Time stand still-
I'm not looking back-
But I want to look around me now
See more of the people
And places that surround me now
-RUSH "Time Stand Still"
It was early yet, and she was too restless to stay in one place. She caught sight of Daniel, one of the pages. "Daniel, have you seen my father anywhere? I'd heard he might be back from Rebma."
The young man nodded. "Aye, Princess. I saw him my own self, walking about downstairs."
"Thank you," she said to him with a bright smile. She wandered the entire lower floor of the castle twice without any luck, and was about to give up, when she sighed and pulled out his Trump.
The Trump animated. Corwin was sitting outside somewhere, still wearing his (JuJanta 2000 Peril-Sensitive) sunglasses. "Quinn?"
"Yeah, it's me, Dad. I'd heard you might be back, and thought... I'd say hi." She sounded somewhat hesitant. "I didn't mean to disturb you..."
He chuckled. "Not at all, daughter. Please, come join me. There's something here I think you'd be interested in seeing."
Curious, she reached out a hand. Corwin was somewhere on Kolvir; that much she could tell through the Trump. But when he pulled her to him, it made more sense.
He was sitting on a large marble block, near overrun with ivy. Plants of various types had overgrown this entire small area of the mountain.
It was the very same spot, on RoseAmber's Kolvir, he had drawn her Trump.
The talked for a few moments about Jess' adventure. "I am glad you have found friends here. It is one thing that was... lacking, in my kingdom."
She glanced over at him. "S'okay. It's not like I had a lot of friends on Erna. It's more of a new experience for me. Friends... and family."
Corwin nodded, smiling a bit. "And how do you find your brothers?"
She couldn't help but laugh at that question.. "Well, I haven't had much chance to talk with Merlin since he woke up, though at least he now believes I'm his sister." She began playing idly with the hem of her tunic. "Darien's great, though. He's already jumped into the 'older brother' mode." And she chuckled, thinking back on Darien and Luke's little 'rivalry'.
"Really? And how's that?" Corwin grinned.
She flushed suddenly, realizing she'd just backed herself into a corner on that subject. "Well, you know. Just giving me a hard time about... well, Luke."
"And Luke is this boy, er, guy you're seeing? Hmm... Some of my brethren have told me some interesting stories about him." Her father sported a teasing smile.
Quinn snickered slightly when Corwin refers to Luke as 'the boy' she's seeing. She was pretty sure she knew how much he'd appreciate that. "Yeah. So what have my uncles said about him?"
"Oh, something about 23 seperate acts of violence attempted on various family members over a span of forty-odd years. The strangest thing was, for the most part, they'd all seem to think he'd been behaving himself for the last month. Strangely coincidental with... arrivals in Amber, eh?" Corwin turned away from her a bit, his shoulders shaking slightly.
She sighed, ignoring his implied reason for Luke's good behavior. "Well, finding out he had a son might have... settled him down a bit." She peered a bit more closely at him as he turned away. "You all right, Dad?"
Corwin started chuckling as he turned again to face her. "I'm sorry, dear. But if a father can't poke a little fun at his favourite daughter, then something is wrong with this universe."
She rolled her eyes, but smiled happily when he refered to her as his 'favorite daughter.' "Uh, Dad, far as I knew, I was your *only* daughter," she teased back.
He chuckled. "Considering I've picked up two more children in a span of about 4 months, anything is possible. I'll tell you a secret; don't tell your brothers, but I like you best."
She snorted. "Oh, come on, Dad." But she still had the sudden urge to hug him as hard as she could.
They wandered into aimless conversation about his trip to Rebma. "It's good to have you back..." Quinn said quietly.
"It's good to be home." Corwin slipped an arm around her. "You had become a large part of my life, one that had not been there before. I quite missed it."
She laid her head against her father's shoulder and closed her eyes. No matter what else happened, now she was truly home.
Continued in "The Heart of the Matter"
She did what she could to assist Simon on his quest, but for once, she did not volunteer to go along. There were too many other things on her mind, and besides, with Jess and Locke at his side, Simon would have no need of her presence.
Besides, she had managed to get an audience with the Queen mid-morning.
"Your Majesty," Quinn bowed low as she entered the parlor, and Vialle patted a nearby chair. "Quinn, please, sit. What is on your mind, child?"
