The Clock Tower Guardian Chapter 3
I couldn’t help but stare in open-mouthed wonder. I had never seen such a beautiful place in all my life, and that was saying something since I had lived in the palace of the Elves, which was considered even by other species to be one of the architectural jewels of the world. It surpassed the beauty of the palace or even the royal gardens it contained. This was far beyond. Did I dare say it looked magical? I was almost afraid to move any closer.
From where I stood on the outside of the ivy-covered iron gates, I could see lush green lawns full of exotic flowers amid bushes in all shapes and sizes and colors. Beyond that! Trees of every kind, many that I had never seen or heard of before, stood growing tall and short and wide and sideways. Some trees stood in small groves and others helped create the giant forest of color that the white stone path twisted it’s way into.
Even more incredible than all the rest, though, were the fountains. I don’t believe any two were alike, but all were beautiful, graceful creations of the same white stone the path was made of. Some were creatures, some were made to look like buildings, and others were something completely abstract, but the most magical thing about them was the water. It ran silver and sparkled in the growing sunlight, catching the first golden rays of the morning.
Without realizing it, I had moved a step closer and then another and another, until I was right in front of the iron gates. My hands reached up and closed around ivy and iron as I starred at the garden, utterly transfixed. The gates were set in white stone walls that were also covered in twining ivy and stretched out in either direction.
Glancing back, I saw the forest, but the Bird was no where in sight anymore, though I could tell she was watching. I turned back to the gate.
Taking a deep breath, I let it out shakily. I had to know. I had to know about this garden and what was in it. I gripped the iron gate a bit more firmly and pulled. It didn’t budge and I frowned. I tried again and still it didn’t move. I growled low in my throat and pulled repeatedly with all my strength, shaking the gate and making an awful racket.
Finally, I paused, panting and frustrated.
Then I heard a burst of male laughter, as though the creature had been holding it in for a while and just couldn’t contain himself anymore. With a scowl, I looked into the garden and my gaze found him. About six feet tall and well built, he wore a light blue robe with silver leaves, offsetting his dark skin. He had wavy black hair that he was clearly proud of because it was glossy and well kept. It was pulled back into a ponytail at his neck and there was a white streak down each side, breaking up the black. Grey eyes sparkled with amusement and magic.
“Try pushing,” he said with a grin when he got his laughter under control.
Duh. I felt stupid beyond belief. Sheepishly, I reached forward and pushed the gate open. It swung forward creakily but without resistance.
“Persistence is a fine quality,” he said with a grin. “But it should be tempered by the patience to look for other solutions.”
“What are you?” I asked.
“What am I?” he repeated with a chuckle. “What do you think I am?”
“Ah, close,” he said, raising a finger and winking at me. “Good guess. I’m actually a Cambion.”
“So half human. A mutt.”
“Quite right,” he said, apparently unfazed by the harsh way I had said it.
The Cambion gave me a welcoming bow and gestured me forward.
“Please, come in.”
“Is it safe?”
“As safe as anywhere in the worlds may be, but probably a bit safer than that.”
“And what is this place?”
He winked and began walking up the path.
I watched him casually swagger away, further into the garden. I glanced back once more, sensing that the Bird had disappeared when the Cambion had appeared. Then, with a shrug, I followed the strange creature, closing the gate behind me.
What did I have to lose? I certainly wasn’t going back to the Elven palace and no one would actually be missing me except perhaps my father, but he would in his heart of hearts be more relieved than anything. Besides, the Bird had led me here so she must have thought it was safe enough.
So I followed the Cambion. I had never met one before, just as I had never met a Bird before, and I was bursting with just as many questions. The difference was, a Cambion wouldn’t be scared away by them.
“Succubus or Incubus?”
He grinned over his shoulder as I caught up with him.
“Incubus. I was raised by my human mother.”
“How did you end up in this world?”
The Cambion laughed.
“That is a story in and of itself and one I have no time to tell.”
The white stone path twisted it’s way through the garden and I was soon distracted from my guide. There were so many different kinds of plants and flowers and trees that I could have spent months studying them and still not have been finished.
I pointed to a tree with yellow bark.
“What’s that one?”
A tall thin one with leaves in the shape of purple stars caught my eye next.
“San-mahar. It means ‘buried star’ in the old Fairy tongue. There’s even a legend about one of their first princesses who flew to the heavens, stole the star, and brought it back and buried it so she would be able to keep it forever. Then, the day she was made Fairy Queen, it grew into the San-mahar tree. The Fairies still say they know which tree it was.”
“I’ve never heard that story before,” I said, entranced.
If there was one thing I loved, it was knowledge. Though my father was a scholar and I’d had free run of the palace library, Elves didn’t hold with anything not Elvish. All others were considered inferior. Therefore, my knowledge base was very narrow and I wanted desperately to know what I didn’t know.
“Not surprising since you came from the Elven Kingdoms, little half-breed,” said the Cambion.
I automatically started to bristle and he watched me with a kind smile. For all my life such names had been an insult and a bad thing, but my anger faded as quickly as it had come when I realized he meant nothing of the sort. In fact, he may have even thought it a compliment, since he himself was technically one.
When he saw that my initial anger was fading, he began walking again and I followed.
