Anger and Waves

Once beyond the thorny portal, Kendall stalks up above deck with no thought save to be somewhere else. A ship at sea has limits, however, and he must stop at the prow long before his emotions have been resolved. So the Rhercyn races into the wind in his stead with white waves streaming below in foamy churning to echo his own turmoil.

The Captain and crew are smart enough to stay away, leaving him alone to stare into the distance and wrestle with his angst. Gradually, though, familiar laughter penetrates his preoccupation. A pause for thought, and then he turns to see his uncle speaking to a young lady with a sea green cloak upon her shoulders. Together they feed the ship birds amid ship and speak of times long gone. Diona may still reside in madness, yet that doesn't prevent Brisbane from having a pleasant conversation.

Distracted from his stormy thoughts, Kendall watches Brisbane and the lady talk, but does not intrude on their conversation. Not yet. How long had she been off in Shadow? A breath, one of their days, or a full Cycle? There were hints of passing time: her hair now in rings, her pose relaxed, cheeks filled in. She looked not so hollowed out as she had been in the cabin just heartbeats ago. But that's understandable, since the mad often need help being reminded to eat.

His expression reflects thoughts on the whys of this circumstance. Wishing she had come here because of him, yet not willing to believe fully and embrace the potential disappointment and humiliation should that prove an assumption of hubris. Yet he continues to stare as one who admires a piece of art so as to let its beauty seep into the soul. If the world had any balm for his soul, twas the laughter of his beloved sister.

As they talk, his uncle displays his superior skill in guiding their chat past any dangers that hide like reefs under the waves. Like one of those dogs Kendall saw in Amber, circling and driving while his sister played the part of unaware sheep. But with a glance, Kendall can tell his uncle is concerned about what hides under that mask, the metal patch over her eye. Yet Brisbane isn't a fool to go head-on when there is a corner to coax her around. He circles carefully but with diligence, working to learn what Kendall was unable…or at least, trying to.

The brief thought of Amber led to Margot, and a greeting to sister and uncle dies on his lips, unsaid. Instead, he retreats to a place where view of the passing ocean is unbroken by ship or rigging. Intent on leaving his uncle to his work without interruption that could prove detrimental to any progress that might be made in learning more of Diona's circumstances. Though he yearned with all his being to speak to her again, this time privately, and the gorgeous purple red of passing water went unnoticed.

His unhappy musings are broken many heartbeats later by a familiar tickle intruding on his consciousness. Familiar, yet unusual and unexpected. Curious. A Trump contact is still a welcome distraction from feeling sorry for himself. Shaking himself back to the present, he opens warily to the call, only to be confronted with possibly the last person he would have guessed: Prince Bleys of Amber.

~Lord Kendall,~ he greets, his mental tone polite. ~What has happened?~ The image in his mind, which he shares, is of Margot.

A complete surprise, no doubt of which the Amberite would realize, and perhaps an edge the other had hoped to take advantage of in calling the Chaosian instead of his granddaughter directly.

~Many events have occurred since our departure from Amber. I presume you refer specifically to those centering on the princess' bracelet?~ Kendall responds, equally polite in tone. For all the world merely asking clarification so that he might get directly to the point of what the other Lord was asking, rather than making perhaps unwarranted assumptions.

~No, her being pregnant.~ Is the Prince's snappish response, a bit rushed by whatever he is doing on the other side. ~But yes, my gift and her mood. And no, I don't think she is yet, but knowing my little granddaughter, she wants to be.~

A number of possible responses race by, mere flickers of thought, chief among them that surely the Prince knew very well what was going on if that was the jest he chose.

~I am unaware of her current mood, but she attempted to destroy the charm bracelet a short while ago. Twas an ill-considered show of sincerity, I believe. Her knowledge and understanding of her own powers is quite limited.~ He remains polite, but also curious. ~Why do you not inquire of her directly?~

~While I love the girl, we are talking about Margot,~ Bleys shares. ~We both know it would do more harm than good, me knocking her feet from under her. But you… I know a bit about Chaos. I've met your father, your mother, and your brother…~

~She is unlikely to have access to instruction regarding the Pattern in Chaos by legitimate and trustworthy agents,~ Kendall points out.

