Tea for Three

Margot glances at the knights; her expression a mix of surprise and thoughtfulness. Seeing the Chaoisan Lord flanked with knights was impressive; a reminder that he was an important guest of Amber. She gave Belle's hand one more squeeze and a reassuring smile before releasing her hand and falling into step next to Lord Kendall.

He leads them through the castle corridors with a purposeful stride, having been in residence long enough at this point to know his way around a little. The Knights escorting them clink and jingle as they follow. Kendall's attention is turned inward, and he is not talkative as they walk.

Even with her petite stature, Margot managed to remain in step with Kendall without the appearance of running. Her eyes roamed as the party maneuvered through the cooridors taking in hanging tapestries and well-placed works of art. Servants made their presence undetected; and those who were caught unawares, vanished into the shadows at the sound of approaching footfalls.

She glanced to Belle and Cheshire, hoping they were still following along. Her eyes shifted to Kendall, noting he was deep in thought. His manner seemed so distant, she worried that he was far more troubled by the exchange in the Hall than he had previously let on. Finding herself staring, her eyes cast to the ground for a few breaths before returning her eyes forward.

They proceed through the halls of the castle without interruption, the noise from the two stoic Amber Knights' armor heralding their progress and ensuring they have an unobstructed path, the few notables they do encounter not entirely certain how to salute such an assorted group, opting to pay respects to the Princess. At length, they approach the tall iron doors that mark their destination, guarded by four additional Knights in armor standing at rigid attention, two of whom move to open the doors for the approaching party.

The open doors reveal a walkway of wrought iron and glass that stretches across a chasm to a series of white marble towers overlooking the ocean, each of them in turn linked by similar walkways. Set apart from the castle at their solitary watch, the towers have an aura of loneliness and sadness that seems to dim even the bright sunlight reflecting from their walls. Kendall acknowledges the Knights with a tip of the head as he passes through the doorway, stepping onto the bridge without hesitation. His escort of two remains behind in the castle proper.

The delicate structure sways in sympathy with the wind and vibrates faintly with their steps. The view is astounding, however, especially at the center of the bridge. Waves crash and break against shimmering cliffs far below, the spray creating pockets of rainbows, while birds circle and cry both above and below. The glass ceiling gives an unobstructed vision of the vast depths of the sky, painted with clouds that spin and tumble at the whim of the air currents.

The Princess cannot help but gasp at the view. She pauses, drawn by the utter power of the sea as it beats against the land. "Lord Kendall…" she hesitates, catching herself from reaching for his arm, "Could we…. just a moment… Please?" she asked, torn between meeting his eyes and returning hers to the turbulence below.

Slowly removing her mirrored sunglasses, so as to better appreciate the view, Rosabelle remains quiet as she views it. There is still the faintest evidence of puffy redness about her blue eyes.

Kendall stops as well, drawn from his inner reflections by Margot's request. He follows her gaze down to the pounding surf, and a faint smile appears. "Certainly, Princess. We have time in abundance here." He waits with no evidence of impatience for both of them to look as long as they like, sharing the mesmerizing view.

When they indicate a readiness to continue, he leads them to the far end of the bridge where another wide door bars the way, which Kendall pushes inward. The room inside is dim compared to the brilliant light of the exposed bridge. Another uniformed figure stands near the door, this one garbed in green and black. At sight of his Lord arriving in the company of two openly armed people, the guard immediately moves to intercept them, but is interrupted in his advance by a small hand movement from Kendall. "An'saa," he says softly, and with a salute, the guard returns to his post and watchful pose. The Chaos Lord gestures for the women to precede him through the door, which he then closes behind them.

The entry hall of the Chanicut tower is cool and dusky, sunlight filtering through several layers of sheer curtains drawn over tall windows. A sense of restfulness permeates the room, the air lightly scented with incense, and only the irregular ticking of a grandfather clock breaking the stillness, sounding as though the weights are badly out of balance. High on the wall directly across from the main door hangs a green ensign with a black sigil in the center, encircled by stylized gold flames similar to the gold embroidery on Kendall's robe. Below the large standard hangs a smaller one, followed by the smallest of the three at the bottom. Both of these are also of green, with symbols that likely tell a story to those who can read them.

