The room is pitch dark as I look around. I get the distinct feeling this is not my bedroom. I carefully create little floating flames, like candles without the wax, around the room. I recognize the stone walls, the decorative carpet and the pews. The pulpit still lays on the floor. I’m behind the fence this time, the stone sarcophagus laid out in front of me.
The fire illuminates the carved surface more than the first time I saw it. At the top, is a worn figure of a head, and arms. It’s hard to make out any features, since it seems to have been neglected. Just below where the hands meet, is that smooth indent I felt yesterday. It looks to be a few inches long, and narrow. I touch the cold stone, wondering what might have been there once.
“Good evening, child.” A raspy voice cuts the surreal silence of the tomb. I gasp, and look up to see a figure by the foot of the sarcophagus. They are wearing a dark cloak, with the large hood up, leaving their face in shadows. “Do not be afraid.”
“Who are you?” I demand, as I step back.
“I can be your friend, child.” The figure moves around the foot of the tomb. “What do you have there?”
I flinch. What does he mean? I look down. My hand hovers in front of me, clutched around something. I open it, to see a deep red crystal pendant, strands of silver wrapping around its top half and attaching it to a chain. Where the heck did this come from? It almost looks like it would fit in that indent…
“Where did you get that?” The figure steps closer again, his hoarse voice more urgent.
They step into reach, and one of my flames illuminates the hidden face. I gasp and gag. It’s a man, I think. His skin is dark and leathery on one half and horribly burnt on the other. It almost looks like he was splashed with acid. His left eye is glazed over, possibly blind. His right eye is piercing blue, almost glowing.
“Give it to me!” He hisses, lunging at me. I feel his rough hands on my arms. I fall back, a scream on my lips.
I bolt up in my bed, eyes wide, gasping. The little flames dance around above the bed, as they had in my dream. There’s no cloaked man in sight.
“Are you okay?” Someone speaks. I gasp as I turn to see Andrei, his hair a mess, eyes wide, and without a shirt.
“It was a dream…” I realize. I must have scared him, judging by the look on his face. “I’m sorry.”
“A dream?” He tips his head, “What was it about?”
I close my eyes, “Um… In the crypt… There was a man. His face was… Horrible. Like it was rotting.” I shudder. “He kept asking for something. Saying I had it.”
“Are there any other details you can remember?”
I open my eyes. He’s looking down at the bed. I follow his gaze, and I realize I’m not wearing anything. I remember then what happened last night and blush. I grab the sheet and pull it up over my chest, but there’s something in my hand.
“What the…” I mumble as I unclench my fingers. Sitting there in my palm is the crystal pendant.
“Whoa! How’d you get that?!” Andrei gasps.
I drop the pendant on the bed and scramble back against the headboard. “That’s not possible…” I feel my chest start to tighten, and it’s hard to breathe.
“Hey, hey, it’s not going to bite, see?” He picks it up by the chain. “How’d you find it, in the dream?”
“I didn’t.” I shake my head, eyes fixed on the swaying crystal. “I just… had it.”
He holds it up in the light, “You know, this kind of looks like the thing that was missing from the crypt, don’t you agree? It’s got the same shape.” The light of the flame refracts through the gem, casting strange shapes of red across his face.
I don’t know how I know, but I do. “That’s exactly what it is.” My voice trembles, as I hug my knees to my chest.
“We need to tell Cliff then.” He muses. I shake my head. He shuffles back toward me, pulling the sheets along to keep his lower half concealed. “It’s okay, you don’t need to be afraid.” He cooes, “Have you ever seen Harry Potter?”
I narrow my eyes, “Andrei, this is real. Those are movies. That thing is what that man wanted, and now I have it. Why do I have it?” I dig my nails into my thigh, and the flames above us flicker.
“It’s exactly the same then, in this case! He sees something in the mirror, and suddenly he has it! Voldemort wanted it too, and the only difference is that scary ugly faced man isn’t here, but you and this are.” He dangles the crystal in front of me, “Cliff and Ambrosse need to know. This could be a clue to finding out why they wanted the book.”
“I know why they want the book.” I mutter, “It’s pretty obvious. What I don’t understand, is what it has to do with me.”
