Another chapter in the world of the Guild!
The library is hauntingly quiet in the middle of the night. I wander past the endless rows of books, drawn to the darkened historical section. The books here are older than most of western civilization itself, obscured by centuries of dust. On the farthest wall is a gilded gate, over a set of cold stone steps.
I look behind me. I’m alone. Maybe it was the wind…
Torches spring to life beyond the gate, lighting the way down. I don’t think that was me.
That time I definitely heard my name. I don’t recognize the voice, but I think it’s coming from down the stairs. I pull the gate open. It’s not locked, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It’s just to keep you from accidentally falling down.
The steps wind deep into the bowels of the building. At the base, I find myself in a large room, cut in half by a fancy fence that reaches all the way to the ceiling. It’s gate is wide open, the lock lays broken on the floor. The first half of the room has a beautiful carpet covering the bare stone floor, six church pews facing the fenced area. In front of the open gate is a single pedestal, but it’s facing the other way.
I walk down the aisle. I need to see what’s on the pulpit. Is that what’s calling me? I step up beside it, resting my hand on the ancient oak. It’s a book. I guess that should have been obvious. It’s made of dark leather, and there’s a strange symbol embossed on the cover. I’ve never seen it before, but it seems familiar somehow.
The voice rings in my ear. I sit up, gasping. I’m in my bed. How did I get back here? It’s still night, the moonlight bathing everything in an eerie glow. Sitting on top of the covers, between my knees is a cat.
“Are you alright?” Rhoan asks. The cat’s head tilts.
I rub my eyes. “Was I dreaming?”
“Violently.” He licks his paw. Weird, it wasn’t even a nightmare…
I throw the covers off and climb out of the queen bed. My room is larger than most, since I’ve been here for so long. After the second time they rebuilt the hall, Professor Ambrosse had some adjustments made, including fire-proofing.
“Where are you going?” Rhoan demands as he tries to escape the blankets.
“For a walk.” I answer simply. I need to know if there was something more to that dream.
I step out into the hall, but it’s not as dark as I expected. I glance to the left, to find the door wide open and a light coming from inside. As my eyes adjust, I recognize Andrei, hunched over at the desk, scribbling furiously. His brow is furrowed. I wonder if something’s wrong?
I think about telling him about my dream. Maybe he would know what to do? Then again, he’s so focused on his writing. I don’t want to make him worry unnecessarily. I head down the hall, trying to ignore the cold floor under my bare feet. If I go back to find shoes, I might not leave again.
Everything appears the same as my dream. The library, the gate. The torches are already lit when I arrive, and it makes me pause. Why are they lit? I should, at least, have brought Rhoan. I can’t go back now so instead I take a deep breath and continue on.
The stones are even colder than the marble floors of the modern Guild. I shiver, but I know there’s carpet at the end. It’s a relief when I finally reach the bottom. It looks exactly the same as my dream, complete with the broken lock. I check between each pew as I pass. Something doesn’t feel right, but nothing looks out of place.
I circle around the pulpit. The embossed book is there too. I’ve never been down here before, how could I have possibly dreamt this? I pinch my arm, feel the pain, but nothing happens. Alright, I’m definitely awake this time.
I feel a sudden pressure around my neck as the base of the book’s platform digs into my ribs. I gasp, grabbing the sides of the pulpit. I try to breathe but the pressure tightens.
“Hello again, Kat.” Logan’s voice whispers in my ear. My blood runs cold. “What a pleasant surprise to find you here.”
“Get… off…” I grunt, trying to break his grip. He laughs. I push the pulpit over. It hits the carpet with a thud, the book tumbles away, flung open. He stumbles back, but keeps his hold. I claw at his arm.
He shifts his weight, and he holds up an ornate dagger where I can see it. I freeze. “That’s better.” He cooes. “You’re going to behave. This is for your own good.” My eyes sting. I try to manifest a flame, but just like before, I can’t. “Hey! What did I just tell you, you little brat?!” Logan snaps, his arm crushing my windpipe.
There’s a blur of movement, and when I blink, Andrei is standing in front of me. The blade of a sword hovers beside my head, pointing where I assume Logan’s throat would be. “Give me the dagger and let her go.” His voice sends a shiver down my spine.
Logan chuckles, “Look at that. Little whore has herself a new toy.”
“What’s your problem, man? Running your mouth seems to be the only thing you can do.” Andrei growls.
“This doesn’t concern you, kid. I’m just collecting some things that belong to me.” Logan hums as he moves so that the point of the blade points at me instead.
“I don’t see anything here that has your name on it.” Andrei replies. He kicks the book back with his heel. It slides across the carpet away from us. Why did he do that?