~Which is fine by me, and even better for you. That girl shouldn't even be using Pattern once in Chaos, unless her life is in danger.~

Kendall's lips press together in frustration. ~That is not the point. If she has no knowledge of its use and application, she cannot control it. Unless she did maliciously attempt to use Pattern on a Chaos Lady on board ship here… which I doubt.~

Though still angry at Margot's impertinence, he could still acknowledge that her intentions, such as they were, probably were not malicious. He shakes his head. ~But that is my dilemma,~ he acknowledges.

~Yes, it is… As I said, I'm familiar with the ways of the Courts.~ Bleys continues, yet with a sense in his mental tone of understanding, like brothers in battle.

~While I don't agree with my daughter over Dara, use the coldhearted bitch if you must. Teach Margot, and I promise you at least in Amber your efforts won't be overlooked…. And her blood is of two Houses, not one!~

The Chaosian nods. ~I intend to use Dara, insofar as I am able. Convincing Margot to make use of her will be the true challenge.~

~If you do need help, Son of Chanicut…. just ask.~ the Prince of Amber offers.

Kendall's eyes widen a touch at the offer, though he realizes it was made out of love Bleys felt for his granddaughter.

~You have my thanks and appreciation, though I know not what to ask at present. Mayhap if I had some means of contacting you in the future, your assistance could prove supportive to your granddaughter.~

~My granddaughter has my Trump… and once in Chaos, my agents and allies will make themselves known to you.~

Kendall nods, unsurprised. A brief pause ensues before he ventures anything else. ~You realize that Chaos will change her, and not all for the good. Yet you still would see her go there?~

~Would not the same happen to her in Amber?~ he asks of Kendall.

~Undoubtedly,~ he agrees. ~The ways of Chaos are somewhat different than the ways of Amber, however.~

~Yet the grief from a broken heart is still the same,~ Bleys replies.

The prospect of breaking Margot's heart was far less… palatable than he would have anticipated. He, who had never really worried too much about the status of his lovers' hearts. As he had once said to Margot, each person had to care for their own heart, decide whether the rewards of love outweighed the risks. That Margot had given herself to him wholly and without asking for anything in return was to his mind her choice, and a beautiful opportunity for him.

And in any event, the entire topic felt far less urgent to him. He had never given it much thought, never worried a lot about love, and certainly not as the end-all goal in life and purpose of living. Duty was the goal. Love was a brief interlude. He had never truly taken any woman into his heart, though a tiny few had guessed — as Margot now had — that this was because his heart was already full; filled by the unmatchable image of Diona as idolized in a young boy's mind.

Could he every really fall in love with Margot? Another question that did not keep him awake at night. He liked and maybe even loved things about her. He was unsure at times that he wanted her to change, to become something other than that sweet, giving, gentle companion she could be. But then she did something bizarre or incompetent and incapable or merely incomprehensible. She showed herself to be hampered and crippled by her emotions, and he very much wanted her to change even as he also wondered if she was at all suited to becoming a person of influence in Chaos.

And yet she stirred these feelings in him, these urges. Not the urges of romantic love, but far less familiar and comprehensible paternal urges. The urge to support her, help her mature and become more and better. To build in her the personality of power and confidence that a true Lady of Chaos needed. Then, of course, he wanted to reap the benefits of this work, and having a little enjoyment along the way couldn't hurt, either.

All of which brought him back around to Bleys' words.