“Well, I don’t have that answer, but with Logan involved, it seems to mean you are too. It’s not all bad though…” He turns pink, “Whatever it has to do with you, it kinda brought us together.”
I sigh, leaning my head on his shoulder. “That’s true. Now, if only it would leave us alone.” I peek up at his face, “I’m sorry if I scared you…”
“It’s okay, I don’t mind… much.” He grins.
“Much?” I lean back, alarmed.
“No, no, no! I didn’t mean it like that!” He wraps his arm around my shoulders and pulls me back against him.
“Oh…” I sigh in relief.
“I mean, you woke me up and all, and I was worried about you. I only wish we hadn’t been disturbed. I was enjoying sleeping next to you.” His voice gets quieter with each word.
I shift slightly, sliding my hand across his chest. I nuzzle into his shoulder and kiss the smooth pale skin of his neck. “Telling the others can wait until morning… can’t it?” I whisper slowly.
He takes a deep breath, face buried in my hair, “I suppose. It is only three thirty-seven… They’re probably all asleep anyway.”
He slides down the headboard, taking me along with him until we’re laying down again. He pulls me closer, and I roll onto his chest. He pulls the sheets up to my waist. I lay my head on his shoulder, fingers tracing circles on his chest. I hook my leg between his. His skin is cool against mine, and it’s nice.
He strokes my hair, “Kaitlyn?”
I tip my head back so I can see his face. “Yes?”
“I don’t know much about the Guild, or you, really… but, I want you to know that whatever happens, I won’t be scared of you for any reason. It seems we’ve stumbled into something very old and deep and we don’t have the answers, but…” He pauses to think, “You can count on us helping you. You know that, right?”
I study his serious expression, the flicker of candlelight in his chocolate eyes. “I think I’m starting to believe that… Considering you’re still here right now.”
He chuckles, “Shouldn’t that be my line? I’m the one with all the dates who walked out on me.”
“I don’t see why.” I stretch to peck his cheek, “But I can’t complain.”
“Oh…” He purrs, rubbing his face into my hair, “How are you so cute?”
I giggle, “You’d have to tell me. You seem to be the only one who thinks so.”
“No, that’s gotta be what everyone else is thinking. Maybe they’re just too shy to say it.” He traces little heart shapes on my shoulder. I shake my head, snuggling against him again. “Well, it doesn’t matter what they think. They don’t know the real you.” He hums.
“After everything that’s happened this week, I’m not sure I know me either.” I yawn.
“That’s the fun part,” He whispers, “When things change, that’s when good things happen. Learning something new makes everything clearer, eventually.” He kisses my forehead. I feel a different kind of warmth wash over me. I don’t even remember why I woke up in the first place…
Mid-morning, I find myself at Professor Ambrosse’s door. The wood carved flames seem to welcome me as I push the door open. I see her by the window again. Though, this time I don’t see Typhon coming. I barely make it two steps into the room before he jumps on my back. I squawk like the ungraceful girl that I am, stumbling until I catch myself on the back of a chair. I’m so glad Andrei didn’t come this time…
“Good morning, my child.” Ambrosse turns, her hands folded loosely in front of her, “What brings you here so early?”
I scratch the drake under his chin and look up at her. She’s so beautiful and graceful. The way she holds herself, so confident in her abilities. I wish I could be like that. I reach into the front pocket of my jeans, digging for that necklace.
“I, um… I had a dream last night, but not like a normal dream.” I stumble over my own words, “I was down in that basement room again. I was looking at the crypt when this man appeared. He kept demanding what I had in my hands… And then, when I woke up…” I finally grasp the chain, and I carefully pull it out. “I had this.”
The professor seems to glide down the steps and across the floor. She holds out her hand, turning the crystal to get a better look at it. Her expression is always hard to read, but I think she looks worried. I gulp. If she’s worried…
“Do you know what this is?” She asks. I nod. Her hand drops and she steps back. “For many years, mages have sought to find a key, left behind by the Guild founder. It was lost soon after his untimely demise. They had originally planned to keep it on his tomb, but it proved too dangerous.” She walks over to the fireplace, to my left. “As you witnessed, with Logan’s latest attack, there are many who seek the secrets, hidden in The Book of the Guardians.”
