Morning dawns. The Guardians gather in the crypt; Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Spirit. Time, Life, and the Fire and Time of the past observe from outside the circle. Mortals are forbidden; not only are they an annoying distraction, but I’m uncertain what this magic will entail. Kaede was quite upset. In addition is the wind spirit, hovering behind Hitomi, and the spirit of Markus. I remain the only one to see him, however; a problem soon to be solved.
I mutter a spell Markus whispers in my ear. With a wave of my hand, the floor lights up. An elaborate magic circle appears, the lines drawn with hundreds of runes. In each corner is a smaller circle, one of each colour; red, blue, green, and white. In the center, at the foot of the sarcophagus, is another small circle, glowing a faint lilac. The center circle connects to the four with runic lines as well.
“Stand in your respective places, with the artifacts in hand,” I instruct. I move to the center as they take their positions.
Markus floats over to the back corner, on my right. “I worry for her,” his voice is hollow, his blue eyes fill with sadness. “I did not anticipate… Perhaps it can wait?”
I glance between him and Kaitlyn, who looks back at me with a puzzled expression, the potted fire-plant in her hands. I focus on the thoughts to find the one with the thick accent.
“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but should anything happen, Kaitlyn is your priority. Agreed?” I project to Gwen. She stands somewhere behind me. She seems startled in her thoughts, but she agrees.
That settled, I move on. I close my eyes and raise my arms. “Focus your power unto me now. I will channel it through to Markus.”
The room falls silent, if only for the sound of our breaths. I feel the power of Fire first; I imagine she’s had a lot of practice with focus. Earth follows soon after, then Water, and finally Wind. The elements swirl within me, raw chaos held inside a ribcage. I wrap the energy in a cocoon of my own, each strand of silk carefully woven to cannel chaos to my will. It’s not nearly as easy as it sounds, and it really doesn’t sound that easy.
I lose track of time. It needs to be just right. The moment it’s ready, the cocoon lifts from my chest. I gasp. It takes me by surprise. A tightly wound ball of multi-coloured energy floats over the sarcophagus to the center, before it descends. The floor rumbles, the walls tremble. The stone cracks, first down the middle, and then it spreads.
I’m forced to look away as a blinding light fills the room. I hear large rocks tumble across the stone floor. The light dims, but it remains above the rubble, a shapeless figure. The sound of something shattering draws my attention. The sight takes my breath away, and I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.
The fire plant lays in a mound of dirt and broken ceramic. Kaitlyn stares into the light, but her eyes are not her own. They glow with the same light. A long red crystal pendant materializes around her neck before my eyes, out of nowhere. It lifts toward the light, and she follows, stepping over the plant. I’m frozen, unable to speak, unable to move. I don’t know what’s happening. He didn’t warn me about this.
“Yes.” Her voice sounds distant, even though she’s only feet from me. The light flares even more brightly for a split second, before it’s sucked in on itself.
When my eyes adjust, I see Markus standing before me, next to the rubble that was once his tomb. He’s covered in fine clothes and so much jewelry it’s obnoxious. He looks like he was buried as a king, not a Guardian. His blue eyes are downcast to the girl that falls against him. He is quick to scoop her up in his arms.
“I am so sorry, my child.” He whispers, the pain evident in his voice. I swallow the panic in my voice. She’s not dead. I feel her spirit, though it’s weak.
“What…” I croak, finally able to find my voice. I clear my throat. “What the hell was that?” I demand.
“The Awakening,” Markus answers vaguely.
“Kaitlyn!” Andrei’s voice peels across the room as he dashes through the circle towards her.
“Awakening?” Caroline asks confused. “Of what?”
Markus raises an eyebrow at her. “Myself, obviously. Were you not aware of what lay inside this prison?”
“To be honest I thought you’d be dead,” she eyes him up and down.
“Kat, why isn’t she answering? What did you do to her?” Andrei growls at Markus.
