I clutch my head as I feel a sudden pain behind my eyes. I drop to my knees with the intensity of it, squeezing them shut. What’s brought this on? I wait a while for the pain to subside, hoping it’s just from lack of sleep and nothing more serious.
A few minutes pass when I hear footsteps behind me and I feel a heavy hand come down on my shoulder. I shake my head, pinching the bridge of my nose as I blink my eyes, trying to appear like nothing’s wrong.
“Hey,” Ceph’s voice breaks the silence. “Are you Ok?” he asks me sternly.
I stand up, turning to face him and dropping my hand. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”
“It’s doesn’t seem fine,” he points out the obvious. He’s pretty good at reading people. “Let’s have a seat and talk about it,” he gestures to the couches. I shrug and do as he says, taking a seat. He sits down on the chair across from me, leaning on his knees as he looks me square in the eyes. I fidget nervously under his gaze. “What was that back there?” he asks.
“I…” I start but I realise I don’t know the answer to that. “I don’t know. I just… I got so – irked by everything,” I think as I try to speak. “Like, Nik, he’s always bugging her, and Kat, she like… she can’t tell me things unless I push her to. What is all that about?” I say.
He nods and stays silent for a moment, which gives me time to think over how I’m feeling. “I don’t think that’s it though. There’s something else, isn’t there,” he says, rather than asks.
“What do you mean?” I reply, furrowing my brows.
“Well, you were all fine and dandy before that, and it just seemed all of a sudden. Do you have something else bothering you, of late?” he asks.
I narrow my eyes suspiciously, curious if he somehow has telepathic powers like Selene. “No, nothing,” I lie.
He purses his lips with a nod. “Alright, well, you need to understand something. Kaitlyn, like me, has a history of abuse, and it’s hard to break old habits like that.” I listen intently, surprised at the hint of a glimpse into Ceph’s past. “You getting angry and throwing your hands around like that, it stirs up old emotions and memories, and that frightens her. We can’t just make those things go away,” he points out to me. I feel a dead weight in my chest as he explains it to me… making it obvious what my mistake was.
“I… scared her?” I ask him, my voice catching in my chest, coming out more like a squeak.
“Yes, you did. You can tell from her body language. She shouldn’t need to tell you for you to know that, and I get it, in the moment, maybe you can’t understand how she’s feeling, but if you’re going to stick together, you both have to learn to communicate. Talk to her, ask her, and then try to keep that in mind when you feel like exploding again,” he explains.
I feel like Ceph could be my father, talking from experience. I don’t imagine I could ever have this conversation with my father. Our relationship, it just isn’t the same. I listen, looking down at my hands shamefully.
“If you can’t tell me what’s bothering you, at least tell her. She has a right to know,” Ceph adds.
“It’s my memory,” I cut in quickly. Ceph grows quiet, waiting for me to elaborate. “What’s bothering me is my memories. They don’t match my journals,” I divulge.
“Perhaps you wrote them down wrong or-“
“No, I write them right away, I keep meticulous notes of all my jumps. They are never wrong. But this time, my memory doesn’t match what I’ve written and half of what I’ve written is missing. I don’t understand and that’s what’s bothering me,” I tell him truthfully.
“And this made you get angry?” he clarifies.
“Well… no. I’m getting headaches when I think about it too much,” I reveal.
Ceph rubs his chin in thought. “I’m not sure how the two are correlated. Unless… “ he pauses looking to the side.
Perhaps you’d have to ask the Time Teacher. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a time mage forgetting, even if they didn’t keep journals. Usually, their memories are impeccable. Some sort of trick of the magic,” he smirks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ceph smirk. “I do know that using too much magic can cause physical strain, even as a Guardian. If you overuse your magic, you could cause yourself serious harm. Have you been using your magic more often than necessary?” he inquires.
I lift the corner of my mouth. “Yeah, maybe. I recently learned how to space skip, and I use that a lot,” I admit.
“That could be it. You should be more selective of when you use it.”
“That reminds me, the Time Master told me to ask you about jumping forward. She said it was difficult to explain and not many time mages could successfully do it, but that I should ask you,” I clasp my hands together.
He looks up, surprised at my change of topic. “Well, yes. It’s a more difficult magic related to time, to visit the determined future from the past. If you’re not careful, you don’t know where you might end up. At least in the past, we have an advantage of knowing how some things happened and where not to go. The future, it’s a little more complex,” Ceph tells me.
“But how do you do it? I don’t really want to go now, but… I wouldn’t mind hearing about how to do it and what it’s like from someone who’s done it.”
He nods understandingly. “Alright. You know of the space with the ribbons?” I nod. “Well, that’s a place where Time records are kept, which is how we visit them. You select a ribbon from the records and that’s how you get there. Well, to go forward, you can’t use the records. They only hold the past.”
“Then how do I go forward?” I ask again.
“I’m getting to that. You still have to go into the records, but you have to turn time around to go forwards.”
“Turn time around?” I ask, confused. “How?”
“Would you let me finish? You keep cutting me off,” Ceph frowns, almost sounding annoyed.
“Sorry,” I collapsed in on myself. I can be impatient.
“In the records, you have to turn time around, like you would an hourglass. All the records hang from above, so if you moved yourself to the ceiling, you would turn time around. Then you can select a ribbon and jump to the future.
“These ribbons, however, look different. They aren’t as easy to distinguish. You have to sort of imagine where you want to go, or the ribbon could take you anywhere. If you imagine where you want to go, then it will anchor onto a place as similar as possible and that’s how you and jump to the future.