I glance between her and the necklace. “Is this… Is this the key to the book?”
She looks up at me, her bright blue eyes sorrowful. “I am afraid that it is.”
I try not to start hyperventilating again, “W-why do I have it?”
Ambrosse waves a hand, and the fireplace roars to life. “It would seem that you are meant to have it. I believe he had intended to pass on the knowledge of the Guardians to you, my dear.”
“Me?” I gawk. “Why me?”
She raises an eyebrow. I hate it when she does that. This isn’t like when I asked if homework was necessary when we live at the school. This is serious. What would I do with an old book about a bunch of dead people?
She returns to stand in front of me, and her fingers stroke my cheek, “My dear girl. Not even I know your full potential. I do not know what is written in that book, or why the key chose you. I fear we may only find out if we can recover what Logan stole.” She takes the necklace out of my frozen hand. “But that is not for you to worry about. For now, you must keep this with you, and protect it as though it were a part of you.” She reaches around my neck, fastening the chain there.
The crystal hangs just above my cleavage, as I chose a relatively low cut shirt today. I look down at it and turn it over with my fingers. It kind of feels… warm. The light from the fireplace dances in its long shape. It seems to almost pulse in time with the flame.
“Now, I believe Rhoan is waiting for you with your new friends in the library. I am sure he will be eager to hear about this dream as well.”
“Right…” I mumble as I turn away.
“Please let me know if anything else comes up. Or, if you would simply like to chat.” The professor smiles. I nod. Typhon leaps off my shoulders as I leave, and the door slams behind me.
I walk slowly through the halls, playing with the necklace. Why do I get the feeling the professor isn’t telling me something? I wander along until I pass yet another wood-carved door. This one has an image of water. I guess this would be where Caroline is training. Curious, I push the door open. The water etching moves away from my touch like it’s offended.
The whole room is damp, everything appears to be drenched in water. There’s very little furniture, the walls and the pillars are all connected with various sea creatures within. I wonder how they survive in here when many are known to die soon after being taken out of the ocean. I look around, but I can’t see anyone. Only the huge pool at the other end of the room. My toes squish in my already soaking boots, and I cautiously approach the nearest pillar.
I reach out and poke it with one finger. There’s no glass. Water trickles down my arm. I gasp and pull away. That’s incredible. I wonder if the other professors have displays like that in their elements? Professor Ambrosse doesn’t like to show off, she says it’s unbecoming. That fire doesn’t need to be showy; the world will always know its power.
Water from the pillar bursts out of line, swirling around me like a tiny hurricane. I shriek, but the sound is absorbed by the water. A voice rings in my ear, “Why does fire come here?”
“I came to check on my friend!” I try to shield my face with my arms.
The waterfalls into a puddle at my feet. I cough and look around again. I find Caroline standing by the pool up ahead, wearing a white bathing suit. “Kaitlyn? What are you doing here?” She asks.
The puddle at my feet erupts again. I stumble back, and suddenly there’s a small man standing in front of me, nothing but a strange linen wrapping around his privates. He is skeletally thin, with dark wrinkled skin hanging off his bones. His wiley hair is salt and pepper, and he wears a scruffy beard. He looks like some sort of hippy, rather than a teacher.
“Hmm… This is the daughter of fire. I have heard much of you. What do you seek my daughter of water for?” The little man hums.
I regret coming in here. “I just wanted to see how she’s doing with her training…”
“Training!” He gasps, offended. Caroline rolls her eyes. “No, she is not yet training. She is still only breathing.”
“Breathing.” I repeat, incredulous, “You mean… The thing that people do on instinct to like… stay alive?”
“Yes!” He sputters water at me. “Instinct. That’s the word I was looking for.”
“I’ve already learned to breathe!” Caroline grumbles, “I was working on feeling next.”
“Oh!” His voice reaches a pitch I wish wasn’t possible, “Did we do breathing?”
“Yes…” Caroline sighs in frustration.
I look over at her with pity, “I guess fire and water really are opposites…”
“Opposites…” The man thumbs his chin thoughtfully.
