An Unexpected Meeting

Reaching over to the body and taking her right hand, Kendall had just slipped the ring onto the cold finger when with no warning or fanfare, another shape appears in the dim chamber with a swish of displaced air that makes the candle flames dance and skitter the shadows. The Chaos Lord barely has enough time for some instinctive portion of his mind to recognize the form at the end of the bier as Margot, before the girl collapses towards the hard floor.

He drops the hand he was holding with a chime of gauntlett against breastplace, an expletive making its way past his lips. Though Margot is only scant feet away, he is still just barely able to reach her in time to prevent her head from cracking against the floor. But catch her he does, though the best he can do is ease her the rest of the way down to the floor. Propping her up against the base of the bier, he takes one small hand in his while placing his other against her forehead and cheek.

Cold did not begin to describe the Princess’s complexion; drained to the point of ashen, her pallor was done no favor in the dim light of the inner sanctum. Her body moved with the loose fluidity of dead weight, free of resistance as she crumpled to the floor and lay still with labored breathing and a fluttering pulse. She was clothed much differently than last he had seen her, in form fitting suede britches with boots to the knee and a blouse, all secured with a laced leather thong. She had dressed for a trial on the Pattern rather than a gay festival, with her hair hanging loose down her back; the natural loose curls tumbled over her shoulders and pooled on the floor.

"Margot?" he asks in a voice that is quiet but sharp with intensity, hoping to get some sort of response.

Her head lolled toward his voice, though the movement was slight. Fingers in his hand twitched, though little more than a hair. Somewhere in the darkness she had heard him; she was searching FOR him. At least… that was her hope. But was that not a dream? Beyond that, the Princess remained motionless save for the tiniest whimper that broke her silence. Is this real, or did I die in my attempt against the Pattern?

"I’m… afraid…" The words were almost inaudible, but the absolute stillness of the room magnified even the tiniest whisper of sound. And though the content of the short statement might have been distressing, at least it was a response.

Leaning even closer, he brushes his lips against her temple in a gentle caress of reassurance. "Margot, my sweet, what have you to fear?" he asks.

There was a tightness in her throat, her words pinched with emotion. "That… I am going to open my eyes and you will have been a phantom of my making. That… I failed and am condemned to my own personal Hell." Even as the words fumbled from her lips, her fingers tried to tighten around his, frozen and feeble but driven by determination.

A brief chuckle emerges, barely a breath of sound. Rare it was for a woman to admit to holding him in her fancies, though he had turned many away in spite of great efforts to catch his eye and lure him into their arms. This, however, had not been his vision of such a dream. Still, this was not a time for levity. While there were many questions that begged for answers, the more immediate concern was to revive the young woman's flagging spirit.

He could only presume that her appearance and current condition were due to her trial upon the Pattern. A trial against a great Power of any sort could bring delusions and confusion, to say the least. Had she been successful or was her sudden appearance the sign of rejection? There was no way for him to know for sure, though she did without doubt feel… different.

"Then you should keep your eyes shut for the nonce," he replies to her. Moving to adjust his balance and put his arms about her, he sits on the stone floor and slides her into his lap to cuddle her close, holding and warming her.

She melted against him, letting the strength and warmth of him encircle her. Margot found comfort with her head resting against his shoulder, her face nuzzled against his neck, all of her concentration for the moment invested in breathing him in. If it were possible for the Princess to make herself smaller in his lap, she would, so folded was she with her legs drawn to her chest and her arms wrapped around her torso. That which possessed her warmth had threatened to steal her very essence.

And somehow… she was not certain… still too afraid to venture a peek… but her heart tempted her into believing she had endured and survived.

I walked the Pattern.

It was tempting… so tempting to burrow into his robe and steal more of his warmth. The scent of him was heady, powerful, intoxicating, and entrancing. Though one hand strokes her hair as she presses against him, a shiver claimed her spine and sent her body trembling in his lap uncontrollably for a few moments. The hand moves to rub her shoulders and back gently in a calming gesture as her body quakes, while still holding hers gently.

"Take me with you. No one will deter us." Her soft words were muffled against his neck, but were not a plea. There is a certainty in her voice that she did not possess the last time they spoke of such things; a finality.

His head moves at her words in a nod of assent or agreement. "I have said you may come with me, and the arrangements have been made for departure from Amber. But you must open your eyes now if you would realize your fantasy and bring it to life. I can assure you that you are with me now, and that I am a being of flesh and blood. Have you courage to find proof of that, or do you require a kiss to bring life to your body again?"

His taunt summoned a chuckle that was both anxious and filled with relief, if that was possible. As much as she longed to taste him, to feel him, to play the part and let the roleplay continue, she needed to know with the utmost certainty that her mind was not deceiving her. He could feel her stir against the underside of his jaw, her head shifting just enough to tip to the heavens. Long lashes tickle his skin as they untangled from one another, revealing her dark eyes.

His gaze meets hers when she looks up, cool blue to soft brown, and though focusing was near impossible, even at this distance she could see that it was the Chaosian who held her safe. Tears welled, though she was not certain for what reason — joy, elation, relief, sadness, fear. They glisten in her eyes as her free hand unwraps from her torso to caress his cheek, bringing his forehead to hers.

"I survived," she whispers, awed. Her eyes close and emotion leaks from the corners of her eyes. "No one expected… Grandpa… Bleys took me to the chamber and gave his blessing. He liked the light you put in my eyes. But he also stood ready to take my life before the Pattern could."

Though it wasn't clear precisely how all of those thoughts fit together, she was at least reviving. It was like putting a wilted kr'ustal'low flower in suf'ai juice, to see the color rise through the stem and fill the petals with radiance. Disengaging the hand holding hers, he wipes the moisture from her cheeks with a delicate touch.

"Congratulations," he answers her quiet declaration. "You have your victory and may now go wherever your heart desires. And so, after we leave this gloomy place, we shall away to Chaos. Have you the strength now to stand?"

"Gloomy…?" She heard the word, but it made little sense in her mind. Her eyes opened again with brow creased in confusion. She hadn't noticed where they were; her entire world had not passed beyond him since she survived her trial. Uncertain and unsteady, she nodded. "I think so."

"Good. We shall see, then," he declares with his faint smile touching his lips. He helps her to sit up, supporting her as she climbed to her feet before rising himself. She was weak; there was no denying it. Her legs wanted to rebel, defy her will to stand under her own strength, but with Kendall's steady hand, Margot manages to find her feet.

Doe-eyes struggled to focus and make sense of the surroundings even as her mind tried to create a veil of denial of the mourning chamber. But no matter her wishes, a bier was clearly visible in the light of the candles. The light wavers in the breezes of their movements, flickering over a woman clad in armor who lay silently pallid on the stone platform. Margot gasps, her hands coming to her face as she once more struggled regain her composure. This had been a trying day to be sure, and hardly the joyous debut she had hoped for.

"Ah… I…. I'm sorry. She is the one…" Her voice carried a tenderness, though it was not certain whether it was a question or a statement.

"Yes," he answers her words simply, his quiet voice matter of fact. "The Lady Louella de Adriel, a Knight of the Ten Thousand." The woman's face, even in the soft glow, is not one of great comeliness. Rather, even in death its most striking feature is its strength.

An awkward silence descends on them. Margot could not help but feel apprehension grow in her chest and choke off her ability to breathe. Uncertainty furrowed her brow, unsure whether she should step into the shadows after obviously interrupting something meant for no other to observe, or to stand by him in comfort as her heart wanted her to. The only thing she knew without question was that her presence was a grotesque discord to whatever was transpiring before she appeared. An offense, should he choose to see it as such.

Releasing Margot to stand on her own, Kendall moves over to the bier again and lifts the arm that lay awkwardly sprawled with hand dangling over the side. He bends the arm so the hand may be clasped with the other at the woman's breast, his movements reflecting his characteristic care for detail. The hand lying on top displays a gold ring holding a dark stone nestled into the band. "T'laya qin sal'tharen dal peth'han," he murmurs.

A few unsteady steps forward and Margot was at his side, though slightly behind him. With the ghost of a caress, the backs of her fingers slid along his jaw, lingering upon him for a few breaths before withdrawing. And as silently as she approached, the princess withdrew, backing into the shadows.

She did not understand why her heart ached so in this moment… and she did not wish to reveal her weakness to him. Was it because she found him standing over her? Was that why her heart hurt? Was it because they were in a place of death? Was it because when she told him of what Bleys said did not receive the response she had hoped for? What response had she hoped for? Was it because everyone wanted her to run, even though they were opposed to her being with him, which could only mean that they did not expect to survive this assault and she was to be the last?

This was supposed to be a day of celebration…

With her back to him and her face safely shielded from him, new tears streaked the young woman's face. Her release was silent; he could not see her weakness. No one could. Margot wrapped her arms around herself against the cold and disappointment. She would go to Chaos and endure what she must while he, of course, would do what was best for his House. Being in love is not supposed to be so lonely… So empty…

The sound of rustling fabric and footsteps warn her of Kendall's approach, but the heavy warmth of his velvet robe is a surprise when he drapes it over her shoulders. He draws her luxurious hair out from underneath in a long, slow movement, taking care not to pull it and pain her.

"Here, now, shayna, we should depart from this place," he says in his soft and calming murmur, releasing her hair to hang down her back and pulling the locks at her cheeks back to tuck them behind her ears. "Tis a place of tragedy and regret, not one for congratulations or to celebrate victories. Come, and I will salute you properly once we reach the light of Amber's day."

The weight and warmth of his cloak only seemed to bring her frailty to the forefront of her mind. Though she would be lying if she said she didn’t appreciate the feel of it around her or his chivalry. Always well mannered. The thought brought an affectionate, if rather worn, smile to her lips. Nodding, she simply accepted his gift.

“Won’t you be cold? It would not do for you to fall ill…” Her eyes open and drift toward the chamber door on the opposite side of the room. The only thing between them and their freedom was the bier and the corpse lying in repose.

A low chuckle, hardly more than an amused exhalation of air, and he pulls her against his chest before she can step away, kissing her forehead. Fingertips peeking from the cuffs of his robe rise to cling to his pristine shirt as her body rests against his under his kiss. It was only a moment, and still, it felt like time paused long enough for her to commit all of him to her memory.

"You need not fear for my health, shayna, though you are kind to do so," he says. "You, however, have much greater need than I right now. You have endured a great ordeal, and will require rest to recuperate."

