Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > Labyrinth of Chaos


by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

chapter 7.5 'easter egg'. A vignette of faith lost... and found (Mandor/Fiona)

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Romance - Published: 2017-06-07 - 5657 words - Complete


Just a sliver of orange remained on the flat vertical ‘horizon’; the rest of the black sky was engulfed in the dancing, flickering stars of the Chaosian heavens as a figure - swathed and cloaked in an even darker shade from head-to-foot - dismounted from a deep-azure horse that they had been riding bareback. Or was it a horse? Once free of its burden, the animal changed shape, becoming a feathered dragon of about the same size and coloring, and, upon settling down, promptly turned to stone, unmoving, unbreathing, as much a part of the rocky precipice upon which the rider now stood alone as the gaping, monstrous Pit of the Abyss to their immediate right. Dead-ahead was the bare gray rockface of an ancient, denuded mountain; the cloaked figure approached it and lay one black-gloved hand against the smooth stone, feeling for the presence of the ‘way’ that must be there. The tension repelled them at once, but the visitor’s presence had been arcanely noted. Soon, a man’s hand and the deep-blue-and-black velvet cuff-edge of an extremely opulent dress jacket protruded from the solid-looking rock wall in an accepting, welcoming gesture. The dark figure without took the hand and was immediately pulled straight through…

…into the seafloor-level receiving room in the private demesne of Lord Mandor Sawall, himself looking particularly resplendent this evening, even wearing the House colors instead of his usual personal heraldry of black-and-white, in honor of his distinguished guest. The newcomer took off their heavy, low-hooded cloak, revealing fiery waves of hair that spilled out even further as the tightly-wrapped scarf that concealed most of the face was removed; the entire riding outfit underneath was utilitarian black.

“Princess,” the Chaos lord dropped to one knee, reverently taking and kissing the lady’s still-gloved hand, “I take your presence in my humble abode to be one of the highest honors of my life.”

“You needn’t lay it on so thickly, my lord,” Fiona Barimen chided him fondly as he rose, removing her gloves. “One would think you never had any visitors at all.”

“I allow few to come to Mandorways proper,” he admitted. “I must confess, I am usually avoiding company anymore when I venture here from the Ways of Sawall myself,” he took her wraps and her gloves, setting them aside on a black leather lounger that floated by.

“I suppose I should be a bit flattered then,” she looked up at him with a teasing lip-smile, then glanced around the darkly decorated room. “It is safe to freely walk about in here?”

“As long as you avoid the walls, your Highness. I employ few ‘middle-of-the-room’ ways; they get to be annoying after a time, although I concede it’s just a personal preference. I hope you had a good and safe journey here?”

The princess had immediately gravitated toward the window out into the midnight ocean and its grotesque, luminescent fish. “The ride was certainly picturesque, but the necessary route was simply abominable. Can’t you find a nice, quiet villa to inhabit closer to the Divide? I wouldn’t care to make this trip often.”

Mandor’s warm hands closed about her upper arms – and she leaned back into him.

“Such a move would be entirely dependent upon the lady,” he murmured into her ear. “And our respective monarchs,” he sighed. “Are you still set against owning a trump of me, Fi?” he gently squeezed her arm. “It could make this a little easier; we could see each other more frequently.”

“You understand why I declined at first, even trusting you?” she looked up at him.

He nodded.

“There are still difficulties on my end. I don’t want to risk anyone tracking either of us to the other just yet. I don’t want to deliberately put you in harm’s way.”

Mandor gave her a sad smile and kissed the top of her head, letting her go. “And yet you’ll force me to risk life and limb to go gallivanting across the universes to see you instead? You really wish for me to play knight-errant, storming the Castle Amber’s walls?”

“I could make the trip worth your while,” she purred daringly.

“Oh, indeed,” he quietly noted with just a whisper of a smile, offering his arm. “Dinner is waiting. Shall we?”

He led her straight through the wall of slow flame to their right; it dissolved into a dark tunnel of a hallway. Turning left through the seemingly solid wall, they passed through the ballroom, the floor checkered in black-and-white tile rather like a chessboard; large upside-down blown glass chandeliers ornamented the high ceiling, their blue-flamed tapers burning up instead of down. This was followed by three-seconds-worth of a green-stone dungeon with rusting chains hanging from the walls that rapidly gave way to a long ascending black marble staircase encased in a thick, protective clear tube, the stars of the Chaosian heavens shooting about all around the causeway. This abruptly ended two-thirds of the way up the flight in a different sitting room, all in deep reds including the plush velvet carpet. Taking another right through a wall, they emerged in another long hallway, but this one was lined with immense bay windows along the right side: the view was of an alien rainforest, the foliage so green it was almost blue, the extreme humidity currently fogging the outer glass a bit. There was fast movement in the dense growth below – something being chased or giving chase – but it was the large, heavy-looking wooden door set perfectly in the middle of the left wall that piqued the princess’ curiosity.

