The Clock Tower Guardian Chapter 7
“And what do you call what I’ve had you doing for the past week?” Fenor demanded as he wiped coffee from his chin.
“That’s not teaching, that’s self-study,” I shot back. “I need to know what it is you do all day. What do you do anyway? What do Guardians in general do? How do you get to the human world? What’s out there in the Garden?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” he cut in, holding up a hand and glaring a bit. “You’ve been here and week and you’re demanding to know all the secret ins and outs of the world of Guardians? Just who do you think you are?”
I stood a little taller, hands on my hips, and looked at him darkly.
“I’m your apprentice,” I growled and then continued before he could stop me. “What if you die tomorrow? Who would take over? Certainly not me. I don’t know the first thing about any of this. And what about the things the other Guardians don’t know because they’re specific to this Gate? Is there some sort of secret book stashed away that would give me all the answers or would we all just be screwed with more knowledge lost forever?”
Fenor opened his mouth to snap right back at me, paused, and then slowly closed his mouth. Then I went on in a slightly gentler voice.
“You may not be taking this apprentice thing seriously, but I am. Teach me. I need to know and you’re the only one who can help me understand.”
He sighed and set his mug down with a clunk.
“Razana was right,” he muttered, touching his bruised neck at the name. “Never should have taken on a girl.”
My Master glanced back up at me to see I was still waiting expectantly. He sighed and turned to the cabinet, bringing down a second mug to fill with coffee. He poured in a generous amount of creamer as well before sliding it across the counter towards me. I caught it and looked at him curiously. He ignored my look as he took a seat at the table and motioned me to join him.
“Drink your coffee,” he ordered in a low voice as he starred out the window into the back of the Garden.
I did as instructed, sipping carefully because it was hot. My Master ignored me, lost in thought as he drank his, and I decided that interrupting seemed rude. I chose to believe he was thinking over what I had said.
Finally, he sighed and glanced over at me.
“Finish up. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Apparently you’re insisting on having a Take Your Apprentice To Work Day, and so you’re going to get it,” he said, then paused and added in an undertone. “Even though I seriously doubt you’ll understand half of what is going on.”
I sat up a little straighter, surprised that it had taken so little effort.
“Really? You’ll show me what you do all day?”
He nodded absently as he finished off his coffee. I followed suit quickly as he stood, not wanting him to change his mind and leave me behind for being slow. I made up my mind right then and there, as I followed him out of the kitchen and into the hall that I was going to pay attention to everything and not miss a single detail, even if I didn’t understand it at the time. I was here to learn and learn I would.
Unexpectedly, Fenor didn’t lead me to the front door or downstairs to the library, but instead he headed up the stairs. Curious, I followed silently as I was led up to the third floor. I hesitated only a moment before taking the last few steps and then I paused.
In front of me stood a door. There were a few feet of wooden floor between it and the top step of the stairs, but nothing else. The door itself was of the same wood as the doors on the second floor and the walls on either side of it were plain, unpainted wood of the same hue. However, there was one odd thing about the door. In the middle of it, right about chest height, was a circle with a knob in the center. Around the circle were painted five colors; black, yellow, white, red, and blue. Above the topmost color was painted a downward arrow.
Fenor turned the knob in the center of the circle so that the black was under the arrow and then glanced back at me.
“What is it?” I couldn’t help but ask.
Without a word, he turned back to the door and opened it slowly. He went in and I followed.
The room was all black. Black walls hung with black silks, a low black table surrounded by black cushions, and a lush black carpet. It was lit by the same magical lights as the library and the room was a large circle with not a single corner to it.
My Master closed the door behind me and took a seat at the low table, which was covered by a neat stack of books, several vials, a tray of paints, a large wooden board covered in circles and symbols, and several small bags containing what I had no idea. Without waiting for an invitation, I sat in one of the cushions opposite him and watched.
He pulled the board in front of him and began tracing certain circles and symbols in an order only he knew as he began chanting under his breath. I could tell it was chanting because there was a certain cadence to it, even though I couldn’t hear what the chant was. The symbols and circles began to glow as he traced them and, slowly, he closed his eyes, getting lost in the magic, though his hands never faltered. At the end of each set of circles and symbols, he would double tap the last piece in the set before moving on to the next one. This went on for a good while and I counted nineteen different patterns, if I had counted correctly.
As he finished the last one, he sighed and opened his eyes, pushing the board away once more.
“What was all that?” I couldn’t help but ask finally. “And what is this room? Why are there different colors on the door? What were you chanting? What do all those symbols mean? What is the board for?”
My Master sighed heavily and looked at me with a weary gaze.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” he muttered to himself. “Doesn’t know a single thing that’s going on.”
