This is starting to feel like a routine, training in the morning every day. It reminds me of simpler times. Even so, I feel a little off. We ended up watching a marathon of movies, well into the night. I couldn’t sleep much with all those scenes and stories running through my head. I watch Heath and Nik run through a few exercises we came up with to try and help him control the activation and cool down of his powers. In my hands I cradle a half-empty coffee, the liquid kept warm by my hands, instead of the other way around.
My attention shifts when I hear the door open. I open my mouth to scold Andrei again, but it’s not him. My jaw hangs slack at the figure that steps in, piercing blue eyes scan the room under thick orange eyebrows.
“So this is where you spend all your time?” he smiles at me through his rugged beard, stopping next to me.
“Uh, yea,” I mumble, forcing myself to look away. What’s he doing here?
The boys pause, looking up to the intruder curiously. “Hey, it’s the famous Markus! Come for another beat down?” Nik waves with a grin.
“I certainly hope not,” Markus chuckles back, glancing wearily down at me. I bite my tongue. “I was curious about what you kids are up to, and I don’t believe I’ve properly met this new young man. Ambrosse tells me you’re Kaitlyn’s first official student,” he flashes a bright smile at Heath. I narrow my gaze, watching him from the corner of my eyes. He sounds like he’s boasting or something… Weirdo…
Heath looks up at him, almost bored. “Who are you?”
I snort, and Markus scratches his head. “They didn’t tell you? Now that hurts…” Markus whines. Heath turns to me, brow raised.
“Why would we? You’re supposed to be dead,” I retort bitterly.
“Come on Kat, you can’t still be mad, can you?” a deeper voice emanates from Markus’ direction.
“Sure I can. You should know,” I spy the nose of a mouse poking out of Markus’ beard. I sigh and meet Heath’s gaze. “This is Markus Halsey; he built this place and established the Guild a few centuries ago,” I explain, trying not to sound too sarcastic.
“Oh, well…” Heath walks up, back straight, extending his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Markus grins as he shakes his hand. “Well, I think you’re the first of Kaitlyn’s friends to consider it as a pleasure.”
Heath rubs the back of his head. “We’re more like co-workers, I think. I’ve only been here maybe five days.”
Markus raises an eyebrow, turning his gaze to me. “I wasn’t aware that Guardianship was a job now.”
“It’s not.” I retort. “I hired him to do repairs on the Guild.”
“You did, did you?” both red eyebrows go up. “How is that?”
“I’ve inherited everything from all of my relatives since they’re all dead,” I smirk, “and since you’re technically dead, that includes the Guild, and all its assets.”
Nik whistles as Markus gawks at me. Slowly, the old man nods. “I see. I suppose I hadn’t accounted for that. How interesting,” he mumbles, rubbing his chin.
“I’m sorry, if this is a problem, I can leave. It’s not hard for me to find other work,” Heath interrupts awkwardly.
“It’s not a problem,” I snap, staring down Markus. Heath flinches. “He doesn’t get a say in the matter.”
“Why not? He looks alive to me,” Heath mumbles, confused.
“He’s been ‘dead’, for lack of a better term, for three hundred years. He doesn’t exist in the modern world. Everything he owned is in my name now,” I explain, gripping the mug a little tighter.
“So now you’re saying there’re ghosts here too,” Heath scoffs.
“Well, yes,” Markus shrugs, “but I’m not one of them anymore. She is correct, however. Being my only living descendant, everything would have transferred to her. I simply… underestimated her temper.”
“This is confusing,” Heath groans, holding his head in his hands.
Nik wanders over, leaning down to my level, studying my face. “Yeah, I’d leave soon if I were you. I think she’s gonna hit you again.”
“Shut up, Nik,” I growl.
“Definitely gonna hit one of us,” Nik muses, nodding.
“She has a tendency to do that, doesn’t she?” Heath mutters.
I roll my eyes. “Don’t you start too.”
“I didn’t mean anything by it. Just an observation!” Heath steps back, throwing his hands up in surrender. “I’ve seen you take Nik down, and that was surprising enough.”
“Oh, that was nothing, man.” Nik chuckles. “Should have seen her go at him!”
I grind my teeth. “I’m not gonna hit anyone. I wouldn’t waste my coffee on any of you.”
“Typical. You’re always so grumpy in the morning,” Rhoan’s voice chuckles. Heath looks around for the new voice, confused when he doesn’t see anyone.
“Why are you guys here again? Remind me?” I strain my voice to stay calm.