Keeping an arm around her shoulders, he steers her around the room away from the bier and the heavy metal door that blocked entrance to the chamber. In a shadow-swathed lay a deeper shadow, one that when they reached it, turns out to be a crack in the wall. Margot followed with her arm wrapped around his waist, as much for support as for affection. Her eyes remained averted to the bier and to the warrior upon it out of respect for the dead and for the man with her.

The opening was barely large enough for Kendall, though Margot had an easier time easing through it and into the darkness beyond. He leads the way, holding her hand as they move out of the candle-lit chamber and into the unknown. She feels a moment of panic when his arm leaves her shoulders, but only until his hand found hers. With her eyes of no use, she simply closed them. Better not to imagine boojums or to discover terrors that she could not defend against, nor to be a skittish distraction that would potentially cause them both harm. No, she trusted him implicitly.

Time again seems trackless as they move through the darkness, with only the sounds of their feet scraping against the floor and their breathing to keep them company. Sounds are magnified in the close quarters and dark silence, making it seem as though a whole battalion walked with them. Margot would have been terrified were she not with Kendall. Even with his hand holding hers, her discomfort grew stronger the deeper into the black they traveled.

Eventually, after several tight turns, some climbing, and some descending, Kendall's voice comes to her. "Twill only be 100 more beats of the heart, but hold here—"

The arm attached to the hand holding hers stiffens against her, bringing her to a stop. She can feel him turn in the small space, and then she is lifted from the ground and held close against him at a level so that she could rest her head on his shoulder. Somewhere trapped between panic and arousal, her heart thundered against her chest so loud she was certain he could feel the cadence as readily as he could feel her in his arms. Her arms wrapped his shoulders as she buried her face against his neck, her eyes closing.

"Now please do not squirm, and keep your head near mine," he says. He turns about with great care, and then Margot feels him gather himself before taking a step and then launching himself through her darkness.

Though her arms tightened around his shoulders, that was the only outwardly sign of distress the young Princess displayed. Her legs continued to hang loose, her ankles crossed and locked to keep her legs from swinging wildly and hindering him. Even as she held on to him, she tried to take her own burden so that he did not have to hoist her; the warmth of his arms around her waist and along her back possessed a captivating, soothing countenance that summoned contentedness.

A jarring bump when they land followed by another half step to the side, and then she feels light against her eyelids; not full light, but much more than before, beckoning her to peek at her surroundings. A distant rushing sound reaches her ears, as well. "We are very nearly to the outside," he murmurs.

Slowly, Margot opens her eyes, her face nuzzling against his both for intimacy and to take care not to crane her neck while she tried to gain some appreciation for where they were without distracting him. Light assaults her orbs, streaming towards them from a narrow opening in the darkness ahead, which appears to be a crack in the face of the dark world. As her sight adjusts, the sunlight in front reveals a jagged natural tunnel with an uneven floor.

Behind them, she can just make out a deeper darkness in the floor, seemingly a rift that they had leapt over. And for the second time this day Margot was grateful that the Chaosian could not get a good look at her face. Her eyes focused on the past, where they had been, wide with astonishment as her mind pieced together that he had literally leapt with her in his arms over the precipice through the darkness. The view was awe-inspiring; breath-taking.

As she becomes oriented, the sound from the opening resolves into distant surf crashing against shore somewhere far below. Bending at the knees, Kendall slowly lowers Margot until her feet touch the rough ground again, though he seems in no hurry to release her. She fit comfortably in his arms and nestled against his chest, while her heartbeat slowed and calmed. Once more, dark eyes were lost behind long lashes and eye lids as she simply listened to the sound of his breathing until hers fell into step with his.

"As you may have gathered, I took a secretive route to reach the tomb, and thus we both learn one of the secrets hidden below the castle," he remarks at length. "There is a shallow cave yonder where we can sit and rest for a short while. I can there assure myself in the full light that you are indeed my Margot, safe from her trials, and not some imposter." Even in the dimness of the tunnel, his eyes glimmer with mischief at that suggestion, catching the light from the cave mouth as he looks down at her.

“A cave?” she spoke from his chest. “I could do with a respite, but I fear your interrogations may be grueling.” Her arms tightened around him once more just to ensure that he was not a dream. Eventually, their embrace did fall away and Kendall took up her hand, leading her through the fallen rock and debris. Not entirely treacherous, but not a smooth path either, their steps were measured by natural ledges and boulders until the Chaosian revealed his hidden sanctuary.

To call it a cave was perhaps an inflated description. The overhanging roof jutted out just enough over a long ledge in the cliff face to afford perhaps two couples standing side by side some protection from the elements. But in spite of its meager comforts, it would suffice for two seeking rest. The floor reached beyond the overhang, standing like nn altar to the heavens to view day or night as the desire struck. Down below, the crash of the surf with the hiss of the spray sang a furious aria.

Kendall slides carefully through the narrow tunnel opening first, still holdinf her hand to help her balance as she joins him. As she steps fully outside, he dips into a bow as though she had just entered a room of high estate. "And here now enters Princess Margot, survivor of the Pattern of Amber, a young adventurer ready to take on the whole of the Multiverse," he announces, and then presses the back of her hand to his lips. "I am but your humble servant."


His flourish earned an appreciative chuckle as her fingers turned in his hand, caressing his face and tracing his lips. There was something so powerful about the little hideaway. As time charged on and the sun made its endless journey across the horizon day after day, millennium after millennium, this spot simply observed with indifference as the elements shifted and transformed, rulers came and departed.

Standing up again, he cocks his head to one side, eyes narrowing in evaluation as he looks at her in the full light of day. "But you are pale, and weary. Your fingers tremble, though you try to still them. However, I should have something to aid you."

Margot withdrew her hand as he spoke of her complexion and countenance. She did feel weary and weak, but assumed that was due to the dank environ they had just abandoned. Fresh air would cure that. He had other thoughts on the matter, though, and he steps close to her again as he reaches inside the heavy robe she still wore. Searching fingers found a hidden pocket with the ease of one who had used it often, and within a mere five heartbeats he was holding a tiny flask in his hand, barely larger than his palm. He unscrews the top and offers it to her to drink.

"Take half at first," he instructs her.

She accepts the flask, but takes a few moments to admire the superior craftsmanship before bringing it to her lips. The burnished silver metal of the flask is decorated with a delicate engraving of a bird in flight, rendered with exquisite detail, and the tiny top was attached with an equally exquisite threadlike chain. Tipping the contents into her mouth, Margot swallowed as instructed before returning the flask to its owner. Half.

As with all that Kendall had given her to taste, the liquid in the flask has a complex flavor, though this one ends on a note that is not exactly pleasant. Astringent and nutty with earthy undertones, mildly bitter at the end. "What is it?" she asks.

He takes the flask back from her when she is done and screws the top back on. "Nectar derived from the root of the cha'wa tree," he answers her question. "It will likely take some heartbeats for the you to feel the full effect, but it will help you. Would you care to sit here for a time? You will need to gather some strength for the climb."

She blinks with the heavy-liddedness of one fighting against the inevitable. "Yes," she smiles, torn between being sheltered and looking down at the powerful spray. Absently, she began removing the robe, preoccupied with keeping it tidy. She carefully folded the heavy garment in her arms, dusting the bottom hem of any particles it had collected as she wandered the length of the ledge. The coolness of the environ summoned a shiver, which she tried to stifle. "Do you have a preference? Shelter or sky?" she asked over her shoulder.

"Under shelter would be my preference," he answers. As she wanders back in his direction, he takes her arm again in a gentle grasp and leads her over to where a niche in the stone under the overhand would make a passable backrest. "Sit here, with me," he instructs her, and then he sits down, guiding her to sit next to him so that she can lean against him and be as comfortable as possible. It takes both of them using one hand, but the robe is draped over them, tucked close under Margot's chin, and his arm finds its way around her.

He waits while she gets settled, both having to shift around a bit to find the best fit and move loose stones out of the way, but it took nothing for her to find comfort next to him; her body seemed designed to fit against his. His shoulder pillowd her head and one of her hands rested in his lap, while the other lay in her own. Silence falls for a time before he finally says, "Tell me… what was it like?"

Margot contemplated his question, breathing slowly and deeply. “Terrifying. Perplexing. Excruciating," she finally decides.

“You hear people say 'You have to commit. There’s no going back!'” She barked the order with mock authority. “But this was the real thing. There was no wavering. The moment you step upon the first arabesque, you are linked to the Pattern. You either make it to the center or you meet your death. I thought that was a dramatic exaggeration; something to scare the Initiate, but…”

She shivers, recalling a terrible memory or perhaps fantasizing of what could have happened. “The ordeal is not kind. There are the obvious physical challenges. You cannot deviate from the Pattern. Each step must fall on the design, no matter what. This is harder than it sounds, for with each step closer to the center, you are met with greater resistance until you feel like you are walking against the morning tide. All the while there are mental and emotional torments… Questions and phantasms that taunt and torment, whirling around you at a dizzying pace trying to break your concentration because all you need is one small misstep, one shift of your foot where you don’t quite land upon the enchanted filigree.”

Her fingers at his thigh stroked softly, tattooing his leg with hidden designs. “The closer I got to the center, the louder the cacophony in my head, the harder the waves crashed against me. These fires rose with every footfall against the Pattern until I was nearly consumed by them. But then I reached the center and… And there was some vague sense of a question of where did I long to be. The last thing I remember was thinking of you before things went black and then I was in the tomb.”

She sat up and turned to look at him. “I am sorry. I did not mean to intrude, truly. I… I had no idea that I would be… sent away to simply materialize wherever you were,” she explains, her expression quite contrite. “I would have never intentionally insinuated myself into your affairs like that.”

"Shh," Kendall admonishes her at the last, the fingers of his free hand coming up to cover her lips even as a smile quirks one corner of his own. The humor that lurks in his eyes is tinged with rue, though. "Peace, Margot. It would seem as though all of my activities in Amber have been threaded into the knot of my initial encounter with the Lady Knight. That is no fault of yours."

Sadness, perhaps mourning, clouded her dark eyes as he spoke of his time in Amber and the befallen Knight. There was an ache in her heart for him, wishing that this singular encounter had not created the suffering that it did, for all that it touched. A great deal was lost that did not need to be, and for what?