“Never a door or a gate in Chaos,” Fiona remarked aloud as Mandor quickly led her past it. “What’s the special occasion behind that one?”

“It is to be a surprise,” Mandor replied rather coolly.

“For me?” she flirted.

“I should say not,” he finally surrendered a small, frowning smirk.

“For whom, then?”

“Fi, we agreed – no politics. This is a secret official assignment, not a personal one.”

“I see,” she replied a bit dubiously, glancing over her shoulder at it once more before the hall was swallowed up into a fragrant night garden, lit with pale-blue floating orbs. It hadn’t been Mandor’s original plan to use this distant section of his compound, but the weather on the shadow-world that housed the outdoor gazebo and private dining area simply hadn’t been cooperating – it had practically been raining clouds of little flying salamanders for the past five days; the climate and atmosphere were usually beautiful there, but the migration season could be a bit of a nuisance.

“I do have one surprise planned for you that I truly hope will please you, but I suppose it should wait until after you’ve had the chance to eat and rest yourself – that was a very long journey,” he pulled out a green-cushioned wrought-iron chair for her at the oblong, glass-topped table.

“What is it?”

“Ah, but that would be telling,” he gave a secretive little smile, seating himself to her left, about to clap dinner into existence, but she stopped him, grabbing his right arm.

“Mandor, you know perfectly well how I hate having mysteries dangled right in front of my nose like that,” she called him out, “and I am equally aware that you are deliberately attempting to use this as a diversionary tactic to keep me from thinking about what you’re being forced to hide from me back there.”

The Chaos lord genuinely smiled his signature crooked smile, turning toward her. “You know, I was actually warned by a very close friend against taking up with you. That you were dangerous.”

The princess smirked. “I suppose that is a compliment in its own right coming from this quarter. Still, you would agree anticipatory stress and excitement are hardly conductive to digestion.”

He was still smiling; he knew he had her. “You really wish to see it now?”

“If it isn’t five more miles away by foot.”

“Of course not. I suppose we could take our repast there, also,” he mused. “Not exactly scenic but it’s safely indoors – quiet and secluded.”

“Lead the way,” she smiled.

Mandor rose again, pulling Fiona’s chair back out and chivalrously giving her a hand back up before digging two of his metal spheres out of a side pocket of his jacket, activating them; they dropped to ground-level and commenced performing opposing orbits about both of their feet. Mandor took Fiona’s hands in his own, his ice-blue eyes bright with merriment. “Hang on.”

The spheres picked up speed of their own accord and soon they were both levitating off the ground in a controlled ascent, straight up into the oddly blurred, active starry sky above the garden. At one-hundred feet precisely, the heavens suddenly vanished, replaced by an arched stone vault, lit by many large green and purple candles that crowded an indented shelf running all along the dark gray stone walls, as well as being set into delicately simplistic bright metal floor candelabras that lined the small center aisle, situated between two rows of half-a-dozen lavender-cushioned pews. They had come into the front-right side of a small chapel; he led her over to the shrine-style black tourmaline altar, which contained even more candles on the sides and a small gold incense holder tray in the center. A large oil painting of the princess herself was hung above the altar in a gilded frame, set off in gauzy drapery of the same colors – her heraldic colors! She gasped, wide-eyed.

“What in the worlds,” she said slowly, taking in the bizarre tableau, “is this?!”

“What does it look like?” Mandor observed her reaction quietly, letting go of her hands and retrieving his spheres, pocketing them.

Fiona was staring at the delicately carved, semi-precious stone altar in dumb shock, her own painstakingly rendered visage staring back at her, graced with a smile worthy of the Mona Lisa!

“It’s a church, dedicated to… Mandor, tell me this is your idea of a joke!” she nervously laughed.

All she got in reply was a very solemn headshake ‘no’, his eyes fixed full on hers. He turned to the altar then, removing a fresh stick of incense from a carved wooden box in a hidden side panel. Putting the tip to one of the candles, he ignited it briefly before blowing it out, placing it in the holder below the portrait before turning back to her. “Bright Fiona, Flame of my heart, may your supplicant be ever as clever and skilled both in sorcery and politics as your blessed self, sweet daughter of the true Sun, of the One We May Not Name Aloud in Prayer.”

