The Clock Tower Guardian Chapter 14
I descended the stairs slowly with Itzel in my wake. So many thoughts plagued me. Had I done the right thing in summoning Itzel? Or the smart thing? What was I going to do now? Go after Lotan? That was suicide. What was I going to do with my Master’s body? I couldn’t simply leave him there in the hall.
As I reached the second floor, I heard Cahir call up to me.
“Yes, Cahir?” I asked as I continued my descent.
“That MAGI is still waiting outside.”
“The big one.”
Aaron. What did he want now?
Steeling myself with a sigh, I looked at the Aether spirit floating beside me, frowning thoughtfully.
“Can you go invisible or something?”
“Certainly. For what, may I ask?”
“I just... don’t really want to have you explain you to Aaron. Or anyone else right now.”
Itzel bobbed as though she were nodding.
“Very well. At my Mistress’s request I will for now. You can call me back at any time. Just reach out for me.”
With that, she spun once and disappeared. I stared at the spot she had been floating in for a moment, blinking. I hadn’t realized it would be that easy. Taking another deep breath and letting it out, I turned toward Cahir.
“He still out there?”
“Yes, Mistress,” replied the Door, voice tinged with sadness.
I walked forward and petted him for a moment. The Door purred sadly.
“I know,” I whispered gently. “I know, Cahir.”
I sighed once more before opening the Door and stepping out onto the porch. Closing Cahir behind me, I ignored the hulking MAGI who stood to my right, leaning against the House, and moved to the left of the Door to lean there myself.
He was watching me, but I didn’t meet his gaze, choosing instead to look out over the Garden. The sky was still blue with big, fluffy, white clouds sailing peacefully through it. The gentle breeze played with the leaves on the trees, making them russell pleasantly. The fountains bubbled up and the water flowed with life. It was such a beautiful scene. Watching it numbed the pain for a moment and kept me from crying again.
Finally, I knew I had to say something.
“Why are you still here?”
I glanced over at him for the first time and had to look away almost immediately. His gaze was so intense, I knew if I met it for any length of time, the numbness I had finally achieved would crumble and I’d be crying once more.
“Because I wasn’t part of the shouting match,” he replied, his voice hinting at a smile.
I swallowed hard, staring fixedly at the Garden.
“And? You’ve been out here an awfully long time for no real reason.”
“Oh, I have my reasons,” he said, voice smug.
I shot him a glare. He grinned and I quickly looked away again, forcing the numbness to come back.
“Good to know you’re still in there somewhere.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, voice hollow.
He didn’t reply. Instead, he turned to Cahir.
“Will you let me pass?” he asked the Door respectfully.
“Mistress?” Cahir asked me.
I waved a disinterested hand. I heard the Door open and Aaron walked in. He was moving around in the hallway and I frowned, wondering what he was doing. Before I could make up my mind to look in and ask, he came back out, carrying Fenor in his arms. I stood up sharply.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
Aaron didn’t answer as he walked toward the Garden. With a scowl at his silence, I followed. He headed into an open space that was usually full of flowers and I paused at the tree line when I saw what was now there.
“Aaron?” I asked quietly.
He looked over his shoulder and saw the confusion and pain on my face.
“He deserves a proper funeral,” was his only reply.
I watched, fighting back tears, as he gently placed my Master on the pyre. He reached into his suit jacket and brought out a lighter.
“Fenor Atan, Guardian of the Northern Gate, Keeper of the Seals, and Master of the House, rest in peace. You will not be forgotten,” Aaron intoned quietly.
Then he reached forward and lit the bramble. Stepping back to stand beside me, we watched in silence as the pyre lit up and consumed my Master’s body. I swallowed hard as the tears welled up. Quietly, I let them fall, my gaze riveted on the fire.
We stood there for a long time, just watching. I sensed the Guardians of the Grounds surrounding us and could hear faint traces of singing on the breeze. They were mourning Fenor as well.
As the flames began to die, I spoke quietly.
“Where did the others go?”
“Prothos stormed off in a temper and took some of it out on me when I wouldn’t go with him. Razana and Grundur waited long enough for Quir to get here before they spirited themselves away somewhere, probably to regroup and get ready to go after Lotan.”
