The Clock Tower Guardian Chapter 13
I couldn’t breath. My hands covered my mouth to keep my voice in.
Time seemed to slow as I watched Fenor stumble back a step, eyes wide and mouth hanging open, the words he would have said dying on his lips. He looked down at the knife buried in his chest and then back up at Lotan, who was still grinning nonchalantly. Blood began dripping around the hilt and soaking the front of my Master’s robe.
The Western Guardian chuckled and took a step into the House.
“Why?” he asked casually, as though talking about the weather. “Simple. Because you’re in the way of my plans.”
He wrapped a hand around the hilt of the knife and, with another purposeful smile, pulled it out. Fenor gasped, clutching at the wound as he crumpled to the floor. Lotan leaned over and wiped the blade on my Master’s robe.
With a final smirk at his fellow Guardian laying in a pool of blood, Lotan turned on his heel and left. I stayed frozen where I stood for a moment, unable to completely process the scene in front of me.
Suddenly everything snapped into place and I rushed down the stairs, falling to my knees beside my Master. I rolled him over and tried my best to stop the bleeding. I started chocking on the air in my lungs as I tried to keep the tears out of my eyes. Blood was pouring from between my fingers and Fenor’s eyes fluttered open.
His hand shot out and pulled me down by the front of my robe. He put his cheek next to mine so he could whisper in my ear.
He released the front of my robe and dropped back to the floor, muttering a string of symbols with the last of his breath. Then he lay still.
My breathing sped up and I grabbed Fenor’s shoulders.
“Master. Master! Master! You can’t! Wake up! Wake up! Master! Master, please!”
I put my ear to his chest but heard nothing of a heartbeat. My hands became fists and the tears came. I sat up shaking and sobbing, covered in my Master’s blood. I pulled away until my back hit a wall and then I wrapped my arms around myself. The sobs shook my body and the tears made seeing impossible.
For a long time I sat there, sobbing by the body of my Master, trying vainly to hold myself together with my pitifully frail arms.
Dead. My Master, the Guardian of the Northern Gate, was dead. Another Guardian had killed him. Lotan had killed him.
As the tears finally slowed, I looked to Cahir, who had been completely silent the entire time.
“Cahir?” I said, voice a bit croaky.
I waited a moment but there was no response.
“Cahir?” I said a bit louder.
Still no response. Now I was getting worried.
Nothing. I stood unsteadily and moved to the Door. Reaching out, I began petting Cahir but received no response. What was wrong? I grasped at the ends of my thoughts, trying to put one together. What could I do? What should I do? What had happened? Finally, I managed to tie an idea together and closed my eyes, searching for Cahir in the magic.
‘Cahir? Cahir if you can hear me, answer me!’
‘M-Mistress?’ came the Door’s hesitant voice.
‘Oh Mistress! The Master’s gone! The Master’s gone!’
The Door began sobbing and I felt tears coming on again, but I forced them down with a scowl.
“Cahir, why didn’t you tell us who it was?” I demanded, sad and angry all at once.
“I’m so sorry!” he wailed. “I couldn’t do anything! Before I could even get a word out, he did something to me! I couldn’t speak and I lost a bit of time. The next thing I knew you were waking me up and the Master was dead! Oh Mistress, I’m so sorry!”
He cried and I let him, sitting back on my heels. I was the Mistress of the House now. My Master was dead. That left me in charge here. The tears came again, slowly this time, and I buried my face in my hands as I leaned my head against Cahir.
We both cried until a gentle hand on my shoulder made me jump. I whirled around, my back against Cahir, ready to fight for my life, before I saw Razana standing there, near tears herself. I hadn’t heard her approach, I had been so lost in my own grief, but she had clearly seen the scene as she came up.
“Girl...” she began gently.
“Razana, he’s dead,” I said, brokenly. “L-Lotan just... just killed him. Right... right there.”
The Battle Gnome bent down and pulled me into a tight hug. I was too surprised at first to move, but after a moment I hugged her back. She was shaking and I started crying again into her shoulder.
I heard someone shift uncomfortably and looked up to see a Dwarf in a yellow jerkin and brown pants standing there. He was of middle age, his dark brown hair and beard only showing a couple faint grey hairs, and his deep brown eyes were mournful as he looked at Fenor’s body. I couldn’t bear to look myself. The Dwarf’s gaze turned on me.