It sounded formulaic! The princess was genuinely taken aback as the real meaning of the situation finally set in; she actually took a measured step away from Mandor, her head reeling from the far-reaching implications. Under other circumstances with someone else it might have been amusing, possibly even flattering in a silly way, but this…

She suddenly gave a dry, harsh-sounding laugh. “I’m just a cult figure to you, my lord, is that it?” she smiled bitterly. “Is that what all this has really been about? If this is so, you may revere me to the exit – I have no intention of being made a prisoner of my own church, no matter how much effort you may have expended upon the décor! And if you will not release me, remember why you worship me in the first place and consider yourself more than adequately forewarned; I’d be a fool to travel thus alone to Chaos without a full arsenal of primed spellwork literally at my fingertips. I could render you helpless in seconds if I so chose.” Her words were an icy and brittle armor, but not too far beneath them lay a terrible pain her companion could literally feel, an utterly unique and irretrievably unforgivable form of perceived betrayal.

“Oh, Fi, it isn’t like that,” he crooned reassuringly, moving to embrace her, but she retreated even further into the right corner, nearing the way and its precarious drop.

“Then what is it like?!”

The Chaos lord sighed, crestfallen, closing his eyes for a moment; he’d had no idea she would take it this badly. “I can explain everything if you’ll just give me the chance.”

“Do I even want to hear this?” she irritatedly crossed her arms.

“You might.” He turned away and went and sat down in the right front pew near the center.

“Very well, I’m listening, but for your own sake this had better be good,” Fiona proudly strode back to the front of the altar, leaning against it, glaring down at him with her arms still crossed. Mandor’s hands were actually folded, with his forearms resting against his legs, slightly bent forward. It was nearly a prayer stance.

“Before I commence, may I ask you one simple, civil question, your Highness?”

“I suppose anything is possible.”

“I know from the reports at the end of Patternfall that you all saw the Unicorn incarnate upon the edge of the Abyss, but before then did you personally worship Her back home in Amber? Did you ever pray to Her?” He dared a glance up at her cold, green eyes.

The question caught the princess a bit off-guard; she looked down and away with just a whisper of a wry smile. “I haven’t really prayed to the Unicorn since I was a very little girl,” she remarked quietly. “I kept hoping that I would be able to see Her in the palace gardens, but She never came to me. After a certain age, I stopped trying altogether. Our father would take us to the temples mostly for show in turn in our youth, and I know I’ve read the Book of the Unicorn once cover-to-cover. But I don’t actively worship Her, no.”

“And would you say that’s the average experience for your immediate family?”

“You said one question,” she pointedly looked back at him.

“It’s a part of the same question.”

She paused a moment. “Of course, I cannot answer definitively for my other brothers and sisters, but from how we’ve all acted toward each other over the centuries, that might be a reasonable assumption. Benedict might be the exception; I hear there are Unicorn shrines in his shadow-copy of Avalon. Or Gérard. Why do you ask?”

Mandor didn’t answer her right away but merely nodded, looking back down. “I had always been told that the religion of the Unicorn, while fervorous among the faithful, had remained relatively small, most actively practiced rurally by some of your poorer peasants and as a state religion in a half-dozen nearby shadows Amber holds commerce with, if that. But it’s never really meant that much to you personally.” He closed his eyes. “I can’t possibly expect you to understand…” he trailed off. When he looked up at her again, she didn’t seem quite as angry, although her expression was still haughty enough to befit her true rank. He sat back in the pew, stretching his long legs, crossing them at the ankles.

“By comparison, the Church of the Serpent is colossal and always has been for as long as there has been a Chaos. The thousands of shadow-worlds our ancestors conquered had the religion forced upon them, and everyone born in Chaos proper is a registered member upon birth. No other faiths have ever been tolerated here, let alone legal. The top organization is more powerful than the Crown and the Council combined.” He suddenly stopped and gave a single hollow-sounding laugh, shaking his head, looking away. “You have no idea what it’s like to grow up surrounded by that strong of faith, to have no other points-of-view, to truly worship something as your goddess and to be initiated into Her power – only to have Her fail you when you needed Her the most.” His voice had nearly broken from emotion in that last phrase, like he was on the verge of crying – but he controlled himself; no tears fell.

Fiona sighed with a bittersweet half-smile. “Oh, Mandor,” she said quietly, walking over, sitting down beside him.

