The Guild – Chapter 41 – Caroline

    As soon as I close my eyes I am no longer with my physical self, or so I believe. I just closed my eyes, and yet, I stand in this empty white space with my eyes open, feet glued to the floor.

    “Where am I?” I say aloud, looking around at the vast empty space. No one answers me.

    “Hello?” I call again. “Is anyone there? Where am I?” I call out.

    I look at my hands and decide I should pinch myself to see if I’m awake or not. I take hold of the skin of the back of my hand between my fingers and pinch really hard.

    “Owww!!” I shout, almost bringing tears to my eyes. I am not dreaming then. But how did I get here?

    I decide to take a step and the space suddenly transforms into a large chamber built of stone, lined with arching beams of crystal which defies its own physical constraints by curving elegantly across the ceiling. The ceiling is tall, maybe 30 meters, or more! I stare with wide eyes.

    I turn my attention to the ground next. I see that I am standing on a pattern. I step back to get a better few. Curving lines dance across the floor forming an image of a large wave encased within a circle. The wave appears to shift, or move, like that of a gif, yet it’s carved into the stone and the lines, they glow with a blue crystal-like light.

    “What is this place?” I ask no one.

    “So, you’ve come.” I spin around, looking for the source of the voice. Behind me stands a man, blond hair, soft features. He wears some sort of suit, like a medieval tuxedo. His hands are clasped behind his back.

    “I guess. Yes,” I say hesitantly. “Am I dreaming?” I ask.

    “No, this is not a dream.” He states, watching me from beyond the circle on the floor.

    “Then, how did I get here?”

    “You came by the portal. The portal was activated and you transported your spiritual self to this realm, leaving your physical body behind,” he explains.

    I cock an eyebrow, trying to understand what he means.

    “Then, why can I still feel it when I pinch myself? I ask skeptically.

    “Because you are still connected to your physical self. As long as you remain alive, you will feel. Only the dead cannot feel,” he smiles. His smile is creepy and I take a step back.

    “Why am I here?” I ask, swallowing my fear.

    “Well, you wish to become a Guardian, do you not? In order to do this, you must pass the trials I set before you. If you survive, then you will become a Guardian, the Guardian of Water, it seems,” he explains, eyeing the floor beneath me. I look down and see the wave of water tumbling within the circle.

    Before I can ask another question, he continues. “If you do not survive, however, you will perish. Spiritually and physically,” he clarifies.

    My eyes widen in shock at his words. “So, I’ll die?” It seems a stupid question really.

    “No, dying involves only the physical self. To perish spiritually is worse than death. It is eternal death. Those who try and fail the test of the Guardians forfeit their soul to the energy of the cosmos. They serve in a much grander design than your physical mind can possibly conceive,” he hums softly. It’s eerie, listening to his handsome, human-looking face explain, but I catch a glimpse of his eyes and I shudder. They aren’t like mine or anything I’ve ever seen before. They appear to be made of the same crystal I see in the arching ceiling and the lines on the floor.

    “What are you?” I hear myself asking before I realize I am speaking.

    “That does not concern you at this time. If you survive, perhaps I’ll tell you,” he grins. “Now, let’s move to the matter at hands. Your trials.”

    The room’s ambiance darkens, the crystals glow turns from a pale blue to a dark, omniscient black. I can hardly see the ceilings cavernous peak. My muscles tense in anticipation.

    “The nature of your trials will be designed to test your heart. You are attempting to harness the power of your guardianship, so I’d take into consideration the nature of your power. That is all the advice I will give.

    Be warned, Water mage. What happens here may be a spiritual illusion, but trust me. It can be very real too.” With that last note, I hear the blond man’s shoes retreat, unable to see him in the ever growing darkness around me.

    The floor beneath me bursts forth with a blinding blue light. I shield my eyes from its radiance and try to squint through my fingers to see what is happening. I hear the sound of heavy gears grinding into motion and I feel the pressure in the air shift. I’m puzzled as my ears start to ring with a fuzzy sound that gets louder and louder.

    I brace myself for the light and drop my hand to see a wall of water rushing towards me. My breath catches in my throat and I spin around to run, only to be met by another wave swiftly rushing towards me.

    ‘What in the world do I do? If I’m caught between these two waves I’ll be crushed! There’s no way anyone could survive that kind of force colliding! It’d be like falling from the sky and crashing into the ocean! Practically a brick wall!’ This logic resounds in my head as I stare at the onslaught of water coming from all sides.

    There’s no time to think, though, as the water around my ankles rises and I’m suddenly lifted off the floor. I begin to wonder which way the water will drag me when the impossible happens. The water around me begins to spin and I peer through the current around me to see the floor opening up into a gaping hole where now the water begins to drain like a whirlpool. The waves shift into ginormous walls of water, spinning counter to each other.

    I feel my legs being dragged downwards and suddenly I’m below the surface without the chance to take a breath. I forget everything in my panic, as the darkness closes in. I extend my hand upwards, helplessly reaching for the surface that continues to fall out of reach.

    I cough the last of my air, my body tingling from the lack of oxygen. As my sense grow numb and my thoughts drift, a voice speaks inside my head.

    Just breathe, It whispers to me.

    I’d like to think that’s impossible. Has my inner voice not realized I’m hundreds of feet underwater? There’s no air.

    Daughter of water, just breathe.

    My chest aches with the pressure of wanting to breathe but hesitating to inhale the water around me. I’ve convinced myself I’ll drown. The pain becomes unbearable and I open my mouth as if to give up when two things happen. First, I see before me the ghostly image of a boy – no, a man. He wears a white dress shirt and black pants. His body hangs lifelessly in the water before me. Second, I gasp, in shock, because I know this man. It’s Kaede.

    The water rushes into my lungs and I go to cough, but for the sweet relief it brings, I become embarrassed that I could breathe it in all along. I should have remembered this from my first lesson with Naum. As a mage of water, I can breathe beneath the waves.

    My limbs gain strength with every breath I take and with sudden energy, I am swimming towards Kaede. I forget everything and immediately panic when I grab him by the shoulders. He’s ice cold.

    ‘No!’ I cry, ‘This can’t be! Kaede, please! Wake up!’

    The water around us suddenly shifts, I feel myself almost falling through its contents and I see ground beneath us. The waters escape quickens until I am falling alarmingly fast towards the floor. I hold onto Kaede’s lifeless body and squeeze my eyes shut was the water leaves and I’m left spinning across the very wet floor.

    I sit up with a groan, cough as the water leaves my lungs and the air returns.

    I quickly crawl to Kaede’s side and start shaking him.

    ‘Come’on Caroline. Remember what they taught you! You’ve gotta resuscitate him!’ I immediately dive into CPR, giving two breaths for every thirty compressions. I swear this goes on for minutes when I hear that same voice in my head.

    Listen, listen to me. Move.

    ‘What in the world could that mean?’

    My jaw drops as I silently ‘ohhh’. I stop my compressions immediately and hover my hand over his mouth. I command the water to come to me. Before I can blink, a small thread of water comes forth from his mouth and gathers in my hand. As the last bead leaves, he begins to cough.

    “Kaede! You’re alive! Oh, thank the heavens!”

    “Good work,” he says in an unnaturally gritty voice. At first, I think it’s because of nearly drowning, but then he looks at me and I notice his eyes, they glow like crystals with no pupils.

    “You!” I gasp.

    The crystal Kaede leers and stands before me.

    “You’ve passed the first trial. Mastering your element to save those dear to you. Now can you face the next hardship?” he asks rhetorically.

    I sit in the water, dumbfounded at what just happened and suddenly the room blinks out of existence and I find myself standing, dripping wet, in an open field of dry bracken.

    In the distance, I spot a village of people, dressed in pioneer-like clothing. Their homes are clustered together on the open plain and their children and livestock mill around the open area, playing and laughing.

    I let my breath go, relaxing at the scene. I forget what just happened, it feels like ages ago. I step towards the town, wandering through the streets and smiling at the people going about their day.

    A lady carrying a basket, bumps into me, dropping her goods all over the dirt path. I drop to my knees, assisting her to pick up the bread.

    “I’m so sorry, miss! Please forgive me!” she cries, gathering her ruined food.

    “No, not at all! You’re no bother. Please, let me help you,” I offer.

    She thanks me kindly and hurries on her way, scurrying across the road and out of sight between two buildings.

    I find myself out on the other side of town, walking down the path into the wild unknown and lightning suddenly strikes from the open sky above and crashes into the open field before me with a thunderous roar that brings my hands to my ears in less than a heartbeat. I feel the earth shake beneath me and the distant field alights with flame.

    The fire crackles ever closer to the town and the people around me seem to be unaware of what just happened. I dash back into the town and begin shouting. “Fire! Fire! A wildfire is coming towards you! Quickly! You must run!!”

    No one pays me any heed. A few men in front of a store eye me with concern.

    ‘Can they not hear me?’ I question myself. I shout again, but to no avail.

    I dash out of the village. Someone has to do something! I look around, searching, for a town this size needs some source of water. I dash to the town sign which hangs from a post. The post has notches in the side designed to act as footholds so someone can climb it.

    I grab hold of the old wood, ignoring the pain of the splinters cutting into my hands. Once I’m at the top I can see the surrounding plains and beyond. Beyond the fields to the right, from where I came from, I see a cut through the bracken, a divide that marks the path of a stream or some body of water. There’s no way I’d reach it in time before the fire hits the town. I can already feel it’s scorching heat on my exposed arms as it crawls ever closer.

    I jump from the post, landing with a shoot of pain in my feet. I pay it no mind and close my eyes, summoning the water.

    All my life I was running from it. My rooms would flood, and my belongings, ruined. I hated it and didn’t understand it. Now, I was calling for it. I needed it to soak the earth before the village so the fire could not pass. There was no one else around to help these people!

    I called to the water, pulling it, drawing it to me like a magnet. I felt it leave its bed, leaving even the trees beyond the field in the forest and come to my aid. I commanded it to douse the plants, as dousing the fire would cost too much. The heat was too great and it would only turn to steam and vapour before it could do any good.

    The ground soaked it up greedily and before long, a strip of land was brightly glowing with life in the path of the approaching fire. The flames crackled loudly like a bonfire and everything glowed before it. As the fire reached the damp earth, it hesitated, like an infant at the water’s edge, testing to see if it would bite. It couldn’t cross the line I’d drawn with the water in the field. Its heat was not strong enough for the water-sodden vegetation. It’s wasn’t long before the fire ran out of fuel and gave one last pop of sparks before it was snuffed out.

    I sighed with relief and turned towards the townsfolk, smiling. A group had gathered, watching on in wonder as I prevent the fire from burning up their homes. They began to cheer and a man in a smart looking suit, obviously a leader, perhaps the mayor, stepped forwards.

    “We’d like to thank you! You who commands the water, you saved our homes, our families, and livelihoods! Thank you!” he shouted over the cheers of the others behind him. He removed his hat, revealing a mass of blond hair and when he looked up at me, his eyes glinted in the sunlight reflecting off their crystal luster.

    “You, again!” I said.

    “You prove worth yet again, Water Mage, but can you truly understand the qualms of the force you wish to tame? We shall see. We shall see…” his voice fades and the world blinks out again.

    I find myself back in a familiar neighbourhood, my hometown of Toronto. Has it really been only three months since I last saw this place? I look down and see my clothes have not only dried but changed. I’m in my favourite lacy shirt, open back, leather jacket overtop to keep out the cold. I wear a pair of comfortable blue jeans, classy but casual.

    The street is dark, a single street lamp illuminates the sidewalk I stand on. The street leads to Kaede’s apartment before we all moved to the – Where? I… Did we move? No. We’re all still here, I think. I feel my phone buzz in my pocket and pull it out. It’s a message from Kae.

    <Hey, when u comin home?>

    I type a response quickly.

    I slip it back into my pocket and step in the direction of his house. I wonder if Andrei will be there.

    After a few steps I here an echo with each step I take. I stop and listen. Silence. Maybe I’m just hearing things. I move to continue but I hear it again, and I know I’m not alone. I shuffle through my coat pocket and grab my key, just in case. I hate walking alone this close to the University at night, this place has a reputation.

    I continue down the dark street away from the light. It’s not long before the echoing steps quicken out of sync with my own and hasten towards me. I spin around and see a figure dressed in black towering before me.

    “Don’t come any closer!” I shout.

    “Or what? You’ll cut me?” he fains fear.