“Look again.” Logan rubs his face in my hair, taking a deep breath, “It’s there.”
Andrei’s expression darkens. I didn’t think it was possible for him to look so scary. He shifts his stance, moving the blade away from me. He studies the situation, searching for an opening.
Logan squeezes me again and I whimper. “I’ll give you one more chance to get out of my way.”
Andrei moves in a blur again. Logan hisses in my ear, the pressure lifts. He pulls his arm back, but grabs my hair instead. I gasp to catch my breath. God, I feel so helpless.
“Let her go.” Andrei warns, “I won’t say it again.”
“Fine.” Logan spits. “If you insist.”
Searing pain in my stomach. I scream. The dagger sinks in to the hilt, before it’s ripped back out. He pushes me hard so I fly into Andrei, knocking him back a couple steps. He wraps one arm around my back, swinging the other behind him as Logan tumbles past. Logan yelps, but he keeps going.
As soon as Logan’s hands grip the book, he’s surrounded with that same purple energy, and in a split second he’s gone. I don’t know why that book was so important, but I’m so glad it wasn’t me.
Andrei yells in frustration, “Not again!”
“I’m sorry…” I cough, pushing against his chest. My right hand instinctively covers the wound on my stomach, blood oozing through my fingers. “I screwed up again.”
He doesn’t let me move away, “No, Kat, it wasn’t your fault, it was mine. I underestimated how much of a slime that guy really is.” The sword shrinks and a mouse crawls up onto his shoulder. “I’m just glad I followed you when I did. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if I hadn’t been here.”
I clutch the front of his shirt. I don’t want to think about that. It makes me feel sick.
“Do you have any idea how he got in here? What is this place anyway?” He looks around, “And that book, it seemed important. What was it?” He pulls me in a little closer.
“I don’t know… I’ve never been down here.” I grit my teeth. Talking is starting to hurt.
He looks down, “Stop, it’s ok. You don’t have to answer my questions now.”
Rhoan jumps down into the form of a fox, “My, that doesn’t look good… Quickly, follow me.”
Andrei steps back, leaning down. I start to ask what he’s doing. He scoops me into his arms in one swift movement. My breath hitches and I desperately grab his shirt. I think I’m going to fall for a second, but then he starts walking. I glance down at the ground, and up at him. What’s he doing?
“Don’t you trust me by now?” Andrei teases, “I won’t drop you.”
I feel like my face is on fire again, “I-I can walk…” I stutter. “You d-don’t have to…” He’s already halfway up the stairs.
“Rhoan, tell her there’s no way she can walk up all these steps with a dagger wound like that.” Andrei shakes his head.
“Kid’s right, Kat. Let him be the hero.” Rhoan calls back with a snicker.
He smirks, “Always wanted to be one!” He chuckles as he looks down at me, “Am I your hero, Kat?”
Yep. My face is definitely on fire. I almost forget about the hole in my gut. “Yea… I guess you kind of are.” I answer shyly. I think he’s mostly joking, so I smile. I can feel his heart pounding, but it’s probably from the exertion. He grins.
Rhoan leads him back out of the library, and through the halls to the professors’ private rooms. He stops and paws at one of the doors. “Professor Ambrosse!” He calls out.
As we catch up, the door opens. The headmistress looks out, wearing an elegant nightgown. Her brows raise when her eyes fall on us, and then she sees the blood. “Oh my! Come in, quickly!” She moves aside. Andrei walks sideways to slide past her. “Place her on the couch.” She instructs.
There’s a small red loveseat on the left side of the room, by a fireplace. He kneels down, laying me on my back as gently as possible. “Thanks…” I groan, trying to keep a brave face.
“What on earth happened?” Ambrosse asks as she pulls a stool up. I open my mouth, but she waves a hand, “Not you, dear. You hold still.” I pout. She turns to Andrei with her piercing blue eyes. He looks at me, as though not sure. I nod. He shouldn’t lie to the headmistress.
“Well, ma’am, I found Logan down in this room, holding Kat hostage. He wanted an old book down there. I’m not really sure what the room was, but there were these pews and the book. He managed to get away with it, but not before he stabbed Kat. I did manage to maim him though.”
Ambrosse nods slowly, “I see… It is lucky that you were there, and that he did not get away with more than an ancient tome.” She brushes the hair out of my eyes. She rolls the bottom of my tank top until it rests just below my chest. I tense as the fabric peels away, bringing fresh blood.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what was that book, anyway? Is it…” He gulps, his face losing colour at the sight of the wound, “Important?”
