One Killer's Origin Story

Kendall is quiet for several heartbeats as well, sipping the wine and staring at the purple sky through the porthole. "May I make an inquiry into something you said earlier, Margot?" he asks. It's possible his voice is softer, a little more gentle, as though observing that his previous comments had not been well received.

"You may ask me anything, Kendall," she answers before bringing the towel to her face. Her eyes burned terribly, and she enjoys the relief brought by the cool water against her skin. The maid goes in search of a second wineglass as they talk, somewhat grateful for the distraction so she was less tempted to interrupt the conversation the way the one she had been having with Margot had been so rudely disrupted.

"How would your actions cause me to… get in trouble?" The turn of phrase is evidently not native to his tongue, though he is pretty sure he understood what it meant.

"Because you are my sponsor. Because any actions I commit reflect on you and House Chanicut. Because I acted irresponsibility and without full awareness of the situation without instruction or permission, and may have put this vessel and those aboard her in greater risk. And because, ultimately, at this moment, I am your responsibility and at your mercy," she explains.

"Ah," he says, enlightened. His attention is distracted by Desrianne as she approaches the bedside to pour wine into a goblet she had found somewhere. She's a stormy presence and he is weary enough to cede the current engagement in their battle of wills, so he says nothing more. Wine retrieved, the maid delivers it to Margot and then begins gathering the girl's hair together so she can plait it.

Margot sips quietly while her hair is swept away from her face and into a style that could withstand sleep. The silence in the room is brittle and uneasy as the maid works. Kendall continues to eat from necessity rather than appetite. Unfortunately, wine was not a good cure for massive blood loss.

For the princess, however, the heavy drink brought a welcome distance from her feelings of dread and despair. She finishes another small glass at the same time her hair is finished, and she stands carefully. Desrianne helps her move to the bed and climb in next to Kendall.

"I think I will try to eat a little and then try to rest," she says for everyone's benefit.

"Very well, Margot," Kendall replies. He swings his feet to the floor, stands, and then retrieves his book from the night shelf. "You are likely fatigued from your battle with the enchantress, so I will leave you to your rest."

She sighs. "No, please," she entreats. "Stay."

Kendall looks at her with a sober expression, pausing to decide how best to approach this. "Margot, you are not yourself," he says at last, choosing his words with care.

His tone is softer again, and gentle. "I venture to guess tis a fact on which your maid and I can agree. You are distressed and unhappy, and tis clear to me that I cannot help you. Indeed, my efforts appear to be a hindrance to your recovery, so I will leave your care to someone who better understands you."

Though his tone does not change, his expression at this admission becomes bleak as he realizes how little he grasped what made Margot tick, and wonders if he would ever understand her.

"You were helping," she objects softly. "I wish you could see that. Desrianne, please give us some privacy."

Caught between her mistress and the Lordling once more, Desrianne hesitates for a long moment. Eventually she nods once and departs through the rustling door. Margot waits until the matron leaves before saying anything more.

"Please, sit," she invites him. "Please."

Kendall sighs quietly to himself and then sits at the foot of bed with his back against one of the thick posts so he can face her.

"Would you consider staying if Desrianne did not return?" she asks, her voice soft as her eyes watch him with concern.

"I am not the one in distress," he points out to her. "My body will be healed shortly, and my spirit has not been wounded."

He hadn't answered her question, and he could see in her eyes that she realizes this. "Kendall, I wish to take comfort from your presence, not Desrianne's. I will respect your decision if you choose to leave, but please do not do so because you believe what I need comes from her. I assure you, at this moment, she cannot give me what I need. Only you can do that."

"What is it that you need, shayna?" he asks.

"You," she answers simply.

No tears, no pleading; she tries to calmly explain. "For you to rest with me and hold me like you were before Desrianne interrupted us. You don't have to do more than simply sit beside me and read and not say a thing. I do not wish to rest alone, and I do not wish to meet Desrianne's concerned expression or questioning looks. Not now. You asked me to come to you, and now I ask you to stay."