“Well maybe I would if you bothered explaining anything ever,” I snapped, annoyed that I was expected to know everything, even though he knew how narrow my education had been. “That’s part of being a teacher. You have to explain everything so that I know what’s going on, regardless of how dull it is for you.”
I crossed my arms and glared across the table at him. He sighed again and reached to put the board in the center of the table once more.
“This is a Seal Board,” he explained. “The Guardian of the North is in charge of Seals and as such, is required to check all the major magic Seals on a regular basis. That includes the Seals between the worlds. This board makes it easier to keep track of them and check up on them because each set of circles and symbols represents one of them so all I have to do is chant and do a quick check rather than working up an individual spell for each.”
“And what about the door? And why is this room all black?”
He sighed laboriously and set the board down, folding his hands on the table in front of him.
“Each of the Five Guardians has certain magics associated with them. The Northern Guardian, as I said, is in charge of Seals and is usually associated water and the color black. Quir, being the Guardian of the Southern Gate, is in charge of Destruction Magics, mostly to do with fire and red. The Southern Guardian is what you might consider the bodyguard or bouncer.”
“Bouncer?” I repeated, picturing a bouncing Quir in my head and giving Fenor a very confused look.
“Ah,” he said, waving his hand to dismiss the thought irritably. “Human term. Nevermind, I’m not going into it now. He’s like the muscle of the Five Guardians.”
I nodded and he continued.
“The Eastern Gate, which is Razana’s Gate, is the Creation Magics, mostly pertaining to green woodsy things.”
He moved on hurriedly.
“The Western Gate, who’s Guardian you haven’t met yet, is associated with white and metal. He deals with the Battle Magics, so if we ever went to war against something, he would be leading the charge. Then the Central Gate deals with Transformation Magics and is all yellow and earthy.”
I detected a shudder from him at the thought but he moved on before I could ask.
“Now, the door there,” he said, pointing over my shoulder. “You noticed the five colors on the wheel? Well, as I said, each magic has a color associated with it and those are the colors on the wheel. Standing outside the door and turning the wheel to a different color will change what room you walk into. This room,” he gestured around us. “Is meant for Sealing magics, hence the black decor. If you wanted to work with Creation Magics, you would turn to the dial to green and you would find that room in place of this one. Make sense?”
“Yes, but how does that work? And why do you need separate rooms?”
His shoulders slumped and he starred across the table at me, deadpan for a moment.
“Do you ever run out of questions?”
I gave him a cheeky smile.
“Not that I’ve discovered.”
Fenor drew in a deep breath and sat up a little straighter before he began speaking again.
“Separate rooms are needed just in case something goes wrong. It makes it safer for whoever else might be in the House.”
“So, if something goes wrong and I’m elsewhere in the House, I would be fine and you would be...?”
“Maimed. Dead. It depends on what exactly I was doing, but you wouldn’t feel any effects from it. Only someone in the room at the time would.
“As for how it works, having five different rooms exist all in the same place at once--”
“Different dimensions,” I cut in.
He pulled up short, blinking at me for a moment.
“Huh. Well, you aren’t stupid, I already knew that. Yes, different dimensions, and the door acts like an anchor, holding a tie to each one and keeping it in place for when it’s needed. The wheel directs the door as to which one to reel in.”
I nodded, resting my elbows on the table and my chin on my hands.
“Got it. So what else do you do with your day, other drink coffee and check Seals? Cause it looks like that took about an hour with all my pestering.”
“It depends on the day. Each day as a Guardian is different. Sometimes, the other Guardians need you and sometimes someone from one or both of the worlds needs you. Then there are some days when you’re almost not needed at all. I always hope for those days.”
He added the last under his breath and I raised an eyebrow at him. He met my gaze and rolled his eyes.
“Trust me, if you ever make it to being a Guardian and I ever retire, you’ll know exactly what I mean.”
I shrugged as if to say ‘we’ll see’.
“How many apprentices to the other Guardians have?”
“Hm,” Fenor looked up and away, counting in his head. “Razana has seven and none of them ever seem good enough to please her as far as I’ve been able to tell. Quir has three and they’re all related to him one way or another.”
“Salamanders are a very close knit bunch and the position of Southern Guardian has turned into a sort of hereditary thing. All the families send their best and brightest every generation to the current Southern Guardian and he trains them and choses the best when he retires. Far as I know, half of them don’t even want the position, but it’s a huge honor to be chosen as one of the apprentices, so no one turns it down.”
“Are they forced to take it then?”
“Oh no,” said Fenor, shaking his head. “It wouldn’t do to force someone to take the position because they wouldn’t do a decent job of it and would probably muddle everything. The Guardian is always very careful about choosing the best one who wants it.”
“So, was the original Southern Guardian a Salamander too?”
My Master shrugged.
