The Clock Tower Guardian Chapter 12
My days passed by quickly with my Master in full teaching mode. It became a blur of magic and practicing magic. After the day was over, he would assign me a book to read in the evenings before I went to bed and when I finished it he would give me another one. Despite his warning, he was actually a decent teacher when he put his mind to it, even if he was a bit on the easily distracted side.
We even visited the human world two more times so Fenor could teach me more about how they lived. He also taught me the combination of symbols that would take the House from one world to the other. I looked for the twins on both these occasions, as I’m sure my Master did as well, but neither of us saw them again to my knowledge.
My Master also began teaching me the symbols and what they meant, starting with the most common ones. Then he moved onto what they did when combined.
My fears about Lotan were more easily pushed to the back of my mind as time went on and he didn’t show himself again, but they were always there, lurking in the dark corners and ready to spring the moment my mind wandered too far. I was truly afraid of him, as I had never been of anyone before, and I dreaded the day I would see him again. Both Fenor and I knew he wouldn’t simply disappear, even if I hadn’t caught his attention.
But slowly the fears crept back up on me and as weeks and then months passed with no sign of Lotan. I began to worry. The longer he kept away, the more crazy imaginings came to mind about just what he was planning and doing.
My Master, either seeing or sensing what was wrong, threw even more at me to keep me distracted and busy. After several months of this rigorous training and worry, Fenor turned to me one morning over coffee.
“I think you’re ready to start learning the Seals.”
I perked up a bit.
The Seals were a big deal. They were the basis of the power for the Northern Guardian and the most important thing he was in charge of. Fenor checked them every day, first thing in the morning. My Master was like the first defense against anything going wrong with them because he would be the one to notice anything different. The fact that he thought I was ready to start learning them said a lot about how much he thought I had improved.
“You’ve made a lot of progress and since Sealing is what the Northern Guardian is in charge of, you’ll need to know it all like the back of your hand. Best to get started on it as soon as possible. Finish up.”
Quickly, I downed the rest of my coffee and followed Fenor up to the Black Room. We settled ourselves on opposite sides of the low table.
“Now,” he began. “Seals usually use a series of symbols to activate or deactivate them. Usually the symbols are written, but if you’re good enough, you can also speak the symbol’s name to activate it. I’ve never tried it myself, but I’m not a specialist in Sealing either. It’s not really my forte.”
I gave him a weird look and he sighed.
“Why would you be the Guardian in charge of Seals if it’s not what you’re best at?” I obliged.
“Because being a Guardian isn’t all about what powers you do or don’t have. It’s about protecting the worlds and the people in them. It’s about finding someone who will give everything they are and more to do that. Yes, it helps to be powerful and be powerful in the area you’re in charge of. That’s one of the reasons most Guardians take on multiple apprentices because then it’s easier to find someone who has that trifecta of power, skill, and heart. Think of it as casting your net a little wider, so to speak.”
“So why didn’t you?”
Fenor sighed heavily.
“The short answer? I didn’t want to.”
“What’s the long answer?” I prompted.
“The lengthy story of my life, which I am not about to take the time to divulge to you,” he shot back, crossing his arms.
“Fine. Be mysterious and start teaching already.”
My Master glared for a moment before finally uncrossing his arms with a humph. He reached for the Sealing Board I had seen him use plenty of times before, but this time he pushed it across the table to me. I blinked, looking from him to the Board and back to him.
“Wait, you’re going to start me on these Seals? The Seals you, as the Guardian of the Northern Gate, are entrusted to maintain? You’re going to let me meddle with those Seals?”
I stared at him in astonishment.
“If you’re going to learn something, it may as well be useful. You’ll have to do these eventually. Now, start with this one.”
He pointed to the first of the swirling symbols in the upper left corner.
“You know what it is, yes?”
“Good. Work your way through it silently and when you’re ready, I’ll walk you through it. Got it?”
I nodded again, overwhelmed by the enormity of what my Master was having me do, entrusting me to do. He truly did think I was ready for Seals if this is where he was going to start me. I swallowed hard. It also showed how much faith he had in me, to allow me this.
Silently, I read my way through the first set of symbols, memorizing them as best I could. It wasn’t easy, though I had hardly expected it to be. I had never seen some of these combinations before and I wasn’t entirely sure what they would do. These were the oldest Seals of all, the ones that kept the two worlds apart.
A good while later, I finally looked back up at my Master, who had been occupying himself with a nearby book. Feeling my gaze, he glanced up.
“Think you’re ready?”
“Good. Let’s try it then.”
With a sigh, I set the Board in the center of the table between us and began the chant we used to meld minds.
“I shall not speak, your fate is sealed
But to the one who follows I yield
A single phrase as fate demands
Look to the hands”
It only took two times through now for our minds to meet.
‘Now,’ I heard my Master’s voice. ‘Put your finger on the beginning of the first symbol. You’ve seen me do this before. This chant is short and sweet, but remember it because this one is important.’
‘Two worlds Sealed and kept apart
To end the wars we did not start’
I repeated it and felt Fenor’s approval in my mind when I said it correctly. He stayed close as I reached out and began tracing the first symbol.
“Two worlds Sealed and kept apart
To end the wars we did not start...”
Carefully, I traced the symbols as I repeated the verse again and again and then, as I reached the last symbol of the set, my mind was flying. I flew out of the Black Room and the House, past the Garden, and up over the trees. Speeding through the air, the ground became a blur until I was brought up short and saw the first Seal.
It was a stone, taller than the House and so wide it would have taken nearly a dozen of me to reach around it, stretching out as far as I could. Several hundred feet out in a circle around it were smaller stones, probably about the size of a Dwarf. I could see in my mind that they were glowing with Sealing magic and they were all connected to each other and the center stone.