    “I’m warning you.”

    I feel a pair of arms wrap tightly around me, making my keys useless. “Let go!” I cry out, struggling his this man bear-like grasp.

    “Come now, let’s have some fun first,” the second man breathes in my ear. I feel goosebumps rise on my skin and my heart beats faster!

    At that moment I feel my phone buzz in my pocket. “Keade!” I say aloud.

    “She’s got a phone. Take it!” the one holding me says. The first man approaches me, reaching for my pocket.

    “No! Get away from me!” I try to kick him but he backs up and pulls out a knife.

    “Now, now. Let’s play nice. I wouldn’t want to leave a mark,” he leers.

    He reaches into my pocket and tosses my phone away, then presses the knife to my neck and stares into my eyes. “Come with us.”

    “Never,” I growl.

    I see him nod and I feel the second man press himself against me from behind. “We don’t need to wait then. Privacy is no concern of ours,” he says.

    All I can think about is how upset Kaede would be. Why can’t I fight these guys off? Am I really this weak? The first man starts to unzip my coat and his eyes wander lustfully across my chest. The one behind me loosens his grip slightly and pulls off the coat. I try to pull away, but the knife to my throat stops me from running.

    The first man grins and then presses his dry lips against mine forcefully. I hate every moment of it and wreath in the other man’s grasp. Together, they are enough manpower to prevent me from getting free. If only I had Kaede or Andrei with me! Why am I alone in the first place?

    You are not alone, the voice in my head returns. I don’t recall what it is and why it’s there, but somehow it’s comforting.

    ‘I’m not?’ I ask it.

    You are never alone. We are one.

    Suddenly, my memory rushes back to me and if I wasn’t so frightened, I’m sure I’d be singing that Celine Dion song, it’s all coming back. The water, the Guild, Kaitlyn. My lessons. The last conversation I had with the water, it wanted me to become one, to take up the position of Guardian.

    I figure if I could control the water like I did to save Kaede- the Kaede that wasn’t really Kaede that is, I could manipulate the water to remove these scumbags. I could just pull the water out of them, killing them so they wouldn’t hurt others.

    Their efforts become more forceful and find myself tumbling to the ground. I scream as the first man rips my shirt down the middle, exposing my chest to the night air. The second man has the knife now and is tracing it across my collarbone. I feel it’s blade on my skin and I’m immediately reminded of Kaitlyn and Logan.

    That’s when I see the second mans face, white blond hair peeks out from beneath his black cap, but his eyes are crystal and seem to gleam in the darkness. I’m in the dream! Or rather, the nightmare.

    The voice returns as a whimper escapes my lips at their lustful touch.

    If we are one, you are never alone. You can be clean.

    I crane my neck, wish this would be over. What kind of sick test is this? Their hands grab me, their touch burns like fire. I feel like I’m going to throw up. They’ll ruin me, Kaede will hate me. I can’t!

    Shhhh, I’m here.

    My brain suddenly clicks and I act without thinking. I treasure this voice, the one that’s always listening, always there. It’s me and it isn’t. I could control the water in these men, but then I’d be nothing more than a murderer, just like them, or, I could become the victim of their treachery and wallow in fear. But there’s a third option for me.

    Unlike those without magic, I can save myself, even without force. I remember the fish I created with the water, on the cliff of the Guild’s island oasis. I remember thinking if only I could become the water and just flow with it, not thinking or caring.

    I could become the water, as it keeps saying to me. Let’s be one.

    ‘Let’s be one’ I think

    Let’s be one.

    “Let’s be one!” we say together. I feel my chest blossom with a cool, calming feeling. The burning touch of the men fades and feel nothing and everything. Their pulse echoes in our ears, yes, their pulse, not ours, for we don’t feel like I do. I glance down at my chest, watching calmly as the feeling spreads across my body, to the tips of my fingers, toes and even my hair. My body turns to a humanoid cast of water.

    I’ve become the water, or the Water has become me. The men fall back, their touch unable to affect me now. The crystal eyes with the knife tries to swipe at me but the blade passes through me without harm.

    Stop,” I say, standing before them, handheld before me like a traffic officer. “This is wrong. Do not harm me.”

    The men freeze and the nightmare fades. The street blinks out and I find myself standing in the chamber from when I first arrived. The ceiling is bright, the crystals glow a bright blue and the man with the crystal eyes stands before me.

    “It seems the water has chosen well. Water has many elements. It can be catastrophic, life-giving, and neutral. These are all qualities of the element of water which you have also in yourself displayed in each of my trials.

    As is tradition, I now grant you the title of Guardian of Water. Be wise and listen to the advise of the waves. They will guide you in your destiny.” He steps towards me,  entering the circle I stand on. He holds out his hand, palm up and waits.

    I look at it, questioningly. “What do you want?” I ask.

    “I need to give you the mark.” A clear blue wave appears in his hand and it glimmers in the light around us. The wave, like the floor, shifts, like a real wave. He holds his palm now towards me and the image floats off of his hand and through the space between us. I watch it warily as it speeds up and suddenly shots towards me like a bullet.

    I feel it impact my chest, just below my clavicle. I step backward with the force of its impact and cringe. It hurts like a large bee sting and I look down to see the mark has fused with my skin, like a tattoo – that moves.

    “Congratulations,” the man says. “You are now Guardian. You are free to return to your physical self.”

    I don’t deny I am eager to leave, but I still have a few burning questions, and I intend to get the answers.

    “Wait! You said you’d answer my question,” I call him out.

    He raises a quizzical eyebrow at my tone and I think I see the corner of his mouth twitch upwards into a smile. “I believe I said I might,” he responds.

    “Whatever, I want to know. What are you? You were always a key in each of the trials. You can shift appearances as you like and yet your eyes, they are not human, they give you away. What are you, really?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest and staring him down for an answer.

    “It’s been a long time since I’ve had to test a mage for Guardianship. Too long, I might say. They used to of me before they came to me. It seems I have fallen from the minds of the mages,” he pauses as if thinking.

    “I have no name. All you need to know is this; These powers aren’t given lightly. They are bestowed upon those who test true. You are selected among many with the potential to become the true Guardian of your time and must earn the title as you just did.

    One does not have to complete the trials I set before them, however. Sometimes life’s trials are enough to earn this great honour.”

    “That doesn’t answer the question,” I frown.

    “You’re right. I am of the source that grants you your power. When times are in need of the Guardians, the powers return to those who can suffer them. The celestials are always watching. If the balance is upset, we attempt to maintain it. That is all I can say.

    You must leave now. Your physical body needs you. Goodbye, Guardian.”

    With that, I blink and the room blinks out. I open my eyes and I inhale deeply, gasping as if I was holding my breath. I find myself back in the cave, surrounded by the coalesced energy pool and glowing crystal cavern walls. My body aches from the trials and I smell blood on my chest from where the knife’s edge was drawn across my skin.

    He wasn’t kidding when he said your body would be harmed as you were in the dream.

By Kayla West

The Guild – Chapter 40 – Selene

The sun darts in and out behind the clouds above us. Kaitlyn walks in a daze, dark rings growing beneath her eyes. Her mind wanders somewhere far away, worry for her lover. Caroline is in much the same mood. It seems both boys have disappeared overnight. From what Cliff told us, he suspects Andrei took the other one on a time jump, despite Cliff’s advice against the matter.

Children. I sigh.

“Someone’s gotta put a tight leash on those boys. With Andrei running off every other week, it’s a wonder we don’t have ulcers…” Caroline complains, crossing her arms with a huff. “Can’t he leave us a note or something?”

“Young men tend to have a problem controlling their pride,” I respond.

Caroline grumbles, “Well, Andrei’s got enough pride for everyone…”

“Yes, I got that impression,” I nod. Kaitlyn’s shoulders sag. I straighten my back, “Worrying will not help anyone. We should focus on the task at hand. Where is this place you mentioned?”

Kaitlyn glances up at the sky. “I’m not sure. Rose said she would show us the way when we got there.”

“Right,” I frown. “And… who is Rose again?”

Kaitlyn stares straight ahead, her teeth peeling dead skin off her lower lip. “Um… My… Ancestor?”

“Who would want to live all the way out here?” Caroline sneers.

“Dragons,” Kaitlyn replies with a shrug. I follow her gaze up, wherein the distance I can just make out a large hill, or maybe a small mountain. Above the flattened peak, a swarm of large birds circle in the sky. Too large. Wait, did she say dragons?

Caroline stops dead in her tracks, head shaking furiously. “No, no, no… Dragons? Like… REAL dragons? First off, there’s no proof that dragons ever really existed, unless you count the oversized lizards of the Triassic and Jurassic eras. Second…” she stops, as if listening to a voice no one can hear. “I can’t ‘do’ dragons,” she says simply, after a moment of silence.

“Technically,” Kaitlyn purses her lips, still avoiding eye contact, “I’m part dragon, and you seem to be ‘doing’ just fine.”

“How can you be part dragon? How would that even work?” Caroline demands.

“My power exceeds that of a typical Fire Guardian. I met one in Camelot. I can do things he couldn’t.” Kaitlyn explains simply, as though that makes perfect sense.

“Such as?” I press, also skeptical. I’m still fairly sure the thing I saw in the Headmistress’s office was a hallucination.

Kaitlyn sighs. As she turns to face us, her body is consumed by spontaneous flames, until there is nothing left but the shape of a woman made of orange and red fire. “Is this proof enough? Or do I need to blow something up before you’ll start walking again?”

“Don’t dragons breathe fire, not turn into fire?” Caroline challenges.

Kaitlyn’s fiery arms cross, she tilts her head back, mouth opening wide. A cone of flame shoots into the air and fades just as quickly. “Satisfied?” her tone is strained. She is uncomfortable with the topic. It seems to be a sore subject.

“Caroline,” I turn to the blonde. “I’m afraid she is telling the truth. If you wish to pursue what we spoke of yesterday, I’m afraid you’ll have to suck it up.”

“Fine, but I’m still… you know… freaked out,” Caroline pouts. “Maybe we should wait for Kaede to come back…”

“Imagine how I feel…” the fire seems to absorb into the form of Kaitlyn, as she returns to her normal appearance. Strangely, her clothes seem to be unburnt. “Who knows how long that will be. Besides, I wouldn’t bring him here. Dragons don’t like humans, after the whole hunted-to-near-extinction thing.”

“But Kaede couldn’t hurt anything, and I’d feel better if he at least knew,” Caroline whines.

I roll my eyes. “Do you seriously need his permission? Are you a weak minded little girl, or are you the woman I took you to be?” the harsh words slip past my lips before I can catch them. Honestly, I can’t stand the idea of anyone bowing to the will of another. The young blonde’s expression falters.

Kaitlyn raises an eyebrow in my direction. “Uh… I mean… That’s one way to look at it, but really, if you spend any more time mulling it over I think your brain is going to explode. Just get it over with, and deal with him after. Come on Caroline, we’re almost there already. Are you really going to turn back now?”

“I… suppose not. Let’s get it over with,” Caroline agrees, hesitantly. I gesture for Kaitlyn to lead the way.

The rest of the walk is silent. As we reach the base of the mountain, a figure stands up ahead. She stands about five and a half feet tall, with short hair, neatly curled in a style similar to the Queen. Her outfit seems straight out of the closet of a fifties housewife.  Kaitlyn approaches the woman, whose face spreads into a bright grin.

“Welcome,” the woman opens her arms wide.

Kaitlyn stops short of her embrace. “Rose. This is Caroline and Selene.”

The middle-aged woman’s eyes trace over the two of us. As her gaze locks on mine, I am bombarded with strange images of lizard creatures, and a guttural language. I flinch away.

“I thought you said there were dragons?” Caroline asks, uncertain.

The woman called Rose giggles. “Oh, there are, dearie,” Caroline jumps as the woman addresses her. “My dear granddaughter tells me I’m not to frighten her guests, so I came to greet you in this form. The others are up above,” she gestures to the top of the mountain.

Caroline gulps as she glances upward. “That was very thoughtful, thank you.”

Rose chuckles. “Yes, it seems Mildred left quite an impression on that young man that came to visit. The poor thing nearly fainted.”

Kaitlyn groans. “Rose… We’re not here to gossip.”

“Yes, yes, darling. Your boring Guardian things,” Rose huffs. “Honestly, you are just like my dearest Mark-”

“Yea, you said that before. Where is the place?” Kaitlyn cuts her off, rather rudely. I’m taken aback by her unusually abrasive attitude.