~Tis not my intention to break the princess' heart,~ he says, not to reassure, but to set the record. ~My chief interest is in helping her to learn and mature. But while few things can be established with absolute surety, tis almost certain her heart will be broken at least once in her life. As I am currently its keeper, it seems likely I will bear the responsibility.~

~Best you break it, rater than someone with ill intentions,~ Bleys agrees. ~The girl needs to learn, just like the rest of us.~

Kendall is silent for a time while the merry tinkling of Diona's laughter floats on the wind like a chime on a breezy day. He felt puzzled, and his thoughts were not cooperating with his desire to take coherent shape. He had a question that he didn't know how to phrase. Twas unlikely any one answer to one question would solve all the riddles he had to solve, and so he tries to focus on taming just one for now.

~If I may ask, is there some method that would be ordinarily used to educate someone like Margot in Amber?~ It didn't get exactly to what he was grasping for, but he hoped the question would come close enough to provide some insight.

~Yes…~ Bleys replies, his mental tone and voice darkens. ~My father did so with my half-sister Sand, tricked her to enter Tir one night. The ghost city aged her soul horribly till all that youthful innocence was burned out of her.~

One eyebrow quirks and an ironic smile turns one corner of his mouth up. ~It seems your daughter the current queen has a vision for a gentler Amber,~ he says diplomatically.

~And I have a vision for a nice rueben, a fine ale, and a willing woman,~ Bleys answers. ~But up to my elbows in blood, I doubt I will get them any day soon.~

The contact stills for a second, as if Bleys was talking to someone off Trump. ~And my daughter had the benefit of not being so broken like the rest of us… so we let her indulge in the hope.~

~Tis the hope of a brighter future,~ Kendall muses, mostly to himself. ~I will keep Margot as safe as is feasible, and look forward to having you visit her in Chaos.~

~Just be sure when you tell her of this call, that I was sufficiently menacing enough for you to think twice,~ Bleys growls. ~Give her a boost, even if it's not true… for Margot's bloodcurse would be enough if anyone was foolish enough to wound her.~

With a wave of a mental hand, the contact closes. But before the Chaos Lord can take any time to turn the conversation over in his mind, he notices one of his Qur crawling on deck like a sick thing. The little creature has twin spots of white on the backs of its ears; the one Margot had given a name. Surprised to see it separated from its kin, Kendall crouches down and invites the creature near with a twitch of the fingers and click of the tongue.

It scampers over on unsteady paws so he can scoop it up in his hands. It shakes in fear, its delicate heart barely able to withstand the strain. He strokes the silky soft fur and the feline-like creature takes comfort in its Master's arms, calming so quickly that it gives a chirp of greeting. His fingers feel a little interior damage, but with proper care it shouldn't amount to much concern. The swollen organs should return to normal size in a half-turn, less if Ruc'pe powder were added to their drinking water.

If he had been younger and still allowed to show physical displays of frustration, he might have ground a toe against the deck. Merely the length of this ship could not dampen Margot's psychic miasma, which she unheedingly projected far and wide. Soon he would have to go see what could be done to address it, before her emotions overwhelmed the weaker wills of the Hooded Men or White Ladies.

But for now, he simply takes another deep breath and looks over to his sister and Brisbane to see how their conversation seemed to be going. Instead, he spies Diona strolling over towards him with the accusing look of you softy.

Kendall returns her smile, waiting for her to approach before saluting her with a bow — partly teasing, partly preemptive. She didn't appear quite as unstable as she had been previously, but he wanted to avoid the embarrassment of another public display of affection. "Sister, welcome back. You look dazzling."

"Is that to imply I was less than dazzling the last time?" she asks, raising a brow. Her mood, though not so excitable as before, was still not what she would be in Court. The patch still there, but the power flowing from what hides beneath is a bit weaker, perhaps more in check.

His smile acquires that look of patiently amused fondness, the way it does when she teases him. "You may take from my compliment anything you wish, of course. As long as you know tis offered with complete sincerity."

"Complete sincerity?" Diona questions. "I would like to think any assassin sent for me would say the same. But to my little brother, forgiveness is expected from me."

"Even assassins can appreciate perfection," he answers.

