A lace kerchief pats her face.

A pause as Rory tries to decide what to even say. "Some have greater facility than others," he says eventually, his voice a study in calm. "But most Chaosians have the ability."

Desrianne sits quite still with tension rolling off her in waves. "I suppose this is a … feat that you are also accomplished in?"

"Perhaps I should fetch a calming draught for you," he offers. "Some tea?"

She scowls at him suspiciously. "That didn't answer my question," she observes. "But yes, tea would be most desirable at this point in time." She needed to keep her wits about her with intrigues and plots hanging about her innocent Poppy's shoulders.

The redhead purses his lips. "Does the answer to your question matter so much?" he asks.

"Oh! Hell's Bells and Toad's Feathers!" she curses. "While it may be perfectly natural for you to see someone slithering around without advanced notice, that is not something I would consider noble or, or civilized behavior!"

She gasps and presses her hand to her forehead as if she might faint at any moment. "What exactly will we be expected to observe once we reach your homeland's shores?"

"The Courts of Chaos have a long and esteemed history that predates the existence of Amber," Rory points out, his calm voice sounding stiff as he stands even straighter. Proud. "From our perspective, Amber falls far short of any real concept of advancement. You will see the denizens of the Multiverse's oldest civilization, a civilization that has endured for unnumbered Cycles, live and breathe as we have since the birth of Time."

At least Desrianne had the grace to look apologetic for her loose tongue. "I… I am sorry, Rory," she manages to muster an apology. She sighs in defeat. "There is only so much I can take in one day, I'm afraid. And we exceeded it before the morning tea."

Rory brings a smile to his face, relaxing his pose from stiff formality. "I shall fetch you a soothing drink," he says. "Then we may speak more on this if you wish. Or, you may wish rest."

He bows without waiting for a response and disappears through the portal.

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