The Guild – Chapter 107 – Andrei

    I heave a heavy sigh as they disappear through the portal, dropping my sword and running to Kat. My arm throbs painfully, but I push it to the back of my mind. I need to make sure they are ok first.

    I slide to a stop and fall onto my knees at her side, grabbing her by the shoulders. She’s hunched over, one hand to her stomach as she cups a glowing healing light. “Kat, are you ok? Lemme help,” I insist. I hear her muttering softly under her breath.

    I catch her whispering to herself now that I’m kneeling in front of her. “Don’t burn it, please, please don’t burn it,” She repeats over and over as she continues to heal.

    “Kat, hey. Let me help,” I say, placing my good hand on hers. I bend down, trying to grab her attention. She looks up, startled at my touch. Her face looks extremely pale, her eyes panicked. “Kat, let me help you,” I repeat, now that I’ve got her attention.

    Her lip trembles as she looks into my eyes. “I don’t know if it’s working,” she whispers desperately. My heart aches to see her so distraught. None of us expected this, everything just happened so quickly. What else could we have done?

    I take her hand in mine and squeeze it reassuringly. “Let’s do it together. Then we can jump back to the Guild and have Gwendalyn take a look. Ok?” Time is of the essence, but we need to heal the wound first. This I know.

    She nods and I have her direct my hand to her wound. Together, we focus on the healing. I hardly notice as Caroline races up to us and adds her hands to the mix. I feel a touch on my shoulder and I look up to see the street flooded with light. Ambrosse is standing there at my shoulder and I notice Nik and Gwendalyn too, and finally, Markus.

    “Allow me,” Ambrosse’s voice is soft. She crouches behind us, slipping her slender arm around Kat. She gently lifts our hands away from Kat’s stomach. She replaces them with her own, and it glows with bright blue light. The glow grows, spreading across Kat’s stomach and around her back.

    I watch Kat’s face awash with relief. Her eyes droop and she falls into Ambrosse’s waiting arms as the glow fades. I sit there, stunned as Gwendalyn rushes up next, hovering her hands over Kat’s stomach, closing her eyes as she must be doing a reading. I feel Caroline’s hand squeeze mine as I stare, waiting, watching.

    Gwendalyn sighs with relief. “Both are still strong,” she assures us. Everyone seems to turn around, toward the house and I spin around and see my family coming out of the house with Kaede, thankfully, unharmed.

    My sisters come running out, Ylenia is crying as she runs up to Ambrosse and Kat. Kira runs to me and clutches onto my good arm.

    “Is big sister ok?!” Ylenia cries, reaching for Kaitlyn’s blackened arm

    Ambrosse gives her a soft smile, and in a motherly tone, replies. “Yes, she’s resting now.”

    Ylenia’s eyes grow wide and she asks. “Are you her mother?”

    “No,” Ambrosse answers sweetly. “But I did raise her. In a way, I do feel like her mother.”

    “Illeana, we must move quickly. It’s not safe here,” Markus warns, his bright eyes scan the street as some of the neighbours have emerged from their houses, likely aroused by the commotion in the street. I wonder just how loud we might have been.

    Ambrosse glances back at him. “We cannot open a portal with so many witnesses.”

    I stand up, willing to offer. “I could take us. I can skip space. I can’t do such a large group all at once, but I could maybe take us two or three times,” I offer.

    “That won’t be necessary,” Ambrosse says. “May we go inside? Once we are in… private, I will summon the portal.”

    “Oh, sure, ok,” I say as she steps past me with Kat still in her arms. Somehow I can’t help but feel brushed off.

    They guide everyone back into the house and my mother shuts the door tightly. She looks very strained by what we’ve just done. She looks at me, a question already on her lips. “Is this what it’s like? Is this what you do now?” she asks. I see the concern and fear in her eyes. It hurts to see that, but I can’t lie.

    I nod, sadly. “They’re after Kaitlyn, so I often get caught up in it. But I have to protect her,” she nods, understanding in her eyes. I spot Nik looking at me coldly. What’s his problem this time? I get the strange feeling he thinks he could take care of her better than I could.

    “There is more at risk than just Kaitlyn’s life,” Nik’s deep voice resonates in the room. “This is a war, for the sake of humanity,” Everyone’s gazes shift to Nik. The tension just got thicker. My father pushes everyone into the living room, coats and everything.

    “Let’s just freak out the locals now, don’t we,” I say sarcastically, glaring up at him.

    Nik scoffs. “They should be aware. Ignorance will not save them.”

    I growl, ready to retort.

    “Enough,” Ambrosse’s voice cuts through the tension. She hands Kat to Markus, looking like a doll in his arms. Ambrosse’s eyes study the room, falling over my parents, then my sisters. “This is your family, correct?” she asks, looking at me.

    I nod. “Yes. They are.”

    She studies my sisters closely. “Quite a gifted family indeed,” she turns to my parents, “Are you interested in coming to the Guild? I think it would be wise, at least for the time being.”

    “We were just on our way to visit, before… well, before what just happened,” my father says.

    “Excellent,” Ambrosse smiles. “If you’re ready, I will open the way,” he turns to mom and they share they silent look again before he nods in agreement.

    I watch Kat closely, as I wait next to my parents and sisters. I can’t believe Sam followed us. I can’t believe she attacked Kat like that. And why did she look like that? I’ve never seen anything like it before, it was as if… as if she was possessed. I push down all my questions and worries, staring at Kat as Ambrosse opens the portal.

    It produces a bright light as an enormous amount of energy emits from it in the shape of a door. She steps through and one by one, we follow her into her office on the other side. She directs Markus to place Kat on the couch and asks Gwen to take a look at her arm.

    Once everyone’s is settled she turns to me but I pull away. “I’m fine, please. I’m more worried about her,” I say, turning away so she can’t touch my shoulder where Sam’s claw-like hands gouged my muscle. I can’t feel it much anymore anyway. Something in my gut shouts at me, knowing Kat would be angry with me if I refused.

    “Kaitlyn and the baby are safe now. You are injured,” Ambrosse presses gently. “She would be upset with us both if you’re not well when she awakens.”

    “I know… but…” I hesitate to comply, but I shouldn’t. I feel my parents eyes on me and I look over to see Ambrosse’s little golden dragonling sniffling at their legs. Ylenia looks ecstatic as she bends down, holding out her hand to touch it.

    I turn back to Ambrosse and shrug. “Fine. Go ahead.”

    Her face lights up, and she gestures for me to sit. As she pulls up a stool, she glances over at Ylenia. “His name is Typhon. Don’t worry, he is quite tame.”

    “Can I have one too?” she asks, picking him up in her hands.

    “Perhaps,” Ambrosse muses. “You should ask Kaitlyn. She is quite close with the dragons,” her eyes twinkle as they meet mine and I get the impression she’s somehow teasing me. I return a pointed expression. What is she up to?

    I look over to see the healing duo finish with Kat and Rhoan shifts into a familiar blanket, wrapping her up like a burrito. I feel a warm sensation spread through my arm form the shoulder and look down as he glowing hands knit the skin back together. I notice that faint lines still mark the skin where her claws tore my flesh open. Another mark to add to the collection.

    When Ambrosse finishes my arm, she roves around the room, checking on Caroline and Kaede and the girls. I must admit, now that the pains gone, my heads cleared a bit. I think over the events in the street and what went down. Something about my brief interaction with Sam bothers me.

    Sam had said something I think Markus needs to know. I turn to Markus with a concerned look. “Markus, we were attacked by a girl I used to know, Samantha. She’s been working with your brother, I’m sure you’re aware. She said he wants our baby alive. This leads me to believe she wasn’t acting tonight on his orders.”

    I pause, thinking it over before I ask. “Why would he want our baby alive?” I’m scared as soon as the words come out of my mouth.

    Markus stares at me for a long time before he looks down at Kat. He strokes her hair with his rough hand. “A child of hers… and with the potency of your blood as well. I’m sure he sees the potential she carries. I would not put it past him to concoct some sort of plot to use its power for his gain.”

    The anger in my guy boils at the mere idea of using a child to further your own gain. “I can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen,” I growl.

    “Nor will I,” Markus nods. Kat stirs at his touch. Her eyes flutter as she tries to shift. She struggles against the blanket and her eyes snap open with alarm.

    I’m at her side In an instant, making sure she can see me. It reminds me very much of that time in Kaede’s basement, when we met for the first time. “Kaitlyn, shhh. You’re fine. The baby too. You’re both fine. Don’t worry,” I assure her.

    Her gaze fixates on me and she relaxes. “Really? Everyone is okay?”

    I nod with a smile. “Yes, don’t you worry.”

    She looks around the room, then down at herself. “Would you mind? I’d like to get up.”

    Rhoan grumbles and the blanket shrinks into a cat. She scratches his head as she sits up. The next thing I know, she throws her arms around my neck. I grit my teeth as she pulls me towards her.

    “Ahh, Kat… Okay,” I groan. She pulls back and frowns. Her gaze shifts to the others, hovering around the room.

    “How do you feel?” Ambrosse asks, leaning over to feel her forehead.

    Kat shrinks back with all eyes on her. “Umm… fine, I guess?”

    I turn to Markus, not sure what’s going to happen next. Are we safe to leave the office, or will there be a meeting?

    Ambrosse stands. “Well, I think it might be best for you to return to your rooms. It’s late, and you need rest. Andrei, perhaps you can take your sisters with you so I may speak to your parents and find them accommodation for the night. I will send for them soon.”

    “Oh right, sure. Kira, Ylenia, come. I’ll show you our rooms, ok?” I beckon them, pulling Kat up and grasping her hand in mine. Ylenia immediately runs over to Kat, grabbing her other hand while Kira takes mine silently. I see that Ylenia still holds the little dragon and I wonder if she’s trying to steal it from Ambrosse. I hide a smile that threatens to show.

    Kat looks down at her sympathetically. “Typhon has to stay here. He’s Ambrose’s familiar,” as she speaks, the dragon wiggles out of Ylenia’s grip and flies up to Kat’s shoulder.

    “But… no! Come back!” Ylenia whines, sad puppy-dog eyes following the dragon.

    Kat glares at the little dragon, wrapped like a shawl around her shoulders. “No, I said you stay here, not stay with me. Nice try.”

    “Typhon, come,” Ambrosse calls. The dragonling huffs before he jumps off Kat’s shoulders. She flinches as his claws tear the wool of her tattered sweater.

    “Let’s head up,” I tell them, walking towards the door. I lead my sisters and Kat back to the rooms. Ylenia can’t stop asking questions about everything we see so I do my best to answer. Occasionally Kat adds things that even I didn’t know.

    When we get to the room, Kat heads into the shower. The girls want to join her but I hold them back, knowing how she likes the water on the hottest setting.

    “Come on, let’s get you guys into your pj’s. Where’s those bags you packed?” I ask them.

    “Right here, Andi!” Ylenia sings as she pulls hers off her back. She doesn’t hesitate to yank out her little pink and green mermaid nighty and proceed to change right in front of me. Oh to be young. I turn away, looking for Kira. I spot her hiding behind the bed, changing as well.

    Once they are changed I direct them into the bed. “Here, you can sleep with Kat. I’m sure she’ll like that.”

    “Yippie! I can’t wait. We’re going to talk all night!” Ylenia grins, crawling under the orange sheets and slamming her arms down excitedly. Kira crawls in next to her and lays back, pulling the sheets up to her nose and hiding.

    “I’m going to sleep,” she says softly.

    I decide I’ll probably shower too. I still have void monster slime dried to my skin and clothing. I probably smell rancid. I move to the closet to grab a clean pair of clothes.

    “Andi,” Ylenia calls from the bed.

    I look around. “What is it Lini?”

    “Andi, why’d mama hit you today? Did you hurt her feelings?”

    I chew the inside of my lip in apprehension. How do I begin explaining that to a seven-year-old? “Yes. I kinda did,” I say.

    “Why? What did you do?” she asks.

    I narrow my eyes. How does she come up with these questions?

    “He went away Lini, and didn’t tell mama. That’s why she got mad,” Geeze. Kira is so perceptive for a nine-year-old. I feel the shame in the tone of her voice. It’s almost as bad as being hit by mom.

    “Really, Andi? Why did you run away?” Ylenia asks. Always, full of questions.

    “I needed to learn something and I couldn’t do it at home. I needed my own space,” I explain. I doubt she’ll understand.

    “Like the little birds in the tree? When they get wings they fly away and the mommy bird gets sad. Sometimes they leave too early and sometimes they don’t leave at all,” she says with a smile.

    I freeze, twisting around to look at her innocently staring at me from the bed. “Where’d you learn that from?” I ask her with an inquisitive look.

    “Daddy. He told me when I found a birdie on the ground outside. I told him, is this bird like Andi? Did he leave the nest? And daddy said yes. And that’s why mama is sad.”

    Wow… thanks, dad. “I guess he’s right,” I grumble regretfully. I hear the water turn off and a few minutes pass before Kat steps out, hair braided over her shoulder, a towel around her body. I blush, turning towards the shower with a pair of wrinkly PJs in my arms.

    “My turn,” I say, walking towards the shower.

    “Aren’t you going to kiss her?” Ylenia asks loudly.

    I spin around, eyes wide.

    “Lini! You don’t say that!” Kira says harshly.

    I look at Kat and see her cheeks flush bright red as she rolls her lips. I am shocked by Lini’s boldness but I grin with mischievous intention.

    “How could I forget,” I say in a charming voice, stepping towards Kat, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her close. She’s completely caught off guard by my forward action. I look her in the eyes and wink, placing a light kiss on her lips. I flash her a toothy grin as I pull away and turn toward the showers. Ylenia claps and giggles ecstatically. Maybe I can be Kat’s prince, just like Ylenia thinks I am. It’s kind of amusing.

    I shut the door of the bathroom with a small chuckle. That was fun. I peel off the stained clothes, wondering if it’s worth the effort to wash them. Maybe Caroline could help, with her fancy water tricks. I smirk to myself at the thought of it.  I comb out my hair and hop into the shower, relishing in the hot water as it washes away the grime.

    My hand runs over the glowing hourglass on my chest and I crane my neck to see it. It’s strange; I hardly recognize it there at all. it’s as it feels just like my skin. There is no groove or hardness to the mark, but it glows with an energy, like a little candle under the skin. I’m intrigued by it. I recollect the time when I wanted one of these so bad after Caroline got hers. I felt so left out. Now I wonder if I was foolish to want one. It really only puts a larger target on our backs when it concerns the Master and his plans.

    I really hate that he picks on Kat and I wish there was some other way I could protect her from his schemes. And then there’s Samantha. I shiver at the thought, but that was definitely her own trap today. I heard it from Victor’s own mouth, she went rogue. Why does she want Kat dead so much? Could that be about me? Is she really not over the fact that she broke up with me? Or is that just wishful thinking?