She smiles with a wink. "And I do have my own concerns, my sweet one… You seem upset about something."

Fingers soothe the purring Qur that nestled with soft warmth in the crook of his arm. The stroking soothed more than the Qur, serving also to relax the young Lord. "When have you ever known me not to be displeased about something? But tis a fair observation. The young Amberite princess confounds me."

"She is from a Fallen House, so not surprising," Diona agrees. "But she is certainly a child, knowing nothing. I am scared to think what would have happened if she had tried that with Brother, or even Mother." Diona shivers as she thinks about such an event.

"I had thought either to resurrect her House in Chaos, or for far less effort, simply to establish her bloodline for the sake of our House," he explains in brief.

One method would raise up the House Barimen to some level of influence with the far-reaching goal of raising his own influence with it, while the other would likely result in gains solely for the sake of Chanicut and securing a more favorable position in his House hierarchy. He would not go into more detail of his idea in such an open forum, but anyone with half a wit and an inkling of Margot's identity could guess at least that much.

"I have been attempting to educate her," he adds. "But I'm skeptical of my efficacy and pondering how to help Margot use her Lady in Waiting more effectively."

"Come to an arrangement with her, I would advise," big sister replies. "Dara must have her own goals, as do you. Agree to what can be, share personal essentials, and place forth the lines of conflict."

Diona lays a hand on his shoulder for a gentle squeeze. "All the while, not letting the true goals become known."

"With Dara?" Kendall asks. "Agreed. But she is at least understandable, sister. Margot…" He trails off, staring at his sister's visible eye as though lost in thought or fancy. But then his voice returns.

"I had not considered that her emotions for me would prove as much a hindrance as a boon," he admits. "She would do anything I ask of her, Diona. Anything, I believe. Yet, she is as helpless as a newborn Qur."

"So treat her as one, till it becomes too much for you to bear." With a slight shrug, she adds, "At worst, we can just take her to the Abyss and hope the Serpent takes care of the rest. After, either she will be something to be proud of, or eaten…"

"I don't know if I have the patience," he says. "It seems inevitable that she will be crushed beneath the weight of Chaos or of a broken heart, both, or something else. I find myself wondering if it might be best to expedite that and move on."

There is a bit of hesitation, as his sister is having trouble on deciding what to do. "Perhaps you could ask someone in the family to help?" is her advice after a bit, as she tries to give comfort in other ways by running the backside of the fingers along his earlobe, down to his cheek, on to his chin for a playful tap. "I'm sure we could find someone in the family who you could trust not to make a too big of a mess with your plans."

The caress elicits a smile, and he relaxes. There was nothing for it. He had an obligation to see to Margot as best he could. It might be his best wouldn't be good enough, but that still remained to be seen. "What about you, dear sister?" he asks, teasing.

"I can't, as much as I would love to help you… I have my own plans to mess up."

He nods, expecting that response. "I will continue with her education and see what comes of it. She may never be more than a pet, but I have seen potential for more."

"If worse comes to worst, you could breed her," Diona points out, even if the suggestion leaves a bit of foulness behind. "Without doubt someone in the House would relish the exotic. Be it her, or your resulting children."

He nods again. That thought had occurred, though it left him feeling strangely hollow inside. Still, he had as yet invested very little in the pretty princess overall. Time would still tell.

A smile returns to his face, with a glint of mischief appearing in his eyes. "But if I foil your plans first, then you would be free to help me with my little project," he remarks, reaching to take her hand.

"That would require you first to climb out of whatever hole I threw you in after you did so," Diona warns. "Be happy with some old aunt, or maybe a younger cousin."

"It might be worth it, to have you throw me somewhere…" he muses, still mostly joking, though as with all jokes, that kernel of truth rang deep within it.

"As much as I wish it wasn't so, I think those Cycles are long gone for us, Little Brother."

Disappointment, but not surprise. Kendall looks out to sea at the dancing waves that sent their spray against the prow of the ship. "Why did you come here, Nee-Nah? To the Rhercyn?" he asks.