Kendall turns from the door, back to Belle and Margot. "Welcome. Please accept the hospitality of Chanicut and be at ease," he says. "However, for the security of the Ambassador and our quarters, I must request that you leave your weapons here in the entry. You have my pledge upon the honor of my House that they will not be tampered with." He gestures to what appears at first to be a handsomely carved bookcase against one wall, but a closer look shows the shelf surfaces are empty and padded with black velvet.

A hand goes to cover Margot's mouth, suddenly realizing how inappropriate she must appear to be received in the House of an honored Amber guest, dressed as some pirate swashbuckler seeking adventure. Not even remotely appropriate as a Princess visiting; regardless that the nature of the invitation was less than formal. The color drains from her face, only to return at her cheeks, slowly coloring down her neck and into her blouse.

Both hands find themselves fumbling with the buckles of the belt, fingers refusing to cooperate with the delicate fastener. Her lower lips slips into her mouth, captured between her teeth. Sliding the belt and scabbard from her hips, she moves quickly to place it upon a shelf. She returns to Kendall, clearly upset by her transgression, "Lord Kendall, Please…" she began, stammering slightly, eyes struggling to remain with his, "It is now my turn to ask forgiveness for my ill-manners. I hope you will find kindness in your heart to do so."

Belle calmly unbuckles her own belt, tucks pistols and knives neatly into place in one of the little cubicles. She remains silent as she does so, so as not to interrupt Margot and Kendall.

Kendall holds up a hand to stay off Margot's apology. His manner is subtly different, here in what passes for home away from home. Though in no way less formal, every movement still marked by precision and care, he is perhaps more at ease. He meets her gaze, and his smile warms his eyes. "Peace, Princess," he says. "Please. Be at ease. It seems I again have need to apologize, for placing you in a situation that has caused distress. But please accept my sincere assurances that this visit is in no way official and that, in any case, you have conducted yourself with the utmost propriety."

Margot’s head gives the slightest of nods; her expression transforming slowly from mortification to bashful relief. “You are most kind, Lord Kendall. I am finding myself continually grateful for your patience and understanding,” she replies earnestly.

While this goes on, a slender figure with red hair appears at one of the inner doorways and bows. Noting the movement, Kendall turns and acknowledges with a nod. "Tea on the s'lar balcony," he directs, and the servant departs as silently and quickly as he had appeared.

The Chaos Lord brings his attention back to the two women. "Please come this way," he says, and leads them towards a door to the left. Up some stairs, through the door and the parlor on the other side, to a balcony out of the sun where waits a round table and chairs fashioned of braided metal strands framing panes of blue glass.

Rosabelle glances to Margot and Cheshire before following Kendall to this balcony, Cheshire again padding along at her side.

The Chaosian seats the Princess while a second servant appears to assist Belle. Margot’s eyes find the Chaos Lord’s. Here, she finds herself lost in their azure, holding his gaze in hers a moment longer than she had hoped. She smiles, bashfully, casting her eyes aside and taking the offered seat. “Thank you, Lord Kendall,” she utters quietly.

He meets her gaze, expression still warm and encouraging. "You are most welcome," is all he replies, before finally taking his own place, arranging his robe carefully before folding his hands in his lap.

Belle calmly allows the servant to help her sit. "Thank you," she says politely to the servant that helped her sit before he departs. She glances to Margot and Cheshire before returning her silvered-blue gaze to Kendall."Your clock is out of balance, Lord Kendall," she says quietly and pleasantly. "I was an antiques dealer for awhile. I could look at it for you."

A silent sigh of appreciation escapes Margot's lips, grateful for Belle’s timing to redirect attentions and allow her a moment to collect herself.

Kendall looks momentarily puzzled, but then his expression turns faintly annoyed. "Ah, the clock. Certainly, you may view it later if that is your wish," he says. "Truthfully, if it is possible to stop it from making its constant noise, that would be preferable, though I believe the Ambassador finds it… interesting."

Wisps of midnight hair having escaped again from her single braid, as is their wont, Belle listens. "They are complex mechanisms," she says pleasantly. "Perhaps on the way out later?"

Margot settled into her chair, relaxed but well postured, legs tucked to the side and out of the way. She listened as Belle offered her services, and watched how each related to the other; body language and demeanor. Her eyes drifted to the horizon beyond the balcony, enjoying the magnificient view. She was taken by the beauty and solitude; but the isolation of their home has not gone unnoticed. "What about the clock does the Ambassador find interesting?" Margot asked.