The fingers over her lips move to stroke her cheek, traveling back to thread themselves into the tendrils of hair by her ear. "Your appearance was… unexpected, to say the least, and by an unprecedented means. Thus my interest earlier in verifying your identity," he adds. His gaze moves to her lips, and the hand behind her head draws her closer. "This seems to me the most expedient way to do so…"

Warm fingers sliding along her skin and through her hair ceased her train of thought, drawing her attention to his eyes and to the moment once more, and reminding her of how much she had craved such intimacies. Margot leaned into the kiss, her hand leaving his lap to wrap around her waist; the other hand exchanging places to cradle his face to hers. Gingerly, softly, her lips brushed against his invitingly, full petals parting to capture his lower lip.

There was a time when she would have waited, feared to kiss him, but now she savored the languid dance of sensitive flesh rediscovering itself. Once her prisoner, his lip was hers to toy with; a gentle suckle or sweep of her tongue before she would release him. The dance was slow, but not without purpose or without increasing intensity. With each passing embrace, smolder gave way to searing as Margot’s insatiable passions found their spark.

Kendall pulls her near, sliding her onto his lap as she embarks on her explorations, returning the affection with obvious relish, though with restraint even as he senses her passions flaring. The reviving elixir had done its work well, and he little doubted she would surrender herself willingly to him even here above the crashing surf in the uncertain heights of the cliff. And he was aware of temptation, enhanced by the novelty of location and risk of discovery.

Hands caress Margot's back and sides as they kiss, each reacquainting themselves with the other, testing to see if anything had changed after the young woman's ordeal. It was certain that she had changed somehow on some basic level below the level of true awareness, at the core of her essence. But here on the surface, where lips met and danced together, there was familiarity and fervor. Lips open beneath hers, inviting her deeper into the kisses, though he still lets her play as much as she desires. He tugs briefly at the fabric tucked in at her hips, and then warm fingers find the skin of her waist and back.

Her free arm unfurled, wrapping around his shoulders and drawing him closer. A soft moan, barely more than an exhale passed between them as his hands found her flesh. She shifted in his lap, her lips still actively engaged with his in a searing kiss, straddling him. Their makeshift blanket slipped from her shoulders, hardly earning it a second thought. His invitation eagerly accepted, Margot's mouth crushed against his hungrily now that she was not inhibited by her side-saddle position. Hands drifted over his torso, seeking to free him from his fabric confines.

When she straddles him, she is left with no doubt of his lust. He does not object to her seeking fingers as they loosen the buttons of the black shirt, revealing the skin of his chest for her to explore and enjoy. But even though he returns her kisses with enthusiasm, he does not progress their intimacy.

How easily could he draw the fabric of her blouse over her head to reveal the softness of her breasts? His seeking fingers could feel the bare skin beneath her shirt, with no restraints to hide her femininity from him. Or how easily could he draw away the confining fabric of her trousers? But he restrains himself even while she unbuttons his shirt.

One by one, buttons slipped their holes as delicate fingers traced his skin from the hollow of his neck to the next obstacle until not one button served its purpose on holding the fabric secure across his chest. Margot made no movement to slip the luxurious shirt from his shoulders; she simply parted the pieces to reveal his his chest. Her hands continued to caress, reacquainting herself with each line of his chiseled form, where ribs and muscles cut lines along the warm canvas.

Reluctantly, her lips part from his. Sitting up, she stared longingly into his eyes as her hands found the hem of her shirt and lifted it over her head…

His hands rest at the curves of her waist as she pulls her shirt up and over her head, eyes gazing deeply into hers as she made her desires known to him as plainly as she could, yet without speaking the words. Thumbs trace the lines of her ribs as fabric covers her head, blinding her briefly.

"Margot, my sweet," he murmurs softly, and then her torso is bare before him, the shirt sliding from her fingers to join his green robe on the stone. Sunlight glimmers on the sea behind her, the breeze trailing long hair over her shoulders and against his hands. Deliberately, he pulls her against his bare chest once again, skin pressing against skin as his hands bury themselves into the luxurious fall of hair down her back.

"Fain would I accept your invitation, shayna," he whispers into her ear, nibbling briefly at the lobe. "Yet I would not have you waste the precious energy you now have when we have a climb ahead of us."

Her lips dusted his clavicle; her fingers playing upon his chest. "And how then… will you know with certainty," she purred against his skin, her lips seeking the tip of his shoulder. "That I am who I am…?"

Just as he made no attempt to hide his body's interest, Margot's eagerness for his touch brushed against his chest. Her hands continued to explore him, sliding along his ribs to just above where their hips met and cloth discouraged her … for the moment. Finding the place where his pulse kept time in his neck, her teeth captured the skin, only to sooth it with a languid swirl of her tongue.

"You were the one who was seeking confirmation, were you not… hm?" she whispered back into his ear.

He sighs in pleasure at the feel of her lips, teeth, and tongue, but then a chuckle ripples through him, making his shoulders dance. One hand moves upward to draw the curling tendrils back from her face, revealing the arc of her neck and the creamy rise of her shoulder.

"Oh, you tempt me again, my sweet," he replies with humor in his tone, tipping his head to savor the ridge of her collarbone. "And you are much more accessible this time, not so well wrapped as in the beautiful gown of your ball."

Fingers trail through the curtain of hair down her back to tease the skin at the waist of her trousers. "Yet do you truly believe more is required to establish your credentials, or do you merely desire for us to be one again?" He pulls away as he asks that question, lips still upturned in his faint smile, pale blue eyes burning bright as he stares at her.

"Must one exclude the other?" she returned canting her head in question. Antsy fingers walked along his flesh, painting his chest with designs only she could see. Blanketing him with her body, she drank from his warmth, her arms snaking around to feel the strength in his back.

"I … " her tone faded to a whisper that barely lifted above the crash below. "I only truly feel alive when I'm with you. Alive and real. I… need to …celebrate that now more than ever. I have lost much and I am about to lose so much more, My Heart." She was grateful that her face was tucked beneath his chin. "And only you make my spirit soar and make my heart take flight."

Her arms tightened around him as she breathed him in. "It is not simple carnal, prurient motives that drive me to your arms… You remind and reinforce why it is I want to continue on."

His arms tighten around her back again as she leans against him to make her confession, tangling in her hair and protecting her from the cool breeze that blew fitfully around the edges of the cave. "It pleases me that you do not fear to reveal your desires to me, desires that I most assuredly share," he begins, pausing to drop a kiss onto the top of her head.

"But you do not see what I see, shayna," he says, his tone tender. "A face that is still bloodless, with hollow cheeks and dark smudges beneath the eyes. Eyes that are glassy with fatigue. The cha'wa nectar will sustain you only for a time," he explains. "Then you will need true food and rest to sustain you. Let us return to the Vigil together, where you will be cared for. Once you have rested and recovered, then we will continue our frolics."

The truth of his words could not be denied; she could feel the weariness on the outskirts of her body even as she had felt rejuvenated in spirit. She allowed a pause just long enough for her to relish the embrace extended time before nodding.

"Very well." Though the words selected may be misconstrued as disappointment, the purr with which they were spoken beheld a warmth and contentedness that came with being cared for. She loathed the thought of leaving his arms so soon, but with the promise of finding herself returned there so soon afterward hanging so close in the horizon, she did not mind overly much. "Then we should make this journey before my energy truly wanes."

Rising but not yet ready to leave his lap, Margot reached for her shirt and pulled it over her head. Kendall starts buttoning his shirt, but obligingly stops when she shooes away his fingers so that she can do it. Just as she had undressed him, she fastened his buttons with the same loving affection, her fingers working with tender alacrity.

His eyes rove over her face as she concentrates on the simple task, expression intent on what her fingers were doing, and then turn instead to a lock of hair that blows over her shoulder and into her eyes. Pushing the tendrils of hair away, he tucks them behind her ear again, running the fine strands between his fingers and watching the play of the light on the highlights.

She slipped from his lap and gathered her strength before pressing herself into a standing position to tuck her shirt, moving to the edge of the cave to look up at their obstacle. Shielding her eyes, she sighed with slight exasperation, "I suppose it's a straight climb and there's no easy way…"

He stands when she does, picking up the green robe and shaking it out as she straightens her own clothes. Pulling off his belt, he fastens it around the outside of the velvet to hold it close to his body before joining her at the edge of the rock platform. "I chose an angled route, there," he points off to the side. "Twas not too difficult."

But he was taller than she, and hand- and footholds that were easy for him may not be so simple for her to reach. When she looks at him again, it is to find that he is staring at her broodingly, brow furrowed into a frown.

"Alternately, you may also find your way back to the castle through the tomb," he suggests. "My presence there should not be known, but you are not so restricted. You would merely need to make your way past the door, which could prove somewhat of an obstacle, and explain how you came to be there. Yet it would be safer for you to take that route, Margot."

Her eyes turn up to the side of the cliff with grim determination, "No…" she shook her head, "I'd rather not try to fumble around in the darkness and then try to fabricate some explanation as to how I bamphed into the tomb. I'm a lousy liar when I have all of my wits about me…" she flashed a self-effacing smile. "How tough can it be to scale one small rock?" she dismissed with a scoff.

Still, concern for how she was going to actually succeed clouded dark eyes. This could actually be the shortest lived life of an Amberite royal in all the annuls, she mused to herself; the thought summoning an ironic curl to her lips. "Either you can lead the way and I'll follow… or you can follow me and try to guide my footfalls from behind and then if I slip, I'm not completely without chance of success?"

Here on the edge of the rock ledge, the breeze is more regular and insistent, blowing her long hair about as they talk. Pushing some out of her face again, he purses his lips in an equally determined expression. Releasing her shoulders, he pulls his knife from under the right sleeve of his outer green robe and uses it to slice off a length of leather lacing from the front of her shirt. The little knife is as understated as the fastenings that attached it to his arm, but it cuts the leather as though it had hardly passed through more than the air, his movements quick, efficient, practiced.

"I will climb below you," he answers as he puts the knife away. With an air of getting down to business, he turns her again so that her back is to him and begins plaiting her hair, quickly and with little worry for its neatness. Near the bottom, he weaves the length of leather into the braid so it will not fall off, and then uses the free ends to tie off the plait securely. He then tucks the long, thick length of her hair into her shirt.

"But please do not slip, Margot," he adds as he works.