    I need to sort that out too. I can’t have Kat wandering around with Samantha out there intent on killing her. I need a plan. I guess I have time to think up some things while I shower.

    I spend a good twenty minutes mulling over what I know about Samantha and how to keep Kat and our baby safe from her. I’m sure I have come up with a few good ideas when I finally turn off the water and step out to dry off. I take my time to shave and comb out my hair before heading into the bedroom.

    When I walk out I see my sisters both curled up into Kat’s arms on the bed, sound asleep. There’s hardly room for me and I feel a bit awkward sleeping with a bunch of girls. I decide to take the time to add some thoughts and notes to my journals.

    I look around for the one I had started a few weeks ago, but I can’t find it anywhere. In fact, I can’t find the bag I remember putting it in when we went to Africa. That’s when I realise… I left all our stuff there when I tried to jump everyone away. I look for Kat’s phone and find it on the dresser. I send a quick text to Kaede, letting him know it’s me and that I think we should make a plan to go get our things back from Africa, then I switch it to silent.

    I guess I’ll have to start a new journal. I look through the pile of journals still not shelved from when I moved in. I get distracted, sifting through the notes. I find myself wandering through some really old trips, from back when I was fifteen. I read the spines first, 18th-century France. Always my favourite.

    Reading through it, I find myself smiling at my thoughts about training and the aristocrat girl I met, Rose. I find myself engrossed as I flip through the pages, not getting any writing done. I stop short when I realize the entries suddenly jump to 18th century India without any real conclusion.

    I study the pages, flipping back and forth and stare in shock as I notice the cleanly cut edges of a few pages, really close to the spine. I hardly noticed it before. When did these go missing?

    I turn over the book, wondering why there would be pages missing when suddenly I feel a sharp pain in my head. My eye twitches and I drop the book onto the desk, clutching my right temple. I grit my teeth, waiting for the pain to dissipate. It takes a little while, but then it vanishes.

    Something’s very wrong here… Very wrong.

    I turn, watching Kat as she sleeps with my sisters. She looks peaceful, but I should join her soon, lest she has nightmares while they are sleeping with her. I look around the room for a place to sleep. I spy a chair in the corner… guess that’ll have to do. I climb into the chair, hugging a pillow after turning out the lights. Time to talk to Kat in the Viel and keep her away from the Master’s influence. I hope I can get there fast.

By Kayla West

The Guild – Chapter 106 – Samantha

    As soon as I heard the words out of his mouth I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to kill it. Or both. I’d be happy either way.

    I can’t help but feel broken hearted over the news and I now regret the actions I took all those years ago when I left Andrei. I had been afraid then, of what he might think. But I know now, I should have never left him alone.

    Now that fire bitch has claimed him as her own and locked him into a relationship with her by having his kid. I suddenly feel cold wetness on my cheeks and I quickly wipe them away before the cold wind can freeze them.

    Crouched outside the all too familiar two-story house in North York, Toronto, I seeth and pine over everything Andrei has left me for. He deserves better. I deserve better. I guess it’s my own fault he forgot me as he did, but I could fix that. I could somehow fix that, right?

    I shake my head, trying to dispel the mushy thoughts. I don’t have time to get emotional about this. I have to take it out before the Master finds out. I know he wants it alive, but I could care less about what he wants. If they have this child, there is little chance of me getting Andrei back, so I have to remove it. It’s the only way.

    The sunset about an hour and a half ago and they’ve been inside for nearly four. I hope they come out soon, my toes are beginning to freeze.

    While I wait, I contemplate the leaps and bounds I’ve made to master my magic. Turns out, the reign of the Guardians has returned and the Master intends to install us back on top where we’re intended to be; or so he says. I hardly trust a thing to come out of his mouth. I know how lies work.

    Regardless, I’ve known for a while now I had more powerful magic than some. Turns out I am one of the main elements, other than the cardinal elements and positive and negative. There are also the sub-elements of Light and Dark: Life and Void. I would hardly use the opposite death because I’m not dead and I can’t return to life like that British freak is rumored to do. No, but I can summon the dead.

    I can do a great many things now with my wealthy source of dark power and void magic. And as always, it’s for him… Andrei. I quickly change my thoughts, avoiding the touchy subject. I can’t let myself feel like that… not again. Never again. It only ends poorly.

    Victor is also like me, a Guardian awakened naturally. He’s got an ego big enough to rival the Master’s though and that makes me hate him. Who does he think he is, bossing me around. He may be long-lived, but he knows nothing of me. I could be considered long-lived too, in a way.

    Well, besides that, I hate his guts almost as much as Logan’s little pet fire. I find my hands shaking as I anticipate my plan of action. I can’t wait to see the look on her face as I rip Andrei’s seed from her womb… is that a bit harsh? I could afford to be harsher maybe.

    Finally, I’m pulled from my thoughts as the front door opens and the driveway is bathed in the yellow light coming from inside. At last.

    I flex my fingers, crawling out from behind the hedge across the street and step onto the sidewalk, watching. I’ve been watching all day as they’ve traveled around to their old homes. So careless of them, if you ask me. They’ve led us to all of their loved ones. Easy bait.

    I’ve gathered a few important details from following them around all day. There are only three of them, and a non-magic human. He’s no threat. They’re unaware of me on their tail and they are a great way away from their portal back to the island. I know how it works. Once you’ve made a gate to a location outside the Guild, you have to travel back to it to get home again; an inconvenient gimmick.

    I spy the annoying water girl, Caroline, I think her name was? And her non-magical boyfriend. Then Andrei steps out followed by two little brats in fluffy winter coats. Those would be his little sisters. I see Kaitlyn hoovering behind them, talking to his father whose holding a suitcase.

    I wait, impatiently for them to exit the house and move down the driveway. I see his mother turn to lock the door. Now.

    I shove my palm into the snow and open a portal, summoning three hulking Void monsters, undead? Dead? whatever you call them. It matters not, as I command them silently to attack the blonde and Andrei and chase away the kids.

    The light from the portal attracts my targets attention though and she immediately jumps into action, scooping up one of Andrei’s sisters and pulling the other back toward the door. I step towards them with cold eyes, summoning a blade of dark matter in my hand.

    I turn to see Andrei has his sword out and is pursuing a beast down the street. Good. In the other direction, the blonde is defending the non-magic kid and the pathway back to the door. With that in place, I stalk with eager determination towards Kaitlyn, who’s ushering everyone back inside. I grin at the chaos. It’s beautiful.

    I’m across the street and no one hardly looks my way as I approach them from the walkway. I feel delight at the sight of her flaming red hair, face turned away as I stop behind her, completely unaware that I’ve come for her, and not Andrei.

    I raise my blade and drive it forcefully into her back. I feel a sense of satisfaction come over me as she screams, crumpling to her knees. Blood spills onto the white snow, staining it red. The two children in front of her stare at me, frightful expressions on their faces as I withdraw my blade from her back.

    I’m surprised as the smaller of the two runs forward, arms out as if to protect my target. “Leave my big sister alone!” she shouts in a high pitched squeal.

    I smile with grim amusement. “Sister? You don’t want to be related to this. It’d only kill you,” I say slyly.

    The little thing frowns and pushes her hand forward, a splash of little, colourful sparks jumping from her hands. I take a step back, to avoid getting my hair burnt by the little bit of magic.

    “Do you want this too?” I ask, bearing my teeth. This is far too exhilarating. I spring forward with my blade, not hesitating to rid her of her magic too but my blade is stopped short as the red-haired wreck pops up from the ground, catching it in her hand. My blade slides through her flesh and passes through, but I pull back and watch as her arm turns black and necrotic.

    I chuckle to myself as it falls limp at her side. She stares at it, I guess with something like shock on her face. She looks at the little girl and says in a gravelly voice, “Ylenia, it’s okay. Get back inside and lock the door. You have to protect your mom and dad, okay?” The little girl – tears in her eyes, spins around and runs inside, slamming the door shut.

    No matter. I only need to kill her to be done here.

    “How does it feel to be bearing the seed of death?” I ask looming over her as she kneels on the ground, back still turned to me.

    She turns her head to face me, smirking as blood drips from her lip. “It feels like he still chose me.”

    I growl, summoning more void magic into my other hand, forming a black hole on the ground beneath her. Before my hole can fully form though, she leaps at me like a football player and we roll across the snow-covered lawn.

    She leaves a dark trail of blood and wet slush where she touches the ground. Lucky for me, she can’t shift into her fire form after I’ve struck her. Where her hands touch my arms though, I feel my skin burning and I quickly try to kick her off before I am scarred, but she has me in a death grip.

    Fire leaps out around us like a spider spinning a fiery cocoon. “You’re not the only one with dark magic,” she sneers.

    “No? And who else here can handle it?” I growl.

    My muscles tense as she starts chanting some strange latin incarnation, and I feel a sharp pain in my abdomen. I shriek, as the blood from her wound sprays outwards, solidifying and stabbing me. The pain is unbearable and my instinct is to reject it.

    I glow with a faint light as a surge of energy pulses from me, blasting her off me with incredible power. She flies backward, reiling through the air and coming to land on the lawn, sliding with the force of the rejection.

    I clasp a hand to my stomach, gawking at the holes she’s left and the blood that spills onto my hands. The sight of it makes me hate her even more and I feel every part of my body go cold. I feel nothing. Not even my hate.

    I sense a wave of energy around me and it’s as if I am not really standing at all. My breath deepens and hands begin to blacken as something hard and sharp forms over my skin.

    I snap my gaze to her across the lawn as she crawls to her hands and knees. She has something in her left hand and she appears to be fumbling with it. I let the energy consume me and I take a step towards her. I care not of the Master’s plan anymore. I realise now, I never did. I will obliterate her.

    The snow vanishes where I step and when I reach her, I see she’s sent a text, with only the letter ‘h’. She drops the phone, defiant orange eyes settling on me. I raise a clawed hand to rip her face off but am halted as a blood-curdling cry comes from my right.

    I turn to see him, sword raised, face covered in the guts of a void monster. His hair is plastered to his scalp and he looks pissed.

    I shift, deflecting his attack with my armoured arm and I swing my other out to push him back. As we spar I feel a thump in my chest. No! I can’t… hurt him…  

    My body doesn’t listen as it kicks him in the stomach, forcing him back. I stumble, regaining my balance.

    “Leave her alone!” he shouts as I turn back to the target of my hatred. He rushes toward me again and I block the blade with both my arms across my chest. I cringe with the effort to not destroy him.

    “Stay… Away!” I growl in a strange voice I don’t recognize.

    “I won’t! I could never stay away,” he shouts, stepping back, trying to lure me away from her.

    “W-Why!!” I shriek, lashing out with my claws which make contact with his shoulder as he tries to shield the blow. I feel a strange palpitation in my chest and I bring a clawed fist to it as I watch him grab at his arm. Black lines spread like webs down his arm where my claws have left gouges. Instead of blood, it turns necrotic.

    He maintains his stance and I feel the power wane. No! I can’t!  Have to… kill it! I turn on her again. I feel the hatred roar to life again as I fly towards her, but I never reach her as a pillar of ice blasts me in the other direction.

    I roll across the street and scramble to my feet looking around wildly for whatever the source of my interruption is.

    “You’re becoming a liability, Samantha,” a male voice hums dramatically exasperated. The voice grates on my ears. I recognize that disgusting British accent instantly. Victor…

    I spin around and glower at him. “Why’d you stop me?” I hiss.

    Victor flicks his fingers, and the snow gathers at my feet, rooting me to the spot. I claw at the snow, but I can’t be rid of it. “We can’t have our agents running around going rogue on their own personal agendas. We have rules, Samantha. You had orders,” his childish face hardly suits the darkness inside him.

    “His orders are pathetic and childish. Why keep the child alive? It’s better off dead,” I spit, turning to look back at the glowing figure hunched in the snow. She’s already trying to heal the wound. I can’t let her finish! I pull on my foot, wanting to move, but I can’t, so I reach my arm out instead, ready to summon a black hole, anything that will stop her.

    Suddenly she’s surrounded by ice. Her head snaps up and she looks around in a panic. Victor sighs, shaking his head. He looks around at the others. “Terribly sorry about all this. I hope you weren’t too… inconvenienced. Please say hello to my sister for me,” he smiles at Andrei before his gaze settles on me. “Come now, I think you’ve had enough fun.”

    Fun? Oh yes, it was fun. Perhaps I did something bad, but at least I felt great doing it. I laugh in his face. “You’ll never understand how it feels,” I look down as he opens the portal and I’m suddenly surrounded in blackness. I can’t deny, I’m a little frightened about what awaits me on the other side, but I can’t hold back the delightful giggles that bubble in my stomach at the chaos I got to wreak before I was stopped.

    The room we appear in is cold and dark. The only sound is a strange occasional drip. Victor stands ahead of me, on the other side of bars. It takes a moment for me to figure out which of us is in a cell.

    “You disappointed us, Samantha,” Victor frowns. He almost looks genuinely sad, but I know it’s just an act. He takes a deep breath and shakes his head. “No matter. That behavior will be corrected soon enough. The Master is determined that you will not become another failure, like that other one. What was his name… The one you murdered in cold blood?”

    My blood runs cold as he brings up Logan. “I’m not a failure,” I deny. I hate that he thinks I am not capable. “I do my job well.”

    “You did not do your job today,” he responds, his tone flat.

    I scoff. “Depends on whose job I was doing,” I whisper under my breath. Regardless, it feels like a slap in my face.

    “Today, you nearly destroyed the key. You will learn your place,” he adds almost as an afterthought.

    Key? What the heck is he talking about? “I was never told anything about a key. What do you mean?” I ask as he turns and walks away. My magic bubbles away and I feel a sudden heaviness in my limbs as I collapse to the floor.”Wait!” I call out weakly.

    “Are you surprised?” his voice echoes down the stone hallway. “Learn to obey, and perhaps you will be trusted with important information.”

    My eyes sting as he disappears. “Why wasn’t I told this before?” I say quietly to myself. I’ve always been made to wait. Asked last to do him a favour. I thought it was because he trusted me to finish the job, but instead, I learn he withholds all the important things from me. Why? Why!

    I curl into a ball on my knees, balling my hands into fists as I pound the cold ground beneath me. It’s just not fair… It’s never been fair! The air in the room chills as I pound the floor, but that’s not my magic. I still, and wait. All is silent as my heart pounds in my chest. All is silent, except.

    …Clack…

    Clack…

    Clack.

By Kayla West

The Guild – Chapter 105 – Kaitlyn

    I have to admit, parents aren’t as frightening as I expected. I’m not really sure what I expected. More yelling, maybe? Kaede’s parents are just as welcoming. They listen calmly as he explains, though they don’t seem to understand why he’s been with us if he doesn’t have magic. He tells them we need him to help keep us grounded. I try very hard not to roll my eyes.