“He’ll kill them.”
Aaron looked at me in shock.
“He’ll kill them?” he repeated in disbelief.
I nodded again.
“Three Guardians against one madman? How would he beat them? Even your own Master he had to be taken by surprise.”
I shook my head.
“It doesn’t matter. He’s too powerful. He would have killed my Master regardless. The other three don’t stand a chance. I don’t believe he’s ever shown the true extent of his power. Besides, he said something about my Master being in the way of his plans. I think if he’s bold enough to go killing people, he’s far enough into whatever his plan is that we won’t be able to stop him.”
Aaron shot me a look but refrained from saying what he’d been about to when he saw my face. Instead he sighed. I glanced up at him and watched as he reached into his breast pocket and pulled something out. Turning to me, he held out an open hand and I saw a simple brass ring in his hand. The inside of it was marked with symbols. I frowned.
He rolled his eyes and reached forward to grab my hand before I could stop him. He slipped the too-large ring onto my thumb.
“One of these days you’re going to learn to trust someone,” he said.
“Stop being cryptic. What is this?”
“I’m not being cryptic,” he replied. “I’m stating a fact.”
“And avoiding my question.”
With another sigh, he glanced over at the pyre.
“If you need help, twist it around your finger three times and it will activate the spell on the inside. I’ll come.”
“Why would I want help from a MAGI?” I demanded, scowl never leaving my face.
He looked down at me for a long moment, face sad. The MAGI took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then he shrugged.
“Just in case.”
My scowl darkened a bit.
“You’re a very infuriating person.”
He grinned suddenly.
“Why thank you. You know you’re no bed of roses yourself.”
“Of course I am,” I shot back as I turned away. “Roses have thorns.”
His laughter followed me through the trees but he didn’t attempt to come with me. That was a good thing. I needed more time to myself. I didn’t try to call Itzel back either. I really didn’t know what to do now. I had made the other Guardians leave so abruptly and I wasn’t about to go calling them back right now.
I petted Cahir as I passed him and headed upstairs. I was filthy and I wanted this blood off of me.
I quickly jumped into the shower and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed until the heat and soap had finally washed everything away. I slipped on a new pair of jeans and a short blue robe before descending the stairs once more.
I paused halfway down, my eye catching something on the floor. The bloodstain was still there. No one had cleaned it up yet. I looked down at it for a long moment, my Master’s last moments coming to mind finally. Lotan, the knife in Fenor’s chest, the blood, Lotan’s smile, my Master’s last words...
My head snapped up. What had he said?
That’s right. He had said ‘desk’ and then mumbled a bunch of symbols. What desk? His desk? I had to know.
Quickly, I went back up the stairs, and paused at his bedroom door. I took a steadying breath before reaching up and turning the doorknob. The door opened quietly, as it always did, and I looked sadly over the room for a moment. The mahogany bed with it’s blue curtains and then ceiling to floor windows that matched. There was a dresser and closet and nightstand.
And his desk.
Slowly, I walked towards it and ran my hand over the mahogany wood. Seating myself in the cushioned chair, I debated where to start. What was I even looking for? I had no idea.
So I started at the bottom and began working my way up. The lowest drawers on the left and right were full of random odds and ends that had been tossed in and forgotten. The top drawer on the left held love letters addressed to Fenor. I didn’t pry. I had no interest in what his love life had been and it most certainly wasn’t my business.
The top drawer on the right held his old journals. Is this what he had wanted me to find? I paused, running my fingers over the bindings. It might have been, but I wasn’t one hundred percent sure so I figured I’d keep looking, just in case.
The last drawer was the small one in the middle. It was locked. Frowning, I checked again. No, not locked, Sealed. Then I remembered the string of symbols he had muttered. Carefully thinking back over what he had said, I pictured each one in my mind, hoping I remembered correctly.
Taking a deep breath, I brought the magic to me and drew each one in my mind as I spoke it. As the last one was completed, I felt a shift in the magic and heard a click of something opening.