A pity their trial to come was so grim and life threatening, she mused as her eyes took in the glorious view of the horizon. The sun's watery mirage roiled on the cerulean waters that seemed to transform from deep mossy green to periwinkle-silver. The roar from below was near deafening; Margot could barely hear what Kendall was saying even when he leaned over to her ear.

His caution earned a throaty chuckle. "Trust me when I say that not slipping is a high priority." she called over her shoulder as he worked her hair. She was never afraid of heights, having scaled trees and climbed and played at the Rose Estates in the place she had thought was home as a child. Margot had even developed the ability to levitate items; though, she had never attempted herself. She supposed that if it became necessary, she would have to succeed if she started to fall as the alternative was a very painful, crushing, watery death. A full-body shiver claimed her as her imagination rampaged vividly with consequence to a foolish footfall or physical mishap.

When he was finished, she turned and faced him. A kiss found his lips once more, a small smile tugging at one side of her mouth. "For luck."

His arms come around her in a crushing embrace from which she could never hope to break free, holding her for the space of 10 heartbeats and inhaling the scent of her hair before he releases her and looks back down into her eyes.

"Luck is not reliable," he says, his calm and even tone belying the brief intensity of just moments before. "We shall trust to our skills."


That the climb would be perilous was self-evident, scaling a cliff-face above rocks and waves without safety equipment of any sort. Though it might be that Kendall had safety equipment already built in, Margot certainly did not have such a safety net. And so he stays close by her throughout the climb, helping her retain her balance if it looked as though she was wavering, steadying her with a hand to shoulder or arm or leg as the case may be. The route he directed her to was indeed angled so that hand and footholds could be scouted out, and also avoided the overhang that would have required the use of pure upper body strength to overcome. Still, angling over rather than climbing straight up had its own drawbacks, most notably the longer distance prolonging the experience.

But if there was a perfect day to climb a rock, today might have been that day. The cliff was dry, the breeze light, and the sun illumined everything without getting in their eyes. Though tendrils of her hair worked loose from the plait, most remained firmly controlled and out of the way as they climbed. Periodically, when Kendall would reach her level so that they were side-by-side, Margot would feel a warm hand pressed against her back, as though reassuring himself that she was steady and safe.

Yet as they neared the top of the cliff, Margot began to feel the weight of her arms and legs. Her fingers were also raw from contact with stone and scraggly plants that all seemed to have thorns, wrists scratched and scraped where the fabric of her blouse had failed to protect her. The breeze towards the top became more erratic, uncertain how to interact with cliff face and open space above, tugging at their clothes and hair from all different directions, and Kendall stays very near her, as close as he can get without hindering her efforts. But after a very long time, the crest of the cliff comes to within reach. Leaving her for the first time since the start of the climb, the Chaosian takes two longer strides on the rock, reaching high above as he could with longer legs and arms to pull himself up and over the top of the cliff. Turning and putting his hands over the edge, he reaches to grasp her wrists and help her finish the climb, safely.

She never complained, never whimpered. Jaw clenched, the silent growl or grunt of determination would float upon the sea breeze, but never elevate above the roar of the angry churning below. Bloodied and raw, her fingers felt worn to the bone, nails chipped and split. When she took an injury, her face contorted with discomfort, but her jaw locked as her eyes turned to the skies as if to measure how much more she had to climb by the amount of suffering she had to endure.

At one point she reached for what appeared to be a secure hold, only to have the face crumble beneath her hand. The slip was more startling than anything else, a yelp escaping her as she felt gravity tug her toward the waters below. Thankfully, Kendall's alacrity had her pinned against the face before she could suffer anything more than a panic attack and adrenaline rush.

For the most part, though, and perhaps a little to his surprise, she pushed through with grim determination, refusing to accept weakness as an excuse for defeat. Her arms ached and her legs begged for mercy. The elixir he had fed her no longer sustaining her energy now that she had been expending it so rapidly. In her mind, excuses attempting to justify a small break started spinning in her head, but she would have none of it; occassionally shaking her head as of having a violent argument with another. Her shirt and the delicate flesh beneath it had seen better days, scrapes and bruises would be tonight's fashionable attire. Margot huffed as tufts of hair slick with exertion clung to her forehead and nose, itching her face.

As he sprinted past her on the rock face, Margot waited, suddenly frightened. She wasn't afraid when his presence was close; but here alone with nothing or no one to aid her… relief shone in her eyes when she saw him peer over the ledge and his hands extended to take hers. Reaching with all the energy she could muster, she took his wrists in her hands…

Tis a quiet place they do find. A long, low building almost covered with mountain ivy and carved to commemorate Prince Corwin. Two benches sit against the walls on either side of the entrance, allowing for a serene view of the sea.

Beside it, is Lady Lorraine's tomb. Unfortunately, not empty like Corwin's. Died in child birth not long ago, held in Prince Corwin's arms. Hers is a smaller tomb, done in imported marble in the Avalonian style. Not as stark as Corwin's, having a more feminine touch in its design. Planted about it, are hundred of different types of blooming flowers. A small silver flame flickering behind it, bewitched upon the very cliff face stone styled into a column. Before the tomb, is a bush of purple roses, that shimmer in the sunlight and grow about a empty whisky bottle.

Kendall helps Margot up over the lip of the cliff edge, almost pulling her up and letting her flop against him when she gets all limbs on solid ground again. Dusty, tousled and sweating lightly, he is far more rumpled than she has ever seen him. Apart from that, however, he appears none the worse for wear after the climb.

Rust-red capped ten digits and in a mixture of dirt caked along hands and wrists. Dirty blood where the Princess had scraped shoulders and ribs against hardened rock only added to the discheveled look. Dirt dusting her, speckling her skin and lightening her hair; it seemed to be the only color to her. Gone were the rosy cheeks and the light that the elixir brought to her eyes faded. A small smile fought to form on her lips as she hung loosely in his arms. "Are we there yet?"

Margot was fairly certain she was going to vomit. Mostly certain she was going to faint. Definitely certain that her legs were going to give out, "I need to …" she knees started to buckle, "Sit." She groaned, then looked at him apologetically as his reflexes kept her from crashing to the ground. "I'm sorry." A smile formed, a little stronger, "I guess all that time at the Academy learning how to dance and etiquette and any number of useless things didn't properly prepare me for scaling cliffs." She tried to chuckle, but it hurt her ribs. "It's the … it's the … it's the pebbles in my boots. Just … give me a moment to empty my boots and then we can continue."

Taking a place on the ground. The world seemed to spin a little slower from this vantage, but the dark clouds still seemed to close in on her vision. Bending over a knee, she slowly fumbled with the laces as she attempted to loosen one boot enough to remove it.

Kendall's hands push away her fumbling fingers, pressing instead the tiny flask into her hands. "Finish the chaw'a," he murmurs, and then proceeds to remove her boots with greater speed and dexterity than she can currently muster. The tiny cap has already been removed as well, so that she would not be forced to contend with that either.

Clearly he had misjudged when he did not insist she take the other route back into the castle. Pulling off her boots, he contemplates the best course of action at this point. Bringing a bloody, exhausted, and rumpled princess back to the castle would raise questions and quite probably an alarm. And he wasn't prepared for this eventuality. The fact that he had the chaw'a nectar was merely a coincidence, but he had no other means to help her recover.

He says nothing of this as she recovers, though, merely letting her gather herself for a time in silence. The boots having been removed, her feet feel freer and refreshed by the cool breeze.

"I am sorry." she offers, quite contrite, taking his silence for anger. Tipping the flask back, she emptied the contents into her mouth obediently, swallowing hard. Perhaps someday, should she survive this and Amber still stand, she would return and be able to say with a hint of pride she scaled this cliff with only her hands and her companion.

There were too many IFs attached to that whimsical thought.

It was not long before the last of the syrum did as it was supposed to and her energy perked; though not as it had previously. Two traumatic physical feats so rapidly following one another without proper recovery… one would have to be in far greater condition than the fair princess to return to her full capacity. Still, she returned the flask to Kendall, keeping her eyes cast down, and busied herself with putting her boots back on. Her hands and fingers ached, it was apparent in how her jaw clenched or her face fought to not contort when she had to tug at the boot or tighten the laces. As wounds would begin to weep again with fresh blood, she dabbed the moisture against her pants.

Kendall accepts the flask from her, secreting it away again in the pocket of his robe. While she rests, he takes some time to put himself in order at least somewhat. Un-cinching his belt, he removes the heavy green robe and shakes it vigorously three times to get as much of the dirt and grit from it as possible. "There is no need to apologize, Margot," he answers at length, returning the belt to his trousers and then pulling the robe on again. He runs his fingers through his tousled hair, pushing it back to where it needs to be and ejecting a few pebbles.

Then he crouches down next to her again, taking her abused hands into his. "We shall rest here a time until you are ready to continue," he adds. "Though I fear I have no water for your refreshment." He falls silent again, crouched down next to and facing her, looking down at their joined hands.

She looked at him, studied him, for several moments. "I'm sure it looks worse than it is… grime has a way of making things seem far more dire." Her fingers were stiffening;even so, she gave his hands a squeeze trying to offer reassurance, levity, something that could be taken as comfort. "You are troubled." she stated after several more moments sitting in silence.

"I am uncertain… how best to proceed," he answers her observation after another pause. His voice is abstracted, as though his attention is divided. "I am concerned about our reception should we observed arriving together at the castle with you in your current state. Tis possible the best course of action at this point would be not to go to the Vigil after all, or that we will need to part company for a time."

"Yes, I can appreciate how this could be an awkward arrival," she conceded after some thought. "However, would it not be of greater suspect if you were not rumpled and covered in the same filth? And… what purpose would you have, truly, of escorting a broken princess back to the castle if you were the culprit? That is illogical foolishness, even by my naive standards."

Margot wanted to lay down; her head felt as if it weighed a thousand pounds. "I would find it far more suspect and of greater concern, were I a member of the guard, to discover the newly revealed princess beyond the protection of the castle - alone - in such a haggard condition."

A scoff left her lips, her head shaking slightly. "Little girls dream of being princesses. One day, I am swept away to discover that I really am one… of this," she turned her eyes to the sky, "Magical place. This place where all other realities touch… you only need dream it and it is yours to explore. And then … the promise of a faerie-tale ball where you are finally introduced to your family and it is a day of peace and happiness and you are accepted … something to shatter the fantasies that storybooks painted in the minds of innocents. Of course, this day is cut short by some entity-child punishing her progeny and the ominous promise of death and destruction of all that is Amber."