    Finally, it’s Andrei’s turn. His mood has only grown darker as the afternoon progresses. I start to wonder if we should quit while we’re ahead. Two out of three is good enough, right? Caroline urges us on ahead, so I doubt she’d let us leave. Andrei’s mood makes me nervous…

    My feet crunch in the snow and I leave a trail of watery footsteps as I jog to catch up to Andrei. He leads the way to the bus stop where we’ll need to get on to travel to get to his parent’s on the other side of town. He’s lost in thought when I come up beside him, so I bump into his shoulder lightly.

    “Hey,” I speak quietly, so the others won’t hear. “Do you think it’s really going to be that bad?”

    He scratches at his coat absently. “It’s hard to say. I didn’t leave on good terms, so I’m more nervous about how they’ll take me just showing up now. It’s been nearly four years.”

    I wrap my arm around his and smile. “I think it will be okay. If it goes bad… we can just run away!” I try to joke, hoping he’ll laugh.

    He laughs nervously. “I don’t know if I’d want to run away again. I haven’t spoken to them since I moved in with Kaede.  I have a feeling they’ll be very emotional.”

    I hum. “Well, you put up with me all the time, so it should be a breeze,” he grins but doesn’t look convinced.

    On the bus ride, Andrei insists I take any available seat. I’m tempted to argue, but I don’t want to upset him anymore. He stands in front of me like a wall while Caroline and Kaede hold onto nearby poles. It’s relatively busy since it’s late afternoon. Most people are leaving work. I wonder what day it is? I never usually keep track.

    When we arrive at the stop, Andrei walks slowly. Caroline matches his pace, hands stuffed in her coat pockets. “I’m actually really excited to meet your family, Andrei. I’ve never met your sisters before. I wonder what they’re like.”

    Sisters… right. It’s not just parents I’ll need to be wary of.

    When Andrei doesn’t answer, Kaede pipes up. “Andrei says they’re like polar opposites. Night and day.”

    Andrei looks over his shoulder. “Yeah, they are. Kira and Ylenia are very different but they’re very close.”

    I stare ahead at the street. The houses are really fancy in this area. They must be pretty well-off. “It’s a nice area. What do your parents do?” I ask, trying to make casual conversation.

    “My dad is a lawyer,  my mom’s a manager of a business in downtown Toronto,” Andrei answers as he turns right at the corner.

    The house he stops in front of is immaculate. White brick exterior, two car garage with a semi-circular driveway. Two shiny cars are parked out front. It has two stories with a sizeable lawn and probably a garden, though it’s hidden under a blanket of snow. Andrei hesitates at the foot of the path leading to the door.

    “I guess I can’t put it off forever,” he mutters under his breath. I tug on his arm before he moves. He looks down at me puzzled. I place my palm on his cheek – his skin is icy cold and pink. Then I hop up on my tiptoes to plant a kiss on his lips. I don’t really know any other way to try to cheer him up a bit.

    “Thanks, I needed that,” he chuckles.

    “Common, let’s not wait for Christmas to come again!” Caroline calls from behind, rubbing her hands together to stay warm.

    I frown. “What does that mean? What’s a Christmas?” Is that some kind of human thing? I don’t think we have that on the island…

    Everyone’s eyes turn to me, a shocked look on each of their faces. Andrei’s jaw works soundlessly.

    “Christmas is the holiday in December. Christians celebrate it, Santa Claus comes and gives everyone gifts… You can’t tell me you don’t know about Christmas!” Kaede retorts.

    I shrug. “If it’s a Christian thing, that’s probably why. We don’t have those sort of things. Everyone practices their religions in private at the Guild.”

    “It’s not just a Christian Holiday, not anymore. People usually exchange gifts and eat dinners and deserts together. A lot of different people celebrate the holiday,” Caroline adds. I just stare at her. What am I supposed to say? I mean, she knows I wasn’t really invited to group gatherings before, right?

    “Uh… I dunno. You’d have to ask Cliff or someone when we get back. Maybe they do have something,” I turn back to the house. “Anyway…”

    Andrei steps up the porch and presses a button on the wall next to the door. I hear a chime from inside the house and a short while later the door opens inward to reveal a stern looking man with dark brown hair and a mustache.  Andrei stands there silently as the rest of us watch from behind.

    The man’s eyes light up, a deep brown that reminds me of Nik for some reason. He pulls Andrei by the arm into a hug in the doorway. He looks at us over Andrei’s shoulder and he gives us a wink. Well, that explains a lot… I wonder, absently, how many traits I would have shared with my parents if any.

    When he finally releases Andrei, he pats him on the shoulder and motions to us. “Why don’t you bring your friends in?” the man asks in a deep voice.

    The interior of the house is just as spectacular as the outside, if not more so. Caroline is the first one through the door, with Kaede close behind. Andrei waves for me to go ahead. I bite the inside of my lip. We leave our shoes at the door on a black mat. His father gestures for us to move into an adjacent room, with white couches and a dormant fireplace.

    Two little girls appear in the archway on the other side of the room. One hugs the doorframe, her striking hazel eyes scan over the room. They look just like Andrei’s, set in her round porcelain face. Her dark hair is braided down the back of her head. The other one, who looks maybe a year or two younger, bounds into the room. Her pigtail braids bounce as her dark eyes, like her father’s, settle on her brother.

    “Andi!” she squeals. She barrels into his legs, hugging tightly. He stares down at her in shock, not sure what to do. Her energy is impressive as she rips away from him and starts hugging everyone. Soon, she stands in front of me, arms wide, waiting for me to bend to her level. I study her innocent face; chubby little cheeks, glowing with… magic?

    “What’s your name? I like your hair!” The girl’s voice snaps me back to reality.

    I kneel and smile. “Thank you. I’m Kaitlyn,” she reaches and takes a handful of my hair in her hands, her eyes sparkling with awe. In the corner of my eye, I notice the other girl glance behind her. A woman appears in the doorway, short brown hair and bright hazel eyes. Obviously where they get it from. She’s stunningly beautiful, but her expression is anything but friendly, and I stand up slowly, weary. The little girl slips behind me.

    The woman storms across the dark hardwood floor headed right for Andrei. His eyes grow wide and he takes a step back, but it’s not enough. The sound of her palm hitting his cheek echoes through the house. I flinch, squeezing my eyes shut. The image of Logan’s sadistic grin jumps to the front of my mind, and my breath hitches. I know that pain all too well…

    “You leave without a word for three years and you think you can just come back without any warning? Who the hell do you think we are?” the woman shouts.

    Andrei bows his head, resisting the urge to rub his cheek. “Four… years.” He mumbles.

    She continues as if she didn’t hear him. “You maybe be twenty years old but you’re still our son and we care about you. Where do you get off thinking it’s okay for you to just skip out without a word, hmm?”

    The fire reacts, flaring to life in my chest. It knows my fear – it feeds on it. It rages against my ribcage, ready to eliminate the threat. I hear a chorus of gasps, and I open my eyes to see what happened. Their gazes are fixed on the fireplace across the room, dormant a moment ago, now rages with bright orange flames. All around the room, decorative candles jump to life. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the candles in the house lit.

    This is bad. Stop it. Stop. You can’t do this. This is his home, his family. I clench my hands into fists, my nails dig into my palms. The pain brings perspective to my racing mind. I push back against the fire, trying to swallow it.

    Protect…

    I freeze. Did it just… It spoke. For the first time in more than two decades, it used a word. I take a deep breath and look to Andrei. His head still bowed, his wide eyes are fixed on me. There’s a pleading there. I feel it like a knife in my chest.

    I want to protect him too, but this isn’t the way. We’ll only hurt him. You have to stop.

    The fire grumbles in the back of my mind, but one by one, the candles fizzle out. The fireplace continues to burn, as though an unspoken warning. I let out a ragged breath.

    “She’s got fire!” Kira yells from the doorway, pointing at Kaitlyn. Everyone turns to look at me with shock.

    “So, you’ve found others who have magic,” his mother says, crossing her arms over her chest. “Is this why you dropped out of high school? To find people like you?” Andrei remains silent, looking at the floor.

    “I found them,” I blurt out. The tension is killing me. “There were students being kidnapped at the University, ones with magic potential. I found them being attacked, and I took them somewhere safe. It’s not his fault. Please don’t blame him.”

    Andrei’s head snaps up, gawking at me. His mother’s eyes narrow. “What was he doing at a University?” she asks with calculated precision, slowly shifting her gaze back to Andrei.

    “He was at the library,” I answer quickly. Amazing how clear my memory can be under pressure.

    Kaede jumps in. “He was living with me, studying on his own time to get his high school diploma.”

    “Stop it, guys,” Andrei snaps. “I’ll tell her.” He finally meets her gaze and with a nervous swallow. “I couldn’t complete high school with the time magic… It was too hard. So I dropped out.  I moved in with Kaede because I was too embarrassed to tell you. When he got into University for computer science, I moved with him, studying high school courses online and trying to complete it on my own. It wasn’t until after I met Kaitlyn at the library that I learned how to control when I jump. Since then, well, we’ve been somewhere that’s safe because people were looking for us because of our magic. Caroline also has magic. She’s Kaede’s girlfriend, from University… and Kaitlyn, she’s my girlfriend.”

    I hold my breath, watching his mother as she processes the information. The little girl behind me, her little hands clutching my sweater, peeks out. “Mum?” she calls out, unsure. The woman covers her mouth with her hand, her eyes glisten. Suddenly she throws her arms around Andrei, holding him close as she sobs quietly.

    I relax my clenched fists. The air stings my palms. I think the worst is over now. The tension in the room dissipates as his father pats his wife on the back.

    “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” Andrei mumbles, voice muffled in her shirt. “I’m sorry.”

    The little girl tugs on my sweater, drawing my gaze away from the heartwarming reunion. “So, you’re Andi’s girlfriend?”

    I blink, my cheeks flush pink. “Um… Yes.” Does she know what that means? How old is she, I wonder…

    “My names Ylenia! And that’s my sister Kira. We have magic too! Wanna see?” she says excitedly.

    So I was right. I nod. “I would love to.”

    “Why don’t we all take a seat?” their father speaks up. “Is anyone hungry? Thirsty?”

    Ylenia pouts. “But I wanna show Andi’s girlfriend my magic.”

    “Later, dear,” her father smiles, looking at me for an answer to his question. I shake my head as I glance at the others. Caroline asks if we can all have tea, and no one argues. She sits on the loveseat with Kaede. Andrei’s mother sits on a large armchair by the fireplace, and the other little girl, Kira, moves to stand next to her, leaning on the armrest. When his father returns, he brings a padded stool and sits on the other side of the coffee table.

    “You’re sitting with me!” Ylenia announces as she pulls me over to the couch. She points for me to sit, and then climbs onto my lap. I hold my arms out to the sides, eyes wide. What is she doing? Is this normal? Andrei takes a seat next to me on the couch, much to my relief. I shoot him a questioning look, hoping he’ll explain what’s happening.

    “Ylenia likes guests. Don’t worry,” Andrei assures me with a smile.

    Ylenia adjusts herself to look at him. “Nuh uh! She’s gonna be my big sister, right? So she has to play with me!”

    He rolls his eyes. “She’s always been the sociable one.”

    Kira frowns. “Ylenia, you’re too noisy.”

    Ylenia makes a noise, and I think she’s sticking her tongue out but I can’t see it. I resign myself to being a chair, and I wrap my arms around her little waist so she doesn’t slide off. She nestles against my chest, quite content.

    “So,” Andrei’s mother pipes up, a steaming cup of tea in her hands. “How long have you been seeing each other for?”

    Andrei looks at me before he answers. “About five months now. We only met in October,” has it really only been five months? It feels like so much longer.

    “I see. And you’ve been studying? Magic and high school credits?” she asks, her voice thick with worry, rather than judgment now. It’s a striking contrast. “Andrei might not have told you, but we tried everything with the schools to help him, even a lawsuit. They stopped believing us, so there was nothing else we could do. I didn’t want Andrei to struggle as he did. As his jumps got longer and longer, I even considered homeschooling him, but before I could say anything to him, he’d run off.”

    I purse my lips at her question. “Schools don’t really exist in the same way at the Guild. We don’t really have money or society. We just sort of… work together,” I explain, though it probably sounds ridiculous.

    Her brows crease. “The Guild? What is this place? I’ve never heard of it.”

    “Well, yeah, that’s sort of the point,” I giggle despite myself. I clear my throat, hoping she’s not offended.

    “The point of what?” she asks.

    “It’s hidden from the rest of the world on an island. It’s a safe haven for mages and their families who were persecuted over the past few centuries,” I try to explain. “The only way to know about it is to meet someone who’s been there.”

    “So, you’re saying there’s an island out there with a bunch of magic families and anyone can live there, as long as they have magic, or is a relative of someone with magic? How can a society like this hold up without an economy or any connections to the outside world?” she raises a skeptical eyebrow.

    I blink at her. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, how close-minded humans can be. “We coexist peacefully. If someone needs something, they ask the community. If we need something from the outside, it can be ordered from outside, but that’s usually just for electronics and modern things.”

    “But how can you afford such things without any trade agreements? Where does the money come from? Surely you’re not making your own money,” She scoffs.

    “She’s got a point,” Kaede says. “Where do we get the money from?”

    “Oh… I guess I didn’t tell you,” I hum, and scratch my cheek. “Since I brought you to the Guild, you’re set up to withdraw from my account for orders. I barely use it, so I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

    Andrei’s eyes grow wide. “We’re all under your account?”

    “Yea,” I shrug. It’s not that big a deal. “I guess Gwen, Hitomi, Selene, and Nik will be too now. If they have funds of their own, they can have it changed over, but I don’t mind. ”

    Caroline nearly shrieks. “Kat, if you have enough funds to support all of us, and the Guild… you must be a freakin’ monarch! What the heck! How do you not know that?!!”

    “And still, how do you not know Christmas?” Kaede adds Caroline elbows him. “What? She could afford to get us all gifts!” he snickers.

    I glance around the room. Okay, maybe it is a big deal? “Um… Well… According to Ambrosse, I inherited the money when my parents died. I never went back to where I was born, so I don’t really think about it,” I shift, lifting myself up slightly to pull my phone out of my back pocket. Ylenia giggles with the movement. “It’s just been sitting there for twenty-odd years…” I mumble as I tap on the screen with my thumb.

    I have an app for my international bank account. “I think the currency is in Euros…” I say as I hand Andrei the phone. “I’m not sure how much that is, but the numbers don’t change much when Kaede orders things.”

    Ylenia cranes her neck to look back at me. “So, are you a princess?” she asks with a sparkle in her eyes. “Will I become a princess too if Andi marries you?”

    I laugh. She’s adorable. “I don’t think so, sorry sweetie. I’m just a regular girl like you.”

    “I’m not so sure of that anymore,” Andrei mumbles beside me.

