[Quinn] Twelve: "Playing for Keeps" [Quinn] Twelve: "Playing for Keeps"

"All the hope and glory, all the sacrifice in vain.
If love remains, though everything is lost
We will pay the price, but we will not count the cost."
--Rush, "Bravado"

Directing the triage with the efficiency of experience, she sorted out the worst cases, and between her own efforts and Simon's, the most severe were stabilized enough to move down to the infirmary.

She was a short way down the stairs, following the soldiers she had set to moving the wounded, when she realized Luke was following her. She slowed as he labored on the stairs, and when he reached her she offered an arm.

With a gruff mutter, he declined, continuing his labored efforts. She sighed to herself at his stubbornness, and compromised by letting him set the pace.

They reached the bottom without incident, and she followed the small cavalcade of wounded into Gerard's domain. She looked about to orient herself, and seeing no urgent cases that needed immediate tending, she turned to Luke and pointed to a chair.

"I'm fine," he grumbled as he eased himself down into the seat.

"Of course," Quinn's voice had only the slightest edge of sarcasm as she cast a critical eye over his wounds, now that she had a few moments. Despite his uncooperative efforts, she could see a number of deep cuts criss-crossing old scars from past battles, and a trickle of blood pooling on the floor by his foot. Settling herself next to the chair, she closed her eyes, shifting her Sight to See into the wounds. Nothing too serious. Now she pulled at the currents of magic, straining a bit, but Working them into the modified pattern of a Healing, accelerating the regeneration of muscle tissue. After a few minutes she opened her eyes and examined her handiwork in a more mundane light.

"I'm fine, really," Luke stated for the umpteenth time, trying to shoo her away as he rubbed at the now scabbed cuts.

"All right," she stood slowly, and after a last glance, she went to Gerard.

He nodded to her, but most of his attention was focused on Jade. She was unconscious, Quinn noted with relief as Gerard painstakingly debrided the burns that covered the prone form. Without question or comment, she fell in beside her uncle.

Once again she Worked her Sight. A slight shudder of revulsion ran down her back as she probed some of the nastier burns. The damage was extensive, flesh charred right down to the bone in some places, massive tissue damage, despite the care taken, where Gerard had removed the clothing and armor fused to Jade's body. She started with the worst wounds, focusing all her attention and concentration into her Healing. Muscle and bone tissue was forced to grow at a pace far beyond even the Amberite norm. Skin cells multiplied with fantastic rapidity.

She Watched it all carefully, increasing regeneration here, decreasing it there, delicately balancing the process with a deft Touch, winding the magical force into the wounds, drawing the rapidly dividing cells closer together, prompting them, teasing them into their proper place.

And eventually there was no more she could do.

She looked about the room again. It was quieter now. Most of the minor wounds had been dealt with, and those bearing them had likely gone to their beds. She noted Luke's chair was empty and shook her head. But Connie was still there, slumped, asleep, in his chair. She stopped next to him, and gently tapped his shoulder.

He started out of his slumber. "What?"

Quinn offered her hand. "You'll get an awful crick in your neck if you stay there much longer."

She decided it might be prudent to follow Connie to his room, just to make sure he made it when a line of reddish-brown spots on the floor caught her eye. A cold feeling of alarm started in the pit of her stomach as she detoured to follow what was now becoming a trail of blood spatters. Up the stairs, past the main hall, up the grand staircase...

And about five feet from Luke's door, a crumpled form lay on the floor. "Damn it!" She bolted forward, Connie right on her heels. She dropped to her knees next to Luke, searching him over for the wound she'd obviously missed while cursing herself for such incompetence.

"I'm fine. I'll make it myself." He once again tried to push her away, but she wasn't having any of it this time.

"Whatever." With Connie's help she got him into a carry hold and into his room. Depositing him on the bed with little ceremony, she returned to her search, muttering invectives, more at herself than at her unwilling patient. God damn it, how could I have missed one? Stupid, stupid, stupid Quinn... After wrestling his cloak away from him, she found the culprit- a deep puncture on his side. God...

