The headmistress sits on the couch across from us, hands folded in her lap, her face perfectly composed. She listens patiently as we tell her the story, from the day we left to sneak into the office, up to the moment we returned to the warehouse. Andrei does most of the talking and gives a lot more detail than I would have. It’s almost like he’s writing in his diary, and he seems to revel in retelling the story. Well, except for the part about Logan. I notice how he never says his name anymore. He also leaves out the intimate moments we shared, to my relief.
Ambrosse is eerily quiet when Andrei finishes talking. I can almost see the wheels in her mind turning. Her brow furrows just slightly as she chooses her words carefully, “These Guardians from the past, Merlin and the others, they referred to the both of you as Guardians as well?”
I note the emphasis on ‘both’. “Yes,” I reply, narrowing my eyes, “Shouldn’t you be surprised that there are Guardians in our time at all?”
She nods once, but she does not meet my gaze. “Yes, of course.”
I glance at Andrei, and down at my shoulder. It dawns on me then, and I look back at her from the corner of my eye. “How long have you known?”
Ambrosse takes a deep breath, straightening her back as she stares into the fireplace. She hesitates to answer. “Since the day I brought you here. Rhoan explained the situation to me, and I, in turn, changed your surname. We feared that if it became known to other mages, they would try to use you for their own gain. We wanted to protect you.” She insists, her sapphire eyes begging me to understand.
“Keeping secrets from the people involved doesn’t protect them. That’s a proven fact,” Andrei frowns. I turn to him in surprise.
Ambrosse raises an eyebrow. “She was four years old. We planned to tell her when we felt the time was right. Unfortunately, determining the right time can be tricky.”
I scoff. “Is the ‘right time’ when I’ve already figured it out myself after the power has awakened?”
Ambrosse gives me a disapproving motherly look. “Of course not.”
I pick up the little gold dragonling from my lap and place him on the floor. He grunts, annoyed. “Well, if there’s nothing else, I’d like to check in on our friends.”
“I understand,” we stand up at the same time. “I’m so relieved to have you home. Both of you.”
“Glad to be home,” I reply flatly, heading for the door.
Andrei hesitates, walking around the couch to avoid Typhon. “Wait, what about the Master, the Guardians, and everything else? Aren’t we going to do anything about that? We can’t just sit here and wait,” he protests. I stop in my tracks, turning to face him. He looks hard at me.
“We’re not going to sit and wait. We’re going to find him,” I answer bluntly.
“Kaitlyn,” Ambrosse scolds. “The council will-”
“The council will do nothing.” I snap glaring at her over my shoulder. “They have no authority here anymore. Last I checked, they are only authorized to judge and control mages and guild ranking guardians.”
“That doesn’t seem like much of an action plan.” Andrei huffs. “How is any of that going to stop the Master from doing whatever it is he’s got planned? Don’t you consider it a major security breach when he can just waltz in here at any time and snap up mages and artifacts!? We have to do something, and we have to start now!” Andrei insists sternly.
Ambrosse responds, her gaze still locked with mine. “We have not had anyone go missing from the island. Save for the incident with Logan in the crypt, there have been no other sightings or reports. If it was his intention to infiltrate the Guild I am sure we would have detected it by now.”
“That doesn’t mean he won’t try it again, and besides, waiting for it to happen isn’t my idea of a solution to preventing a problem. It’s just playing into his hands if you ask me,” Andrei insists.
I shake my head. “Coming here is too much of a risk for him. As powerful as he might be, an island full of mages, dragons, and now possibly Guardians would be too dangerous. He’s not stupid. He won’t attack here unless he is absolutely certain that he could win,” I reason.
He grits his teeth in frustration. “What about the mages that aren’t on the island? How do we protect them then?”
I turn to look him in the eye. “We find them, and we bring them here.”
He pauses, thinking over the idea. “How? Do we even know where they are? What about the ones who don’t even know about the Guild yet?” he demands.
“It’s not perfect. We’ll need to send out teams to locate them by their aura, and give them the choice,” I sigh. “Even if there was a way to track each person down, we can’t protect all of them, Andrei. The only way to keep them safe for good is to destroy the Master,” I assure him.
“Unfortunately, Kaitlyn is correct,” Ambrosse agrees, though reluctantly. She’s always hated the idea of confrontation.
Andrei frowns. “But we can’t even find him. How can we destroy someone we’ve never really seen?”
“You’ve never seen,” I correct. “We’ve barely begun searching. You’re getting ahead of yourself. It won’t be easy, but we’ll just have to try harder,” he’s so impatient.
“Well, I’m up for helping. Do we have your approval to conduct this search?” he says, turning to Ambrosse.
Ambrosse lifts her chin. “It seems you do not need my approval,” she seems surprisingly calm in all this. I expected her to reject the idea altogether. “However, you cannot possibly track all of the undiscovered mages on your own. I will arrange for a few teams to spread out across the globe and recruit. You will need to focus your energies on locating the other Guardians.”
“You knew Kaitlyn was one. Are there not others here at the Guild already?” Andrei asks.