“Alright. Come along,” Rose waves as she turns to walk along the edge of the mountain.

“Wait!” Caroline gasps. “If she knows about the founder, shouldn’t we ask her more? What if she knows something that can help us? This is an opportunity to be taken advantage of!” she reasons, desperately stalling.

“No, it’s not,” Kaitlyn snaps, as she moves to follow the older woman. “Let’s go,” Caroline frowns and heaves a sigh before falling in line. I trail behind her. Voices play in the back of my mind, strange, chaotic, and incomprehensible. Hundreds of them, like echoes from afar.

The girls fall silent as we follow the supposed dragon. The aura around the woman is definitely something I’ve never seen. She follows the curve of the cliff along a narrow path with a long drop into the sea. The view is nostalgic, and I let out a sigh. I’m so distracted by the dizzying height that I almost miss the crack in the cliff face that the dragon lady disappears into.

The cave is dark for the first several feet. I squint my eyes, hoping they’ll adjust faster when I notice a glow up ahead. Following the silhouette in front of me, we follow a gentle curve, and the blue-purple glow grows stronger. I start to make out details of the walls; what at first looks to be hundreds of random scratch marks, start to form pictures.

I fall behind as I reach out to trace one of the strange symbols scrawled across the wall. I feel the energy pulsing through the rock, almost like a living thing. A breeze rustles my hair, carrying whispers from somewhere further down the tunnel. Nothing about this place is what I would consider natural…

“Selene?” Kaitlyn’s voice echoes around me, panic rises in her tone.

I pull away from the drawings. “I’m here,” I quicken my pace around the bend only to skid to a halt.

The main chamber of the cave, from floor to ceiling, is covered with huge crystals jutting out of the rock at all angles. It seems that they’re the source of the eerie light. Energy emanates from each deposit, visible even to the naked eye. I hear the whispers again, and something warm brushes against my cheek. It feels friendly; welcoming even.

It may be the lighting, but Caroline looks white as a sheet. She’s staring at the space ahead with her jaw slack. Kaitlyn turns back to us, eyes wide and unsure. The dragon lady waits in the center of the chamber, hands folded at her waist.

“Alright, where do we begin?” I ask, hoping to get the other two moving.

“The candidate will need to lay in the pool here,” the dragon lady smiles, as she waves a hand at the floor behind her. “Caroline, was it? Please, don’t be shy now.”

Caroline takes a step back, bumping into me. “I don’t know if I’m ready you guys. What if this is a mistake? Maybe I’m not a Guardian,” she mutters, shaking her head.

“If that’s the case, the ritual will do nothing,” Dragon lady shrugs.

I place my hands on her shoulders and squeeze lightly. She’s not going to back out now. She glances over her shoulder with wide eyes. I nod once to assure her. With a bit of a push, she starts to walk forward. At the edge of the pool, I let go.  As Caroline walks to the center of the little pond, Kaitlyn steps up beside me.

“Now, you two will take up positions on either side of the pool. Kneel with your hands in the pool. Once you’re all set, we’ll begin,” the elderly woman instructs, hovering behind us. I share a skeptical look with Kaitlyn before we move in opposite directions.

The pond isn’t very big, maybe a couple meters in diameter. Just enough for a large person to lay in it. As I dip my palms into the surface, I’m surprised at the texture.

“This isn’t water,” I muse aloud. I try to collect a handful of the strange gassy liquid substance, but it seems to fade through my hands, leaving a tingling sensation behind.

“What? What is it then?” Caroline wonders, touching her finger to her chin as she examines the pool she’s standing in. “Ah, I think I get it. Some sort of coalesced energy,” she nods to herself.

“Very good!” Dragon lady claps cheerfully.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before! Only read about it in theory. This is fascinating!” Caroline gasps. It seems her nerves have vanished with the discovery. Strange girl.

“Now, You’ll need to immerse your body within the pool. Go on dear, lay down. It won’t hurt, I promise.” The lady smiles warmly. I try to imagine what that would look like on a giant lizard.

With a deep breath, Caroline closes her eyes and carefully lays down on her back. I lock eyes with Kaitlyn and exchange a nod. We’re ready to begin.

By Krystyna Yates

The Guild – Chapter 39 – Andrei

“So I was hoping you could get me a door to Romania. You know, anywhere in the general location of Romania should do. Can you do that for me?” I ask Cliff on my way down to the library.

“Why do you need to go to Romania? You can’t leave the Guild without a Guardian.” He reminds me.

“Yea, I know, that’s why I’m asking you. I need to collect a plant for… an experiment I’m doing.” I tell him.

Cliff thumbs his chin through his beard. “I don’t know if I can do that unless you take a Guardian with you. I can’t leave today, I have classes with the wards master and I have to help a few other students with their spells. I wish I could help you friend, but Alas, I cannot.”

“Aww, it’s ok. What if I just went myself? You know… time jumped. The plant doesn’t have to be from the present.” I point out.

Cliffs brow creases with worry. I know what his answer will be. “Andrei, friend. I think it’s dangerous to go by yourself. Even if you time jump. Why don’t we wait?”

I don’t want to wait. I want to get moving. I need to find the other things so I can solve the mystery of my dream, and help revive the founder. I still haven’t figured out what the artifacts would be for the earth or water element, but now that I know what fire is, I want it here.

“I suppose… or I could be gone and back before you know it.” I grin, contemplating a wink. I don’t know if that would work on Cliff.

Cliff shrugs. “I don’t recommend leaving the Guild without a Guardian class companion. With the Master at large and Logan still out there, who knows if they will be able to track you or not. It’s a big risk. I have to go.” He says, turning for the spells ward.

“Thanks, Cliff. See you!” I wave, turning for the library. I frown to myself. I don’t want to bring someone with me. Everyone is busy with their own research, besides, aren’t I capable of managing myself? Since when do I need someone to accompany me off the island? I jumped all the time, whenever it happened. Just because I’ve gained more control, doesn’t mean I can’t jump now just because I don’t have whatever Guardian class status. I can’t even get one of those because I don’t have a teacher.

I arrive at the library to find Kaede already there clicking at his laptop. I have no idea what he’s doing, but he seems to stay busy. I’m glad. I take a seat just as an idea comes to me.

“Hey, Kaede.”

“Hmm?” He says, not looking up.

“I, uhh… I need to get this plant I found in the text. I think it’s the fire artifact I’ve been researching.” I tell him slowly.

“Hmm… and?” He says, eyes still glued to the screen.

“Well, I was wondering if you wanted to join me?” I ask him, watching his reaction.

He glances up at me from over his screen, grey Japanese eyes focus on me. “Join you? To head to the plant shop? I could order it for you here, you know. What’s it called,” he asks, pulling up the online webstore.

“No, not like that. I mean, Cliff says I can’t leave the Guild without a Guardian class, and I don’t want to wait. Besides, I won’t ever be Guardian class ‘cause I don’t have a teacher to grant me that class. So… I was thinking, what if we jumped, together?” I say more clearly. This time his fingers stop and he raises his chin over the laptop screen.

“You mean, time jump?!” I knew it would get his attention.

“Yea! It gets me off the island, I’m not ‘alone’ per se and you finally get to go on one of those jumps you’ve always dreamed about! What do you say, roomy?” I grin. There’s no way he can turn down this offer. I watch him as he thinks about the offer.

“So, you’re saying, we’d be defying Guild rules somewhat indirectly but jumping together… but, I’m not a mage, I couldn’t help you in a pinch with other mages. I’m not saying I don’t doubt your skills, but… I don’t wanna die,” he adds.

“We wouldn’t be jumping into a war or anything. It’s just to get a silly little plant. What could possibly kill you?” I shrug off the concern.

He smiles. “Ok, I’m in. Man! I can’t believe this is really happening!” He says, getting a little giddy. Suddenly, he stops. “Wait, is there anything I need? Should I bring a first aid kit? Fix my hair? When are we going to? Will my phone work in the past? Where are we even going?!” he starts freaking, reminding me of Caroline. Seriously, those two should just get married.

“Relax dude. You’re overthinking it. Leave your phone here, the jump will fry it. If you want to bring a first aid kit, sure. But like I said, it will be a quick jump. Just a pop in, grab the plant and pop back. We’ll be back before Cliff can say banana’s.” I say, standing up and grabbing the book with Ceph’s note in it.

“Sweet!” Kaede grins, shutting his laptop and grabbing his bag, which I assume already has a first aid kit in it, thanks to Caroline.

It’s been nearly a week since Camelot, and I feel the energetic pulse of time within my chest. I know a jump possible. I run Kaede through the list of risks, making sure he knows not to let go as I don’t know what would happen, but it couldn’t possibly be any good. Once he’s clear and has his bag over both shoulders, he nods to me.

“Alright. So, let’s just… uhhh… hold hands I guess.” I suddenly feel awkward about doing this with my best friend and roomy of more than seven years. He grins and takes my hand.

“Oh Andrei, I can’t believe it! We’re holding hands!” He says like a love-struck girl.

“Shut up.” I groan. “Ready?”

“Yup. Do your… magic stuff!” He laughs.

I release the time, feeling the static crawl over my skin, up my arms and glance at Kaede as it jumps up his arm. He stares at it in shock, gasping at the feeling, then smiles.

“Wicked,” he smiles.

Soon, we enveloped in the blue light and we’re jolted into the realm of ribbonous time, lights descend from some unknown source above us like a rainbow of possibilities. I spare a glance towards Kaede and am pleased to see him looking around in wonder.

He turns to me with a smile, “does it always look like this to you? What is this place?” He asks with wonder.

“Yea, always. I’m not really sure, but I think these lights are different time threads.” I explain.

We spin around as we turn in the weightless environment. “How do you know which one is what?” He asks. Reaching a hand tentatively towards one.

I quickly move to pull him back, but it’s too late. His hand makes contact with the pulsing light of time and were yanked forward into it. I feel his hands grips tighten around mine as we both scream with the speed we are moving at.

Suddenly, without warning, we stumble upright into the bustling chaos of war.

We turn left and right, getting out bearings as soldiers run past us glad in worn grey uniforms, long guns in their hands and helmets on their heads. The cobblestone street is pockmarked with holes as large as a car.

The brick buildings around us have huge chunks taken out of them and are left crumbling onto the street. People are yelling, guns from unseen places are being fired, soldiers drops round us.

A bullet whizzes past Kaede cheek, barely missing him. I dash into action, yanking him behind the crumbling wall of a building to our right. We huddle there, cowering from the rain of firepower from the unseen enemy.

I haven’t determined yet what time we are in. I quickly turn to Kaede with a hard glare. “What were you thinking? Let ME select the time, idiot!” I hiss at him as a large cannon is shot somewhere down another street. The ground rumbles with the force of the gun and stone tumble from the sky, onto the street where we were standing.

“We’re gonna die!” Kaede screams over the noise. “I’ve gone and killed us!” I see the panic on his face and, for some reason, that helps me stay calm.

“Snap out of it! You haven’t killed anyone, yet.” I try to say encouragingly.

“I’m so sorry man! Where are we?” He shouts.

“I think somewhere in Europe, maybe 1916?” I answer over the shooting.

“When?” His eyes bulge.

“Time is the same, I only jump years and locations. So it was December 4th in our time, it’s still December 4th, just not 2017.” I explain.

“Ok, ok, I get it. Does this always happen? When you jump, is it always like this?” he asks.

It’s a valid question and I take a moment to recount all the times I’d jumped into the middle of conflict without warning. “Yea, it tends to happen a lot. But I was getting better at choosing less conflicting times. You went and just touched the timeline and this is what we got. I think there’s a better way to select times That’s why you gotta let me do the selecting, got it?” I reaffirm with him.

He nods his head and I know he means it. “So now, we need to find shelter. Everyone here will shoot if they don’t know us, so try not to be seen.” I start, looking for someplace, some building that looks safe.

“Not be seen? In the middle of a war? That’s like asking me to lay a golden egg bro. I don’t have magic, remember?”

I shake my head and roll my eyes. “You know what I meant. Keep your head down and don’t do anything stupid.”

“I’ll just follow you. You know what you’re doing. You’ve done this before. I trust your judgment,” he assures me.