"I'll be fine!" He attempted to cover the hole with his hands. "I would have gotten up at some point and arrgghhh!" He groaned as Quinn began to peel the blood-caked cloth of his shirt away from the wound. "It'll hurt if you do that!"

"Connie," she said through gritted teeth, "please go get some water, and cloths." Connie ducked into the bathroom, returning a moment later with the requested items, and with a less than gentle touch, she swabbed the area with water, loosening the cloth enough to pull away.

"Aaaagghhhh." he groaned again as she slowly, and a slight bit ruthlessly, peeled his shirt away to reveal the cut.

"Idiot." She tipped the basin and poured some of the clean water directly into the wound, causing Luke to mutter some curses of his own. Serves him right for hiding a wound this bad, she thought as she held him down. Lame-brained, bull- headed...

"Maybe something to drink," he said weakly when she was done.

Connie took this opportunity to dart out of the room and hunt down a page as Quinn continued her efforts in cleaning the wound. He returned a short time later with a couple of bottles and three glasses.

"It's not that bad," Luke attempted again.

"Why don't you let those of us with medical training decide that?" she snapped in reply as she settled herself next to him and started to Work, missing the glare he shot at her for the remark. Her irritation was entirely for her own mistake in missing the wound in the first place, but in her exhausted and worried state, it bleed over into her concern. But at this point, she was less concerned about her bedside manner than she was about Luke.

As she Looked at the damage, she sighed in relief. The sword had hit his kidney, but it was only a nick. She repaired that, and began Working her way up the levels of Healing.

When only tender, new skin tissue showed in place of the hole, she dropped the Working and looked him over in a mixture of concern, relief and consternation.

"Anything else you didn't tell me about?"

"No..."

She hesitated for only a moment before beginning a thorough search of his body for any other wounds.

"Maybe you'd better leave the room," he said to Connie.

"Uh, yeah," Connie stood to leave again when Quinn said, "Next door I have medical supplies in my bags. Would you get them?"

"Sure!" Excuse supplied, he left quickly.

She continued her examination with a clinical detachment, until she was satisfied that he bore no more injuries. And after that, she just watched him, exasperation and worry clearly showing in her eyes.

"I was almost sure it had missed my kidney..."

"Almost." With some effort she kept her voice level as she, still a bit shaken, once again checked her Work. Well, he wouldn't bleed to death.

When Connie returned, she dug into her bag, pulling out her medical supplies, and quickly bound up the wound while the young Trump artist began pouring the alcohol he'd garnered. As he handed one glass to his father, Quinn deftly snagged it and emptied it to about half before handing it to Luke, who looked almost mortified. "Here."

He downed that, and she allowed him another half glass before he started asking for the entire bottle. Connie went to hand it, but Quinn intervened again, setting it just out of Luke's reach. He could drink himself senseless later, but right now she wanted to be completely sure he was all right, after her earlier mistake.

Her concern wasn't helping Luke's mood any, and eventually she gave in and handed him the bottle. "Do you want to drink yourself into a stupor?"

"At some point," he replied, but instead of pouring into the class, he uncorked the bottle and poured it directly onto the bandaged wound. After he was done shaking, he looked up at her. "Had to make sure it wasn't infected."

"I was pretty sure I took care of that," she muttered.

"Well, this is the way we do it out on the road."

She declined to comment, deciding it wasn't worth it to explain that she did this sort if thing "on the road" a large portion of the time. Instead, she rebandaged his side.

They sat in silence for the next few minutes, each mulling their own thoughts.

"Why don't you go take Werewindle back where is belongs, Connie," Luke finally said.

Deep into the beginnings of a marathon binge, Connie knocked back what Quinn thought was his fourth glass and grinned at his dad. "I can take a hint."