    “Huh?” I glance over. His face has gone pale.

    “No regular person has that kind of money, Kat,” he clarifies, his tone serious.

    Kaede jumps up and leans over his shoulder. “Holy… You could put your great great grandkids through University with that, and still have some leftover!” he whistles. I blush. The thought sounds nice…

    “Yay!” Ylenia screams. “I’m gonna be a princess!”

    His parents exchange a strange, knowing look. “Grandkids, huh?” his father smoothes his mustache. “So you’re pregnant?”

    I squeak involuntarily. “W-what? N-no…” I stutter. Andrei stares at the phone, pretending he didn’t hear.

    His mother glares at him. “Now I understand why you’ve come home out of the blue. You’re a bit young for kids now, aren’t you?”

    “It’s not like that at all! I didn’t come home for that. I… I felt bad for not telling you why I left and my friends convinced me it was a good idea to get that off my chest. Besides, it’s not like I need your approval. Kaitlyn and I are going to have our baby and we’re going to be good parents,” he says, gaining confidence with each word he speaks. I’m relieved, and a little impressed.

    “That’s not to say we wouldn’t love for you to be involved,” I add quietly. I hope he agrees.

    His parents study him and I then turn to each other, speaking with their eyes. His mother relaxes and his father turns to us. “We’re happy to hear you are dedicated to taking responsibility for your actions. We will support you in any way we can, as long as… perhaps we could come with you and join you on this island place of yours. It’s true, your sisters both seem to have traces of magic, much like yourself. We aren’t sure why, but it might be best if we could help them, as we couldn’t help you. This place, this Guild, you’ve described. It seems to have taught you a lot and we’d like to know more. Would it be possible for us to return with you?” he asks.

    “Permanently?” I gawk. Now, that was unexpected.

    “Well, I can easily work with my company via online communications. And Petre here, he could maybe travel for work. Travel is permitted is it not? ” his mother asks.

    I gulp. “Well, yes, of course,” I glance at Andrei, who is frozen in his seat. “We’ll have to talk to Am- er, the Headmistress, to find out the exact details, and to have a house set up for you.”

    “Yippee! We get to live in a castle too!” Ylenia shouts.

    I can’t help but laugh. “Well, you’ll be living with your parents until you’re a little older, but then you can visit as much as you like,” Kira smiles, looking up at her mother.

    “Well, it’s getting later. We’ll look forward to your communications and then we can prepare to move. Will you be heading back there now? Will you be flying? Perhaps we can drive you to the airport,” his father suggests.

    “We travel by portal,” I answer, though I think I sound a little snooty for some reason. I cough to clear my throat again. “If you’d like, you could come back with us tonight, before you make any decisions, and speak to the Headmistress.”

    “Tonight? Well, we’d need to pack our things no?” his mother adds.

    I glance at the others. “Just to see the place, I mean, it wouldn’t take that long. We have most of what you might need already there for a night or two. It’s just a suggestion…”

    “Hmm, I supposed then, we could. It’d be nice to see the place first,” his mother hums.

    Ylenia jumps out of my lap, and I lurch with the force of her ripping out of my arms. “Yay! Field trip! I gotta pack! Come on!” she grabs my hand, pulling hard. I stand up, confused. Why do I have to go with her? She drags me toward the stairs, and I hear the others snickering back in the other room.

    I guess I should get used to this if they’re moving to the island… Maybe I can consider it a form of training. I’ve never been around kids before. It could be helpful.

By Krystyna Yates

The Guild – Chapter 104 – Caroline

    I lay on the bed, hair loose and spread out over the sheets as I stare up at the ceiling. My feet hang over the side of the bed but don’t touch the floor. I twitch my fingers, moving them against Kaedes head. He lays facing the opposite edge of the bed, head next to mine, leaning against my left ear. I’m pretty sure he’s falling asleep.

    I feel his breath on my cheek, it tickles but it’s also comforting. I’m tempted to turn my face and kiss him while he sleeps but my thoughts are interrupted by the vibration of my cell phone in my pant pocket. I reach into my pocket, tapping the screen to light it up. I haven’t checked my phone in a while. I left it here while I was in Africa and I usually leave it in my room because training with water would just kill it if I had an accident.

    I frown at the screen. Twenty four missed calls in the last month; From Mom. I jolt upright, yanking my hair out from under Kaede with a sharp cry. He inhales sharply, waking up, looking around.

    “What? What happened? Are you ok?” he asks, rubbing his eyes and scratching his head.

    “No! I am not ok! I completely forgot about my parents and I’ve only just noticed  they’ve been calling my phone nonstop for the past three months!” I shriek, shoving the phone in his face for him to see. He takes the phone, scrolling through the call log and messages.

    “All three of us left without saying a thing to our families. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re on a missing persons’ list,” he muses.

    “I don’t like that. Logan’s gone… and this is very much going to be our lives now. Shouldn’t we at least let them know? Ease their minds and clear up the confusion?” I ask. I know I worry a lot, but this suddenly doesn’t fit right with me.

    He taps the phone, pulling up Chrome and looking at local news from back home. He turns the phone to me, showing me a picture of our missing persons’ report. My stomach drops. “Please tell me we can tell them now,” I beg.

    He puts the phone down and smiles. “I don’t see why we can’t. I’m sure they’d come to understand. It didn’t take me long to come to terms with it,” he says.

    “Yea, but you’re a different kind of person than my parents. You’re very rare, in my opinion,” my lips twitch with the backhanded compliment.

    He smirks playfully. “I know. I’m one of a kind, right?”

    I grin, biting my lip. “Yup.”  

    “I’m sure they’ll understand. Your parents are nice. And they know you’re with me. Perhaps they’ve been talking with my parents, considering the both of us just dropped out of school suddenly,” Kaede points out.

    “That’s not a good thing. What if they think you kidnapped me or something and we got eloped?!” Suddenly I’m nervous, but I gotta do it. We all do. “Andrei should probably tell his family too, no?” I ask Kae.

    “Andrei’s not really on good terms with his family, last I heard. That’s why he moved in with me. We could suggest it though. I think it’d be nice if we all went together so they know nothing’s wrong,” he suggests.

    “That’s a good idea. Let’s go ask them! Right now!” I say, jumping off the bed and grabbing my phone. He rolls off the bed to follow, caught off guard with my sudden energy.

    I dash out the door and rap my hand on Kaitlyn’s. I wait a moment until Andrei answers. I’m fairly certain he’s moved in. He’s always answering the door. “Hi!” I smile.

    He looks at me skeptically. “What do you want?” he asks. I know he’s faking seriousness. Perhaps he was fooling around with Kat again. I pretend I don’t know.

    “Do you guys have a moment? Kaede and I had an idea!” I say, leaning forward, hoping to talk to Kat too.

    “Sure, I guess,” he looks over his shoulder before letting me in. I step inside and walk over to the bed. Kat’s half sitting up, rubbing her eyes. Maybe they were napping too.

    “So,” I say, turning around as Andrei walks towards me followed by Kaede. “I think it’s been put off too long. Kaede and I are worried -”

    “Well, Caroline is the one mostly worried. But continue,” Kaede corrects me. I narrow my eyes at him, not noticing that he followed me in.

    “Well, anyway. We haven’t really told our parents where we are and I have like a billion missed calls from them and Kaede found missing persons’ reports from our area, no thanks to our parents. We think we should go and tell them, you know, we’re safe and ok. Stuff like that,” I suggest with a smile plastered on my face.

    Andrei eyes me, crossing his arms over his chest. I silently admit to myself his posture is cool and slightly attractive. I chew the inside of my lip, waiting for a response. I glance at Kat and see her looking alarmed and a little guilty.

    “I’m not really on speaking terms with them since I moved in with Kae, and I’m probably not on a report considering I disappear often. I don’t think it’s necessary. If you guy wanna go, I can’t stop you though,” he dismisses.

    “Come one Andrei. You should at least let them know you’re ok and maybe check in on your sisters. Don’t you think they’d want to know you’ve moved?” I prod.

    He puckers his lips in stubbornness. “They probably think I’m off time jumping,” he says casually. That’s right. They did know he had magic from an early age. Maybe they aren’t as worried as my parents are.

    Kaitlyn sits up. “Andrei, you should see them. Tell them you’re alive. I’m sure they would be happy to see you.”

    Andrei grimaces but I can see he’s tempted, because of Kat’s support. “You say that now…” he grumbles.

    “Come on, if we go together I’m sure we’ll be safe. And this will ease our parents’ worry about our whereabouts. Who knows, maybe they’ll be accepting of our magical abilities and we could maybe even have them come to the Guild for a visit,” I suggest. I’m sure my parents would find that very interesting.

    Andrei looks very frightened by this idea and takes a step back. “My parents already know about my magic, so if that was supposed to convince me, it didn’t work. I don’t want them coming for a visit,” he says.

    Kat climbs off the bed and stands next to him, speaking quietly. “Andrei, don’t say that. You should cherish the time that you have with your family,” she looks down sadly. “You never know when they’ll be gone.”

    “It’s been the other way around for me though. They never know when I’m going to be gone, and to them, I’m like the failure of the family. I can’t hold a regular job like my parents. We just… don’t get along,” he persists.

    She pouts. “It’s different now. You’re so much more than that. You can show them.”

    “Show them? What?” he asks, still skeptical.

    Kat smiles. “How amazing you are.”

    He exhales, amused. “Nah, they won’t see it like that. They’re business-minded Kat. Besides, if I saw them, you’d be here, alone,” he pouts.

    “She could come with us! You could introduce her to your parents! Wouldn’t it be fun?” I cut in excitedly.

    Andrei’s eyes grow wider and he doesn’t exactly look thrilled about the suggestion. Kat also looks surprised and I angrily place my hands on my hips.

    “Oh, stop being so childish. You’re coming and that’s final. You can’t ignore them forever. Besides, I’m sure they’ll love Kat,” I huff. The colour drains from Kat’s face, her hands covering her lower belly like she’s checking if it’s still there.

    “Oh, pish posh. Kat, you’re not showing and you know it. They don’t have to know that if you don’t want them too. Just say hi and get to know them. You’re both so worked up about nothing,” I chastise them. “We’re  all going and that’s final, so get something nice on and let’s go.”

~*~

    I feel a bubbling excitement in my stomach as I wrap my hand around the door handle. we decided to visit my parents first, just to make Andrei and Kaitlyn feel better about going. maybe, if we give them a good experience, they won’t be so nervous about visiting Andrei’s.

    We step through the door in the lightly falling snow. with each step I take? I hear a soft crunching sound. it brings back many memories of Christmas spent with my family and I suddenly realize, with all of the magic and crazy things that have been happening that we’ve managed to somehow forget the holidays.

    The door of the Tim Hortons shop shuts behind us and I draw my scarf a little tighter to keep out the cold. It is already late March, but in Canada, it can still be cold.

    For Kaede, Andrei, and I,  this is home, but for Kat, it’s still unfamiliar. She looks around, wide-eyed. I wonder if the cold of Canada affects her as a guardian of fire. She’s only got her oversized sweater on.

    I look around the street, gaining my barrings.  According to one of my parents’ messages, they haven’t moved yet. My family moved often when I lived with them.  Both my parents work in logistics for the Canadian military, so we get moved around often.

    I lead them across the street and into the neighbourhood. We get a good fifteen-minute walk from here to the house. We leave a trail of footprints in the snow as we walk and as it continues to snow it begins to coat our hair too, making us look like we all turned eighty. The neighbourhood is quiet when it snows. It’s such a pretty walk.

    Kaitlyn pulls up beside me and it makes me smile.  Finally, some girl time. I glance over my shoulder to see the two boys chatting quietly to themselves.

    “How are you feeling? Cold at all?” I ask her. Her hair is a striking red compared to the white snow around it. It’s stunning.

    “A little,” she admits. “I’ve never seen snow before. It’s very… wet.”

    “It is frozen water, and with you being so hot I bet it melts when it touches you,” I grin.  “I know you’re thinking this is a little scary and all, but really, my parents are really nice,” I assure her.

    She looks at me curiously. “I believe you. After all, they raised you. I just… I don’t know how to act around parents.”

    “It’s nothing special. Honestly. I guess you could picture it as you would the headmistress.  She’s like a mother to you, isn’t she?”

    Kat sighs. “I’ve never seen her that way but Andrei said the same thing. I don’t know.”

    “Parents are basically people who look after you and take care of you when you’re not well. They also worry about you even when there was nothing to worry about in the first place. Did the headmistress ever do that with you?” I ask.

    “Probably,” Kat shrugs.

    I slow to a stop and look up at the familiar two-story house, with white batten board and blue shutters. a wintery wreath still hangs on the hook on the door. I bite my lip with anticipation and climb the porch stairs. My hands shake as I reach my fist out and knock on the door.

    I listen carefully for the sound of footsteps. I hear the click of the lock turning and I step back as it opens slowly. A tall woman with golden blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and a thick light blue knitted sweater answers the door. I can’t move, I’m so excited and nervous so I just stand there with a dumb smile on my face. My mom’s mouth drops open and her hand comes up to cover it. I think I see tears glistening in her eyes.

    “Hi mom,” I say with a shaky voice.

    “Doug! Come quick!” She calls back into the house before stepping out onto the porch in her slippers and wrapping her arms around me tightly. “Oh God, Caroline. Where have you been? We’ve been so worried!” her voice trembles as much as mine. I know what she’s feeling. Mom and I are practically twins.

    “I’ve missed you too mom. I know, I’m sorry. I have so much to tell you, but first… can we come in?” I interrupt her hug, trying to gesture to the three friends behind me. She pulls away, wiping her eyes on her sweater sleeve.

    “Oh, you have friends, and Kaede too! He’s safe just like you, oh thank God. Please, come in, warm up.  I’ll make everyone some tea,” she says stepping aside from the doorway.  I turn and smile back at the others and move into the house. Everyone files in, taking off their shoes and coats and hanging them on hangers I pass them from the closet beside the door.

    Inside is warm and toasty from the gas fireplace. My mom was always on top of the most current house trends. This winter, it looks like she’s gone with a frosty blue and white look. Andrei and Kat seem to hover by the door and I practically have to take them by the hand and drag them into the living room. I lead them to a couch and am about to make them sit when my dad comes down the stairs.

    He hasn’t changed a bit; trimmed light brown hair, a mustache and clean shaven. He’s wearing a grey sweater-vest and a collared blue blouse with dark brown cords. As soon as I spot him I leap away from the couch and crash into his arms expecting him to catch me, and he does.

    “Caroline!  My girl! you’re alive! Oh, thank God you’re alive. Your mother had me convinced you were dead! Oh, it’s so good to see you again, and Kaede too. And are these some new friends?” e asks, holding me in a bear hug. I’m so glad they didn’t think I ran off to elope.