“I also find it quite interesting that the Bird of Paradise brought you here,” he continued.
“Is that what she is?”
“Indeed. Beautiful creature. I haven’t been able to lure her in here. I was under the impression she hated me, but she must like you.”
I shot him a look.
“You tried to lure her in here?”
He got an almost predatory smile on his face.
“Why of course. I can’t resist a beautiful lady, especially one who plays hard to get like she does.”
The Cambion winked at me and I scowled darkly.
“Try anything and I’ll rip that ponytail out by the roots.”
He threw his head back and laughed loudly. I scowled, thinking he didn’t believe I was serious. He raised a hand to forestall anything I might say as he got his laughter under control.
“I have no doubt at all that you would do it, to me or any male that tried something you didn’t like.”
“Then what was so funny?” I demanded.
He gave me a look that put me in mind of a look my father used to give me when I had amused him by doing something childish.
“I am no cradle robber, little half-breed,” he said with an amused grin. “You are a mere child, even by the standards of your own people.”
“They’re not my people,” I growled, scowling at him as I crossed my arms defiantly.
He gave me a knowing look.
“They will always be your people because you are half Elf. There is nothing you can do about that so you may as well get used to it because other species will lump you with all other Elves just as quickly as the Elves are willing to lump you with all other species in the world as inferior.”
I frowned and looked away, but I knew he was right. I looked a lot like an Elf and that would be what others saw too when they met me.
He began walking again and I followed in silence for a minute until a thought occurred to me.
“Wait, if you’re not a cradle robber, how old is the Bird of Paradise? And how old are you? And...” I shook my head. Maybe that wasn’t such a safe question to ask.
“And?” he prompted, raising an eyebrow and grinning, probably knowing what I had been about to ask.
I shook my head again.
“Nothing. Not important. Just, how old are you two?”
“Well, for a Cambion, I am middle aged. The Bird of Paradise, like all Birds, will live for several centuries. I’m not sure exactly how old she is, though by Bird standards I would guess she is still fairly young. So, I would imagine she is about a century old, perhaps a century and a half.”
“Oh,” I said quietly, still pondering my other thought.
“As for how we would... shall we say, copulate?” he continued with a grin at the face I made. “From what I understand, one of her abilities is changing into a more humanoid form.”
He winked and I groaned.
“There’s a reason I didn’t actually ask. I didn’t want to know.”
The Cambion laughed.
“I know, but it was worth it to see your face.”
Suddenly the trees parted and I saw a house on a small hill, in the middle of the garden. The house was big and three stories high, painted a pretty blue with white shutters and trim. The roof was white as well and extended down to a small porch by the front door. Oddly though, the front door wasn’t painted white like might be expected, but was a dark brown wood, unpolished and worn, with a few symbols carved into it here and there.
The Cambion’s step didn’t falter as he headed for the front door.
“Hello, Cahir,” he said to the door.
“Welcome back, Master,” the door said and I froze in my tracks, starring wide-eyed at it.
There was no face, but the voice had clearly come from the front door. The door had spoken. The door was magical. I swallowed hard. I had never come across anything so blatantly magic before. The door’s Master looked back over his shoulder at me as I crept forward and reached out carefully to touch the wood.
“Hello,” I said quietly as I petted the door.
The door purred under my touch and I laughed.
“Hello,” he purred. “I’m Cahir.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, unable to hide my grin.
“Amazing,” I heard the Cambion mutter behind me.
I turned to look at him.
“You. I have never met anyone who’s first thought upon meeting Cahir was to pet him. He loves it, though. It’s one of his favorite things.”
Cahir’s purrs grew louder and I grinned.
“I couldn’t tell.”
Suddenly, Cahir was pulled open abruptly and we were faced with a perturbed creature. The first thing that struck me were his eyes. His pupils were white and what should have been the white’s were bright red. He only stood as tall as my elbow and had short, silvery-red hair. He wore red robes and probably would have put me in mind of a cherub with his round face and big eyes and overall dumpling-like qualities if not for the terrible scowl on his face. I could almost see flames leaping behind his eyes.
“Fenor Atan!” he snapped at the Cambion. “Where in Phyre’s name have you been? Do you realized how long I’ve been waiting?”
The Cambion, looking completely unfazed by the other’s anger, actually had the gall to pat the shorter creature on the head as he serenely walked past him.
“Now, now Quir. There’s no need for shouting.”
Quir followed Fenor angrily into the house and, after a wide-eyed moment, I followed the two into the entry way.
“You can’t keep putting this discussion off!” Quir was saying, well shouting.
“I wasn’t putting it off,” replied Fenor calmly. “I was going to avoid it entirely.”
“You can’t avoid it! You have to have an apprentice!”
“And now I do.”
“What do you mean?” demanded Quir with a frown.
“Just what I said. I went and got myself an apprentice. That’s how I’m avoiding this discussion entirely,” quipped Fenor.
“And just where is this apprentice, hm?”
Fenor nodded in my direction.
“Right there. Found her outside the Garden this morning.”
There was a moment of silence as Quir starred at me and I tried to work out what had just happened. Then it dawned on me.
A/N: Wow, three chapters in one week? I'm on a roll. Hope you all enjoyed this one too. :)