I look up at a manta-ray, gliding over us in the ceiling. “Still, it must be incredible. I wonder how it would feel to be a part of something so… full of life.”
“Aha!” He shouts, “Opposites! Fire girl, you are brilliant!” He bounds toward Caroline with open arms, and she looks horrified.
“Why does everyone call me that…” I mutter.
“Gillian, you must face your opposite in order to feel your own. Do you understand?” He asks with wide eyes.
She nods, then shakes her head. “Not really…”
“You!” He shouts as he points at me. “You will face off with Gillian. No holding back. She needs the real thing. As dense as a doornail…” He mutters, nodding to himself.
“What?!” I gasp at the same time with Caroline. “That’s a terrible idea!” Though, I guess he’s got a point. Trial by fire… literally…
“I agree! I don’t know anything yet! How am I supposed to fight her?”
“Nonsense! You did well yesterday after jumping into the pool.” He scoffs.
“You held me under until I nearly drowned! I can hardly call that doing well.”
“Actually,” I interject, “Most people do drown in their first lesson. Of course, they’re resuscitated. I can’t say it’s that easy when it comes to learning fire…” She gawks at me in disbelief.
“Begin!” The little man shouts before disappearing into the water.
I hesitate, “I guess, technically, we’re in the safest place for this sort of thing. I’m sure he’ll put out the fire if you can’t handle it…”
Caroline looks around, unsure. She spins and jumps into the pool behind her, but the water quite literally spits her back out. She sprawls out on the floor and shakily gets to her feet. I sigh and shake my head.
“You have to let go. Stop thinking so much.” I hold my hand out, palm up. “Feel the energy inside you, and let it flow.”
“That’s what the water keeps telling me, but I don’t know how!” She whines.
A fire springs to life in my palm, “Then the only way is to not give you time to think.” I form the fire into a ball in my hands and lob it at her. She screams and ducks, the water at her feet shudders. I rush at her, splashing across the floor, and project flames from both hands out at her. I hold my breath, praying they don’t hit. She spins away, a thin sheet of water sizzles in the air between us.
“I can’t do this!” She yells.
“Stop thinking!” I snap, increasing the intensity.
I take a deep breath. This is for her own good, right? I hold my arms out, creating a wall around the two of us, cutting her off from the pool and the pillars. I’m still hesitant to bring it too close, but it shrinks around us slowly, forcing her to move closer to me. She cringes as it creeps up on her.
“Put it out!” I almost beg.
“I don’t know how!” She cries.
I step back, the fire parting around me as I pass. Now she’s alone as it circles ever closer. I don’t really want to burn my clothes off for this. “Stop thinking and breathe!”
As the flames reach out to lick her skin, she suddenly looks calm. I see her piercing gaze through the fire. The air shifts and the water rushes to her, shooting up from the ground all around us right up to the ceiling. I’m utterly drenched, and I cough out what I accidentally swallowed in my surprise. When I look again, the fire is gone, and she’s standing in a daze. That was her, right?
“So… Did it work?” I ask hesitantly. I really hope that wasn’t for nothing.
The little man appears between us, laughing wildly. “That was utterly pathetic for a daughter of water. You let her get so close! But, now you can feel, yes?”
I let out a relieved breath. That was really close…
Caroline’s eyes light up and she stomps toward the man, “You!! What the hell do you mean pathetic?!” The water around her feet turns to spikes pointing at him, “You must want me to die!”
I shrink back, “Looks like you two have some things to talk about… So I’ll just…”
“Na uh uhh, Miss Fire. I want you two to go at it again. She’s not done yet.” His blue eyes glint excitedly.
“Hey, teaching her is your job!” I snap defensively.
“I don’t believe in lectures, and I have no other students. You will do.” He shrugs.
“I will… Excuse you!” I gawk at him. How dare he!
“This time, try to do more than save yourself, Gillian.” He chuckles and disappears again into the water.
“Unbelievable!” Caroline shouts.
I grit my teeth, “I take back what I said before. I’m glad I never learned water.”
“You’re the one who brought me here! Did you not know who the teacher of water was?” She demands.
