The Guild – Chapter 74 – Andrei

    I lay there beside her as she drifts off to sleep mumbling. I don’t know why I feel so uncertain about… us, I just do. Maybe we’ve spent too much time apart. Maybe I’m insecure. Maybe Sam had more of an effect on me than I first thought. Whatever the reason is, I have to make sure I don’t shake when I lay next to her. I can’t let her know how I feel… I just can’t.

    I never had these problems before. Girls were an easy thing to do, flirt, make them smile, impress them. All was good. Kat came along and shattered all of my expectations. She never is impressed at my flaunting, my jokes, she hardly laughs and is easily unimpressed. Even my fighting skill doesn’t seem to impress her like it did the other girls.

    As I lay here next to her, listening to her speak in her sleep asking me not to leave, I question why it is she wants me to begin with. I don’t offer her anything to be happy about, do I?

    Arghh, these feelings… I don’t understand! Why do I feel this way? I can’t shake it! I just … I just want us to be back to normal but I can’t seem to feel normal! What’s different?

    My heart pounds against her hand as I hold it, rubbing my thumb softly against her skin, like petting a cat. I couldn’t wait for her to come back. I went out, with some push from Caroline, and I got her back and now I just feel so uncertain. I hate this…

    I push my thoughts aside with some effort and listen quietly to her breathing. At first it sounds laborious, but eventually, it becomes slow and deep. I am relieved that her suffering is less now, after having the dragons heal her, Caroline remove a bullet and my own meager efforts to stop the lead poisoning. I only wish there was more I could do.

    I lay there, looking over my nose to see her sleeping face and ponder an idea. Would a time mage be able to transfer time, as a thought, into the mind of another? Like sharing a dream? It’s a curious thought to have and I’m not sure where it came from. Perhaps, as I sit here dreaming of happier times, I wonder if I could share them with her, even as she sleeps.

    I toss the idea away for later when I feel more in the mood to experiment. I used a lot of energy already, undoing the healing that earth mage did.

    And that’s another thing! I can’t believe he wouldn’t remove the bullet first, before healing it. Did it not occur to him that lead is a metal that comes from carbon, which I’m sure is a common element of the earth, which he could have removed?

    I let my slight irritation of him simmer. For some reason, he irks me. He acts like he did Kat a huge favour and we should all be indebted to him, and I suppose we should be, a bit, but it’s not like he knows her that well. I find myself not liking him the more I think about it.

    I push him aside though, as it makes my heart race and I want to stay calm, for Kat. I don’t want to wake her, she needs the rest, as do I, but I find it hard to fall asleep. I decide to count the seconds as they tick by until my thoughts leave me alone and my eyes droop.

    Sleep comes, and so does she.

    ~*~

    I open my eyes to the white sands of the dream realm. At least, this time, I know I’m not here physically.

    “So you’ve come again. It’s miraculous you survived the first time,” she says sardonically.

    “It is,” I agree, knowing it is also the truth.

    “Well, if you’re here, I might as well use our time together wisely. You don’t have much of it left.” I look up at the irate woman before me. Her roman attire becoming a familiar sight.

    “What do you mean by that?” I ask her.

    She ignores my question, continuing with barely a pause. “You have retrieved two of the four elements, right?” she asks.

    I nod. “Yes, the-”

    “Winds mirror and Fires wrath,” she states.

    “What?” I’ve never heard them called that.

    “That’s what you have, no?” she looks at me with incredulity.

    “Yes, I guess, but the names-”

    “Matter not. Everything has a purpose, a name. If you know them, it doesn’t change a thing. You need two more. Waters tears and Earths delicacy.”

    I look at her questioningly. “And those are?”

    “Andrei, You can’t afford to take your leisure time retrieving these items. If he finds out before you get them all, then you won’t be able to complete your task,” she says rather harshly.

    “I don’t even know what this task is! Why do I need to complete it? What for?”

    She looks at me, hard eyes searching my face for god knows what.

    “As you may be aware, the strongest of the Guardians is somewhat incapacitated, but he is not dead, per se. He occasionally frequents me on this plane, but not nearly as often as you do,” she smiles with mockery.

    “This isn’t only for him, but for me. You could visit more completely if you were to open the portal, but to do that you need all of the elemental artifacts,” she explains.

    “Fine, so I have two more. Am I to continue reading about them till I’m blue in the face and figure out where they are? Or are you going to help me?” I demand.

    “Not with that attitude,” she huffs, turning away and stalking through the sand.

    I run after her, feet sinking into the soft ground, unlike her. The wind picks up and it’s strangely warm compared to my previous visits. I shield my face as it brings sand with it. A thought comes to me.

