Elaine 21: "The Sound of Silence"



        As I listened to Uncle Caine's story, I wondered at the alliance he and my mother had all those years past, and the depths of manipulation they had gone to in their own quests. I decided I likely did not want to know.
       He filled in details of the vague explanation I had received from Mirelle, and I pondered this a while, under his watchful eyes. "You have been hurt by all this," he said, an odd mix of question and statement.
        Hurt was not exactly the proper word for how I currently felt. Nor was betrayal, nor anger, nor despair. I had felt all of those at some point, since that night back in Glorethien that started all of this, but I had gotten past al those feelings. They did me no good, and were quite counter-productive to getting anything done. No, I hadn't quite forgiven Mirelle, and yes, I would kill Blaine and Emma at the first opportunity, but more than anything, I was... perturbed. And annoyed. And frustrated.
       Caine did not quite seem to believe me, but offered to take me to Harlan's home shadow, in hopes, I think, of explaining Harlan's reluctance to return to Amber. I accepted, though I already knew why - That look of anguish, pain and fear, that night in Benedict's shadow, and the sight of the fork buried in the back of his hand are indelibly inscribed in my memory.

        "The Memorial to those who died in Harlan's War," he said as we approached the imposing black stone wall. "Twelve billion names..." He stopped, placing a hand on one section of the wall. "These," and he gestured down a section that went on a disturbing length, "are those he killed himself..."
       He said no more, and silence closed about us, heavy with the implications and realizations that this place held for Harlan's future. Caine was quiet and somewhat somber, but Justin seemed... agitated, worried. I had the feeling he was less than pleased with my single-mindedness in retrieving Harlan, given my propensity for charging off without him. I sighed. I owed Justin my life; he at the very least deserved my consideration and respect. But the driving need to do something, to take matters into my own hands, sometimes didn't cooperate.
       I Trumped back to Amber alone.

       Between the information I gathered from Caine and my mother, I had a much clearer picture of Harlan's situation, though I was no closer to discovering a method of controlling his innate abilites. I would have to try closer to the source...
       Kant was surprisingly cooperative, when I asked his assistance on finding more information about Harla's line, agreeing to my request with only the stipulation I assist him in finding Fiona. Perhaps an unfair trade, but I had the feeling if Fiona did not wish to be found, she wouldn't, and Kant might be getting the short end of this bargain.
       Kant led us to the Library at Memnos, which, depsite his worries, was no longer occupied by Claudia's forces, who had overrun it and forced Kant and Fiona to flee to Amber some weeks prior. The Library itself was not quite as useful as what Justin found there - A Chaosite named Tabitha. She proved an invaluable source of information. Not only giving me a number of leads regarding Harlan, but the information that Emma has been meeting with the Chaosian Senate and spouting prophesy. As well, she revealed some of Kant's background to us, having known him as a member of the church in Chaos.
       I fear my abrupt manner left her with a less than flattering impression of me, and annoyed Justin, but for the first time in far too long, I had enough information to make a difference, and my mind and attention was focused soley on that.
       Indeed, the knowledge of the history of Chaos' early Houses, and the plans of this Summoner's Guild to revive the Serpent could prove invaluable.

       I was still sorting my notes when Joaquim came to visit, bearing not only the news that Harlan was in Amber, but confirming what I had learned of his heritage, and that he held one of the artifacts sought by the Summoner's Guild.
       "And you," he added, "are the last heir to the House Anganar." Afer he left, I sat there for a few moments, puting pieces together. Chaos' lost colony, it seemed, settled in Glorethien and became the Danjani. I would digest this information in more detail later, but there was something more important I needed to do first...

       Joaquim had warned me of Harlan's new 'guards', and there was one standing at his door when I approached. He was about to turn me away, but when I asked him to tell Harlan upon the morrow that Elaine asked after him, his demeanor changed. "You are to be allowed through immediately."
       His room was dark and quiet, the silence almost deafening in it's own way, by magnifying nervous pounding of my heart. I sat on the edge of his bed, where he lay, apparently asleep.
       Apparently. He started when I settled myself. "Osiris?" He said hesitantly into the darkness.
       For a moment I couldn't speak; I was so relieved to hear his voice. "No, it's Elaine."
       He sat up, and pulled me into his arms...

       My relief was to be short-lived, in some ways.
        "But, do my answers ease your conscience at least on this subject?" I asked him after I had assured him of my forgiveness, and that his secrets were anything but.
       The look that came into his eyes at that moment chilled me. Resignation, despair... "Somewhat... but Elaine, I would never be able to forgive myself if I hurt you."
        "I know. And I understand the risk, but I'm willing to take it. If you are." The optimistic edge to my voice sounded brightly false even to me.
        He looked incredibly pained. "This goes beyond risk, in some ways. It's not as though this is a chance thing... in the next six hundred years, I'm guaranteed to lose control more than once."
        I was silent for a long moment. "The decision as to where things go from here is yours, Harlan," I said quietly, absently plucking at the material of my skirt, not daring to meet his eyes. "You need to do what is best for you."
        "Elaine..." he took my hands. "I love you."
        I still could not look at him. "I know, Harlan. And I... love you, as well." But that's not enough, it is, Harlan? Not here, not now...
        "Then you'll understand this all too well... what if you, just by being you, knew you could accidentally kill me at any moment? What would you do?" His voice was pleading, begging me to understand.
        "Likely the same thing I believe you are about to do with me," I wondered if this was how Mirelle felt, when she left my father behind. "Stay away, to keep you safe."
        He said nothing, just lifted my chin and looked at me for a long, long time, his eyes filled with deep regret. As no doubt, were mine. Hurt, Uncle Caine? Not hurt. Heartbroken.
        Eventually, I could stand it no more, and nodded my aquiescence to his wishes. Leaning forward, I kissed him upon the brow, lingering a moment before I pulled away and stood, leaving before I could not, before the sound of the silence between us became to loud to bear.


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