Great, now he thinks I know what I’m doing. Not what I was hoping for. I realized the wall we’re hiding behind used to be part of a corner building of the square we landed in. I try to shuffle some of the debris while keeping out of sight of the sniper in the window across the street. After maybe fifteen minutes of rummaging through the bricks and broken building materials, I find a promising cellar door.

“Stay low and follow me,” I shout to him as I pull up the door in a shower of dust. The inside appears dark and I can’t see far. Kaede crawls up beside me holding out a flashlight.

“It was in the first aid kit from Car,” he says with a tentative grin.

“That’s convenient,” I say, looking down into the whole as he lights it up. I see a wooden staircase that leads a few feet down. “You should go first,” I offer, hoping it will relax him.

“Won’t argue there,” he says as he crawls onto the ladder and starts to descend.

When he’s at the bottom, holding the light, I turn, getting on the ladder. I feel a sharp pain in my arm as I take the first step and lose my grip on the ladder, tumbling down the rest of the way. I land hard on top of Kaede, who grunts. A shower of dust rain on top of us as the door falls shut and the natural light from above goes out.

“Oww,” I moan, gripping my shoulder where I felt the bullet strike.

“Are you ok? What happened?” Kaede whispers from beneath me. I crawl off of him and wait as he adjusts the light. When the flashlight lands on me I see the sleeve covered in blood and a small hole where I am gripping my bicep.

“I think the sniper got me,” I say, trying to stop the bleeding.

“I hate to say, glad it wasn’t me, but… I’m glad it wasn’t me. Good thing for the first aid kit!” He says optimistically as he pulls it from his bag and starts looking for bandages.

“I think we need to get the bullet out first,” I groan.

“Well, sometimes they pass right through, let’s check,” he says, crawling around me to see the other side of my arm. It’s hard to move, so I’m glad he’s taking a look for me. I feel him tug at the sleeve, looking for an exit hole. “I don’t see anything. Sorry.”

“Great. I roll my eyes. “It’s going to hurt, isn’t it,” I mumble.

“Probably. I may have a steady hand, but I’ve never removed a bullet before. Strange. That should have passed through. It’s just your arm,” he wonders aloud.

He grips the metal tweezers in one hand and the flashlight in the other. I frown as he moves towards my arm like a vulture on a piece of dead meat. I prepare for it, gritting my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut.

I feel the tweezers poke my wound and I swallow the pain as he moves around, looking for the bullet.

“Maybe… be a little… more gentle…” I suggest against the pain.

“Sorry,” he apologizes. “I’m not a human doctor, just a computer doctor.”

“Go thing,” I manage to say.

“I think I got it!” He says as he pulls the tweezers and the bullet from my arm. The wound burns and fresh blood pours out like a slow tap.

“Quick, the bandages!” I whisper.

Kaede fumbles with the bandages, placing some gauze on the hole and then tying a cloth around it tightly. It stings as he tugs on the knot, wrapping the length of the cloth bandage around multiple times. I still see the blood soaking through.

“Maybe you should try healing this,” Kaede points out.

I stare at him, disbelieving. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. “I’ve never tried healing myself before. Maybe I should,” I already feel a bit dizzy. Maybe this wasn’t the best band-aid.

I place my hand over the wound, picturing the hole and the blood in my mind. I focus on the wound and the tissue around it, the damage that the bullet caused. Then, I imagine it filled, connecting, healing; becoming whole. I feel a faint thrum of time too and I try to harness that, as Ceph mentioned you could speed up time. Maybe I can speed the healing of the tissue a bit too. My arm tingles and I start to feel itchy.

“How is it? Are you healing it? Kaedes voice cuts through my thoughts like a knife.

I open my eyes and look at him.

“Man, you look pale,” he comments.

“Thanks… I guess,” I say, tugging at the blood-soaked cloth. As it comes away I move the torn sleeve, looking for the whole, but there isn’t one, just a faintly pink spot where it was a few minutes ago.

“Wicked! That is so cool man! Wow, magic; even better than a doctor,” he says shaking his head, impressed.

“Sometimes,” I say, though, I still feel awfully weak now. My heads a bit dizzy and I feel tired. “Let’s take a look around and rest a bit. I don’t think I can go far at the moment. I need some rest from that,” I tell him.

He nods with understanding. “Got it. Scouting mission 101! Man, it’s just like real life D&D!” He says, standing up and turning the flashlight. I join him in looking around the cellar. There’s not much, some shelves with vintage wine on them, a few crates with odds and ends that look like a shopkeepers extras warehouse.

The cellar seems to go back from the ladder about ten feet and is maybe seven or eight wide. Some rickety shelves line the wall to the right and crates are stacked on the left. At the back is a small desk covered in dust. The walls are bare.

“It may look like a dead end,” Kaede starts, “but one thing I’ve learned from playing games is there’s always a secret door.” He grins.

“Kae, this is the real world just a hundred years earlier. It’s not a game,” I complain.

“That’s what you think,” he says confidently as he shines the light at the desk. There isn’t much on it, some old, yellowing paper and a lot of dust. There’s a quill pen in the inkwell, long since dried. Kaede pulls at the pen, inspecting it closely. When he tries to lift it, we freeze. A faint click comes from behind the desk. Kaede shines the light on the wall.

“Ah ha! See this?” He says, pointing at the otherwise regular-looking wall.

“It’s a wall,” I say flatly.

“It’s a door!” He says with excitement. He pushes a hand against it and a seam appears in the, what looked like an unbroken cement wall. A door swings inwards and reveals a dark pathway that seems to go beneath the buildings above for a least twenty or so meters.

“Nice find,” I admit. Let’s get in there and hide, just in case. I really do need to lay done though,” I remind him.

“Right, hiding from our hiding place though seems like a smart plan. Common.”

We crawl into the passage and push the door back into place. “I hope no one can see the seam now that we’ve disturbed it,” I mention.

“Me too.” Kaede agrees. “Now we wait and rest.”

I nod in agreement. “Sounds like a good plan,” for now.

By Kayla West

The Guild – Chapter 38 – Kaitlyn

I feel the sun as the first rays breach the horizon. It wakes me from a dead sleep. I guess my days of sleeping into the afternoon are over. I lay in my bed, limbs tangled in the sheets. The only sound is the soft snoring of the boy lying next to me. I watch his peaceful face, his chest slowly rising and falling. If I get up he’ll definitely wake up. So, I wait.

I’m not sure how long I lay there but the sun hovers well above the horizon and shines through my window. Andrei stirs and lifts his head, rubbing his eyes.

“Good morning,” I smile.

He looks at me, a smile growing on his sleepy face. “Good morning.”

“Sleep well?” I ask.

“Yes, I did. Finally a night with no dreams. It feels great. You?” he asks, stretching his arms over his head with a yawn.

I chuckle. “I think so. Seems like I can’t stay asleep past dawn though. I’ve never been much of a morning person before, it’s weird.” I sit up and slide out of the bed. My drawers creak as I search through for something to wear. It’s kind of weird to wear normal clothes again.

“Where are you off to today?” he asks, burrowing under the sheets like a caterpillar in a cocoon bent on not leaving the bed.

I roll my eyes as I pull on some sweatpants. “The training rooms. After all those days laying around in Camelot, I need to get back to work. Besides, Ryan keeps asking for lessons,” I mutter, bittersweet. I’m not really a great teacher…

“I see…” he mumbles from beneath the sheets. “I’m just going to research in the library again. Kaede and I are on a roll.”

I pull on a sports bra and a long sleeve shirt. “That’s good. Hopefully, you find a lead soon,” I lean over the bed to kiss the top of his head. “In the meantime, we’ll work on Caroline.”

“Hmm? Caroline? What are you doing to her?” he asks curiously, poking out from the sheets. His quizzical expression is adorable.

I wink with a mischievous grin.

“Hey! That’s my move. You’re stealing my move!” he jumps up, the sheets tumbling off his chest.

I laugh as I stand upright. “What are you gonna do about it, Mr. Hero? I don’t see your name on it,” I tease.

“Why you…” he jumps up, clearly forgetting he has nothing else on under the sheets as he trips out of the bed and lands hard on the floor with a groan.

“Smooth,” Rhoan muses, perched on the dresser, grooming himself.

“Shut up you. If you had longer legs and actually slept in a bed, then you might fall too.” He grunts.

Rhoan sticks his whiskers up in the air. “Not a chance.”

“Whatever,” Andrei mumbles.

I roll my eyes with a sigh. “Alright, that’s enough you two,” I pick up the cat. He shrinks to a mouse and rests under my collar. “I’ll be in the training hall if you need me,” I ruffle Andrei’s hair as I step around him on the floor.

“Have fun…” he moans, then stops. “Wait! You need food first,” he says, untangling from the sheets.

I flinch at the door. “So close…”

“Wait for me,” he calls, scrambling around the bed, looking for his pants. I reluctantly lean against the door, watching as he hurries to get dressed. Admittedly, it’s a sight I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of. He stumbles across the floor in a wrinkly shirt and old jeans.

I raise an eyebrow. “Y’know, maybe you should keep some clothes in here… Since you never really use your room anyway.”

“I… uhh…” he looks down at his shirt with a frown. “I guess I could do that,” he says. “I can go change this. I’ll only be a moment.”

I shake my head as he slips out into the room next door. I slip on my sneakers and wait in the hall. When he emerges, he’s clad in a fresh striped shirt and jeans. He grabs my hand and we head down to the dining hall. He whips up some pancakes while I brew some coffee. Once he’s satisfied that I’ve been fed he leaves for the library.

As I’m leaving the caf, a familiar voice shouts over the hum of conversations. “Hey, Kaitlyn!” Ryan jogs up beside me.

“Good morning,” I smile at her. “Are you ready for training today?”

“Totally!” she grins, her hands have leather fingerless gloves and her hairs been pulled back, but a lock hangs out, falling in front of her eyes.

“Good,” I nod, “I just have to do something quick before we get started.”

“I was thinking, what if I moved in, closer to you guys? We hang out a lot, and…” she blushes, “I really like spending time together! Do you think it’s cool?” she asks.

“I guess. There are lots of empty rooms. Take whatever room you want,” I say.

“Wow really! Thanks Kaitlyn! You’re the best!” she smiles wider than I thought possible. Am I going to regret that? I hope not.

I walk through the guild, down the training hall. Most of the rooms are empty, being so early in the morning. I make my way to the gym, where the exercise equipment is kept. Inside, a handful of burly mages are getting in their morning routines. They pause as I enter but I hardly notice anymore. I find a hair tie in a drawer by the door and weave my way to the back of the room. There, I find a door and a long window.

“The danger room?” Ryan asks, rhetorically.

“Yes,” I answer. “I need a good warm up,” I approach the door. It has a panel beside the handle. I’m sure Kaede would be surprised to find technology here. We’re not totally ignorant, after all. I place my hand on the screen, and it scans my palm.

“Kaitlyn Smith; Welcome. Please select a difficulty level,” the machine speaks with the voice of a robotic woman.

“Guardian,” I reply. The machines in the gym clatter at the same time as the other mages freeze.

Ryan gasps. “Wait, you can’t be serious! You could die! That level is impossible!” her eyes grow wide.

I brush my hair with my fingers, making a messy ponytail. “Wait here,” I scoff, as I take Rhoan off my shoulder and place him on hers. I step through the door. “This won’t take long.”

The door slides shut, cutting off whatever she was going to say next. I roll my head, standing in the center of the large room. The lights dim, and the walls shimmer. Magic activates, creating the illusion of a desolate, badlands area. The shadows begin to move, but I wait.

Out from behind an illusory rock, steps a massive demonic beast. It wields an axe in one hand, a club in the other. One of its horns appears to be broken off, the tip razor sharp. It seems too easy for a moment, until four more emerge from around the room, surrounding me. Alright, now we’re getting somewhere. I faintly hear the sound of banging on a window, though, I can’t see it through the illusion.

I flex my fingers, gaze locked with the first of five demons. It snorts with its ugly bullnose. “Come on then,” I taunt. “I haven’t got all day.”

The demons charge, simultaneously. I thrust my arms out, releasing the energy in my chest. My body fades into flame. My hand finds its way through the chest of one demon, while another’s blade passes harmlessly through me. I catch an axe blade in one hand while tearing the face off of its owner with the other. I slice the limbs clean off the demons, cauterizing the wounds at the same time. Their inhuman screams ring in my ears like music.