    “If I gather all of the elements, will this place look more like the real world instead of an endless desert?” I ask her. So far I have wind and fire. The wind was the first artifact and the first thing I felt in this sunless place. Now it’s warm, like fire.

    “Perhaps,” she calls over her shoulder, not stopping.

    “Please! Come back! I’m sorry if I offended you!” I call to her.

    She stops, spinning around and glowering at me. Her eyes burn into me like fire and I shrink back. “You did not offend me, Andrei. You try my patience. You are young.  Strong, smart, but young,” she ticks them off on her fingers as she says them.

    “You are welcome to bring your friends if you must, but you must retrieve them in order to save time. That’s your task. If you fail, well, we won’t be meeting again. So you better not fail,” she says with command.

    “But… I don’t know where to look…” I admit. All the studying in the world would not speed up my search.

    “Then ask the elements. They will tell you. I don’t have all the answers. But they are under your nose, now aren’t they,” she asks rhetorically.

    I let her words sink in before I nod. I think I understand.

    “Well, now that that’s done, you had better be waking, cuz I think your lover is waking up,” she smirks mischievously.

    “What? Lover? I-”

    “No dilly-dallying. Wake up!” she reaches out a hand and flicks me in the forehead. I reach up and find myself rubbing my forehead where her fingers struck me. I think I felt a sting.

    “Did you have the weird dream again?” I jump at her voice and turn to see Kat laying next to me, eyes watching me intently. I forget about my forehead and look away, feeling awkward for some weird reason.

    “Yea, I did,” I mumble.

    She pushes herself up, looking at me more level. I feel her gaze on me like a burning fire, not that she’s angry, more like, I feel it’s heat. “What’s wrong?” she asks.

    I think about that question for a moment. A lot feels wrong, but, I mean, everything is back to normal, right? A brief thought flashes through my mind, should I tell her about Sam? I instantly rebuke that thought. I’d be insane to tell her. She’d probably leave me. She’s better off not knowing. I practically cheated, even if it was a spell I was under. I push that thought back and give her a smile, or what I think is a smile. “Yea, everything’s good.”

    I remember the dream and decide to share with her what the roman woman said. “I don’t have a lot of time, apparently, to find the last two artifacts. I have no idea where they could be, but the woman in my dreams says to ask the elements. Do you have any idea what she could mean by that?” I ask her.

    She sits up a little straighter, nodding. “I think I do.”

    “Really?”

    She places her hand over her chest, staring into space. “They have a voice… I suppose it’s like the ticking that you hear. The fire speaks to me, and I believe that would be the same for the others, Caroline, Nakotah, Selene… The Guardians, at least.”

    I frown. “You all have a voice to talk to and I just get this constant ticking? How unlucky is that?!” I grouch.

    Kat laughs. “It’s not so much a voice for me, but a feeling. I just understand it. I don’t know if it actually can use words.”

    “Still…” I feel a hunger in my stomach and sigh. “We should get something to eat. Are you feeling any better?”

    She smiles. “Much better, thanks to you.”

    I can’t help but smile back. That makes me feel a bit better. I lean forward, to kiss her but suddenly freeze as I feel a cold wave of brief fear wash over me like an icy shower. I blink, confused. For a moment, she looked different; red lips and black hair. I blink again and she’s normal, flaming hair about her shoulders, orange eyes, a worried look on her face.

    The moment passes and I shrug, crawling off the other side of the bed. “Let’s go to the Caf then. I’ll make you anything you want,” I say, feeling a bit shaky.

    She stares down at the bed. “Anything you make is always perfect. Um… If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a quick shower first. I’ll meet you down there?”

    “Alright. Don’t be too long,” I smile, walking towards the door.

    ~*~

    “… And this is the kitchen, where you can cook if you want to. I think it’s Andrei’s favourite part of the whole Guild,” Kat’s voice explains with a giggle.

    I look up to see Kat leading Nik through the Cafeteria. I set the spatula down with a disappointed sigh. Why’d she have to bring him along? I look back down, quickly, pretending like I haven’t noticed them walk in. The omelets are nearly done.

    “Good morning, Andrei,” Nik waves, a grin on his face. I try to smile back but I’m not sure what shape my mouth makes.

    “Morning,” I say. “Enjoying the Guild life?” I ask him, carefully sliding the omelet onto the plate I have prepared.

    Nik nods. “It’s quite a fascinating place. Quite different from the western world.”

    “I was just, um…” Kat fidgets, playing with her sleeves. “Explaining to Nakotah-”

    “Nik,” he interrupts. I eye him as he corrects her.

