Into the Veil

The chill Mist surrounds both Amberites and Chaosians equally, drowning out sight, sound, and even thought. The jingle of harness, clopping of hooves, and clinking of armor all disappear, and soon Kendall can barely even see Brisbane a mere horse length in front of him.

The young Chaos Lord glances left and right as the cloudy vapor closes in, raising a shiver on his arms and the back of his neck. The woman on his right in engraved armor has her visor upraised, revealing a strong face that few would describe as beautiful. The man to his left wears newer plate without decoration, his heavy visor hiding his face. Both Amber Knights radiate calm competency, but their nearness does not reassure the Chaosian.

The woman abruptly lays a hand on his shoulder, fingers twisting themselves in his clothing. But before Kendall can protest, he hears singing off in the fog that almost sounds like his sister. His rebuke interrupted by the tantalizing sound, Kendall cocks his head to triangulate on the singing, beginning to rein his horse around—

A loud knock cracks against something nearby and Kendall jerks awake with a gasp. He sits up quickly with heart pounding, staring around wildly to get his bearings.

He's…in his bed? In…his ways?

He frowns, baffled, and at first no memory returns to relieve him of his confusion. He could not even remember going to bed, much less anything before. Holding himself still, he breathes deeply to calm his pounding heart and shake the fog of that weird dream out of his head. It takes more than 20 heartbeats, but slowly — so very slowly — disorientation fades and memory seeps back: one of Finny's infamous parties. That's what happened.

A chuckle turns into a groan when his head reminds him that he should never drink Finney's punch. Likewise, his expression changes from puzzlement to disgust as he realizes his mouth tastes like something died in it. But his pounding head and dry mouth abruptly take back stage when the the lump of pillows next to him moves!

He recoils and finds the nearby knife without even looking. A brief glance about his bedroom reveals nothing else amiss, so with knife at the ready, he pulls the covers back to reveal…his very naked twice-removed cousin Sonja from the Cirmedain Branch of the family. Curled up like a cat, still asleep in his bed.

Kendall frowns again, thinking. He didn't recall going to bed with anyone, but…he still didn't really recall going to bed either. He puts the knife down to rub his face blearily. Thinking hard felt like too much work right now. Looking around again, he spots a cup on the bedside table. Swishing the dregs of warm wine does little to improve the taste in his mouth, but there were other, more interesting things to think about now. With a smile of anticipation, he discards the cup and cuddles back up against Sonja.

She purrs enticingly as Kendall gets close, wrapping her lithe body around his. His blood warms as her lips kiss him hungrily, busy hands dragging him close. He returns the caresses, but his roaming hands briefly feel a cold sensation at her back, like metal under his touch. Startled, he runs his hand along her back again, finding this time only soft warm flesh. And sleepy Sonja is much more aggressive in their lovemaking than before, even more exciting, so he forgets the passing sensation in favor of more immediate concerns.

Surrendering to exhilaration and passion, neither reveler pay any heed to time or duty as their frolics proceed to their obvious conclusion. The aftermath finds them both spent and sweaty, Sonja draped bonelessly over him while his fingers trace idle patterns on her skin and trail through her hair. Open to his kisses and caresses, she whispers into his ear, "I have always loved you, Gareth."

Gareth?! Kendall's hands cease their movements at the surprising name. His brain registers her voice is deeper and huskier than he remembers, but before he can follow that line of thought very far, a cold wind swirls around the room. The walls and furniture waver like smoke and then dissolve completely to reveal him lying on the muddy ground with the Amber Knight in his arms under the branches of a leafless tree, naked and sated like him.

He freezes for just the barest blink before pushing her forcefully away from himself, an expression of bewildered horror coming to rest on his face. He scrambles to his feet and snatches at his clothes, which lay scattered on the bare ground amidst pieces of engraved plate armor. Brought fully awake by the ungentle shove, the Amber Knight likewise twists to land near her belongings and comes up with her sword instead. In one smooth motion, she pulls it from the sheath and takes a stance ready to charge at him, waiting for him to break and run like the coward she knew him to be.