Quinn settled herself on the edge of the chair. "Actually, your Majesty, this is about Prince Darien."
A faint look of confusion crossed Vialle's face. "I'm not sure I understand."
"Darien was beaten rather badly a few days ago, your Majesty, by an organized group dressed all in black." Quinn played idly with the hem of her shirt.
The confusion on the blind woman's face shifted to one of concern. "Where did this take place?"
"Rebma." Quinn sighed suddenly. "I wasn't sure where else to turn. He'd go ballistic if I approached his mother, but honestly, he's become a very good friend, and I'm worried about him." She bit her lower lip in frustration. "He just absolutely refuses to take this seriously, but it seems to me that a concerted attack on the Crown Prince of Rebma should not be taken lightly."
Vialle nodded. "Indeed not. I will see what I can find, Quinn...."
Making a bit of noise in her approach so as not to startle the girl, Quinn smiled when Cayt looked up. "Cousin, I owe you an apology."
Cayt blinked. "For what?"
Turning faintly red, Quinn sighed. "For the incident at breakfast the other day. There was no reason you should have gotten caught in that."
Understanding dawned on Cayt's face. "Oh. That's all right." There was a short pause. "Do you fight like that often?"
Quinn couldn't help but laugh. "Not exactly. It's just that Luke brings out the absolute worst in me sometimes."
The young girl looked up at Quinn curiously. "It's almost like-" and she suddenly quieted.
"What is it, Cayt?"
"It's not my place to ask," Cayt suddenly withdrew.
"Of course it is," Quinn coaxed. "Please Cayt, you can ask me whatever questions you have."
"Is he your husband?"
The flush of red to Quinn's cheeks was much brighter this time. "Um, no."
Cayt seemed a bit embarrased herself. "Oh. It just seemed from the way you acted..."
Quinn shook her head. "Actually, I've only known Luke a few weeks."
They chatted a bit more before Quinn left the girl to her book, still red in the cheeks from Cayt's assumptions of her relationship with Luke.
It was about nine in the morning when she showed up at Luke's door.
"Hey!" He seemed somewhat surprised to see her there.
Scuffing at the floor witht he toe of her boot, she smiled shyly. "I realized this morning that I don't have a Trump of you..."
"Oh," he ran a hand through his hair. "I can fix that."
"Anyway," and Quinn glanced surreptitiously about his room, trying to get a sense of him from it. "I was about to go on to Erna, and you said I should call."
"Here," and he started to rummage about. "let me put a few things together and I'll go with you..."
They came out of the Hellride not too far from the outskirts of Jaggonath. They left the horses outside the city, Quinn sighing in relief as she saw the spire of the Cathedral towering high.
But when she bought a local paper, just to make sure, it didn't take her too long to realize that something else was wrong...
It was Erna... only this time, twenty five years in her past.
A trip to Gangi only confirmed this, and frustrated, Quinn began looking for Damien. "Where would he have been twenty-five years ago?" It was a question more to herself than Luke, and she felt a sudden chill when she realized the answer...
The small town was almost three days ride from Gangi, but Quinn twisted Shadow a bit and she and Luke pulled up on the outskirts a few minutes later, and it didn't take them long to find an exhausted looking Damien Vryce in what passed for the clinic in this tiny town.
Not wanting to try and explain anything, Quinn attempted to Work an Obscuring, but hissed in pain as she was forced to drop the spell.
"What?" Luke glanced over at her in sudden concern.
"The fae is surging," she muttered. "I can't Work it."
He nodded, and gestured, and a few moments later, a shround of invisibility settled over them. And when a woman came out and called Damien into another room, they were able to slip in behind him.
Lying on a bed was a woman deep in the throes of labor. Quinn stared at her for a long time. She looked familiar, somehow...
Luke answered the silent question for her, his eyes widened. "She looks like you..."
She watched in silent horror as the scene unfolded. Damien had never told her the details of her birth, only that her mother had died, and he hadn't been able to Heal her. But now, she watched as the child was born, and the woman, exhausted and injured, died.
And as Damien went to the child, after saying Last Rites over the woman's body, Quinn crept close enoughto hear him say, "Hello, Alexandra."