    “Of course I’m alive! Dad, I’d never die on you without saying so first,” I giggle. “You haven’t met Andrei before. He’s Kaede’s roommate and this is his girlfriend, Kaitlyn,” I introduce them as I drag him over to the couch to meet them.

    Kaitlyn waves sheepishly, perched on the edge of the couch cushion taking up as little space as possible.

    “Hello, I’m Douglas, Caroline’s father, and I guess you’ve met my wife, Stacy. It’s nice to meet you,” my father smiles as he takes a seat in the chair across from everyone on the couch. He motions for the Kaede to sit. Only three can fit on the couch, so Andrei and Kaede sandwich Kat while I take a seat next to them in a chair opposite my father.

    “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Andrei. I’ve heard so much about you, before… well. Caroline. When your mother’s done with the tea, you’ll tell us all about where you’ve been and why you haven’t spoken a word about it to us?” he asks with a hidden urgency in his voice, but I can just tell these things.

    Shortly after, my mom comes in with the tea and passes the cups around. I hold the cup snuggly in my hands, relishing in the warmth. I’m admittedly a little nervous about telling my parents. It’s not every day you tell someone you have magic and you were off learning how to use it. Mom pulls up a seat beside me and I look to dad, who’s watching me intently, waiting.

    “So, Caroline. I’m sure you have a very good reason for not answering your phone and not telling us you have stopped attending classes,” my father starts sternly. I spot Kat anxiously gripping Andrei’s arm at my father’s tone. “Would you care to enlighten us now?” he insists.

    I gulp, rapping my fingers on my cup. “Well, mom, dad,” I say, looking between them both nervously. “I’m not exactly sure how to explain it. I didn’t leave on purpose or anything,” I see them tense and I know I have to clarify or they’ll be jumping to conclusions. “I was in danger, all of us were, at the time. So Kaitlyn here, she took us somewhere safe and … well. I guess it’d be best to show you.”

    I set my cup down on the coffee table and stand, moving a little ways from the chair. I chew the inside of my lip anxiously, holding my hand out and summoning the water in the form of a fish. I hope that makes it a little less off-putting. I watch as my parents’ eyes grow wide at the wiggling watery fish in my hand. the shock on their faces is evident, but their approval is not so clear.

    “I have water magic… I’ve been away, learning how to control it. You know, all those times when my room was getting wet and we couldn’t figure out why?” I look to my mom, hoping she’ll understand. She watches me and nods slowly. “Well that was me, I was attracting the water to me.”

    My mom looks speechless so I turn to my dad. “Please, say something.”

    He runs a hand through his short brown hair and sighs. “Caroline, sweety. Was that why you left? And you didn’t feel you could tell us?” he says. My jaw trembles with the nerves I’ve held back.

    “I was just so worried and busy that I didn’t even think to check my phone and then there were times when I didn’t have service and to be honest, technology and water do really go well together. Youknowhowwaterfrieselectricaldeviesand…”

    Kaede taps me on the arm to stop me from running away with my words. I feel tears in my eyes from all the pent-up emotions. “Oh mom, dad. I missed you so much! Please don’t be mad! Really, I’m ok and I’m going to keep studying, even if I have to do it at the place we’ve been staying at. It doesn’t mean I can’t visit you or anything like that at all!” I burst out emotionally, running time mom’s side and hugging her dramatically. When I manage to teary self away I turn to dad and do the same.

    My mom turns to my friends with a smile, wiping her eyes of the happy tears. “So, you’re friends, do they do Magic too?” She asks curiously.

    I return to my seat with a nod, grabbing my cup. “Yes, they do,” I reply.

    “And Kaede?” my father adds.

    “No. Kaede is just Kaede,” I smile, looking to him happily.

    He grins proudly. “The same old technological wizard, Kaede,” he smirks.  

    “And what do your friends do, with their magic,” my father asks.

    Kaitlyn looks at Andrei, then at me. I nod encouragingly. She holds out her hand, and a small candle-sized flame appears. She studies my parents closely, holding her breath.

    They silently gasp but quickly, their expression turns to one of awe. “So, fire, and water.  You must be good friends!” My mother teases. I smile with an affirming nod.

    “Actually we are!” Kat gives me a small smile then Kaede and I both look to Andrei. He stares back, face blank.

    “What? I can’t exactly show mine like you guys can,” he says with exasperation.

    “Sure you can. you never stopped showing off to me when we were in school,” I prod.

    “Wait, Andrei has had magic while you were in school?” my dad inquires.

    “Actually, “ Kaede holds up his finger as he interjects. “Andrei has had magic since he was seven years old. It’s quite an interesting kind of magic too. He can-” Kaede is suddenly cut off as Andrei rolls his eyes and is suddenly off the couch. another second later, he’s standing before my parents, both with a fresh pot of tea to pour into the cups he’s placed in both their hands.

    I watch as their faces shift, trying to comprehend what just happened. Andrei had moved incredibly fast.

    “So your magic is speed?” my dad confirms.

    “Not exactly,” Andrei replies. “It’s time. I speed up the kettle and made a new pot of tea for you, while slowing down your time and speeding up my own, making it look like I had done things at super speed,” Andrei attempts to explain. My dad nods, understandingly.  

    “And he can jump back in time,” Kaede bursts with excitement. everyone’s head snaps to him and Andrei and I both glare hard. I know Andrei wanted to keep that part mostly a secret but… I guess it’s too late now. Kaede shrinks on the couch, a little embarrassed.  “Sorry.”

    “Wow. That’s quite the ability,” my mom says with a  smile. She sips her tea and places a hand on my arm, rubbing it softly. For the next hour or so, my parents ask us questions about our time away and making sure we were safe. They were very receptive to the news and honestly, this surprised me a bit. I really did expect them to freak out a little more.

    Overall I think it was a good first experience for Kat. When I told my parents we had to go they were sad, but I assured them I would keep in contact more regularly and perhaps they could come for a visit, once we asked cliff about the rules and regulations regarding such a thing.

    With a heavy heart, I wave goodbye at the door, a bag of my own things in one hand and a box of treats from my mom in Kaede arms.

    On the street, I turn to the others with a smile. “That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” I ask with a smirk.

    Kat smiles. “No, it wasn’t. They’re very kind.”

    “Thanks!” I say with a smile.

    “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Kaede grins. I pinch his arm with my free hand.  “That was a compliment! What the heck!” he asks, pulling his arm away.

    “Well, I’m just glad. now, let’s visit Kaedes and then we can go to yours, Andrei!” I suggest, leading the way back to the Tim Hortons.  

    “Yippee…” I hear him grumble behind me. Ever the optimist.

By Kayla West

The Guild – Chapter 103 – Andrei

    “Bon appetit!” I grin broadly as I set a steaming omelet on the table in front of Kat. I made sure to load it with all the good stuff; tomatoes, cheese, spinach, and ham. I even made a happy smiley face in ketchup on the top to make her smile.

    I take a seat across from her and watch as she picks up her fork. She giggles when she sees the face, hesitant to disturb it. Eventually, she cuts it up and takes a bite.

    I don’t know why I find it so fascinating to watch her and the others eat; It’s mostly to see if they like what I made. I’m not sure when this started. I guess I’d have to say it’s a habit from jumping to the past, observing how others do things and imitating them, trying to fit in. But really, I think it’s really cute how she eats, cutting it into small pieces and taking small bites, every time.

    I forget to eat as I watch her, lost in my thoughts until she looks up and catches me again, staring at her. I bite the inside of my lip with a smile and sink my fork into the fluffy omelets, amused.

    I take a bite and nod with satisfaction as a tall man with reddish hair walks up to our table. He wears a pair of dark blue jeans and a plaid button-up shirt. It takes me a moment to recognize him, and when I do, I nearly choke on my omelet. How could I not?

    Markus places a broad hand on Kaitlyn’s back and she jumps with surprise, dropping her fork to the table. I stare at him, waiting for someone to say something.

    Kat looks up at him, her eyes growing wide. I watch, intrigued as I catch a glimpse of the pendant appear around her neck, resting over her sweater. He smiles down at her proudly and I lose my appetite watching as he pulls up a chair and takes a seat next to her.

    “I’m glad you’re up and about. Your friends take good care of you.” He says in a deep, strong voice. I cringe at the word friends… I feel that’s an exclusive term, which doesn’t include me anymore.

    Kat’s eyes dart to me nervously. I try to hide my displeasure at seeing Markus’ familiarity with her. I shrug, unsure how to respond. I don’t trust myself to speak, I’m afraid anything I might say would come out hateful and I’m trying not to be so uptight about the whole thing.

    When she continues to stare at me, not saying a word, I sigh. Guess I have to say something after all. I cringe inwardly. C’mon Andrei, try to be nice.

    Markus glances between us, reading our indecision. He leans away from her slightly, giving her some space. “I understand you are… upset with me. Perhaps, when you’ve finished eating, we can go elsewhere,” he flashes his remarkably white teeth in a smile, nearly hidden beneath his thick grizzly beard. “If you’ll let me, I would like to restore some of your energy before the yelling starts.”

    I frown, I guess he doesn’t know how Kat can get when she’s angry with someone. “I’m not so sure that’s such a great idea. Someone could get hurt if you restore her magic first,” I warn, trying to be funny. Kat glares hard at me and I suspect I’ve hit a sensitive chord.

    “I am fully aware of that,” Markus replies, without looking away from her. “Selene tells me I would deserve such a thing.”

    Kat looks at Markus with an expression I’ve never seen before, a mix of hatred and reverence. I watch curiously at what she’ll say in response to him.

    “Come on, Kat. Don’t be like that. He’s trying,” a familiar voice comes from Markus’ direction. Her gaze flickers to movement on Markus’ shoulder and she turns back to her plate without a word.

    I purse my lips as I spy Rhoan as a mouse on his shoulder. I wonder why he ran off to. “So…” I try to break the tension. “You can restore the power you took from her to get yourself out of the space outside of time. Why did you need to take it in the first place?” I try to ask without contempt.

    “To open the door,” Markus finally turns his striking blue eyes on me. “It was… some sort of toll my brother placed to lock me there. I needed a great amount of power, specifically from a descendant. An amount that would kill most mages.”

    “I guess you could say you’re lucky to have such a descendant, because, without her, it would have been impossible,” I muse, stressing ‘lucky’. I’m not doing such a good job at being friendly.

    “That was his intention,” Markus nods, “however, I’m sure you know by now… Luck had nothing to do with it,” his eyes shift back to her. She doesn’t respond, taking another bite of food.

    “Yes… we know,” I reply darkly. “So what is it you want to talk about, other than returning her power to her?” I ask, maybe I should try chasing him off so Kat can enjoy my cooking. I hate to see her eat it so robotically.

    “Some of her power,” Markus corrects. “I cannot give enough to restore it all. I simply do not have that much energy.”

    I open my mouth to respond but I’m distracted as a group of familiar faces show up at the other end of the caf. Kaede, Caroline, Nik, and Cliff approach our table with purpose.

    Caroline breaks into a smile when she sees Kat eating. “Hey, guys! How are you?” she asks, but her greeting falls on deaf ears as Cliff notices Markus sitting next to her.

    “Oh, I see we have a new friend! Greetings!” he booms, spreading his arms wide as if to embrace Markus right then and there. He is just too friendly! Jeez! Kat’s eyes snap to Cliff with a look that could kill, but Cliff is already in full motion.

    Everyone watches with awe as he wraps his Viking-sized arms around Markus in a manly embrace. Our looks turn from awe to stifled giggles as Markus laughs awkwardly, patting him on the back.

    “Well, at least one of you seems to be glad to see me,” Markus muses. Kat continues to glare and I roll my lips, barely able to contain a laugh.

    “That’s Cliff for you,” Kaede grins, a finger under his lip. Caroline elbows him softly with a quick look and Kaede shrugs like he doesn’t understand.

    Nik rounds the table and takes a seat between Kat and I, pulling the chair out and swinging it around so he straddles it backward. His deep brown eyes study her face for a moment before he speaks. “Hey,” he says, getting her attention.

    She turns to look at him and they seem to share some unspoken communication before she goes back to eating.

    I glare, a little jealous… how’d he do that?

    “So, friend, what’s your name? What brings you to the Guild? Would you like a tour?” Cliff asks. I facepalm myself… God, someone needs to tell him.

    “That won’t be necessary,” Markus smiles. “I built it,” Cliff’s face freezes in shock, mouth slightly agape.

    Caroline bursts out laughing and this time Kaede looks at her with a bewildered look on his face. Oh man, this is great.

    “You… built it?” Cliff repeats as it dawns on him just who he’s talking to. “Oh… My mistake! I am so sorry! I can’t.. It can’t be!” he looks around at us, all holding back laughter, except for Kat. “Is he telling the truth? Could this really be the-” Caroline holds up a finger to her lips, silencing him before he says the word Founder and reveals to the whole caf just who sits at the table with us. Cliff clamps his mouth shut with a bemused expression on his face and I nod confirmation to his question. His eyes grow wide and his smile broadens.

    Markus grins back at him. “I’m pleased to finally meet you all in the flesh.”

    Kaede smiles. “Even me?” he asks, pointing to himself. Caroline rolls her eyes.

    “Absolutely,” Markus nods. “Someone should be keeping my legacy up to date with the rest of the world.”

    “See!! He appreciates a Techy. Magic and Technology can work together,” Kaede says smugly. “It’s an honor to uhh… update your facilities,” he says, extending a hand to shake Markus’.

    Markus takes his hand firmly; Kaede’s hands are dwarfed by Markus’ in comparison.

    I notice Kat’s fork scraping absently at the empty plate and smile. “Shall we go somewhere more private then, to talk?” I ask, taking the fork from her hand with an encouraging smile.

    Markus is the first to stand. “Follow me,” he says. He seems a little too eager for this encounter if you ask me. We all follow suit, and I quickly leave the plate in the kitchen and dash after them as they leave the caf. He leads us to an area of the Guild I’ve never seen before, up one of the towers. We climb the endless amount of stairs. Cliff informs us that this part of the Guild has been closed for centuries due to poor infrastructure.

    Markus explains as we walk that this is where his private apartments are and he had spent the better part of the previous day cleaning it up. When he opens the door, we look around in awe at the large, open space. The walls are lined with tall windows and rugs cover the floor in a rich red colour. There’s an old Oak desk covered in books and strange apparatuses which I could probably never guess their purpose. I spot some bookshelves along the wall filled with old texts with handmade spines. I feel the sudden urge to read them.

    Kaede can’t seem to hold his tongue as it clearly reminds him of the Gryffindor common room he’s seen in the Harry Potter films. I chuckle at the reference and the fact that no one else here would know what he’s talking about, except for maybe Nik.

    I frown as I notice Nik hovering around Kat. Isn’t that my job? Or am I just being overprotective?

