The Clock Tower Guardian NEW Chapter 9
Routine was the name of the game, at least for we trainees. For the next eight weeks my life became a pattern; eat, train, eat, test, eat, sleep, repeat. During that time, four of the recruits were let go, though for what reason I never asked.
Then, routine broke. I entered Prothos’ office late one afternoon and tossed another test down on his desk. It was part of my routine as well. Today, however, there was something different.
My first clue was Prothos himself. Usually when I came in after working on one of his tests, he was busy doing paperwork or reading through files. Today, he was sitting in his chair, watching me through steepled fingers.
When the test hit his desk, he didn’t even glance at it. Instead, he continued to stare at me, not even gesturing for me to sit like he usually would have. That was my second clue.
I let the silence continue, waiting for the MAGI to make the first move. He seemed to be debating something with himself and sizing me up. I met his steady gaze with one of my own. After the silence had stretched on for several minutes, Prothos turned abruptly in his chair and stood, walking to the door.
“Field trip tomorrow, greenhorn. Be here at noon.”
Then he was gone and I was left alone in the empty office.
I was still puzzling over the bizarre order as I made my way to the Mess Hall for dinner, nearly running Elliandra over in the process.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, backing away a pace as I caught her arm and steadied her.
Freeing herself from my grip, she raised a pink eyebrow at me and closed her book.
“Juggernauts shouldn’t go getting lost in other worlds while they’re walking. They run people over that way.”
“I’m sorry,” I said again with an embarrassed smile this time.
She put a hand on her hip, her other occupied the a book.
“Where did you get lost this time?”
“Right about where Prothos said we were going on a field trip tomorrow and walked out of his office.”
“What’s so weird about that? Plenty of the overseers have taken their recruits onto the field by now. In fact, I’m pretty sure nearly everyone except you has been somewhere.”
That surprised me. I hadn’t heard a thing about it.
“Where did you go?”
She shrugged nonchalantly.
“My overseer took me to the Wizard Courts. I got to hear a murder case and then watch the execution. Not a place I’d like to break the law, that’s for sure.”
Opening her book again, she continued on her way into the Mess Hall as others filed in. I followed, mechanically getting my food as I ended up lost in my thoughts once more. How had I not heard anything about any of the other recruits being taken out by their overseers? Surely I would have heard something, even in passing.
I sat at my usual table, Grom, Hanan, and several others taking their seats around me over the next few minutes. Someone was missing and I glanced around, frowning slightly.
“I think his overseer finally took him out today,” Hanan replied. “I saw them heading to the Portals after lunch.”
“So, you have all gone somewhere with your overseers?”
“Of course. I went to the marriage treaty ceremony between two of the Centaur clans. It was so cool! There’s a really intricate battle that takes place. It’s supposed to be ceremonial, but the two clans have had a beef with each other for a long time now so they were seriously fighting each other. It got pretty nasty for a while and I was afraid they were actually going to kill each other, but I guess my overseer went to make sure there wasn’t any bloodshed. Where’d Prothos take you?”
“No where. I haven’t gone anywhere,” I replied with a shrug.
“Really?” asked Fronat, one of the Battle Gnomes.
I nodded, taking a bite of the meaty pasta in front of me as the others at the table exchanged surprised looks.
“Truly?” asked Rol, another Battle Gnome. “We all thought you got taken out before anyone else.”
“Why would that be?”
“Well, you’re you. Guess we just assumed that the best would have been taken out into the wide world first.”
I shrugged and applied myself to my food, letting the subject drop and others take it’s place, though I stayed quiet through most of meal after that. It did seem odd that I hadn’t been taken out when all the others had, but then again, my overseer was also the Head Overseer. I couldn’t really blame him for being busy, which was probably the reason. After all, he always seemed busy doing one thing or another when I saw him.
Letting the thoughts roll away, I shoved them to the back of my mind. It couldn’t be anything to worry about.