He thinks on that, sorting through several possible approaches before finally answering. "We do not use, ah, external means of measuring or containing Time in Chaos," he says at last. "To me, clocks appear somewhat… superfluous. I believe the word the Ambassador used when we first arrived was 'inconvenient'."

Margot's head tips slightly to one side, thoughtful. "Please forgive my," she seached for the correct words, "lack of understanding, but how do you keep appointments if you have no external way to observe time?"

Rosabelle glances to Margot as this question is asked, then back to Kendall, her peach-pale features calm. She tucks the escaped wisps back behind her ear with an unconscious gesture.

He smiles at her question, but does not answer immediately, nodding instead to the two servants - one red-haired, the other with white - who had reappeared with the refreshments. Both men are, unsurprisingly, garbed in green. The two immediately begin setting the table with great care. There is very little clinking and rattling as the utensils, napkins, etc. are arranged in front of the three.

One man pours the tea, while the red-haired man displays a tray to the women which holds a generous number of small treats of both sweet and savory varieties, allowing them to indicate which items they would like to try. He then puts their selections on small plates, which are placed before them. After they are served, he also places a plate with four items in front of Kendall, already aware of what his master would prefer without having to inquire.

Margot smiles quietly, thanking her gratefulness, accepting a petit four and something appearing to be more savory.

"Would your companion care for some sort of refreshment?" Kendall asks Belle. A look passes between him and the white-haired servant who, now done with pouring the tea, stands near Belle, waiting on her reply.

"Yes, please," Belle replies in answer to this question, her accented dark-chocolate Thari calm and polite and pleasant, having made her own selections: an equal and balanced measure of both the sweet and the savoury. "A little piece of everything would be best, so that Cheshire may decide what she eats, and perhaps some water. She is still recovering from recent trauma."

"That is unfortunate," Kendall replies gravely, as the servant sees to Cheshire's needs without further prompting. Both withdraw to the sidelines after all is settled, though they are ever ready to see to everyone's ongoing needs.

"As we were saying, about clocks," he continues the conversation from before. "Thank you for your offer to tend to the clock, Lady Rosabelle. Later would be fine." Arranging his napkin on his lap and picking up his teacup, he addresses Margot's question. "Princess, I thought your question quite interesting, in its use of the term 'observe.' That is not a term that I have heard others from Amber use previously, but it perhaps comes closer to the sense we have in the Courts."

He takes a sip of tea before continuing. "In answer to your question, the passage of Time is most often observed through the turning of the sky. It turns on an axis, changing colors in a regular pattern, in time periods which may be similar to what in Amber are called hours. Time periods are referred to according to the color of the sky, such as Bluesky, or Redsky. Certain activities are often done during particular Skies. That is not to say, however, that each Turn of the sky can be accurately said to measure Time."

"I imagine that is glorious to behold…" Margot responds wistfully.

He gives Margot a smile, nodding in agreement to the sentiment.

"Under a changing sky, time would feel different," Rosabelle muses quietly. "Long before the invention of clocks. my ancient ancestors tracked time by the sun." She also contributes.

"Yes, the sun here changes position throughout the day," he answers Rosabelle's observation. "Yet there are also these objects everywhere that attempt to tick and chime and gong Time into smaller and smaller… bubbles. It is almost as though Time is an enemy that must be forced into submission, rather than an experience, an encounter."

"I'm not certain that it is a desire to command Time and to become its Master," Margot offers, selecting her words with care, "As it is people have become too preoccupied with overfilling their days with commitments and they require mechanisms to assist them in maintaining their hectic schedules." She glanced toward the sky, "Not to say that others are not as busy," she begins to clarify, not wanting to sound that cultures anywhere else were *less* productive, making *less* contributions to their society. "People just forget to appreciate the natural flow of time. And timepieces, like the Clock on your wall, are just one more tool to remind us that we are often easily distracted from our commitments. Perhaps we need to remember to take the time to observe the sky; to note how it slowly changes with each cycle; to not be so completely swept up in ourselves to not be aware of the world around us."

