Savior: Reviving the Rhercyn

Margot stiffens, her movement stopping briefly before she allowed Kendall to lead her away. Once away from the cabin with the door was closed, she says, "They are going to kill her, aren't they?"

Kendall shakes his head, pressing Margot to the side of the corridor briefly to let one of the silent crew hurry past. "Probably not, unless it is needed," he answers as they continue on towards the ship's center. "She would be quite challenging to kill in her present form, and it is likely she will regain stability if she is drugged for a time."

Again Margot nodded slowly, believing Kendall because she needed to believe in him. "I don't understand what happened in there," she confesses.

"Someone - Brand, your uncle - attacked us using the crystals. Had I imagined the theft had been planned by someone such as him, I would have proceeded differently." He pauses, shaking his head at his own miscalculation as another crew hurries past. An air of silent desperation hangs around them, and then the singing of the women begins anew in a wailing, painful sound that echoed the groans of the injured ship. The Rhercyn shudders under their feet.

"In any case, he was able to harness far greater power in a smaller amount of time than expected, and set off several explosions," he adds. "The one in the room with us and the Countess was far more intricate. Intended to remove us all while we were gathered for dinner, no doubt."

Margot frowns. "Why would he do such a thing? It was a shipload of Chaosians returning to Chaos. And with that Hoard approaching Amber, why waste energy on a non-existent threat by comparison?"

Kendall smiles a little bit in that humorless way of his. "I would guess that, for Brand, threats to his efforts in Chaos are of far greater interest than threats to Amber," he answers.

"Does Chanicut wield that much power? How would Chanicut interfere with a single Amberite's aspirations? I mean, according to the Countess it sounds near impossible to have a House, and Barimen has been dead in Chaos for a long time. Should he not be courting Houses rather than attacking them?"

"Barimen is not dead. Not completely, if Amber's words are to be trusted at all. You-" He pauses to give her a significant glance. "He probably perceives you to be a threat, or wishes to remove you before you become a threat to his ambitions."

Margot's eyes widen. "Me? Why me? I- I- " She stammers before she can put together a coherent sentence. "But he was being tortured at my debut and I challenged the Unicorn herself on his behalf. And when she spoke of the Hoards coming and said she knew how to stop them but would not help, I challenged her again. I have done nothing to earn his ire or hatred."

His soft chuckle is almost lost in the sounds of feet on the deck above them. "Margot, you have no need to earn ire or hatred; they are freely given. What did the crew or the Rhercyn or even the Countess do to earn injury or death? Nothing, but to be in our proximity. You and I matter very little to others with greater ambitions."

Another frown tugs at her lips and creases her brow. This was all beyond what she was prepared for. Yet, when Kendall pointed it out, it seemed so simple, a child should have deciphered it. A chill trickles down her spine; this new sensation of being the target of someone's death wish did not set well with her. "You are right," she answers softly, the remorse for those fallen because of Brand's insanity plain on her face.

The scent of acrid smoke wafts past them, though they had not yet encountered any fire directly. The stamping of feet on deck becomes louder, more rhythmic, as some of the crew get organized. Kendall pauses briefly as though to get his bearings, then ushers Margot along until they reach another hatch. The branches covering the door are withered and brittle, and do not respond to their presence. Not having a key, Kendall simply reaches out with a clawed hand and rips the branches from the doorway to clear an opening, tearing the silky fabric covering his arm in the process.

The tearing of fabric catches Margot's attention. "Are you hurt?" she asks as he ushers her through the impromptu portal.

He shakes his head as he looks around the room. The large cabin contains a large desk in addition to the bed. Both the desk and the floor around it are scattered with charts, leading one to think this was probably the captain's quarters. What was most eye-catching, though, had nothing to do with the furnishings. A large round portal dominates the wall across from the door, surrounded by twining branches and vines covered in a riot of wilted flowers, and covered with a transparent membrane to protect the environment within.

And what a place to protect. Margot can see inside a tiny paradise of vegetation. More vines festooned with draggled flowers dangle from above and crawl along walls crowded with mosses. Instead of a floor, a pool of cloudy liquid supports lily pads and water grasses. Blinking insects cling to the vines, while more butterflies flutter about. The chamber is small, or maybe only appears so, as it is dominated by a massive trunk or root of pale wood covered in smooth bark.

Margot allows herself only a few moments to be wrapped up on the beauty of the space before she moves to the charts. Why, really it mattered not; she couldn't read navigational charts, but it seemed important to retrieve them from the floor and return them to the desk.

While Margot tidies, Kendall places one hand on the membrane and breathes deeply, closing his eyes and reaching out to the ship. He is aided by a connection already established, though the Rhercyn's damage and pain block his efforts at first. It takes 20 heartbeats before the membrane finally releases, curling back from the center to open the small chamber and allow entry.