Ambrosse frowns, “Important… I suppose that depends on who you ask. It is a relic, from the founder of the Guild. It was once used to awaken the power of the Guardians.” She prods my stomach, assessing the damage. “The last Guardian passed away a very long time ago, and thus the book is now irrelevant. I cannot imagine what Logan would want with it.”
“Well I can.” Andrei huffs, crossing his arms.
She closes her eyes, and her hands glow over the wound. It feels warm. The pain fades almost instantly. I breathe a sigh of relief and relax into the cushions. If only it was this painless when I healed…
When she’s finished, I feel her fingertips trace the scar from Logan’s first attack. “Kaitlyn… Has he not hurt you enough already? Let the Senior Guardians handle him. You cannot keep doing this.” She whispers. I don’t answer. I’m not a good liar. She sighs and sits back.
“I don’t think she knew he was down there. This guy seems to be stalking us quite persistently.” Andrei offers in my defense.
I nod, “I had a weird dream… I went there to see what it was about…” I mumble, “I wouldn’t have gone down alone if I’d known.”
“Very well. You need to get some rest. I will investigate how he was able to sneak past our defenses.” Ambrosse stands up, moving the stool back to it’s place. “Thank you, Andrei, for your bravery.” She smiles warmly at him.
“Wait, h-how do you…?” He stutters, “I never told you my name…”
She giggles, “Good night, Andrei, Kaitlyn.” She seems to float across the room, around the corner to where her bed is just out of sight.
I sit up. My neck is still sore, and I rub my collar. “We should go.”
“Want me to carry you again? I- I don’t mind.” He fidgets with a little smile, “It’s sort of my fault you got hurt in the first place…”
I drop my gaze, embarrassed, “I think I’m okay… You must be tired, after all that.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ve survived worse without sleep. Trust me on that.”
“Come on, Romeo and Juliet. Some of us would like to get some sleep tonight.” Rhoan whines from the doorway. I stand up, a little shaky.
“Come here.” Andrei holds his arms out.
I hesitate, “But… I, um…” As much as I want to go to him, I don’t want to be a burden. He rolls his eyes, and before I can protest again, he sweeps my legs out from under me. “Wait, but!” I wrap my arms around his neck in panic with the jarring movement.
“We gotta go, and you’re clearly not ready to walk. Just bite your tongue and let me take you to bed.” Andrei snickers. I gulp. Wait, what?
“I think I’m going to throw up.” Rhoan grumbles. The door closes on its own behind us. I rest my head on Andrei’s shoulder, resigned. I don’t really want to argue.
“She’s right, you know…” Andrei says suddenly, after walking for a while.
I hum as I look at him. “Who’s right?” I don’t remember talking about anyone.
“The Headmistress.” He replies simply. I frown, not sure what he’s talking about. He glances down at me from the corner of his eye. “You shouldn’t wander off on your own. He seems to have a way to stop your magic. You’re defenseless without it.” He pouts, “You need to learn to rely on us going forward. That’s what friends are for. At least until we figure out how to counter whatever magic he’s using.” I stare at my lap. I feel like a kid getting a lecture. “It’s okay to ask for help.”
“I know… I didn’t think he could get back here though.” I mumble.
“Well, I think he’s getting help. Whatever that purple teleportation spell is, it seems it can get past any barrier. I bet if we asked Cliff, he could look into it for us.” He offers.
“I guess,” I shrug, “But until then, I don’t know if anywhere is safe anymore…” Except maybe right here… I blush at my own thoughts.
Rhoan disappears through the open door to my darkened room. Andrei hesitates just outside. “Well, if you want… I suppose you could sleep in my room…”
I look over at his door, the lamp still on. The dorms typically come with a single bed, unless you request otherwise. I couldn’t make him sleep on the floor again…
“What are you two waiting for?” Rhoan shouts from the darkness ahead, “Get in here already!”
“You’re not alone, it seems. You have Rhoan. He’ll take care of you.” Andrei sulks, as he sets my feet down on the floor. “If you need me, you know where I am.” He starts to move away. I’m filled with dread, and my chest feels tight. I clutch the collar of his shirt in both fists. For a second, I think the fabric is going to rip.
“Stay…” I barely manage to whisper, “Please?”
He smiles, but his eyes are sad. “I don’t think Rhoan would approve.”
“I couldn’t care less, to be honest.” Rhoan replies, appearing in the door again. “Now, are we done standing in the hallway? You’re going to wake up the whole building.”
Andrei’s face lights up. He grabs me by my elbows, lifting me off the ground and swings into the room. He closes the door, and Rhoan jumps onto the foot of the bed. I run a hand through my hair, my pulse pounding in my ears. I may not have totally thought this through.
