The Clock Tower Guardian NEW Chapter 5
Morning came with the tolling of the dawn bell.
I hadn’t slept at all.
I left the training room and headed for home, taking back roads to avoid the masses. Going in the backdoor, I met Isana in the hallway. She glared, but I didn’t pause to hear what she was going to say. I was too tired to care about her opinion any more.
As she opened her mouth, I closed the bathroom door in her face.
“Aaron!” she hollered through the door.
I turned on the water, undressed, and got in, letting the noise of the shower drown her out. She might be the oldest of my sisters, but I was still her older brother and I was not about to listen to any more of what she had to say. Especially not after what Nadia had heard she and Ambelaine saying.
I was done.
Clean, I turned off the water and tuned out Isana, who was still hollering on the other side of the door. I wrapped a towel around myself, picked up my dirty clothes, and opened the door, pushing past my obnoxious sister.
“Aaron!” I heard her yell again as I closed my bedroom door in her face.
One good thing about leaving was that I wouldn’t have to listen to the banshee holler at me anymore. She seemed absolutely convinced she’d never marry above an average miner now that her brother was disgracing the family by becoming a MAGI. Why that was her only concern, I didn’t really care, but it seemed a poor thing to hold in such high regard to me.
I set aside my plain cotton work clothes and heavy work boots. I wouldn’t be needing them anymore.
Turning to my closet, I opened it and pulled out the one outfit I had been waiting two months to put on; the pinstripe suit that was the uniform of the MAGI.
Setting it on the bed and turning to the mirror, I studied my beard for a long moment before looking down at the razor on my dresser. I had decided months ago to shave my beard when I left and had bought the razor just for the occasion. It had been a trick to find one, since Dwarves hardly ever used them. I knew it would shock anyone who saw me, but I wanted to do it. I wanted to show them that I was moving on from them, that I was really leaving, regardless of what they said.
Everyone knew a Dwarf’s beard was part of his pride, but I wasn’t simply a Dwarf anymore. I was a MAGI.
Picking up the razor, I carefully began to shave. It was something I had never done since Dwarves simply kept their beards trimmed, but I managed nonetheless. Once I had a smooth face, I pulled on the pinstripe suit and shiny black shoes, tied the tie, then smoothed down my hair.
Taking one last look at myself in the glass, I nodded. That was as good as it was going to get. My face felt bare, but my spirits lifted as I looked at my clean-shaven face. Yes, this was right.
I glanced around the room, not seeing anything I might want to take with me, so I left it all. NORTH would be providing what I needed as far as food, housing, and clothing was concerned, so I wasn’t worried about it.
Bracing myself for the unpleasant onslaught of my family, I opened my bedroom door.
Isana gasped, her mouth hanging open as I silently walked past her. She didn’t try and stop me. I think she was too shocked, seeing me without my beard, to actually say anything.
I went down the hallway and into the dining room where most of the family had gathered for breakfast. Dead silence fell as I entered. My father’s jaw dropped in outrage and my mother gasped. Reuel’s eyes went wide, Ambelaine looked as though she’d been slapped, and the twins stood frozen in place, equal looks of shock on their faces.
“You...” my father began to growl.
I turned my gaze to him, raising an eyebrow. His scowl deepened.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he finally managed.
“Leaving,” I replied evenly.
Moving forward, I reached the other side of the room in a few strides.
“Just like that?” he demanded. “You’re truly going through with this nonsense? Who do you think you are to defy me?”
Chief Barel stood up abruptly, pounding a meaty hand on the table in front of him. The dishes rattled and jumped. I sighed and looked over my shoulder with a grin.
“Who am I? I’m the black sheep of the Baerandor family of course.”
Then I was out of the room and headed toward to the main doors of our home. No more. I was done with all of them.
As the guards opened the doors for me, I didn’t even glance at them.
I paused and turned to see Nadia running toward me. She barreled into me, hugging tightly. I hugged her back as I felt her slip something into my pocket. She looked up at me and pulled a funny face.
“You look weird.”
I threw my head back and laughed.
I ruffled her hair and pulled away.
“Good luck, Nadia.”
“You too, brother.”
I gave her one last smile and turned away. I had to get to the Portal before my time window closed. The walk from the house to the Portal was a short one and only took a few minutes, but the time windows weren’t very long.