A sigh, "So ends the reign of Queen Margot, bloodied and bruised… not exactly the laughing and dancing and celebrating that I had envisioned." She chuckled, "I'd bet my life most little girls do not dream of this when they see their debut." Margot's fingers tightened once more around Kendall's, "Not that I would trade my time with you for anything…" affection warmed her voice, "Just … I'm amused at the irony of it all."

Kendall stays quiet as she muses on the current situation, gently massaging her hands even though he still focuses the majority of his concentration on what he is attempting to do. Her words wash over him, floating out beyond the sheltered nook to scatter over the sea that crashed against the cliff far, far below. Her lament sparked a number of random thoughts and associations, though few of them were appropriately comforting and reassuring to speak to the young woman right then. But perhaps this was what was needed, so her sadness and disappointment could drown in the sea with her words, unburdening her from bitterness that could take root and grow like slow poison.

"I am gratified to be listed as a desirable benefit of your time in Amber," he says presently, a smile quirking his lips a little. He speaks with quiet deliberation, a little more slowly and carefully than usual. "Irony is the primary lubrication for events at either end of the Multiverse, and an appreciation of it can take one a long way."

"As for your previous question, however…" He pauses to frame his next words. "Illogic and foolishness in my actions are not something that would long be a factor to be questioned. The guards here - most people here - expect destruction and mayhem from those of Chaos. Hatred and fear do not require… sound reasoning."

"Then you shall be under my protection!" she declared, a sparkle lighting her eyes. "The sun has not yet set, I am still Queen. They are bound to bend knee to me and my will. At least, unless the Hordes storm the castle at which point, I would like to think they would have far greater things of import on their mind than the actions of one princess and the Chaosian she loves. If not, then it will be the myopic and archaic ways of the old regime that doom Amber's survival."

Leaning over, she shifted her hands slightly to kiss the insides of his palms. "Kendall, in the grand scheme of things … you and I are so insignificant to what happens here or within those walls. I will not let anyone harm you…" His warmth against her face was so soothing, comforting. Margot closed her eyes and just inhaled his essence.

He does not answer right away, finally touching upon the right chord in his mind that speaks to him of Margot and resonates with the woman sitting with him. It was much more difficult here in Amber, even more challenging with a person whose roots lay close to the stability of the Pattern and who had essayed the grand symbol of stasis, and yet…seemingly still possible with care and caution.

In the momentary lapse of conversation, as Margot rests her face against his hands, she can feel his warmth begin spread through her. It feels, at first, like nothing unusual, as though her face was simply beginning to share the temperature of his hands. But within several heartbeats, she can feel it is more than merely heat that moves within her body. Recognition. A whisper in her mind hints of Kendall. That explanation or understanding still somehow does not quite feel right, though. He is not touching her mind, but seemingly reaching within to find and touch her very essence.

She wasn't frightened; trusting him meant she had nothing to fear. But, the sensation was new. At first, she simply thought she was giving over to the exhaustion and the warmth of his hands was coaxing the warmth of sleep to overtake her. Then… she felt HIM. It was like their love-making and yet so very, VERY different.

Could it be that he was caressing her very soul?

"Kendall…?" she asked softly, though her face did not leave his hands. His name alone held the questions she was not able to articulate: What was happening? What was it she was feeling? Was he the reason for the sensation?

"Shhh," is his only answer at first, a calming sound. The sensation best described as warmth spreads, and she can feel the aches of muscles and sting of scrapes on hands, wrists, and elsewhere lessen and begin to fade away. It takes no time at all, yet also an eternity of stillness within.

When they were on the beach speaking of shapeshifting, Kendall had described a song in the veins that sings in his mind. Buried so deeply as to be almost beyond awareness, she begins to sense a rippling melody, a movement that resonates with the sense of Kendall that touches her innermost being. It follows the paths that his essence illuminates, revealing her body as it should be — healthy and whole.

A stirring, so delicate and fragile and still so potent in its magnitude that Margot could do little more than tremble where she knelt. Though, she was truly uncertain whether the movement she felt vibrating through her entirety would be noticed by the casual observer. Warmth crept within, connecting every aspect of her being to her very core, one synergistic bond to another, until there was only, truly, completely One entity. One being.

Margot.

Through the surreal stream, she followed the current that drew her to the majestic sound of Kendall that was resonating from within. Here, this enchanted Veil parted and she could almost taste the opalescent liquidity of Life essence that touched Kendall in every way. With each new breath drawn, she could feel her pains lessen, as if with his presence he had guided her, gifted her with healing. Vaguely, she could sense her own participation in the process, her body transforming and evolving; him the Master and her Muse. Margot focused on Kendall, her concentration struggling to be divided as disparate events sought resolution that she was in no condition to seek.

Fingers ceased to ache, breathing became less labored. When she opened her eyes and looked at their joined hands, her nonplussed expression could not be disguised. “What happened? How?”

Kendall finally looks up as the last of her hurts dull, fading to mere memory. His faint smile has returned, though weariness deepens the lines around his eyes. He raises her fingers, kissing them gently. "I have healed you," he answers simply. "Tis something that can be done sometimes, with sufficient skill and knowledge. My body knows itself and its healthy form, and can return to that state quickly in the event of injury. I was able to show your body how to return to its healthy form in a similar way."

Margot's fingers unfurled, cradling his face. Leaning in, she kissed the place between his eyes, leaving her lips to linger there for several heartbeats. Given how guarded he tended to be, even around her, she could not imagine how vulnerable he had made himself or the risk he had taken. "Thank you," she murmurred, her lips brushing the words against his skin.

"Srivest'a," he murmurs in response. There is a pause, and then he withdraws so that he can look at her again. His gaze searches her face, taking in the red-rimmed eyes, the smudges below them, the hollow cheeks, the pinched mouth. He leans over again, pressing his lips against her right eye as though to take away the weariness there. "There is more I can do," he admits. "If you have need of my energy as well."

Her fingers stroked his cheeks lovingly, sliding gently along his jaw before moving to his temples and feathering his hair behind his ears. While it was clear she did not know what he was offering, it was equally clear that she gave it tremendous gravity. "Kendall…" she breathed, her voice laden with emotion. "You give so much and I have nothing to offer in return. I never wished to be a burden around your neck."

That she was exhausted was unquestionable. Still, her respect for him, her value of him, kept her from accepting his veiled invitation. "You need to keep something for yourself, My Heart," she says with a smile. "One of us needs to be charming and you wear finesse like an expertly tailored garment."

Reaching into a pocket of his robe again, he pulls out a handkerchief of black silk. He thinks about her answer for many heartbeats as he wipes some of the dust and dirt from her face with the soft cloth, trying to weigh the different options against her current state. The heaviness of his thought process does not even allow room to respond to her lighthearted compliment.

Though she could only guess at the conflict within him, what he was considering and tentatively offering had enormous implications beyond the simple matter of transferring life force between two bodies. The part of his being that was dedicated to self-preservation clamored in the back of his mind as he tried to make a decision, demanding to know what insanity had overtaken him. That part was firmly entrenched, loud and authoritative, easily overpowering the newer and less familiar part of his being that struggled with the foreign concepts of sympathy, altruism, and compassion.

Still, though he had already misjudged when he did not insist she take a different route, now the most diffcult aspect of their journey had been overcome. He hoped.

Finished with his ministrations to her face and neck, he looks into her eyes, which were becoming heavy. Yes, it would behoove them to get moving again. Unexpectedly, he smiles at her again and gives her a nod. "We shall proceed with returning to the castle now," he says, rising from his crouch and tucking the kerchief away into his sleeve. He offers his hand to her. "It may be that more will be needed, but we shall hope not."

Margot's smile mirror's his own, though hers is a tired reflection. Rising with him, the princess pulled him into a hug, resting her head against his body, her arms hanging loosely around his hips until her fingers link at his lower back. He holds her quietly for those heartbeats, releasing her when she steps away. But before she can move too far, he bends quickly and she finds herself swept off her feet and into his arms. He cradles her against his chest so that her head can rest against his left shoulder, and begins to carefully walk the narrow, winding path back toward the castle.


Her head found home pillowed in the cradle where his shoulder and neck met. As Kendall began to weave their path, she listened to the cadence of his heart. Eventually, curiosity broke the leash on her tongue, "Will you… tell me what you meant by more?" she asked slowly.

He takes several steps before venturing any sort of reply. "There is a… method, known by some in the Courts, by which the life force of one person can be… shared with another," he says at last, hitching her up a little as they walk. The pauses in his sentence, as always, hint at words chosen with special care. "It would take some time to accomplish, however, and would of necessity weaken me."

Were she walking by his side, she would have ceased their continued their forward progression. Without this, she lifted her head from his shoulder and captured his face in her hands, turning it to bring his eyes to hers. Margot searched his blue pools, her brow furrowed slightly, seeking understanding, the question resting upon her lips but the words not yet forming so that they may take flight.

"Kendall…" she breathed. This was a sacrifice that she would not have asked for, expected, or anticipated. Even having the offer made, no matter how much discomfort the thought may have brought him, strangled her with emotion. "…Why…?" her head shook, eyes filled with wonder, love and a genuine desire to understand the nature of his offer. He had to know she would not know about such things. He had to know that she would not take from him that what he would not offer freely; that she would only accept his gift if it was a true gift of the heart… something he wished to share, not something he felt was a necessity. Even then, she would be concerned for his safety. "I don't understand."

He stops walking when she brings his face to look at hers, not able so well to watch his steps at that point. "What do you not understand?" he asks, looking puzzled as he studies her. Turning his gaze back to the narrow track, he continues on his way. "Tis fairly straightforward," he says as they proceed. "You have been weakened by your ordeal with the Pattern, and we have a ways yet to go before you may rest and recover." His answer and manner are matter-of-fact.

Margot shook her head. "That part I understand; but, Kendall. I could rest. Time can pass. Nothing is so important that we can't wait." Once more she drew his attention to her face, to bring his eyes to her gaze. "Why would you risk yourself… why would you make yourself vulnerable?"