The five demons lay at my feet in pieces until their bodies and the landscape fades away like a mirage. I pull the flames back into myself with a deep breath. Yeah, I definitely needed that. I smirk to myself. When I turn to leave, I notice Ryan at the window, jaw slack and fist resting on the glass. Behind her, the other mages mirror her expression. The door slides open and shuts behind me. The gym air is much cooler than it is in the danger room.

I wipe my brow on my sleeve and stretch my arms above my head. “Okay, I’m ready now,” I yawn, looking at Ryan. “Ready?”

“Oh my god! That… That was freaken’ awesome!” she shouts. “Man, you are the coolest!”

I give her a cheeky smirk. “Technically, not true. I’m very warm.”

“Oh, Kaitlyn. You’re funny. Can you teach me how to do that? The going fire thing! I’ve never seen that before!” She bobs up and down in her excitement.

“Of course you haven’t,” I frown with one hand on my hip. “You’ve never met a Guardian before,” I purse my lips. “Actually, even the other Guardian of Fire I met in the past had trouble mastering that ability. Weird, huh? Anyway, let’s go to a private room and we’ll see what we can teach you.”

“OK! I can’t wait!”

“Um…” one of the other mages pipes up. A young man, maybe in his late teens. “Would you mind… Could I come too?” he asks shyly. The other mages nod and also ask to join.

I gawk at the group, at least six of them. “Uh… Sure, I guess,” well, that was unexpected.

***

Seven mages stand in a line in front of me across the white padded floor. Ryan takes the center, bright-eyed and ready. Two other girls and four boys line up on either side of her of varying background and ethnicity. Honestly, I don’t recognize any of them. They are just some of the many faces that I pass in the halls and almost all of them are definitely older than I am.

Yet they stand here now, looking to me for instruction, for leadership. People who once probably fed into the rumors and the fear I caused like Ryan used to. I’m not really sure if I should be happy or not. Aside from Ryan, it seems none of them have ever tried fire magic before. Not that I’m surprised. I’m sure I would have noticed if they had approached Ambrosse for lessons.

I repeat my little speech from the day I taught Andrei and Ryan the first time. I hold my hands out with a small flame. “Focus on the fire, and look within yourself. If the magic is there, it will let you know. It will beg to be free,” I explain, trying to sound sagely.

The mages each hold their hands out, cupped with palms up. Ryan is the first to make a fire, but I expected this. She grins as she nods encouragingly to the others. One by one, five of the others are able to produce a tiny candlelight. The last one, a burly young man, stands with his eyes closed and brow creased.

I move to stand in front of him. “What’s your specialty?” I ask.

The man with tanned skin and green eyes looks down at me puzzled. “Earth.”

I nod. “You may not be able to use fire. Earth is steady and solid. Fire is wild and unpredictable. They’re not exactly compatible.”

The young man hangs his head sadly, thanks me, and heads for the door. As he slips out, another figure catches the door and steps inside. I’m taken aback by the middle-aged woman who, I know I’ve never seen, but somehow I recognize. She folds her hands in front of her, clad in an old pink ladies’ suit, with a frilly pencil skirt and her hair curled in a bob. She smiles with pink lips pressed together and head tilted just so.

“Keep practicing…” I mumble to the group as I half-jog toward the woman.

“Hey, wait, where are you going?” Ryan calls out, holding her flame out recklessly. “Who’s that?”

As I get closer to the woman, I slow my pace. Her eyes shimmer, as silver as the scales I’m accustomed to. “What are you doing here?” I whisper, confused.

Her eyes widen and she frowns with offense. “Is that how you greet your great-great-great grandmother? Where did you learn your manners?” She doesn’t try to keep her voice down. I groan.

“You’re a great-great-great grandmother? But you’re way too young for that! How can you be her great-great-great grandmother?” Ryan bursts, appearing beside me. I smack my forehead and drag my hand down my face.

The woman laughs, batting her eyelashes. “You flatter me, little one. I am not as young as I seem.”

“Rose,” I hiss, “What are you doing here? You know you’re not supposed to be wandering around the Guild.”

The older woman pouts. “I heard my dearest grandchild went missing. We were all worried sick! So of course, when we heard you’d returned, I simply had to come and see it for myself,” A coy smile creeps across her round face. “It seems you’ve grown since I saw you just a few short weeks ago. You remind me so much of my dearest-”

“Okay,” I cut her off. “There are other people here. Guys, can you give us some privacy?” I call to the other five mages still in the room. They nod, shifting nervously, dispelling their matchstick flames.

“Who?” Ryan prompts, once the others have filed out of the room.

“My dearest Markus,” Rose sniffs proudly.

I roll my eyes. “Right. Well, you’ve seen me, I’m alive and healthy. Now, please go back to the plateau before you say anything else.”

“Wow!” Ryan gasps, completely ignoring me, “You knew the founder? That’s so cool!”

Rose chuckles and winks at me. “I like this one. You should bring her to visit us sometime!”

I give her a blank stare. “You threatened to eat the last person that came to visit with me, remember?”

Rose shakes her head and waves a hand. “Yes, well, that was different, dear. Speaking of, where is that adorable young man?”

“Oh, you mean Andrei!” Ryan bounces eagerly. “He’s in the library, studying something. He’s always reading books.”

Rose’s eyes narrow slyly. “Ah, a scholar, is he? One must always be wary of the quiet ones.”

“Mhm…” I mutter as I take her by the arm. “Andrei is researching for artifacts that we need. Super boring, Guardian stuff. Nothing interesting for you there. Best to head home now.”

“Oh, but darling, I just got here? Won’t you at least let me properly meet your friends?” Rose whines.

“Nope,” I reply bluntly as I tug her toward the door. “It’s bad enough they can’t understand you.”

“Yes, please! I’m Ryan! I’m one of Kaitlyn’s friends! It’s nice to meet you!” Ryan trails behind us.

“Oh, what a pretty name!” Rose gushes, easily breaking out of my grip to spin around. I stumble into the door with the momentum of my pulling.

I grit my teeth and cross my arms, “Ryan, you’re not helping… Rose, you need to leave. I’m in enough trouble as it is. I don’t need you scaring the life out of half the students at the Guild again.”

“How is she scary? I like her! Why do your eyes glimmer like that? Are you not human?” Ryan asks sweetly.

Rose raises an eyebrow. “Quite a sharp young lady you have here. No, my dear, I’m not.”

“Rose…” I warn.

“Wow! So exciting!” Ryan squeals, then drops her voice. “What are you?”

Rose leans in to whisper her answer. I rub my temples. That’s great, just what I needed. A chatty old dragon telling a chatty teenager that she’s a dragon. This was not how I hoped this day would go.

“Oh my God! That’s so cool! For real?!” Ryan bursts, her eyes bulging out of her head. Rose nods cheerfully. “Kaitlyn! You have the coolest family ever!”

I glare at her and shake my head. “You say that now. Are you done, or do I have to get Agatha and Mildred down here to drag you back?”

Rose sighs. “Oh, alright. Promise you’ll visit soon?”

“I will.”

Rose grabs the door handle but hesitates. “Oh, I nearly forgot… There’s something I need to show you when you’re ready. A place, created by Markus. You may just find it useful, for those boring Guardian things you mentioned.”

I frown. “Where is it?”

“Near the plateau, hidden from view. We’ll show you the way when you have a candidate.” She winks.

I scrunch my nose. “Actually… I think I already do,” Ryan glances between us, totally lost.

Rose’s face lights up. “Excellent. Bring them with you then, when you visit!” she pulls the door open and steps through.

“Aw! I hope I can see you again soon!” Ryan calls after her with an enthusiastic wave. I watch through the window in the door, watching if she heads for the gates, or somewhere else.

“Honestly,” I mutter under my breath. “What the heck was she thinking?”

“I had NO idea that there were dragons on the island. That is the coolest discovery ever! And the fact that you’re related, even cooler! Wow!” Ryan rants, pacing behind me.

“Tell me that again when you’re face to face with a dragon whose teeth are bigger than your entire body,” I reply sarcastically. “I only found out that I was related to her just before we disappeared. It’s not as fun as you’d think.” I turn around, glancing over the teen. “Alright, for that, I want you to run ten laps around the room.”

“What? What for? That’s so unfair!” she complains.

I smirk. “For encouraging Rose. Also, it serves a purpose. Fire is physically demanding. If you’re not careful, it will overcome you. You need to train your body, as well as your mind if you want to master it,” I wink at her. “I didn’t best the greatest knight in history in combat by sitting on my ass all day. Get moving.”

Her eyes light up with determination. “Ok!” she takes off at a run around the room. I chuckle to myself, watching her go. And I thought I was naive. I almost can’t believe she’s nineteen; she’s got the innocence and wonder of a ten-year-old.

I hope she stays that way.

By Krystyna Yates

The Guild – Chapter 37 – Caroline

I sniff, wiping the tears from my cheeks as they freeze my skin. Controlling the water is harder than it looks but Kaede doesn’t seem to understand that. Despite it being warm outside, I huddle against the wind outside the main castle of the Guild, watching the waves crash against the towering cliffs that mark the end of the island and the beginning of a seemingly endless ocean of water.

Still, I do not know where this island really is situated compared to the rest of the world. It seems so far apart from everything that I once knew and held dear. Everything here is different; everything is new. And everything is difficult. I wish I had never come here.

Kaitlyn told me I had magic, and I didn’t believe her. I can move water with my hands, make it appear from nowhere and I can turn it into cool shapes like a fish, or a whale, but I can’t make it go away.

I lift my hand, raising it towards the ocean. I pull at it, a small amount and summoning it to me. A ball of ocean water hurtles into my hand, forming itself into a little goldfish. It glistens in the morning sun like it was made of glass, but it moves. The water shifts within the shape like it was a living thing, ebbing like a breath. It’s fascinating and scary at the same time. I don’t much like it.

Naum doesn’t understand me either. He throws me into these crazy training methods, scaring me to death as I sit beneath the water for hours listening to it all around me. It tells me things I don’t want to hear. Sad stories of men who died at sea, animals caught in nets and drowning, fish who can’t sleep because of the noise of the machines. It screams about the greasy black oil that spills into it and the garbage it collects.

That’s not the worst of it. It tells me things I don’t understand. Things I think it shouldn’t know. Things about people long dead and those I think are not yet alive. It’s freaky and I can’t make it stop.

I release the fish and it spills from my hands, soaking the ground in front of me. The rock I sit on is cold beneath me, worn smooth from waves that probably once pounded its surface. I crane my neck, looking down the edge of the cliff. The height makes me a little sick so I pull back. I’m afraid of heights and depths.

I let out my breath and feel a welling of fresh tears spill from my eyes. Kaede just doesn’t get it. This magic, it’s dangerous. I wish it wasn’t mine.

Watching the ocean reminds me of the lesson Kaede came to and nearly didn’t leave from. Naum had thought it was a great idea to use Kaede to teach me to control the water, allowing another to be able to breathe underwater. I doubted his logic at the time. It sounded crazy. But without warning, he threw Kaede into the pool, clothes and all! Kaede doesn’t even know how to swim!

So there I was, watching him panic and Naum wouldn’t let me pull him out. He said ‘help him breathe. I gave him a skeptical look, watching painfully as Kaede slipped beneath the surface of the pool.

Naum didn’t expect what happened next. I had screamed. I screamed so loud that the columns of water shock and the ice began to crack. The water in the pool rippled with my scream and a whirlpool formed, draining the water from the pool as it collected on the ceiling above it. I’d slid into the pool to find Kaede, lying still and lifeless on the bottom, not breathing. I had pulled the water from him, drawing it out of his lungs and chest and through it to the ground beside me. The water cried as I did, but my own crying was louder.

Kaede began to breathe, but he looked at me funny like he was afraid of me. Like he didn’t want to be near me. He didn’t thank me for saving him. He crawled out of the pool and left the hall of water without saying a word.

The tears are hot against my cold cheeks. My vision blurs and I feel a tightness in my chest. Why didn’t he say anything then? Surely he knew I had saved him? Surely he knew I hadn’t thrown him into the water to drown? Why did he talk to me anymore?

We were becoming close, before that. I was almost ready to say let’s try sleeping in the same bed. But now, that is the farthest thing from my mind. My shoulder sag and I let the tears flow freely, no holding back. The water, unbidden, falls off my face and collects into a ball in my lap. When the tears finally stop, the ball is nearly the size of a baseball.

I wish the water would go away.

No, please! Not that!

‘Go away.’

No! I don’t want that.