I didn’t slow to admire the city, housed in a massive underground cavern and shining with orb lights strung everywhere. Dwarves bustled along the streets, in and out of stone buildings and houses. The city was just beginning to wake. It was a sight I had seen every day of my life and one I didn’t plan on seeing again for a long time.
The Portal was housed in a small room set on one of the outer walls of Derdon. The operator was sitting behind his desk looking disgruntled with a rune board in front of him to activate the Portal. He barely even glanced up when I walked in.
“Aaron Baerandor,” I obliged, knowing perfectly well he knew who I was.
I had become rather infamous in the past couple months as rumors spread about my unpopular move to become a MAGI. Of course he knew who I was.
The Dwarf made a show of checking the Portal schedule on his clipboard. I waited patiently, not feeling it wise to antagonize the man who was running my transportation. After a very long minute, the Dwarf cleared his throat and glanced up.
“Yeah, I gotcha here.”
He touched a couple of runes and the Portal came to life. First the lights came up around the metal circle at the top of the ramp. Then it slowly began to fill with water, swirling in a circle until the whole thing was filled and reflecting the light-water.
“Get going then,” he said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.
“Thanks,” I said, sarcasm dripping from the word.
Before he could reply, if he meant to, I mounted the ramp and stepped into the shining vortex. The watery light embraced me and I felt the tug as it pulled me through toward the headquarters of NORTH.
The light melted away from me and I stepped out onto the ramp on the other side.
The place was bustling with creatures of all species in pinstripe suits. I had to check myself to keep my eyes from popping out of my head. I had never seen so many different races in one place before. Though I had rarely been anywhere but the Dwarven Halls, I had seen my fair share of species, just never in this volume.
A Sprite with a clipboard in one hand hurried past as a Gryphon in a suit prowled off the other direction. There were Wizards strolling, Fairies flying, Nyads gliding, Dryads skipping, even an Elf jogging by in a hurry.
It took me a moment to take it all in as I looked around at the high arching ceilings, tall columns, and stone walls. It had once been part of an old temple, but now it was full of modern technology and magic runes.
As I continued to stare around, I noticed a Dwarf standing at the end of the ramp, arms crossed and foot tapping impatiently as he watched me. He had snowy white hair and a long white beard that fell to his belt. He was about four and a half feet tall, average for a Dwarf, and despite his age he was broad and fit. He looked tough, like a boulder.
“You done gawking?” he asked gruffly.
“Yes, sorry. Are you my overseer?”
“You see anyone else waiting for you?”
“No, sir,” I replied.
He grunted and uncrossed his arms.
“I’m Prothos Derodon.”
“You’re Prothos Derodon?” I couldn’t help but repeat, knowing my face was showing my surprise.
Prothos Derodon was the last Dwarf to have become a MAGI. Dwarves were very set in their traditions, as far as who married who, what job each person had, and each person’s general role in Dwarven society. Anyone who broke with those traditions was remembered and forever black marked. Not only was Prothos black marked as a MAGI, as I now was, but we were also related.
Prothos and I were cousins.
More specifically we were second cousins once removed. My great-great grandparents on my mother’s side were his great grandparents. The relation was before the Giant blood had entered my family line, so the real difference between us was that he was full blood Dwarf and I wasn’t.
Prothos grumbled under his breath before replying.
“Yes, I’m Prothos Derodon. Now put your eyes back in your head and get moving.”
He turned abruptly and I quickly followed. A smile crept onto my face as I caught up to him and we made our way out of the Portal room. I was not only a MAGI now, but my overseer was one of the most infamous Dwarves... well, ever. Could I get any luckier?
“Wipe that smile off your face, greenhorn,” rumbled the MAGI over his shoulder.
“Sorry, sir, but I don’t think I can,” I replied, still grinning.
He gave me a dark look over his shoulder and I grinned a bit wider. He grunted and went back to leading.
We made our way though the former temple, passing numerous halls and doors. The MAGI didn’t pause as we reached out destination. Instead, he burst through the double doors, throwing them wide. They banged loudly on the stone walls, making a few of those gathered in the room jump.
It was a great hall, much like the room we had come from with it’s high arching ceiling and columns, but without the Portals. Instead there were tables and benches set up around the sides of the room.
The room was full of MAGIs in training and I was suddenly one of many.
I noted a girl who had wild pink hair and violet eyes, a Dryad who had very little on, a Sprite with blue and red streaked hair, a small Giant, a young black Unicorn, and a large assortment of other creatures milling about.