"Margot, come meet the Rhercyn," Kendall invites her, looking back to the young woman. He steps through the opening and wades into the water in his bare feet. It comes up to just below his knees.

Eyes widen in surprise as she watches her lover slip through the opening. Rising from the desk, she approaches Kendall and takes his hand so she can cautiously climb through the opening into a whole new experience.

Instantly, the young woman is overwhelmed with the sensation of warmth, a soft embrace surrounding her form. But, that was not all she felt; suffering. The ship, being a living entity, also felt pain from the wounds endured by the evils of her uncle. The Rhercyn is disoriented and distressed, and Margot's empathy is already overloaded with concern for the Countess and fear of losing Kendall and his uncle and Caresse and Rory. Tears slide down her cheeks at the overwhelming sensations she was experiencing for the first time.

Once inside the chamber with the root of the ship extending above and below, Margot can see the idyllic vision as seen from the captain's cabin is an illusion. The far side of the chamber wall had been torn apart by explosive energy, the edges blackened by flames that seem to have died out already. The root of the ship bore the marks of the explosion, halfway torn in two with shards of crystal embedded in wood which oozed a brownish sap like blood. Smoke had collected above the gap in the wall.

"The water should be deeper," Kendall murmurs, pointing to the place on the wall where liquid still seeped away. "I don't know if this can be healed quickly enough."

"Is there anything we can do to help?" she asked, suspecting that she was helpless with her 'evil' Amberite taint.

He looks over the damage with a critical eye, then turns his attention back to Margot. "There really is only one way to find out. Would you lend me your energy?"

"Of course. Take whatever you require," she answers without hesitation, looking at the wounds her uncle had inflicted upon the innocent being. "Take everything."

He simply nods. Holding Margot's hand in one of his, he lays the other on the root. His hand sinks into the suddenly spongy bark as veiny micro connections attach and the sensory systems of the ship wash over him. It takes time, concentration, and energy to work through the various sub-systems and resources, while throbbing agony tells him what damage the bombs had wrought. The active intelligence of the ship was badly damaged, with Rhercyn operating mostly on instinct. The pain even with the filters up is tremendous, and he must take some heartbeats to adjust his brain's capacity to better handle the information.

Kendall quickly realizes there is little he can do to lessen the healing time. He was simply too small compared to the large and complex ship; he could never hope to contain even a portion of her being or supply nearly enough energy by himself. Other images appear in his mind, briefly distracting him from the much more important information — Dara and Brisbane taking the Countess to her cabin, the crew extinguishing the last fire on the lower deck, dark blood oozing from the ship to stain the Black Reef, creating a trail for pirates or other scavengers to follow.

Together, Kendall/Rhercyn perceive a glowing stalk rising from the water next to them. The ship, even injured to a point near death, can still sense the Pattern within the princess and connect the energy to the explosions as easily as any child. Thorn roots rise out of the waters behind Margot which contain a mix of toxins on the thorns strong enough to temporarily disable even an Amberite. But reassurance flows from the Lord and spreads through them both; though the young woman glows with the feared and hated Pattern, he controls the threat and holds it at bay. For now.

The ship reassured — or simply too weak to disobey him — Kendall/Rhercyn pauses the attack and once more turns to the problem of healing their damage. Energy. They needed much more energy than Kendall could access. Inspiration strikes as he becomes aware of glowing threats still scattered about the ship. The deadly crystals still contained some energy, enough perhaps to boost their flagging life and give them a chance to grow again.

They extend their awareness within the network of roots and branches to locate all of the remaining crystals and measure their levels and a schematic of the entire ship blazes in their shared mind. The crystals gleam like small stars within the web while black circles coalesce at the key locations where they should be moved. Two stars seemed set to tap the energy from their shadow movement, and one to remove any repair crew near the bow. Another placement appeared intended to counter what Kendall/Rhercyn were about to do, while the energy of shared passion would have soon killed both Lord and Princess had he not spied the crystal lying in wait under their bed. It seemed Prince Brand seriously underrated his talent, which was almost an insult to his House, or so it occurs to the Core Kendallarithan.

Pathways open to move the crystals about the ship, setting them instead where Kendall directed while he removes the Amberite taint from the instruments and readies them for their next use. He pauses for a mental breath to prepare himself for the task ahead. And then, with a mental twist, he activates the crystals and releases the energy.

Pure gold overlays his sight, and now the real work begins as he focuses his entire being on controlling the ship's sudden regeneration and new growth. Even one so young as he knew disastrous stories of feral ships consuming their crews during fits of wild growth. Sweat coats the Chaos Lord's brow and trickles down his temples as he sinks even more deeply into communion with Rhercyn. Every ounce of concentration and discipline bend to the task of restraining and directing the energy and healing, channeling it with care into a new shape and new being. The ship would not be exactly as she had been, with the influence of Chanicut tempering and refining that which had been previously wild and untamed. No, she would be better.

