Setting the Stage

The door to the chamber is open when they arrive, and the Lord himself is not there. The room had been tidied, however — bed now neatly made up, breakfast dishes cleared, other areas arranged just so. Clothes lie on the bed in preparation for the Chaosian's use, brushed and ready. Margot recognizes the silky green robe as the one Kendall had worn for their second meeting when they walked in the garden together. A gown and other things for the princess had also been laid out and organized.

A smile curls Margot's lips at the sight of everything in readiness while her maid closes the door behind them both. "This is what I mean," the princess says as she looks over the dressing table, noting the elegant combs and intricately carved jade earrings and pendant. Moving to the bed, she removes her robe and drops it carelessly, though her maid catches the fabric before it can fall on the floor.

Only then does Desrianne realize there was no dressing screen set up to give the girl privacy during her preparations. This was all fine if the room was Margot's, but clearly the Lordling would be returning and it was impossible to say exactly when. Firming her lips into a thin line again against unwelcome words, Desrianne picks up the cream the princess had selected. "Sit, dearling, and let me moisturize your back," she instructs.

Obediently, Margot sits close to the corner of the bed, resting on one hip while her legs dangled down the side. She dips her own fingers into the tub while Desrianne moves her dark mane of hair out of the way, and then both begin busily spreading the cream over Margot's glowing skin. The girl hums to herself as she works, thinking on happy events and delicate words and purposely not pondering the next steps in her preparations. Dressing would of course require the requisite number of layers from undergarments and silk stockings with garters to corset and chemise and finally the gown itself. So much rigidity… but, she refused to let her parents or Kendall down. No, she would present the best image of which she was capable.

Between the two of them working, luxurious cream had been worked over most of Margot's body by the time a knock on the door interrupts them. The maid immediately plucks the robe up from where she had set it on a chair and drapes it over her charge's shoulders. After seeing her mistress' nod of permission, Desrianne then goes to the door and opens it a crack.

"Ah, Master Rory."

"M'lord will soon be returning," the other servant's soft voice comes from the other side of the door.

Desrianne looks at Margot with apprehension. Though the princess was currently covered with some modesty, it would take several minutes at least for her to be properly dressed.

"Can the lord not wait while m'lady dresses?" she asks.

"There is no need to make Kendall wait. After all, these are his chambers," Margot breaks in. She did not need to see Desrianne's face to know her Caresse was not happy with that idea, so she makes a suggestion. "Is there perhaps a privacy screen available? If something could be arranged, then there would be a place for me to dress and then Kendall would not have to wait."

Desrianne turns to look through the small opening in the door, then steps back to allow Rory within. The Chaosian walks over to the far side of the tall wardrobe and pulls from behind it a screen with two folds. The metal frame is elaborately fashioned to look like a climbing vine covered with flowers, and the screening fabric is a buttery yellow silk. He angles the screen so that Margot can stand behind it in modest privacy, yet with enough space to move around it as needed, since her maid might have need to walk back and forth several times. He looks to Desrianne and Margot once he has placed it thus, to gain their approval. Desrianne nods her acceptance of the arrangement, and looks to the princess, who also nods with a smile.

"Thank you, Rory," she says. "Please inform Kendall that his room is his to return to at his convenience." Rising, Margot gathers up the dress and takes her place behind the screen. Desrianne follows, carrying several undergarments while Rory bows with a nod. The servant takes himself back out, but the door remains open to admit the Lord just moments later, wrapped in his robe and with damp black hair.

Kendall's eyes flick about the room before settling on the screen. He stares at the new addition to his space for two heartbeats before turning to look at his servant with an air of baffled inquiry. Receiving a nod in the affirmative, the lord simply asks, "I hope your bath was satisfactory, Margot?"

Seated upon a cushioned bench, Margot had begun pulling up her stockings when she heard her beloved's question. A smile forms as clips secure stockings firmly in place. "Indeed. The water was of perfect temperature. It seems that Fortune smiles upon you… this time," she teases.

Sliding into the corset, she stands as still as she can muster while Desrianne cinches it tightly about her form, drawing the eye to her slender waist while accentuating the supple swell of her bosom and slender curve of her hip. It required great fortitude not to peek around the screen to spy her lover all fresh and clean. "And yours? Was it peaceful? Or, at least without distraction?" she asks.