    “Welcome to my apartments. You can usually find me here in the evenings,” he waves a wide hand around the living space as the door shuts behind us.

    With sudden speed, Kat dashes towards him, as if this was the moment she’d been waiting for. Nik quickly grabs her around the waist with equally surprising speed, catching her before she can reach Markus and holding her back in a bear hug.

    “Nope,” Nik says cheerfully. “Let’s not do something you’ll regret,” he hums in a sing-song voice. This irks me very much. I find myself irritated by him touching her like that. I take a step towards them.

    Kat wiggles in his grip but can’t work her way out. I bite my lip ‘cause I don’t think I would have stopped her. I kind of warned him that might happen, and I feel like Markus expects it too. He doesn’t look at all surprised. She stops fighting, her burning orange eyes trained on Markus.

    Markus sighs. “Do you truly hate me that much, Kaitlyn?” she doesn’t respond, only glares at him, seething with anger. Everyone watches as she continues to simmer, Nik being as sturdy as a tree holding her back. I sigh… knowing I’m the only one who can probably calm her down.

    I step up to her, between her and Markus so she has to look at me. “Come on Kat… I know, we both dislike him very much, but… maybe we should hear him out,” I say. I wait for a response, to see how she’ll take my suggestion. She gives me nothing but a twitch of her upper lip.

    I lean in close to her face, staring into her smoldering amber eyes; God, she’s beautiful, even when she’s angry. “Kaitlyn, come on now, let’s use our words… ok?” I say, tilting my head a little, not daring to blink.

    I see the anger falter in her eyes, revealing something else. “Words hurt more than fists,” she finally speaks. She couldn’t be more right there. I nod, moving out of the way. I gesture to Nik to let her go.

    “Not a chance,” Nik states stubbornly. “I can do this all day, Kat. Start talking, you two.”

    This time it’s my turn to glower. I don’t want him to hold her like that. “I got this, Nik. Let her go,” I say, placing my hand on her arm lightly.

    Nik looks down at me, dead serious. “Not if you’re going to let her get violent. She’s not in any condition to fight.”

    “And what do you know about her condition,” I growl. “That’s my business, not yours. Besides, she just said she’d talk. I trust her,” I snarl.

    “That is not what she said,” Nik scoffs.

    “He is right,” Markus speaks up. “Kaitlyn, violence is not the answer here. At least, not until you’ve regained your strength. Please, calm yourself.”

    I throw my arms up, stalking away. No one listens to me… what am I? A brick wall? I watch from the wall, a frown plastered on my face. Everyone’s eyes shift nervously between Kat and Markus, waiting with anticipation.

    Markus shakes his head. “Alright then… If you insist,” he approaches, placing his hand on her forehead. I smile at the thought of Nik getting burned, holding her. Markus’ hand glows for several moments. When it fades, he steps back. “Release her now,” he nods to Nik.

    Nik sighs. “Don’t go too crazy,” he mutters as he opens his arms. As soon as she’s free, Markus is knocked across the room into the far wall.

    I hold my head in my hands… Oh, Kat… Why? Why won’t you listen to me? I can’t help but admit that I’m sad she didn’t burn Nik first, but still…

    She moves across the room in a flash, before he has time to get back up. He doesn’t seem to be trying to defend himself at all, taking each of her hits without flinching. She kicks, punches, elbows, and knees him repeatedly, then waits for him to get back up before attacking again. Still, he takes her blows, even when the fire comes with each impact. His clothes are scorched in several places, but I realize after several minutes of this… none of the injuries look all that bad. Is he that strong, or… is she holding back?

    Her punches slow down. He’s knocked back again, but this time as he falls, so does she. Kat drops to her knees, arms limp at her sides. Markus sits up, his expression ever patient.

    “I know,” he says quietly, with open arms. Kat falls into his arms, and he rests his chin on her head. “Shh… It’s alright,” he whispers. As everyone holds their breath I hear the faint sounds of her crying. I look away then, not wanting to see her break down. I can’t imagine what she could be going through right now… I just hope she finds the healing she needs to move past this.

    I feel bad, not going over to console her, but I can’t help but feel this is between her and Markus and has nothing to do with me, so I wait, watching, if but a little sad. When she finally stops crying, wiping her eyes with the back of her arm, Markus takes her red hands in his. They glow faintly as he heals them. I guess she punched him pretty hard after all.

    When he’s finished, he pulls her up and leads her over to the seating area he has. The others follow but I hang back. I don’t want to sit… I still feel a little ashamed that Nik was right… and she didn’t listen to me. I hope the others don’t think to call me over. I’d rather not.

    Before she sits, Kat walks up to Nik, looking at her feet as she apologizes to him. He chuckles and ruffles her hair like a little kid.

    Then she looks to me, still standing on the wall by the door. I try not to meet her eyes because I just know I’ll cave if I do. From the brief glance I caught of her before I looked away, I notice her eyes are puffy, looking all vulnerable and sad, eyes that ask ‘are you mad at me?’ Yes, I’m mad. Why wouldn’t I be mad? But worse, I’m hurt that you broke my trust and made me look like an idiot. Maybe she’ll ignore me if I don’t look at her…

    She hovers for a moment and I just know she thinks I’m angry. I push my lower lip out. I know her. She’s not going to approach me first… I guess I have to man up. I look over as she moves to the love seat, taking a seat and curling her legs up, wrapping her arms around them.

    I sneer to myself and push off from the wall to join her on the loveseat. I wish she wouldn’t make me feel guilty like this. It’s her fault I’m mad anyway. I sit beside her, awkwardly. I feel all tenses but despite my current displeasure, I reach my arm around her shoulder and pull her close.

    “I’m sorry…” she whispers, sliding her arms around my waist and resting her head on my shoulder. “I couldn’t…”

    “Yeah, I know…” I grumble, rubbing her shoulder. “Let’s forget about it,” I suggest. I don’t want to have to sort this out too.

    “Alright. Now that that’s settled,” Markus leans back in his armchair, cutting the tension roughly. “How much do you all know about my brother?” It takes me a moment to change gears.

    “Wait… you have a brother?” Kaede starts, catching on quicker then I can.

    Markus raises his eyebrows and takes a deep breath. “Well, that answers that. Yes. My twin brother, Mortecai. Some might call it a cliche in this day. He turned quite… sour,” he explains.

    I raise an eyebrow. “No kidding,” I jest softly. All eyes focus on Markus.

    “What happened? Would you mind telling us?” Caroline asks after a long moment of silence.

    “Not at all,” Markus nods. “There was a very long time that my brother and I were very close. Unfortunately, with the industrial revolution, non-magical humans began to resent those of us with gifts. They used their newfound technologies against anyone who showed magical promise. It was a very difficult time for all… Mortecai took it harder than most of us. This is when I had established this place, as a sanctuary, where the study of magic could continue without impeding the progress of technology. Mortecai disagreed wholeheartedly,” Markus pauses, a faraway look in his eyes. “He resented them, and he resented me. He felt I had abandoned him to fight alone. So, he plotted against me, and managed to trap me in the Veil.”

    “The space outside of time,” I point out. “How can someone do that? I mean, only a time mage can get there without exacting such a high price,” I point out, curious how someone else had learned to do this.

    Markus nods. “He paid a price, but I’m not entirely certain what that price was. I do know that while my body has remained as it was, he has aged significantly,” his thick orange brows furrow. “I worry, however… I suspect that a large portion of his power was locked away with me. Releasing me may have also restored that power to him.”

    “So the Master, or Mortecai, he looks older than you now, all because he put you in the Viel. How do you know that if you were locked in the Veil all this time? And why would he do that? What purpose did he have to lock you away? Why not just kill you?” Caroline asks.

    “He did so because he was not strong enough to kill me, nor I him. I could see many things, even while in that place, and I have been learning quickly since.”

    “Then why were we urged to unlock you? According to Andrei’s teacher, we had a limited time to awaken you. If that would strengthen your brother… Couldn’t there have been another way?” Kaede asks.

    “No,” Markus replies patiently, “So long as that power was trapped with me, Mortecai could not be destroyed. Not completely. In the same sense, neither could I. He may have been restored, but he is not invincible. He will seek to destroy me again, this I’m sure… but he cannot. We are evenly matched, and thus, we are at an impasse.”

    “He’s not only after you, though. He’s been going after Kat for a while now,” I  speak up. “He tried to trap her in the Veil too.”

    “Indeed, he did,” Markus agrees. “He is afraid of her. She is the only one whose potential exceeds his own. This is how she was designed,” he turns his face away. “It was… more successful than I imagined, and for that, I’m sorry.”

    “She’s not some experiment of yours,” I growl, temper flaring. “She’s a human being like the rest of us, not some model robot,” I grip her shoulder in my hand as I say it, hoping to give her some comfort. It still bothers me, how he talks about her with such dehumanizing language.

    “You are very right, Andrei,” Markus looks me in the eye. “I made a mistake, but I cannot undo the past. I did not consider how the child would be affected when it was born. I had no way to predict the element she would receive, or how powerful it would be. My concern was how to stop my brother, and in that effort, I became reckless.”

    “She was affected more than you can possibly imagine,” I press. “Her power was so great, she could hardly control it. As a meer baby, she lost her entire family and had to grow up alone. Did it not ever occur to you that something like this could happen?”

    Markus takes a deep breath. “No, it did not,” he rubs his cheek, adjusting his jaw. “Though, I now understand that it was much worse than I thought,” he glances at Kat, curled up around me, and smiles. “I cannot express how relieved I am to see her happy now, with all of you.”

    “She brought us all here, in fact. She found us,” Caroline adds warmly.

    “Well,” Nik chuckles, “most of us.”

    “She found you too, didn’t she? In a way, she brought you here too,” Kaede retorts. He’s right, in each of our cases, she found a Guardian and managed to interest them in coming back to the Guild, all except Hitomi, the Wind Guardian. That was more of an accident.

    “It doesn’t really matter, does it?” Kat mumbles. “The past is the past, and you’re all here. What happens next?”

    “Now we must find my brother, and find out what he’s planning,” Markus says as if that were easy. “There are other Guardians to be found, of the minor elements. I am sure he will either seek to recruit or destroy them. He does not have the advantage we have; the ability to awaken through ritual.”

    “Wait, you don’t know his plans?” I ask, flabbergasted. Great, wasn’t he supposed to know what he was up to?

    “He has that old book,” Kat shifts slightly to look over at Markus. “The one Logan stole.”

    Markus smiles. “Yes, but you have the key, my dear. It’s there, around your neck. The book is useless without it.” I eye the pendant which suddenly appears around her neck. So… that’s the key?

    “That makes it even more crucial that we keep you out of his hands. If he gets you, then he can open the book. We can’t let that happen,” I say.

    “He’s already recruited a few Guardians himself. I’m not sure if they are awakened or not, but besides Logan, he has a girl called Samantha whose element is not so clear to us and a new guy who can use Ice. We managed to get the Wind Guardian away from him though, just last week,” Caroline informs Markus.

    “Samantha… yes, I recall. She is the Guardian of the Void,” Markus nods. “Combined with Ice, I suppose that is not a surprise.”

    “Void?” I whisper as if to myself. I crease my brows as I think about this. Why does it seem to tickle a memory that I can’t quite remember? Something seems off about this information, but I can’t place my finger on it. I shake my head and focus back on the conversation.

    “Why isn’t that a surprise?” Caroline asks. “What’s the significance?”

    “They are easily corrupted,” Markus answers simply.

    “Surely that depends on the person and not the element,” Caroline replies skeptically.”

    “Perhaps,” Markus hums. “Though, the elements typically choose a host that suits them. To an extent, a person is shaped by their element, but the building blocks were there, to begin with.”

    “What’s your element?” Nik asks suddenly. I turn to Markus, suddenly curious.

    “Ah, of course,” Markus chuckles. “How rude of me. My element is Positive, sometimes known as Light. I have learned to harness several other elements, however. In contrast, Mortecai is of the Negative, or Darkness element.”

    “So, just how many elements are there?” Caroline asks, leaning forward on her seat.

    Cliff thumbs his beard in thought. “The Guild has a record of many of the elements but much has been lost over the years, without the presence of such Guardians to uphold their skills. It could be possible that we don’t know of all the elements, even now.”

    “It is difficult to pinpoint the exact number. Officially, as it was in my time, there were just over thirty. Now, having seen things from the Veil, I see that there are several more even I did not know of.”

    “How is that possible?” Caroline adds.

    “I think the more important question is, is there a faster way we can find them before your brother does?” I add. I admire Caroline’s interest in the mysteries of the Guardians, but our time is short.

    Markus seems lost in thought for a while. “I do not believe so… However…” he hesitates and takes a deep breath. “With my book, it would be possible to create them.”

    The room erupts into gasps of shock. Our eyes grow wide at the idea and we all seem to lean closer, well, all except Kat.

    “Create Guardians?” Caroline asks. “Is this ethical? Or is it more like creating a catalyst?” she asks, not sold on the idea a hundred percent.       

    “It gives the opportunity to those who were not born with the potential to face the trial and be deemed worthy,” Markus explains. “It is not ideal, but if they are granted the power, it will mean that those with born potential cannot, and will thus remain dormant.”

    “That seems a little unfair, doesn’t it?” she presses. “I mean, those born with the potential might be better suited to Guardianship than those who were not. WOuldn’t it be better if we sought out the potentials first?”

    “Yes,” Markus agrees. “Which is precisely why the book is locked, and the key was hidden.”

    “Why was the key hidden in Kaitlyn?” Kaede asks.

    “I’m wondering this too. It seems dangerous to hide the key in your decedent if it at all seemed like your brother would want to access this information and knew you had a blood relative. Why not hide it elsewhere, like, with the dragons?” I ask.

    Markus frowns. “I did, in a way. My brother knew of my wife, and my other children. He was unaware of my other child. It was hidden in that bloodline, all the way down to Kaitlyn. If he had found out, and he did, eventually… He still could not access the key. If she dies without a child, it will be lost. Mortecai has hunted down every last one of my descendants, but he was unable to reach her here.”

    His words echo in my head, ‘dies without a child.’ If she dies without a child, then the Key is lost with her. But if she has a child… would the key then pass to it? Would his target just shift to the child? I cringe at this thought. I mean, sure… Kat would no longer be the aim of his persistence hunting, but our child would be. I’d have to try to keep them both safe. I can’t just lock them up in the Guild. That’s no way to live a life.

    I decide to confirm my suspicion. “So, what if she does have a child? What then?”

    Markus blinks, and glances between Kat and I, “Oh, my apologies. Allow me to clarify; The key will stay with her for the remainder of her life. Your baby will not be affected.”

    “Then why did you say if she dies without a child?” I ask, still confused.

    Markus’ doesn’t flinch. “There is approximately nine months before the child will be born.”

