"Silence is the door between Love and Fear, and on Fear's side there is no
Luke adjusted the rigging to catch a particular wind. "Sailing here is fortunate; a wind usually swirls 'round the bay, and we can probably dock near where we embarked."
Quinn stayed out of his way while he worked. "Probably good, 'cause I'm not going to be of much use if we get blown out to sea," she said with a slight smile. "I'm not much of a sailor, I'm afraid."
After fighting with the rigging for a while, the boat steadied on course, and Luke was finally able to sit down for a moment. "So, got any plans in the near future?"
She settled back against the side of the boat. "Near as in the next few hours, or near as in the rest of the week?"
He chuckled. "Either or both."
She shook her head at him, but smiled with a hint of mischief.. "Well, I'm kind of stuck on this boat right now, so I guess my evening is set." Then she shrugged, her smile fading slightly. "As for after, I should go back to Erna..."
His own smile faded a bit as her expression saddened. "Yeah, well, we're headed back toward dock, so this insufferable torture will be over soon..." and his mouth suddenly quirked in a slight grin.
She rolled her eyes at the 'insufferable torture' comment, though looked faintly disappointed when he mentioned that they were headed back to the docks.
"As for Erna, would you care for some company?"
She stared at the floor of the boat for a moment. "Company would be nice... but I warn you, it might not be pretty."
He flashed her his usual rougish smile. "If it was a Shadow that you were from, how could it not be?" And gesturing gracefully, Conjured up a bottle and two glasses, handing her one.
As per the usual, her cheeks reddened "I was referring to the confrontation that I have to go back for." But she couldn't help but smile, and took the proffered glass.
Again, he applied a little Magical force, and the cork popped off the bottle. He poured her a glass of something clear and bubbly. "Hmm. Well, I don't really know that much about what you're going through, but I'll help you in any way I can. Is it something you'd be comfortable discussing?"
She slowly twirled the stem of the glass, watching the bubbles rise in the liquid, before taking a sip. "I haven't exactly been in the best standing with the Church for a few years now," she glanced up from the glass to look at Luke. "The Church is somewhat divided on the use of sorcery. I grew up with the Church in the east. Our Matriarch saw sorcery as a viable tool for the Church's goals. The Patriarch, who is the head of both the eastern and western halves, didn't.
"She finally convinced the old man to at least consider it, and sent Damien Vryce, my mentor, to teach in Jaggonath. A few months later, *something* happened, and Damien split, with no explanantion. So the Matriarch sent me to replace him.
"As you can guess, my presence was... not welcome. And when a letter from Damien did finally arrive... Well, I got in a bit of a disagreement with the Patriarch, and went after Dam', sort of without His Emminence's blessing."
She took another sip. "I spent almost two years searching that entire damned continent from top to bottom for Damien. And finally I got word he was back in Jaggonath, and that the Patriarch had died, and some cataclysmic event had broken off human influence on the fae... 'Cept," and she smiled wanly, "I could still work it.
"So I headed back. That was when I learned Damien had been excommunicated. And I kinda flipped, and said a few things to some people I shouldn't have said them to. Then I got the message from Dam', and the Rose Jewel...."
She sighed deeply. "I hadn't even been in town a full day. Hadn't had a chance to get an audience with the new Patriarch... so I left a note, and haven't been back since." She suddenly drained the rest of the glass. "That's the last three years of my life in a nutshell..."
Luke listened intently, drinking from his glass. "I... I'm sorry. I've never been one with much of a sense of faith, so I guess I can't really understand what you're going through."
She shrugged. "Don't be sorry, Luke. My faith is not dependent on the trappings of the Church. That's the most important thing I ever learned. I mean, it'd hurt, but losing the Church wouldn't mean losing my faith. That's between me and God, not me and the Patriarch or the Church, and no one can take it from me, but me." She spoke with a quiet, intense conviction.