"Look you..." But Connie slipped out the door, sword in hand, with no more comment.

Eventually, Luke drifted off. She cleaned off as much of the dried blood as she could, and tucked him in. "I'm sorry," she whispered, then left.

She returned to her room. After a bath, and a request to be awoken in four hours, she collapsed into bed for the first time in over 3 days, and slept.

***

It was very quiet as she made her way to the kitchens.

She cobbled together a sandwich and took up residence in the empty dining hall. She opened her journal, and begin scribbling down a somewhat disjointed account of the last few days as she absently nibbled at the sandwich.

So for now, we have a brief respite.

And Simon was conceived when Bleys rap-

"Now where the hell did that come from?" She rubbed her temples, thinking that maybe she should have told the page six hours, and scratched out that last line she'd written.

***

She was still writing when the breakfast bell rang, and the dining hall began to fill the next morning.

Slowly her cousins filed in. Connie looked a bit hung over, but the rest seemed to have recovered well. Morning pleasantries were exchanged, and conversation shifted about until Simon brought things to a point.

"So, has anyone had any thoughts about what to do about Corwin's Pattern?"

Quinn looked up, rubbing her eyes. "I've been thinking about that most of the night, but I haven't had any brilliant ideas," she tapped her pencil on the page in front of her, covered in tight scrawl and line sketches. "If anyone has a plan..." No one said anything for a moment, until Jess looked at Quinn with some concern. "Are you sure you got enough sleep?"

"For now. I'll worry about sleep in five days." She went back to her writing.

Something poked her leg under the table. A surepticious glance revealed a hand holding a small slip of paper. She took it.

Do you want to Trump Dworkin after breakfast?

Connie smiled at her from across the table, and she nodded, just slightly, in reply.

Things wound down, and after Simon relayed the information he'd gotten from Bleys about Ygg and Random, they all went their separate ways. Quinn met Connie by the door. "We should go check on Luke first."

The found him awake, and in the middle of breakfast, which didn't deter Quinn from checking the state of his wound or Connie from relating their plans.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"I have to talk to him," Quinn interjected. "There are some things I need to make clear."

Luke didn't look terribly reassured. "It's not like you're going to be able to do anything to him..."

"I don't plan to do anything to him. Just talk."

He sighed at her attempt to paste an innocent expression on her face, then changed the subject. "You know, I had the weirdest dream."

"Oh?"

"You were in it..."

"Now I'm worried." But she smiled.

"No, you were being attacked, by my dad, and someone, I figure it was me," his sudden smile held a sparkle of mischevous charm, "came riding up to rescue you."

Serious interest replaced teasing in her voice. "Describe the scene."

She could see he was curious as her sudden mood change, but he described the scene in more detail, answering her questions.

"And eventually this-"

"-knight in armor rode up, grabbed me, and got me out of there," she finished for him.

"Well, yeah." He sounded somewhat surprised.

"You just described the day I met Corwin in RoseAmber."

Intrigue joined the surprise. "Hmm. I wonder where that came from."

"I'll add it to my list of things to ask Dworkin about."

"All right," he shrugged, and before either Quinn or Connie realized what he was up to, he swung around and pushed himself out of bed.

And promptly crumpled to the floor.

"Are you trying to kill yourself?" Quinn admonished as they laid him back down and she checked to make sure he hadn't torn open the wound.

"I'm fine," he moaned, but as he tried to sit up, she placed her hand in the middle of his chest and shoved him back into the pillows. "You are not going anywhere, mister."

He gave up and just watched the two of them for a minute. "You," he pointed to Connie, "watch her. And you," he turned to Quinn, "watch him."

"And both of you, be careful."

***

They stood in the hall outside Luke's room, both fairly subdued.

"I won't cooperate in destroying Dad's universe, Connie," she played idly with the hem of her shirt. "If Dworkin's bound to do it, he'll have to kill me. I won't give him any help."