Kendall stops walking again. "If I had insisted you return through the tombs, you might already have reached your destination," he observes. "I did not, and the climb up the cliff face wearied you still more. And so, it came to me that you may need more than simple healing of wounds to finish the journey. You may need strength as well, and tis possible for me to lend you my strength, if need be. As for why—" He pauses for a breath before finishing the sentence. "I do not believe you will use the knowledge gained against me."

"I would rather fall on my own blade than do anything that would harm or compromise you, this is the whole of my heart. It brings me peace that you know this." She hesitated, wanting to say more, but struggling to find the words, "But, you're not responsible for my decision to follow you. Even if I did return, there is no guarantee I would have arrived safely to wherever we chose as a rendezvous and who knows where I may have fallen unconscious and who may have discovered me. If you did not choose to return with me, would you then feel responsible if I were lost because I did not arrive and you had no idea where to look for me?"

She watched him, compassion creasing the corner of her eyes, "There are times in each of our lives where we are given the choice to fate of our existence in the hands of another. What motivates that circumstance differs for each person… sometimes it's necessity, sometimes it's mutually beneficial, sometimes it's dependence, sometimes it's desperation, and sometimes it's … implicit trust, love."

She drew a breath and held it, releasing it slowly, "I know what motivates me… and I believe you know as well." An affectionate smile tugged at her tired expression. "I have made no secrets of my feelings nor have I made any efforts to employ deceptions. Since there were other alternatives at our disposal to refresh my energy reserves, albeit less efficient, I would be lying if I told you that I wasn't surprised by what you proposed." Her head settled back against him, perhaps because she was tired, perhaps because she did not want to know what his eyes would reveal. "I just … wanted to understand."

He hitches her up in his arms, and then continues to walk. "Time may not be so much at our disposal as one might desire," he says eventually. Two more steps, as he decides to attempt to share some of the inner workings of his thoughts. "Shayna, I realize you desire to believe the best of intent from those around you. Tis an attractive vision, but not one with which I have any experience. In my experience, all actions are motivated at least in part by personal goals and gratification. I include myself in that characterization. Very rarely is anything done for wholly unselfish reasons."

There is a brief break in his words as he navigates a rocky patch of the track, the castle becoming visible over the tops of some trees farther along. "Tis also my observation that Amber is disimilar enough from Chaos that some predictions may be made regarding our reception at the castle. Even if such predictions do not come to pass, I view it as prudent to plan for the possibility of hostility. Thus, fortifying your strength is as much a matter of tactical planning as any feelings of tenderness I may have for you, so that you may be more successful with establishing your authority and impressing your will upon your inferiors."

Her body continues so sway ever so slightly in his arms as he continues to explain the world according to Kendall. Well, their predicament at least. She smiled fondly as he spoke of her innocent view of others; she supposed it was true, she preferred to believe that people would treat others as they expect to be treated. Another smile, warmer and far more intimate, brightened her smile as he spoke of tender inclinations toward her; though it fell in perfect tandem with her brow in confusion with his mention of impressing her will.

"Then…" she began once more, trying to follow his logic, "Are you not concerned that people will spy you carrying me? This hardly portrays an image of strength and power…?"

"Yes," he agrees in answer to her questions, coming to a stop in a clump of five trees. "You will be walking quite soon. But you see, my sweet, that this did spare you some effort." To illustrate, he turns around so that she can see their progress along the "road" from the edge of the cliff. It's more like a goat track, meandering and climbing at random along the contours of the rough ground. Still, most assuredly, the path had taken them upwards and was clearly visible from their vantage, save some dips and turns.

He then bends over, bringing her feet back to ground and steadying her until she finds her balance. "My guess is that it would be wise here for you to continue from here on your own power."

Margot's brows rose to the top of her forehead at the realization of how far they had travelled under Kendall's power. She was still wobbly, but not as fatigued now that she had spent a little time as closed to convelescing as their circumstance would allow. Her hands took his up, "Thank you." Rising to her tip-toes crossed her mind, but, the reality of her balance not returned; she simply pulled him into a hug rather than kiss him as she wanted. Her embrace lasted several moments, holding him tightly to her. Slowly, her head left his chest to glance over her shoulder at where they still needed to go. She drew a steadying breath, "Ready?"

"Indeed," he answers, offering his arm to her as a proper gentleman would. Together, they walk up the final approach to the solitary gate in the wall of the castle. He hoped that chance would be with them, that they would be able to enter the castle un-spied and proceed as though they had never left. Though it would be up to Margot to explain their rumpled appearance, should the need arise once inside. Kendall knew how he would handle such a circumstance, were he alone. He had little knowledge of how she would handle herself.

He looks about, then, for Chalchuayeychtli. He had not forgotten the tiny imp, but had had no use for the creature until then. Even so, he had every expectation that it would be waiting on hand to serve at any call. That was its purpose now.

There is no sign of the imp, perhaps sullied by his stay in Amber to inattentiveness. And the sentries upon the wall, pay little attention as well, as a hawk, now two, whisk by before taking back high into the sky above the royal castle. Its a mere servant, a young girl and her younger sister, who open the door for the pair. The ten year old holding the dustpan the pair used to sweep the courtyard . The eldest by a mere three years, the servant girl steps back in surprise and homage as her sister peeks around for a look.

"Princess…" She says with a wretched curtsy, as the eyes of the youngest go wide and pan goes crash!

"Shhh…" Margot comforts, a tired but reassuring smile curling her lips. Stepping through the threshold with Kendall in her wake, Margot cannot help but radiate warmth for the pair. The sight of them symbolize simpler times. "Hello Annaliese," she addressed the elder girl, "Patrice," she tipped her head slightly to speak to the younger behind the eldest's back. Stepping forward, she brushed gentle fingers along each girls cheek before kneeling to meet the younger at eye level while she spoke to both.

"Fortune indeed smiles graciously upon me to be welcomed by you both," she began, allowing the exhaustion to crease the corners of her eyes. "I am in desperate need of your assistance. My companion and I were trapped outside the castle walls and have had a most … " a slight quiver came to her lip, "challenging time returning to the safety of her walls. We have exhausted much… sacrificed over much." Margot glanced over her shoulder to Kendall, "We need to navigate the castle with discrete alacrity. Please," Margot gathered up a hand of each girl in one of hers; her dark eyes imploring them to obey without question or hesitation. "Help us."

One corner of his mouth turns down at the failure of the imp to emerge, but after all it is a small thing, and not something to concern himself over at this heartbeat. There were other, more immediate things to concern himself over. And so, by the time the gate opens for them, revealing the two youngsters, all indication of his displeasure is gone. He himself looks more together than the princess—dusty and mussed, yes, but the heavy fabric of his clothes and his own nature had protected him well during his adventuring. Only someone with an over-developed sense of perfectionism would consider his appearance to be a disaster.

Knowing even without the use of a mirror that his appearance was barely acceptable, even in Amber, he stood still as stone behind the princess with hands tucked into his sleeves. His expression when she turns to include him in her plea to the children, is completely inscrutable. Margot can gain some appreciation for how communicative he has been with her, with the contrast to how he appears now. No doubt if he exerted himself, he could charm the socks off the two girls, or at the very least, overwhelm them with his authority. Servants, especially young, inexperienced servants were but vessels looking for someone to fill them with purpose and action, which he could do with the ease of one long accustomed to being served. But at the moment he is once again cool and distant, waiting to see the results of her efforts.

It was a small thing of note, perhaps even the Chaosian would not have picked it up, but the girls would have. Even in her small time at the castle, Margot had made it a point of knowing all the children, especially the servants. Calling the girls by name with confident recognition and something akin to affection in her tone and expression was a testament to the trust developed; in truth and whispers among the walls. It wasn't that she was begging these children; no, hardly… the Princess was empowering them to act with the love and allegiance she had earned through kindness gifted. And Kendall would undoubtedly note, that while everything she had done from the moment they had crossed paths with the young servants was as genuine and gentle as Margot's heart ever was, there was an air of confidence and authority and supported her kindness with the charismatic commanding persona of a Royal.

Annaliese surprised, stunned, doesn't answer at first as her sister looks to the mess she had just created with dropping the dustpan. Normally such, would gotten her in trouble but now with the Princess addressing them, asking them for help… causes Patrice to become even more timid. Finally the eldest of the orphaned girls, breaks-out of her daze to ask. "Where does the Princess wish to go?"

Warmth continued to radiate in the young Princess' face. "I need you to lead us to Maeve's Vigil. And we need to arrive there without notice." A smile blossomed for both girls as if they alone held the key to the lover's salvation; for in that singular moment, the young Princess believed with all her heart they did. Her eyes never left the sisters, despite her desire to turn and glance at Kendall. Instead, she took their fingers up in her own and squeezed them gently, "It is of the utmost importance that we reach Vigil undetected… lives depend on it."

Her thumbs stroked the backs of the hands of each of the girl's. "I know there are passages that exist in the castle that allow for quick movement. Hidden." she hesitated. "Secret. Places that allow servants to pass without notice quickly from one end of the castle to the other. Places that many nobles and others aren't even aware of." Margot gazed intently into their eyes, "I would be eternally grateful if you would guide us through such a labyrinth to our destination."

The silent Chaos Lord behind Margot remains unmoving throughout this dialogue, still merely waiting. Though he would normally view this whole affair as unnecessary nonsense, he knows enough about operations in Amber to allow that his method of getting results - though effective in his own environs - may not be the best way to proceed at this time and in this place. Even so, he could hardly be expected to plead with any servant, and so he holds himself aloof.

"I really only know the Servant Ways, but they're shared with the soldiers and their hounds." Annaliese explains, ashamed, embarrassed in knowing so little to be almost in tears. Its only her sister, tugging at her hem that keeps the tears away. "Yes, Patrice."

To which the girl, so tiny and dear, points to a line of ruin towers that line part of the sea wall. Part of the original castle millenniums ago, now overgrown and places for the castle hawks to nest. Then with another tug and point, the nearest servant door as Patrice retreats to the refuge of a tiny thumb into mouth.

With a nod, Annaliese understands, then explains to their betters. "Princess, you could go by this door to the halls that rarely see any guards, then make your way to the ruins and pass once I and my sister distract the tower sentries with….food."

From a mere look, Kendall has noticed those impoverishes in his travels. Once near the farthest, there is a small courtyard that has a door to the hall he took everyday to and from Maeve's Vigil. But then, it only leaves the two Knights of the Ten Thousand at the door to the glass corridor, and the tower itself to be dealt with. And with what just happened to one of their comrade at his hands…. unlikely they would be sympathetic.