‘Well, I don’t want you.’

I want you. Even if you don’t want me.

‘Go away.’

I will not.

‘GO!’ my mind screams.

… I can’t.

The water sniffles and I can’t believe my ears.

‘Are you crying?’ I think to it in disbelief.

I can’t leave you. I am apart of you. If I leave, you will die. All will die. I am … everything, everyone, everywhere.

Wow, that is deep. I ponder the words it says, still not willingly believing I can talk to water. The water, my tears, shimmers in my lap. It ripples and starts to form an image. It takes a while for the image to become clear enough for me to recognize, but when I do, my chest hurts. It shows me his face, Kaede’s face.

“Why do you show me this?” I find myself saying out loud.

I show you what I see. I see you and this boy. You are connected, as you and I.

“What does that mean?” I wonder aloud.

What I said. We are connected. I cannot leave. He cannot leave. We are connected. No one can leave…

What is it trying to say? If the water knows I like him, that doesn’t mean he can’t leave me. People leave each other all the time. Relationships start and stop, begin and end. People can leave when they want, and it seems Kaede’s ready to leave me… and I want to leave the water.

“We ‘can’ leave each other. It’s simpler. You turn around and walk the other way.” I say to the water.

No… we cannot leave.

I growl under my breath. “You don’t get it! I can leave! I can leave you! I don’t have to stay here! I have a life! I want it back! I want him back!” I’m suddenly standing, shouting at the ocean like some crazy person. My sadness has turned to frustrated anger and I want to get away.

I glare at the ocean. I can’t cross it. I would be entering the water and I feel like it might stop me if I do. I need a boat. I need to get away.

I search the edge of the cliff, looking for a way down to the water. Maybe, just maybe, there is already a boat.

There is no boat. The water says.

I ignore it. I don’t want to listen to it.

You cannot leave me. I cannot leave you. There is no boat.

“Yes I can, and I will,” I say to it sternly. I stomp along the edge, seeing no way down, it’s a sheer drop all along the coast. How did the founder even find this place? By flying? I stop after maybe ten minutes of endless walking. There’s no way down in sight and my anger has started to ebb.

Do not be angry. You need not be angry. We are one. We are all one.

“We aren’t one. That doesn’t make any sense! How can we be one if we are different?” I ask it, my voice cracking as I turn around and head back the other way.

I… cannot explain. I only know. We are all one.

Talking to water… must be like talking to a brick wall; one-way communication that makes no sense at all. I think I’m going crazy.

I mull over the water’s words as I stomp along the cliff, trying to make sense of it. The waves crash into the cliff below, providing a soundtrack for my thoughts. It pounds the earth, crumbling it to a fine sand that will eventually settle to the floor of the ocean. The sturdy plants that live along the cliffs must relish in the waves, soaking up its nutrients and growing stronger. Thinking about it makes me thirsty.

Suddenly, I stop. The words… the water. ‘We are all one.’ It does make sense, sort of. Water is in all of us. Without water, we would not be alive. We would not have evolved. We are all connected by the water, just like all the lands are connected by the sea. Everything grows because of water, even the plants in the desert.

I’m an idiot. Why didn’t I see this before? It’s basic scientific knowledge and I completely forgot… or maybe I just didn’t connect the two, since science and magic often rival each other… Thinking about it that way makes me feel a bit better about it. I turn out towards the ocean, still upset about the incident. Knowing what the water means doesn’t solve my problem, and it certainly doesn’t mean I want to keep it around.

Yes, it does.

Not again, I whine. “How?” I ask.

Connected.

It doesn’t say anything more. I stare out at the ocean, just watching. I don’t want to think anymore. I wish… Sometimes, I wish I could just blend in with the water and disappear. It’d be nice to ebb and flow with the tide, wander without effort and just watch and listen. Just know. Just be.

I sigh, turning around to find that smooth rock, but I realize I’m not alone.

“How long have you been there?” I ask Selene.

She stands like a statue, her expression somber. “Long enough.”

Great, I’m definitely the crazy girl now. Selene offers a sympathetic smile.

“Well…” I say, not sure how to continue whatever this is. I look at the ground, embarrassed and trying to hide my face, lest she read my thoughts on it. Sometimes, I’m an open book.

“I don’t need to read your face to hear your thoughts.”

I look up at her in surprise. “How’d you… What?” She’s worse than the water! She’s just plain creepy.

Selene chuckles dryly. “I have many abilities. Like you, they frightened me. Although, in my case, they frightened my family even more,” she shrugs as she wanders closer. “Don’t worry, Caroline. He will come around,” she says encouragingly.

I frown at her advice. She couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like. Her magic is so different. I only just got this, and now Kaede’s scared I’ll kill him.

Listen to her.

“Couldn’t I?” Selene tilts her head. “Is it not fair to say that it is you who could not possibly understand me?”

I look at her, confused. “Did you have a normal life before this? Did it come to you after you made plans? Or before? Do you have someone you love?” I ask her.

Selene looks down, sadness falls like a curtain over her face. “I did. Unfortunately, witnessing my death over and over proved to be too much for them. Ultimately, I left for their sake.”

I gape in shock. “You die? That’s… that’s awful!” Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is someone who could have it worse than me.

Perhaps… listen…

Selene smiles. “Yes. I’ve grown used to it. I was quite young when I first experienced death. I’ve learned that death is nothing to be afraid of, really. I’m almost fond of it… but that’s not why I’m here.”

“Why are you here then? How did you find me?” I’m always up early, much earlier than the others.

“I sensed your turmoil, so I came to check on you,” she states simply like it’s totally normal.

“Well… I guess I should thank you then. I… just need time to think. We’re a long ways off from the castle. Did you sense it all the way from there?” Her power is so mysterious to me, reading thoughts, sensing feelings, dying and coming back to life. I can hardly comprehend it.

“Yes,” she nods, “as I understand it, my power is rather unique, even for a so-called Guardian. However, in your case, as with Kaitlyn, there is an even stronger bond.”

“What do you mean?”

Yes! Always together! A bond… that’s the word!

Selene folds her hands in front of her, wearing a dark trench coat. “I am sure you feel it, somewhere in the back of your mind.”

“Feel what?” I say, trying to sound confused. I wish she’d be straight with me.

She raises an eyebrow as if it’s obvious. “What you are.”

“I’m… I’m just a girl who can control water. And it won’t stop talking to me,” I shake my head with a small frown. I really don’t get what she’s getting at. I feel that urge again as I glance out at the ocean. To be one and disappear. To be everywhere all at once… I don’t know what that feeling is and I don’t know why these past few days I’ve been having it, but it’s like the water is calling to me. It makes me want to run away.

“Yes. That feeling,” Selene closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “The calling. It calls to you, as it called to me. It called to Kaitlyn as she fought for her life in that cell. It’s time to answer it, Caroline.”

My eyes go wide as the water’s voice inside my head roars triumphantly. “Do you mean… No, you must be mistaken. I’m horrible at controlling it. How could I possibly be anything like you or Kaitlyn? I can’t be a Guardian. I’m not even fit to be a mage!” I protest urgently. This is a little too much for me to accept so early in the morning, even if I am a morning bird.

Selene takes another step closer, within arm’s reach. “Do you recall, when you first met her? She too could not control her power. I’ve seen it in her thoughts. Your power will flow once your true nature is awakened.”

“T-true…” I stutter. “How? I don’t want to be tortured to become a Guardian. I’d rather stay just me,” I reason.

Selene laughs, a sweet sound, like bells chiming in a gentle breeze. “Well, you’re in luck. There happens to be another way. Will you give it a try?” She smiles, holding out her hand.

Let’s bond!

I look at her, hearing the water and her offer at the same time. I want to run, more than ever. I feel my hands shake as she watches me.

I drop my gaze to her outstretched hand, pale but strong. I raise my own, hesitating as it hovers over hers. Can I really do this? If I really do become a Guardian… bond with the water, then there’s no going back. I will be bound to the Guild and magic forever… Will Kaede stay with me? Will he still want me? There are too many variables. I need time to think this over, to run.

“Caroline,” Selene’s voice cuts through my thoughts.

“Yes?”

“You misunderstand,” she speaks with the sternness of an older woman. “You do not become a Guardian – you are a Guardian. You have always been, and always will be a Guardian, whether you leave this place, or not. This is who you are.”

Drops of water rise from the ground around us, like little beads of glass that hover around us. I don’t know why they show up, I didn’t summon them or anything. The water at the bottom of the cliff seems to still and the voice of the water speaks again.

Yes! We are one. Let’s be! Let’s be one.

It sounds so childish when it speaks, yet it knows so much. The water is mysterious and marvelous all at the same time. It’s really quite astounding. I feel Selene’s warm grip as my hand drops into hers. I guess I understand now. It’s time to wake up, no running. It’s time to be.

By Kayla West

Return of Spring

Though, living alone seems tough at times I am blessed to have a wealth of good friends who care. Spring is a wonderful time on Iki island. Not only do all the wonderful flowers start to bloom, new spring food is made and picnics beneath the sakura trees are had, but also love is abound.

This Spring, My fiance and I decided 3 weeks before his planned trip to see me, that we would like to get married on Iki. It was tough and a little stressful to plan a mini wedding and get the legal documents before the date, but with the help of my wonderful Iki friends and family, we were able to pull off a wonderfully unique wedding for under 1000 dollars!! (not including the dress rental).  My theme was Daiso!!  Yup, I managed to have a Daiso wedding. All the decor came from Daiso for under 7000 yen.

29873340_1633795443342267_2863542827543738056_o

But for reals, the theme was Cherry blossoms! And it was perfectly timed for the sunniest day on Iki and all the cherry blossoms we in bloom!! It could not have been any more perfect. After getting back on Monday from my trip to Kyoto with my then Fiance, we rushed around to unpack, prepare the decor and ourselves for the wedding on the Tuesday. We were almost late for our own wedding, cuz in our panicked rush out the door Mike forgot his dress shirt! haha.

When we got there, we set up all the last minute decor and set up the laptop for the family to view from home, live! The Wedding was set to start at 11, so around 10 Mike got ready in one of the back rooms of the church and I began my transformation in another with the help of Rachel, Yui, Yuki Shigematsu and Okuban san! Together, we got me into the rental wedding dress from Juno Dress in Fukuoka, which came by mail on Monday to the church. Lucky for Rachel and I, the 3 weeks before the wedding, when we decided to have the wedding, June Dress was the 4th wedding shop we entered on that rainy Saturday and, without an appointment and some patience, the wonderful attendants at Juno dress were able to find me a beautiful wedding dress and they even brought it down into my price range!! It came with all the extras, shoes, a veil, undershifts and a shall. Thank you so much Juno dress for helping me with this beautiful special day!! It couldn’t have gone any better!!

It was almost time, a few seats were empty, but that’s because, in our hurry, I forgot to tell them a few of the guests wouldn’t be there till the lunch. We started at 11:03am, I believe. My teacher with the small kids had to decline at the last moment due to moving conflicts in Sasebo, so I asked Marijon’s daughters to step in. It was very last minute, like at the church before it started, haha haha… Sorry!!  Thank you!!

I nervously walked down and I swear if my mom and family had been there in person, I probably would have cried, but with them on the laptop, I couldn’t see them, so I managed to hold the feelings back. Mikes look though was priceless when I finally walked down to the song I’ve been waiting to hear for so long; The farewell tune from the Lord of the Rings musical, seriously, it’s the perfect music for this walk down the aisle, as I say goodbye to my time as a single woman and make the commitment to the man before me, my best friend, my 10+ year love, the one I tell all my secrets; Mike.

The service was conducted in both English and Japanese, as most of the guests were Japanese. My only concern was that Mike would not get what was happening, but at the rehearsal the day before, we ran through it a couple of times and helped him to understand the gist of what was happening and being said. Still, I’d like to get a transcription from the pastor of what he said during the sermon, so that I may have a record of it and so that my family can also know what he was saying.

My family, during the ceremony, were also hosting a party of their own. Mikes Parents and My mom and Aunt all gathered at my moms’ places and they cut their own cake with a bride and groom on top, they lit the unity candle and decorated the house. They ever had mother-of-the-bride and groom teacups!! I loved seeing the pictures after. They watched excitedly from the TV hooked up to someone’s laptop. My sister and her Husband were also connected to our Google hangouts call. After the ceremony, everyone who passed by the laptop on their way out for pictures bowed and congratulated my family on the laptop, it was amusing and great to see.

