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?”
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