Elaine 17: "Illusions of Security"

        After Christophe left, I could no longer sleep. Instead, I built up the fire and pulled a chair close. Wrapping a blanket tight around myself, I curled up in the chair, feet tucked under me, much as I had when little, waiting up for Papa.
        In the deep silence of the unfamilair room broken only by the crackling and popping of burning wood, with the oddly comforting presence of Joaquim and Justin next door, I could finally admit to myself how much the evening's events had shaken me. I had allowed myself to feel secure here. I had become complacent. And if it had not been for Justin's timely intervention, I would have become dead.
        I have been extraordinarily lucky thus far, given all of the events that could have concluded in a deadly outcome. But as my father once pointed out, those who rely on Luck tempt Fate, and either is too fickle to trust. Luck vanishes when you begin to trust it, and Fate mocks you in your illusion of security.
       It is time to view 'luck' as a warning and take fate into my own hands.

        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 have 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...