In all the amazing things that were happening, we made a small miscalculation with the order of events and forgot to do the bouquet tossing before the lunch, but still, we had a great time. More guests turned up and we got a wonderful group shot thanks to my two wonderful photographers. The sun was really bright and it literally was killing our eyes as we looked towards it for the cameras. Mike had to give in, lest all out shoots turn out with him squinting, so he switched to sunglasses. I could not relieve my eyes as I wore contacts and did not have a pair of nonprescription glasses.

After a few more photo’s they hustled me inside and I changed out of the dress and into a Kimono we were able to borrow from a wonderful woman on Iki, whose son I think I teach. It was a beautiful blue with peacock feather-like designs on it and really long sleeves! Thanks yo my Grandpas request to see me in Kimono, Okubo san helped me change my hairstyle and wear the Kimono perfectly! Then we joined the guests for the home prepared lunch, many wonderful thanks to Yuki, Yui and Kanako Shigematsu for they hard work preparing the lunch all night!! It was truly fantastic! I gave a short speech, as Mike was too nervous, but that’s fine. I tried in Japanese and then switched to English for the end. Many of my guests knew a few basic English phrases so I made sure to keep it simple. Then, we chatted and feasted!  Mike and I had prepared a CD of love songs we’ve liked since we met, so in the background, on low, we had the music playing while everyone chatted and enjoyed the food. Lunch was a selection of sandwiches, crackers with fancy marmalades, sushi rice, and tea! It was really good! Then, we had a few of our guests perform for us! My Koto teacher played us a tradition wedding dong on the Koto! It was beautiful as everyone listened intently to the tunes coming from the Japanese harp.  After, Rachel and Hiroki stole away and prepared a guitar and song for us on the spot! It was wonderful! I managed to get a phone recording from one of the guests as the camera had been turned off.

Then, the cake came out. I had ordered a cheesecake from the local bakery that all the ALT’s get their birthday cakes from because the guy who runs it is amazing at recreating images in chocolate on the cake! So the cake was decorated with cherry blossoms and monkey rock! Stars and a poem Mike and I created together, and best of all, two wedding clad Jinmenseki’s!! Yes! Iki’s mascot was on my cake. It was a true Iki wedding, hehe. Thank you so much, Rachel, for helping with the cake!! It was fantastic! We cut the cake, I gave mike a bite, then they all gave me a huge serving spoon to give Mike his bite, haha, you can see how great it was to watch from these pictures! My reaction, priceless!

 

After the lunch, we took more photos and cleaned up together. But I didn’t have the chance to have any engagement photos taken or wedding photos of just us, so before we cleaned up everything else we took a trip to Monkey rock with the main wedding party that was still present and we got beautiful shots with our favourite Iki sightseeing monkey. Then, as the weather and blossoms were perfectly timed, we drove to the park on the hill with all the Sakura trees and took from Sakura shoots! It was great! Then we returned tot he church, changed, cleaned and packed and loaded the car. We attached the coffee cans to the car and made a racket down the hill and through the main street of Gounoura, lol, to my great embarrassment, till we started losing cans and decided to cut them off before driving home. We also were the first foreigners to have their marriage registered at Iki city hall! Ever!! So we were super excited about this. Thank you to Matthew Seuda for helping us with the translation and communication of the paperwork and fine details and thank you to the wonderful ladies at Iki city hall for helping us to understand the documents! It made us so happy to have such a unique wedding on Iki. That night we were surprised with a visit from Rachel who helped us open gifts and record who gave what so that Mike and I could begin making thank you cards. We want to thank all of our guests for the wonderful, thoughtful gifts you gave to us for our wedding. We didn’t expect anything and just wanted you to enjoy your time and have fun! Thank you for thinking of us and helping us out! Your support means a great deal to us and we appreciate it!

 

That weekend we had plans to go to Kumamoto for the onsen village in Kurakawa, so we extended our honeymoon and stayed a day in Fukuoka, touring the Castle and Cherry Blossom viewing beforehand. The Kurakawa onsen was fantastic and a wonderful relaxing place. The food was great and to our unexpected surprise, one of our meals included horse sashimi. I almost wish I hadn’t known, cuz I love horses too much… but… it was good… but… I would probably not order it on my own just because I love horses.

I visited 10 onsens, including one that left a red mark from being much too hot to even sit in (I tried the first sulfur bath and basically scalded my legs and butt. uggg). All the wonderful baths cleaned up my acne and I almost wished I had gone before the wedding to get these kinds of results. Then, when we returned home, Mike extended his stay! So we spent our last week relaxing on Iki and joining Matt for a Shochu tour in Ashibe/Ishida. Man, that was fun!

Soon it was time for Mike to return home and, even in our happy marriage bliss, I felt great sadness when I drove away from the airport that morning and went to work. My teachers didn’t yet know he had just left and I tried not to cry while I introduced myself to the new kids in school. I had calligraphy that night too and there, I received a gift from my teacher and classmates and then the damn broke and I balled and cried and they got worried and yes… I was a mess. I eventually got over it; partly a result of being physically exhausted and emotionally drained, my emotions were all over the place for a good week. I needed lots of rest and that weekend I got it – by sleeping. Haha.

I didn’t have long to be alone, for before I knew it, my good friend and stand partner and diligent book editor from University, Jackie P. was coming to Japan, and Iki to visit me for the Golden Week. I didn’t have much time to prepare, but I helped her pack through Mike and LINE. We spent the first weekend on Iki and man, we managed to pack everything in and it was fantastic! She loved Iki! We did the tour of Dragon Island and the water was beautiful! We saw monkey shrine on Ondake! We saw Monkey rock! Gorilla face! Demons footprint! The museum! a beach! The dolphins! We had great food and a great time! We caught up on all our teacher stuff and somewhere in all that got sleep.

Then, we began our Japan, 6 city tour!  The plan from Fukuoka was to spend a night in each city, but pretty much 2 days too. We went to Hiroshima, Miyajima from Monday to Tuesday. There, we visited the Castle tower, the bombing memorial museum, the infamous float tori and climbed a mountain with help from the Miyajima ropeway! THen we caught the Shinkansen to Kobe! Spent the night there, and grabbed a bus up Rokko mountain to Arima Onsen Hotel. Perfect weather followed us all week and the only rainy day was the day we spent with Rachel at the Onsen. Thank you, God! We had fish eat our feet and got Jackie in the baths, (So happy she tried it!! BFFS!!) and Rachel and I had a hair treatment! (mainly cuz I got sunburn on my scalp and really thought it’d help soothe the irritation. It did!) From there, we went up the mountain on another ropeway, which was terrifying and I have videos of it… so high, so open. But I survived! Thanks to Jackie’s continual support. If you don’t already know, I have a great terror of heights. It’s like… worse than fear. Terror!

Then, Rachel joined the retreat on Mt Rokko for the rest of the week while Jackie and I continued our trip! We visited a Historical Antique German Musicbox Museum on the top of a mountain in Japan (mt Rokko) and listened to a music box play StarWars… Yes… StarWars!! The best!!  Then we saw a small garden and caught out bus back down to Kobe to get ourselves to Osaka. There, we spent 2 nights resting. We spent our first day touring Kyoto! We saw the Kinkakuji temple, Mizudera temple, and the Heien Shrine and gardens! So beautiful!!! We had some curry, okonomiyaki, and great food all week. The last day, we wasted 2 hours trying to find lockers for our bags and then spent the day at Osaka Castle and grounds playing Pokemon Go and learning a lot about history in Osaka while milling through the horrendous crowds. But it was great! We got our bags, got to the station, caught out train, met Rachel at the next stop and chilled all the way back to Fukuoka. There we stayed one more night in an awesome apartment and had Hawaiin pancakes for breakfast! Then I took Jackie to Hakata, stopped by the Pokemon centre and then I sent her on her way to the Airport! I was very sad to see her go so I killed 2 hours in the bookstore reading my novel which I was nearly done (and finished that Sunday when I got home).

Finally, Rachel and I got back to Iki and had time to relax. We caught up with Emi about her trip with Jesse to Thailand and then I went home to unpack and decompress. May has been chill, teaching the kids, getting to know the new teachers, writing my blog story with my friend in Toronto and writing my own stuff to pass the time alone. Mike and I started watching Gravity Falls and I’ve enjoyed doing a bible study with Rachel about Hosea, cleaning my house for spring, killing bugs that find their way into my house, and reading more books. Now I am being harassed by the neighbours loud male cat outside my window on this very windy day, hoping to see the unmanned drone take off later this afternoon at Ishida Airport. I have a cafe concert tonight, so I’ll practice my pieces after this post and continue to finish my chores and enjoy the cold temperatures the wind has brought.

Thank you, everyone, who is following my blog, enjoying my posts and chapters and I look forward to the future of this blog with you! Thank you for your likes and I hope you continue to enjoy my tales of life in Japan and fantastical tales.  Happy May and Victoria day weekend!! Cheers!

And for you dedicated folks, here’s some great bloopers you can caption!! hehe

The Guild – Chapter 36 – Andrei

Andrei…..

I open my eyes and find myself surrounded by sand. I groan inwardly, not this again.

Andrei…

The landscape is unchanged. A bright sky with no light source hangs above me, a dry wind blowing around me, and in every direction and that damn voice that keeps saying my name.

Andrei…

“I hear you! What do you want?! Jeez!” I shout at the empty landscape. The wind doesn’t reply. Maybe it was foolish to think it was actually a conscious being that could respond in the first place. I take a few steps in the direction I am facing, wondering just how far this landscape goes on for. For a dream, it’s pretty vivid.

Andrei …

“Yes! That’s right! Andrei’s my name, don’t wear it out! What the heck do you want?!” I shout back. If only it would say something other than my name! God!

Don’t yell Andrei…

Now it speaks… I rub my temple in frustration. I’ve gone and angered the dream wind. Whatever shall I do?

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “What do you want? Why do you keep calling me? Who are you?” Maybe I’m rushing in with too many questions, but seriously, I keep having this dream and nothing ever happens. Why am I here?

The breeze shifts around me, changing direction as it becomes stronger. It pushes against me, stronger and stronger until I can barely maintain my footing and stumble forwards with the wind.

Andrei… you have the mirror of the wind… That is why I take this form. You must find the others… find the artifacts or water, earth, and fire. Do not delay… Andrei…

Well, that clears it up. “Why? Why must I find these things? Who are you?” I ask, throwing my hands out. The wind snaps them forwards and I cringe with the slight pain it brings to my shoulders. Stupid wind.

You ask many questions. There’s no time for questions… No… Time…

I roll my eyes. “If you haven’t noticed, I am the mage of Time. I can slow it down, speed it up, jump backward, and potentially forwards. There’s plenty of time,” I reply with a snarl.

No Time! The wind shouts back.

I back off, hands up in defense against… well, nothing. It’s only wind.

“Why can’t you tell me who you are?”

I am… hmm… I … am…

I wait.

I forget. I just… am.

Oh great. A voice that forgets. “Look, let’s not waste each other’s time. I’m just going to wake up now, and forget this ever happened. Cool with you?” I suggest, looking around at the empty desert. Sand blows around my feet as I turn.

No! You can’t. You must… learn. Find the things. Find them… enter the dream…

“I’m already in the dream!”

No! You are dreaming. Only dreaming… Enter the dream… Find them… Andrei… Hurry!

The wind blows stronger and stronger and the sand piles up around me. I can’t move my feet and I start to panic. I try to crawl up out of the sand as the wind continues to blow it into me but I am slow and sluggish, it is a dream after all. The sand crawls up over my arms and covers my mouth. I struggle to breathe as all goes dark.

~*~

I gasp for air, coughing as my eyes snap open. It feels like I have sand in my throat, but it was just a dream… wasn’t it? My heart races as the memories of the dream pound in my head. Find the things, the voice echoes in my head.

What things? The wind said I had the mirror of the wind. It mentioned the other elements, but what was it referring to? It was way too early for a mystery like this, only 2:17 in the morning. I lean back onto my pillow, trying to get comfy again, but my hopes are dashed.

I freeze as I notice Kaitlyn sitting up in the bed, unmoving. Her eyes seem glazed over, unfocused on anything in the room. She doesn’t seem to have noticed I’ve awoken either. I lean forward, waving a hand in front of her eyes. How long has she been like this?

