[Quinn] Twenty-Nine: "Prayers to Broken Stone" [Quinn] Twenty-Nine: "Prayers to Broken Stone"

'My altars are the mountains and the oceans
Earth, air, stars -
all that springs from the great Whole
who hath produced and will receive the soul.'
- Lord Byon

I looked between Lord Rein and Elistan after the news of my brother's capture, and slowly sank back into the chair. "Lord Rein, maybe you should give me as much detail as you know..."

Rein took a seat, and sighed. "They arrested your brother for 'questioning' after Random's rescue. Now, they're holding him as an accomplice to the incident." I bit back a particularly colorful invective. Accomplice my arse. More like bait. "What about Dad? Did he vanish before or after Merlin's arrest?" I honestly hoped my father was not up to something.

"Before," Rein replied, and I breathed a small sigh of relief. Of course, he might still be up to something, but at least he likely wasn't going to try and break Merlin out himself. "Of course, this is more than likely a ruse to bring you out of hiding."

I nodded absently, quite sure that was what it was. But still, if I didn't take the bait, they might up the ante, and right now, I wouldn't put it past them to kill Merlin to draw me out.

Rein left as I mulled over his words, and when I looked up again, Elistan was watching me with an expression of concern. I think he read what I was planning on my face. "I am sorry," he said quietly.

I shrugged. So was I, but sorry wasn't going to solve any of this. And I'd been sitting here thinking too long. I'd have to do what I could with the information I had, and hope that Locke and Simon would find me when they had discovered Fiona's remains. "It's..." I sighed. "I just need to figure how to get him out."

The concern in his eyes deepened. "I don't fancy myself a tactician, Quinn, but wouldn't that be doing what they want?"

I nodded. "That's exactly it. But what I'm trying to figure is how giving them what they want will help the others' plans." Elistan stared at me with quite a puzzled expression, so I started to explain what had been muddling around in my head since Rein had come in the door. "If the others are bent on this battle, maybe my going after Merlin will help distract Lewella and Caine and Julian from Random's attack. If Simon and Locke don't find Fiona in time, then there's too much a risk this attack will result in someone's death. And Dworkin said no one else must die..."

*****

Seeing I wasn't about to be budged from my current course, Elistan left me, saying he had confession duties to attend. I sat back in the chair after he had gone, and swore vehemently. I felt so adrift. Before, I had always found solace in prayer to my God, but as strong as my faith is, I can't ignore the fact that my God is nothing more than a Shadow, a reflection, of something larger, something out of my reach.

The God I had always sought my counsel from was nothing more than an image of broken stone. And I knew, even if I had stayed ignorant of my heritage here, my religion would have been doomed anyway, with the end of the fae's influence. For most people, faith is but a crutch they use in times of need, and cast aside when it is no longer convenient for them.

I can't. I won't. Not because I need the crutch, but because there has to be something more to our existance, our souls, than just the endless cycle of beginning and ending. In that, most of all I have faith.

But, who shall I cast my prayers to now?

And my eyes fell upon a scrap of paper, where I had recopied Dworkin's words from the Unicorn's books. "Once I had asked her... how had she chosen me? And in her soft whistful voice entering my mind, she explained that each generation of her brood would experience a time of crisis in which there would be chosen from her children heros to protect the Pattern..."

Us. Her children.

God's children.

I looked up to where a small hanging on Elistan's wall showed the Grove. It was intricately woven so that in certain light the grove appeared empty. But, if I shifted just so, a faint equine shape appeared, glowing pale againt the deep green of the oaks, horn glittering a brilliant white.

Glories be to the mysteries of the Unicorn...

*****

Elistan leaned agaist the desk. "I have learned a few things." His mouth twisted in a grimace. "They... they plan to execute your brother sometime tomorrow. I could not get anything more specific than that."

I sighed. "I'll have to try and get him out, then." Given the situation, I wasn't going to tempt fate by calling what might not be a bluff.

"That's risky," His voice was filled with deep concern.

"And what's already gone on wasn't?" He again grimaced as I started to gather my things. "I also heard," he started, causing me to stop, "that a jewelry store was broken into."

At my puzzled look he continued. "Some valuables were taken, but so were supplies..."

"What kind of supplies?" I asked, though I was pretty sure I knew the answer. Dad missing, jeweler's rouge taken in large quantity... This bore some investigation before I went after Merlin.

I finished gathering my things, then turned back to Elistan. "I may or may not be back," I quipped lightly, but he just watched me with the same sad look. "May the Unicorn's blessing go with you, child."

*****

Dark was falling, which only served to increase my ability to slip unseen through the streets of the city. I knew I was taking some horrible risks, but even I have limits to my patience for sitting around and waiting on the others. We didn't have the luxury of time, after all, and after blocking one Trump call, I was getting edgy, having told Connie to pass along to the others I wouldn't be accepting Trumps. And if I couldn't ascertain what my cousins and the rest of the family were up to, I was going to have to do what I could with what little information I had.

Elistan's description of the jewelry store robbery set off all sorts of alarm bells in my head, and from my vantage at the corner of the square, I carefully wove a Knowing over the premises.

The dark-clothed figure skulked through the store, quite intent upon its task. Passing cases of jewels, it went unerringly into the back, and methodically gathered an odd array of supplies, including a more than sufficient amount of jeweler's rouge.

Task complete, the figure moved with quick surety out through the main room. But suddenly it paused, and almost as an afterthought, broke open one of the cases and scooped out some of the pieces before slipping out of the shop, and then vanishing through a Trump...

Definitely not Dad, then, but I had other suspicions...

*****

The field was empty save for Dad's Pattern and the tree, but as I looked more closely, I could see something was stuck to the tree's trunk. Double-checking the integrity of the Obscuring I still held over me, I crept forward, slinking across the open expanse.

Reaching the tree without incident, I found a folded piece of parchment tacked into the wood. Still no one in sight, so I pulled it down and flipped it open.

Put your hands up
The trap registered just as I heard the twang of a bowstring. Dropping the paper, I dove to the ground just as two quarrels slammed into the tree about where my head had been moments ago.

"You can get up, now," a voice stated in a very familiar, very cocky tone. I got to my feet slowly.

"Hi, Darien," I said wryly as I dropped the Obscuring.

"Sister!" he lowered the crossbow, and grinned. "What a surprise..."

Darien can be the most exasperating person in the universe when he wants to, and normally I just take it as part of his charm and ignore it. But today I just wasn't in the mood for his evasiness. "So Darien, been in Amber recently?"

He smiled his sly little grin. "Oh, just looking for something for your birthday."

I rolled my eyes. "You don't even know when my birthday is, Darien."

"Well, I'll be prepared then, when I find out." He paused as he saw my eyes narrow, and wisely got back on the topic at hand. "So, how goes your little quest?"

"It doesn't," I said flatly. At his raised brow, I went on. "I'm having a bit of difficulty with lines of communication and our cousins. I've been trying to get information from Connie, but I'm running into a dead end there."

"Why don't you Trump the others?"

"'Cause I don't have trumps of them," I resisted adding a little-sisterish "moron."

He let out an aggrieved sigh, and reached into a pocket. "Why Dworkin didn't take someone with natural leadership skills..." He walked up and handed me a set of cards. "I was saving these for a special occasion, but under the circumstances..."

*****

I took a short break after the third Ward, leaning back against the tree I'd parked myself under. Jess hadn't been too happy with my decision to help Locke, Simon and Connie search the castle for Fiona, but it didn't look like we had much choice. We had so much yet to do and time was running out.


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