Tim stood next to Lisle, staring up at the enormous Guardian reclining on the cave ledge before him. He was so taken with her that he hardly noticed the little woman occupying the space at the Guardian’s side. The Guardian was much larger than Fal, and colored more like the small Guardian, Ell. She looked at him steadily, out of huge, round pupiled golden eyes. He assumed she was female; her coloring was so much like the only other female Guardian he had known. He was relieved to see that she looked calm. Her long, scaled tail was still, delicate tip curved about age-yellowed foreclaws.
She gave off the impression of immense age. He didn’t know how he knew that she was old. Maybe it was her great size, or perhaps it was just the look of deep wisdom in her eyes. She lay propped up on her forearms and haunches, her graceful neck curved upward. He was glad to see that the crest on the top of her head was relaxed, crimson ridges laid back against her skull. She exhibited none of the thrashing, irritable movements that he associated with an angry Guardian.
He wrenched his eyes away to look at the gray-haired woman who sat leaning easily against the Guardian’s forearm. She too looked relaxed. He saw no anger in her face. Despite that, cold sweat dripped down the back of his ruddy brown tunic and he straightened up, readying himself for whatever might come next. He released Lisle’s hand and took a sideways step away from her. Whatever was to befall him, it was none of her doing. He hoped that by separating himself it might protect her from the wrath which must be his due.
The woman stood up and tugged at the edges of her over-blouse, and smoothed the front down with her hands. She looked up at him, piercing blue eyes riveting. She was considerably shorter than he was, about Lisle’s height, but carried an air of authority that made Tim want to bow his head to her. He resisted the urge, he needed to keep his eyes focused on what was about to happen.
“Gran Br…Bryl a…and B…Bryllint,” said Lisle, gesturing at the Guardian and the woman with her hand.
Tim glanced in Lisle’s direction, blinking acknowledgment, then turned back and bent his head politely to Gran Bryll and to Bryllint.
Tim watched Bryllint’s eyes as she studied him for several moments. Another trickle of sweat ran down between his shoulder blades distracting him, and he fidgeted, adjusting his shoulders back to relieve the itching sensation it caused.
“Tim, Contracted of Fal, you have shown yourself to be both faithful and loving in the care of your Guardian. For this the Guardians commend you.” She hesitated, and Tim braced himself for what would surely follow.
“For your previous actions, it is understood that you chose to serve your Guardian, despite the imbalance of the demands placed upon you.” Bryllint stepped toward him, and placed a hand on either side of his shoulders, leaned forward and kissed him upon the forehead.
Tim was stunned. Eyes wide, he just stood there. He felt his mouth hanging open and clenched his jaws tightly. He had expected rebuke, rejection, even punishment, not this.
He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He looked away from Bryllint to see the huge Guardian gazing at him, golden eyes boring through him. She saw him completely. He knew there was no hiding from her, and oddly, he felt no need to. He saw only understanding in her eyes, even acceptance.
How was that possible?
Bryllint stepped back and dropped her hands to her sides, inclining her head to him. Then she returned to her seat beside Gran Bryl.
Lisle nudged him with her elbow. “T…T…Tell them.”
Nerves strung tight, he was startled by the sudden elbow in his ribs and jumped, then blurted out, “He’s awake. My Guardian, Fal. He’s back.”
Gran Bryl gazed down at him, then arched her neck and head to the side looking at Bryllint.
Bryllint tilted her chin up, head canted sideways toward Gran Bryl, as if listening to something Tim could not hear. Then she spoke. “Thank you. Gran Bryl is aware of this. Can you bring him here?”
Tim felt his eyebrows lift upward, eyes wide, he shook his head rapidly in the negative and took an inadvertent step backward. “No, no, he won’t come. He’d never enter Guardian Cavern.”
“You must try to bring him here. You and Fal must undergo the Ritual of the One.”
Tim was appalled at the pleading tone in Bryllint’s voice. He’d never be able to get Fal to come to Guardian Cavern. He’d never been able to get Fal to do anything that wasn’t his own idea.
“We must be ready for the Day of Rising. The Balance must be restored. Gaea needs you. We all need you,” continued Bryllint.
Tim had no idea what she was talking about. What Balance? Why did Gaea need them? What was this Ritual of the One? This Day of Rising? How was he supposed to get Fal to go anywhere? Just when he thought that everything was going to be alright, it had all come crashing down. Feelings of hopelessness flooded up within him.
Tim dropped his eyes to the floor, his shoulders sagging. “I won’t be able to do it.” He stood, waiting for something, anything that might make this better. Then he heard Bryllint sigh out a reply,
“You must try.”
Clearly this was beyond his understanding. What he did understand was that he would fail, but he also realized there was nothing else for it but that he try. He nodded his head glumly, turned and shuffled his way out of the cavern. He didn’t dare look at Lisle for fear he might break down.
Once through the entrance to the cavern and out of sight around a curve of the tunnel, he broke into a run. Outside he scrambled down the mountainside, heedless of the dangerous footing, tripping and sliding over the loose scree covering the ground. He wanted only to be with Fal, back in the safety of their cave. What he would do when he got there, and how he would convince Fal to go to Guardian Cavern, he had no idea.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27
Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34
Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40 Chapter 41
Chapter 42 Chapter 43 Chapter 44 Chapter 45 Chapter 46 Chapter 47 Chapter 48
Chapter 49 Chapter 50 Chapter 51 Chapter 52
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