The Clock Tower Guardian NEW Chapter 6
I got my food and found an empty table where I was soon joined by Fizzle and then a host of others. Apparently I was going to be popular.
Treska sidled up to me and sat down too close with a wink, the other Dryad and the Nyad taking seats next to her. Apparently they had already formed a group among themselves.
“Hey there,” purred Treska with a wink and a smile.
Her clothing had once been the uniform pinstripe suit. The pants had been cut up to make a long skirt that was little more than long, thin pieces of cloth now and barely covered anything. The white shirt had had the bottom half cut off along with the sleeves and since that hadn’t been enough, she had left all but one of the remaining buttons undone. The jacket was nowhere in sight and she was barefoot.
I had known girls like her and I knew exactly what she wanted. She was the kind to get what she wanted, however she had to. With that much exposed skin I had a hard time not looking and wasn’t sure where to look to begin with, so I kept my eyes on her face.
Best nip this in the bud. I had no interest in her, but it was clear where her thoughts were, sidling up to me like that. Putting on my best smile, I leaned in very close to her and whispered in her ear.
“You can cut the act, sweetheart. I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole if you were the last creature in the worlds.”
I pulled back, still smiling my best smile, and winked. The look on her face was priceless. Her jaw hung open and her eyes were as wide as saucers.
“Better close your mouth or someone else might take the invitation.”
Her face went from flabbergasted to livid in half a second flat, a dark blush staining her light green skin, and she stood up abruptly, grabbed her plate, and flounced away. The other Dryad and the Nyad glanced at each other, completely lost, but hurried to follow. As soon as they were out of hearing range, I laughed.
“What was all that?” asked Fizzle, looking up at me, as confused as Treska’s friends.
The others who had sat down were looking at me as well and I shrugged, still grinning.
“I was just making it clear that her invitation was unwanted.”
“Seriously?” said one of the Wizards, who’s name I thought I remembered to be Hanan, his large black eyes going wider. “She was making an offer and you turned down that? You must be crazy.”
“No, I just have higher standards,” I replied with a shake of my head. “I don’t like whiney and flirty.”
“Maybe I should go make her an offer myself,” Fizzle said, elbowing my side with a wink.
“Be my guest.”
As we ate, I noticed that Grom had taken a seat at an empty table at the far end of the mess hall, away from the rest of the recruits, and was still hanging his head like a kicked dog. I finished up and stood.
“Is it time to already?” asked Fizzle.
“No, I just want to have a chat with Grom,” I said, not looking back as I made my way toward the Giant.
I put my plate on the pile to be taken back to the kitchen and slid onto the bench opposite Grom. The Giant wouldn’t even look at me as he poked at his food. I sighed.
“Grom, you can’t let Treska get to you,”
He looked up suddenly, apparently shocked that I was there. I supposed he had been so lost in his own berating thoughts that he hadn’t even noticed me come over.
“But... she...,” he mumbled, looking down again.
“Is clearly a whiney, self-centered creature and there’s no reason her opinion should matter a fig to you,” I cut in, looking Grom straight in the eye when he glanced up at me.
He bit his lip, clearly still worried.
“Grom,” I said gently, waiting until he looked up again.
When he did, I continued.
“Take a little pride in your power. No one else would have been able to do what you did that effectively. Everyone else was impressed, including me. Treska can go jump off waterfall. Even Larki was impressed by what you did and told Treska to shut up.”
I gave him a friendly smile and he smiled back hesitantly.
“Am I right?”
Grom shrugged and nodded shyly, the small smile still tugging at his lips.
“Of course I’m right. Ignore that harpy.”
The Giant chuckled quietly and smiled a bit wider.
“Now, you’re gonna sit with me for dinner, right?”
“I am?” said the Giant, looking straight at me now, surprised.
“Of course. No more of this sitting by yourself nonsense. Alright?”
Grom gave me a full smile then and nodded.
I nodded, smiling in return.
I glanced at the clock and saw that it was time to get to the study hall. Standing, I motioned Grom up and he obliged, following me as I fell in step with Fizzle. The Sprite glanced back at the Giant with a grin, which was returned.
“So how are we going to know who our overseers are?” wondered Fizzle as we reached the study hall.
“Oh, I’m sure they’ll let us know,” I replied, opening the door and, once again, leading the pack.
The study hall was a huge library. Just inside the door was a desk with a Sphinx, who was clearly the librarian. In front of her desk was a group of MAGI of all species. They must have been waiting for us. Prothos stepped out in front of them, clipboard in hand.
“Listen up,” he said, keeping his voice low in reverence to the library and the librarian who was watching him with narrowed gaze. “When I call your name, step forward and your overseer will take over from there. Grom.”