Markus heaves a sigh. “The awakening ritual required a minor… sacrifice of sorts. Being that she is my last living descendant, she is the only one that could perform this. Do not fret; she and the child will be fine.”
Gwen quickly moves up, placing her hand on Kaitlyn’s forehead. “Don’t worry, he’s right. They are both fine.”
“I understand your apprehension. Let us leave this dreary place. I will return her to her bed to rest,” Markus moves to step around Andrei. “You are all in need of rest. I am truly grateful for your assistance.”
“I can take her,” Andrei says curtly, moving into his direct path, cutting him off.
Markus stares down at him, expression unreadable. His mind moves incredibly fast, even for me. “Very well,” he finally relents, leaning forward so Andrei can take the sleeping girl.
As Andrei steps back with Kaitlyn, I take his place. Markus looks down at me with a smile. His beard is itchy against my palm as they connect. Markus stares at the wall to the left, eyes wide. Everyone seems to hold their breath.
“Selene…” his voice rumbles in his throat. It sounds weird, without the ghostly echo.
“That was a long time coming,” I scoff. “You deserve about ten more, just for today.”
“Uh, Selene… Isn’t this guy like… the Guild founder? Should you really be so… hostile?” Nik pipes up.
“Absolutely,” I retort.
“Yabai!” Hitomi whispers, her hands covering her mouth.
“You test my patience, Selene,” Markus warns.
“I’ll do more than test it,” I mutter as I spin on my heel. “Andrei, Gwen, let’s see to her. We’re done here. Disperse,” I wave to the others. To my surprise, they seem to obey. Markus frowns. He wonders why they obey me, and not him. I smirk to myself.
Andrei lays Kaitlyn on her bed and gently brushes the hair from her face. His mind races and he curses at Markus. I don’t necessarily disagree.
“May I?” I ask, gesturing to her. Andrei nods and takes a step back. I sit on the edge of the bed, placing my palm on her chest at the base of her neck.
I reach my energy into her, searching for the cause of her collapse. Her soul flickers, weakened but still whole. The spirit of the baby, while not fully formed, seems unharmed. She’s still breathing, heart still beating. Her mind is silent, without dreams. So she’s not just asleep, but unconscious.
I frown. It seems like nothing is wrong until I realize what’s missing. The warmth is gone. The hunger, the rage, the raw power… reduced to mere embers. What was once a roar, is only a whimper. He took nearly all of the magical energy she had within, which is an incredible amount. Far more than any of us are capable of holding. If my energy reservoir is a lake, hers would be the ocean.
Why didn’t he warn me of the cost? How irresponsible… I should have hit him harder. The bastard.
“I don’t like that look,” Andrei cringes. “What is it?”
I glance up at him and compose myself. “She is merely drained, not dissimilar to what happened in the warehouse, when her energy was sapped then,” I explain. My own reserves are low after the ritual, “I can give some of my energy now, but I don’t have much left. I can do more tomorrow. She will recover slowly, but as you can imagine, it takes time to fill an ocean.”
“Can I help?” Andrei asks. “I know I’m still recovering but since I had the draught yesterday my power is coming back quickly.”
I shake my head. “It would be unwise to take from you today. What about you, Gwen? Will you spare some of your energy for her?”
“Of course I will,” Gwen steps up. “What do you need me to do?”
I reach out to her. “Give me your hand and relax. I will need to transfer your energy to her.”
She places her hand in mine. The contrast of her dark skin against mine is strangely beautiful. I admire it for a moment before I focus on drawing out her magic. Placing my other hand on Kaitlyn, the energy passes through me and directly to her with a visible glow. Being a recently awakened Guardian, Gwen has ample energy to give. In a few moments, Kaitlyn begins to stir, and her eyes flutter open. It’s barely a quarter of her potential, but it’s enough to sustain her. I’m hesitant to take any more from Gwen.
“That should be enough for now,” I say as I break contact. “Welcome back, Kaitlyn.”