Kendall allows Rory to take his robe from his shoulders and begin to assist him into his own clothing. Trousers, shirt, stockings, low boots. His ensemble is a simple enough matter to assemble. "It was, yes," he answers as his servant works. He pauses for some heartbeats, and then he comments, "There are times when I prefer to be alone."

Silence falls once more as preparations continue. Chemise is pulled over head and smoothed along Margot's lithe body before the arduous task of donning the green and cream dress begins. Laces are drawn, sleeves straightened, hemlines checked, seamlines aligned, and her globes adjusted to sit just right in the front of her gown, delicately balanced between enticement and modesty. All of this was more challenging than anticipated given the space behind the screen and Desrianne's insistence that they remain behind it at all times.

"Are you in a state of dress where we may join you?" Margot asks after all was finally done. She felt foolish asking, though she wanted to be conscious of Desrianne's sensibilities. But really, they slept naked, they enjoyed being awake together naked, they bathed together; it seemed silly for Margot to have to dress hidden behind the screen.

He snorts in amusement. "I have no modesty to mind," he reminds her. "But to answer your question, yes. I am duly covered. Please. Join me whenever you are ready."

Margot steps from behind the screen to discover that he is indeed fully covered and his dark hair had been combed and neatly tended. Whereas she now wore a gown of pale green and cream that seemed to celebrate everything delicate and feminine about her, he wore his typical, unrelieved black. The green robe still waited on the bed.

Kendall looks up as she appears, smiling as eyes travel over her in open admiration, his gaze eventually finding her eyes. He sits at the table again with feet up on a second chair, paging through a large book. She approaches slowly, smiling, to rest a hand lightly upon his shoulder. "What are you reading?"

"Merely idling over some drawings," he answers. His arm comes about her waist, pulling her close and inviting her to sit. "I am never certain when they are complete." Up close, Margot recognizes the tome as a sketchbook. The page on display when she joins him shows a dark city situated within a desolate plain.

Accepting the invitation, Margot rests upon his lap while she studies the picture. "It is … stunning. Where is this place?" One arm circles his shoulder, her fingers weaving through his hair, and she presses a kiss to his temple before she returning her attention to the sketch.

"I no know whether this place exists," he answers. His free hand comes up automatically to smooth hair back into place after she musses it. "Tis a vision I once had. A dream, perhaps."

"May I see other pieces of your work?" she asks.

He leans his head close to her neck while he turns the page, inhaling her delicate scent. The next page reveals a young woman sitting in shade on a terrace overlooking a garden, her pose radiating anticipation. Margot can easily recognize herself as she appeared to him before their walk in the gardens. Though not all of the other details are filled in, he had taken the time to capture the center of the piece.

"This one I know is not yet complete," he remarks.

Her fingers gingerly trace the lines of the picture, a small emotional smile forming at her lips. "I remember this day. I was frightfully nervous. And you were so… So dashing, and handsome, and charming, which only made me feel more nervous and inept and awkward."

The drawing elicits memories so strong and powerful that Margot closes her eyes to breathe in his spicy scent as the emotions well up. Her arm leaves his shoulders, pulling her wet locks aside so that her head can rest against his. "I was terribly disappointed when that stroll ended."

Kendall's lips hover just above the skin of her cheek. "We will have more strolls in the future," he murmurs. "And soon, I believe you will come to feel at home within yourself. Then you will recognize your own charm and gifts."

She smiles. "I look forward to those moments," she sighs, nuzzling against him as she waited for another masterpiece to be revealed.

"Princess," Desrianne's prim voice from the dressing table shatters their intimacy. "We really need to get a comb through your hair before the knots become set. Perhaps you could enjoy the Lord's drawings another time?" Steel colored eyes flicker over the couple before moving to the red-headed servant, seeking some form of support at getting the pair separated.

Annoyance hardens the Chaos Lord's eyes at the interruption and he leans back in his chair. Rory meets Desrianne gaze in the pause that follows, and something about the set of his shoulders hints at uneasiness. "The Lady Dara awaits, m'lord," he remarks eventually in a much more deferential tone.

The Lord's gaze remains locked with Margot's as he says, "The Lady Dara must wait on her lady's pleasure, Margot. What say you?"

But where the Lord responds with annoyance, Margot releases a weary sigh as she opens her eyes. A hand caresses his cheek, tipping his chin so that she may taste his lips, hers lingering for several tender kisses. Withdrawing only far enough to meet his gaze, she smiles apologetically. "I say… that as much as I'd love to delay this meeting, that is not the solution. Besides, the sooner we deal with this, the sooner we can move on to more pleasant experiences."