"That's a good way of looking at it." Then he looked around, and chuckled. "We are *way* too morose, cousin. Say..." He refilled his glass, and proffered the bottle toward her. "I know a quaint bathhouse that has be known to be rather relaxing."
That simple comment suddenly brought back all the feelings from the night before, on the cliffs. She concentrated on refilling her glass, so she didn't have to meet his eyes. "You do?"
"Well of course I..." There was a sudden pause, as Luke saw her staring at the glass with intense concentration. He crouched so that he could look her in the eyes. "Don't be so shy," he said, with a soft smile. "It's just me."
That earned him a slight smile, and she finally looked up at him. "I told you I'm out of practice at all this..."
He laughed. "Practice makes perfect! Sorry, couldn't pass that up," he commented, looking suddenly sheepish.
She laughed aloud as well, as much at the comment as at his sheepish expression.
"Now that's better." He concentrated, and Conjured up some swimtrunks for himself, Hawaiian motif.
Quinn eyed the brightly-colored trunks, and shaking her head slightly, Conjured a simple one-piece bathing suit, dusky green. "This is a horribly handy talent," she commented as she folded the suit neatly.
He nodded in agreement. "You know it. Merlin thought I was nuts to concentrate on conjuration rather than flashy effects and such. Sure, he can throw a meaner fireball, but I can make everyone lunch." Luke chuckled.
She laughed brightly. "So how did you and my fire-ball hucking brother meet, anyway?"
He smiled at her obvious amusement, looking thoughtful. "Now that, that is a long and interesting story." He sat down next to her and leaned his head back on the deck.
"When I'd learned of my Father's death, or at least what I thought it was, I was... devastated. Straight out of Hamlet, let me tell you. I found out through Dalt. He was good enough to let me have leave from his group, and I went to Amber to try to find out if it was true. People there were... busy. Suspicious. Some openly hostile.
"I took it upon my self to take vengeance for what they had done. Caine was certainly a target. Bleys or Fiona as well. Corwin was gone -- but I learned of an heir, and tracked him down.
"I took the name 'Lucas Reynard' and craftily entered Merle Corey's life. First, just in a few classes at school. Sports, activities, and so such. We were damn competitive, always challenging each other to races, competitions, grades, girls..." He decided, wisely, that that was not a good subject to explore in current company, and thus continued.
"We ran together at the NCAA Championships, and by the time that was all over, we pretty much agreed to just say, 'Screw it' and give up the posturing. We liked each other, and I forgot about the reason I hated him so much. And we were fast friends through college. I never told him about my heritage until my Mother, who had directed me to take vengeance against Merlin, decided to pick up the job since I'd failed. I helped Merlin out, and had to tell him everything. Despite all I'd done, all I was, he forgave me."
He shrugged and smiled. "I've got better stories about Merlin, but they might not be the kind best told in mixed company."
Quinn listened with a quiet intensity, her eyes never leaving Luke's face. Though she did laugh at his last remark. "Probably not." She, watched him for another moment before asking quietly, "You loved your father very much, didn't you?"
He gives her that look Will Smith gaves to the lady who asked if the alien in Men In Black was actually an alien. "Well, yeah, sure, I mean, as much as any kid feels about his father. I guess the few times that I did have time with him, and when he was in his... right frame of mind, were great. I thought... I thought when I'd grown up, and I could show him I was serious, and interested in Why Things Are, that we could... work together or something..."
He looked very intent as he spoke, but not long after, he shrugged. "I dunno. That's the past, nothing I can do about it now. I'm Luke now, not Rinaldo."
"And being one precludes the other?" She tilted her head to the side, storm-green eyes regarding him.
"Not... necessarily. I find I can only share both with those I'm most comfortable with." He didn't seem *totally* comfortable, as it was, but he didn't refuse to answer the question.
"And you're not quite that comfortable with me, yet." she said quietly, gently, as if she'd figured that out already.
