Shadows and Possibilities

Kendall leads Margo to a small gazebo situated at a vantage point among the cultivated beds of flora that affords clear view of the beauty surrounding it. Margot's eyes travel the expanse with nary a smile or question gracing her lips. Impossible as it may have seemed, Margot remains serene and watchful. Observant.

At odds with the dark environment of the tunnel, the garden is a riot of color and growth populated by an array of small creatures that feast on the foliage and each other. They send up their individual clicks and calls to echo over the black waters and against the arched tunnel above. Glowing orbs circle the island and dance above the gazebo where they sat, throwing a gentle, silvery light over the plants and glimmering on glasslike ceiling.

"This is breathtaking," she says softly once they are seated together on benches made of twisted vines. "It reminds me of our first encounter. In the gardens."

He looks around at the garden as well, though he hardly sees it. "Our first encounter was in the Hall of Mirrors," he murmurs absently.

"Yes." Fondness brightens her eyes. "Beautiful, tragic, conflicted… Knowledge, growth, affection… And an insurmountable number of decisions based on instinct, the heart, and loyalty."

She could easily be talking about both of them, with the same labels and completely different meanings for each. Her fingers entwine his, much like the canopy of green surrounding them. She spoke with a soothing softness while her eyes remained fixed elsewhere, uncertain who might be watching and how open she should be. But, Kendall did not need to see her expression to know the strength of will and clenching grasp of emotion upon her heart.

Ghostly images appear as they move towards the center of the tunnel. They are faint at first, only visible from the corner of the eye. But if she turns her head quickly enough, she can catch hold of a vision and hold it fast, bringing depth and color to the places and people.

In a small clearing near their seat, she sees herself gowned in white with joy in her eyes, dancing at a ball in the arms of a blonde man who holds her close, whispering words of love and devotion into her ear. Resting on a thick bed of gold blooms, Cedric's body is cleansed and dressed by weeping women in preparation for upcoming funeral rites. A laughing toddler races along a twisted path amongst thorny bushes, pursued and then caught by a dark-haired man who swings her into his arms and kisses her chubby cheek.

"I regret nothing save for being a contributing factor in all of this," Margot says into the heavy silence. "He surprised Rory and me and insisted upon an escort. With every card he played to pull at my heartstrings, I had another to show empathy, but that he would not win my heart or loyalties from you. You were correct, he is handsome, but there are so many more things about you that … it was a fool's errand for him to even think he had a chance after the first polite rebuke."

"I'm sorry," she says, her voice becoming mournful. She shakes her head. "He was looking for a fight, a way to torment you. I just wanted to keep you from mortal injury… both of you, despite how monstrously he treated me. But as the Cat and everyone else keeps pointing out, I'm Houseless and have no rights, regardless of being your guest. I'm just so… sorry."

The confession is a quiet secret shared between lovers, for no other to hear. He could hear tears in her voice that would not fall. Not now, not when spies lurked everywhere.

It is hard for her to tell how closely he's listening to her words. His expression remains distant and preoccupied, but her hand still rests in his. His thumb strokes the back of hers with small, slow movements back and forth. His gaze rests on a vision of himself bowing before his mother.

"It is not a matter of having no rights, exactly, but one must always tread cautiously," Kendall answers after a time. "But it is of no account, Margot. Your actions are not at issue here, and they are unlikely to be at issue unless you draw attention to yourself. My actions are my own, no matter the motives or instigation."

"I understand, but if I am asked, I will answer," she counters softly, letting the images play by like the moving pictures she had seen trapped in the tapestry and frames earlier as they walked down the halls. "Will you tell me what your motives were?"

Kendall looks away from the vision of his mother as she slaps him soundly on the cheek, turning instead to Margot. "Yet the thought now occurs to me that your actions may come under scrutiny," he says, continuing his own line of thought as though he hadn't heard her.

He pauses for six heartbeats, studying her face as he tries to frame his next words. There weren't too many alternatives, from what he could see right then, but his tone when he continues is soft and cautious as he attempts to state something clearly and simply without being harsh. "It is likely you will need to explain your use of magick to gain entry to the manor in Silver, since that has complicated matters significantly."

"Of course. I will listen to what is asked and answer with the information requested," she agrees. She, too, keeps her voice gentle, but her motive is far from caution. Her hand moves to their clasped hands to stroke his. "I should have not asked what drew blades out. That is none of my business, no matter how much I worry for you and was driven to reach you. I apologize for asking."