The Giant stepped forward and a Centaur separated himself from the crowd and motioned him to follow.
One by one, names were called and the recruits went off to different corners of the library with their overseers. Then it was just Prothos and me. I smiled at him.
“You still smiling, greenhorn?” he rumbled, looking up at me and putting the clipboard and a stack of papers under his arm.
“Apparently so, sir,” I replied.
He humphed and motioned me to follow, heading further into the library. We passed quiet corners with tables occupied by a MAGI and trainee. There were also several pairs sitting in the main aisle or off in the side aisles.
Prothos led the way further into the library and then paused, motioning me to take a seat at a desk in a secluded corner. I did so and he slapped the stack of papers down in front of me. I looked at him, questioningly.
“We have to find out what you know. That’s part one.”
He pointed to the papers. I couldn’t help the challenging grin that crawled onto my face as I glanced down and then back up.
“Of how many parts?”
The MAGI shrugged.
“Depends on how much you know. Find my office when you’re done.”
With that, my overseer turned on him heel and left. The grin didn’t leave my face as I picked up the pen that lay next tot he stack and began.
Prothos had started with easy things; Dwarven history, weaponry, fighting techniques, politics, royalty, Chiefs, religion, family structures, the works. It was everything I should know or have learned over the course of my schooling and general living as the Dwarf I was.
But it took hours to sift through all the information and write it down. When I was finally finished, I sat back with a sigh and looked for a clock. It was almost five o’clock.
Stretching, my joints creaked and popped. With another sigh, I stood and collected the papers before making my way out of the library. About half of the recruits were still in there with their overseers. Where the others had gone I had no idea.
Out in the hall, I looked around until I heard a voice behind me.
I turned to find the pink-haired, violet-eyed shifter, Elliandra, standing behind me. Her expression screamed of sarcasm and someone very used to talking down to people.
“Lost implies I don’t know where I’m going or where I am,” I replied with a small smile. “So, that’s only partially true. I know where I am, but not where I’m going. Only where I’m trying to get. You?”
She blinked and raised an eyebrow at me.
“I’m never lost.”
She paused, looking at me thoughtfully and snapped her book closed.
“Where are you going?”
“Prothos’ office. He didn’t tell me where it was.”
She nodded once and turned on her heel, slipping her book under her arm.
I caught up in a couple strides and gave her a sideways glance.
“You know where it is?”
“I’ve got this compound’s map memorized.”
“When did you do that?”
“While I was waiting for my overseer to figure out what to have me do next. She gave up a while ago. That’s why I’m out here.”
“Reading in the hallways?”
“Doing something while I read helps me concentrate.”
“What are you reading?”
She gave me a sideways glance before turning forward again.
“Naka Rana’s Chronicles of the Sarchen Era. Volume two.”
I nodded thoughtfully.
“Not a bad one. Rana’s a bit dry for my taste, but I do like his wry humor when it comes out. I liked his Chronicles of the Elta Republic the most I think.”
She gave me a full on look now, surprised but no longer condescending.
“You’ve read Naka Rana?”
“Yes, several years ago.”
“Hm. So you’re not just a juggernaut.”
I laughed, head thrown back and all, getting a few looks from passing MAGI.
“A juggernaut? Well that’s a new one. Never thought of myself that way.”
“Seriously? With that display you did in the training room?”
I shrugged, a bit self consciously.
“That’s nothing really special. It was just part of my usual routine. Basic stuff.”
The shifter looked up at me incredulously.
“If that’s just basic stuff, I’d hate to be on the receiving end of something harder.”
Then she stopped and motioned to the closed door next to her.
She smirked up at me, sarcastic but friendly.
Then she turned, opened her book, and began reading again as she walked. I watched her go, a smile tugging at my lips. Strange girl.
I knocked on the door as Elliandra turned the corner and disappeared.
“Come,” came Prothos’ gruff voice from inside.
Opening the door, I stepped in and closed it behind me. The room was fairly large for an office. There were book shelves along the walls and a large window behind the desk where the MAGI sat. My overseer was busy writing something. He glanced up, did a double take, and set his pen down as he leaned back.
“Finished already, greenhorn? Did you know so little?”
I shrugged, a small grin on my face, and set the stack of papers in front of him.
“You tell me.”
He humphed and motioned me to a chair in front of the desk as he began looking over the first part of my test. For a long time, he said nothing as he paged slowly through, reading my answers. I suspected this was a test of patience and I had plenty of that. I watched the clock on the wall slowly tick from five o’clock to six, then from six to six thirty and my stomach growled, but I said nothing.
Finally, my overseer looked up, letting the last page fall back into place, and humphed again.
“Well, you’re not stupid then, at least.”