I gesture to myself, “Hello, miss fire here? Why on earth would I know anything about this guy?”
“Well, he’s your opposite. Wouldn’t it have been helpful to pair off with other students?”
I raise an eyebrow, “The whole pairing thing doesn’t really work when you’re the only one in your element, and the entire school is afraid of you.”
“So, there’s been no water students?”
“There have been plenty.” I roll my eyes, “They’re just not very brave.”
“They are lacking…” The man’s voice muses from somewhere above us. “Little ponds compared to an ocean.”
“Who’s an ocean?” I frown. “You don’t make any sense, old man.”
“He never makes any sense. He speaks in riddles.” Caroline complains.
I turn on my heel and head for the door. I’m not a student for him to toy with. A wall of water drops from the ceiling, blocking the door. It’s at least a foot thick and almost solid. I glare up at the ceiling. “I am not a student. Fight her yourself.”
He chuckles, the sound echoing around the room.
“I will say, it’s more interesting with you here,” Caroline admits.
I turn slowly. “Do you really want to fight me again?”
She shrugs, “We can’t help it. He’s not going to let you leave…”
I groan. Water mages are such a pain.
At least the freaky little man was kind enough to dry off my clothes when Caroline finally convinced him to let us leave to get lunch. I braid my damp hair over my shoulder as she puts on some clothes over her bathing suit.
I yawn as we make our way down to the cafeteria. “Well, at least you’ve made some good progress today.”
“Thanks! You were a big help. I thought I was going to float underwater forever!”
I snicker, “I think you might have. Man, that guy is insane…”
“Tell me about it…” She rolls her eyes, and we both laugh. “So, what brought you to the hall of water anyway?”
“Hm? Oh, I was meeting with Headmistress Ambrosse.” I fidget with the necklace again, “I had a weird dream. Andrei said I should tell her about it.”
“Oh? You saw Andrei? I left too early for the lesson, I imagine he slept in.” She muses.
“Um… Yea, a bit.” I scratch my head. I remember he didn’t want her to know about him sleeping in my room, in case she got the wrong idea, but… Does that still apply now? It wouldn’t really be the wrong idea.
“So, any fiery nightmares? Or just a regular dream?”
“Yes and no… It wasn’t really a nightmare, but wasn’t really normal either.” I don’t really want to go into details in the middle of the hall.
“Oh… I get it…” She pouts sadly.
“I just… There are a lot of people around… Maybe later?” I feel guilty for some reason.
“Okay!” She chirps. “I was kinda scared coming here, I’m sure you already knew that. But it’s actually kind of cool. Making your own schedule and whatnot. Seems kind of… different. I like it.”
“I’m glad.” I smile, “I was worried. I’ve been here for so long, I don’t really remember how it feels to leave everything behind like that.”
“How exactly did you come here?” She raises an eyebrow.
“Professor Ambrosse found me after my family died in a house fire,” I reply bluntly. At the doors of the cafeteria, I pause by the menu, “I’m going to go make a coffee and I’ll meet you at a table. Do you want one?”
She frowns, and sighs, “Sure, I’m no good at making my own.”
“Okay.” I push the door open and head to the private kitchen. It’s a little weird being in here alone again. I take my time, watching the pot brew, stirring in the cream and sugar. After a few minutes, I push the door open and walk slowly, balancing the nearly full cups.
She’s not too far away, but there’s someone else at the table with her, their back to me. Their hair is short, bobbed, and dark brown. They have a long leather coat on. I don’t recognize them.
“Hey!” Caroline looks up with a smile. The person across from her spins around, her eyes growing wide.
“Um, hello,” I mumble, suddenly self-conscious. The look in this girl’s purple eyes is the same as everyone else around here. I move around the table to sit beside Caroline, placing the cups down. “I hope it’s sweet enough.”
“Thanks! I guess I forgot to tell you what I like.” She looks at the wide-eyed girl, “Kaitlyn, this is Ryan. I met her yesterday at dinner.”
I nod at the girl. “Hi.” I don’t really know what to say to her. She looks like a deer caught in headlights, life flashing before her eyes.