As soon as she could, she bolted from the room, and when Luke found her, she was outside breathing deeply of the cool air. "Quinn, what is it? What's wrong?"
"My God," Quinn leaned against the side of the building. "That was me, Luke. That baby is me."
Luke was quiet for a long moment as he digested that. "Maybe you should ask Dworkin what's going on."
"If I could find him."
She wandered away from the building, wanting to put as much distance between her and the events as she could. Luke caught up with her about twenty minutes later, and handed her a piece of paper. It was a sketch of Dworkin.
When the old man came through the Trump, he didn't seem particularly pleased to see her companion, and Luke, not wanting to make things messier, went off to let Quinn and Dworkin talk.
She wasn't able to get much out of him about what was happening with Erna, but managed to convince him that maybe he should leave well enough alone. She'd deal with the loss of her first home later, but while she had Dworkin here, there were a few more important things to discuss.
"All right Grandfather. "What is this business about you wandering around the castle muttering about the end of the world?"
She couldn't get much of anything out of him, except a promise he'd tell her before anything happened, if he could. He went off on his way, and she and Luke returned to Amber, both quiet and lost in their own thoughts.
The events in Erna had unsettled her greatly, and not just because of Dworkin's doomsaying. The morning after she and Luke had returned, she found herself in the Temple's cathedral, staring down the long aisleway at the altar.
She felt almost as at peace here as she had in any of the temples at home. Walking down the main aisle, the muted echo of her footsteps on the marble resounding quietly in the large vaulted chamber, she could sense the quiet power and strength of this place, imbued with the deep faith of its occupants as any cathedral back home. And it told her something she had long thought, but never had the courage to voice. Faith was more than any religion, any god or gods. Faith just was. She found that revelation comforting.
She stopped at the first row of pews, resting her hand on the smooth wood and staring at the images of the Unicorn in front of her. It had existed, even in the mythology of the Earth religion upon which her own faith was based. All things are but a shadow of Amber... Slowly, she went down on one knee, head bowed low. For a very long time she knelt there in peaceful quiet, contemplating what path to take next. She stood eventually, and smiled up at the mystical creature that seemed to watch over the room, remembering Dworkin's parting shot the last time she'd been here. "Oh, and your great-grandmother says hello..."
Then she went looking for Elistan.
He was in his office. "Quinn," he sounded quite pleased to see her. "What brings you here?" He gestured her to sit.
She settled herself on the edge of the chair across from his desk. "With all that has happened, I have suddenly come to find myself a Reverand without a Church..." Elistan listened with quiet concern, and her discomfort in talking about the situation quickly faded. "I wish to offer my services to the Church, Father Elistan. My life has been defined, since I was born, by my faith and my church, and now I find myself somewhat at a loss without it."
Elistan gazed at her for a long moment. "How can I help you, Quinn?"
"I'm not ready to convert just yet..." and she smiled, taking a deep breath, "but I would like to learn more of the Church, Father."
He nodded. "Go at your own pace Quinn, I will not take advantage of your situation to further my own," and Elistan smiled, "as nice as it would be to have a member of the Royal Family a part of the Church..."
They spoke for a while longer, of where she could best put her skills to use, and of Connie's project, which both surprised her and didn't at the same time.
She left feeling calmer than she had in a very long time.
Riding back up the hill from town, she paused, staring back at the expanse of land that sprawled at the foot of Kolvir. Already, she knew the features well. And then she turned, to cast her gaze up, where the castle's spires glittered in the noon sunlight.
"Well, Quinn, if it means anything, you have a great potential with the Pattern. Your imprint is very strong."
She went looking for her father.
He was in his rooms, and grinned broadly when she made her request. "The first thing I need you to do is go walk the Pattern. When you get to the center, concentrate on bringing the Pattern up in your mind for a time. This will require concentration to keep yourself from being teleported somewhere on a whim. Then, think of me, and we'll move to step two..."
She received a slightly odd look from the guard at the Pattern's door, but he just shook his head and let her in. The Pattern lay before her, it's faint blue glow lighting the room in an erie wash. And then for the second time since she'd come to Amber, she strode forward and set her foot upon the grand design.
About an hour later, she was standing at the Pattern's center, out of breath and exhausted, but focused on Corwin's words. Closing her eyes, and steadying herself, she brought the Pattern to mind, and discovered it was a difficult task to hold the image there without accidentally sending herself off somewhere.