He raised his hand a bit, hesitating; eventually he set it down atop of hers. "Trust me, Quinn, that we're here right now is nothing short of a minor miracle for me." He smiled nervously.
Not unexpectedly, she blushed faintly, but gave him a warm smile. "Minor miracles being achieved, now what?"
"Um... how do you mean, "Now what?"?" He reddened a bit himself.
She shook her head, laughing lightly. "I meant, are you going to vanish back under your masks, or are you going to give me a chance to get to know the real you. You know, the one who risked his life to try and save me from my own stupidity?" She finished quietly, hoping she hadn't scared him into crawling back into his persona.
He smiled softly in reply. "Doing what you believe in is by no means stupid. I would have done the same, given the same circumstances." The sound of an erne distracted him a second, but he looked back at her. "All right," he began, a faint smile on his lips. "What would you like to know about the real me?"
She hesitated for only the barest of moments. "Why do you hide, Luke? Behind the masks, the persona? The real you is a pretty likable guy, after all..."
Luke thought about that. "The truth is, it was protection. When I first fell in with Dalt's following, I couldn't let them think I was a spoiled, pampered prince of Kashfa. I had to harden myself; no one was going to care for me, no one cared about feelings or studies or what have you. You had to survive. You had to be tough; you had to be a man.
"When I struck out on my own, I couldn't find a compromise between the hard and soft sides, so I went for something in between -- the rogue, one ready to kick ass and take names if needed, yet a charmer, a "hero" or whatever that means these days. It's served me so well, and folk and friends and family have come along so recently that they know nor expect nothing other from me.
"And the final nail, I think, is that I'm just damn boring without the bravado."
Quinn lay her other hand on top of his. "From what I've seen, I'd have to disagree on that. You, bravado or no bravado, are far from boring, Lucas Reynard."
He chuckled. "When I'm being a rascal, yeah. But sitting on a boat, well, there's an argument to be made." He smiled. "And maybe there's a bit of me in my persona, as well, just watered down a bit. Ya never know what I'll do next."
"Well, I for one am not at all bored at the moment," she smiled at him. "Though you do have an air of unpredictability about you," she teased gently.
He raised a brow. "Saying something like that can get a person in trouble. Maybe even get them a little wet." He smiled slyly and made a fist-like shape in the water with his hand.
"I'm good at getting into trouble," Quinn began to shift away, reaching her own hand over the side should she need to retaliate in kind, but careful not to overbalance the boat.
(Never thought I'd have to consult warfares for a splash fight. :P :) )
Luke brought his fist halfway out of the water and squeezed, and a blip of water squirted out, hitting her on the left shoulder. "Oops," he said chuckling.
"'Oops', yeah right," Quinn grinned mischevously, scooping a handful of water in Luke's direction.
He absorbed most of it with his cloak, and gave her a look of mock indignation. "Now it's on!" He Conjured a bucket.
With a startled yelp, she quickly Worked a Shielding to give her time to prepare. Then she Conjured her own bucket, scooping it full of water and grinning impishly.
Luke wasted no time in filling his bucket with seawater and launching the contents toward her. Fortunately, the torrent flowed off her Shielding just as it sprang into existence.
Seeing this, Luke frantically began gesturing.
With a grin, Quinn dropped the Shielding and tossed her own bucketful of water right at him.
In short, Luke was soaked. He sat there, hair plastered down, eyes squeezed shut, hands still up in half-gesture. He spat a mouthful of water back into the sea.
He rubbed water out of his eyes and regarded her crossly, then suddenly burst out laughing.
With a vaguely guilty smile, Quinn set her bucket down and Conjured a towel, which she handed over to him.
"Thanks," he said, sarcastically, and dried himself off. He then fished a comb from his pocket to tame his otherwise unruly hair. "Anyways," he chuckled, "where were we before this nonsense started?"
Quinn returned to her original spot next to him, but kept the bucket near at hand. "You were telling me about the 'real' you."