She paused, a few heartbeats, "It is something wonderous to behold, if we just allow ourselves to be marvelled." Her eyes returned to her companions, a bashful smile forming. To mask it, she reached for her cup and brought the tea to her lips.

Kendall waits for the space of five heartbeats to give Margot's words an opportunity to rest in their midst, taking a drink of tea with a faraway look in his eyes. He nods finally. "I believe we have reached the crux of the matter," he agrees. "Thank you for your clarification, Princess. I mean no disrespect to you or your kin. It is just a matter of perplexity."

Selecting a piece of something that looks vaguely like divinity from his plate, he turns to Belle again. "I do not wish to overburden the conversation with discussion about the Courts, however. Lady Rosabelle, you spoke of a Sunshine Coast before, which I believe is your home. Please tell us about it," he invites her.

While he turns the conversational ball over to Rosabelle, movement from the side of the balcony attracts his attention. A small creature looking like a mix of cat and rabbit creeps along the top of the railing, grasping the stone with tiny furry fingers. It is a greyish brown and black striped, with each pointed black ear dotted with one tiny white spot. It pauses to sniff the air, chirping cheerfully at the group at the table. Kendall hesitates, then with an expression comprised of equal parts annoyance and amusement, he leans down in his chair, extending his hand to the floor. The tiny creature scampers over to the Lord, climbing up his arm to nestle into his lap and blink at the two women.

Margot turned to listen to Belle's response, but with the scurrying movement caught in the corner of her eye, she turned to see what was its origins. She watched with interest as Lord Kendall cradled the furry creature into his arms and then rested it gently into his lap. Her eyes brighten with delight at the sight of the animal; fighting the urge to reach to pet it or to ask if she could hold it. Abandoning it, glanced up at Kendall, equal parts curosity and embarassment painted on her face. Her smile turned apologetic, glancing once more to the adorable fur-ball in his lap before returning her attention fully to Belle and her tale of the Sunshine Coast.

"The Sunshine Coast is my home, yes," Rosabelle says quietly, having nibbled through two of her chosen sweet-and-savoury refreshments while she listened to their discussion of time. "Or was. My property has become something of an oasis now, one of the last pieces of wilderness, surrounded by a sprawling city of steel and glass. There are beaches of pale sand and islands scattered like jewels across the blue sea that can only be reached by yacht or plane. There are dangers to watch for, but it is a lovely place, both soft and harsh, a beauty guarded by thorns."

Kendall listens politely to Belle's response, absently scratching the creature's ears, making it coo. Margot's interest is noted, however, he catching her eye for a shared moment when she looks up at him, before he replies to Belle. "Beauty is always more poignant when it is touched with disquiet," he says. "And so you are the Lady of the Sunshine Coast? Is that the name of your House?" he asks curiously.

"Politics does not exactly function the same way in my world. I am the sole shareholder of a multi-national corporation," Belle says quietly and pleasantly. "Who is your companion?"

He pauses at the mention of 'multi-national corporation,' which apparently hadn't translated well, but then looks down at the fluffball in his lap. "This? It is a Qur. They are… tasters," he explains. "They are not often brought out when guests are present. Small creatures upon the table appear to be somewhat… upsetting to some," he explains. "This one, however… I fear I have indulged far too much. He has become bold." Standing up, he picks the creature up and offers it to Margot. It's about two handfuls large, and silky soft.

Margot's eyes widen with delight, gently accepting the little creature. "He is adorable. Does he have a name?" she asked, scratching between its ears as the Lord had done.

He shakes his head. "Not at present," he says, sitting again. "You may think of one, if you wish."

"One so bold deserves a name," she comments, gently petting the Qur.

She returned her attention to Belle. "Forgive my ignorance, but what is a 'Multi National Corporation'?" Margot asked, stumbling slightly over the jumble of words.

Rosabelle considers for five or so heartbeats. "I am sorry for making you feel ignorant," she says softly. "It is.. somewhat difficult to explain. My corporation is a financial power that operates independently of any one country. Mostly in orphanages and healing medicine. The whole idea was to establish positive feedback loops through time, make my world a better place. It has not quite turned out as I hoped for, but it has had an impact."

Margot's brows furrow slightly. "So, then you are autonomous from governmental rule?"

Kendall sips his tea and eats another treat, looking from one to the other, appearing to also be puzzled.