Her orange eyes wander the ceiling until they find me. “What happened?”
“Oh, Kat!” Andrei drops to his knees beside the bed, gripping her hand in both of his. “You passed out after the ritual for some reason. How do you feel?”
Her nose scrunches up. “My head hurts a little… Is everyone else okay?” she asks. Andrei visibly relaxes.
“Yea. Everyone is fine,” he smiles.
“What do you remember?” I ask, curious.
Kaitlyn’s brow furrows. “Um… Channeling energy, and then there was a bright light,” she pauses. “I heard a voice… He asked if I would lend him my power because he couldn’t cross over without it. I said yes because we’d gone that far already…”
“I see,” I hum. So that’s what happened. Damn it, Markus.
Andrei frowns. “And what if that had been the Master? Did you recognize him at all before you complied? Kat, that’s really dangerous. You shouldn’t give up your power lightly, especially in your condition, when you’re caring for two.”
“I know that,” Kat glares at him, clearly offended. “I know the Master’s voice by now. I’m not that stupid.”
Andrei huffs, leaning back from the bed. His hands slide away from hers. “You still didn’t know who it was…” he whispers.
“I knew,” Kat argues. “I’ve heard him before too.”
“Just… Be more careful next time! You went unconscious there, Kat. What if… What if it killed you?” he shouts.
“Markus would not have put her life at risk,” I interrupt. “She is too important.”
Andrei turns to me, fury in his eye. “You don’t call draining her of all her magic a risk? And what about us? He might not harm her, but the rest of us are just pawns to be used? I admit I don’t know enough about him to say whether or not I trust him, but I still think he seems a tad selfish. Who’s to say the rest of us won’t be safe in his little century-old scheme?”
“You misunderstand,” I hold up my hand, hoping he’ll calm. “Markus was very concerned with the safety of everyone involved. He was not willing to sacrifice or risk any lives for his sake. It took a large amount of energy, but there was no risk.”
“If it was going to take so much energy, why didn’t any of us know about this? Why wasn’t he honest? We could have found a way to connect the rest of us to that circle so that Kat wouldn’t have to be the sole donor. I’m tired of all these spells and rituals, without knowing all the facts first. We’ve done too many of them, and we never know how they’re going to turn out. It’s too risky now, especially for Kat.”
“I agree,” I nod. “Apparently it was only someone of his bloodline who could donate. I was not aware of this beforehand, and I’m not sure he was either. I intend to find out.”
“In my opinion, that’s being tricky, and I don’t trust someone who’s tricky like that, not to tell us all the facts beforehand,” Andrei glares hard.
“I agree. Unfortunately, I cannot read the mind of a ghost. There are limitations to even my abilities. There is a chance he did not know. Remember, this was a curse placed upon him.”
Andrei crosses his arms, accepting this information but still not being happy about it. “Sure, whatever, but I say we watch ourselves around him. I still don’t trust him.”
Kat rolls off the other side of the bed, walking around the foot and heading for the door without a word. I sense the anger boiling under the surface, though her fire is still too weak to act on it.
“Kat, stop!” Andrei stumbles to his feet, reaching a hand out and grabbing her by the arm. She stops but doesn’t look back at him, her hand on the doorknob.
“Please, don’t go,” he pleads.
“Why shouldn’t I?” her voice trembles. Her thoughts are torn. While she’s hurt and angry at his accusations, he is the only person she wants to run to for comfort. I hold still, wondering if I should slip past and give them privacy.
“I only am concerned for your safety,” Andrei says. “You have to know this.”
“What makes you think I don’t know that?” she asks, her voice strained.
“The way you’d go and give all your power to complete and utter stranger!” his tone rises.
The door opens and her arm rips out of his grip. I rub my temples. The emotions and the thoughts are giving me a headache…
Andrei runs a hand through his hair as he bears his teeth. “Damn it.” He takes a step towards the door but it never lands. Instead, he vanishes. Now, that’s new.
By Krystyna Yates