“Our history books will always, always bury this point,” he continued, looking straight ahead, “but I know; I was there. The Battle of the Black Plain had just reached a crescendo point – the phalanx of the Amberite forces before us were outmanned and outnumbered and they knew it, we nearly had them on the run – when She just abandoned us. She abandoned us!” he resounded with horror. “It was unthinkable, terrible to witness,” he closed his eyes at the memory. “Without any warning at all, my magic failed me – all my racked spells gone, even the ones I was currently deploying for protection, even the brute power that lay behind them all! Gone, like that! It spontaneously happened to everyone around me, and all I can remember is thinking, how had we failed Her?! How had we deserved to be slaughtered like this? Had we ever stopped doing homage to the Great Serpent Who Hangs from the Tree of Matter? Had we ever ceased sacrificing our enemies to the Pit? Were we being sacrificed in turn out there on the Plain? She was finally showing Herself for what She truly is: Impersonal Destruction, the Open Grave, heedless of who it devours. She thought She had finally regained what She had long desired and waited for and no longer needed any of us; we were all fodder for the fire. My faith died that day, along with many men I had counted as friends. I finally let the animal instinct of the demonform I was wearing just take me over until the fighting was ended; I didn’t care whether I lived or died at that point. I didn’t care about anything,” he finished quietly – and felt Fiona take his right hand between her own. He looked at her seriously. “You mustn’t breathe a word of that to a soul. The knowledge must never leave the Courts.”

“I understand,” she nodded gravely.

Mandor studied the bone structure of the princess’ face for a moment; she really was beautiful in her own right. “Granddaughter to the Unicorn,” he shook his head with a jaded little lip-smile. “You have no clue of just how lucky you are to be begat by a Power that actually seems to care about you. We could scarcely believe the field report when it came in – that the Unicorn had come in the flesh in your darkest hour, that She had snatched the Jewel of Judgment from the gaping jaws of the Serpent, and had bestowed it upon your youngest brother, pronouncing him king of Amber! She saved you Herself! Have you yet even considered the full implications of that act?”

He got up, pacing out of Fiona’s grasp to the altar, facing away from her. “The few comrades I had left in my battalion were every bit as dumbfounded as I was. Order had directly intervened on your behalf!” He smirked at the memory. “You would have never recognized me, but I made a deliberate point of gaining a good vantage spot to watch you and your remaining brothers and sisters, as you all marched into the Plaza at the End of the World in the van of the Amberite troops, on your way to formally seize the Thelbane – even then I was already grappling with others, trying to pick your face out of that exalted crowd – and just seeing you like that, I couldn’t help but think that you all had recourse to something that I just… didn’t have, that I had hated blindly my entire life without any proper knowledge. I discovered afterwards that many others were of like mind, but at a quandary as to what course of action to take. The outright open worship of the Unicorn in Chaos is high blasphemy as recognized by the State, punishable by being publicly ripped asunder and not committed to the Pit afterwards to further desecrate what’s left of the corpse. But your mixed ancestry made you all seem a safer option; technically, an eighth of the blood in your veins is still Chaosian, even if it is heavily diluted with Order. The cult of the House of Amber grew quickly. Many chapels just like this one were constructed in private residences,” he suddenly reached up to straighten the material at the left side of the portrait, brushing it smooth. “At first, it was rather commonplace to have one’s friends and neighbors over for services to honor the spirit of one’s chosen patron. All of King Oberon’s children had followers, even Prince Brand – perhaps especially Prince Brand; he had defected to our side, after all. But the Church of the Serpent wouldn’t stand for it and soon after outlawed the cult, imposing the same penalty upon its continued adherence as indirect worship of the Unicorn. The major temples were dismantled or destroyed practically overnight, although secret rites continued on unabated for several years before being brutally suppressed. If it continues on at all yet today, no one speaks of it. Those who could not bear to lose their shrines hid them – which is why this place is hovering through a secret way far above my ‘outer’ garden instead of being situated within the complex proper, close to my private chambers,” he magically relit a thick violet candle that had guttered.

“While this is truly an interesting cultural problem for you and your fellow countrymen,” Fiona remarked, standing back up, taking a couple steps toward the aisle, “I fail to see how any of this is supposed to translate into a realistic relationship between a man and a woman.”