The Qur settles into Margot's lap comfortably, a little ball of soft warmth, purring at the scratching. He watches Margot anxiously in case she eats something she would be willing to share.

She glances to Kendall, almost as if to ask permission, before breaking off something for the small delight to sample.

"No," Rosabelle says quietly. "My operations in each country are subject to the local government there. It is complex. There are some governments I refuse to deal with, however, the ones that mistreat women."

Margot blinks several times, trying to process the explanation given. "It seems to me that yours is quite a noble endeavor."

"Well," Belle says, in vague embarrassment. "I am an orphan myself. It seemed like the wisest use of all that money."

There is a sadness in Margot's eyes with Belle's admission. "I am sorry that you had not known your parents," she offers with sincerity. Eyes cast down, she knew the relatively small time - her lifespan in a manner of weeks by Amber standards - with her parents was to be cherished and never looked upon as trivial. She doubted she would ever have the kind of loving dynamic here as Princess and they as King and Queen. Duty and Responsibility would trump love and kinship.

"I had foster parents. Now, with new information discovered recently, I may have gained a biological half-sister. And cousins. That is pleasant," Belle says simply.

Margot glanced to the woman sharing tea and her tale, a fond smile upon her lips, perhaps even welcoming into a new family.

Kendall looks even more puzzled. "What sort of governance systems do you have on your world?" he asks.

"Various different kinds," she says quietly. "A complex tapestry. I could speak for hours. But I too would prefer not to monopolize the conversation."

Margot's fingers continued to brush through the Qur's fur, a smile forming at the sensation of its soft fur against her skin. She continued giving it samples of her treats, pinching off tiny bits of this or that so that it may eat from her hand.

The creature is happy to take anything she gives him, even showing an interest in her teacup. As long as she feeds it, it isn't going anywhere. It seems to lose interest in each of the morels that Princess Margot offers after a few nibbles, however, cooing its approval before going to the next treat with excited delight. To one used to wildlife and their behavior, that may not seem natural.

Kendall finishes his tea, setting his cup and saucer onto the table. "I see," he says to Belle's reply. "It seems odd to me that so many different forms of governance would be required. Do they not operate properly? Each of the Houses in Chaos have functioned with the same structure for generations uncounted. Perhaps we can share some information with your home, to assist in this matter."

"My biological ancestors on the maternal side built the only civilization that endured for thousands of years." Rosabelle says quietly. "The civilizations since have not lasted, mostly. My world is littered with ruins. I would be fascinated to learn how your Houses have endured so long with the same structure."

Margot listened with great interest as the dialog between Lord and Lady continued. Her fingers of one hand massaged the furry creature gently while the other continued to share morsels of her delicacies. Ever curious, Margot discretely selects a new and greater variety of treats, breaking off pieces for the Qur to enjoy. One nibble for it, another for me. She seems completely enchanted by the creature.

A glance and nod is all it takes to bring the servants back to the table, the one offering the tray of dainties to the Princess again for her selection, the other refreshing tea. Kendall picks up his cup and takes a sip, the Princess this time the object of his measuring stare during all the activity.

"Is that the natural behavior of a Qur?" Belle enquires.

He selects another treat from his plate as he turns his attention to Belle's question. "It appears to be acting exactly as I expect," he says to her before addressing Margot. "If it is too much, Princess, I can have it removed."

"Oh NO," she exclaims, before collecting herself, enjoying the Qur in her lap. "He is delightful. And is in desparate need of a name." She shifts the creature in her lap so that she could look at its adorable face. "Your kind Master has given me the gift of naming you. So I must find one that is most fitting for such a charming companion. I think I shall call you…" She searched her memories for a brief moment, and then smiles. "Caerus. Does that meet your approval, little one?" she asks, continuing to scratch its ears. Whether it's the name or the scratching that causes the purring, the fluffball appears to be pleased, blinking up at Margot happily.

Though she watches and listens, Rosabelle says nothing further.

"Does that name have significance from your home?" Kendall asks curiously.

She smiles at the Lord’s question. “I hope I can explain concisely, Lord Kendall.” She smiles, feeding the Qur another morsel. “Kairos is an ancient word meaning the right or opportune moment. The ancient culture – the Greeks - had two words for time, chronos and kairos.” Her voice seems almost melodic as she uses the foreign words. “The former refers to sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens.” She looks down to the pet, “What the special something is depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative nature.”