“No idea. The records don’t say, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been.”
I nodded, thinking.
“And the other Guardians? What about their apprentices?”
“Well, the Guardian of the Central Gate, who is usually considered the leader of us Five, currently has four apprentices but doesn’t look to be retiring anytime soon.”
He paused, as though he thought he had answered my question or that I wouldn’t catch the fact that he had left one Guardian out. Clearly he didn’t want me to ask about the last Guardian, but I had to know, and not just because of my curiosity. I had to know about fellow Guardians and apprentices and if my Master didn’t want to tell me about something, I felt that was all the more reason why I needed to know.
“What about the Guardian of the Western Gate?” I asked quietly.
He sighed heavily and looked away to stare at the black curtains on the black walls. After a long moment, in which I was afraid he wouldn’t answer me at all, he sighed again and looked back at me, face dark with warning.
“If you ever meet him, don’t you dare repeat a word I am about to say.”
I sat up a little, hands dropping to my lap as I looked at my Master, a bit alarmed.
He nodded and continued.
“He is a dangerous creature and I was entirely against him becoming the Western Guardian, but I had no say in the matter and there was no one else to take over. The last Guardian apparently died in his sleep and the other apprentice ran off. I don’t believe Trobir died peacefully in his sleep and I would stake my life on the other apprentice having been run off rather than voluntarily leaving.”
“What’s so dangerous about him?” I asked quietly, frowning.
“He’s insane,” my Master said, just as quietly. “Utterly insane. The others think it’s the harmless sort of insanity that shows itself in a bunch of odd quirks, but I know better. He’s as harmless as Siren and I’m sure just as deadly. Be very careful if you ever meet him. He’s extremely powerful, more so than any of the rest of us.”
I felt a shudder run up my spine.
“Does he have an apprentice?”
Fenor nodded sadly.
“Yes, two, and I’m not sure that they’re not just as crazy as he is, but I’ve never actually met either of them, so I don’t know for sure.”
We sat in silence for a moment before I spoke quietly.
“You realize that if I ever become a Guardian, I’ll have to meet him eventually, right?”
“I know, and I hope he never does anything like I fear he will.”
I took a deep breath and slowly let it out, absorbing everything and storing it away. I wouldn’t worry about it. Yes, I would heed my Master’s warning in the future, but right now I had other things I needed to know while I had Fenor talking. I looked up, meeting his gaze, and nodded.
“Noted. So, tell me about the human world.”
“Tell you about it?” he repeated.
Fenor got a gleam in his eye and I sat up, worried at the mischief I saw there.
“Tell you about it?” he repeated again. “Oh no, my dear, there is no telling about it. That’s something that has to be shown.”
My Master jumped up, grabbed my hand, and pulled me after him as he headed out the door. He practically ran down the stairs, dragging me behind him the whole way, and then stopped abruptly in front of Cahir. He turned an eager gaze on me, gleam still in his eye.
“Now this is something you need to see. Pay attention.”
He began chanting quietly and touching certain symbols in some sort of order that I did my best to remember. A sudden, soft glow came from the doorframe and my Master looked over his shoulder at me with a mischievous wink.
He threw open Cahir and grabbed my hand again, pulling me out the Door. I managed to close Cahir and waved to him as I was dragged along.
“Why can’t you tell me about it?” I asked as Master hurried me along eagerly.
“Because the human world is so utterly different from the magic world and yet completely the same, there is no possible way to simply tell about it without taking years and years to do so. Better to just show it to you than try and explain.”
I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, like I had earlier, and pulled my Master to a sudden halt, pointing in the direction I had seen it.
“What is that?”
“Oh, girl, is this really the time for trees? I’m about to show you a world you’ve never seen before and you’re asking me about foliage?” my Master demanded, looking a bit put out. “I would have thought someone with as many questions as you would have been more eager than that.”
“No, no, no,” I said, pointing again. “Not the trees. What’s in the trees? What’s moving around in the Garden? I can’t get a clear look at them.”
“Ah, the Guardians of the Grounds? I honestly don’t know what or who they are. They’ve simply always been here. I can’t say I’ve ever tried to find out just what they are.”
I pulled a face, not too happy with that reply, and Fenor shrugged.
“I was never as full of questions as you seem to be. Come along.”
As we reached the iron gates, I caught strange images on the other side and above the wall. There were odd noises that I couldn’t place as well and I frowned in confusion. Fenor let go of my hand and walked to the gates, before looking back at my confused face. Then he grinned.
“Apprentice, welcome to the human world.”
A/N: Please do feel free to ask me explanatory questions that I may not have made clear or didn't bring up. I always feel like I'm going to miss something when I'm writing lengthy explanations like this. Lol. And on to write the next chapter! Thanks for reading guys! :)