He rolled his eyes. "Real me. Heh. Well, again, what would you like to know, my dear?"
She looked thoughtful, then shrugged. "Whatever you're willing to tell me. I don't want to pry, or anything," she added softly.
"No, go ahead, pry." And he smiled. "Well, let's see. I went to school at the University of California-Berkeley and majored in Marketing. I have been known to play the guitar. I like Chinese food. I once broke my hip bareback riding. It was a dragon, but hey." He chuckled, then bit at his lip. "It's hard for me to just say stuff about myself. I guess I just see myself is pretty ordinary, when the facade is lifted. I'm passable with a sword, Trump, and magic..."
They re-entered the harbor district, and Luke got up to guide her back to the docks. "How about yourself? Maybe if I hear what you have to say, it'll help me better put things in words."
"Okay," she watched him as she spoke. "My mom died when I was born, so I was raised in the Church. Turned out to be a better than expected sorceror for Erna, and tormented Damien into teaching me swordplay. Spent much of my childhood as a tomboy, getting into as much trouble as possible. I was Ordained, then Knighted when I turned 18, then hit the road." She shrugged. "I kept taking road assignments until they transfered me to Jaggonath. I guess I've always had a bid of the vagabond spirit in me. And you already know the rest of that."
She shrugged again, looking at a loss. "Spent most of my time tracking down and exterminating demonlings. Didn't leave much for a social life. Never really had any hobbies, no time really. Not many friends either. Pretty... well, boring," she smiled.
Luke threw a rope to the pier, and started to haul in the boat. He looked at Quinn when she finished speaking, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Then... you missed out on a lot of good things, Quinn. I wish I would have known you many years ago."
She stood to help him tie up the boat. "That... that would have been a good thing, I think," she said quietly. "But the past is past, so I guess we have to look forward, eh?" And she smiled, shyly, tossing her bathing suit over one shoulder and setting the bucket neatly under a bench.
He nodded at that, and turned away to take down the mainsail, but she caught a glimpse of a smile on his face. He turned back when he was done, a bit more composed, and started reaching into his pockets. "Damn. You wouldn't happen to have your Trumps on you, would you?"
"Yeah..." She reached into the cuff of her boot and pulled them out, handing the set of cards and a couple of loose sketches over to him.
He took the deck, and flipped through the sketches, chuckling at some of the Connie-drawn ones. Finally, he plucked one out of the pile and held it up between his fingers. It's the bathhouse. "Care to do the honors?"
She took it from him and activated it, then, after a slight pause, held her other hand out to him. "Shall we?"
He gave her his hand. "By all means."
She slipped her hand into his, and stepped through the Trump into the bathhouse.
Luke looked around. "Good, it hasn't changed a bit." He leaned down to swirl his hand in the water, then went over to a sliding paper-wall door, and stepped into the changing room.
"So," he announced from inside, "What was the time that you lived in Corwin's Amber like?"
She sat on a bench, and started on the rows of buckles on her boots. "It was... unique. I kinda showed up on Dad's doorstep in the midst of a battle he was having with Brandon. He spent as much time as he could teaching me how to use the Pattern and such, but with Brandon constantly making trouble, I mostly tried to stay out of his way. And it was only a couple of months that I was there." She yanked one boot off, and started on the other.
"I was never really sure what he thought of suddenly discovering he had a daughter. I had just started to get to the point I thought I could ask when Merlin's Trump shattered, and I ended up here." She pulled off the other boot.
"So it had to be odd to find another Amber, that was so like the one you were used to, eh? What were some of the differences like?" Luke called out.
She sat back, waiting for Luke to come out. "Well, the family for one. Short of Brandon, and Ganelon, there weren't any duplicates of anyone else. Mostly, it was like this eriee sense of deja vu, walking through the castle. I'd see people I *knew*, and yet didn't." She shrugged, even though Luke couldn't see the gesture. "I guess the biggest difference was just in the feel of the place. Less tense in some ways, more so in others, and so on."