“Following this, the word Kairos is also said to be a derivative of the name of the Greek God, Caerus," she explains, petting the creature in her lap. "In their mythology, Caerus was the personification of opportunity, luck and favorable moments. According to legend, Caerus is the due measure that achieves the aim. He brings about what is convenient, fit, and comes in the right moment.” She pauses, taking a sip from her tea. “Sometimes it could be the critical or dangerous moment, but more often Caerus represents the advantageous or favorable occasion. Hence, what is opportune, or ‘Opportunity’.”

She continues explaining, comfortable sharing her knowledge of classical rhetoric from her home. “Caerus was presumably the youngest of Zeus – the King of the Gods – children. He is represented as a young and beautiful god. Opportunity obviously never gets old, and beauty is always opportune, flourishing in its own season. And as expected, for those who seek his caress or watch carefully for his image, Caerus goes on flying as swiftly as ever, providing amazing surprises to everyone, making thieves and lovers alike.”

She glances to the Lord and Lady as she adds, “It is said that Caerus can easily be seized by his forelock when he is arriving. But once he has passed by, no one can grasp him, the back of his head being bald. The moment of action is gone with his hair: a neglected occasion cannot be recovered.” Her eyes pause a moment to meet Kendall’s.

She returns her attention to the Qur. “There is a statue of Caerus at Sicyon. He is said to resemble the God Dionysus – the God of wine, the inspirer of ritual madness and ecstasy, with his forehead glistening with graces and a delicate blush on his cheeks; and though the status is bronze, it blushed; and though it was hard by nature, it melted into softness. And like the statue Opportunity himself, Caerus melts into softness if caught by the forelock, but once he has raced by; he assumes his hard nature and seldom grants a second chance.”

Margot smiles. Realizing that she had just taken great command of the conversation, reddens ever so slightly. "I passed many of my hours as a child reading about the different legends and pantheons of my home," she admits apologetically.

Vague surprise again crosses her peach-pale face as Rosabelle listens to these words. "Our worlds appear to be related in some way, for such legends are familiar," she says calmly. "I have met the Olympian god Poseidon. I even have a trump for him. From something he said, he is potentially an ancestor of mine, too."

Margot's eyes snap to Belle, full of wonder. "You've met Poseidon? God of the Seas, Horses? Brother to Zeus?" she asks, awed, "He is kin to you? And…. and… you have a likeness of him upon a Trump?"

"Distant kin, perhaps. It would explain a few things," Belle says quietly, abstractly, as though something else occupies her thought. "And yes, I have made a trump for him."

A pause. She turns her attention back to Lord Kendall. "I am concerned, Lord Kendall," she says. "It occurs to me that if you have political enemies, all they need do to eliminate you is to harm Princess Margot while she is your guest. Are you absolutely sure the Qur is behaving as it should behave?"

"Enough," Lord Kendall says in a flat, forceful tone as he stands. Every hint of warmth has disappeared from his face and demeanor, eyes like chips of ice. "Doctor, while I appreciate your concern for the Princess, I cannot tolerate any further insults to House Chanicut. I am afraid I must ask you to leave."

"I have offered no insult. It is naught but caution," Rosabelle says, tone staying calm and pleasant as she too rises to her feet. "But if you wish me to leave, Lord Kendall, I will certainly do so."

"Please," Margot interjects softly, also rising from her chair, eyes passing between Lord and Lady. The Qur remains in her arms, curled up against her shoulder, much as how someone would cradle a favorite cat.

"Rosabelle. Lord Kendall. Today has already seen its fair share of tension and distress," she begins earnestly, before addressing Rosabelle. "I am certain that your intentions are noble, Rosabelle; but, if there is a perceived offense, then it is only honorable to acknowledge the misstep… no matter how innocent the transgression may have been."

She turns to Lord Kendall, searching his eyes for any of the warmth so recently shared, "Please, I am certain that there was no malice intended with the concerns uttered. How may I make amends for any insult you have received?" she beseeches.

The Chaos Lord's hostile stare never strays from Rosabelle, though he does not interrupt Margot. He pauses for thought. "I would be willing to hear an apology for the insinuation that I am not well versed in the ways of my own House, but the insult to Chanicut's hospitality and capacity to protect its guests is beyond my poor ability to ignore," he finally says.

