"Elaine, when I go back out to look for your mother, do you want me to take you back?"
I looked at him askance, "I... umm... Perhaps." I finished lamely, but he only nodded, his thoughts obviously still mostly turned inward. I made my excuses to him, and left, Jero right on my heels.
My plans to take Eve up on her offer of a tour of Rebma were foiled by her absence. Not wanting to sit about when I could be garnering useful information, I decided to use the time to finish my explorations of this place.
The ornate door was right where it had been the night before, and as I pulled it open, Jero cleared his throat. "Hmm. Since you were safe enough yesterday, guess I can tag along this time."
Smothered a smile, and instead gestured him through the doorway. But he shook his head. "Ladies first."
I was busily inspecting some of the more ornate mirrors when Jero, an attempt at feigned nonchalance coloring his tone, said, "I think I see something down at the end."
And indeed, that particular sheen that belongs only to sunlight sparkled at some indeterminate distance. "Shall we, then?"
Jero shrugged. "Ladies first."
It was at least a mile before we broke out into green gardens. This was definitely an oddity. The air was misted with rain, but I could easily see the enormous circle of oaks ahead.
Nothing else out of the ordinary revealed itself, so I began up one of the paths up the mountain, Jero following wordlessly. I think his curiosity was as piqued as mine, though he'd never admit it.
At the path's conclusion, we found only three stone steps.
The kennels were much like those at home, if on a much grander scale. Harlan was surrounded by yelping canines, at least until they found Jero. Dogs love Jero. I think it has something to do with the fact that they can sense he is a creature of deep loyalty, as are they. But with his rapt audience suddenly shifting their attention elsewhere, Harlan found himself with only my company.
He greeted me cordially enough, but I once again had the impression his thoughts were elsewhere. Still, he was sharp enough to point out, when I explained my afternoon's adventure with a few points left out, "It's a bit of a damp day to go for a walk..."
"It's not as if I'd melt," I said hurriedly to cover any suspicions of my escapades.
He let it pass with no more comment, so I only pestered him about my findings atthe end of the mirrored hall for a short time before I took my leave, prying Jero away from his newfound friends.
"He's a good looking man," Jero suddenly said, but did not look at me.
"Yes he is. And your point...?"
Jero shrugged. "Seems a good man, likes dogs."
I just shook my head and sighed in amusement at my old friend's barely veiled attempt at matchmaking. "Indeed, Jero." I looked up at him to see the slightest hint of a smile play across his face.
As Eve walked me through the halls of the castle at Rebma (and after I had calmed down from the disconcerting effects of breathing water and not drowning), I pondered what I had learned from Harlan the day before, and what Kier had told me during lunch.
He didn't have much more to say on the ring of trees than Harlan had. "The Grove of the Unicorn is a scared place," he'd said. "Supposedly the place the Unicorn hid Oberon or some such. Those down at the Temple'd know more."
HIs description of the stairs though, was more interesting. "They lead to the Tir, Amber's reflection in the sky. It's a place of visions and the like. It only comes out on a full moon, though."
The Grove I could investiage easily, then. Unfortunately, this moonlit city would have to wait, as the full moon was a ways off.
This place, Amber, is as intriguing as it is dangerous. And while my heart will always reside in Glorethien, I can feel the pull this place has. Perhaps it is the draw of blood, for I have always held the ties of family in the highest regard. Or perhaps it is the answers this place may hold to the sudden mystery of my mother.
Either way, I think it is time to claim my place here.