Eventually the door slid back open, and Luke emerged in his jams, with a towel slung over one shoulder. Her attention was again drawn to the scars she had seen before, the night of the battle at Eric's Pattern.
"All clear," he said, testing the bath with his foot. "Sometimes I think I understand why Oberon got it on as much as he did. He needed help defending the place. Well, either that or mowing the lawn."
She rolled her eyes and the comment, and slipped into the changing room, stepping out a few moments later clad in the one piece suit. She set her own towel away from the pool and stepped over to test the water herself, glancing over at Luke and noting his scars with a mix of concern and sympathy in her eyes. She settled down on the edge, dangling her feet in, suddenly quiet.
Luke had taken a seat in the pool. As she approached he smiled, but he regarded her a bit more closely as she sat on the edge of the pool. "What's wrong?"
"Just... thinking back to that night, after the MoonAmber mess." She looked up at him. "I was so ticked off at you, you know," but a slight smile softened her words.
His hand reflexively went to his side. "Oh... well... it was -- is -- hard to get used to people... caring about me." He stood suddenly, and waded over to where she sat. "If at the time I'd realized how I'd... felt, I don't think I'd have been such a nuisance." He stared down into the water.
On impulse, Quinn reached out, and tilted his head up to look at her. "Just promise me you won't do something like that again, eh?" she gently admonished. "I don't want to have to find you bleeding in a hallway again, because you were being all macho." She smiled very slightly.
Luke's eyes closed as she lifted his chin, but he chuckles at her words. "That's a lot to ask of me," he remarked, smiling as he moved off to the side a bit, and with a breath, submerged himself in the water.
She shook her head in mock consternation, watching him vanish under the water, but after a moment, he popped back up, and rested his shoulders against the side of the pool. "So, you never really told me about what you had gone through in Brandon's clutches." He shook the water out of his hair with a hand.
Quinn slid off the side and into the water, sighing contentedly. "Well, not all that much, really. He dropped me in the dungeons with Dad, and kept attempting to 'convince' me to assist him." She leaned back, sliding down a little further. "He wanted to break Corwin completely, and figured that breaking me, or at least forcing me to help him destroy RoseAmber, would be the last thing Dad could handle. So I just decided I wasn't going to let that happen," she finished.
She stared off across the room. "I... just wish you hadn't gotten stuck in the middle of it all.... You didn't deserve what... he did to you." She looked off to the side, away from him, so only heard him chuckle.
"While it was not one of the most pleasant experiences that I've ever gone through, I actually regard it now as an overall positive experience... because it forced me to consider something that I had been denying to myself. I only survived because..." Luke paused. "Well, I'm just stubborn that way." He inspected his fingernails.
She turned back to regard him, somewhat mystified by his response. "Positive? It must have been something important you were considering."
An odd smile crossed his face. "Yes, you can say that."
She gave him a quizzical look at his sudden evasiveness. "Is it something you want to talk about? Otherwise, I'll shut up." Luke looked at her. "Quinn, I... feel very strongly... about..." He shook his head. "Christ. I care for you greatly. If I didn't, I'd of been Brandon's puppet back then. He kept trying to make me do his bidding -- which would have meant doing horrible things to you. But I couldn't. And I wouldn't. Whether you had an active part in it or not, *you* saved me back there."
He snorted and laughed at the same time. "No big secret, the first part, I guess. You just don't take everyone you meet out to dinner."
She was very quiet, staring down into the water. "I... I guess not. Nor do most people risk what you did for someone they meet," she said slowly, still watching faint ripples in the pool rather than Luke, though a smile quirked the corner of her mouth, and her cheeks were again red. Still, she looked quite unsure of how to respond.
Luke drew close. "Do you think Jessica's still mad at me for pushing her in?" He smiled. She finally looked up into his eyes, her own eyes wide, and full of a dozen emotions. "I think she's probably forgiven you. If not, I'll have to have a talk with her..."