Markus rubs his beard. “Well, if you say you’ve brought this young lad aboard to help with repairs, then I don’t see a problem with that. I planned on doing so myself, but I recall he was quite useful the other day. If it’s alright with you, my sweet granddaughter, I could use the assistant,” he bats his blue eyes at me, his tone sickeningly sweet.
I tap my fingers on my mug. “Fine…”
Markus smiles, reaching to pat my head.
“Don’t push your luck,” I growl. He hesitates, nods then drops his arm.
“I hope you’ll learn to forgive me, one day,” he says wistfully, before looking to Heath. “I’ll wait outside until you’re done here. Alright?”
“Sure, I’ll be right out.” Heath nods. No one moves until the door swings shut behind Markus.
My left hand swings like a shot, slapping Nik upside the head. His face scrunches as he stands up, rubbing his head. “Called it…”
“You kind of provoked her, dude,” Heath points out.
“Yeah,” Nik smirks, “but she goes easy on me. I feel bad for Markus.”
“Do you ever stop talking?” I glare up at him.
“What’d he do to make you so angry at him anyway?” Heath asks with genuine curiosity.
I chew over the words. It’s hard to explain simply. “He’s the one who created me. I told you before, a while ago. He did… something. I don’t know the details, but he’s the reason my magic is more potent and out of control than anyone else’. He’s the reason I killed my family and he did it because he didn’t have the balls to kill his brother himself.”
“I think you’re paraphrasing,” Nik frowns. I narrow my eyes. He holds his hands up. “Or maybe not…”
“Well… Not everyone has the foresight to see the error in their ways. You can’t ask everyone to kill their own family, no matter how much they hate them… But I don’t see a problem with how you are now. Do you really hate being you?” Heath asks sorrowfully.
“More than you can imagine,” I reply without even thinking. I try to switch gears, glancing at the door.
“You’re not the only one to grow up without a family,” Heath reminds me. “That doesn’t make you a horrible person.”
I blink. “I didn’t say it stopped there. My family was the first to be hurt because of this power, not the last,” I glance at the door. “Anyway, you should go. I don’t want him coming back in here.”
“Fine,” he walks away, grabbing his shirt and leaving through the door without another word.
There’s a long emptiness after the door slams again. I don’t know what to say but I want to wait until they’re gone before I leave.
Nik stuffs his hands in his pockets. “Would you feel better if you hit me again?”
The comment takes me off guard, and I laugh. “No, but thanks anyway.”
Nik smiles. “Alright, then how about we go wake up that lazy boyfriend of yours? I’m sure he can cheer you up.”
I smirk up at him. “Are you trying to get him to hit you too?”
“Only since I met him,” he snickers, heading for the door. “Kinda surprised it’s taken this long,” I roll my eyes and follow.
One moment I’m walking next to Nik, and then the next I’m standing in an unfamiliar high-class office. A weird cold sensation washes over me, and a brief second of darkness in between before I arrive. The hairs on my arms stand on end. I know the sensation of magic, and I’m immediately on edge. There’s only one person I know of that could breach the Guild’s defenses. I scan the room – I’m alone.
That is, until a door to my left creaks open. I hold my breath as a man steps in, not quite six feet tall, wearing a fine grey suit. His hair is stark white, combed back, and he has a short white beard, neatly trimmed.
His blue eyes fall on me and he smiles. There’s a strange sense of familiarity in those eyes, and I don’t like it. “Welcome. I thought it time we met, officially.”
“Who are you?” I demand. I clutch the coffee mug, still in my hands. I wonder how much it would hurt if I smashed it against his face.
“You don’t recognize me?” the man raises his white brows, walking over to the desk ahead of me. He leans on the front, facing me as he crosses his arms. “We’ve met once before, in the other realm.”
I shake my head slowly. “No… The man I met there was disfigured, disgusting and cruel.”
The man frowns. “How strange. I suppose that explains your reactions to me.”
“So… That man was you?” I narrow my eyes.
“Yes and no,” he replies, his eyes trailing down. “Would you like another cup? Coffee, I presume?”
“I don’t want anything from you,” I growl.
He frowns. “You seem angry with me. Have I upset you?”
“Have you-” the cup shatters in my grasp, the remaining liquid spills to the floor with shards of porcelain. Several shards dig into my palms, but I don’t care. “You’ve been tormenting me every night for weeks, and you have the audacity to pretend like you’ve done nothing wrong?!”
The man raises an eyebrow, his gaze drifting to the fireplace on the wall opposite the door, which roars to life. “Kaitlyn, I have done no such thing. I realise you have no reason to trust me, but perhaps you’ll hear me out.”
“What I should do is burn this place to the ground,” I grind my teeth.