The next morning found me in my bunk reading before breakfast as Fizzle came hop-flying into the room. He landed lightly on the upper bunk where I was, a huge grin splitting his face. I set the book on my chest, still open, and matched his grin.
“I heard you went on a field trip yesterday. How was it?”
“It was the coolest!”
He flew for half a second in his excitement and I chuckled as he dropped back to the bunk and went on.
“MAGI Vok’s a Faun, yeah? He took me to visit his family for their High Feast of the Horn. The music! And the food! I wish ya coulda been there! They all danced all night and played! I’d never heard Faun music before. It’s kinda like what we Sprites have, with the Fairy origins and all, but, how ta say it? Ours is like flying and theirs is like a romp in the woods. That make sense?”
I suppressed a chuckle.
“Not remotely, but then again, I’ve never heard either so the only reference point I have is Dwarven music.”
“What’s that like? Never heard any.”
I had the Sprite’s full attention now. Apparently he was a music lover.
“Well,” I looked up at the ceiling, remembering the music I might never hear again. “It always has a lot of drums and deep, rumbling beats. Usually a good deal of chanting. The old songs especially, the ones we use for major celebrations and holidays, are primarily that. Some of the newer songs have added other instruments, but its rare to hear those on high holidays.”
The clock on the wall dinged six o’clock.
“You gotta take me some time,” Fizzle said with a grin as he bounced off the bed and to the ground. “That sounds so cool! None of our songs have stuff like that.”
I closed the book and swung down after him distractedly.
“Yeah, maybe sometime.”
At noon sharp I was at Prothos’ office door knocking. The door opened abruptly and my overseer stalked out.
“Come on, greenhorn,” he said without stopping.
I quickly caught up and fell in step as he led the way to the Portals. Prothos gave a nod to one of the attendants, who hit a few runes on his board and activated the nearest Portal. My overseer went straight up the ramp and into the water-light. I followed, feeling the tug through, and stepped out of the Portal onto another ramp.
Looking around, I found that we were in a small stone hut. The Portal attendant nodded to us respectfully.
“MAGI Derodon,” he said as Prothos passed him.
I followed the MAGI to the door. There were two Guards posted outside. They saw our suits and obviously recognized Prothos as well, because they nodded respectfully as we passed, said Prothos’ name in low voices.
Then I found out that we were in a forest. I looked around a moment, seeing nothing but trees, ancient and huge, towering above us. Even though it was the middle of the day, I couldn’t see the sky or the sun, though the comforting green light that came through the leaves was beautiful.
Prothos gave a grumbling sigh before he paused and looked up at me.
“Why are we in the middle of a forest?”
“Because this is the closest Portal to our destination,” he replied with a scowl.
He turned and continued on. I caught up easily in a few strides.
“‘The House’?” I repeated, hoping for more of an explanation.
“Yes, the House,” he repeated.
When no further explanation was forthcoming, I started thinking. The House? There was only one House that was widely known as simply that, but surely MAGI had nothing to do with that House. How could they? Why would they?
That House was a Guardian holding. Guardians and MAGI didn’t get along. How could they when the Guardians thought NORTH was a power hungry organization ready to walk in and take over? NORTH, for their part, knew the Guardians wouldn’t hesitate to step in whenever they felt it was necessary. Not to mention that this butting of heads had been going on since the formation of the two groups.
So, why were we going there of all places?
We walked for about an hour in silence. I debated asking Prothos more questions, but he didn’t seem to be in a sharing mood so I kept them to myself, deciding that I would ask if they hadn’t been answered by the end of this field trip.
Then quite abruptly, the trees parted and we were standing in front of a high, white stone wall covered in twining ivy. Prothos veered right without stopping and followed the wall around for several minutes until we came to an iron gate, also covered heavily in ivy.
I had to pause then, and not just because Prothos had. On the other side of the gate was a garden and it was beautiful. There wasn’t anything like it in the Dwarven Cities or anywhere else that I had ever seen. There was a lush green lawn with flowers and bushes in a rainbow of colors. Beyond that were trees of every shape, size, and origin swaying gently in the breeze and a white stone path that matched the wall disappearing into them. Amid all that were fountains of all kinds with silver water, sparkling in the afternoon sun.
