The Clock Tower Guardian Chapter 8
Fenor swung the gate open and walked out. I followed, but one step out of the Garden and I froze with an involuntary gasp. My eyes went wide as they tried to take in everything at once and my mouth hung open in shock.
It wasn’t as though the sky were some crazy color or everyone was walking around naked. No, nothing like that, but I suddenly understood what Fenor had meant when he said it was ‘so utterly different from the magic world and yet completely the same’. There was no truer way to describe it.
I had almost never gone down to the city when I was in the Elven Kingdoms, mostly because of how unwelcome I would have been, but I had gone two very unfortunate times. I remembered both vividly and that was the nearest thing I could come up with when my mind searched for some sort of parallel to anchor itself to.
The city had been full of elves going about their business on the streets, which were packed full of stalls selling various wares. Behind those stalls had been actual shops and houses and theaters and schools.
This place was much like that. There were no stalls in the streets that I could see offhand, but there were buildings lining the streets. The buildings! Some were low, some were so tall they almost touched the sky, some were wide, and some were even oddly shaped. The tall, tall, tall ones were made of metal and glass. I could tell because they gleamed in the sunlight. The lower ones were usually of brick. There were signs hanging from every building, just as it had been in the Elven city, proclaiming what each building was for.
The streets were paved down the sides for the people and in the center were marked lanes for the oddest things I had ever seen. They were metal contraptions on wheels that held people as they zoomed noisily past us at speeds that had me gulping in fear for the humans.
Then the colors! Oh such colors! There was plenty of the bland black and tan and white and grey, but then I would spot one wearing the brightest shade of pink or the oddest shade of green I had never seen and I would have to pause for a moment just to stare. Even the occasional building would have been bedecked with such a blue that it made me wonder how they had gotten it that shade.
But the humans themselves! It was so odd to finally see them in person. They were all colors. They ranged in sizes and heights but they all very nearly resembled elves, minus the pointed ears. I wasn’t sure just what I had been expecting humans to look like, but not that. Perhaps I was expecting something more exotic and rather less close to home, but the humans had two eyes on either side of a nose with a mouth below that and two ears right where they should be. Arms and legs with fingers and toes and hair on top of their heads, and other places.
It was the clothes that threw me the most, I think. Many of them wore shirts like the ones I had found in my drawers and pants of the strange blue fabric like the ones I wore. There were skirts so short I wondered how the girls bent over in them and outfits that made the person look very stuffy and serious, even just walking down the street.
I probably could have stayed there all day, just watching, but Fenor cleared his throat and brought my attention back to him. I opened my mouth to say something and then shook my head, looking around once more trying to take it all in. My Master chuckled.
“I know. Quite a culture shock, isn’t it?”
I nodded mutely, watching a pair of heavily tattooed males walk down the other side of the street. Fenor tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention again and my head snapped in his direction.
“Come on. Can’t stand here all day.”
My Master took my hand and put it in the crook of his arm as he started walking so I would keep up with him as I continued looking around. We walked silently for several minutes as I was preoccupied with trying to see everything and it was only my Master’s careful watch and hold on my hand that kept me from running into something every other moment. Finally, Fenor sighed.
“Can you please stop trying to take everything in at once? You look like you’re about to snap your neck craning it around like that.”
I paused my observations long enough to look over at my Master, eyes alight with the newness of everything.
“I can’t,” I told him with a grin. “If I do I might miss something and I’ll regret it forever.”
“Well you look ridiculous,” he muttered with a slight frown.
“Don’t be such an old man,” I shot back, sticking my tongue out at him before getting distracted by the display in the window of a dress shop.
I heard him sigh and ignored it.
“So where are we going? Or are we just walking around? How do they get those metal buildings to stand so tall? What do the tattoos on those males mean? How do they get along without magic? What are those metal contraptions on the road? How do they go so fast? Do they get sick going that speed?”
“I liked you better when you were silent in awe,” muttered Fenor with a sigh. “Me and my big mouth.”
I glanced up at him, waiting, having figured out that he would answer at least one of the questions, regardless of how put out he acted. He glanced down at me, saw my expectant face, and rolled his eyes with another sigh.
“Those metal buildings are called skyscrapers,” he said finally, choosing his topic. “The humans have all sorts of machines they’ve created to make their lives easier without magic. Certain machines help them make those buildings. Those ‘metal contraptions’ as you called them are cars. Humans use them in place of flying carpets and portals and other forms of magical transportation.”
“So they wouldn’t get sick then, since they’re used to it,” I said to myself, answering my own question.
“Well, most of them,” said my Master.