Energy flows, systems repair, and Rhercyn's higher brain functions come online as though awakening from a dream. The ship immediately senses the person guiding and directing her healing and growth is not who it should be. Though familiar, the creature linked to the core root possesses no sense of Tinor; none of the passion or disorder of the House that birthed her swirls in this soul. Hidden fail safes deploy, sending their poisons into the peaceful garden before Kendall is even aware the security routine had activated. Self-protection features in the form of huge, glowing flowers swarm into his mind with their warning signs. Their puzzle would easily be resolved if only he was Tinor.

The hand around Margot's grips even more tightly, and with a sudden shove he pushes the princess towards the portal and safety, away from the immediate danger presented by the ship's toxins. Surprised by the unexpected force of his movement, poor Margot stumbles backward with a mighty splashing of water, fingers clutching uselessly at the hand he yanks away from her grasp. There is nothing else to catch hold of except the vines surrounding the portal, which tear away from the wall while flower petals rain down like rainbow-colored dust. She lands with a painful, contorting thud. Something felt out of place in her shoulder or elbow, her ribs were tender, and she could taste blood in her mouth. Yet she was alive and still in one piece.

The Chaosian pays no heed to her condition, for as soon as Margot's hand leaves his, he turns his attention back to the root of the ship while the membrane closes to prevent further intrusions. He knew he could not free himself from the Rhercyn at this point without doing great damage to her and possibly himself. Instead, he lays his other hand against the root and allows the connections to solidify as he once more turns the full force of his mind to bear on the task at hand. The Rhercyn may be large, yes, with many safeguards in place to prevent corruption. But she was still only a ship and a servant of Tinor.

And he is Chanicut.

A constricting wall of mental thorns closes in to prick and weaken him so the Kau'r flower could take root in his psyche — the flower that would bring everlasting madness beyond what even those of the Courts feared. But he holds fast, his old teacher's lessons coming to his aid as he stops the roots and burns the stem with the power of his will. Branches of a psychic forest spring up to trap him then, growing around him so close together that not even a thought could walk safely among them. A ghostly earwig begins to crawl into his mind to wrap about his thoughts and force his submission, but he crushes the insubstantial bug with merely the thought of a Word of Power, eradicating its very memory.

There was no way to know objectively how long the Chanicut Lord stood enwrapped in the ship's heart while two minds weighed and tested each other. Next, the image of colorless mud ensnares him with despair while a howling horde attempts to drain his vitality, but Tinor's puzzles are easy. Even with the drab mirror that appears to reflect his thoughts and fears, the conclusion was already foregone in the Lord's mind. The test is mere formality. Kendallarithan shreds the whirling horde with a burst of mental spikes which then form into a spear that flies through the darkness to find the Rhercyn's Heartcore. There! The center root of the ship appears before him, to prune and cut, bind, or even destroy. In the next thought, she is his to command.

Rhercyn bows to her new master in the dark space of their private communion, ready and awaiting her orders. In his mental vision, Kendall brings forth all those who are his own: the contingent of Chanicut that had accompanied him on this journey, and all the sundry "extras." These were to be protected and accommodated. His uncle, his own servant, and Margot are especially favored in Rhercyn's new master's sight. He also acknowledges the regular crew in a more peripheral way; they were the rightful caretakers of Rhercyn. As for all else, his orders are straightforward: carry he and his group safely to a destination of his choosing in the Zone of Chanicut.

The ship begins to shiver as a new framework is absorbed. Beyond the portal, the cabin door sprouts Reaper Vines that spread to cover the inside of the whole cabin, while a spiral staircase begins to form in the center. Outside, the masts creak mightily as they bend over the deck and clear membranes grow from the wood to cover the ship like a dome. The lower decks briefly take on water as they also shift and move, reforming to a streamlined shape that would travel smoothly under water. As soon as the exterior changes have been accomplished, Rhercyn dives beneath the waves even though her interiors continue to move and adjust to her new form. Her new master's greater mental faculties would allow her to travel much more closely to the Black Reef, speeding their journey to Chaos.

Within the center of the ship, one mind withdraws and become separate; meshed identities unravel until Kendall and Rhercyn stand apart once more. His hands rise to the surface of the root as neural connections and ship's flesh peel away from his, leaving him with an oddly cold sensation. The cloudy water is deeper now, reaching to mid-thigh and still rising in increments. Opening the membrane so that he can depart the inner sanctum requires merely a thought now. Branches rustle and creak, moving aside with the membrane until Kendall can step into the cabin once again.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Mastery: A New Paradigm

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