“On your feet!” ordered Prothos.
The few who had been sitting jumped to their feet and the trainees became a crowd in the middle of the room. Prothos motioned me to join them and I found a place in the back next to the small Giant who must have been at least nine feet tall. He glanced down at me and I gave him a friendly smile, which seemed to startle him, but he gave me a hesitant smile in return.
“Listen up!” boomed the Dwarf, his voice echoing through the hall.
The recruits fell silent almost immediately and turned their attention to him.
“I am MAGI Prothos Derodon. I am the Head Overseer for all of you. You have each been assigned an individual overseer. They will be seeing to your specialized training and the answering of any questions you have. It is their job to guide you though this process until you are either placed in our ranks or let go. Until one of those things happens, you are answerable to them and they answer to me. Clear?”
He paused to look around and received a few confirming nods before he went on.
“The Mess Hall serves food around the clock to accommodate the varying schedules of our people, but you lot are to act as a unit for the duration of your training. Breakfast is at six o’clock. You’re to be in the training rooms by seven sharp. Lunch is at noon and then you’re to be in the study halls by one for individualized training with your overseers. Dinner is at six and lights out at ten. Training room is down the hall, fifth door on the left. Get going!”
Prothos jerked a thumb at the door and for a moment no one moved. Most of the recruits seemed a bit shocked by his brusk manner so, after a glance around at the crowd, I shrugged and headed for the doors. A moment later I heard others beginning to follow, but I didn’t look back.
Following my overseer’s instructions, I went down the hall and found the fifth door on the left. Heading right in, I found another large hall, this one less ornate, and filled with all sorts of mats, weights, and weaponry, both real and wooden.
I moved to the center of the room and turned to look back at the door. Surely someone was going to come and give us further instructions. The others followed my lead and I was soon surrounded by the recruits.
A few moments later, a Merman glided into the room, his green gaze taking us in. He was powerfully built, probably about six feet tall or so, with tan skin and dark blonde hair. He was very muscular, showing it off by not wearing a shirt or tie under the suit jacket and leaving the jacket itself open. What gave him away as a Merman were the gills on the sides of his neck. One hand was in his pocket and the other held a clipboard.
“How we doin’ noobs?” he greeted with a grin. “Good? Good. I’m Larki Cha, Training Overseer. Today’s gonna be seein’ whatcha got. Who’s first?”
We all looked at each other hesitantly and no one looked up at Larki. After a long pause, the MAGI sighed.
“Alright, alright. How ‘bout you.”
Everyone looked up to see that he was pointing to one of the girls in front, the one with the wild pink hair and violet eyes. She shrugged.
“Step up, step up.”
The girl stepped up onto the mat in front of us, eyeing Larki hesitantly, which surprised me. Someone with wild pink hair didn’t seem the kind of person to be hesitant.
“Name, and species, please,” said Larki, bringing the clipboard into his line of sight and pulling a pen from the top of it.
“Elliandra Laman, Shifter.”
“Laman, Laman,” said Larki under his breath, looking for the name on the clipboard. “Ah! Gotcha. Go ahead. Show us what you can do.”
With a shrug, her face melted to reveal a completely different one with brown eyes and long brown hair. Then, cocking her head to the side, her face changed again to an old one with white hair and pale eyes. Finally, she closed her eyes and as she opened them, her face shifted once more to show a drop-dead gorgeous blonde.
Larki nodded as he made some quick notes.
“Thanks. Next, let’s have you.”
He pointed to the scantily dressed Dryad and she sauntered forward, all seductive smiles.
“Treska Hillfar, Dryad,” she said with a wink.
Larki looked as though he hadn’t even seen it.
“Go on then.”
Treska hid a pout and began singing softly, growing a tree right there in the middle of the training room. Done, she looked at Larki.
“Now make it go away.”
She shook her head.
“I can’t do that. My powers aren’t destruction, they’re creation.”
“I can make it go away,” rumbled the Giant behind me.
We all turned to look at him and he lumbered forward, glancing down at us shyly. Reaching the tree, he grabbed it by the base of the trunk and pulled, uprooting the whole thing, which made Treska shriek at the top of her lungs. The Giant tossed the tree to the side and the Dryad rushed at him, beating her little fists against his thigh. He glanced down, surprised to see her there.
“Murderer! Tree killer! How dare you! You! You! You evil thing!” she raged. “How dare you! How dare you!”