"To mourn a dream," she answers, great sadness in her words.

Her sadness is almost unbearable, and he turns back to her, still holding her hand. His eyes search her face, studying the mask that hid part of her beauty, but also her visible eye and the contours of her cheeks and mouth. "How can I ease your pain, Big Sister?"

"With saying things like that…" Diona replies, squeezing his hand as she closes her remaining human eye to relax with a deep breath. "It would have been beautiful," she says with a hush, to honor what could have been.

The chuckle he attempts comes out short and with acrid humor. "Just don't let on I said it," he murmurs, feeling strangely embarrassed.

Setting the Qur down on a nearby barrel, he moves close to embrace her in a brotherly hug. He, also, would have to say good-bye to the fantasy of a young man — barely more than a boy — which still held a space in his heart. Yet with her in his arms, as she had been so many times but never in the way he most desired, he is possessed for that heartbeat with the urge to flee.

The sudden desire flares within to take his sister's hand and leave behind all the sad, soul-crushing, or merely tedious duties and expectations that weighed upon them both like the baleful gaze of the Serpent. It takes hold of him with abrupt passion, inflaming his heart so that he has to breathe deeply to steady himself. His body shivers against hers with the effort to control the impulse.

Giving her one last squeeze, he steps back from her and gives her a smile to cover his discomfort. "No doubt your new Eye will lead you to far richer pastures," he says teasingly.

"And you do yourself a disservice with a remark like that," his sister shares, already missing his heat, the combined warmth of their being.

"You are often generous with your encouragement, Diona, but I have always lacked your fire and finesse, and Cedric's brute force of personality. Pleasing Father has never been my strong suit, and even now my plans are being frustrated by what appears to be a poor choice of raw material." His words and manner are matter of fact, of one who has learned to recognize his failings, or who has had them pointed out to him many times.

"Still, I have always valued your counsel," he adds with a smile. "I would offer you the same, if the opportunity arises."

"Then brother, remember the lessons of mother. She never allowed a weakness to stop her using something or someone. She wove strength into it when possible, and made allowances when not." Glancing over, she sees Margot chatting now with their uncle.

"Chaos has many resources, things those of Amber have forgotten or can't even conceive of," Diona continues. "Yet she is something we rarely see high within the Court, exotic and so interesting to lords so old. But a doll, you do not want.. Perhaps a demon companion, servant, like a succubus or one of the lesser. Just enough to offset Dara enough to cause her some worry."

He nods, taking in her words for later pondering. Ultimately, he would have to decide what to do, and then simply do it. He would have to harden his heart and leave indecision behind. Kendall turns a little to follow his sister's gaze, realizing only then that Margot had come on deck and was speaking to his uncle, with Rory standing respectfully nearby.

The princess was sweet, and pretty, and delicate, and she had given herself to him with no reservations. Still staring at the young Amberite, words he had not realized where within his heart flow out, and he speaks once more to his sister, quietly, in a private confession.

"I have been asked, twice by different people, to leave our House. To leave behind Duty and escape into the unknown, never to look back. But… I chose to remain. For you."

Turning to face her again, he bows and kisses the back of her hand once more. "Twas a joy to see you, Big Sister, but as much as I enjoy your company, I should attend to my lover."

"That you did, little brother… that you did," she whispers as she gives him a passionate hug before turning back to the waves and wherever this ship may take them. Leaving a puzzled Kendall to her meaning, was it the first, or his second statement… or both.

He inhales deeply when she hugs him, remembering her scent, which was so basic to his existence that it was almost primal. But he does not linger when she turns away. She had made her choices, and he was left to his own. For now, anyway. Second thoughts might still come to haunt him later on, but that would be later.

Picking up the Qur once more, perhaps instinctively reaching for a calming presence, he walks the distance across the swaying deck to where Margot and Brisbane stood talking.

Back to list of Kendall's game threads
Reconciliation

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