But eventually she reached the point of letting the Pattern's image fill her conscious thought, and when she felt comfortable with her ability to hold it there, she let a thought of her father escape into the front of her mind.
She appeared next to Corwin, who cocked a brow. "Done already, eh? Well... step two..." He thought for a good, long moment. "Hellride to Erna. As you do this, focus on the Pattern floating about your vision. Try to trace each curve in your mind and keep the Hellride going at the same time. You may sidetrack a bit, but go there and come back to me when you finish, the same way you got there."
In the stables, she saddled the dapple grey stallion she'd taken to riding, shooing away the stable boy who hovered about. She swung into the saddle, and after settling the nervously dancing grey, held him under a tight rein until they hit one of the outer roads to Arden. Then she gave him his head and let him run off some of his energy.
She picked one of the more traveled paths through Arden, out of courtesy to her Uncle Julian, and nodded to the Rangers she knew were there, even if all she saw were leaves.
Her ride through Arden was quiet and uneventful, and eventually, on the outskirts of the great forest, she brought up the Pattern in her mind, and gave the grey his head once again. With the Pattern blazing in her thoughts, she set her sights for the cliffs of Gangi, and began the hellride in earnest.
Some hours later, she pulled her exhausted mount to a halt, and tumbled out of the saddle, exhausted herself. Behind her, about a mile away, the lights of Gangi glittered in the deepening dusk.
She rubbed down the grey, and loosened his saddle, then left him to wander nearby as she flopped to the ground. It was going to be a bright evening, she noted; the Core was already rising, and Casca was well into the sky. She lay back in the cool grass, letting the sounds of the ocen far below lull her into a quiet doze, though not before she remembered, with flushed cheeks, the last time she had been here on the cliffs...
She awoke an half hour later, feeling somewhat refreshed, and gatering her horse, once again brought the Pattern to mind.
Again, some hours later, she broke out of Arden into the early dusk of Amber's evening. And for once, when she entered the stableyard, she didn't argue with the stableboy; instead, she handed over the grey's reins with a look of gratitude, and trudged up to Corwn's rooms.
He steepled his fingers together, and seemed to concentrate. "Now, this may sound odd, but I wanted you to bring the Pattern to mind. Look long and hard at the beginning of the Pattern. Visualize a figure there, beginning the walk. Look close..."
Her expression gave the impression she dis think it odd, but she sat up a bit, and did as he instructed. To her surprise, with no conscious effort on her part, the figure looked to be herself.
"...Now follow the figure as she completes the walk. You'll feel the struggle at the veils, the mental intensity, but it will..." Corwin's words faded out as the experience become more and more intense. It actually felt like she was walking the Pattern, but in less time. And eventually, she hit the center, again exhausted, but also strangely charged with energy.
"Are you there?" asked Corwin.
"Yeah." There was a sense of curiosity and wonderment in her voice.
"Okay," he said. "The hard part is over. Now, direct your thoughts on where you want to go, and will it so."
Quinn thought of the cliffs at Gangi again and with a blink of the eye, she stood about four feet from the cliffs edge, staring out over the darkened sea. The Pattern wavered out of her mind, and she felt the exhaustion, much as if she had actually walked the Pattern itself.
"Whoa." She sat down suddenly, taking a moment to catch her breath before she pulled out her Trumps and concentrated on Corwin's.
The Trump animated. "Quinn?"
"Yeah. Wow. That was... intense."
Corwin chuckled and pulled her to him, in Amber. "Yep. Tho I wouldn't try that too often... It's rather exhaustive. And the energy it takes only increases the more you try to move at once." He touseled her hair. "Well, I think you should take it easy for the rest of the day. If you do have any more questions, feel free to ask."
"I think I'm going to go take a nap," she laughed, giving him a hug. "Thanks, Dad."
"My pleasure. Now, don't go telling your brothers, or they'll be expecting something cool too." He smiled. "Take care, Quinn."
It only took her most of the week, but she finally, after no longer having the excuse of studying with Corwin to keep her from doing so, screwed up her courage and walked into town.
She found Luke, and after some of their usual banter, they made their plans and headed off to San Francisco...