Ambrosse shrugs. “I would have no way to know that. I was told by Rhoan, courtesy of his former master. Whether there are Guardians here or not, you will have to determine that for yourselves with your newfound knowledge.”
“Right,” I sigh. “We’d better get started then,” Andrei nods and we finally leave the Headmistress’s office. I pause, wondering where our friends might be. “What time is it?” I ask as I turn to Andrei, curiously.
Andrei briefly glances up at the ceiling. “It’s 1:13pm. Why?”
I smirk. “Good, that narrows it down a bit. Do you think Caroline will make a scene?”
“A scene? About what?” he frowns.
I raise an eyebrow at him. “You do remember that we’ve been gone for almost two weeks, right?” I swear the hit to his head has made him so forgetful.
“Oh, that. Most likely,” he agrees. “She’s a worrywart. If anyone won’t care, it’s Kaede. I left him unexpectedly a lot when we were rooming together.
I chuckle and roll my eyes. “Let’s get it over with then,” I slip my hand into his as I start walking toward the cafeteria. I make an effort to look at every person we pass, searching for any sign of anyone being a Guardian. I’m not entirely sure what I’m looking for but I’m sure I’ll know it when I see it.
The cafeteria is relatively busy when we arrive, but several people are preparing to leave. I scan the room carefully. Halfway through, I notice a familiar aura at the back by the kitchen. When I look closer, I recognize the form of Cliff and the strange girl with nearly white hair. Strange, wasn’t he supposed to take her to the infirmary?
I tug on Andrei’s hand and gesture in their direction. We weave through the tables and I notice, across from the new girl sits Kaede and Caroline. Kaede appears to be sulking and Caroline seems to be upset or angry. It’s hard to tell but not unusual. Her head lifts and her eyes lock onto mine. For a moment she stares at me blankly. Then, she jumps to her feet, slamming her hands on the table.
“Where have you been?! I was worried sick!” she screams at the top of her lungs. The rest of the room falls silent. I bite my lips together and look to Andrei. I don’t know how to respond.
Andrei waves. “Hi Car, nice to see you too! It’s been a while. Hi, Kae.” So calm.
“Andrei, we were worried about you and Kat!” Caroline whines, turning to me with a serious expression. “What happened?”
I open my mouth to respond but I stop as Andrei jumps in. “You know, we met him, got a little banged up, and I jumped. It’s no big deal, Caroline. We’re fine now, we’re here, and everything’s okay. So you don’t need to worry anymore,” Caroline gives him a flat stare, unconvinced.
“Yo, Andrei!” Kaede’s face lights up, “You have to spill the beans. Where’d you go? What’d you do? I want it all in a three-ring binder, headings, subheadings, and an appendix. Spill!” Kaede grins, leaning forward in his chair.
I glance around the room, all eyes are on us. “Not here,” I mutter. As I look back at the table, I notice the new girl looking up at me, her stony grey eyes piercing right through me. Though, oddly, I don’t feel uncomfortable. It’s the same as when I met Ceph and Eli…
As that thought crosses my mind she smiles knowingly. I glance around at the others. Did I say that out loud? They don’t seem to be reacting. The girl chuckles. I blush.
“I’m sorry, what did you say your name was again?” I ask, flustered.
“Selene,” she replies sweetly. Her accent sounds familiar, I think it’s English?
I study the strange girl closer. She looks completely different from this morning. She’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and she looks healthy. Completely different from the skeleton we found in that cell. “Selene… How did you heal so quickly? I don’t know of any healing magic that can restore health so completely.”
She doesn’t skip a beat. “Oh, there isn’t. I died.”
“Died?” I repeat, unsure.
She nods. “Yes. I blew air into the IV drip. Works every time,” I turn to Cliff, hoping for a better explanation.
Cliff shrugs. “I agree with you. There’s no spell like it. I tried to explain our situation to her. I think she has a strange magic, one I’ve never seen before, but she doesn’t seem to know what I’m talking about.”
“If we need a more private location we could always use the library. I swear no one here even knows it exists. I never see anyone use it,” Kaede offers.
“That’s a good idea,” I agree, distracted by the unusual aura surrounding this girl. I think she might be a Guardian and not just a dormant one. Her aura definitely resembles those of the Guardians from the past. I guess it’s a reasonable assumption if she’s never been contacted by the Guild, that she wouldn’t know.
Movement catches my eye and I realize that there is a fifth person at the table. Ryan chugs her drink and grins as she stands up. “Kaitlyn, I’ve missed you! I’m glad you’re back! I can’t wait to learn more fire magic from you!”
I blink a few times, taken aback. “Oh… Of course. Sure,” I smile. “I can show you what I learned in the past.”
“Wow, that sounds exciting! What was it like? In the past, I mean,” Ryan bounces, falling in line next to me as we leave the cafeteria.
I stare ahead, into space. “It was strange but very interesting. I wish I had been able to see more of it.”
“Don’t worry, We are about to get the full experience once we’re in the library. I’ve set up this amazing new lounge space down there, complete with a laptop projector and instant image retrieval that draws resources directly from the online library I’ve catalogued, using voice recognition! I’ve been quite productive while you’ve been gone,” Kaede smirks, walking ahead Cliff. Andrei follows with Caroline, while Selene trails behind them. Ryan and I bring up the rear.