“Ahh, Prothos!” I heard an airy male voice call from inside the Garden.
I looked closer and saw a tall figure coming down the path. He stood about six feet and walked with an easy swagger, his red and gold robe swaying with each step. He had dark skin and wavy black hair pulled back in a ponytail with a white streak down each side. His grey eyes watched us knowingly, despite the friendly smile on his face.
“Guardian,” Prothos greeted civilly with a small nod.
“MAGI,” he replied with an equally civil nod.
Prothos drew himself up to his full height and, gaze never leaving the Guardian, said to me,
“Greenhorn, this is Fenor Atan.”
So, we were really here. We were actually meeting with a Guardian. This was the House, the Northern Gate, and this Fenor Atan was the Northern Guardian.
I was too surprised to speak.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Fenor asked, still keeping his voice light.
“I’d like to have a word with you,” Prothos rumbled.
The Guardian gestured to me. My overseer waved a dismissive hand.
“New recruit. We have to talk, Fenor.”
“Alright. Come on in.”
Prothos reached forward and pushed the iron gates open. I closed them after us and fell in behind the Guardian and my overseer as they began up the path and into the trees.
“I hear you have an apprentice finally,” Prothos began in a conversational tone.
“Hm. Taken him to the human world yet?”
“Yes. Is that significant?”
“Yes. I’ll need to talk to him, too.”
“Because the report I have says he was with you when you went. I need to know what he saw as well.”
“Mind telling me what we saw that so interests NORTH?”
The Guardian clasped his hands behind his back as we came into view of the House. It was large, three stories high, and painted blue with white trim and shutters. The white roof extended down to a quaint white porch. The front door stuck out like a sore thumb though and as it was a dark brown instead of white as would be expected. The runes etched into it gave it away as a magical door.
“Where is your apprentice?” Prothos persisted. “In the House?”
“Then where is he?”
Fenor paused on the porch with an exasperated sigh.
“Oh, alright. You,” he said, pointing at me. “My apprentice is out practicing in the Garden somewhere. Fetch.”
The Guardian opened the door and went in, Prothos following him while trying to hide a smile.
So I had been dismissed to find the Guardian’s apprentice while the adults talked inside. Rolling my eyes and suppressing a laugh, I turned back into the Garden.
At first I followed the path, but I found no one on it and realized it was a fruitless search if all I did was retrace where I had already been. So I wandered off the path, figuring that since we hadn’t seen him on the way up, he was somewhere further in. I ended up wandering rather aimlessly since I didn’t know the place and had no idea where to look.
Then I heard a voice. I moved in the direction of it, noting that it was female. The voice rose and fell musically and as I got closer to it, I recognized that it was the Tale of Sir Fusao that was being told.
Finally, I located a grove of San-mahar trees where the voice was coming from. I stepped through and froze in my tracks.
It was a girl, probably an Elf from the pointed ears visible amid her voluminous auburn hair. She wore a long purple robe that was spread around her and her pretty face was peaceful and thoughtful as she read. There were several other books sitting at her side.
For several minutes, I simply stood there listening to her read and watching her expressive face. She had a soothing voice, but I did wonder why she was reading aloud to herself.
Who was she, sitting out here in the Garden by herself?
Then it occurred to me that the only person who would have been simply sitting in the middle of a magical Garden reading would most likely be the Guardian’s apprentice that I was looking for. Thinking back to the conversation Prothos and Fenor had had, I realized the Guardian had never specified his apprentice’s gender. My overseer had simply assumed.
A grin crawled onto my face and I couldn’t help but laugh. Quite abruptly, the girl’s head whipped up, bronze eyes going in an instant from peaceful to glaring as she finally realized I was there.
“What’s so funny?” she snapped.
A/N: Ta-da! And thus they meet! Lol. :)