Stealing one last kiss, she slips from his lap and joins her maid at the dressing table. He lets her go without any further comment, turning his attention back to the sketchbook while Desrianne picks up the comb and begins working the snarls out of the long locks. Once that had been accomplished — a task that was less daunting than the night before, thankfully — Desrianne begins creating an elaborate plait.

"Desrianne," Margot speaks up as the maid works. "Please leave the back loose and just sweep up the sides." She sees Kendall's reflection in the mirror smile a little when she makes her request, though he does not look up.

"Of course, Princess."

While Desrianne works, Margot dons earrings and places the pendant around her neck. In the end, the top and sides of her hair were woven into an intricate basket weave with all the ends coming together in rosettes at the back of her head held in place by the decorative combs. The soft curls down her back were still slightly damp. Soon all she lacked were her bejeweled slippers and a little tinted balm for her lips, which she applies while Desrianne collects the shoes. Slipping the footwear on, she stands and gives herself a final look in the mirror, smoothing her gown and examining each detail with a critical eye.

"What do you think?" she finally asks, turning to face Kendall when all is complete. "Good enough to meet the Lady Dara?" Her tone is tight with barely controlled nervousness.

He looks up at last when she stands for evaluation, closing his book and rising to his feet as well. Fingers automatically twitch his sleeves into place as he looks her up and down. No longer warm and admiring, his gaze is now distant and critical as he takes her in, walking around to inspect her on all sides. Forgotten now, the maid steps back as he circles the Princess, moving unobtrusively out of the way. She stays quiet throughout the inspection, but her expression clearly says the Lordling had missed his cue to compliment the young woman's beauty.

Even though Margot knew this was Kendall's way, even though she had asked him to evaluate and correct any final touches that may be out of place because he would know better than either she or Desrianne, it still did not diminish the anxiety she feels as he walks around her with such a critical eye. It took all that she could muster not to fidget, cast her eyes down, or portray anything but calm serenity. Her heart races and her stomach churns, the stress doing little to soothe the side effects of the tea she had drunk earlier. Margot wasn't even certain she was breathing.

In the end, though, he found very little to adjust. A fold of her skirt had not unfurled properly when she stood, and one hairpin had need of straightening. He saw to these things without comment before coming around to stand in front of her. He places hands on her shoulders, looking into her face before leaning in to press a kiss to her forehead.

"Very good, Margot," he says, stepping back again. He smiles down at her. "You will do quite well, in particular if you do not forget to breathe."

She smiles with appreciation shining in her eyes though what she really wanted was to have his arms around her, holding her as he had on the balcony and whispering in her ear that all would be well and that he would be there. But she doubted he would offer such comforts now for this. He would be a presence, but she would be expected to stand strong on her own.

"Thank you," she adds with sincerity. "Now, to see to your final touches and then to meet our guest? Or, my new charge? Whatever Lady Dara is to me. To us." She shakes her head in confusion.

Kendall looks to Rory with a nod, and the red-haired servant steps forward with green robe in hand to assist his lord with final preparations. Chiming silk is laid over the Lord's shoulders, and he moves over to the mirror to evaluate himself for several heartbeats.

"I think you look radiant, Princess," Desrianne speaks into the sudden silence, pride in her voice at the vision of loveliness that Margot presented. "Trust in yourself, dear. And… take heed to the Lord's advisement. Listen to ALL that is presented to you before any final decisions are made. Follow your heart, Poppy. But do not lose your head in that quest." The maid was relieved those words came out encouraging in tone.

Margot crosses the room, pressing a peck to the other woman's cheek. "Of course, Caresse. I do trust Kendall to advise me in what is best for me, short term and long. He knows things that I simply cannot fathom and he can suss out deceptions that I would not know exist."

Kendall shakes his head after staring at his reflection for eight heartbeats. "No, I would prefer the ch'theron," he says.

"Yes, m'Lord," his servant replies.

Margot turns to watch her lover prepare, conveniently missing the chill expression of disapproval that crosses her maid's face. Rory removes the first garment, takes it back to the wardrobe, and hangs it up with quick care before selecting a different one.