“Perhaps,” he tilts his head. “If you’re alright with also killing the thousands of innocent humans who also work in this building.” I hesitate, flexing my hands. He nods. “I thought not. I didn’t take you for the irrational homicidal maniac type.”
“You don’t know me,” I retort.
“No, but that’s why I’ve brought you here. I’d like to know you. I suspected my attempts to reach you in other ways was being… distorted, or subverted. Your statement confirms that suspicion.”
“You really think I’m going to believe that you weren’t the one giving me nightmares and tormenting me in my sleep?” I scoff.
He shrugs. “Think about it, Kaitlyn. What do I have to gain by making you hate me? Why would I push you to want to kill me? That doesn’t exactly sound like a good idea, particularly if I also want to win you over.”
“That’s never going to happen,” I spit. Arrogant bastard.
“Now now,” he sighs, looking at my now bloody hands. “There’s no need for violence. I can heal that for you if you’d like.”
“Come any closer and I’ll turn you to ash,” I narrow my eyes. He frowns. “If you didn’t cause the dreams, who the hell did?”
His blue eyes seem to glow, and he looks almost sad. I realise then, they’re exactly the same as Markus’s. “Who would gain the most by scaring you into despising me? You’re a smart girl, Kaitlyn. There’s one person we both know who’s spent a long time in the Veil. I’m sure he learned how to manipulate that place better than anyone.”
My jaw hangs open. There’s no way. I mean, sure, Markus is a dick, but would he do that? I guess I really don’t know anything about him. “Why should I believe you?”
“A fair question,” Mortecai nods thoughtfully. “Unlike my brother, I won’t force you to do anything. My door is open, and on the table next to you, you’ll find my card. Take some time, and really think about what we’ve talked about today. When you’re ready to hear my side, I’ll be waiting.”
I glance down at the card, carefully picking it up with my nails. It’s black on both sides, with only a phone number in silver letters on one side. “Why would I want to hear your side?”
“There’s more to the story than my brother’s told you. I’m not the monster he’s led you to believe. I hope you’ll come to see through his deception,” he watches me, perched on the edge of his desk. “After all, I took a risk just to speak to you face to face, where he cannot interfere. Doesn’t that earn me some credit?” his brow raises again.
I glance around the room. I wonder if there are others, waiting outside the door just in case. He’d be stupid not to have someone there. There must be some trick to this.
“Go ahead, check. I promise you, we’re alone here,” Mortecai interrupts my thoughts. I glare at him. “You can destroy me now if you want to. However, if you do that, you’ll never know the truth.”
I consider my situation. This is exactly the opportunity I had hoped for, and yet, I’m unsure. I wish I had Selene around so she could just read his mind. Or even have that ability myself. Instead, I’m stuck trying to figure him out by myself. What would Andrei say, if he was here? Would he hear him out, or just attack? I don’t know anymore.
Curiosity wins in the end, and I slowly approach the door, pulling it open a crack at first, then all the way. The room outside is just as fancy with a seating area and a secretary desk. On the far end is an elevator. There’s no one there. I around the office; the windows show it’s daytime, and there are what appear to be the tops of other buildings nearby. There’s no trace of anyone else around.
I rest my gaze on him, waiting patiently in the same spot. “Why would you do this? Why would you leave yourself vulnerable?”
“If I brought you here and surrounded you with defenders, I highly doubt I could have gotten a word in before you started attacking,” he muses with a smirk. “I don’t want to fight you, Kaitlyn. I want to help you.”
“Help me?” I mock.
“Yes,” he turns serious. “You don’t have to be the destructive tool that my brother created you to be. You’re more than that. You can lead the new generation of Guardians into a new age. An age where mages don’t need to hide. An age of peace.”
I stare at him in disbelief. Am I supposed to believe that? Before I can respond, I hear a beep, and my back pocket vibrates. I hesitate, still unsure if Mortecai has some backup plan. Will I be attacked if I answer it?
“Go ahead,” the older man smiles. “I’m sure your friends are worried. Please, apologize for my unannounced interruption.”
I pull out my phone slowly, moving my back against the wall before I look down to read it. It’s Kaede.
I bite my lip and slide the little card with the number into my back pocket. I wipe the blood off my thumbs onto my jeans before I type.
I lower the phone. Mortecai watches curiously. “They’re looking for me. If Kaede tracks my phone, Andrei will barge in here any minute,” I warn.
Mortecai chuckles. “Oh, I wouldn’t doubt it, but he won’t be able to track you down before you’re already home, safe and sound.”
“Is that so?” I hum.
“Yes. If you’re ready, I will send you back now,” his smile widens.
I study his face, but I can’t tell if he’s toying with me. “I’m ready.”
By Krystyna Yates