Andrei studies the moonlit room, “Wow, it’s like a room for a princess!”
I laugh, “You think so? I think it’s sort of ordinary…” I move to sit on the edge of the bed, watching as he wanders around with wide eyes.
He stands by the desk, turning back to wink at me, “Any journals?”
I bite my lips together. I’m never going to live that down. “Sorry. Nothing really worth writing down, or remembering…”
“Aw,” He pouts, “I was hoping to read your secrets.”
“You can just ask me.” I laugh, “It’s only fair.”
“Really?” He jumps onto the bed next to me, almost falling right over. I guess it’s softer than he expected.
I laugh and nod. “I’m an open book.”
“I do enjoy a good book.” He hums, and smirks. His eyes seem to glow as he stares at me, thinking hard. I start to get nervous. What could he possibly want to know? “When you use fire, how does it feel? Is it hot? Does it burn? Or is it cold?”
I ponder a moment, “It feels warm… I can’t be burned by my own magic, but I can feel the heat.”
“Really?” He gawks.
I raise an eyebrow, “Yes really. Is that so surprising?”
“Yes, I mean, it’s still hot but you don’t burn. That’s… outside the law of physics, it seems.” He frowns.
I roll my eyes, “Watch.” I create a small flame in my left hand and hold my right arm in the fire. The fire illuminates his face. He reaches out to the fire, almost in a daze. I snap my hand closed when he gets a little too close. The fire fizzles out. “I said it doesn’t burn me. It’s still real fire.” I warn.
“Aww, come on. I bet you could make it like an unburnable flame! Make it look like fire, but not really burn something.” He whines.
I glare at him, “Even if I could, I wouldn’t let you be the guinea pig.”
“Fair enough.” He shrugs. “How full can you make it? Fingers only? Full arm? Whole body?”
I blink, “I’m not sure. That’s not something I’ve ever tried.”
He watches me, with all the enthusiasm and wonder of a child. It’s hard to believe that less than an hour ago he was absolutely furious.
“Can I ask you a question?”
He blinks and nods, “Shoot.”
I focus on my nails, “Down in the basement, you looked really angry… I mean… really angry…” I chew my lip. “I mean, it was kind of frightening.”
“Yea, I was angry.” His expression darkens again, “He wanted to hurt you, Kat. He isn’t holding back anymore. If I were you, I wouldn’t trust him to get so close to you like that. Especially when he can make you defenseless.” He looks down at the bed, “I don’t think I would hesitate to hurt him if I get the chance. He’s making me angrier with each encounter, and I won’t take your safety lightly.” His gaze lifts to meet mine, “Like I said this morning; I like you, Kat. I want to know more about you, if I can.”
So, it’s not just about the kidnappings? He was worried about me? I look at the blood stains on my shirt and I feel nauseous again.
“I don’t want to let him get that close again… I don’t… but I’m scared that he will.” My lip trembles and I bite it to hold it still. “He always does…”
“Kat, it’s okay now. I’m here. I’ll keep him away from you, I swear.” Andrei leans closer, “I know I failed before, but this time it’ll be different. I promise.” I look into his puppy eyes and it’s clear he means what he says.
“I don’t understand, why would you put yourself at risk for me?” I have to ask, “You barely know me, and all I’ve done is cause you trouble…”
He glances up at the ceiling, “You know, I don’t know why, but it just feels right I guess.” He smiles, leaning dangerously close. “Have you ever done something that logically makes no sense, but feels right?” He whispers. I feel his breath on my face.
“Not until now…” I admit.
“Really?” His eyes fall closed.
I don’t remember how words work. His lips press against mine, soft, unsure. This time he doesn’t retreat. Instead, I feel his palm on my cheek. It’s surreal. I return the kiss, my hands finding their way around his neck. I’ve been kissed before, but never like this. His lips move slowly, his other arm slides around my back and he presses a little closer.
Andrei slowly lowers me until my back is on the bed, and he hovers above me, without breaking away. My stomach ties in a thousand knots and my lungs burn but I don’t want it to stop. His hair tickles my face as it falls. The scruff on his face makes my nose twitch.
“You two going to come up for air any time soon?” Rhoan teases.
Andrei freezes, his eyes snap open and he breaks away to glare over his shoulder, “Do you mind, we’re having a moment here.”
“No, I don’t mind at all.” Rhoan replies.
Andrei pouts as he looks back at me, “How do you do anything with him around?”
I open my mouth to explain that Logan always threw him out, but I stop myself. Something tells me that’s a bad idea. “Um… I wasn’t really expecting… anything…”
“Oh?” He winks. He sits up, taking me with him, then stands up. He twirls me around, “What were you expecting from me, milady?” He asks, holding my hand up, then leans down to kiss the back of it.
