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Chapter 7: Meeting the Guardians
With the gem and the little gates taken care of, I thought we were safe from their influence. I was wrong.
Before we left Earth, Randi and I asked Noa to marry us. We’d been together for centuries of Earth time and couldn’t bear the idea of separating.
We left, wanting to avoid seeing my siblings, we decided to see what Albion was all about. We arrived and were amazed by the rolling green hills, crystal lakes, and absolutely sublime nature. It was a realm of green and growing things.
“Hello, can I help you?” asked a man that looked strikingly like a younger Merlin. Instead of looking ancient, he looked like he was in his sixties. His hair was streaked in white and his skin was a healthy brown instead of grey.
“Merlin? How are you here?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t often meet people in the proper temporal order. Nice to see you again, Lord Robin. I’m better known here as Emris. I’m the Guardian of Reality.”
I stared, blinking awkwardly until Randi elbowed me and said, “I’m Lady Randi of Fay and this is my husband, Lord Robin.”
“Oh.” He bowed. It felt strange for the wizard to bow to me. I’d been a god, a first born, and a lord, but Merlin was the stuff of legend.
I tried to find some words, but was distracted by a woman walking quickly towards us. She was young, maybe fourteen, and still had a slight roundness to her face. Her skin was golden and her hair was pure black. Her eyes glowed with anger and seemed to shift from dark brown to red when she saw me.
“What the hell is that gate doing in my Aether?” the woman demanded.
“I thought the Aether would dispose of it,” I replied, caught off guard.
“It won’t. That thing is made of pure order. It’s not from our universe and it’s slowly creating a pocket reality around itself. Get it out!”
“Lord Robin and Lady Randi, this is Iman. She is the Guardian of Aether.” Merlin introduced us, suppressing a smile.
“Why would the force of magic and chaos need a guardian?” I asked, confused.
Putting her hand on her hip and scowling Iman replied, “For exactly this sort of situation.”
“She has you there,” Randi said with a chuckle.
Iman added, “Also for your information, Aether and Chaos are not the same thing and have two separate Guardians.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but then shrugged. “Any suggestions as to where to put it to avoid it opening and releasing a massive army to destroy all the realms?”
“I don’t care, just get it out of my Aether.” Iman looked somehow even more annoyed.
Merlin nodded and with a wide smile said, “I have the perfect place. Embed it under rock in the Canadian Shield. Wait, you won’t have any idea about that for a while. I’ll show you.” He opened a portal that sounded odd, like some great beast wheezing, and Merlin and I stepped through.
The land we arrived at was harsher than Avalon, but no less verdant or beautiful. The trees were large and there was a slight chill in the air. I felt under me and could tell there was a natural cavern completely cut off from the surface about two kilometres down. The gate would be safe there. I pulled it from the Aether and put it in place. Without the Aether, the nascent realm collapsed into itself.
“Why here?” I asked Merlin.
“It’s pure rock and pretty isolated. Those that live here respect nature and have no need to delve that deep. It’ll stay hidden for more than a thousand years.”
“That’s oddly specific,” I said, not really surprised. Merlin only nodded and I started to ask the question that had been bothering me. “I thought Guardians were beings of great power…”
“And you want to know how a human became the guardian of Aether?”
“It seemed like a rude question.”
Merlin shrugged a little as if he didn’t believe in rude questions and replied, “What better being than a human? They are chaos and they wield Aether without ever knowing it. Humans are by far the most diverse and terrifying creatures in the realms.”
“But without powers…” I trailed off, understanding dawning on me. “All humans can affect the Aether?” He nodded. “And she has complete mastery of it?”
“Not quite, but close. She’s young, but can already wield pure Aether, something I’ve never seen anyone but the Guardian of Aether do. Also, unlike all other life in the universe, the Aether likes her.”
The idea that the stuff of chaos and magic could have personal preferences for certain people or any form of sentience was enough to scare me.
“How many Guardians are in Avalon?” I asked as we walked through the return portal.
Merlin had a look of mischief in his eyes that I tried my best to memorize. It was both charming and ominous at the same time. “All seven are here for the first time since the creation of the universe. That one was an accident. This will be the final meeting of the original seven Guardians. Would you like to join us?”
His words made sense, but left me feeling like I was missing information or context.
Randi and Iman were chatting as we arrived and I took my wife’s hand as we walked towards a modest castle.
Outside the castle gates were thousands of tents, an entire city of them. Walking between them were men and women in robes or armour. It was an army.
“Why is there an army at the gates of your castle?”
“Don’t worry. Camelot isn’t under siege. We’re preparing for war. Your nephew has a taste for conquest and he’s coming for Albion.”
Read Chapter 8 (August 2022)
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