Luke tilted his head, a bit bemused at her reaction. "That's awfully kind ma'am." He regarded her bit more, easily noting the play of emotion across her face.. "What is on your mind...?"
Fidgeting just the slightest bit, she glanced back down at the water. "You know, how when you're a little kid, and are afraid to look under the bed, because that just might prove the monsters you think are there really are?"
"I think so. It's been a while for me." He smiled, but then sobered a bit as a possible implication of her words hit him. "Are you... afraid of _me_, Quinn?"
She looked exasperated with herself. "No, no. Not of you, Luke. More that I'll have..." she took a deep breath. "That I'll have to admit to myself how you feel about me, and how I feel about you," she said in a rush, staring intently at the side of the pool. "That's what scares me," she continued. "Because I don't know how to deal with... that sort of thing."
Luke took this in, and achieved a very sober look. "I see now... I see." He glanced around. "And all this..." and sighed. "I can see now how this might be a bit too quick on my part."
He stood up and made his way up the steps to the edge of the pool, and grabbed his towel, swiping it across his face and hair. "Allow me to apologize," he began. "It was not my intent to be so... forward."
Quinn watched him walk away, faintly distressed. "Luke, you're not. I didn't mean..." She heaved a deep sigh, looking like she wanted to hide. "I am *such* a moron," she commented with a deep edge of self-derision, and ducked under the water, an expression of disappointment frustration, and maybe a bit of shame and embarrasment crossing her face before she slipped below the surface.
The water was cool and clear, but not long after, a large disturbance was created by Luke jumping back in. He looked at her, shook his head, smiling, and nodded back up towards the surface.
She broke back above, shaking water and her bangs out of her eyes, then resumed leaning against the side of the pool, not looking at Luke, who slowly approached. "Quinn..."
He bit at his lip. "Believe it or not, but I've been where you are. It's a... frightening, frustrating experience, cause you're... leasing out a part of yourself to someone who you can never be sure won't hurt you. I know I'm not quite worthy. Is there some... way I can assaude your fears?"
Quinn sighed and finally looked up at him, a rueful smile on her face. "I'm just afraid of making a total fool of myself. Sort of like I just did."
Luke laughed. "Hey, *I'm * the one who's had the crap beaten out of him and almost dodged off a cliff lately. I think you'd have a way to go before you'll catch up with me."
Laughing as well, she splashed a bit of water at him and he snorted, fending off the attack. "If we ever go out again, it'll be somewhere where there's not abundant water sitting around."
She stuck her tongue out at him. "'If'? Have I scared you off already?"
Luke smiled faintly, looking thoughtful. "I... had thought that that decision would be up to you."
She flicked a bit more water at him. "Are you asking?"
He rolled his eyes. "Yes, I am asking," he said, exaggeratedly sarcastic. "Actually, if you had some time, I thought you might want to go away together somewhere."
Quinn looked interested. "Short of going back to Erna, I should be free until the next major crisis develops," she commented wryly. "Where did you have in mind?"
"A place I used to live, on Earth. San Francisco. Merlin and I both lived in that same area for a while after school. I haven't been there in at least twenty years."
"There are a few things I need to take care of, but..." and she glanced up at him with a shy smile. "I'd like that."
His smile was warm and wide, and he leaned back up against the side of the pool, eyes closed.
After a while, they returned to Amber. Luke once again walked Quinn to her quarters. "Let me know when you're going to head off to Erna, eh?"
She nodded. "Tomorrow morning, most likely. I'd... like to get that over with."
"I'll be at the Inn. Trump me when you get a chance." Hesitatingly, he leaned forward, and kissed her on the cheek.
She flushed faintly, but smiled at the gesture. "I... will. Thank you, Luke."
He smiled, backing down the hall. "You deserve no less, milady." He bowed and rounded the corner.