He is quiet for a while, his heart beating 25 times in his chest as he ponders her words while still watching her face. "Thank you," he says at last. "The words to explain… do not exist."

"They do not need to," she returns with compassionate eyes. "It is the way of … of this." She squeezes their hands.

Visions dance around them as the island continues its stately progress through the dark water, seeming to borrow the light of the floating globes to make the garden glow from within. To one side, an exhausted Margot lies abed with a luminous smile on her face. She holds a newly born babe in her arms while Kendall looks on from a chair nearby. On the other side, they dance about each other in a deadly serious duel with wounds streaming blood.

Margot tries to not be distracted by the phantoms flanking their otherwise beautiful journey. Never had she seen such an enchanting place. She recalls the grotto in the garden in Amber and how foolish she must have appeared to him, utterly thrilled by the hidden waterfall and pool. Instinctively, she slips closer to Kendall, finding the images more disturbing than her composure could fight off alone.

"These are merely visions of possibilities and potentialities," Kendall exaplains, on some level noting and responding to evidence of her dismay. Time enjoys playing in places such as this; places of axis, where decisions and consequences hang suspended by threads. It is where one can see both the future and sometimes the past, in pieces."

He indicates the fading vision of Margot standing atop a windblown cliff. "You, and perhaps your future. Or possibly a past that will never be. But I feel as though this future is closer than the others." He watches mourners take their places as the banners unfurl to begin a grand procession.

"But as you say, it is only one of many possibilities," Margot suggests, attempting to reassure. "Would House Chanicut allow an outsider to assist in… in seeing that this future is less likely to become true?"

He breathes deep, weighing the question. "I presume you mean yourself," he says, looking at her once again.

"That was my first thought, yes. Perhaps it would heal other wounds that were not delivered by blade." Solemnity had stolen her bright light and easy smile since the moment she breached protocols to try to save her lover. She knows she would sacrifice herself and her life's energy to see brother restored if that would help the man next to her.

"Anything is possible," is his answer. "But you do realize that if any means were known that would return life to my brother or myself, steps would have already been taken."

"I know," she whispers, her eyes going to their hands as she swallows the hard pill of reality. "But, I'm not just any means. And if he lay dying with only a day estimated for his survival, isn't it worth the risk?"

"The answer to any question depends on the person," Kendall comments. "I cannot say what my father would answer to this, whether all means are truly justifiable. But I am curious what you see yourself bringing to the question that is unique."

"Will. Skill. And Power," she answers with soft conviction. "At this moment, Chanicut does not have in its possession anything exactly like me. I have healed before. The more I touch that which is Fae, the more I understand on…. on an instinctual level. It is a part of me that has been hidden and left dormant save for a few parlour tricks. But, I do not need the Pattern. I need to trust and believe in me."

Her eyes turn upward to stare into his with complete sincerity and conviction. "I believe with all that I am that Cedric would benefit from my attempt."

"What if I said I do not want you to save Cedric's life?" Kendall asks.

Margot contemplates the question for several moments. "Would Cedric's life save yours?" she asks in return.

Kendall's head cocks to the side and he looks into the middle distance. A shade of himself appears to present a jewel-bedecked sword to an older boy, blond but possessing the same bright eyes as the Chanicut Lord. "I don't know," he says at last.

"It is one more factor to consider. One more… opportunity for discussion," Margot finally answers, her eyes catching sight of a regal ceremony with Kendall assuming what could only be described as the Chanicut Throne. Representatives from each of the Houses and their throngs paraded by a dais on a platform above blackness bedecked in all their splendor.

"Mayhap," he says. "But I do not."

Margot studies Kendall's expression for several moments. "I do not understand," she finally confesses.

"Which?" he counters. "My wishes, or my reasoning?"

Margot chuckles softly at equal parts his answers and her questions. She stares mid-distance in front of their seat, where the images were simply fuzzy etheral forms that made no rhyme or reason. "I do not understand why you say 'but I do not' as an answer to an offering that may potentially assist you. As to not wanting me to assist with rescuing your brother's life… All of my aunts and uncles have tried to manipulate, master, and even murder their siblings. Many without the honor of facing their opponents openly. It is yours to decide whether you wish to share with me your reasoning."

"Then I will not, but I do expect you to do as you see fit as well," is his answer. The shades grow dimmer as they approach the far end of the tunnel, beginning to fade and disappear as answers and decisions approach.

She could think of nothing to say to that. A single nod is her response, fingers of one hand tightening around his while the other continued to smooth the back of his. Then together, they turn to see their island reach its destination.

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