I realised that my fleeing had brought me closer to the kitsch shop. As we approached the side street Meena and Willow hurtled around the corner. They skidded to a halt as they saw us, so we were all four stood beneath a pool of light from a streetlamp above us. Before they could open their mouths and let loose the torrent of questions I could tell they were about to ask, I quickly explained the presence of the Guardian - or was it ex-Guardian, now? - and told them about Amber. They looked shocked but to their credit recovered their composure quite quickly.

“Well, that backstabber,” Meena said promptly. “This Amber doesn’t work with the Eternals. I’ve never heard of her nor seen her around the Citadel. Whoever gave your mother that mirror posted her there for a purpose linked to it. Either her masters wanted her to have a quick escape, or they wanted access to the gallery which she could guard until the time came. Either way, something despicable is involved, and I think it has something to do with your mother.”

The vampire warrior nodded as if to say this was confirming his own thoughts.

“Do you think it’s Tenebrus?” I gasped, as the thought exploded into my mind.

“It’s an extremely high possibility,” Willow admitted. “This happening and one of his minions trying to attack you at the Downworld, it can’t be a coincidence. If it was, it would be way too big.”

“I agree,” the vampire said solemnly. I looked at him.

“What’s your name?”

“My name?” he replied automatically, sounding startled that someone had thought to ask him that. It was irritating me thinking of him as just ‘’the vampire’’. He had to have a name to put to his face.

He seemed almost dazed, and there was a far-away look in his violet eyes. How odd was his reaction to such a simple mundane question?

“My name,” he repeated thoughtfully. “I have not been given, nor have I chosen a title for myself. I was offered the position of Guardian straight after my transformation - I had been a marine in my human life and needed no training - and as I accepted I needed no other title. However I did have a name… before. When I was mortal, my name was… William. William Starling.”

He looked surprised at his remembering, as if all his memories of human life had been stored away for all of his mortal existence and he had forgotten them until now. Which, it seemed like he had.

“Okay, well, come on, William,” Meena said, as irrepressible as ever, stepping up and clapping him on his impossibly high to reach and solid shoulder. Lucky she was taller than us. But she did wince a little, as if his shoulder was actually a lot harder than it looked.

“Since you’re now our Guardian,” she continued cheerfully, cradling her hand in a failing-to-be-discreet way in the other, “do you have to wear your uniform? It’s kind of creeping me out.”

“You are quite right, I do not,” he said, smiling again. “I would prefer to keep my vest, as it may come in useful with any combatants we might encounter. This, however, is no longer necessary.”

He reached up with his long, strong fingers and plucked the velvet steel mask from his face. I had been inhaling at the time, and my breath caught as he tucked the mask away and we all stood, transfixed, staring at his face. He was absurdly handsome, more so than anyone deserved to be.

I had to snap myself out of it. I was definitely not the kind of brainless teenage girl who ogled any man or boy that passed with relatively good looks, but even I was speechless. He must be really handsome.

“My, my, William,” Meena declared, “you have been keeping secrets.”

Willow elbowed her and turned away, though I could tell she wanted to keep looking, because she sneaked another little peek out of her peripheral vision.

I couldn’t help but smile. I ducked my head so that my hair fell over my face. I smelt blood on its strands… I would have to wash that out at some point.

The End

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