Getting into the tower would have to be done, regardless of which route was taken to get there. Within the silence that falls between the servants and the princess, Margot hears Kendall stir behind her, as though preparing to speak. He thinks better of it, however, and releases his breath in a silent sigh instead.

Dark eyes flicker between the sisters, giving each their due attention. "What you offer is as a distraction …" she continued to move her gaze from one to the next, "Please." She drew a slow breath, her eyes flickering to the ruins they spoke of, "Speak with Lynelle in the kitchens. Tell her that it is my wish to have a repast delivered to the Knights. Give her this," she reached into her pocket and retrieved her kerchief, embroidered with her insignia. "Tell her that she is to be discrete. She is to give them flasks of Chrysth'yn cider and black and white truffle tarts with dried jerky." One thing she had hoped the girls would not know but that Lynelle, who she trusted would, was that the cider and mushrooms had an ill effect on the gastro-intestinal system, resulting in explosive bowels. "She is also to reward you both with fresh honeycakes with sweet butter. And tell her I will know if you do not get belly fulls." Her smile blossomed as she leaned in, kissing each on the forehead.

Annaliese accepts, as if the Unicorn Herself was bestowing the kiss. Patrice proves more arduous, since her shyness causes her to take a step back to every Margot's forward till under urgings from her sister she holds still just long enough.

Rising, she backed up and took her place next to Kendall. "Now go. We'll make our way as you suggested. Thank you for your clever thinking, both of you!"

Glowing with a princess's praise, the girls go off in a different direction.

Kendall turns without a word and moves toward the door indicated by the servant girls, a hand discreetly at Margot's elbow. He opens the door for her, and waits for her to retreat into the hall before joining her.

The door opens to a small room with a narrow corridor that leads off into the dark, and a set of stairs that curve into the rock of Kolvir. In this room, a table with a pair small candle lanterns and alight sticks (matches), a chair, a number of brooms, a old quiver of arrows, a half empty bottle of wine and a hunk of moldy cheese, with two shuttered windows barely a man's hands-length high or wide. Nothing in this room, stairs, or the corridor look to be built for comfort, but strictly for utility.

Tis the corridor that the pair need, since the stairs goes to the lower rooms under the main gate.

Fantastic. Once they are both through the door, Kendall closes it behind them, his eyes adjusting more easily to the dimness inside. Amongst the various objects in the room, he chooses for himself a— broom? Well, yes. And he chooses the broom near the back of the lot, with the handle broken near the center. Lifting one knee, he finishes the break, leaving the business end of the broom with the rest of the implements. He keeps the shortened handle for himself.

That being done, he pauses a moment, as if in thought, and then breathes two quiet words. Margot can feel Power uncoil as he speaks, though the effect is likely minor. "Qu'threq, Chalchuayeychtli." Nothing ventured…

Where being out of the open should have brought her comfort, Margot found this room only enhanced her apprehension. Maybe it was more her fear for the girls well-being that was tainting her mood, or her lack of energy, or her waning patience. Afterall, she had admitted countless times, patience was a virtue she had yet to master. Master, she scoffed quietly, she had barely gained proficiency in it.

Wrapping her arms around her torso, she tried to shake off the chill that accompanied the dank accommodations. There was no word for Kendall; though when he began to draw upon power, she remained very still so as not to disturb his concentration. And, truth be told, she was most curious as to what he was attempting to do… she was feeling terribly useless at this moment. He had sustained her, he had healed her, and now he was doing something else likely fantastical while she stood by gawking with nothing of value to offer their efforts.

There is another weighty silence in the room after his summoning, as he waits five beats of the heart to make sure the effect was as expected. What he had sent out was merely a whisper, hardly noticeable to anyone not in the immediate vicinity — a small exertion for a small thing. And yet that whisper travels out beyond them both, searching for the object of the command.

That done, he turns his attention again to the princess. "Lead on, Margot," he directs her, gesturing to the corridor. "Bring a light, if you feel the need." He does not choose to claim a lantern, apparently comfortable with the dimness.

Apparently done with what he was attempting, Margot nodded, moving toward the mouth of the corridor. A lantern seemed like a bad idea, drawing undo attention should any be coming the opposite way.

"What were you trying to do?"

Kendall waits for her to precede him, following close behind into the hallway leading to wherever. "A summoning," he answers her. He speaks quietly as they begin walking again, a low murmur barely loud enough to be heard over the sounds of their boots on the floor. "It may be some time before the results are known, but there is no need to wait, and many good reasons to continue our journey. How do you fare?"

"I worry," she confessed leading the way, "Those children…" she shook her head. A sigh with a groan soon follows, "That's not what you were asking." Margot made her way around some rubble, stumbling a little with a misstep, but not enough to bring her to her knees. "I will be alright, better once we reach our destination."

"What causes you worry regarding the young servants?" he questions.

Her hesitation was palpable; though the reasoning perhaps may not be so obvious. "Because they are children. Because they are risking much to be a distraction. Because they are innocents and they will be caught in the cross-fire in a war that is not of their making and will be punished for sins that are not theirs; sins that are …" she could feel her anger simmer, "I am troubled that they may be held accountable for my actions."

They walk several steps before he makes any reply. "That is the nature of service and leadership," he says finally, voice grave. "The followers trust to their betters that what they are being asked to do is for the greater benefit."

"That is acceptable risk and sacrifice if need be when the one commanded is able to appreciate the gravity of the task… when it is asked of those too young to appreciate…" her pained expression did not need to be seen for him to know, "They are remarkable children; brave. It is my hope that …" she sighed, "I just hope they survive relatively unscathed for their involvement." She paused, turning to address him, "I know that … this is weakness, perhaps. Or perceived as such. I do not believe having compassion in your heart makes a person weak or blinds them from what needs to be done… it just, ensures that they do not see only one path."

He is forced to stop when she does, looking down at her in the dimness of the corridor as she speaks. There is a pause of several heartbeats, and then he touches her elbow, directing her to continue their progress. "There is always more than one possible path," he murmurs, almost unheard. Two more steps, and then he speaks again directly to her. "Was there significance in the food and drink you directed be given to the guards?"

"OH, that…" she replied, embarassed, "The cider and the tarts are delicacies." she turned once more to progress down the corridor. "Black and white truffle tarts are decadent, rich. They are filling and hearty; easily served warm or cold." Several steps pass in silence, "An interesting and not well known point of note, the tannins in the cider, when mixed with the spores of the black truffle have a … cleansing reaction … not unlike a detoxification elixir that one takes when preparing for a seven-day fast." Her eyes remained forward, "Common symptoms include uncomfortable cramping, bloating, and what has been refered to as the 'night of never-ending waterfalls'."

"Not lethal, merely uncomfortable," he observes.

"Absolutely not!" she exclaims, "I do not wish them dead; merely preoccupied so that the children may leave and then if there is any blame, it lands on my shoulders."

"And how, may I ask, would said blame make its way to you?" he inquires. "It must first proceed to the young servants, passing next to the one to whom you sent your token. Should those in your service reveal your secret upon questioning, would that not be a betrayal of your confidence?"

The tone of his question is… neutral, even indifferent, as if merely discussing a logic problem in a learning session.

"Well… I … " Margot was becoming flustered, "If the guards asked under who's order the food came from, they would be obligated to state someone and that someone would be me."

"Ah," he says. Another two steps as he ponders her reply. "Were you to be questioned regarding the order for those delicacies, what explanation would you provide?"

Under the current conditions, Margot is robbed of insights into Kendall's state of mind based on visual cues. However, it is almost like being in a tutoring session, albeit in very unusual surroundings. His tone is calm and neutral, his questions not seeming condemning or malicious, so as not to influence the answers.

"There are options…" she began, slowly, "I could claim that I did not know that this would upset the digestion of the guards. It is not a commonly known fact; one that I was only warned of when I made the request of both items myself not so long ago. So, as I enjoy both items and would name them both as among my favorites to Amber's culinary offerings… it could be passed as an innocent mistake."

She drew a heavy breath, "Or… I could simply admit to foul play and confess to the whole affair." She dismissed, "Means to an end. Take responsibility for the plot to escape through the ruins, manipulating the children to be a distraction, and using the food so that they could have a chance to get away before the guards had chance to notice something was amiss."

Another sigh came, "I guess… I guess… I don't know what I would say. That I wasn't thinking?!?" Her head shook before hanging heavily, "I would face what happens as it comes." She sounded deflated, dejected, and defeated. Exhaustion had seeped through in her body language, apparent even in the low lighting as a hand passed over her face and moved her hair out of her face.

His empty hand comes up to stroke her shoulder. "What is done, is done. We shall let the topic rest for now," he says, and then falls silent again, looking towards signs of arriving at their destination.

From the condition of the corridor, they're close, for its more dusty and the doors out look older and less maintain. The hedges rusty a bit, the wood needing some good rubbing with oil. A pair of sparrows, their nest on top of a beam near a broken window, voice their protest when the humans near. This mated pair is rare, since the hawks of the castle kill any birds that get near besides the temple doves.

Yet there, just a dozen or so steps beyond these sparrows… the pair hear the clicking of talons upon stone ahead of them in the gloom of the corridor ahead.

Clicking of talons doesn't worry Kendall too much, and he had chosen not to bring a light so that their eyes would adjust to the dimness. Even so, the grip on Margot's shoulder tightens, slowing her down enough so that he can step in front of her. They both stop so that they can hear the approaching sound more easily and see what approaches.

She startled, silently, turning with quicker reflex than she had perhaps intended at the touch of his hand growing. Clearly she had grown so accustomed to its presence that she had forgotten the weight of it all together. Whatever it was, she was lost deep in thought - or perhaps strained focus or concentration - that she was simply in her moment and not the future, no matter how immediate or foreboding it may have sounded. Confusion crossed her brow as he took the lead, even though she did not challenge him in his claim. Instead, she followed closely, behind him and just off to the side, one hand at his elbow, the other resting at the small of his back.

The click-click gets louder, like many limbs, that echo and twists till fear makes a nest in a young girl's heart. The shadows grow, the faint smell of flesh blood, and the crunching of bones. Then a moving outline of a large shadowy demonic bat wing, cruel hooked talons upon it moving towards them. From somewhere around the corner, must be a huge demon of sorts from how its shadow does cast. Talons like curved daggers, a floppy corpse in it's claws, great chunks of flesh and bone being torn out of it by its huge maw that could devour Margot with ease.

