Elaine 23: "Time and Tide"

        "I have knowledge that will allow you to safely be in Harlan's company. Specifically, knowledge of a spell, designed by servants of House Divornan, which negates Harlan's particular powers. The original spell served to contain his outbursts, but I can teach you a similar spell that will serve to defend you, instead of contain him."
       "And the price for this lesson?"
       "Two hundred years, give or take a decade."
       In the end, my decision took me far less than the night's time I had requested from Joaquim. I had long planned to remove myself from Glorethien in the future, and here was reason to do so, if on a more accelerated timeline.
       I love Glorethien with all my heart, but I no longer belong there. But this still was not entirely my decision to make.
       I know some of my more 'cultured' cousins feel that my deep affection for a mere shadow is no more than a child's fancy, but I sincerely hope I will never come to the point that I am capapble of manipulating the lives of thousands merely because they are not as 'real' as I. It is in part why I wish to let Glorethien make it's own destiny. She has too long been a toy for my family, for reasons good or ill. Her people deserve to decide their own fate.
       Which is why I found myself standing in Jero's rooms, nervously staring at the floor as my story tumbled from me.
        "I need to speak with you. It's... it's about Glorethien."
       He raised an brow. "All right..."
       Celia followed me like a silent shadow, and took a place in the far corner of the room, to give us what privacy she could. "It has been my intention, since learning of my heritage here," I began, pacing restlessly about the room, "to, once things settled, remove myself from the situation at home and let Glorethien go on with out the manipulations or influence of Amber to sway her destiny."
        He looked surprised, but nodded for me to go on.
        "It was never my intention to remain there, Jero after I found about my heritage here. It doesn not seem fair, somehow that I start and stop their lives to convenience mine. And Glorethien deserves better than manipulation by the Blood for untold generations.
        "I had intended to do this over time, but with all that has happened, I fear that my plans may have to change. Joaquim has aked my assistance in the matter of healing his current injuries. It would require manipulating the time flow of Glorethien so that he could pass two centuries there, while a matter of days pass here in Amber."
        I stopped, looking out his window, for I could not meet his eyes as I spoke next. "I am considering agreeing to his request, for a number of reasons, some selfish, some practical. But Glorethien is your home. More yours than mine. And I could not do this without your consent."
        When I finally turned, he was standing quiet and stoic in the center fo the room. "Glorethien is my home, Elaine, but I'm not leaving you as long as there is breath in my body. Whatever you decide to do, I'll be at your side." He flattened his lips in that stubborn look I knew so well.

       I did not sleep well that night.

       I finished up my lessons with Gillian the next afternoon, telling her only that I'd be gone for a few days. She knew better, I think - we have become quite close over the last few weeks - but said nothing more than have a nice trip.
       As for Justin... I thought about just leaving without a word to him, given he always seems to know where I am anyway. Still, he deserves more regard than that, and my behavior toward him of late has been less than acceptable, in my opinion. Still, given his reaction every time Harlan's name comes up in conversation, I did not feel comfortable relating my intentions in person, and instead left him a note telling him I was returning to Glorethien for a few days, and he could contact me there if necessary.
       No doubt he would soon figure things out for himself.

       It was early spring, almost a year later, when I finally felt things were settled enough to enact the plan Joaquim and I had concocted, and return to Amber. The shadow Elaine we had found was quite close, and with a bit of memory implantation, she would be enough 'me' to continue on the path I had started. I ignored the inherent hipocracy in this plan, given why I was doing this in the first place.
       I had left the castle for the last time. Joaquim, who would be acting as advisor to the new Elaine, was even now taking care of the final adjustments to my doppelganger, who was sleeping soundly in my place. In the morning, she would wake as Queen Elaine, and be married. All was effectively done, and I had no more reason to stay in Glorethien any longer, and every reason to leave. Almost.
       All three moons were full, a somewhat rare occurance, lighting the paths I had so loved as a child, and bathing the gardens in silver-blue radience. My father's beloved snow roses were almost fully in bloom, and the moonlight made their white petals glow with an eerie fire.
       It was here I could remember him best. Unfortunately, it was here I also remebered how he had died. But there really is no way to seperate his life and death in my mind. Both had too strong of an impact on me.
       I took my mother's letter from my sleeve. It was creased an worn; I had reread it so many times I knew the words by heart, yet I smoothed the folds open.

"There lies a path ahead of you, and it diverges many times. You will know which turn to take, for your father's voice will speak to you, and urge you on the course you know is right. Never fear his voice, and never fear that in knowing you were not the daughter of his blood that he did not love you as the daughter of his heart."
        For all I hated her at times, she had given me the voice of my father.

       I returned the letter to the small pocket I always carried it in, and carefully plucked one of the half-opened blooms.
       The fountain burbled covering the sound of my foosteps as I approached the house. Few ever came here, anymore, the gruesome scene still to fresh in everyoe's minds even after all these years, even though no trace of it remained.
       The marble tiles around the founstain's basin were cool and damp, making dark smudges on my dress as I knelt.
           The marble tiles were chill and wet with his blood, making dark smudges on her dress as she knelt next to his body
       I inhaled the scent I had always thought of as the smell of moonlight as a child
           the sharp scent of the blood turning her stomach.
        and let the flower fall from my clenched hand to the ground.
            Her hand clutched at his shirt, shifting him enough that his head lolled loosely, revealing the gaping wound where his throat had once been.
       Small drops of water dripped from my fingertips, a mix of dew from the rose and the spray from the fountain.
            She caught sight, suddenly, of the blood on her hands, watching in dazed fascination as it ran in tiny rivulets along her arms...
        I shook the water from my hands and stood, activating my Trump of Amber. "Goodbye, Pappa," I said as I stepped through, the last view of my home the moonlit rose my father's eyes, and the last sound the fountain's laugh my father's voice.