“Returning is fairly simple. It’s like jumping to the past. Just make sure to turn time around again or else you’ll just keep going forward,” he smiles as he recalls a time that must have happened to him.
“I get it, I think. It sounds simple enough,” I say happily. “Thanks.”
“Any time,” he winks, smiling. I find myself folding over in laughter at his well-placed pun.
“Nice one. Kaede would love it,” I grin.
“Actually, I used that with him earlier this week. He said I should use it with you. I see he was right,” Ceph leans back, lifting his feet onto the table between us. “I hope you and Kaitlyn can work out your differences. Elias and I used to have similar tiffs in our youth. I became very tired when pushed to do something, or share a secret,” he pauses for a moment, glancing down the aisles of books. “Fire can be impatient and headstrong, flamboyant too. I liked a slower pace, a steady pace. Sometimes we didn’t get along and this strained as we moved from town to town, discovering who we were as individuals, and as… a couple.”
I imagine Ceph has never spoken about this to anyone. Who else could he divulge this kind of secret to? I feel a sense of trust come between us as this realization sinks in. “Did you two ever… you know… drift apart or something to that extent?” I ask him.
He looks up, tilting his head as he thinks. “Yes, there was a time, fairly early on in our relationship, when I took off. I wouldn’t tell him about my magic. I’m still not sure why I felt it so necessary to keep it a secret, but I refused to tell him for many years. It began to cause me physical pains and because I wouldn’t tell Elias what was bothering me, he got angry with me. I hated the feeling of him being angry, so I ran.
“I had pent up too much time and had to release it. I had become easy to anger because of it and was prone to saying mean and hurtful things. After I made a jump, I became seriously ill and had to return. It was difficult. I was gone a long time actually and when I returned, I couldn’t find him anywhere.”
“Oh my God, that sounds terrible!” I lean back, surprised at how engrossed I am in his tale.
“Yes, it was pretty bad. I got very sick, and I thought I would die. I wasn’t a Guardian yet so I could have easily died from illness or old age. Anything could’ve taken me back then.”
“And what happened?” I ask, enthralled. “Did you find Elias? Did he find you? How’d you get better?”
Ceph chuckles with light amusement. “I can tell you really want to know. I don’t know if Elias cares about how much I reveal. He’s always pushing me to be more open. If you haven’t noticed, I like to keep my books closed,” he gives a small smile.
“Yes, I can tell, but what happened?” I press again. I really want to know now. The anticipation is killing me.
“Time likes slow and steady, fire likes fast and erratic. He actually waited for me… turns out I’d jumped back to the wrong time and place, thinking he’d left me. It was pretty bad, but I guess when a time mage has a fever, you can’t expect accuracy to be his greatest skill.”
“So, how’d you find him?” I persist.
“Find him? I didn’t. I slipped into a dream and a woman there told me I had a choice. I could either hold onto time forever, never to move again, or tell him I’d share time with him.”
“That doesn’t tell me how you guys reunited,” I frown, sighing with exasperation.
“I’ll get there. Patience, Andrei. I met the Master of Time for the first time. I wasn’t a Guardian, my body was dying, so was my spirit. I had to get stuff off my chest. So, in the dream, which now we know is the space between Time, called the Veil, the Master of Time led my spirit to him and I was able to reach out to him from the dream to tell him where I was. Of course, this would make no sense if you didn’t already know I had magic, and Time magic, so I imagine he was pretty surprised.”
“You imagine?” I question how he phrased that. Didn’t he speak to Elias? Wouldn’t he know?
“Yes, I imagine, because when I woke up, I had no memory of it. I remember meeting her, and I remember that I saw him in the dream and that we spoke, but I don’t remember what became of it. When I woke up, I was at the house of a much younger Elias who didn’t even know who I was. He’d used magic to heal me and I told him about my own magic. When I was up to it, I left to my original time and sought out my own Elias and finally told him about my magic.
“He said he knew, but that it meant much more to him if I told him in my own time. He remembered the exchange from when he was younger but had never told me about it. I felt slightly betrayed, even though it made sense for time continuity’s sake, and I realised how much better I felt after telling him.
“So, what do you need to do?” he asks me, a cheerful look on his face. I’ve never really seen him smiling before. It’s.. a pleasant look.
I exhale slowly, hanging my head. “I need to tell her what’s bothering me… or we won’t be able to work it out,” I say. Thinking about Ceph’s story has somehow moved me, though I still feel like it’s nothing. I know it’s stupid… I just… don’t want to tell her… because it’s dumb. I’m embarrassed about it.
I can’t believe my reaction hurt her, and that’s worse than whatever’s bothering me… isn’t it? Maybe if I apologize, she’ll forget about it and I won’t have to say anything… I hope.
“Good,” Ceph smiles, standing up. “Well, I imagine they’re done with the construction now. I think I’ll retire to my room, after looking for Elias,” he says, turning for the door.
“Ok, I’ll go see if Kaitlyn’s back,” I stand.
“Remember, try not you use too much magic. Use it when you need to, not just because you can,” Ceph reminds me.
I nod, feeling heat in my cheeks. I was about to space skip back to the room. I guess the walk would be good. It’ll give me time to think about things before I see her.
“Alright, I won’t,” I sigh.
“Good. Good night Andrei. It was… nice talking to you,” he waves, heading for the doors.
“Yea, it was,” I agree. It was.
By Kayla West