Prologue:

Lady Aelynn Red Gloria- Reindhart is dying. She's not stupid, you know, and can see that the sunny reports delivered to her by her physicians have nothing to do with her failing heart and vanishing strength. She's lived long enough, and certainly hard enough to know what the truth of herself is, no matter what the incompetent quacks say. In fact, she sacked them all once, because she was bored and because now that she was sick, she was easily irritated. And if anything, they certainly irritated her. Only one she let stay on, a Doctor Robert Reindhart, because they were lovers, only married last June. She can't sack him, though there are times she wishes she could. That is only her temper talking though, and should be duly ignored.

They think that she is irritable because she has lost the freedom to move. While that does hold some truth, it is really because when she has nothing to occupy herself with, the regrets come.

And, oh! how bitter a thing to live with. She buried it once, deep under layers of glamour and apparent uncaring, but now they are re-emerging, Atlantis found again. She breathes regret, sleeps with it, and hates it. How often does it enter her throat and choke her? Wake her from her sleep to find tears dripping from her face? Lady Aelynn knows that regretting is a weakness, but really, she can't stop herself. She's a fool, through and through, and how many mistakes has she made in her life!

Marrying William Red Gloria was a mistake. Leaving Dorian was a mistake. It seems, to her, that her whole life should be blotted out and started whole again. Yes, that would be a mercy.

Lady Aelynn- she's not even a Lady anymore, not really, what with her divorce- sighs and lifts a hand as though to study. Fine, barely hidden veins pulse gently through her whole hand. It's nearly time, and perhaps that is why she is suddenly thinking of these things. Her last confession, even if it is only to herself.

She hates admitting she is wrong. She supposes that everyone does, but herself most of all. Even now, she can hardly stand to hear that her marriage was a failure. Its the truth, but whoever said that the truth was pretty?

Lady Aelynn- see how she still calls herself that, as if it could help!- closes her eyes so that the long lashes lie still on her papery skin, and lets the thoughts come.

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She never took care of Dorian. It wasn't her duty, after William had become clearer about his sexual orientations. He could have Dorian, he had wanted Dorian- he had used her to have Dorian. Well, he could have him. She doted after Margeret, Elizabeth and Samantha, showering them with love and affection that left Dorian outside, and made him uncomfortable in their presence. Never mind that Dorian always looked so hopeful and adorable when he asked her to play with him. Once, looking at his head of curls and large blue eyes, she had felt flattered and loving towards him. Dorian could have asked anyone else in the household to join him, and they would have acquiesced gladly. But he had chosen her. She had almost said yes, when spite for William took over, and she pushed him away. The look of bewilderment Dorian gave her tore at her heart, and she stormed away angrily, telling herself that she shouldn't care what Dorian had thought of her.

There must be someone to take care of the three Gloria daughters, she had always told herself. Dorian would inherit Castle Gloria, everything, but who to guard Margeret, Elizabeth and Samantha? She told herself that as she pushed Dorian away again, time after time. Didn't that boy learn when he wasn't wanted? It became her mantra when she had to turn him away, violently, if he persisted. Well, apparently it took him a long time, but slowly, the eager, hopeful invitations became less and less common, and Dorian began to ignore her as studiously as she ignored him.

That his sisters found Dorian wonderful did not make her life any easier. They dressed him up like a doll, despite her fervent protests, and took him on wild excursions in the grounds. They thought him how to skip, to match this blouse with that skirt, and how to behave at a tea party attended by stuffed toys. In return, Dorian introduced them to his young friends, many of whom had handsome older brothers, and climbed trees to retrieve wind-blown hats. They got along marvellously, but there was always the distinct impression that Dorian belonged to his father, and the three girls to their mother.

When Dorian turned twelve, he suddenly shot into puberty. He shot up in height, now nearly as tall as William, and his looks greatly improved. He had always been a good-looking child, but now, he was absurdly handsome. She refused to think of him as pretty. His face was long and angular, so that his wide eyes now matched its proportions, and shone, a wonderful, odd blue. Fair curls framed his face, more often than not decorated by twigs, and he moved with an undeniable grace that had come from his sisters. She had seen the servant girls give him sly looks and wondered at how they could not see what Dorian was.

A thief and a homosexual. When Aelynn's handbag had gone missing, she had been horrified to find that Dorian had taken it, 'for amusement' as he put it. And then his sister's jewels, and the Butler's strongbox, all taken by Dorian's clever hands. It was the icing on top of the cake for all three of them- their relationship was already beginning to sour from jealousy. The young men that William entertained always preferred Dorian over his sisters, who had been taught that men should worship young ladies with reasonable looks and a vast fortune. Margeret's wails and Elizabeth's whines were beginning to give Aelynn countless headaches. Samantha had to be the loudest of all three- she could go on for days.

In the end, she left. It could hardly be expected that she stay with William, when things were like this. She took the Gloria girls, and left Dorian. It had surprised her that she had wanted her to come with him. She had even begged him to, when the move was imminent. He had turned her down, carelessly and uncaringly.

"Dorian, come with me!" she had pleaded. "Let me help you! You can still be a proper young man; who will ever marry you like this?"

And Dorian hadn't cared.

"It's interesting being a thief," he had said. 'Besides, I don't like girls." His eyes had been very cold, and with a sinking feeling, she knew that he was paying her back for all the years of neglect.

He didn't hug her goodbye.

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Aelynn Red Gloria Reindhart died at one o'clock in the morning, on a starry June night. Due preparations were made, and invitations to her funeral were sent, as well as announcements to the proper newspapers.

Dorian replied saying that he would come, but his words implied that he would not be happy to. A few days after, a gravestone was delivered. It was beautiful, done in contrasting marble and stone, in a pattern of roses and angels. At first, there had been no apparent artist's markings, but Samantha, who had a keen eye and a degree in Art History, spotted it under a petal of a rose moss. It simply read:

From Eroica With Love