I gulp, totally disoriented, “Expecting… I wasn’t… I mean… I… hoped?”
“Hoped for what?” He asks, looking up.
I bite my bottom lip, glancing at the bed, and shrug. “I have no idea… You’re already more than anything I could have hoped for.”
His mouth lifts at the corner as he stands up straight, “Well, I will admit, you are too. I never imagined I could feel like this toward a girl in a million years. I don’t want to do anything you don’t want to do though, so… let’s take it slow, and… get to know each other a bit more?” It looks like he’s blushing, but it’s hard to tell in the dark.
I giggle, “Take your time, mister Hero. If you’re going to keep Logan away, I guess we’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted.” I yawn, “Can we go back to laying down, at least?”
“I agree, I’m tired too.” He yawns too, “Those are contagious you know.” He glances down, “But… you can’t sleep in these.” He gestures to the blood on my pajamas.
I frown. His clothes are also smeared with the offensive red liquid. “Why not? What about you?”
He looks down at himself and gasps dramatically, “What! Where did this come from?” He reaches over to smooth out the sheet on the bed, checking for marks. It’s clear. “I guess I need new clothes too…” He glances at the door, “Do you think you’ll be safe enough for five minutes while I go change?”
I give him a sarcastic glare, and look at Rhoan, “I think I can manage that.”
“Ok, good, ‘cause contrary to popular belief, I’m actually self-conscious about changing in front of girls.” He muses as he heads for the door, tripping on the edge of the carpet, “And I meant to do that…” He grins before slipping out.
I raise an eyebrow and share a look with Rhoan. The cat shakes its head, “Virgin.”
“Rhoan! Don’t be rude.” I hiss.
“What? Just an observation.” He huffs. “Hurry up and change. If he comes back and you’re half dressed, I think he might faint.”
I roll my eyes. “You need a girlfriend… or whatever you’re into.” I strip off the stained clothes and drop them into the garbage. I pull out the bottom drawer of my dresser and retrieve another set of soft pants and a loose long-sleeved shirt. By the time Andrei returns, I’m waiting on the bed, petting Rhoan with my feet to annoy him.
He comes in with plaid pj pants and a dark green t-shirt. I can’t help admiring the colour against his skin. It suits him. He wanders around the bed and crawls onto the other side.
“Welcome back.” I chirp, “I survived!”
“I’m glad!” He laughs, then hesitates, “You look cute in those.”
I run my hand through my hair, “I guess not being a bloody mess helps.” He bites his lip, then starts laughing. I feign offense, “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” He shuffles a little closer, “Just, three out of three days we’ve been together, you’ve been bleeding. This is a horrible start!”
I pout, “I guess you have a point. I’ve always been kind of accident prone, so it doesn’t seem all that strange.”
He lifts a piece of my hair, twirling it between his fingers, “You know, while I was meditating in the 1800’s, I thought of how cool it would be to show you the willow tree there, and feast with the tribe. The people there, they all bowed to the Chief and I, like we were some sort of heroes. It was surreal. He had an aura, like us. It was fascinating. I’ve learned so much about my magic in only the week after meeting you. Thank you.” He says softly, “What was it like for you, while I was gone?”
I think back. God, it feels like ages ago now. “It was scary.” I mumble, “Kaede and Caroline… They were scared, and we had no way to know how long it would be for you to come back. I didn’t know how long we could stay there undetected… but I couldn’t leave you behind.”
“Well, you could’ve. I was just some guy you met the day before.”
I gawk at him, “Some guy? You volunteered to help me, rescued a bunch of strangers, and then came back for me… I wouldn’t have made it home without you. You were never just some guy.”
“No? You wouldn’t have come back here on your own?”
I hug my knees, “I didn’t have a reason to.”
“What happened? Before you left, what was it like?” He asks.
“I left to bring Logan back… He was all I had.” I chew the inside of my lip, “At least… That’s what I thought…”
“Tell me more,” He yawns, still playing with strands of my hair, “Tell me about what you learned here. I want to hear it all.”
I laugh, “I think that would be easier to show, rather than tell. After all, you’ll have to learn it too, if you want to become a Guardian.”
“That sounds fun…” He mumbles. “Tell me more.”
“I think it can wait until tomorrow.” I reach down to the foot of the bed and pull the covers up as I lay down. He’s already asleep. I carefully move the hair out of his face and smile. What a guy… “Goodnight, Mr. Hero.” I whisper, as I gently kiss his cheek before settling in next to him.