“You said Lotan did this?”
Slowly, I nodded, unable to find my voice for a moment.
“Razana,” said the Dwarf, getting the Gnome’s attention.
She looked up at him, not bothering to hide her tears.
“Go summon Quir,” he continued gently.
Razana swallowed hard and then nodded once, making herself release me and stand. She moved past the Dwarf stiffly and headed up the stairs.
My mind was grasping for anything other than the now and the death and the body of my Master, so it was putting other pieces together.
“Are you Grundur Borandur? The Central Guardian?”
He looked surprised that I had spoken, but nodded nonetheless.
“Yes, I am. Were you his apprentice?”
I nodded, turning my gaze out toward the Garden so I wouldn’t look at the body. The Dwarf knelt beside me, speaking in a gentle rumble of a voice.
“You saw him killed?”
I nodded, trying to push down the bile as I recalled it.
“And you are certain it was Lotan?”
I shot the Dwarf a fierce glare.
“He was wearing his own face. I would know it anywhere.”
“Peace, child. I just had to be sure.”
“Peace?” I snapped, anger suddenly overcoming the grief. “Peace?! Don’t you dare talk to me about peace! My Master knew Lotan was a danger and none of you bothered listening to him! If you hadn’t let him become a Guardian in the first place, none of this would have happened! He wouldn’t have come here and hurt Cahir or killed my Master!”
There were more tears running down my face now, but I didn’t let my gaze drop from the mournful eyes of the Dwarf. He looked at me like that for a long moment before he spoke in a quiet voice.
“Perhaps you are right, child. Perhaps if we had not let Lotan become a Guardian, he would have given us no future problems and Fenor would still be alive. It was my ruling vote that made it so in the end and it is a burden I will carry my whole life. However, it was also my decision to keep him close because that was more likely to keep him from causing any damage. As they say, ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’. That was my miscalculation and I am more sorry than you can ever know for that.”
I held his gaze for a moment, watching the tears build there, before I looked away toward the Garden once more. I watched the trees sway in the breeze under the bright blue sky. Somehow it seemed wrong now, that the sun was still shining and the Garden was so calm.
Less than an hour ago I had been sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee with him. Less than an hour ago, he’d been teaching me and showing me how the Seals worked. Less than an hour ago, he had been spry and healthy and... alive.
Something caught my eye in the Garden then, and I looked more closely to see that it was two people coming up the path. I tensed for a moment before I realized it was the MAGI, Prothos and Aaron. I sighed.
“Grundur,” I said quietly to get the Guardian’s attention.
He looked to me and I pointed out the Door. His eyes followed where I pointed and when he saw the MAGI approaching, he scowled.
“What timing,” he muttered to himself.
Standing erect, the Dwarf put his hands on his hips and placed himself squarely in the Doorway, watching as the MAGI approached.
“Prothos Derodon,” said Grundur when the two were close enough. “I should have known you’d be showing up at a time like this.”
“A time like what?” shot back the elder Dwarf, matching the other’s scowl.
“As if you didn’t already know.”
“Indeed, I’m sure I don’t,” shot back Prothos. “What are you babbling about, Grundur Borandur?”
Grundur ignored the question and shot an accusing glare at the hulking mass of a Dwarf behind Prothos.
“Aaron Baerandor,” the Guardian said, making the MAGI’s name sound like an accusation.
Aaron bowed politely.
“What are you two doing here? We have no time for you.”
Prothos scowled darkly.
“You’re still looking for them, aren’t you?” I asked quietly, surprising everyone by cutting in.
They stared at me for a moment and I looked back blankly.
“Well?” I said finally. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”
Prothos pushed past Grundur, eyes locked on me.
“And what do you know about it? Tell me the truth now, girl.”
I looked away, finally letting myself see my Master’s body, still laying in the hallway.
“I’m sure I don’t know anything, sir,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper as my eyes filled with tears again.
Finally, both Prothos and Aaron looked into the House and took in the scene. I heard Aaron’s quiet intake of breath before Prothos turned on Grundur.
“Who did this?” he demanded.
The younger Dwarf gave him a scathing, superior look and crossed his arms over his barrel chest.