"Foul Sorcerer, what did you do?" she screams. Her body shakes with uncontrollable tremors as she, too, realizes what had just happened between them.

"ME?!" Kendall shouts indignantly, remembering just in time to use Thari. "You were the one snatching at my clothes earlier!"

He stifles the urge to vomit by swallowing hard, and then takes a deep breath as he backs away a step, keeping a wary eye on the sword. He holds a twisted wad of clothes protectively in front of his body while a tense silence springs up between them, both waiting for the other to make a move. The hollow sound of a horse stumbling about in the mist echoes off to the side in the otherwise eerie stillness.

Calmed somewhat from the slow breathing, Kendall calls on his best soothe the savage beast tone. "Maybe if we both get dressed, we could discuss this more comfortably," he suggests. He shivers as chill fog mixed with sweat trickles down his face and body.

The sword tip wavers for a few seconds, and he can read the internal conflict on her face between the urge to kill him and the call of duty. As well as, perhaps, the desire for survival. Finally she scowls and sheaths her sword with a clang. Bending down, she starts to dress as best she can by herself. Kendall smiles encouragingly and reassuringly when she puts her sword away, releasing another silent breath of relief as he begins to untwist his clothing and pull it over his body as quickly as possible.

Once dressed enough for the barest sense of modesty, the knight whistles to the horse they can both hear but not see in the fog. It neither responds nor approaches, so she reaches into a pocket to pull out a leather strap. "We may need to tie ourselves together before trying to find our horses."

Kendall looks for just a heartbeat like he's going to object, eyes darkening, but instead he presses his lips together and gives her a curt nod. "If that will make you feel more secure," he agrees. "How do we find the rest of the party?"

"We don't," she answers with her head cocked, trying to hear the horses again. "The Veil's strength grows as you get separated. A single ant is much easier to kill than a swarm." She looks at the Chaosian again, her hatred for him clearly displayed on her face. "If we don't tie ourselves together, neither of us will see the open sky ever again."

Kendall absorbs her words, trying to gauge which of her impulses would win out: fear of the Veil or hatred of himself. Apparently, the Veil. He strives not to reveal his feelings in kind for her, controlling his reaction and pulling calm distance around him like a cloak. He can't help wondering to himself how useful a protection was that would kill your own people as well as the enemy.

As if able to read his thoughts, the woman answers his unspoken criticism. "Didn't your own Serpent eat his children at one time?" she asks pointedly. "The Ghosts wanted you, not me. It was just my proximity to you that caused them to take me as well. But I swore to get you to the castle, and I will!" She scans the thick fog, hunting for any clue.

Kendall pulls his gaze away from her to scan the ground for the remnants of his clothes and other belongings, accepting her statements without comment. If nothing else, personal honor through duty is something he can understand. Then, taking another calming breath, he steps forward and offers his right arm to her without a word. He wipes the moisture from his face with his free hand as she ties the other to her own at the wrists.

Once secure, he calls his mare with a low, trilling whistle to see if she is close enough to hear. Out in the fog, both hear a whinny in answer. He whistles again, and another whinny comes back, which gives the Chaosian and Amberite enough guidance to strike off into the fog toward the sound.

They walk slowly and carefully in the thick mist, and Kendall keeps as much distance between the knight and himself as possible. Nevertheless, after a few steps, he breaks the silence between them again. "Ah—-" he hesitates for a just a heartbeat. "I am Lord Kendall. May I have the privilege of knowing what to call you?" he requests.

"Lady Louella de Adriel of the Seventh Order of Lancers, Circlet of Flowers. The Holder of Reins for the last ten of the King's Tournaments before the Sorrowful Sleep," she answers coldly, her attention more on finding the horses than him. Every so often she checks on the leather strap around their arms, reassuring herself that it's still there.