“Ummm, I can’t believe it. You guys really are friends!” The girl gushes.
“You didn’t believe me?” Caroline demands, hurt.
“Don’t be surprised, Caroline.” I sigh, “That’s just how it is here.” I lean back in my seat, pulling my knees up and nestling the cup between.
“No, I mean, yes… Everyone else is, but not me! I swear!” The girl stutters.
I flick my finger up, a small fire jumping out like a candle. The girl, Ryan, gasps. She leans back slightly but doesn’t immediately run. I scoff and stare into my cup.
“I think she’s too giddy to admit that she actually admires you. Right, Ryan?” Caroline giggles, as Ryan bobs her head, pressing her lips together in a thin smile.
I narrow my eyes, “Admires?”
“Well, you’re sort of like my sister element, or mother I guess. I’m a smoke maker.” She holds out her hand, a trail of smoke rising from her palm.
I hum, “Interesting.”
“I really wish I could make fire, but it doesn’t seem like I can.” She pouts.
“No, you don’t.” I mutter, “Smoke is much safer. Much more useful.”
“Oh, don’t be like that.” Caroline scolds, “How many other elements are there?”
I take a quick count, “Um… About thirty, but that’s not counting the other schools, like necromancy, wards, and teleportation…”
“Wow, that’s a lot!” Caroline gasps.
I laugh, “Didn’t they teach you elements in science? There are a whole lot more that aren’t in magic, at least that I know of.”
Ryan adds, “But, there are some elements that haven’t been around for a long while now. Some don’t even have teachers! Like… Space, vacuum, magma, and time. That’s only a few I can remember.”
I sigh, “Yea… The time one kind of sucks. Poor Andrei. I don’t even know if there’s anything similar…”
“What? Andrei? Who’s that?”
“One of the guys that came with Caroline. He’s a time mage.” I bite the inside of my lip, my mind wandering back to last night.
“Yea, he’s my boyfriend’s friend.” Caroline clarifies.
“Wow!! That’s amazing! What can a time mage do, exactly?” Ryan’s eyes nearly bulge out of her head.
“Isn’t it a little self-explanatory?” I raise an eyebrow, “He manipulates time.”
Ryan tips her head, “How?”
“You should ask him sometime.” Caroline offers. “Maybe he’ll be here soon.”
I blanch, “Shit, I hope not.” I glance at the door, “He’s gonna get mad again…”
“Why?” Ryan asks. I glance at my coffee cup, and at the plate in front of Caroline.
Caroline smirks, “He doesn’t approve of Kaitlyn only having coffee for lunch. He’s sort of a chef.” She winks.
I slide down in my seat a little, “I don’t see the big deal…” Caroline laughs. She definitely seems more at ease now, compared to the first day we arrived. I can’t help smiling with her.
“Well, if half the stories about his time jumps are true, then I think he learned froworld-famousmous chef in the past. Kaede always bragged about having the best chef.”
“I remember reading that part.” I laugh, “He was quite an eccentric. Almost worse than your teacher!”
“Reading?” Caroline blinks.
“Oh, um… I got bored, when he was gone before we left. I kind of, read his time journals.” I blush, “But, apparently he didn’t record everything in the journals. He was… uh, telling me some things yesterday.”
“What?! I wonder how many he has. I didn’t believe half his stories when he told me.”
Ryan grins, leaning forward, “What kind of things did he not write down?”
I hold the mug up in front of my mouth, hiding my smile, and the bright red on my cheeks. “Y’know… Personal stuff.”
“What?” Caroline too leans in close, “What kinds of things?”
I’m starting to feel a little cornered, “Just… Some things he learned from a French aristocrat, about the proper way to treat a lady… That sort of thing. I don’t think he’d appreciate if I went into detail.”
“Ohhh!” Ryan giggles.
“He flirts with his words. He’s always trying to pull his lines on me, even though Kaede and I are already dating.” Caroline huffs.
I snicker, “Oh, it wasn’t just another line. You can be sure of that.”
We share a look, and the three of us burst out laughing. I’m not sure if it was the awkward subject matter, or something else, but it’s refreshing. This Ryan girl doesn’t seem so bad after all.