“How is that even possible?” Andrei asks.
“Are you doubting a genius? School only dampened my potential, friend. Now I am a force unleashed. Watch and learn!” Kaede exclaims.
I glance at Andrei’s back, my chest feels tight and I pick at my nail beds. Under my breath I mumble. “I hope for your sake it doesn’t work. Some things are best left unseen…” No one seems to hear me.
Kaede continues. “It pulls up relevant time period images, whether they were drawn or appear similar to the ones you may have seen in the past. It’s a visual experience.”
In the library, the whole place seems to have been rearranged. The space is more open, there is technology set up around the room, and there are brand new couches in the back area. I am both impressed and offended that he’s changed so much. He plops down in a lavish armchair, picking up the laptop.
“Don’t worry, the torches are the same. They’re cool,” Kaede smiles up at me. I bite my tongue as the flames around the room flicker. Centuries-old magic and he left them alone because they’re cool?
A hand rests on my arm, and I feel myself calm down. “I am sure he means well,” Selene whispers, before moving past me to sit on a couch. I follow her with my eyes. What was that? Did she do something?
“Well, I don’t want this to be a lecture or anything, so… Why don’t we start with any questions you might have?” Andrei suggests, sitting on the couch opposite of Kaede. I follow and sit next to him. Cliff takes another chair, while Caroline and Ryan sit on the couch to my left with Selene.
A projector screen descends from the ceiling in front of the seating area as Kaede clicks some buttons on his computer. The light of the torches dim in response and a light from the little machine above our heads hits the blank white screen.
“Let’s start with what happened when you faced Logan?” Kaede suggests.
“No,” I snap, too quickly. Kaede flinches, lifting his head with hurt wide eyes. “Next question?” I cough, feeling my cheeks flush.
Kaede frowns. “Okay, did you meet the Master? Find out his identity?”
“I think I know who he is. It doesn’t help us find him though,” I admit, glancing over my shoulder at the gate to the stairs. “Turns out… The founder had a brother.” The screen flashes, and pulls up a portrait of a man with red hair pulled back in a half ponytail, a long red beard, and a tobacco pipe in his hands. I’ve seen that painting in a few places around the Guild, but the image makes my body freeze nonetheless.
“Wow, that’s amazing!” Andrei exclaims, standing up to look closer. “Is that really him?”
Kaede straightens his back proudly. “The system is designed to show the reference material. It’s listed on the bottom as a citation,” he points to the screens lower right corner.
“It’s like a Powerpoint that doesn’t need to be prepared. Sick,” Andrei nods, impressed.
“I have a question!” Ryan pipes up. “Where did you jump to? And why? Was it an accident like before?”
I swallow a ragged breath. “No, it wasn’t an accident. We were lucky enough to end up in Camelot.”
“So, you were really able to jump together?” Kaede asks. Andrei nods. “That’s so unfair, man! I want to go so bad!”
“Sorry dude. I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter,” Andrei retorts bitterly.
“Camelot?” Caroline interjects. “There’s no way you went that far back in time.”
Andrei coughs and looks down at himself, at the formal medieval clothes he’s still wearing. “Are you doubting me again, sweet Caroline? Would I lie about the time?” He gives her a coy smile.
“I don’t think we would have made it back had we ended up somewhere else,” I add, staring at the screen as it shows a picture of a castle I’m surprised at how similar it looks to the real Camelot. I look to Andrei with a frown, “Well, that’s not entirely true… I’m sure you would have, eventually.”
“Why? What happened?” Ryan asks, worried. I don’t answer as I share a look with Andrei.
“Well, Kat got hurt bad, but we met Merlin,” he smiles, trying to lighten the mood. The screen flashes to a portrait of Merlin. It’s not even close to what he actually looked like, showing a painting of a feeble old man with a long beard and a hump. Andrei turns to the screen, tilting his head. “Except, he was much younger than that and more… What’s the word? Fresh.”
The room erupts with surprised gasps. I shake my head. “That really doesn’t do him justice. To think they would portray him like that is disgraceful.”
Selene leans forward, lowering her voice slightly. “When you say hurt bad, does that mean your wounds were fatal?” I gulp and nod once.
Andrei looks down at me with sad eyes. “Yea… She got poisoned, but Merlin was able to make the antidote and we saved her. He’s a true genius.”
I sniff with pride, “I could have handled the poison on it’s own. He also healed you,” I remind him. “I’m not sure we really repaid him for that,” I clear my throat. “But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is what came after that.”
“When your power returned?” Selene prods. I gawk at her. She smiles. “You forget that I was there. I felt what awoke in you, even from my own cell. As the v- I mean, Cliff, says you are what they call a Guardian?” she muses, chewing on the word.
I take a deep breath in the stunned silence of the library. “Yes,” I reply curtly. “As are you, judging by your aura.”
“So he says,” Selene hums, glancing over to the other end of the couch, and up at Andrei. “Though I wonder if we are alone in this?”
By Krystyn Yates