Another small gesture. "Siorys will see you out." Immediately, the white-haired servant appears at Belle's elbow.

Though she listens carefully to Margot, Rosabelle returns Kendall's hostile stare calmly, her own blue eyes and her peach-pale expression unreadable. "I am sorry that my cultural misunderstandings have given offense," she says simply before turning to Margot.

"Even in the midst of rage, Lord Kendall does not offer harm to women," she observes to the princess. "The woman who seemed to be Lady Chanicut was correct. You could do worse."

She glances to Cheshire. "With me please, Cheshire," she requests and turns to the white-haired servant who awaits. "Thank you. Lead on, please."

Margot watches with a dismayed expression as her friend and Cheshire are calmly escorted away from the balcony. Absently, she snuggles the Qur, closing her eyes and enjoying the last moments she would enjoy of its fur against her skin. "Today has carried too much…" she utters quietly to no one in particular.

She breathes deeply, trying to determine what should be done next. Once alone with Lord Kendall, save for the servants that had since made themselves scarce, Margot returns her attention to the offended Chaosian, her eyes filled with regret. She gives the creature one last scratch behind its ears before closing the small distance between she and he.

"I believe Caerus belongs to you. He has been a most delightful companion during the short time I've have the pleasure of knowing him." She holds the creature up, smiling at its eyes before gingerly returning it to its master.

His frosty demeanor thaws somewhat after Belle leaves. He accepts the Qur, putting it down on the table. With the party broken up and admidst the tension, it quickly scampers down to the floor and back inside to its littermates.

She meets his eyes with hers, steady. "Thank you for your generous hospitality. I cannot even begin to fully appreciate how grievously we have offended you in your home. I only regret that I am unable to do anything beyond apologize and beg your pardon for the ill behavior that was conducted here this day." she offers, hands open at her sides. "Regardless of any innocent intent, no one should have to endure the scrutiny you have had to from guests who have no excuse for poor behavior. You are within your right to put forth a formal complaint, if that is your desire. You will have no battle from me."

She hesitates a few heartbeats before continuing. "I hope, once we have left you in peace, that you will find the grace and patience to accept the apologies of a young woman finding herself in a strange world with even stranger customs." She smiles sadly, "I only meant to… learn more of you. It isn't a very good excuse; but it is all that I have."

Kendall shakes his head. "You are most gracious, Princess, and your words are well considered. You have given no offense, and are welcome to stay longer if that is your wish. The incident is done with, and may be set into the past. No complaint will be made."

Margots smile speaks of regret; she makes no attempt to hide her desire to remain but that her decision to leave must be followed through. "Thank you, Lord Kendall. You have continued to support my very first assessment of you. You are a gentleman of the highest regard. You have been offended in your home; but the offense occurred in my Kingdom. At some level, I have to take responsibility for the actions of those who reside or visit within these walls. Anything less would be…" her eyes search his, hoping he can hear what she is saying within the words she struggles to find, "Anything less would be inexcuseable. While I have no command of the manners of those here, I at least have the power to take responsibility for their improprieties."

Kendall relaxes still more as she speaks, the icy glint in his eyes fading. "Peace, Princess. Do not trouble yourself," he reassures her again.

“I would expect no less a courtesy were our roles reversed, Lord Kendall,” she returns softly.

Her eyes leave his for a moment, longing to see Caerus one last time. With no hint of his presence, her eyes search further beyond the horizon for a few heartbeats. Drawing a cleansing breath, she releases it slowly. Margot returns her attention to Kendall, seeking his eyes once more. She smiles, dipping into a low curtsey, head dips regally. "It has been a privilege to meet you this day. I do not know how I could have managed the… trials of the Hall of Mirrors without your presence. I have enjoyed our time together and hope that this incident will not prevent us from meeting again." Rising again, she smiles sadly, turning to see who will escort her out.

"You do me great honor with your thanks. I am gratified to have been of assistance," he says, bowing in response to her curtsey. When he straightens, he continues. "Princess, If you would be so kind as to give me a little more of your time…" he says.

She returns her attention fully to the Chaosian. “Of course, how may I be of service to you, Lord Kendall?” she asks, grace laced with curiosity and a yearning to rectify the misconduct that cut through their afternoon engagement.