He leans his head back to rest against the bedpost, looking off to one side into the distance as he considers her request. First the eyes come back to her face, and then the head turns. He takes a breath.

"I first killed when I was 15 Cycles old. Not for lofty concepts or to protect someone or even to advance my own goals. No, it was… an accident. Or rather, it was not planned," he says.

He sighs, expression becoming contemplative as he stares into the past. "The other boy and I did not get along. He challenged me to a duel over a trifling matter, and being young and foolish, we held our duel in what we deemed a dramatic location above the Abyss. We were to fight to first blood, and I touched him first. But we were still unskilled with shir'ra blades, and I struck poorly. He fell. His body was never recovered."

He shifts a little, moving so his wound did not press directly against the knobby wood of the bedpost. "I was protected from retribution by testimony from our witnesses that I had not purposely killed him. But moreso by my rank. He was foolish to have challenged me, but undoubtedly he desired to advance his influence by besting the Second Son."

He pauses a moment, considering the end of his tale, and finally he concludes, "I felt no remorse."

For the space of four breaths, Margot quietly ponders what he had shared and the sad reality it reflected. "Were I born male, I may have had a very similar experience to share," she says eventually. "Swords, pistols — boys were always eager to prove they were men with the gentleman's duel."

"Now you know my tale, and you already have knowledge of my hand in the Knight Louella's death, though that was in defense of my life," Kendall continues. "I have also killed others, for a variety of reasons. Tis not something I seek or enjoy, but a thing of necessity. So what do you see when you look at me, Margot?"

She looks into his eyes as she contemplates his question. "I see a man who has lived a complicated life. One where the answers are rarely simple and never easy. And I see someone who grew up very differently, who has different views and opinions than how I was brought up. I see someone… I see someone I love, Kendall."

He looks down, his faint smile appearing. Another silence stretches between them for several heartbeats while his smile fades. "Soon you will also be living a complicated life, as you call it," he begins, looking up at her once more.

He tilts his head a little, evaluating her with narrowed eyes and thoughtful expression. "This is only another step on the journey. I regret my injury may have spurred you to a rash act."

Margot pushes herself away the headboard and crawls to the end of the bed where he sat. One hand reaches for his. "I don't regret. I mourn the taking of a life. Instinct and emotion cannot overpower… this is a lesson. I am… as you say… not myself, but that has nothing to do with you. Or even me."

She smiles. "I… things … magical-mystical things happened that I don't understand. I know I took a life. I believe that if I had not, life would have been sacrificed… I couldn't let that happen. But I am more confused about the how… not the what. Please. Stay."

Kendall nods. "As you wish, Margot," he finally accedes. He raises her hand and lays a kiss to the back and then stands up again.

"Tis unlikely I will be able to assist you with questions about the how of what you did," he comments as he reaches over to pick up the tray. He carries sets it on the table out of the way. "I suspect your magic is nothing like what I am familiar with."

She turns to kneel on the bed, watching him with a hopeful expression. "I know, but… your powers of deduction and logic and the way you think… You are very creative. I think you are able to help me to learn and discover in a controlled environment. And help me learn to channel that emotion in a controlled way. I can't deny that my heart is who I am, but I can learn how to use it to its best advantage. You can help me with that because I trust you."

He returns to the bed to stand before her. Fingers cup her cheek and he looks down into her face with a glint of amusement warming his eyes. "You have such faith in me, shayna. One wonders what I might achieve should I fulfill such faith."

Nothing tangible in his voice or his face could exactly explain the sense that his words did not point to her. Perhaps the clue lay in his eyes — which rested on Margot but looked beyond her into another world — that his words mocked himself and not her.

"So… you will say, then?" she asks softly after several moments of silence, a small, hopeful smile curving her lips.

"For a time," he agrees, returning to the here and now. Stepping to one side of her, he climbs back into the bed near the head where pillows still piled. It takes a little time to get everything arranged comfortably again as he was before, sitting up and supported. As he does this, Margot goes to the door, which rustles open to reveal her maid waiting in the corridor.

