The Clock Tower Guardian Chapter 5
It was a library. But not just any library. No. This library stretched out beyond the light and was so vast I thought for sure I could easily get lost in it for days. There were magical lights that, sensing our presence, glowed brightest near us and dimmed when we didn’t need the light any more. The whole place smelled like worn bindings, old pages, and well read books.
It was magnificent. I was truly in heaven.
Fenor cleared his throat and I looked down at him. He was waiting impatiently at the bottom of the steps, watching me expectantly.
“Have you read all these?” I asked quietly, reverently, as I finished walking down the stairs.
My Master chuckled.
“Hardly. That would take a lifetime of doing nothing but reading. I’ve read quite a few of them though. This is where your education will start.”
He led me down one aisle and up another.
“Where will I even begin?” I asked myself quietly.
Fenor paused, picked a book, and handed it to me before moving down the next aisle to select a second and then a third. When I had seven books and was completely turned around and very lost, my Master led the way back out.
“Start with those,” he said as he began climbing the stairs. “When you’re done with them, find me and let me know. I’ll get you more.”
I followed him up.
“Then you’ll read those and I’ll get you more when you’re done.”
“Is that all I’ll be doing? Reading? What about real world application? Magic? The duties of a Guardian?”
Fenor stopped at the top of the stairs and faced me, hands on hips, with an exasperated look on his face and sighed.
“I can’t teach you anything until you learn a whole lot more than you already do. You don’t even know the basics and you’re already asking about application and duties. Oi,” he threw his hands up and stalked away. “Do you always ask so many questions?”
I watched him disappear upstairs and then looked back the way I had come. Well, if I was going to be doing nothing but reading for a good long while, I may as well be among the books. I headed back down the spiraling staircase and wove my way between the aisles of books until I found one of the cushioned chairs I had seen before. Setting my assigned pile down next to it, I made myself comfortable and picked up the top book which was entitled, ‘Magic: A Brief History’ and was about as thick as my arm.
Several hours later, my stomach growled at me and I realized that I hadn’t eaten yet today. Marking my place, I set the book in the chair and wove my way back toward the stairs. The house was quiet and I went into the kitchen, hoping to find something eatable and easy to make because I didn’t see myself trying out Fenor’s weird stove just yet.
Instead, I pulled open one of the doors on the... what had he called it? A refrigerator? Yeah, that was it. I was hit by a cold blast of air and I jumped a bit in surprise. Well, he had said that it was to keep food cold, so logically the inside would have to be kept cold too. Poking through the contents, I found meat and cheese and bread. A sandwich. I could do that.
I quickly threw it together, put the food back in the refrigerator, and returned to the library to continue my reading. Sometime that night I fell asleep and when I woke the next morning, I was groggy, though well rested, and curled up in the chair. I stretched and yawned, reaching for the book, which had fallen off my lap and onto the floor. I only had about a hundred pages left to read.
My days fell into this pattern. I would read until I was hungry. Then I would get food and coffee, which was always ready in the pot when I got to the kitchen, and then I would take the food with me to continue the reading. At night I would fall asleep at some point and wake up the next morning in the chair to start all over again.
This went on for six days until I had almost finished the first batch of books my Master had assigned. Then on the seventh morning, I woke to find Fenor, dressed in a green and white robe, standing over me with an amused grin.
“So this is where you’ve been.”
I sat up, rubbing my eyes sleepily and picking up the fallen book. Fenor plucked it from my hand.
“Hey!” I said indignantly.
My Master checked where I was in the book and looked over the top of it at me and then to the pile next to me.
“Have you read these already?”
“Well, yes. That’s what I was told to do.”
He closed the book with a snap and tossed it onto the top of the pile.
“Good to know you can listen occasionally.”
Then he put his hands on his hips, trying to hide a smile.
“You realized there is a set of rooms specifically for the apprentice, right?”
“Why would I know that? You never said anything and I haven’t seen you in almost a week.”
“Hm. Good point. Well, come along.”
Fenor grabbed my wrist and dragged me up, to be pulled behind him up the stairs and all the way up to the second floor. The hallways upstairs matched the ones downstairs with wood floors and blue walls. He dragged me down the hall to the third door on the left, opened it, and shoved me in.
“Here are your official rooms. Take a bath and change.”