Chalchuayeychtli, the emaciated imp walks around the corner…. enjoying one of the garden bunnies as a snack. Its demonic powers, casting its shadow about much larger as a protective measure, like a chameleon would change its color. Seeing the pair, it gives a snarl from its bloody mouth.

"Master," it sneers, in the lowest of demon tongues.

Kendall's arm shoots out, almost of its own volition, striking the tiny thing with the broken broom handle. He takes into account the imp's size, and probable abilities, hitting it hard enough to hurt but not enough to injure or cripple. Probably. "If your belly commands more loyalty than your sworn master, I see now why you were left in Amber," he replies.

Margot shrinks behind Kendall, shielding her eyes from the abomination, her face pressed against the back of his shoulder. Beneath his robes he can sense her fingers tighten, seeking him for comfort around his arm and at the small of his back. Her frail display is only but a moment before she reclaims her composure and forces herself to release him and move to his side once more. She was certain this creature would smell her fear, taste it, bask in it; but her discomfort would alone would not give him power over her. She would have to grant him permission to terrorize her fully… or so she told herself. Squaring her shoulders and tightening her jaw, she met the monster with a neutral expression and let Kendall manage his charge as she did hers.

The hit, sends the imp into the wall with a crash. The bloody bunny carcass goes flying, splashing scarlet upon the other wall. Its once innocent and trusting eyes, frozen in terrible fear, for even in their worst moods… for none in the Royal Family, Staff, or Guard, would ever consider to injury these cute creatures that live in the Court Gardens.

"Mercy… mercy." It pleads, in the Lesser Servant Language of Courts. "She was with, a Red Horn! Did avoid capture, thought it was proper. But grew hunger, thought it won't matter since gnawing upon the stiff wasn't allowed." It screeches.

Kendall thinks on that answer, and then nods. "You may finish your meal, after first telling me who was with a Red Horn," he allows, bestowing a generous gift on the imp by granting it an opportunity to redeem itself.

Hesitant at first, keeping its wings protected for any further blows… then with a skip, retrieves his bunny to dine as ordered. Indulging, in gourmet delight, sending its fangs deep into the skull to crack and suck out the brain. Wiping off its pointed chin in satisfaction.

"She…" It half-motions towards Margot, Chalchuayeychtli wary again. "Of the White Horn, stained Red, as he who mistreated me. Cruelly bound me, starved me, tortured me with tedium!"

Chalchuayeychtli, imp extraordinary, seeing its Master is otherwise too occupied to give more than a single thought upon its wretched words, points to Margot's hair to further explain. "Of the Burning Horn, Accusative Horn, bathed in scarlet and betrayal!"

Returning to his meal, the imp gives no more heed to the Daughter of Queen Morgana, Granddaughter of Prince Bleys.

The imp had clarified its meaning, but the relevance was still rather opaque. No doubt, the main goal was to distract Kendall from any further disciplinary action. Kendall reaches behind with his free hand, to find Margot's arm and give it a reassuring squeeze. Then he continues on along the hallway, not waiting on the imp to finish its meal. "You'll return to me when you're done with that rabbit, Chalchuayeychtli," he directs as they pass. The imp may yet have a use, though the Chaos Lord's thoughts on that were as yet too diffuse to pin down.

At Kendall's silent insistence, they continued their walk, the sound of claws and crunching bone and slobbering and smacking and savoring of raw flesh echoing in their wake. It was enough to stop her heart cold. It was all she could do to not vomit or scream or … strike that monster down for its vile existence. Slowly, deliberately, small hands coiled and unfurled into tight fists in time with each step.

A quick stride, rather short, gets the pair to the last door before the ruin towers. Beyond, with a pleasant walk, is the door that leads right up to his door. In his last visit here, Kendall remembers where the watchers wait. Sentries upon high walls, yet this time he wasn't with Briar. Yet never has this place been out of bounds, never was a warning given, in fact only she at his side, Margot. Only she, was he forbidden…

Forbidden him, yes, but still he would have the satisfaction of circumventing that stricture. Clearly the Queen had not thoroughly considered the full ramifications of placing him out of bounds for the pretty princess. Either that, or just as likely, the sorceress was too smug and confident in her own powers; powers that while formidable here in Amber, would be far less of a force in the world of his birth.

Still, even with all that, caution was warranted here while they were both still vulnerable. Moving away from the sounds of eating, the Chaosian can easily hear the princess's harsh, almost strangled breathing behind him. Reaching around again with his free hand, his hand encloses her balled fist, her skin icy to the touch. "Peace, Margot," he says quietly. "The imp will do you no harm."

His warmth had a soothing effect; melting away some of the glacial tension her body had taken. Dark pools stared into the back of his head, wanting to believe his words so desperately. Still the nightmarish image continued to play over and over in her mind as its maw suckled the bloody carcass and growled its guttural tongue to Kendall while gesturing at HER. It was his, that much she deduced; or at the very least, by its posturing it saw Kendall as its superior. So, she had no reason to doubt her lover's words that the monster would not rend her like the harmless bunny… until visions of a bloody claw pointing at her head gripped her once more.

Once out in the semi-open space of the ruins, he moves to place Margot next to him instead of behind, steadying her over rough spots. He is not talkative as they walk together, keeping his attention on the guard posts and towers until they come to the next door and barrier to their destination.

As with when they had danced, Kendall found that the Princess was fluid in motion and sure of foot. Even with ragged paths ahead, she kept her focus, selecting her footfalls with both speed and prudence. Balance seemed to be something she was blessed in abundance with, making the task of traversing the rough terrain to their destination less tumultuous and allowing the Chaosian to split his attention to focus more toward outside threats and dangers that may impede their journey.

Tis good to be once again outside, under the galling sky of blues and whites. The grass even here, a soft carpet of emerald with spots of wildflowers holding court to the castle honey bees. The gray of the stone, fallen and in tumbled about the land add a certain starkness to the journey. The cool sea breeze, the gulls calling aloft those winds, the cry of chicks hidden above as the wary Lady's Hawk looks to the pair walking near her nest. The small door up ahead, that leads to the corridor that will take them the rest of the way to Maeve's Vigil, the Tower of the Sea.

The stark transition from dark to light is blinding, Margot shielding her eyes and turning into Kendall for a few moments until she adjusted to the change. A shiver claimed her as fresh air, cool and clean, whisked away the memory of dank darkness that had clung to the pair during their journey through the catacombs. Slowly, she came to enjoy this leg of their long journey, noting the peacefulness of it all; grateful for solitude, sun and nature with Kendall at her side.

Once open, easy enough, for this exterior door has no lock. A few steps, of littered stone, leaves blown in during a storm. Upon them, and another door at as plain, opens to the way Kendall knows very well. A few more servants then usually, and the sound of a handcart being drove. As to guards, down near the door or even at the entrance to the glass bridge to the tower… all seem absent, strangely.

Strangely? Yes. Strange enough to warrant a pause to think at the door, instincts clamoring. He looks down at Margot with a critical gaze, evaluating her appearance, but there didn't seem to be anything for it. Though he was uneasy with the situation, there were times when one simply had to go the most direct route.

Taking hold of Margot's hand, he raises it to his lips. "Margot, my dear princess," he says, his eyes glinting with humor and faint smile to cover his trepidation. "You are most kind to escort me to my destination. Perhaps you should take the fore now."

His consternation was not so easily veiled; whether from his exhaustion or impatience or concern. Her fingers brushed his skin, a smile coming to her lips. For a moment, her eyes left his to take in their appearance; his a good deal better than hers. "Hardly fitting for such a title… ragamuffin seems more appropriate." she remarked with a smirk. Glancing around, she found that she wasn't exactly certain where they were or where the door would lead.

Following his charming example, the disheveled princess dipped into a flawless curtsey, deep and smooth. "I would be most honored, m'Lord. Though, if I may be obliged one question," she looked up at him from her low vantage, "Where exactly does that door lead?"

There's a brief pause, momentary puzzlement, but then memory clicks and he remembers that Margot is not as familiar with the castle as he is. Strange as that might seem on the surface, it made sense. He bows to her curtsey, keeping her hand in his. "Turning left in the corridor on the other side of this door will lead very quickly to the glass bridge that connects the castle proper to Maeve's Vigil, and your succor," he replies. "Though the corridor itself appears basically normal, the door is… uncharacteristically unguarded." The way he pauses on the word hints at his unease. Though certainly having the doors unguarded is handy at this point, the unexpected is still always suspect.

Margot rose from her curtsey and slipped past the Chaosian, sneaking a glance through a crack in the door. Closing it softly, she returned her attention to him with an easy smile. "I suspect that those who have worn their leather soles standing sentinel so close to Vigil have enjoyed the morsels delivered." She extended her hand to Kendall, her words gentle, "If you would like me to go first, I will; otherwise, walk with me. I will not let any harm befall you." Weariness returned to her eyes; but something new to him shone there as well, a change in her carriage… her confidence, perhaps. The vow uttered was not in vein, nor was it the gentle mews of a love-sick child; it was the oath of a royal that would be refused nothing of her subjects.

Margot's explanation causes the faint lines of worry that had gathered at the corners of his eyes to smooth away, and he nods, reassured. "Excellent thinking," he says, offering her his arm. "To clarify, we shall go together, but you will be in charge, as it is said."

Through the threshold she led him, and following his direction, to the left they travelled en route to their final destination. Her gait was relaxed, as if walking through the halls with the Chaosian was an everyday common occurrence. Anchored to him with her arm snaked up his bicep, her expression brightened as they approached the glorious glass bridge. Though she had only passed through it a few times, it was a breath-taking experience to be relished.

Through the huge, heavy door they went, which Kendall opened and then closed securely behind them. There was no challenge, and once on the glass bridge with only the expanse of sky and sea to cover, there was an opportunity to relax one's guard, even if only a little. But though the princess might linger above the crashing sea to admire the awesome spectacle, the Chaosian for once was not willing to pause for longer than the beating of 10 heartbeats, hastening to the second heavy door at the other end of the bridge. And some semblance of security.

His urgency, insistence… impatience… was palpable and as such it was with only a hint of regret that Margot continued on the path through the safe haven that was offered in the name of Chanicut.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Oasis: Maeve's Vigil

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