“Treska!” snapped Larki, glaring. “Enough!”
The Dryad, who had worked herself up to tears, continued to cry as she obediently stepped away and the Giant looked as though someone had just pulled out his heart and stepped on it.
“That’s enough!” Larki hollered at Treska as she continued to weep. “He was helping where you couldn’t. Did ya seriously think we’d letcha leave a tree in the middle of the room, ya daft thing? If ya didn’t want it uprooted, ya shouldn’ta grown it there. What’s your name?”
He turned to the Giant, who looked near tears himself, but swallowed hard to answer.
“Grom. I’m a Giant.”
“Good job, Grom. Now, who’s next?”
Clearly sympathy was not to be given nor stupidity put up with. We moved on as Treska collected herself and Grom returned to the back of the group, hanging his head like a kicked puppy. I tried to catch his eye and give him a reassuring smile, but he wouldn’t look at anyone.
The next couple hours stretched by with the other recruits showing their skills. There was another Shifter, two Salamanders, a large assortment of Battle Gnomes, three Elves, the Black Unicorn, a second Dryad, a Nyad, four Sprites, an Incubus, two Succubuses, and a Siren.
Some were more impressive than others, of course. The Incubus didn’t do more than basic magic tricks, but the Battle Gnomes were all amped to show off their fighting skills and did so with flair.
“And, you,” Larki said, finally pointing to me.
I stepped forward.
“Aaron Baerandor, Dwarf.”
Taking my stance and staying loose, I took a deep breath in and exhaled, bringing the magic to me as I did.
Left, uppercut, right, uppercut, left, right, left...
I pulled the stones from the floor and threw them at the wall with ease, shattering them into dust. The whole routine would have taken far too long to show, and been far more destructive than I felt like cleaning up, so I shortened it. After about a minute, I brought it to a close with one final dual punch, smashing the largest stones yet.
Straightening, I looked to Larki who was staring at me, openly impressed. I hadn’t even broken a sweat. He raised an eyebrow at me, nodded, and wrote quickly on his clipboard as I went back to my place in the crowd, who were all staring at me as well.
A moment later, Larki slipped the pen back into the top of the clipboard and looked up at us.
“Good ‘nough for today. Time for lunch. Take a left at the end of the hall and the mess hall’ll be on your right. Ya can’t miss it.”
Then the MAGI was out the door, off to do his own work. No one moved for a moment and I noticed that they were all still glancing at me. Well, I was hungry, so I headed for the door and they followed like before.
I felt someone elbow my leg and I looked down to see one of the Sprites was grinning up at me, doing a hop-flap step to keep up with my long strides. He had blue hair with red streaks and mischievious gray eyes. His skin had a blue tint, his sheer wings were gray and blue, and he couldn’t have been more than two and a half feet tall.
“That was awesome! Aaron, right? My friends call me Fizzle, or Fizz if ya like.”
He winked at me and I grinned, chuckling a bit.
The Sprite shrugged.
“Mum’s a Water Sprite, dad’s a Fire. My brothers and sister take after dad, but I take after mum.”
He snapped his fingers. A spark appeared and fizzled out.
“See? Too much water in me. Fizzle.”
“And how did you get the name?”
“Oh, dad’s a bettin’ guy and my oldest brother bet him that he, Horux that is, my brother, could best the local beehive in a game of chess. Well, dad didn’t believe he could and agreed that if Horux could do it, he could name the new babe. That was me, of course. But Horus never bets on anything but a sure thing and he’d already done just that plenty of times, so he showed dad he could again, and there ya have it. Fizzle.”
I looked at him, not sure if I should believe the story or not, but decided to go with it.
“And your mom was alright with that?”
“Oh, Phyre, no! She threw a fit, of course, and I’ve got a proper name too, but hardly anyone remembers it ‘cept her. Most of the time even she forgets to call me by it.”
“And what is it?”
The Sprite shrugged.
“Oh something very mundane. I’d have to ask her again cause I don’t have a flippin’ clue anymore to be perfectly honest. Always seemed kinda silly to me anyways. I mean, why name me somethin’ no body’s gonna call me in the first place?”
I laughed again as we reached the mess hall.
“Fizzle. Well, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meetcha too!”
A/N: Reasons I hate the holidays; I never have time to write. Anyway, hope you guys enjoyed this addition as well. More to come... eventually. Lol. :)