Then the door closed behind me and I whirled around, eyes wide.
“What the hell?!” I hollered at the door. “You can’t just push people around like that!”
Receiving no answer and not really expecting one, I sighed and turned back to actually look at the room. The carpet was a deep blue and the walls were a light blue-grey with white curtains and trim. A large canopy bed was set off to the left, done up in white and light blue. There was a large window to the right of it and a desk and chair set on the right wall. A dresser stood by the bed and a closet door was on the wall next to that.
There was a door next to the desk on the wall to my right. I moved to open it and discovered a bathroom done in white and gold with tile floor, a shower, a deep bathtub, sink, and toilet. A linen closet was to the right and a curtained window to the left.
Very suddenly I realized just how dirty I really was. I had traveled on foot for over a week in the woods and then I had spent another week sitting in the giant library in the basement. Perhaps a bath really was a good idea. Or maybe a shower. Or both.
I started the shower first, quickly stripping and washing the dirt away. That had been a good idea because for a while the water was an ugly brown color as it went down the drain. When the water was clear again and I had been thoroughly soaped and shampooed, I turned off the shower and started filling the tub instead. It would be nice to relax for a while.
As I lay back in the full tub, I sighed contentedly. This was heaven, to lay here in the bath and not have to do anything. Back at the palace, I never had a nice bath for myself so sometimes, late at night, I would sneak into an unoccupied guest room and take one. There was always the fear of getting caught that kept me on edge during those baths, so being able to completely relax was something entirely new.
I languished for quite some time, thinking over what I had read the past few days. ‘Magic: A Brief History’ had actually been quite brief, despite the length of the book, and the second book had given brief lessons on all the magical species in this world.
The third book had been about humans. It seemed like such a strange world compared to ours and the humans themselves such an odd species. I wanted to know more about them and I intended to as soon as possible.
The fourth book had been about Incubus, Succubus, and Cambions. I assumed he had chosen this book specifically so I would have less questions to ask him personally. Or perhaps because it had been my first line of questioning with him and he had remembered that.
Book five had been a further study on the species of this world, specifically those with water affiliations such as Nixies, Nyads, Selkies, and the like. Book six had been a novel based on Fairy stories and legend. Why he had chosen that book for me to study was beyond me, but I had enjoyed it nonetheless. The last book had been about shape changers. An odd choice, but I wasn’t about to complain. I was thrilled to be leaning so much and to have so much knowledge at my fingertips. If Fenor hadn’t found me and made me bathe and change, it was quite likely I would have been down there for several weeks before I noticed my need for a bath.
When I began to look as wrinkly as an elder, I slowly climbed out of the bath and let it drain while I toweled off. Wrapping the towel around myself, I went to see if there was anything in the wardrobe for me to wear.
Opening the closet, I gasped. I had never had such nice clothes. there were silk and cotton robes in every color of the rainbow with a multitude of designs. I gently reached out and ran my hand through them. They were certainly real enough. I moved to the dresser and began opening drawers. I discovered underwear and pants made from a blue material I didn’t know the name of and soft cotton shirts that I had never seen the make of.
With a shrug and refusing to over think it, I put on the underwear and chose a pair of the odd blue pants to wear. They were surprisingly comfortable and seemed like they would hold up under a lot of wear and tear. Then I chose a short white robe with golden butterflies on it and tied it around myself.
There was a mirror above the dresser and various brushes, combs, clips, ties, and makeups strewn across the top of the dresser in no particular order. Poking through the random assortment of accessories, I found a brush and managed to work out the knots in my auburn locks. That accomplished, I ran my fingers through it, pulling it all back, and used the first ribbon that came to hand to tie it in place.
Glancing in the mirror and giving myself a good-enough nod, I looked over at the closet again. Then I looked down at my bare feet and back at the closet once more. I made a face and decided shoes were too much of a hassle.
That decided, I headed for the door and poked my head out into the hallway. The house was quiet. Creeping silently to the staircase, I paused and looked up at the darkened third floor. I was curious as to what exactly was up there, but my gut told me that wandering around in this house and poking my nose into places I hadn’t been invited was a bad, possibly even dangerous, thing to do. Best to ere on the side of caution.
Silently, I headed down to the first floor. I paused about halfway down, hearing voices talking quietly and listened. It sounded like my Master and a female.