Mandor turned to face her. “Then rest assured, princess, that my personal interest in you predates the Amber cult by nearly two-dozen cycles, Chaos-reckoning, back when you and your full-blood brothers Princes Bleys and Brand were trying for a triumvirate takeover of the Crown during the Interregnum. You had several protracted meetings in the Ways of the House of Helgram in the attempt to win allies to your cause that Amber would never even have been able to anticipate, but the talks broke off when they wanted too much power in return for what you were asking. You might’ve fared better if you’d tried old Gramble Sawall instead; I could’ve whispered good things in his ear,” he smiled knowingly.

Fiona blanched. “…how much of that is common knowledge here?!”

“Have no fear, your Highness; I only know because I was there also, albeit covertly. I was ostensibly visiting one of the younger lords of Helgram – there were several of us over that evening, all gentlemen, you know how these things get to be – and I snuck away from the gathering for a short time to try to find you. There were rumors, you see, of a witty and brave lady who had traveled with the secret envoy from Amber; we all had our guesses, but nobody outside the operation really knew anything concrete at the time, only that the interlopers were cozying up to Helgram for some reason – the whole situation looked very suspicious. There were also whispers that for a woman with unchangeable physiognomy you were exceptionally beautiful, and I was determined to see for myself. Most Chaosian women will cheat their humanoid appearance somehow; it is a rare thing to ever see one as they naturally are.” Mandor quietly savored her form for a moment, taking in the view; Fiona just rolled her eyes, putting her hands to her hips.

He was unperturbed. “You were magnificent, the way you stormed out of that room at the end after standing your ground, leaving your brothers to make their socially pitiful adieus before dashing after you,” he smiled. “Truthfully, I had no idea who you were – there was no safe way to make any inquiries – but I knew I liked your style, your absolute confidence, the way you carried yourself; there was something genuinely special about you. And you were beautiful.”


“Are,” he stated pointedly. “And you can well imagine my shock and surprised delight upon discovering just who you really were, recognizing you again from a distance.”

“But how did you manage to spy on me so unobserved at Helgram? Even if you had been scrying somehow, I would have felt it!”

Mandor’s smile turned crooked as he clapped his hands twice – and vanished on the spot!

The princess chuckled appreciatively. “I should have known. You’ll have to show me how the general principle wor-”

She was cut off by the powerful sensation of an open-mouthed kiss on the side of her neck, and she gasped as phantom arms supported her from behind, snaking about her waist; when she looked over her shoulder, Mandor had rematerialized. “Very cute, my lord,” she gave him a frowning smirk.

“From that day on, I couldn’t stop thinking about you,” he breathed in the scent of her hair, making her a little lightheaded. “I learned everything I possibly could about you and found that you had many desirable traits, even some that went relatively under-appreciated in Amber like your native talent for magic. When the cult finally came along, you were my obvious choice. I cannot deny that I literally worshipped you from afar for a long time before fate took pity on my predicament and arranged for us to meet. Of course, I had to pretend I had no idea who you were – the Amber cult was already illegal by that time, and, oddly enough, had been totally unknown outside of the Courts. The spectacle would have been laughable: ‘Hello, I know we’ve never met, but I’ve spied on your once or twice and I burn incense to your visage every morning, praying to be found worthy of you.’ Not a good foot to start out on,” he tucked a few stray fiery hairs behind her ear. “But we got to spend some real time together then – alone, no less, far more than I had ever dared hope for – and I quickly found myself falling for you in earnest. And, as I recall, you were not entirely adverse to my attentions,” he murmured deeply into her right ear, kissing her behind it, hearing her wordless response, “giving me even further hope.” He turned her around in his arms and gently tilted her chin up so their eyes would meet; her expression held only fond amusement now. “It took me all those long years to finally find something that’s actually worth believing in: I believe in you, Fiona Barimen – I believe in your heart and your brain and your guts – and more than that, I believe in us, what we can accomplish together, what we could be together!”

“That we can be together, you mean,” she offered charitably with a slight look of reproval, straightening his lapel.

Mandor laughed a little self-consciously, closing his eyes. “Especially that part.” He opened them again. “That is, if you’ll still have me after this debacle,” he stroked the line of her jaw with one finger.