"Thank you, Caresse," she says, and then covers her mouth quickly to hide an unexpected yawn. "I must sleep, and don't think that you should waste your time waiting on me. I will call you when I am stronger. Thank you, and… I love you."

She kisses the woman on the cheek. And though it's obvious that Desrianne is far from pleased at the arrangement, she merely gives Margot a hug when the young woman steps close. Breaking apart, the maid waits until the door shuts again before departing.

Unsteady legs carry her back to the bed where Kendall offers a hand to help steady her. His arm circles her waist as she snuggles back up beside him and he bends his head to kiss her lips briefly in greeting, a small intimacy that felt natural and almost… commonplace.

She looks at the book he held, intrigued by the elegantly illuminated pages decorated with twists of viney flowers that looked both beautiful and deadly. "What are you reading?"

"Tis a volume of poetry I borrowed from Brisbane some while ago, written in a very old style of the King's Tongue. I can make out only parts of it."

He reads to her for a time from the book, speaking the old words and rendering translations as best he can. Sometimes the difficulty came from him not exactly knowing what the terms meant, and sometimes because the concept didn't translate well.

The ancient writer meditates the futility of hope and the corruption of the future, and even though complete understanding proves impossible, both readers can appreciate the sparse musicality to the words in the original language as it rolled from Kendall's lips. The imagery, even crudely translated, is striking and haunting.

"It's beautiful…" Margot whispers after some time to reflect.

Kendall breathes deeply when he comes to the end of reading one long poem, letting the air out in a contented sigh as he sets the book aside on the table. "The poet Cantrell had always a gifted hand with verse. Not all was so bleak, but became darker as his life drew to a close. This volume is a collection of his works from shortly before he passed."

The hand at her waist strokes the line of her side to her hip and back upwards. "But I think changing the topic to something more cheerful would not be amiss. Or are you ready for sleep, my sweet?"

"I'm not ready to sleep… but if you keep plying me with your wine, that will be a foregone conclusion," she confesses with a smile.

"Then you shall have no more wine for now," he states softly, and she feels his lips against her forehead. "Would you like to rest in my arms for the nonce?"

"Yes, I would… if it will not cause you distress," she agrees.

It takes just a little more adjustment and shifting around, especially with getting their clothing arranged so it's not twisted or bunched and uncomfortable. He is careful, and though sometimes he flinches or winces in pain, overall he appears as fine as he insists he is.

Eventually, all is settled with her resting in his lap and legs curled to the side. His arms surround her as she lays her head in the hollow of his shoulder and neck. A blanket is kept near, but the heat of his body proves sufficient to keep her warm.

"Is there anything else you need?" he inquires after all the shifting and wiggling had finally ceased.

"This is perfect." She listens to him breathe, feeling safe for the first time since they left the cabin earlier to seek adventure.

He nods, either in acknowledgement or agreement, and silence reigns in the cabin, broken only by the sounds of ship and waves and crew. After a time, Kendall begins to hum quietly, his breath fluttering strands of her hair. Margot smiles at the sound of his honeyed voice, contented and feeling at peace.Her breathing becomes even and deep as she drifts into sleep, residual tension in her body drifting away as she rests more heavily against him.

He attempts twice to move her from lap to bed so she could lie more comfortably, but she clings to him even in her sleep, resisting the sensation of leaving. Eventually, he simply turns them both so that they lay together on the mattress with her snuggled securely against his chest.

The rest is a welcome indulgence given the jolt he'd taken from that cursed Pattern, a jolt of power that reintroduced an uncomfortable and unwelcome stasis to the fiber of his being. Soon he might consider himself to have some expertise in that area. But the sensation fades as the night passes, peacefully at least for those two, and Kendall's body finishes the hidden work of knitting itself back together.

Back to the list of Kendall's game threads
Dread & Anticipation

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