"We'll figure out something. I did it once, I can do it again."

A long silence fell.

"Do you think he'll answer?"

"Nah," Connie scuffed the floor with his foot, "But it's worth a try. And is he doesn't, then we walk."

She couldn't suppress a chuckle at that. "Well, if we can't get through to him, there's a slight detour I'd like to make before that." At Connie's inquisitive glance, she continued. "I want to go check on Dad's Pattern. Maybe whatever's happened to him..." she paused, realizing Connie wasn't with the rest when they'd discussed this last, and pulled out the Trump. "Maybe whatever's happened to him will be reflected there," she finished, handing him the shattered Rose/Unicorn Trump of her father.

They began to walk, and slowly, bits of of random conversation wound in and about the discussions of the problems at hand. Connie rambled on about his parents, and Quinn, for the most part listened quietly.

Then the conversation took a sudden shift.

"You know, my dad's got a thing for you."

She stopped. "What?"

"S'true. He's been making eyes at you."

"Connie, your dad makes eyes at anything female."

"No! It's different, I swear. They're different eyes!"

"Sure, Connie." She stared walking again.

"Really! They're "I think your keen" eyes, rather than "I think you're a hot babe" eyes..." He trailed off, seeing that this line of reasoning wasn't getting him anywhere. "He's a great guy, you know. Cute, too." Slight pause. "Not that I know what you would consider cute and all, being that I don't look at that quite the same way."

With a slightly wistful shake of her head, Quinn dismissed Connie's comments. Really, what would someone like Luke ever see in her? Yes, he was handsome, and his scoundrel charm made her laugh... For God's sake, he thinks I'm a nun.

So she shifted the conversation back to the subject at hand, and Connie pulled out the Trump of Dworkin. Just as they had expected, nothing. She left a message, and Connie closed the contact. "So we walk."

"I'd like to check Dad's Pattern first. Connie nodded, and she gave him an image of a close Shadow. "Can you draw a Trump?"

***

"Well, I've got this theory..."

She should have known right then they were in trouble. But after Connie explained, she figured it was at least worth a try.

So she began Shifting.

Through it all, Corwin's Pattern, or a representation of it, remained constant, though its state changed. Increasing evidence of breakage, until finally, they found themselves standing next to a Pattern-shaped arrangement of stones.

On a whim, Quinn pulled out her other Trump of Corwin, this one backed with a single silver rose.

She started slightly when it actually grew cold. "It's working..."

She felt the beginnings of a tingling contact, and then suddenly it popped, and vanished. "Damn." Her heart settled back into her stomach. "Well, we got somewhere," she commented to Connie, tucking the Trump away, even as in the back of her mind something screamed It was too easy! And striding off, she began to shift toward the castle of RoseAmber.

By the time they ran across a large road, Quinn's uneasiness had grown. They were going somewhere, but she was less sure where that was. They hadn't passed through any of the Silver Circle shadows, nor did she see any sign of Kolvir or anything else that she would recognize as RoseAmber.

Well, at least until she saw Dworkin on the road.

"You must go now!"

"Wait, where are we? What's going on?" she pleaded.

"Your attempt at contact let the new ruler of this place know you are here!" he hissed.

"You mean we made it?"

He didn't answer that. "Go now! Or do you want your blood used to destroy this universe while you are in it?!"

Connie grabbed her arm and began dragging her back the way they came. "Oh, shit. I think I got it, and we really gotta get out of here."

Dworkin had turned back up the road, but suddenly whirled to face them again, his face contorted in a rictus of horrified amusement. "GO!"

They did.

***

Dierdre listened as they told of their flight from what seemed RoseAmber. "I will think on this, and get back to you later. For now," she looked at each of them in turn, "you should both attend the festivities. Your presence there will have a good effect, and will not interfere in thinking about this situation in more detail..."

Quinn nodded, but her mind was racing far ahead. I'll be back, Dad. I won't let you down...

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