I smiled, suppressing a laugh. Clearly, the last thing this Dwarf gave were compliments, so saying I wasn’t stupid was as closed as he would get to calling me smart.
Prothos gave me a look, as though he were trying to decide if I was mocking him or not, but then he turned and opened a drawer in his desk, pulling out another, bigger stack of papers. He pushed them toward me.
“When you’re done with that part, bring it back to me.”
I took that as my dismissal and, gathering the papers, hurried to the mess hall before the appointed hour for food was over. Most of the recruits seemed to have eaten and left already so I got a tray of my own food and ate hurriedly as I glanced over the new part of the test I’d been given.
This one seemed to be all about the Guardian Era, which surprised me a bit, but not much. Everything that was known about the era humans were separated from those with magic was studied excessively. I would work on it tomorrow though.
Collecting my tray and dumping it, papers under my arm, I began wandering as I realized no one had ever mentioned where our sleeping quarters were. After my second dead end hallway, I stopped a passing MAGI to ask. After that it only took me a minute to locate the rooms.
The rooms for the recruits were the furtherest away from everything, obviously because we were on the bottom of the totem pole here. I had been told the right side was for the girls and the left was for the boys.
I stopped at the first room on the left dedicated to the boys and found Fizzle and Grom there already. Fizzle was chatting happily to Grom, who was nodding occasionally. They both looked up as I came in and Fizz bounced to his feet with a grin.
“Hey there! Saved ya a bunk, pal!”
He pointed to the bunk above the one he’d been sitting on and I couldn’t help but smile in return.
As Fizzle went back to chatting at Grom, I slipped off my suit jacket and tie. To the right of each set of bunks was a wooden locker just under two feet wide. I opened it to discover several hangers on a rod and two shelves below. The shelves were probably for shoes and I hung my jacket and tie on one of the empty hangers.
I felt something in one of my jacket pockets and frowned, digging it out. I didn’t remember putting anything in there.
It was an envelope, wrinkled and a bit crushed from being bumped around all day. I thought back for a moment. Of course! I remembered now. Nadia had slipped something in my pocket when she hugged me and I’d never had time to look at it.
Swinging up into my bunk, I propped myself up on one elbow and opened the envelope. Two brass rings fell into my hand. One had a series of symbols engraved on the inside of the band and the other had only three symbols that had been engraved in black.
With a confused frown, I slipped the letter out of the envelope as well and opened it up.
I hope everything is going well as you read this. I miss you already and you’re not even gone yet. But you will be.
You said tonight that I could call whenever I needed you and you’d come back. I’d never be able to get you a letter and my magic use is so strictly regulated I don’t think I’d be able to call you that way if I really was in trouble.
So, the rings. I found them several months ago in one of the old Cavern storage rooms. Master Horth had sent Madie and I down there looking for some grubby old text he claimed was there. (It wasn’t. He had it in his study library the whole time, but that’s a whole other story.) I slipped them in my pocket and have been researching what they are.
They’re Summon Rings and there are actually three of them. I’ve kept one and given you the other two. The Anchor Ring is the one with the three black symbols and that’s the one you wear. The other two are the Distress Rings. They call out to the Anchor when activated and help the wearer of the Anchor find the ones in Distress.
If one of the Distress Rings is activated, the Anchor will get warm and glow. The closer you get to the Distress, the brighter it will be and the light will fade when you’re moving in the wrong direction.
I’ve given you the other Distress in case you come across someone else you want to protect. I’m sure you’re meeting all sorts of people and making friends. It’s one of the things you excel at. To activate the Distress, all that they have to do is twist the ring around their finger three times.
If it’s my ring that calls, the Anchor will glow green. If it’s the other one, it will glow blue.
Good luck, brother. I’ll miss you, but I hope your life as a MAGI will treat you better than one here would have. I think you’ll be fantastic.
I gripped the two rings in my hand tightly, feeling the imprint of them there. I hadn’t thought about how hard it would be for her to get any sort of message to me, but I was glad she had thought ahead.
Glancing down at the rings, I picked up the Anchor and slipped it onto my right ring finger. I felt it warm and expand a bit, magically working to fit my finger, but it wasn’t glowing. That was good. It meant Nada was alright still.
Climbing down from the bunk, I stashed the letter and other Distress ring in the inside breast pocket of my suit jacket.
“What do you think, Aaron?” asked Fizzle from his bed, snapping me out of my thoughts.
I looked over with a bright, apologetic smile.
“Sorry, I wasn’t listening. What do I think about what?”
A/N: I'm done with winter. It needs to go away. Spun out on the highway today and therefore didn't make it to work. On the plus side, I'm home and was able to finish this chapter for you all to read. :)