    “So you expect us to keep Kat locked up here forever? Just to keep the key out of Mortecai’s grasp? That’s not a strategy I think will work out. Kat is also one of our best fighters,” I might just be rambling, but it seems like even if she were to have the child, Markus just wants her safe for the sake of the key. Why does he sound so selfish to me? “She has a life too. You can’t keep her locked away until your brother is gone.”

    Markus leans forward, holding his hand up. “I do not intend to lock away anyone. It’s quite the opposite. Kaitlyn is necessary in this conflict, and in that regard, I worry for the child,” he focuses his gaze on her. “I would sooner be rid of the key and the book than to force you into captivity. However, it does not matter. The key is bound to your soul. Even if he should get his hands on it, it will always return to you.”

    I turn to Kat, watching for her response. I guess maybe I’m being a little pretentious in my assumption that Markus only cares for his own gain. I decide to stop talking and keep my opinions to myself.

    Kat pulls her arms out from around me to take the necklace off. She holds it out in front of her, almost fascinated. “How does it work?”

    Markus smiles. “Like so,” he holds out his hands. The space above shimmers and a shape begins to form. Before our eyes, a book appears. Wait… isn’t that…?

    Kat gasps and jumps as the necklace glows in her hands. “What’s it doing?”

    “It’s resonating,” Markus beams. “It recognizes it’s old friend.”

    I recognize the book, it looks the same. “How did you do that?” I ask, perplexed.

    Markus gives me a wry smile and his eye seems to gleam. “The same way the key is bound to Kaitlyn, the book is bound to me. With this, we can work on a plan to stop my brother. Will you help me?” he asks, looking at each of us in turn.

    Caroline nods, followed by Kaede. Cliff smiles broadly, also nodding and then Nik joins. I look to Kat, wondering if she will agree. Our eyes meet and I study them a moment, she seems to hesitate, but then she nods as well. I return my gaze to Markus and give my agreement.

    “Yes, we’ll help you.”

By Kayla West

The Guild – Chapter 102 – Kaitlyn

    The sound of my racing steps echoes off the marble walls. My chest burns, and my eyes sting. Does he really think so little of me? He thinks I would be so stupid to give my power away to just anyone? I can’t forget Mortecai’s voice no matter how hard I try. I remember how it felt when he stole my energy. Why would I do that?

    I can barely see where I’m going, but I don’t really care. I just need to get away. I don’t want him to see me like this again. I don’t want to be mad at him… anyone but him. I don’t understand.

    The hall ahead turns dark and I don’t have time to stop before I run right into something soft. I feel hands around my arms, firm but not crushing.

    “Kat, stop,” he begs softly. I push against his chest half-heartedly, but I don’t really want to keep running.

    “Why?” I hiccup. I can’t believe I’m such a baby… “So you can keep telling me how stupid I am?”

    “That’s not what I said,” he insists in a panic.

    “That’s exactly what you said!” I pound against his chest weakly.

    “I said I wanted you to be careful!” he retorts.

    I take a ragged breath. “Because you don’t think I would know that? You don’t think I worried about who was asking? You don’t think I was scared too?”

    “Kat… you went unconscious. Do you know how scared I was? Of course, I’d be worried about you. I just… I need … no, I want you to be careful!  It’s not only you now,” he says earnestly, touching a hand to my waist.

    “I know that,” I hit him again, slowly, barely moving the fabric of his shirt as I taste the salt of a tear on my lip. “I’m trying,” I whisper, “I’m trying…”

    He rubs my arms, trying to soothe me. “But you’re trying alone. You don’t have to do it alone.”

    I look up at him and shake my head. “I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t ask you… it wouldn’t let me. If I said no, everything we worked for would’ve been for nothing.”

    He pulls me against him, locking his arms around my back. “I know we can’t change what happened but moving forward, we need to talk before something like this happens again.”

    “What if I can’t? What if there’s not a chance? What if you’re not there?” the words rush out like rapid fire.

    “Why would I not be here? Am I not always here for you?” he asks, genuinely alarmed. I feel my jaw clamp shut. I can’t bring myself to answer, because I want to lie and say yes.

    “Kaitlyn, listen to me. I’m always here to support you. No matter what. That’s the truth, even if I’m not there in person. I’ll always try to find a way to get to you and be there for you. I won’t go running off like I did before.  Things are different now. I know how much I mean to you and I want you to know just how much you mean to me. Please remember this,” he begs.

    I let out a long sigh. I’m so tired, I don’t want to argue. I want to believe him. I know he means what he says, but I’m afraid.

    “What if you die?” my voice cracks, barely audible with my face buried in his shirt.

    He tenses as he struggles with what to say. “If I die, it’d be protecting you. You and our baby… besides… I can’t die that easily right? I’m a time mage,” he tries to assure me, but he doesn’t sound very confident.

    I clutch handfuls of his shirt. “I would rather lose the baby than lose you.”

    He chuckles. “And I’d rather not lose you. Let’s make a pact; to both not be reckless and die. Okay?”

    I laugh, almost as a reflex. I lean back with a skeptical brow raised. “Do you think you can manage that?”

    He shrugs and winks. “I don’t have a good track record, but I can try. However, I have a problem. The pact we just made, it only involves the two of us. If we are going to have this baby, I think we have to both commit to protecting it too. I’m mean, maybe we shouldn’t be thinking of just the two of us anymore. Aren’t we the three of us now?”

    I glance away, avoiding his gaze. “Yeah… but if I have to choose between you and this…” my hand moves to my stomach and I let the question hang. Is that wrong? Does that make me a bad person?

    Andrei frowns. “But it’s ours… Even if we didn’t intend to make it. I… would feel awful if I knew my parents didn’t want me as much as they want each other… No?” he tilts his head with a smile, “I guess I’m saying I can’t choose. I want you both.”

    “Of course!” I gasp quickly. “I didn’t mean it like that, and, well, we’re sort of connected right now so like, you probably wouldn’t have to… but I, um…” I flounder, eyes darting around hoping to find the right words. “Are you hungry?”

    “I don’t ever want to choose,” he states very seriously, but then his expression softens. “Now that you mention it, I’m starving. What should we make?”

    I pause to think about it. “I think… something sweet.”

    “Got it. Crepes?” he asks as he takes a step, pulling me along with him. I blink and we’re in the kitchen. He slips away and starts to pull out utensils.

    “Oh… Okay,” I tug my sleeve over my palm and wipe the wetness off my cheeks from crying. My eyes are sore and I feel the start of a headache. Man, I hate crying. “Um… Did you want some help?” I ask, rubbing my eyes.

    He glanced over at me with a soft smile. “You should sit and rest, it’s been a stressful morning. It’s my treat,” he winks, pointing to the chair that’s still there from yesterday.

    I nod. My legs feel like wet noodles just from running. That was probably dumb, but I wasn’t thinking. Seems like I never think. I move the chair over against the wall so I can lean my head back against it and rest my eyes. I would have just gone back to bed, but I know we need to eat first. It’s still strange for me, to feel hungry all the time.

    I feel a light tapping on my shoulder and I breathe deeply as my eyes flutter open. Did I nod off?

    “It’s ready,” Andrei snickers. “Do you want to eat here, or in our room?”

    I blink at him, confused by his wording in my tired state, but eventually, my brain catches up and my lips curl into a shy smile. “Our room.”

    He bites his lip. “Sorry… was that too forward? I could, you know… keep my room.”

    I shake my head quickly and jump ungracefully to my feet. I grab onto his arms, which shootout nervously. “No, I like it. I’m… I’m happy,” I admit with some effort. It’s not something I’m used to saying.

    He raises his brows. “Really? you’re okay with it? “Cause I wouldn’t want to impose.”

    “Never,” I shake my head again, so fast it makes me dizzy. “You’re never imposing. I feel much better this way.” Did that make sense? I’m not even sure anymore.

    “I mean, yeah, it’s much better right? Now that we’re having our kid. I’ve hardly used my own room anyway,” he muses.

    I nod with what feels like a ridiculous grin on my face. “Let’s go now,” I’m excited for him to bring his things in, but at the same time, I don’t know how much longer I can stay awake.

    He retrieves the plate of crepes from the counter and holds it in one hand while taking mine in his other. He takes a step, I follow, and then we’re back in the bedroom. The door is ajar, and Selene is gone. I fall back onto the bed, relieved and exhausted.

    “It’s so empty… I’m kind of glad though. Let’s eat first before I officially move in,” Andrei sits next to me. “Come on, sit up.”

    I reach up for him to pull me up. I don’t have the strength. He laughs and rolls his eyes but he helps. He hands me one of the forks and holds the plate between us. I cut bite-sized pieces with the edge of my fork. After a few, I happen to glance up and notice Andrei watching intently.

    I pause. I think he does that a lot. Is it just me, or does he do that with everyone? I should pay more attention next time. Is he wondering if I like it?

    “Hi,” I say, mouth half full. I don’t know what else to say.

    “Soo, whaddya think?” he asks me with sparkling eyes.

    I giggle. “It’s yummy.”

    His smile widens as he reaches his fork towards the crepes. “I’m glad.”

    With the growl in my stomach silenced, I lick the fork and press it into my lip. “So… with the ritual complete and Markus awake… what do we do now?”

    He sets his fork down and leans over to put the plate on the dresser, face contemplative. “I’m not sure. The time master in my dreams just said to hurry up and complete that. I guess whatever it is the Master or whatever his real name is, has got planned will be thwarted with Markus back. I wonder… how did he even get himself put to sleep in the first place? That must have been powerful magic.”

    “Mortecai,” I answer, staring down at the bed. “His name is Mortecai… He put the spell on Markus.”

    “What?” Andrei nearly topples off the side of the bed. “Mortecai, he did that? How do you know this?”

    I shrug. “He told me.”

    “You spoke to him…” he says, rather than asks. “In your dream, didn’t you?”

    “He was there, I didn’t have much choice. I didn’t even know it was a dream. That was before you found me,” I explain.

    “I see…” he scratches the stubble on his chin in thought. “I don’t like it, how he can enter that realm. I mean, I know he’s powerful, but… I worry. If he can manipulate the space there and trap people there like you and Markus, then who knows what else he can do. I hate to say this after my outburst earlier, but…” he struggles to say what’s on his mind, gritting his teeth as he musters up the strength to say it. “I don’t like it, but… Maybe we have to talk to Markus and see what it is he’s got planned… to maybe take care of him. Does he know about what’s been happening yet? From Selene?”

    “Markus?” I frown. “I don’t know. I guess we’ll need to ask her.”

    “Yea… The things we were doing were finding the artifacts, finding the Guardians and…” he ticks them off on his fingers. “Oh… and the book. Kat, we completely forgot about the book! We still haven’t gotten it back from… him!” he shouts. It takes me a moment to realize who he’s talking about.

    I blink, and my hand moves to my neck. The pendant is there again. Is it me, or does it just disappear sometimes? Was I wearing it this morning? I turn it over in my fingers. I glance up and see him watching.

    “It’s strange, that pendant. It keeps showing up and still, we have no idea what it’s for. You got that from a dream once, didn’t you?” Andrei asks, reaching out a hand to touch it.

    “It’s a key,” I explain as I look up at him. “For the book. I don’t know why it keeps showing up and disappearing. That’s something I wanted to ask him.”

    “A key, you say. How do you know?”

    I hum. “I don’t remember…”

    “Hmmm,” he thinks. “You know… If we knew where the book was… maybe I could snag it, with my nifty new space skipping trick. I could be in and out,” Andrei grins mischievously. I smack his arm lightly, giving him a disapproving look. I think I’m picking up bad habits from Caroline. I try not to hurt him but we JUST talked about this.

    “What?” he raises his brows, pulling his arm away.

“Maybe we should see if Markus will come here and talk to him now?” I suggest.

    He puckers his lips at the suggestion. “You don’t think I could do it,” he accuses. What?

    “I do. I don’t want you to do it. Remember, the whole risk thing?” I roll my eyes. “We don’t know where it is. We need a plan.”

    Suddenly, he succeeds in toppling off the bed, a strange, fearful expression on his face. He clutches his head with his hand as he falls back. He looks like he’s seen a ghost.

“Andrei?” I crawl to the edge of the bed. He looks up at me, eyes bloodshot, skin pale. His mouth hangs open in shock before he speaks. When he does, his voice is shaky and uncertain.

    “Kat… Oh my God… I…” he stutters but he can’t seem to say it.

    I climb off the bed and crouch in front of him, holding his face in my hands. “Are you okay? What happened?”

    “I’m sorry. I… couldn’t have… I think I’ve done something before, like this… I… I don’t really remember but… I seem to have taken something, a book and…” he stops, he looks like he’s about to cry. He looks up at me, eyes wide and fearful as he looks at me. “Oh, Kat… I think I gave Sam something she was looking for. A book from a vault in the… headmasters office,” he falls silent sitting on the floor, looking defeated. “What have I done…” his whispers.

    “Shhh…” I stroke his cheek with my thumb. “It wasn’t your fault. We’ll figure it out. She used you, Andrei. It wasn’t you.”

    “You don’t understand. It was me. I did it! I snuck in and took the book. That’s me, Kat!” he squeezes his eyes shut as if that will make the memory go away.

    “You weren’t in control. Yes, your body did it. That’s not what I meant,” I state as strongly as I can muster. My legs tremble as I try to hold my balance. “You can’t blame yourself for what you did under a spell.”

    “But why didn’t I remember this until now? What else am I forgetting? What else have I done without realizing it? Kat…” he looks at me, eyes filled with guilt. “What if I told her things about the Guild, about you, that she will tell the Master?”

    “Anything you might have told her, he would already know. He’s been in my head, Andrei. I’ve been here for twenty years. So was Logan. There’s nothing about this place… or about me, that he couldn’t have found out already,” I reason, though I understand his stress. It worries me too, what else she might have made him do. I rest my knee on the floor and move my hands to his shoulders. He needs me to be strong now. I can’t fall over. Breathe, Kat…

    He suddenly wraps his arms around me and pulls me into him, burying his face in my shoulder. “I guess you’re right… You’re tired. I suppose Markus and the book can wait till you’ve had some sleep. Up we go,” he says, pulling my body close and lifting me off the floor. He sets me down on the bed almost effortlessly. “I’ll be here, promise,” he says, crawling onto the bed next to me and laying back on the pillows.

    “I’m sorry,” I shift, curling up against his side.

    “Don’t be. We’re both still recovering and we’ve had a busy couple of days. I’m sure the world can wait another. I mean, the books been gone this long. What’s another day going to hurt, right?”

    I lift my head with some effort. “You’re upset. I want to help.”

    “You need sleep. You can hardly help when you’re about to fall over,” he says, placing a firm hand on my head. He pats it like I’m a dog or something. “Get some sleep, I’ll make sure you don’t have any nightmares.”

    “I’m okay, as long as we’re lying still…” I mumble defiantly. My body disagrees and I rest my head on his shoulder.