He pauses, framing his statement before beginning to speak. "I also wish once again to ask your pardon for any discomfort that Chanicut or I may have caused you while in the Hall of Mirrors. I realize that the Lady Grania was unexpectedly forward regarding her wishes. Though I cannot speak to the reasons for such conduct, I can assure you that great effort will be made in future to avoid similar situations."

Margot's demeanor softens, less the representative of the Crown and more the thoughtful expression of a young woman of ympathy and longing for understanding. "Events must be quite dire in your homeland for Lady Grania to cause you such distress with her proposal…" she utters sadly. Margot hesitates a few breaths, fearing that she too will incur his wrath on a day that has seemed to be filled with roiling emotions. "No offense has occurred, Lord Kendall," she reassures sincerely. "While at this time I do not understand the nuances and protocols of your House, I hope someday to become familiar enough with them to put you at ease."

Something flickers in his expression, but ultimately his face remains intently earnest. "Again, you have my thanks," he replies. "I am certain that the circumstances in my home are quite secure and no concern is warranted, but I wished to ensure that no ill feelings remain."

She nods, feeling that she has perhaps said too much. She smiles ruefully, raising a hand in surrender. "Lord Kendall, you have been most patient with me. Perhaps you would entertain a request?"

Perhaps recognizing the delicate balance of the conversation, Kendall simply nods.

"While I understand that there is nothing that can be done to erase all of the missteps and social gaffs committed today," she begins slowly, softly, searching his eyes. She breathes, steadying her voice. "It is my hope that we could discard today and start over. I realize it will not relieve the injuries already committed; but I would very much like it if we could move beyond apologies and reassurances and start over. I would very much like to continue to learn about you and your ways, but I am concerned that after today's events, you will no longer be willing to entertain such an arrangement."

She swallows, squaring her shoulders. "However, if you do not feel you are able to grant this request, I understand and will once more apologize for taking advantage of your generosity."

Kendall's pale blue eyes rest on her throughout her request, patient and calm. He doesn't answer right away, as seems to be his habit, taking five heartbeats to turn her words over in his mind. Then, he makes a dismissive gesture with his left hand, as though flicking water from his fingertips. "It is done, Princess. We shall leave the past where it is."

A mixture of uncertainty and relief fills her eyes. "Thank you, Lord Kendall," she inclines her head solemnly. "I hope that with this gift you have granted, I will be able to enlighten you and convince you that not every encounter will be filled with ill-behavior."

Sensing that the Chaosian's patience for an audience has come to an end, she smiles once more. "Our encounter today," she hesitates for a better word, "I have found our time together today most educational. Thank you for your gift of Time. It is a gift I will cherish."

"You are most welcome," he answers with a nod, unbending enough to offer her a faint smile. He gestures for her to precede him back inside, apparently intending to escort her to the door himself. "I hope you will believe my sincerity when I say I have also enjoyed our meeting, and would be pleased to continue our acquaintance."

She follows along his side, walking in silence. Collecting her belt and scabbard, she does not replace them at her hip; rather she simply wraps the belt around the scabbard to keep the blade in place. She hesitates as she leaves, turning to address Lord Kendall once more. "I am most embarrassed to admit this, Lord Kendall. But, I am… uncertain how to return to my chambers. Perhaps there is someone at your disposal who could help me navigate the castle's labyrinthine halls?"

He shakes his head regretfully, opening the door to the bridge to walk her across. "I believe your chambers would not be a place where a Chaosian would be welcome, Princess. However, the Knights yonder may be able to assist you in that matter. Or we can summon a Page," he suggests.

"That is a shame," she returns, somberly. She glances out the glass walls of the bridge, noting once more the turbulent power and beauty of the waters below. "Your view holds great meaning…" she utters quietly. She faces him once more and another curtsey is performed. "Be well, Lord Kendall. I look forward to future engagements." She rises in a single movement and turns to depart.

He matches her curtsey with a bow. "Fare well, Princess Margot. It has been a pleasure."

The door opens, and Rosabelle is on the other side with the Knights, waiting for Margot. Without further ado, Lord Kendall turns and walks briskly back to the other end of the bridge, and disappears back into the tower.

Back to the list of Kendall's threads
After Tea: A Small Token (with Margot)

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