A/N: Hi everyone, am here again with a new chapter. Yippee! By the way, I made a header banner in my homepage a week ago. The output was a bit rushed but I hope you like it. Still, am open for ideas on how you want the characters to look like.
This is a rough draft. I hadn’t had time to edit it since am currently doing a few more projects on the side. Here is the next chapter:
A Swirl of Feathers
The strangely dressed man levelled his gaze at Louis for a full minute. Fred returned to his seat and sensed the stranger’s attention had shifted. He felt the man’s eyes bore holes on his back and, strangely, his raging headache receded to a tolerable pain level. When he looked up, the dark-haired visitor’s face was unreadable. Fred wondered if he was imagining things. Did the man heal him? The foreigner’s gaze left him, appearing to have lost interest.
“We lost the guardian of the Mysts a decade ago,” the man said. “She had left a successor in a…unorthodox manner,” he glanced at Louis, “though it is not clear whether she intended for him to take her place. But the fact remains that she had given him a key which the guardians use to command the sentinels under their care.
“The key had been modified to fulfil a certain purpose she had in mind. Its original function can only be made dormant as long as the restrictions set in place were met. The key was activated today and the new guardian accepted his duties.”
“I-am-not-a-guardian,” Louis said, pausing after every word. The scowl and the averted gaze made Fred suspect that he was not as confident as he wished to appear. Louis caught him staring and deliberately made eye contact with the man in the feathered coat. “I can’t be a guardian when my sister is alive.”
The man looked bemused, the silence between them was heavy with promise; this discussion was far from over and would be brought up at a later time. “Most of you know that a number of the tunnels function as portals to different parts of your world. These are guarded by a native of each country. The guardians are selected through a series of tests: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual strengths.
“The post in Libya was given to one named Zafeera. Despite the cruelties she had to face at a tender age, her heart remained pure. That and her altruism and courage in the face of adversity are some of the virtues that make a true guardian.
“Only immediate family members are notified when their child is chosen. Hers was a special case. Her father did not garner the trust of the Council that chooses the guardians; but her mother and siblings and the man called Shadow knew. The repercussions of exposing Zafeera’s identity was what kept those who were aware silent.”
“Why couldn’t father be trusted?” Mohy asked.
“The Council did not say.” Fred, however, had an inkling why their father was kept in the dark. Hadn’t he been almost forced to assassinate the President-General when his ability was discovered?
“I mean no offence,” Tony said, “but why go into detail? What’s the point of letting us know about her history?”
Louis looked heavenwards and said, “It means you can’t just talk to anyone about the guardians.”
“I understand that part, thank you,” Tony’s voice was laced with sarcasm. “I want to know why we should know about the Council’s distrust—” Fred and Louis glared at him, so he clamped his mouth shut. Tony blew a breath and changed tact: “If Zafeera’s a guardian, why didn’t she call for help?” This was all new to him. Half of what he heard was hard to believe, yet the rest of them were taking it seriously. Heck, he thought the tunnels were eerie and used to dare his friends into entering one, but this was beyond him.
“She was already unconscious when we were brought to the tunnel,” Mohy defended.
“Which is why it was fortunate that the new guardian is a Seer, though an untrained one,” the man said.
“I’m not a guardian, my sister is,” Louis persisted.
“The sentinels answered your call.”
Louis’ expression became stormy that Fred intervened, saying, “How many guardians are assigned in this country, Mr.…?”
“Messenger, no honorifics. Why—” The man’s eyes narrowed a fraction then cleared in understanding. “There is always only one for each. One guardian and one successor,” he added as an afterthought.
The Messenger’s pause hinted that there were more guardians, not just in the tunnels. The founding families of the Mysts could be one of them, Fred thought. The man’s reluctance to share this information set off questions to churn in his head: How wide was this network? Who or to whom did they answer to? What exactly was in the Mysts that need protection?
Fred glanced at Tony who absently rubbed his chin in deep thought. The chauffeur knew a great deal about the Mysts since he lived his whole life in it. Still, the guardians’ existence was a well-guarded secret. It was probable that they themselves weren’t aware of each other’s real identities, except for the founding families – if his theory was correct. In addition, Tony’s befuddled expression when the tunnels were mentioned implied that he was more out of the loop than Fred. The doctor reached the conclusion that Tony’s familiarity with the Mysts’ secrets was limited to common history books, lore and superstition.
“I am not going back,” Louis broke Fred’s reverie. “There has to be another way.”
“Your father is the best chance we have. He has the reputation and the resources,” the Messenger reasoned.
“I thought you were going to help.”
“I am. I advise you to set aside your differences for the sake of your people, Guardian.”
“It’s not that simple.” Louis clenched and unclenched his hands.
“You are the one who is making this difficult,” the Messenger chided. “Your father is willing to meet you halfway if you would do the same.”
Realization dawned on Louis. “You spoke to him.” The sullenness changed to anger. “When? Did he send you?”
“The Libyan despot has already set his sights on the tunnels He is deploying his soldiers to scour his lands for passages similar to the tunnel you sealed. It is only a matter of time before he finds another and uses it to obtain new territories. Your country is not the only one in danger.”
“He means to start a war? Our homeland is bankrupt,” Mohy said, frowning.
The Messenger pinned him in place with a knowing look. “Never underestimate a madman with an insatiable lust for power.” He turned the intensity of his gaze at Louis. “What say you, Guardian?”