“None of your concern, I’m sure. Now be off. The girl knows nothing.”
“None of my concern?” shot back Prothos, face going from shocked to angry. “There is a dead Guardian laying in the hallway and it’s none of my concern?!”
“Precisely!” Grundur yelled, getting right up in the MAGI’s face now. “A dead Guardian is Guardian business, not something for NORTH to stick their nose in!”
“A dead Guardian is entirely our concern!” Prothos yelled right back. “Someone going around killing Guardians is no mean threat and that’s going to effect the citizens of this world, which is entirely NORTH’s concern, which makes it my concern!”
“It’s Guardian business nonetheless! As soon as we can’t handle it ourselves, we’ll let you know, because then it really will be a problem for you to concern yourselves with. Until then, get lost!”
My breathing was getting louder and louder in my ears. It was beginning to drown out the shouting match the Dwarves were having at the front Door. My front Door. I was the Mistress of this House now, as my Master’s only apprentice. There would be no debate or choosing. There was no one else who could take his place. Even I was a poor substitute. I had performed my first Seal less than an hour ago for Phyre’s sake! But I had to do it. There was no one else who could.
An eerie silence filled my ears for a moment before their shouting began penetrating my senses again. Razana had come back and joined in the shouting. I closed my eyes and covered my ears. I could feel something building up within me. The magic was swirling around me, as though sensing my inner turmoil.
Slowly, I rose to my feet, hands still covering my ears as I looked down at my Master’s body. I couldn’t take it. My hands flew out.
The magic flew out from me, hitting them all full force and knocking them off their feet. I hadn’t meant to do it, but I wasn’t about to go explaining myself. I couldn’t listen to anymore of their petty quarrels about who had more power over the matter. It wasn’t just a Guardian, it was my Master who was dead and this was my House.
They were all staring at me in shock as I glowered at them. I could feel the magic, brought to me by my anger, swirling around me, playing with my robe and loose strands of hair.
“Get out of my House!” I said, letting the magic lace my words.
I saw all three Dwarves flinch and Razana winced like she’d been hit with something. I didn’t care. I couldn’t take them being here.
“Get out of my House,” I repeated. “I don’t care about your petty power squabbles or macho bravado. Unless you’re going to be useful, take your shouting out of my House!”
All four were pushed out the Door and onto the porch by the magic.
“Cahir,” I snapped, still glaring at their shocked expressions.
“Yes Mistress!” the Door replied smartly, promptly swinging closed behind them.
Once the Door was latched, my sudden anger deserted me and I was left panting and shaking. I released the magic that had been unconsciously brought to me, the tears coming up yet again. Glancing down at my Master’s body, I ran for the library, my vision blurry as the tears streamed down my face. I reached the books and ran and ran and ran until I had completely lost myself in the maze of tombs. Then, when I couldn’t see anymore for the tears in my eyes, I sat down, leaning my back against one of the shelves and cried.
Time passed and slowly, ever so slowly, I ran out of tears. I cried for my Master. I cried for myself. I cried for the terror I felt. I cried for the uncertainty. I wouldn’t be able to do this. I couldn’t be the Mistress of the House. I didn’t know anything. I had no idea what I was doing!
As my tears began to dry, I looked up to take in my surroundings. I had never been this deep in the library before. I hadn’t known it ran this far. I didn’t recognize any of the books or shelves around me. Many of the books were ancient tombs covered in dust, as though it had been generations since they had last been disturbed and many of the titles were in a language I didn’t know.
I stood carefully and turned around slowly, reading some of the titles that were decipherable. These were truly old tombs. Most of the ones I could read appeared to be journals and were numbered or not labeled at all. I chose one at random and began reading it. It was indeed a journal. It was a journal of a former Guardian!
I put it back, moving further down the aisle. Walking quietly, I let my eyes skim titles and over bindings, all covered in dust. Then, quite suddenly, the aisles ended and I was standing in the back corner of the library. My eyes went wide. I had actually reached the end of the library! I had almost thought it didn’t have one, but here it was.
In front of me stood one final bookcase, closed behind glass. There was no lock, but it was Sealed. My curiosity got the better of me and I called a tendril of magic, slipping it into the Seal and gently releasing it.