“It must be pretty inconvenient to not have portals or anything like that,” I mused. “Being forced to go a slower route can’t be any fun.”
“I suppose they’re used to it. Besides, they don’t know any differently. To their knowledge, they’ve never had anything of the kind, expect in their sci-fi, and you can’t miss something you’ve never had.”
“Sci-fi?” I repeated, looking at my Master in confusion.
He waved his hand vaguely.
“It’s short for science fiction and it’s exactly what it sounds like; fictional science.”
I nodded, distracted for a moment by a very small, fluffy dog who had been stuffed into a large pink bag slung over the shoulder of a red haired woman. Then I noticed the woman’s feet and couldn’t help but stare, wondering how those totteringly high shoes with their thin little sticks supporting her heels could possibly be walked in.
“So,” I said after she had disappeared around a corner. “They don’t remember us at all?”
“Who? The humans?” My Master shook his head. “The most they know about us is nothing more than a bunch of fairy tales.”
“I don’t understand,” I said, frowning. “I had always heard that the tales the Fairies told were true and some of the most wonderful things to listen to. Why would the humans disregard them?”
Fenor sighed laboriously, shoulders slumping a bit.
“Because to the humans fairy tales are no more than whimsical bedtime stories told to children.”
I starred at my Master, aghast, mouth hanging open. He glanced down at me and rolled his eyes at my expression. Then he glanced up and down the street quickly, saw that none of the ‘cars’ were coming at us, and pulled me across. We didn’t stop at the sidewalk though. Fenor pulled me along, right into the shop in front of us and as the doors swung open and I got a look at what was inside, my eyes widened in delight.
The store was full of books. Human books.
There were a few humans milling about, picking at the shelves, and a couple others seated at tables by the windows, reading and drinking coffee. My Master didn’t hesitate as we continued through the room to the back of the store where he paused to begin scanning the shelves in front of us. I watched him, confused.
“Ah!” he said quietly in triumph as he selected a slim volume and handed it over to me. “These are what humans think of as fairy tales.”
Curiously, I opened to the first story and began reading. It was entitled ‘The Frog Prince’ and featured a talking frog, a princess, and a kiss from said princess that turned the frog into a prince. The next was about a princess with extremely long hair who was rescued by a prince from a witch who was keeping her in a tower and the girl’s name was ‘Rapunzel’. After that came ‘Cinderella’, a girl who went to a ball and became a princess by marrying the prince, and then was ‘Sleeping Beauty’ where the princess, cursed by an evil witch, falls asleep until the prince wakes her with a kiss.
I stopped reading and looked up at my Master, who was watching my face. I knew my eyes must be wide with shock.
“This is what they think fairy tales are?” I asked quietly. “This drivel about princes rescuing princesses? What about the Fairies and the Fae? What about magic? What about nature and history?”
My Master was shaking his head slowly as he took the book from my limp fingers.
“Humans haven’t know the truth about us for thousands of years,” he said quietly as he replaced the book. “The stories were passed down and deluded for so long that princes and princesses are all that’s left of them now and no one believes them anymore. It’s beyond rare to find a human who actually believes in magic or magical creatures and it’s better that way.”
There was a long moment of silence between us as my Master watched me try and find my voice.
“Why?” came my quiet voice eventually, with the only question I could manage to find.
Fenor paused, a bit surprised at the single word question and the lack of anything following. Then his expression changed, softening and saddening. He took my question into serious consideration for a moment, choosing his words carefully for me. When he spoke, it was softly and gently.
“Humans are a destructive race. If they believed, truly believed, that we existed or knew the truth of their history, they would try to get back to us. That would end in the worst possible way. The whole reason the two worlds were Sealed away from each other was so that their whole race wouldn’t have to be destroyed. They were bringing war down on innocent heads and they refused to stop their destructive cycle, even when it was made clear to them that their race would be destroyed if they continued down the path they were on. The only options were to kill them all or Seal them away. The original Five chose the merciful path and Sealed them away. The worlds must never be reunited. It would caused unthinkable damage to both humans and magical creatures and begin the wars anew.”
“That’s horrible,” I whispered, dropping my gaze to the floor.
There was a moment of silence between us before Fenor grabbed my hand and put it back on his arm, pulling me back toward the front of the shop.
“Come along then. Enough of the dreary history.”
As he led the way to the door, he paused for a moment and looked over my head, suddenly serious. I felt a chill go up my spine, feeling there was someone watching us. Slowly, I turned around to see what he was looking at and my gaze met a pair of cloudy grey eyes. They were set in a tanned face with a shock of dark, messy hair above it. He must have been a several years younger than me and next to him, sitting at the same table, was his twin.