“Where is he?” demanded the female, full of authority and displeasure.
“I told you, my apprentice will be along shortly, Razana,” replied Fenor in a placating tone.
That was odd. He hadn’t corrected her about my gender.
“Go get him, Fenor,” growled the female, Razana.
“Now, now, beautiful--”
There was a noise of sudden movement, a thud of a body hitting something solid, and then a brief choking sound. Razana growled so low I almost didn’t catch the words.
“Atan, you know better than to call me anything but my name. Do it again and I will do worse than put you in a chock hold.
I slipped silently down a few more steps to see what was going on and leaned casually on the railing as I watched.
Fenor was backed up against a wall in the hallway, caught in the one-handed chock hold of a female Battle Gnome. Unlike their better known cousins, the Garden Gnomes, Battle Gnomes were not sweet faced, foot-high creatures with white beards and red mushroom cone hats. No, Battle Gnomes were fierce, powerful, magical creatures.
This particular Battle Gnome was about a head shorter than Fenor with long blonde-green hair that fell freely to her waist. It was actually moving as though it was being caught in a light breeze but I could tell that it was angry magic quite literally coming off of her. Like all Gnomes, her face was sweetly heart shaped, but her features were set in a dangerous scowl. She big green eyes and pointed ears. Her limbs were lithe and muscled and she was barefoot, wearing what looked like a short dress of woven vines crossed with polished silver armor. The armor covered her arms and legs as well and there was a polished sword hanging from her right hip by a vine and armor belt.
My Master may not have been very smart to say it out loud apparently, but she was very beautiful. Feeling I should probably break some of the tension in the room, I clearly my throat quietly and both their heads whipped around in my direction. Fenor’s face was slightly relieved and then worried, but the Battle Gnome, after a moment of surprise, returned to the original scowl.
“Please don’t kill him,” I said to her. “He hasn’t really taught me enough for me to take over as a Guardian just yet.”
She blinked once and then asked in a deadpan voice.
“You’re the apprentice?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
Razana looked back at Fenor, her face getting darker by the moment.
“That is your apprentice?”
Fenor, now looking a bit afraid, tried to nod but found he couldn’t since she still had ahold of him.
“Yes,” he managed to chock out.
She tightened her grip, eyes blazing.
“That is your apprentice?!”
Fenor was now looked terrified and getting a little red around the edges from lack of oxygen.
“Why is that a bad thing?” I interjected, feeling a bit insulted at her reaction.
Razana flexed her fingers around his neck and then abruptly let go. Fenor slid to the floor, panting and rubbing his neck. The Battle Gnome looked at me.
“It’s a bad thing, because I made this womanizer swear to me that he would never take on a female apprentice, but apparently that slipped his mind.”
“Why would you make him swear to that?” I asked, confused.
“Because I don’t trust him around women,” she replied, shooting a deadly glare in the Cambion’s direction.
“Well, I can take care of myself, thank you,” I said, crossing my arms and suppressing a laugh. “Who are you anyway?”
The Battle Gnome stood a bit straighter, looking a bit offended that I didn’t know.
“Have you taught her anything at all, Atan?” she demanded before turning back to me with a gentler expression. “I am Razana Cor, Guardian of the Eastern Gate.”
She motioned me down, her initial fury fading quickly, and when I was off the stairs she put a hand on each of my shoulders so that I was facing her, and looked at me with a serious expression.
“Has he tried anything?”
I made a disgusted face.
“No, and he won’t.”
She gave me a confused look.
“Because I told him straight out what I’d do if he did.”
A huge grin broke out over Razana’s face like the sun bursting out from behind the clouds. With a friendly slap on the back, she laughed.
“Good girl! I like you. But don’t you ever hesitate to punch him out if he does.”
She winked at me and I chuckled.
“No worries there.”
“You’ve seen her,” said Fenor, who had gotten to his feet and was crossing his arms. “Now, was there some other reason for your visit, or can I show you the door?”
Razana shot him a look and then linked her arm through mine.
“Actually, I think I’ll have your new apprentice walk me out. Give us a little girl talk time.”
Razana matched Fenor’s scowl and then looked away with an air of superiority, dragging me along with her as she walked sedately out the door.
A/N: Hmm that chapter took a turn I wasn't expecting to write. Ah well. I think it'll work. Hope you guys enjoyed. :)