"She will test you, Margot," Kendall remarks while he waits. His gaze in the mirror moves to look at Margot's reflection. "I know you will be on your guard, but you must also beware possible knowledge of your feelings for me. We know not what transpired between she and your mother, and so we are at a disadvantage. And as to be expected, she knows more of my history than you; she may attempt to use that against you."

As he speaks, the second robe is laid over his shoulders and his servant steps back to await the Lord's decision. Margot stands some feet away, enjoying the opportunity to watch her lover's preparations. She would have liked to assist him with her own hands, that was Rory's role and she did not wish to overstep any boundaries. If they were alone, she might help him dress, but this was different. Very different.

Kendall's blue eyes leave the princess to study his own reflection again. This robe is much darker in color, close to black, and made of some heavy fabric that seemed to flow like liquid and absorb the light around it. A minute nod indicates approval and Rory immediately adjusts the hang of the heavy garment.

"How would you suggest I combat that?" she inquires with curiosity. "Are there things that I should expect? Not events proper; those are things of your past and it is for you to decide if or when you deem me trustworthy enough to share your history with, but… are there types of deeds that I should be aware of before this introduction?"

Kendall adjusts his collar while Rory brushes the fabric so the nap lies smoothly, not answering right away. He tugs black under-sleeves into place and moves the wider green sleeves of the robe to their proper hang before he speaks again.

"Rory, see to it the Lady Dara is alerted to the Princess' imminent arrival," he directs while he makes final evaluation of himself in the glass. Done with his tasks, the red-haired man bows first to his master, then to Margot, and then takes himself out. Desrianne remains to the side, forgotten and superfluous in this situation. She takes this opportunity to simply observe without drawing attention to herself.

Every detail finally to his satisfaction, Kendall picks a piece of lint from the arm of his robe as he turns to regard Margot. The change in his carriage as he dons his formal air is noticeable, even though his body language even in private could hardly be called casual. He tucks his hands into the sleeves of the heavy robe, which reminds him of one additional task.

"I am a son of the Duke," he finally replies to Margot's question with a dismissive tone as he turns to walk over to the wardrobe to retrieve the tiny knife he habitually wore in his human form. Pushing aside the sleeve of his robe, he fastens the sheath to his right forearm with the ease of long practice.

"I have enemies and I have killed some of them, I have vices, and most of all, I have very few secrets," he continues. "The Lady Dara knows of Telairen of House Carlack, whom I loved and lost. As do you. I have not had reason to be overly conservative in my personal pleasures. But ultimately my relations with other women have no bearing on my relationship with you."

Margot's eyes drift away from Kendall quickly so as not to reveal how much his last statement stung. Both hands press flat against her abdomen with one atop the other, and her fingers rub her stomach soothingly as she thinks quietly on his answer for several moments. Nothing he revealed was truly shocking, or even new information for that matter. The only thing painful to her heart was his last statement and knowing that while he desired her — perhaps even had true, deep-rooted feelings for her in his heart — he may still bed other women once they returned to his home.

"I have not heard anything here that I was not already aware of by your own admission, or did not already suspect based on things you have shared," she says at length. "If this is the worst that the Lady Dara can offer to see me discomfited, then I am afraid she will be sorely disappointed."

Margot's fingers continue to massage her stomach, trying to soothe the churning before she had to leave the safety of their chambers. Our chambers. Those two little words together give her cause to glance around the room, taking in every detail as if she was seeing it for the first time. A smile of wonderment curls her lips as she remembers that she had already stood up to Fiona and the Unicorn Herself. She had held her ground before her mother and her father.

Even as a child in front of the Red Queen who frightened so many, Margot had never quaked or squalled with fear. She was not weak, fragile, timid, or delicate. No, she was a princess of Amber and princess to the Fae. Her heart was pure and strong. It would guide her to her destiny, and she would not be denied by her mother or some Hellmaiden or her machinations.

Swallowing to quell her nerves, she smiles again, not noticing how closely he studied her as these thoughts passed through her consciousness and reaffirmed her resolve. "I am ready when you are, Lord Kendallarithan," she says at last, looking at him once more.

He takes a deep breath and then stares into the middle distance for the space of five heartbeats as he breathes out, releasing any lingering traces of annoyance or tension. Veiled and distant once more, he offers her his arm. "Very well, Princess. Tis time for you to meet the Lady Dara of Hendrake."

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Treacherous Tango: Margot Meets Dara

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