Looking down at the drawer, I saw that it was Unsealed. Reaching out, I pulled the drawer open and found two envelopes laying there. One was labeled as his Will. The other one was addressed simply to ‘My Apprentice’.
I bit my lip when I read that. His apprentice. Me. He had actually written a letter to me. Slowly, I reached forward and picked it up, opening it with hesitant hands.
‘If you’re reading this I’m either dead or retired. I, personally, am hoping it’s the latter.
‘If not, it will state all this in my Will, but I’ll tell you here as well. The House is yours. You’re the Mistress of it all now, including the Garden. I know you’ll do well. Take care of Cahir, too. He needs it and he’s very fond of you. Also, take care of my coffee maker.’
I burst out laughing at that. Of all the things I should take care of, the coffee maker was one of the special ones. That was so like him.
‘It is custom for the Master to chose the apprentice’s new name for them, which is a truly horrible custom if your Master dislikes you. Aren’t you lucky that I don’t? You really should thank me for that.
‘I’ve thought long and hard about this and it took me forever to decide, so I don’t want to hear any complaints about it, understand? This is final.
‘Your name from this point on will be Etti Antti.
‘In the Fairy tongue, it means “She Who Shines”. Never forget that. You are special and important and, though I would never say it to your face, you are loved. I have never known anyone to shine as brightly as you do. As the years go on, you will only get brighter. I hope I’m there to see it.
‘Don’t ever lose that light. There will be dark times ahead and you must shine all the brighter through them because others will not have your strength.’
My vision had grown too blurry to read any further and I paused, dashing away the tears so I could continue.
‘Now go with my blessing and be safe. May your light never falter.
I let the letter fall to my lap and covered my face with my hands, weeping openly. He thought I was special and important. He had cared about me. He had loved me. He saw me as no one else ever had.
Now he was gone.
I wept all the harder at the thought and it was a long time before I moved again. Eventually, I let my hands drop and picked up the letter, caressing the words with my eyes.
I had a name now. A new name. A name no one had ever spoken before. A name that was unmarred by hatred or disgust. It was a name given to me by someone who saw who I was.
I rolled it around in my mind carefully, liking the sound of it. “She Who Shines”. Yes, I loved my new name.
Replacing the letter in the drawer and resealing it all, I left my Master’s former bedroom, closing the door quietly behind me. Descending the stairs, I walked out to the Garden, absorbing everything that had happened so far today. It was already afternoon now.
Something would have to be done about Lotan, and soon. I still didn’t believe the other Guardians stood any sort of real chance against the madman. There was something else going on. He was planning something and, from what I had seen at the Clock Tower, it wasn’t good.
“Ah, there you are!” said a male voice.
I froze in my tracks.
“I’ve been looking for you everywhere! I should have known I’d find you here though.”
I swallowed hard. I knew that voice. It was imprinted into my mind now, along with all the horror the owner had caused. Slowly, ever so slowly, I turned to see Lotan standing just off the Garden path, smiling at me like he hadn’t a care in the world.
Try as I might, I couldn’t quite get my breathing under control and my voice came out much flimsier than I meant it to be.
“What do you want?”
His face became falsely sympathetic.
“Ah, I see my sweet has been crying. Oh dear. You’ve been crying over poor Fenor, haven’t you?”
I could feel my traitorous body beginning to shake as I held my ground. Biting my tongue, I glared at the mad Guardian, trying not to show my fear. He took a step closer and I tensed.
“Oh dear one,” he said sweetly and sadly, as though he weren’t the one who had killed my Master. “I am so sorry. Truly, I am. No one is more sorry than I that he had to die.”
“He didn’t have to die!” I shouted, surprising myself and making Lotan raise an eyebrow at me.
“I’m afraid he did, my sweet. I’m afraid he did.”
“What do you want?” I snapped, anger finally breaking through the fear.
Lotan smiled at me and I felt sick to my stomach.
“Want? Why, I want you, of course, my dear. What else?”
Before I could flee or begin to fight, I felt something invade my mind with a jolt, and then my world went black.
A/N: Holy moly these chapters are flying out fast! I almost can't believe it. But I'm pretty happy about it. :)