The princess looked like she was trying not to laugh as she examined the chapel again from where she stood, noting that there wasn’t a single drop of spilled wax nor speck of dust on that pristinely kept altar – which meant that he had to have been cleaning it himself daily if no one else ever came here. “I must confess this particular brand of fetish is new to me, although the practice has been known in the family; two of my deceased aunts on my father’s side were revered as twin goddesses in a distant shadow eons ago, and while the other boys tend to play at it only in times of war when there is a need for troops, Benedict goes in for this sort of thing regularly, albeit just for the added perception of power it bestows wherever he rules – he actually makes for a surprisingly benevolent deity. But he’s never deceived the few lovers that he’s had with it.” She looked down again, studying the ornamentation on the front of Mandor’s blue-and-black velvet jacket thoughtfully, tracing the silver embroidery with her fingernail. “I can’t replace your goddess, nor do I want to even try to; those are shoes that are too impossibly big for me to fill – and I need to make sure you understand this. I may be long-lived, but I’m still mortal,” she met his eyes seriously. “I don’t feel comfortable being the object of your religion, your worship. And I think you comprehend why: it simply puts too much pressure on me to be something that I’m not.”

“But how do you feel about being the object of my love and devotion, Fi?” Mandor asked quietly, bringing her right hand up, kissing each fingertip in turn. “That’s all my worship of you has ever really been. Well, perhaps ‘worship’ is too strong of a word after all,” he admitted with a wry smirk. “‘Veneration’ might be closer to the spirit of the act. But since my reckless idolatry offends you so,” he let go of her and promptly strode to the altar, reaching up for the gilt frame of the portrait of her.

Fiona’s eyes went wide. “What are you-”

But he merely lifted the painting off the screws it had been mounted on, hoisting it clear of the burning candles, setting it aside on the floor to the right of the altar, picture-side facing the wall. With another clap of his hands, all of the candles and incense on the altar spontaneously disappeared, replaced with covered serving dishes to the left and right along with a bottle of white wine and two silver goblets, as if the piece of furniture were nothing more important than a sideboard; the center remained conspicuously empty.

“Is this more to your liking?” he gestured to the spread. The question had been voiced very casually, but she could tell from his sudden distant expression that having to do that had actually hurt him quite a bit.

“All you’re losing is the fantasy, dearest,” she said quietly, walking over to join him, placing her hand on his arm. “You’ve still got me.”

Mandor turned to her with a look of such love – and suddenly his eyes flashed with a mischievous spark along with his off-kilter smile.

“Oh, what’s happening now?” Fiona asked with the beginnings of a smile herself.

Without any warning, Mandor scooped her up under her arms and spun her around fast, making her laugh in surprise, before gently sitting her down in the center of the altar!

“Didn’t we just finish discussing why this doesn’t work?” she teased him, her arms akimbo. “Just what do you think you’re doing?”

Mandor was removing his jacket, throwing it behind him on the pew after extracting a single metal sphere from his pocket.

“I am venerating my patron princess one final time,” he pronounced with a half-smile, stooping to remove her traveling boots, setting the sphere in a tiny clockwise orbit about her dainty ankles. Sweet sensation instantly flooded Fiona’s system from the locus point of her feet, and she momentarily closed her eyes in pleasure: it felt like the best foot massage in the known universes!

Mandor rose and opened the wine, pouring out, handing the princess her goblet before getting down on his knees right in front of her, setting his goblet aside on the stone floor. “Bright Fiona, Flame of my heart - love of my soul - do you forgive me?”

Fiona took a teasing, leisurely swallow of her drink before setting it down, eying him over the rim; she leaned forward and ran her fingers through his smooth, shoulder-length, prematurely-white hair (his one telltale touch from the Hand of the Logrus), looking into his earnestly upturned, singular, ice-blue eyes.

“I believe you can consider yourself absolved,” she smiled knowingly – then boldly grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, catching him off-guard, “although we may have to work out a form of penance.” His expression was one of fierce delight as he allowed her to haul him up to her with the easy, supernatural strength of the scions of Oberon, kissing him full on the mouth.

Much later in the back pews, Mandor was right in the middle of a very delicate and complicated set of partial shapeshifts when he distractedly felt the distant panic bleep from the tracking device he had given to his young ward, but the signal was faint and only sounded the once for a split-second and he swiftly wrote it off; the girl had been given specific instructions on what to do tonight in the one-in-a-million chance that she found herself in real trouble. Something had probably just startled the child; it happened often enough in the evenings and regularly in her dreams. His world wouldn’t fall apart without his conscious will holding it all together. Not in one night, anyway. But his current train of thought was abruptly lost, soon to be followed by his will…

(Incidental music for this second: Metallica, 'Nothing Else Matters'. For afterhours Chaosian-style spooning: John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Visions of the Emerald Beyond, 'Earthship') cling
Curious to see what Mandor's really up to with that mysterious room? Check out my adventure/fantasy Amber/Labyrinth crossover story Labyrinth of Chaos. Go on, nudge ;)
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