"Lady Louella," Kendall greets her with a nod as she finishes her introduction. "Strictly speaking I would be known as Lord Kendallarithan qil Chanicut riq Ulrich fon Grania, Second Son, Baron of the Lesser Walls, Kin of the Three Winds, Lord of Protocol and Minister of Friendship to the Court of Amber from House Chanicut of Chaos." He finishes and gives her a sidelong glance. "But Lord Kendall will do well enough here. Your many titles do you honor."

It is difficult going, the pair making many a misstep as they try to follow the sounds, even finding themselves going in the wrong direction. Periodically, Kendall whistles again, and the answering whinny sounds to give them hope as well as direction. And at last, with no prior warning, they step out of the Fog into a luscious grassy plain just like one near Kendall's family estate in Mirabil. The blue sweet grass blows gently in the breeze as his horse grazes.

Kendall stops abruptly, looking about in amazement at the sudden change in scenery. A faint smile appears when he recognizes the place, expression becoming nostalgic as he recalls some of the games he used to play here. He has to remind himself that he couldn't possibly be in Chaos; they had just been in the Veil heartbeats ago, and Louella still stood next to him. His skin crawls where the strap held him fast, reminding him of many things, all of them unpleasant.

"So how should we proceed at this point?" he asks politely.

"I believe this is your horse's fantasy, its illusion of temptation." Watching for a few more seconds, she says. "I believe we follow him out. The Veil doesn't kill poor defenseless animals."

"Her," Kendall corrects automatically. He whistles again to call the mare to him, reaching into his pocket in hopes of finding something to give her. Amazingly, his fingers find a smooshed and damp treat. "Do you suggest we wait to follow her through the Veil, hoping that she takes us in the correct direction? Or should we lead her?"

As the pair talk, Kendall's mare comes over and gives her master's chest an affectionate nuzzle before poaching the treat in his hand. At her touch, the illusion of the grassland wavers and then dissolves just like the illusion of his bedroom had, leaving only mud, a few dead trees, and fog.

Louella curses, kicking the ground, but then recovers her cool. She steps over near Kendall's mare and scratches her neck. "It's not your fault, we should have not interfered with your pretty dream," she says, remarkably nice. "I guess we just slug our way through and see what happens."

Kendall strokes the mare for a few heartbeats, then looking from Louella to the horse, he formally introduces the stranger. "Lady Louella, this is Vanya," he says simply. Vanya turns her head and snuffs at Louella in a friendly fashion, looking for some sort of treat.

Louella gives a minor courtly bow when introduced. "The pleasure is all mine, Lady Vanya," she says, looking into the horse's eyes. "I'm sorry that I have no treats, Laoiseach having little on his mind outside of battle when in the field. So I no longer carry them." She pats her belt pouch, opening it for Vanya to sniff. "But I will make it up to you in Amber. Few stables can rival hers," she says with a smile.

Kendall snorts. "The stables in Amber may be nice as you say, Lady, but my Vanya wants for nothing in Chanicut."

His gaze is caught then by something off in the fog, and he squints into the distance. "That might be another horse," he points with his free hand. "Shall we see if it is yours?"

Louella stiffens. Looking into the fog, she frowns. "The size is wrong for Laoiseach. But you're correct in that we have no other choice, so we follow."

Taking hold of Vanya's reins, Kendall walks with Louella in the direction of the horse-like object, picking his way carefully through the fog. "How is it that your Veil distinguishes who to eliminate and who to spare?" he asks after a time.

Louella does not answer, and Kendall sighs, giving up. They continue their journey in silence, sending hopes to their individual deities as they stumble and struggle through the endless fog, following the elusive animal shape that always stayed just out of reach. 100 heartbeats become 500. Then 1000, and then 2000. The Chaos Lord stops counting at 5000, and so he can never say later how long it was before they break into the sunlight with blinding suddenness.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Journey to Amber: Final Road

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License