My night ended much as it had begun, in broken sleep and snatches of nightmare. The chair which I had fallen asleep in was not kind to my back, but the warmth and light of the parlor fire were far preferable to the forboding watchfulness of the dark windows in the bedchamber.
I retrieved breakfast for my
earstwhile neighbors, using the apparent kindess to clarify a few points
with Justin. In my darker thoughts of last night, I was reminded that my
brother was likely in far greater than I. His visibility far exceeds
mine, and I fear he has not the healthy paranoia of events that was
instilled in me at a young age. I trust not fate or luck, but I do trust
my wits, my skills, and to an extent, the blade at my side.
Unfortunatley, Raphael, I fear, lacks the latter two. And wits alone
proven to be poor protection from our current enemies. I do not wish to
see my brother fall prey to his idealism.
Fortunately, there is one near him who more than shows to have at least the latter two in abundance...
My quarry dawdled at the back of
the group, his expression of of martyred resignation. I more than
sympathized, having similar feeling about being in Aunt Flora's presence
for more than a few moments.
so when I caught his attention and gestured him over, the genuine affection in his smile was not quite overshadowed by the relief at the rescue.
"Rufus," my own smile was filled with an equally genuine affetion as he greeted me, and we snuck out of the Portrait room and made our way down the hall. His ready 'adoption' of me had warmed my heart deeply. While he was nothin like my father in temperament or personality, he wore that same aura of protectiveness and security.
Upon finding that he knew nothing of the previous nights events, I told the story from its very beginning, that dark night in Glorethien. His concern and anger grew more and more palpable, and when I concluded my tale with Justin's revelations, his frown was quite pronounced and his eyes dark. "It is past time for Mirelle to answer for her actions."
While I more than agreed with him, I knew such was a moot hope. "She has already proven that her crusade means more to her than even her children." I was sucessful at keeping most of the bitterness from my voice. "I greatky fear for Raphael, though. It is going to become more and more apparent what his heritage is... and I do not wish to lose my brother so soon after having found him."
"I will watch him." Rufus gave me a long look. "And I will send someone to watch you."
"Am I to be given a choice in this?" I could not completely hide my amusement.
"That depends. Are you going to try and refuse?"
The rest of the day passed with
little event, though I found some small items missing from my room, and
realized abruptly mid-morning that I had seen no sign of Harlan for some
time now. His trump did not animate, nor had he been seen in the castle.
when Joaquim inquired if I had seen him, I began to worry somewhat.
It was when Jero told me that when he had last seen Harlan, he had been complaining of headaches and sleeplessness that I Trumped Joaquim, who had gone off to look for hi. I relayed Jero's words, and despite my reservations, the story of the 'attacks' he was prone to experiencing, and detailed to him the one that has occured during their convalesence from the dragon-slaying incident.
Troubled, I spent the rest of the afternoon in idle conversation with Gillian. I mentioned to her the missing items, and wondered if they could be traced, perhaps to my late-night visitors, but she could see no way of using magic to do so.
Dinner came and went, with still no sign or word of Harlan. Eventually, my own head beginning to pound, I went to sleep.
I awoke the next morning more tired and fretful. And my head still hurt. The healer in the infirmiry was baffled, and I left, frustrated. As I paced the halls, I noticed something most odd, and eventually, disturbing. The headache retreated as I moved southward, and increased if I went in any other direction.
I thought over all my options, and shortly thereafter Trumped Joaquim. Between him, Avery and I, it was concluded that this was most definitely not a natural occurance, and, soon we decided to see just what lay to the south.
Harlan at least has the good
sense to look sheepish after we untangled him from the now quite cowed
trees. He told a story much like mine, though he had not had the good
sense to have aksed for assistance.
Our little party thus continued down the gold-tinged path, leading us to the Bright Lady knows where, though Joaquim I believe is betting on an emerald city, such as in the story he told of a land called Oz...