“Can’t we just seal all the tunnels?” Louis stated the most obvious solution to the problem.
“No. There is a reason they were built.” The Messenger shook his head. “Do not ask. It is not part of my directive to disclose information about the matter.”
Louis’ scowl deepened; the wheels on his head turning. Fine, I’ll talk to him,” he conceded, sighing. “I still think my being a guardian is a mistake.”
The Messenger cocked a brow but didn’t say a word. His gaze shifted to Zafeera. A mixture of displeasure, respect and pity warred in his expression. A step forward brought him a hand span away from touching her. The corners of his mouth pulled downward, a small crease formed between his eyebrows.
Zafeera stirred, her eyelids fluttered then closed. Fred watched color return to her cheeks. He saw her chest rise and fall with more ease than she had done earlier. The even breathing indicated she had drifted to a comfortable sleep. Meanwhile, the Messenger’s face had cleared as he stepped back.
What did he do? Was she completely healed with just a look from him? Fred stared at the man.
“She will wake in due time,” the Messenger spoke. “When that moment comes, I shall offer her a choice.” He pulled a rolled up paper from underneath his coat. “For now, I shall give the doctor his.”
Fred accepted it. The smooth and thin material under his fingertips made him wonder at how the man managed not to crumple it.
“The message is for your eyes only. I shall return when you are ready to give your answer.” The Messenger positioned himself by the doorway, his coat shedding feathers – whirling in an imaginary wind which continued to strengthen. The feathers concealed him and converged. The mini tornado dwindled; man and feathers disappeared without a trace. The four remaining individuals wore varying expressions: shock, curiosity, acceptance, and frustration.
Tony pulled himself out of his stupor, shaking his head. “Come on,” he motioned to Mohy. “You and your sister can have my room for the night.” He gave Louis a pointed look and led the Libyans to his bedroom.
“Where are you going?” Fred asked when Louis’ foot crossed the threshold outside Tony’s flat.
“To see my father’s. He knows more about the guardians,” Louis admitted grudgingly with his back facing Fred.
“Will he help?”
He chuckled humorlessly. “You have no idea—” Louis shook his head. “Oh, he will.” He shuffled his feet and rubbed the back of his nape. “Wanna come with? No, don’t answer that. You have to rest.”
Fred stood up.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m coming with you.”
“You can’t.” Louis blocked the doorway.
“I’m fine already.”
“You practically collapsed at my sister’s doorstep.” He re-entered the room and closed the door.
“You’ve always been a bad liar, Fred.” He folded his arms across his chest and smirked. “Just stay here and rest.”
“Why are you still here?” Tony asked, frowning.
“The doctor,” Louis stated sarcastically, “wants to leave.”
“You can’t leave…sir,” Tony said.
Fred walked past his chauffeur and strode into the room the latter had just left. Mohy sat at the edge of the bed, bewildered when the doctor held out his arm.
“Check my pulse and tell them I can go,” Fred demanded, tilting his head to the two men who followed at his heels.
Puzzled, Mohy obeyed. A minute later, he said to the pair: “He’s right,” he stole a glance at Fred, “as long as he paces himself. No strenuous activities and stressful situations.”
“That means you’re staying,” Tony said.
“It’s better if you stay. I’m going to an environment that’s not conducive to your condition,” Louis seconded.
“I’m just going to tag along,” Fred said.
“A lot can happen. Besides, Cheska will have my head if anything bad happens to you, sir.” Tony shrugged.
Fred’s brows shot up. “What’s with you two?”
“Cheska’s kinda scary,” Tony rubbed his arm.
“She can be,” Louis agreed.
Tony looked at him. “She’s been like that ever since, eh?
“Pretty much, I guess,” he frowned in uncertainty.
“Hmm,” a corner of Tony’s mouth quirked upward. Fred realized what was going on then. Louis had somehow convinced his chauffeur that Cheska is Electra. “Anyway, she’s on her way.”
“On the way here?” Fred asked.
She called and said you weren’t picking up your phone. Cheska’s worried. If I let you leave,” Tony brought his hand across his neck and slashed horizontally.
Louis clapped Fred’s shoulder. “I have to go. See you, mate,” he said to Tony, ignoring Mohy.
“Uh, yeah. Later,” Tony gave him a curt nod.
“Keep an eye on our doctor. He has a nasty habit of sneaking out when no one’s looking.” Fred opened his mouth to argue. “You do. You always snuck out when we were,” Louis hesitated, “in high school.”
Once they were in the living room and Louis had gone, Tony turned to Fred. “Snuck out, sir?” He raised a brow at the doctor.
“Drop the sir.” Fred rolled his eyes and slumped on the sofa. “You make it sound so forced.”
“I’m your chauffeur, sir.” A rap at the door took Tony away and came back with Cheska. “I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me,” he said to her.
Cheska sighed the moment his back was turned. Her hands planted on her hips, she fixed her molten gold eyes at Fred.
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.
A/N: Guardians and messengers. Whew! Either you hate or love this very cryptic Messenger. He’s actually another character from a different story I made ages ago, but you wouldn’t recognise him as the same person. Why? This one’s a master of aloofness if I’ve ever seen one. Possibly, not human too. Eh, I’ll leave it to your imagination.
And now, Cheska/Electra is back in the scene. Is Fred in trouble or not? Tune in for the next chapter.;)
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