    “Right. Nik, about the artifacts, and if he could communicate with his element,” she looks at me with wide, hopeful eyes.

    “Oh, wow. That was fast,” I inwardly groan. “I only made enough for two, I didn’t know we’d have company,” I say, passing her the plate and the ketchup bottle.

    Nik waves. “Don’t worry about me. I ate earlier,” I sigh with relief.

    I flip the next omelet and slide it onto the plate and grabbing the coffee I brewed for Kat. I smile, handing her the cup as I head out of the kitchen and into the Caf. “Want to sit by the window?” I ask her, pointedly trying to not look at Nik.

    Kat blushes. “Sure.”

    Nik glances between us and scratches his head. “I’ll leave you to it then. I should try to connect with the Earth. Enjoy your breakfast.”

    I wave over my shoulder without looking. “See yea.”

    Kat curls up on her chair, taking the coffee cup in both hands. “Did Nik do something to upset you?” she asks, staring into the black liquid. “Or… did I?”

    “What?!” I gasp in surprise. “No, you didn’t do anything. It’s just…” I scramble for an excuse, not sure why it is he bothers me. I mean, I suppose it’s cause he acts so familiar with her. “He knows you’re taken right?” I deflect.

    Her eyes grow wide, surprised, “Of course. He was there when you came for me. He saw what you did, risking your life just to bring me back. I mean… he pulled me out of a river and his elders gave me their energy. I think that deserves a little bit of familiarity.” She rambles, looking out the window, “Besides… He made sure I couldn’t leave. Who knows where I’d be if he hadn’t. I don’t know if you’d have found me in time…”

    I frown as she goes on. Of course, it makes sense that she’d be familiar with him. He did help her out. “I just… I don’t like how friendly he is with you. It’s like… I don’t know how to explain it… It looks like he likes you. Just… be careful around him,” I warn, taking a bite of my omelet. I notice she hasn’t touched hers yet.

    “Aren’t you going to eat?” I ask.

    She blinks, coming out of a daze. “Oh. Sorry,” she puts the cup down and picks up her knife and fork. Her eyes wander the Caf as she eats in silence.

    I feel bad… I suppose I sounded harsh there. I should probably say something. But what do I say… I awkwardly eat another bite, trying to formulate my response. It reminds me of that time in the Tim Hortons, when we first met. I apologized then too, for my outburst. Ahhh, I hate saying sorry.

    I put my fork down, running my fingers through my hair nervously.

    “Kat…” I start. Her head lifts, curious. Her amber eyes catch me and I am stuck, like a fly in sap. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I snapped. Maybe I’m tired or something,” I try to excuse. It’s a weak argument, I know.

    She shakes her head, looking back out at the caf. “It’s alright. I understand.”

    I look at her, confused. “You do?!”

    She shrugs. “It’s normal to be angry if someone is being too friendly with your partner, isn’t it?”

    “It is?” I shake my head. “ I mean, it is,” what am I saying?

    “At least, based on my experience,” she chuckles bitterly. “Which isn’t saying much… but he’s a Guardian. We have to work with him.”

    ‘He’s a Guardian’ I mock in my head. Ughh, why is everyone a Guardian but me? But something else she says is more important. “No, it’s not. The part about it being normal. It’s not right to be angry…” I think.

    She frowns, finally looking back at me confused. “But you just said…”

    “I know, but… that’s why I’m apologizing. It’s not right. I’m sorry. I’m just confusing you…” I shrug, picking up my fork. I’m no good at apologizing… just like I’m no good at anything else I do. Merlin was wrong. I am not Guardian material.

    She pokes at the food left on her plate. “You don’t have to apologize. Forget I asked,” then, without skipping a beat. “Do you know where Caroline would be?”

    “Caroline? I don’t know. It’s almost nine though. She should be either with Kaede or in the water hall, practicing, I think.” I watch as she pokes the food. “Is it not good? Did I make it too salty?”

    “No!” she gasps. “No, I was just thinking. It’s good.”

    “Oh, Ok. Thanks,” I feel like a loser. I put my fork down and stretch my hand across the table towards hers. “If you don’t like it, it’s ok to say it. I want to make food you like. Ok?” I place my hand on hers, gripping it lightly. It’s warm to my touch.

    Kat smiles. “I love anything you cook, silly. How could I not?”

    I blush at her compliment. It lifts some of my worry. “Thanks, let’s find Caroline after this,” I say, then think of Nik and with an inward sigh. “and Nik. We can ask them about the artifacts and see if we can get them any faster.”

    Kat nods. “Okay.”

By Kayla West