    “Like I’d believe that in a million years,” he jokes, stroking my hair. “Shh… sleep. You need to get your strength back,” he hums.

    “No, you…” I yawn. My eyes fall closed. I don’t know if he replied…

***

    Sunlight fills the room and the dream world fades. Andrei showed me a village somewhere in Russia, wherein a previous jump he had saved a young family from a raid of bandits. It’s fascinating, and what he can do now is incredible. Somewhere, in my head, I still hear that voice. Mortecai’s cold laugh haunts me periodically throughout the dream. Andrei doesn’t seem to hear it.

    I roll over slowly, careful not to disturb Andrei, who hasn’t woken up yet. I manage to sit up, though my body is stiff and sore. There’s barely a flicker of flame within, which isn’t a good sign. It’s almost as bad as Camelot. I shiver at the memory. Why is it so cold?

    I slide out of my bed, peeling off the shirt I am wearing from yesterday. Since I’m still wearing the jeans from yesterday too, I figure it’s not worth the effort to change. I pull on a clean long-sleeved shirt from one of my drawers and move to the closet to find a sweater. I find the warmest one I have, a thick knit sweater of fluffy white wool. As I pull it over my head I turn, struggling to find the hole. I gasp to breathe as I finally break free. My gaze falls on the bed and I freeze with the sweater half pulled down.

    Andrei has sat up, leaning back against the headboard. He watches me with a boyish smile plastered on his face. I blush and tug the sweater into place quickly.

    I reach for my hairbrush and turn away to look in the vanity mirror. “Morning.”

    “Good morning. Did you get enough sleep?” he asks from the bed.

    “For now, I guess,” I try to sound positive. “I can’t sleep forever.”

    “I guess you’re right. I wish we could,” he smirks.

    I laugh. “That would be nice, but then you couldn’t cook!”

    “I guess… that would be an unfortunate downside to sleeping forever. Hmm. What if I cooked in my sleep!” he grins, holding a finger up at the idea.

    “That sounds ridiculous,” I scratch my head, adjusting my hair in the mirror. “I think we’d still starve in real life if you did that.”

    “Really? Magically made food doesn’t make us starve, who’s to say dream food wouldn’t either? Now I’m curious,” he lays his head back, lost in thought.

    “I’m not,” I reply, resting my palm on my stomach. I know it’s not worth trying.

    “Come here,” he sighs, holding out his arms. I put the brush down and crawl back onto the bed. He locks his arms around my waist and places his lips on mine. It makes my heart flutter, and I pout when he moves away too soon. “Kat, you’re not as warm as you usually are. Are you sure you’re okay?” he frowns.

    I hesitate. “I’m okay, just… low on firepower. Sometimes it takes a while to come back. It’s fine,” I force a convincing smile.

    Andrei hums thoughtfully. “Maybe you need fuel.” He kisses me again, his hands slipping under my sweater. I shiver. His hands are so warm. I’m so used to him feeling cooler compared to me. It’s nice, but a little alarming. “I could warm you up,” he breathes between kisses.

    “That would be very nice,” I gasp as he leaves a trail of kisses down my neck. I guess getting dressed was pointless…

By Krystyna Yates

The Guild – Chapter 101 – Selene

    Morning dawns. The Guardians gather in the crypt; Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Spirit. Time, Life, and the Fire and Time of the past observe from outside the circle. Mortals are forbidden; not only are they an annoying distraction, but I’m uncertain what this magic will entail. Kaede was quite upset. In addition is the wind spirit, hovering behind Hitomi, and the spirit of Markus. I remain the only one to see him, however; a problem soon to be solved.

    I mutter a spell Markus whispers in my ear. With a wave of my hand, the floor lights up. An elaborate magic circle appears, the lines drawn with hundreds of runes. In each corner is a smaller circle, one of each colour; red, blue, green, and white. In the center, at the foot of the sarcophagus, is another small circle, glowing a faint lilac. The center circle connects to the four with runic lines as well.

    “Stand in your respective places, with the artifacts in hand,” I instruct. I move to the center as they take their positions.

    Markus floats over to the back corner, on my right. “I worry for her,” his voice is hollow, his blue eyes fill with sadness. “I did not anticipate… Perhaps it can wait?”

    I glance between him and Kaitlyn, who looks back at me with a puzzled expression, the potted fire-plant in her hands. I focus on the thoughts to find the one with the thick accent.

    “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but should anything happen, Kaitlyn is your priority. Agreed?” I project to Gwen. She stands somewhere behind me. She seems startled in her thoughts, but she agrees.

That settled, I move on. I close my eyes and raise my arms. “Focus your power unto me now. I will channel it through to Markus.”

    The room falls silent, if only for the sound of our breaths. I feel the power of Fire first; I imagine she’s had a lot of practice with focus. Earth follows soon after, then Water, and finally Wind. The elements swirl within me, raw chaos held inside a ribcage. I wrap the energy in a cocoon of my own, each strand of silk carefully woven to cannel chaos to my will. It’s not nearly as easy as it sounds, and it really doesn’t sound that easy.

    I lose track of time. It needs to be just right. The moment it’s ready, the cocoon lifts from my chest. I gasp. It takes me by surprise. A tightly wound ball of multi-coloured energy floats over the sarcophagus to the center, before it descends. The floor rumbles, the walls tremble. The stone cracks, first down the middle, and then it spreads.

    I’m forced to look away as a blinding light fills the room. I hear large rocks tumble across the stone floor. The light dims, but it remains above the rubble, a shapeless figure. The sound of something shattering draws my attention. The sight takes my breath away, and I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.

    The fire plant lays in a mound of dirt and broken ceramic. Kaitlyn stares into the light, but her eyes are not her own. They glow with the same light. A long red crystal pendant materializes around her neck before my eyes, out of nowhere. It lifts toward the light, and she follows, stepping over the plant. I’m frozen, unable to speak, unable to move. I don’t know what’s happening. He didn’t warn me about this.

    “Yes.” Her voice sounds distant, even though she’s only feet from me. The light flares even more brightly for a split second, before it’s sucked in on itself.

    When my eyes adjust, I see Markus standing before me, next to the rubble that was once his tomb. He’s covered in fine clothes and so much jewelry it’s obnoxious. He looks like he was buried as a king, not a Guardian. His blue eyes are downcast to the girl that falls against him. He is quick to scoop her up in his arms.

    “I am so sorry, my child.” He whispers, the pain evident in his voice. I swallow the panic in my voice. She’s not dead. I feel her spirit, though it’s weak.

    “What…” I croak, finally able to find my voice. I clear my throat. “What the hell was that?” I demand.

    “The Awakening,” Markus answers vaguely.

    “Kaitlyn!” Andrei’s voice peels across the room as he dashes through the circle towards her.

    “Awakening?” Caroline asks confused. “Of what?”

    Markus raises an eyebrow at her. “Myself, obviously. Were you not aware of what lay inside this prison?”

    “To be honest I thought you’d be dead,” she eyes him up and down.

    “Kat, why isn’t she answering? What did you do to her?” Andrei growls at Markus.

    Markus heaves a sigh. “The awakening ritual required a minor… sacrifice of sorts. Being that she is my last living descendant, she is the only one that could perform this. Do not fret; she and the child will be fine.”

    Gwen quickly moves up, placing her hand on Kaitlyn’s forehead. “Don’t worry, he’s right. They are both fine.”

    “I understand your apprehension. Let us leave this dreary place. I will return her to her bed to rest,” Markus moves to step around Andrei. “You are all in need of rest. I am truly grateful for your assistance.”

    “I can take her,” Andrei says curtly, moving into his direct path, cutting him off.

    Markus stares down at him, expression unreadable. His mind moves incredibly fast, even for me. “Very well,” he finally relents, leaning forward so Andrei can take the sleeping girl.

    As Andrei steps back with Kaitlyn, I take his place. Markus looks down at me with a smile. His beard is itchy against my palm as they connect. Markus stares at the wall to the left, eyes wide. Everyone seems to hold their breath.

    “Selene…” his voice rumbles in his throat. It sounds weird, without the ghostly echo.

    “That was a long time coming,” I scoff. “You deserve about ten more, just for today.”

    “Uh, Selene… Isn’t this guy like… the Guild founder? Should you really be so… hostile?” Nik pipes up.

    “Absolutely,” I retort.

    “Yabai!” Hitomi whispers, her hands covering her mouth.

    “You test my patience, Selene,” Markus warns.

    “I’ll do more than test it,” I mutter as I spin on my heel. “Andrei, Gwen, let’s see to her. We’re done here. Disperse,” I wave to the others. To my surprise, they seem to obey. Markus frowns. He wonders why they obey me, and not him. I smirk to myself.

 ***

    Andrei lays Kaitlyn on her bed and gently brushes the hair from her face. His mind races and he curses at Markus. I don’t necessarily disagree.

    “May I?” I ask, gesturing to her. Andrei nods and takes a step back. I sit on the edge of the bed, placing my palm on her chest at the base of her neck.

    I reach my energy into her, searching for the cause of her collapse. Her soul flickers, weakened but still whole. The spirit of the baby, while not fully formed, seems unharmed. She’s still breathing, heart still beating. Her mind is silent, without dreams. So she’s not just asleep, but unconscious.

I frown. It seems like nothing is wrong until I realize what’s missing. The warmth is gone. The hunger, the rage, the raw power… reduced to mere embers. What was once a roar, is only a whimper. He took nearly all of the magical energy she had within, which is an incredible amount. Far more than any of us are capable of holding. If my energy reservoir is a lake, hers would be the ocean.

    Why didn’t he warn me of the cost? How irresponsible… I should have hit him harder. The bastard.

    “I don’t like that look,” Andrei cringes. “What is it?”

    I glance up at him and compose myself. “She is merely drained, not dissimilar to what happened in the warehouse, when her energy was sapped then,” I explain. My own reserves are low after the ritual, “I can give some of my energy now, but I don’t have much left. I can do more tomorrow. She will recover slowly, but as you can imagine, it takes time to fill an ocean.”

    “Can I help?” Andrei asks. “I know I’m still recovering but since I had the draught yesterday my power is coming back quickly.”

    I shake my head. “It would be unwise to take from you today. What about you, Gwen? Will you spare some of your energy for her?”

    “Of course I will,” Gwen steps up. “What do you need me to do?”

    I reach out to her. “Give me your hand and relax. I will need to transfer your energy to her.”

    She places her hand in mine. The contrast of her dark skin against mine is strangely beautiful. I admire it for a moment before I focus on drawing out her magic. Placing my other hand on Kaitlyn, the energy passes through me and directly to her with a visible glow. Being a recently awakened Guardian, Gwen has ample energy to give. In a few moments, Kaitlyn begins to stir, and her eyes flutter open. It’s barely a quarter of her potential, but it’s enough to sustain her. I’m hesitant to take any more from Gwen.

    “That should be enough for now,” I say as I break contact. “Welcome back, Kaitlyn.”

    Her orange eyes wander the ceiling until they find me. “What happened?”

    “Oh, Kat!” Andrei drops to his knees beside the bed, gripping her hand in both of his. “You passed out after the ritual for some reason. How do you feel?”

    Her nose scrunches up. “My head hurts a little… Is everyone else okay?” she asks. Andrei visibly relaxes.

    “Yea. Everyone is fine,” he smiles.

    “What do you remember?” I ask, curious.

    Kaitlyn’s brow furrows. “Um… Channeling energy, and then there was a bright light,” she pauses. “I heard a voice… He asked if I would lend him my power because he couldn’t cross over without it. I said yes because we’d gone that far already…”

    “I see,” I hum. So that’s what happened. Damn it, Markus.

    Andrei frowns. “And what if that had been the Master? Did you recognize him at all before you complied? Kat, that’s really dangerous. You shouldn’t give up your power lightly, especially in your condition, when you’re caring for two.”

    “I know that,” Kat glares at him, clearly offended. “I know the Master’s voice by now. I’m not that stupid.”

    Andrei huffs, leaning back from the bed. His hands slide away from hers. “You still didn’t know who it was…” he whispers.

    “I knew,” Kat argues. “I’ve heard him before too.”

    “Just… Be more careful next time! You went unconscious there, Kat. What if… What if it killed you?” he shouts.

    “Markus would not have put her life at risk,” I interrupt. “She is too important.”

    Andrei turns to me, fury in his eye. “You don’t call draining her of all her magic a risk? And what about us? He might not harm her, but the rest of us are just pawns to be used? I admit I don’t know enough about him to say whether or not I trust him, but I still think he seems a tad selfish. Who’s to say the rest of us won’t be safe in his little century-old scheme?”

    “You misunderstand,” I hold up my hand, hoping he’ll calm. “Markus was very concerned with the safety of everyone involved. He was not willing to sacrifice or risk any lives for his sake. It took a large amount of energy, but there was no risk.”

    “If it was going to take so much energy, why didn’t any of us know about this? Why wasn’t he honest? We could have found a way to connect the rest of us to that circle so that Kat wouldn’t have to be the sole donor. I’m tired of all these spells and rituals, without knowing all the facts first. We’ve done too many of them, and we never know how they’re going to turn out. It’s too risky now, especially for Kat.”

    “I agree,” I nod. “Apparently it was only someone of his bloodline who could donate. I was not aware of this beforehand, and I’m not sure he was either. I intend to find out.”

    “In my opinion, that’s being tricky, and I don’t trust someone who’s tricky like that, not to tell us all the facts beforehand,” Andrei glares hard.

    “I agree. Unfortunately, I cannot read the mind of a ghost. There are limitations to even my abilities. There is a chance he did not know. Remember, this was a curse placed upon him.”

    Andrei crosses his arms, accepting this information but still not being happy about it. “Sure, whatever,  but I say we watch ourselves around him. I still don’t trust him.”

    Kat rolls off the other side of the bed, walking around the foot and heading for the door without a word. I sense the anger boiling under the surface, though her fire is still too weak to act on it.

    “Kat, stop!” Andrei stumbles to his feet, reaching a hand out and grabbing her by the arm. She stops but doesn’t look back at him, her hand on the doorknob.

    “Please, don’t go,” he pleads.

    “Why shouldn’t I?” her voice trembles. Her thoughts are torn. While she’s hurt and angry at his accusations, he is the only person she wants to run to for comfort. I hold still, wondering if I should slip past and give them privacy.

    “I only am concerned for your safety,” Andrei says. “You have to know this.”

    “What makes you think I don’t know that?” she asks, her voice strained.

    “The way you’d go and give all your power to complete and utter stranger!” his tone rises.

    The door opens and her arm rips out of his grip. I rub my temples. The emotions and the thoughts are giving me a headache…

    Andrei runs a hand through his hair as he bears his teeth. “Damn it.” He takes a step towards the door but it never lands. Instead, he vanishes. Now, that’s new.

By Krystyna Yates