The forest and grass were gone and replaced with sand as far as the eye could see. Not far from the circle of stones was a thatched hut.
Fenor, right beside me as he said he would be, pointed to it.
‘That is where Quir lives with his apprentices.’
‘So we’re in the south? How do they all fit in there?’
My Master chuckled.
‘What you see there is only the entrance. There is a much larger living space below.’
I nodded and looked back to the circle.
‘So, is this what it always looks like?’
‘Indeed. Nothing to worry over here.’
I turned back the direction we had come from and sent myself flying back to the House. Once there, I kept the mind meld in place and my hand moved to the second set of symbols. Fenor nodded in our minds and I chanted again as I began tracing.
As I finished tracing, once again my mind flew out of the House and Garden, up past the trees, and the ground became a blur until I stopped abruptly.
This time I was looking at a tree. It was a giant tree, towering above the rest of the forest with huge, sweeping branches and a trunk twice the width of the House. I stared in awe. How old was this tree, to be big?
‘That’s where Razana and her apprentices live,’ came Fenor’s voice from beside me.
‘In the tree.’
‘In the tree?’
My Master nodded and I looked back to the giant. There were circles of lights within the branches and as I looked closer I realized that those lights were actually the Seal. I pointed to them and Fenor nodded in answer to my unasked question. The tree looked like it was covered in circles of fireflies or, what had my Master called them? Christmas lights. That was it. It looked like the tree had been strung with Christmas lights.
Fenor tugged me back and once more I was in the House, sitting in the Black Room, my fingers moving to the third set as I began the chanting once more. I was beginning to get the hang of it.
Flying over the blurry ground, this time I went straight up and hung in the air above the House. Fenor was grinning at my surprise as I noticed the Seal around the House for the first time. It was a giant glowing circle that just brushed the four corners of the building as it swung around the structure.
I met Fenor’s gaze and grinned.
‘How did I never see it before?’
‘It’s a well protected magic. Only someone very powerful would be able to see it without knowing exactly where it was. You’ll probably notice it now when you go into a magic state of mind.’
With a nod, I pulled myself back down and moved onto the fourth set of symbols as I chanted the now familiar verse.
“Two worlds Sealed and kept apart
To end the wars we did not start...”
This time, I flew to a cave, buried in the rocky landscape surrounding it. Around the Cave’s entrance I could see the Seal glowing and pulsing in time with the heartbeat of the earth.
‘And what is this place?’ I asked my Master.
‘It’s the home of Grundur Borandur and his apprentices. He is the Guardian of the Central Gate and sort of our leader I guess you would call him.’
I pulled back and began with the last of the Five Seals, chanting and tracing. It wasn’t until I was flying over the blurry ground that I realized I was headed for the Western Gate.
And then it was too late, because I was already there, floating above a vast, ancient city. The place was silent, abandoned long ago by whoever had lived there. A chill went up my spine as I looked out over it all. The empty buildings seemed to be watching me with dead, gaping eyes.
Taking a deep breath, I turned to see where the last Seal was and found in front of me a Clock Tower, as tall as the Tree and the Stone had been, in perfect working order. It was completely untouched by age or rust. It sent another chill up my spine.
‘Something’s not right...’ I heard my Master say quietly as he floated next to.
I looked closer, trying to see what he saw, and when I spotted it, I wondered how I had missed it. The Clock Tower had four faces and each one had a Seal circle on it. There was a fifth Seal on top of the Tower, connecting them. However, they were not like the other Seals I had seen at the other Gates. These Seals were dark, pulsing with shadow.
I turned to my Master, horrified. He didn’t look at me but a moment later he was dragging me forcibly back to myself much faster than we had gotten there.
My eyes flew open as I gasped, dizzy and a bit nauseous. I leaned forward on the table, getting my bearings back as my Master, apparently unaffected by the quick return, jumped up and ran for the door. It banged against the wall as he threw it open and ran down the stairs.
Getting my rebellious stomach under control, I gingerly got up and followed him, closing the door behind me. I found Fenor on the next level down in his room, beginning to work a calling spell in his mirror. I stood a bit behind and watched as the mirror fogged within itself and darkened. I didn’t want to break his concentration by asking who he was calling on, but I assumed it was another one of the Guardians besides Lotan.
I was right. Quite abruptly, Razana’s face came into view, scowling.
“What do you want, womanizer?”
“It’s the Clock Tower Seals,” said Fenor, face serious and worried.
Razana’s scowl dropped, realizing that he hadn’t simply called to harass her, and took on an equally worried look.
“What about them? Are they broken?”
My Master shook his head.
“No, not broken. Blackened.”
The Battle Gnome blinked, her shock obvious.
“Fenor,” she said gravely. “What does that mean?”
The Cambion waved his hands in agitation.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it before, but I can tell you that it’s definitely not right. Lotan is either messing with the Seals themselves or doing something there that’s warping them.”
“Alright, Fenor, just breath. I’ll get ahold of Grundur and you call Quir. We’ll meet you at the House as quick as we can.”
Fenor nodded and let the spell drop but before he could begin it again to call the Southern Guardian, there was a knock at the door. My Master groaned.
“Oh what now?”
He seemed to have forgotten I was there because instead of sending me to get it, he made his way down the stairs himself to answer. I waited at the top of the steps, peeking around the banister to see who it was and frowned. Cahir usually announced who was on the other side, but now he was strangely quiet. Before I could call down and ask, my Master opened the door and I bit my tongue to stop my gasp.
The Western Guardian was standing on the front porch, smiling nonchalantly at Fenor with his hands clasped behind his back. My Master opened his mouth to speak, but before he got a single word out, Lotan’s hand shot out from behind him and plunged a knife right into my Master’s chest.
I tasted blood as I bit back a scream.