“Kaitlyn?” I whisper. “Are you awake?” No answer. “Not this again,” I moan. I sit up, forgetting sleep and watch her as she zones on the bed. It’s a little creepy how still she can sit there, like a statue. The minutes tick by as I wait for any sign of movement.

My eyes begin to get heavy again and I feel sleep pressing in on me. My head dips and my breathing slows.

“Ow!!” She gasps, startling me out of my doze, again.

“What? What happened? Kaitlyn? Are you awake?” I ask, getting my bearings again. I see Rhoan, in his mouse-form, sitting in her lap and Kaitlyn’s rubbing her finger. When did he get there? Did he just bite her?

“What was that for?” She whines, putting the tip of her finger to her mouth.

Rhoan grooms himself shamelessly. “You’re welcome.”

“Kat, what happened? You were zoning again. Was it a dream?” I ask her.

She sighs. “Yeah. I think he’s calling me to the crypt again…”

“The crypts? Who? What?” Then it dawns on me, she’s talking about the founder. “How do you know that? What did you see?” Memories of my own dream are fading fast. Maybe hers made more sense.

“I hear him, whispering my name. Like the first time, with the book. I was in the crypt, but nothing happened yet,” she mumbles, still a little out of it. I am too.

I crease my brows in confusion. “So you saw the book and the crypt? That was it? I don’t get it. It’s more confusing than mine,” I groan. “Let’s just go back to bed. It’s too early for this.” I move to lay back again, pulling at the covers.

I feel her move beside me and I watch as she crawls out of the bed and puts on her pj’s. “Common, this can wait till the morning. Kat, let’s just get s’more sleep,” I beg.

“I just need to check. I’ll be back before you know it,” she smiles reassuringly.

I groan, ‘cause I know I should go with her. That place sometimes freaks her out. I roll out of bed, searching the floor for my pants and finding my shirt on the back of a chair. “Wait for me,” I grumble as I pull the shirt over my head. “There’s nothing quick about getting to the crypt Kat, you know that.”

She frowns. “Yeah, but… you’re tired… I’ll be okay,” she says, half-hearted.

“Don’t lie. I’ll go with you. Besides, then I can try and explain my own dream while we walk,” I say, joining her at the door. We slip into the dark hallway, the moon barely casts enough light through the windows to see by. I forgot my shoes in the room, cringing as the cold stone freezes my toes. Why is December so cold here? Aren’t we near the equator?

Kat raises her hand and little balls of fire, like dancing fireflies, whirl around us, lighting up the hallway. I’m stunned by the delicate glow they put off. “Wow,” I say, “they’re beautiful.” I stare at them in wonder, not watching where I’m walking as I  trip over something that rolls away into the dark. I look around to see what it was, but it’s gone. Strange. “What was that?” I ask, not really looking for an answer, but more embarrassed at my stumble.

Kat giggles. “I dunno, but thanks. I created this spell myself, because of the nightmares.”

“Wow, that’s fantastic, I mean… not the nightmares, but the magic.” Lame Andrei, lame. “That reminds me, can I tell you about my dream?”

“Of course.”

I launch into a sketchy retelling of my dream. Bringing up the winds earnest plea to find some item related to each of the main elements and the choking sand. I leave out the details of how dumb it was, not remembering who it was and repeating my name endlessly. “So, what do you think it means? Why in the world do you think I need these things?” I ask.

She hums, staring forward. “You got the mirror while you were researching Time magic, right? Maybe there’s a connection. Maybe it’s telling you that you were on the right track?”

“What in the world do the four elements have to do with time? I mean, according to Ceph’s handwriting, the mirror was of interest, but it didn’t say anything about the mirror? I got it randomly as a gift from the then Guardian of Wind.” I don’t really see the connection, but it wouldn’t hurt to look into it further. I have been putting my studies off since we started hunting down ‘him’.

Kat shrugs. “I don’t know, but I’m only one of those four elements. Maybe finding the connection is the point.”

“I guess. I’ll look into it later. Thanks.” We walk in silence for a while. The closer we get to the library and the crypts, the eerier the place seems to be, at least, to me. It almost seems too quiet.

Before long, we arrive at the library. It’s dark and ominous, until the torches spring to life, lighting the aisles and casting long shadows across our path as we head for the crypt entrance at the back.

“Want me to check first? See if the ways clear? I can use my speed to get back quickly in case I see anything out of the ordinary,” I offer.

Her expression turns serious. “No. I’ll go too.”

I shrug and enter the crypt first. The place is dark and quiet. No surprise there. We descend the stairs and pass through the anteroom. I freeze, throwing my arm out to stop Kaitlyn when I see a figure in white standing before the crypt, back towards us. I hold my breath. Who would be down here… other than us, at this time of night? I shift my eyes to give Kaitlyn a glance, hoping she gets the hint to get ready to shoot fire in case it’s a threat.

“Do you hear him too?” The figure shifts, turning its head slightly. I nearly jump out of my skin. The voice is… female? “He calls for you,” it continues, “his last surviving progeny.”

Kat flinches. “… Selene? Is that you?”

“Guilty,” the figure chuckles as it turns fully to face us. I recognize her now, pale hair, even paler skin. The accent should have been a dead giveaway.

“Oh My God! Selene?! Don’t do that to us! I nearly died!” I shout at her. “What are you doing down here anyway? We didn’t show you this place. How do you know about it?”

Selene waves casually at the sarcophagus. “He called to me, and showed me the way.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I sniff. I’m way too tired for this mystery sleuthing. I should have stayed in bed as Kaitlyn suggested.

“Ridiculous? How so?” Selene tilts her head, curious grey eyes glint in the light of the little flames.

“A man, sleeping or dead, can’t call to you. How can someone lead the way from the rooms upstairs if they aren’t even conscious?” I ask skeptically.

The blonde stares back at me with a frown. “You can travel through time, something most people consider impossible, yet speaking to a spirit is beyond your comprehension?”

“At two in the morning? Yes.” I wave my hand in a circular motion, encouraging her to continue. “Just tell me how. I don’t really care for surprises at this hour,” I grumble.

“How?” She purses her lips, thinking. “He spoke to me in a dream, showed me this place. Here, I hear his voice like a whisper from the shadows.”

A dream? Everyone seems to have dreams of people talking to them… I guess it’s not too different from mine with the speaking wind. “So he’s still alive in there? Why would anyone willingly lock themselves in a crypt? What does he have to say?” I ask.

“It was not his choice,” she replies firmly. “This is a curse inflicted on him by his once beloved brother. He asks that we gather the five core elements and the four artifacts. This is the way to lift his condition.”

“Artifacts?” I wonder aloud. My dream also mentioned four artifacts. Curious. “Wait, did you say five elements? I thought there were only four core elements? Fire, water, earth, and wind?” I tick off on my fingers one by one.

Selene pauses, as though listening. “Yes, that is a common belief. The fifth has been forgotten for ages. He calls it Spirit.”

“Spirit? Wouldn’t that be like… I don’t know, life? Or Light? What are the attributes of Spirit?” I turn to Kaitlyn, perhaps she knows. She’s studied here way longer than I have. Maybe she knows if there are any texts on the element of Spirit.

Kat shrugs. “I’ve never heard of it.”

“Well, that’s convenient. And how are we supposed to find someone with an element no one’s ever heard of before?” I ask.

“You don’t have to,” Selene smiles, “you already have.”

I raise a confused eyebrow. “Who?” I look between Kat and Selene, Kat’s blank expression doesn’t help, and Selene just smiles. “You?” I say incredulously.

“I understand… That’s why I don’t recognize your aura,” Kat muses, nodding.

“So, the things Cliff said, like dying and coming back alive, healing and now talking to sleeping or dead things, these are all things the Spirit element can do?” I guess it makes sense. Spirit is an idea that was heavily revered in various cultures, like the indigenous nations and African tribes. It shouldn’t surprise me, but still, it does. Keeping track of all the different elements there are, I feel like I need to make a chart.

“So what is the founder saying? Can we ask him the burning questions we’ve had?” I press, hoping to make this night useful.

Selene shakes her head. “He is very weak. It took a lot of effort to call us here. Restore him, and he will answer your questions.”

“But how will we know what the artifacts are? I stumbled across the mirror of the wind by pure luck.” I add.

Again, she shakes her head from side to side. “Not ‘chance’. You are already on the right path. Find the two missing elements and the artifacts. I will take care of the rest.”

I sigh, knowing this means I have to hit the books again. But maybe the elements are more of a priority. With the Master at large and the Guardians returning, it should be the first thing we do.

“Well, if there’s nothing else, I think we’ve answered your dreams and have enough adventuring for the night. Can we go back to bed?” I offer. Sleep sounds pleasant.

Kat grimaces guiltily. “Sure. Sorry, I guess it was more than a few minutes.”

“Nah, it’s fine. I’m glad we’ve sorted this all out. Now we can sleep peacefully. I need brain power for all this problem-solving.” We head out of the crypt and back through the library, towards our rooms. The darkness seems less creepy with a third person.  Hopefully, the dreams have finished for the night.

~*~

I find myself back in the library with Kaede, just like the good old days. Caroline’s off training and Kat and Ryan are sharing fire secrets together. I think Cliff is showing Selene around the Guild some more. If I wasn’t mistaken, I’d say he’s taken by her. It’s a little early to tell, he sort of did the same thing with us when we first arrived. So, I’m probably wrong.

A pile of dusty books stares at me from the table where Kaede’s laptop sits. I envy the fact that Kaede doesn’t have anything vital to research. Being the tech guy means you wait around till someone needs something. Lucky him. He’d probably say otherwise though.

“So, what’chya reading about today?” He asks me over the rim of a steaming cup of coffee.

“How did you get that in here?” I ask. I thought food and beverage wasn’t allowed in the library.

“I snuck it in. This early in the day I need a kick start to stay awake,” he says.

“But… how? There are wards on the entrance for things like that,” I point out. Cliff had mentioned some wards when Kaede kept suggesting having a bar be installed for casual library events.

“That, my friend, is a secret. If I tell you, I think that ward will hear me and stop me from bringing in what I like. I can’t have these pleasures taken away from me,” he smiles.

“Whatever. Just… bring me one next time,” I say.

I see him grin, hand reaching into his backpack as I tilt my head to the book in front of me. He pulls out a thermos and passes it to me, followed by a mug. “If you need cream or sugar, it’s in here.” He says, passing me a second, smaller thermos.

“Smart!” I smile, taking the goods. Before long, we’re both siping our coffee mugs, enjoying the library peacefulness. I crack open the voluminous text in front of me, Sands of Time, written by a Jefferies Seditous. The thing is filled with sand and I tip it forward, watching the reddish grains tumble onto the carpet.

“Woah,” Kaede starts with surprise. “Don’t go making a mess. I haven’t found a vacuum yet to keep the place crumb free.

“Sorry,” I say. I look at the index, looking for keywords. I scan the page and see a few handwritten underlines. I smile to myself, wondering if they are Ceph’s again. I flip to page 173 looking for mention of the Sierra desert. The passage basically goes on to explain how ancient hour glasses used pure sand from the Sierra dessert because they were mostly the same size, which many accounted for accurate readings of time. I seriously doubt the logic behind the math, but whatever.

I continue to read as the hours tick by. I find messy scribbles in the margins with referenced notes to other texts, all about hour glasses and sand. I continue to read, ignoring the grumbling that my empty stomach starts to produce as I find a particularly interesting section circled heavily in pencil. It’s a poem, sort of.

Time adheres to no man-made constrictions here.

Time, like the desert itself, abides by the sun. There is no need for a watch.

We rise with the sun to bask in the cool morning breeze as light creeps over the mountain.

High noon is the only place holder.

Three quarters to the sun directly overhead – the heat begins to pound.

A siren of mortality alerts the flesh to seek shade.

Then we rest.

Intriguing. Could this be referring to fire? The sun is a ball of burning flames. It was used to mark time using sundials. I continue, stopping only when the harsh scribbles block an entire line in the text and attempt to squeeze in a detailed note in he margin.

The plant known as Dictamnus albus is the source of one form of living flames.
Commonly found in Southern Europe, Italy. Even in your time.

I stare at the note. A plant that can naturally catch fire? I smirk. Looks like I’ve found the next artifact, interesting that it should be alive, but how else would you contain fire as an element. I tell Kaede and he texts Cliff about a door to Italy. Maybe this researching thing isn’t so bad.

By Kayla West