Both of them were watching us. I met the other twin’s eyes and discovered the same clouds, as though both had something they were hiding behind their gaze. I was about to open my mouth and ask the questions forming in the forefront of my mind, but I felt my Master put his hand over mine on his arm and pull me out of the store.
“What was that?” I asked.
Fenor was frowning.
“Something,” he said quietly, as though he were speaking to himself. “It was something. A future something. Have to keep an eye out for it. There’s something about those two. We’re going to see them again.”
I frowned lightly in confusion and threw a glance over my shoulder. One of them was sitting by the window, watching us go. I met his gaze and held it until Fenor pulled me around a corner and he was lost to sight. Turning back to my Master, I let the questioning bombardment begin.
“How do you know we’re going to see them again?”
“I can sense it.”
My Master sighed.
“I just can. You’ll learn to eventually. I guess.”
“But who are they? Why would we have to keep an eye on humans?”
“I don’t know who they but they’re only mostly human. That’s why we have to keep an eye on them.”
“Only mostly human?” I repeated, starring at Fenor in surprise. “How is that? And how do you know?”
My Master gave a long weary sigh, finally glancing down at me.
“I can just sense it. Full humans give off a different feel than those who are only partially human.”
I waited a moment for an answer to my other question but when it wasn’t forthcoming, I asked again.
“How are they only mostly human? The worlds have been separated for thousands of years, you said. Shouldn’t any magical genes have been deluded out of existence by now?”
“Yes,” Fenor said darkly, not looking at me. “They should have been, and that is exactly the problem. For them to have magic in them, the magical creature would have had to have gotten through the Gates at some point in the past few generations. That’s a very bad thing. A very bad thing indeed. NORTH is not going to like it if they find out.”
“Do you answer to NORTH?” I asked.
NORTH or the New Order of the Reformed Temple of Heparzat, didn’t have a single thing to do with temples or priests or religion or even Heparzat. It had, over the thousands of years the worlds had been separate, become the major governing body of the magical world. It didn’t interfere with the set governments each race had for itself, but acted as more of an overseer, settling disputes between races, dealing with problems that could effect multiple races or the world as a whole, and generally keeping the peace so the world could run as smoothly as possible.
“No,” snapped Fenor, glaring down at me with such ferocity that I actually shrank back a bit. “I do not answer to that scum of the world and I never will.”
He stopped and pointed a finger right at my face, eyes locked on mine.
“Remember this. Don’t ever forget it. You are not governed by NORTH, nor are you to take orders from them. You are a Guardian apprentice and someday probably a Guardian in your own right. They have no say over what you do or don’t do. They do not control your actions. Someday, they will try to sway you under their control, because that is what NORTH wants more than anything. They want absolute control of the world and the Guardians are the only ones standing between it and them. We are the only other force in the world that have the power to stand up to them and as such we are the only thing that can keep them from running rampant and doing whatever they want. We have our own rules and ways. The other Guardians are the only ones you answer to. Understand?”
I nodded, a bit shakily. I had never heard him speak so forcefully and it had a pretty scary effect. He looked at me a moment longer. Then, with a satisfied nod, he resumed walking, towing me along. It was several long moments before I felt safe to ask another question in a quiet voice.
“If you don’t answer to NORTH, then who do the Guardians answer to?”
“Ourselves and each other,” Fenor said shortly.
“And if you become corrupt?” I asked in a small voice, ready for another explosion.
My Master looked down at me fiercely for a moment before my question sank in and he sighed, muscles relaxing as he looked away once more. He took a moment, considering my question before he replied.
“I suppose it’s the same, no matter what kind of government you answer to,” he said quietly. “Eventually, they all become corrupt. The best we can do is not corrupt it ourselves and do our best to leave behind those who would do the same as we tried to do. It’s not perfect, but nothing is.”
I nodded slowly, rolling his words over in my mind.
“So, why would NORTH be upset if they found out? Are you not going to tell them?”
Fenor shook his head.
“No. I’m not. I’m going to find out on my own where the creature slipped through and deal with it as quietly as I can. Those boys are going to need looking after and NORTH would haul them in and probably execute them or keep them as lab rats somewhere. They don’t deserve that. Their parentage isn’t their fault.”
I smiled up at my Master, who gave me a sideways glance and frowned.
“Why are you grinning at me?” he demanded.
“Because, despite everything, you do care and you are a good person... even if you are a lousy and unwilling teacher.”
“I feel like I should be insulted by that...”
A/N: I cannot wait to get past this set up stuff. I'm glad you guys are enjoying it thus far though. Lol.