Releasing the magic, I reached forward and cautiously opened the glass doors. They opened without resistance and I reached for the first volume I saw that I could read. The glass had kept the dust out and I opened the giant tomb, fining it too heavy to continue holding. I set the great book on the floor and began paging through it. I wasn’t really reading it as my thoughts drifted to what I was going to do now and my mind automatically tried to shut down those same thoughts. I was so afraid, but right now I could distract myself.
Then something caught my eye and made me pause. It was a spell. Reading more closely, I realized it was a spell for... making contracts with Aether spirits? Like Cahir perhaps? Was he an Aether spirit? He hadn’t actually ever said.
I read through it a couple more times as an idea began forming in my mind. If I could make a contract with an Aether spirit, I could use it’s power. A spirit wouldn’t die. A spirit would be with me as long as I liked.
Swallowing the tears that threatened to come again, I sat back on my heels and, before I could rethink my decision, I grabbed the book back up and headed back to the entrance of the library. It took me a long time to get to the stairs and by that time I was panting heavily from carrying the large tomb. I lugged it up, all the way to the third floor and into the Black Room.
I let the book fall to the floor, open to the spell again, and cleared off the table before picking up a knife. Gritting my teeth, I sliced my palm and, as it began to bleed, I dipped the fingers of my right hand in the blood. I drew a circle on the table, as the book instructed, and drew in the proper symbols.
Tearing a piece off the bottom of my robe, I wrapped it around my hand as I sat back on my heels. Taking one final breath, I began the chant as the book instructed.
“Beyond the day
Beyond the night
Hear my voice
Come to my sight
Beyond the light
Beyond the veil
To my summons
The first time I chanted, it began to glow and the second it began to pulse. As I finished the third, the circle suddenly shown a blinding white so bright I had to look away and cover my eyes. The light filed the room and almost as quickly it dissipated. As I looked back to it, blinking the spots away from my vision, I saw that the circle still glowed and pulsed, but in the center of it floated a creature the likes of which I had never seen before.
She was beautiful. Her body held no form, flowing easily in and out of itself, made of semitransparent pastels and there were large, swirling rainbow eyes in the middle of the rest, seeming to be the only solid thing about her. I felt a little dizzy after looking into them for a few moments and quickly looked away. As I looked away, she finally spoke.
“Mistress of the House,” her voice was calm and soothing. “Why have you summoned me?”
I let out a shaky breath and looked back at her.
“I have summoned you because I need help. I cannot do this on my own and it seems anyone living who gets close to me dies. I need someone with power who won’t.”
I could have sworn she grinned at that.
“So you summoned me?”
“Then you wish to make a contract, Mistress?”
She seemed to be giving me an expectant look.
“Are you not going to ask what my terms are?”
“Sorry. I’ve never done this before. What do you require in exchange for your help?”
“In exchange for my help and companionship, you must help me take real form once more.”
“What? How do I do that?”
The Aether spirit seemed to shrug.
“I do not know, Mistress of the House. That is why I require your help for it. It will be your duty to find a way.”
I licked my lips, suddenly worried.
“Why do you want your form again?”
“Ah, that, little half-breed, is not your concern. My reasons are my own and are not required to make a contract.”
I swallowed hard.
“Will you promise not to cause any harm once you take your form?”
The spirit laughed.
“Oh, Guardian, there is no possible way I can promise that! Every creature causes harm eventually, regardless of their intentions.”
I dropped my gaze as I thought about it. She didn’t seem like a malicious spirit, but then, who was I to know? It wasn’t as though I’d had a lot of dealings with spirits before. Finally, I looked up.
“It’s a deal.”
She smiled, as only a spirt can smile.
“So we are bound.”
The circle of blood on the table suddenly came up off the table and encircled the spirt, growing smaller and smaller until it became a part of her. I felt my hand tingle and look down to see that where I had cut myself was healing in fast forward. As it disappeared, I looked back up at the spirit once more and she gave me that smile again.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mistress,” she said. “My name is Itzel.”
A/N: If there's one thing I hate doing, it's what I just did. :( Necessary evils I suppose. Hope you guys are enjoying still though. I have a stress fracture in my foot, hence the quick writing this week. Can't go to work if I can't walk so I may as well do something useful, right? Lol. :)