27.1: From the Woods

All of the Guardians residing in the Castle clumped together by the front door. Whoever had been relieved of guard duty for the day made sure to crank the door wide open, so that we could welcome the rest of our comrades with open arms. Solana continued to latch onto my wrist, like a mother clinging to her child so that she wouldn’t lose her. Her grasp was quite firm around my arm, as if she feared that I would get lost in the crowd.

Not even the congregation of children beside us were suffocated the way I was. They stood eagerly a few feet away from the rest of the Guardians, closely knit with a few adults guiding them. Children could rarely be seen prowling the Castle, mainly because their classrooms and cafeteria are on the upper floor, and were almost always in class or with their families. At least, that was what Solana told me when I asked weeks ago.

I frowned at the horde of toddlers beside me, “How can the Order separate these kids from their parents?”

“Usually they don’t,” Keith replied. “If a Guardian has a child under the age of ten, they usually never leave the Castle. The conflict in New Perfi was much greater than any other we’ve had for a long time. The sheer amount of Guardians the Master had to send over there was unlike any other. The Master wouldn’t have separated them unless it was truly necessary.”

Solana ignored our conversation. Her eyes focused solely on the forest boundary. She waited impatiently for the Guardians to appear from the border. Her grip strangled my wrist, and only kept tightening as the minutes waned away. Eventually, her parents would appear from behind those trees.

Solana was lucky. She didn’t have to scour the world for her family. I didn’t complain about it though. Her and I had gone through a lot in the past day, and I promised myself that I would stop sulking about my missing parents. There were people around me that had it much worse than I did, like Celeste.

Celeste. She was the only Guardian that was not gathered here. I worried about what she could have been doing. I was sure that Solana had a similar feeling, but her urge to see her parents trumped those concerns. I decided not to bring it up, fearing that I would have pushed her over the edge of her emotions.

A few minutes later, and not a single figure appeared from beyond the woodlands. The cluster of children began to whine and scream for their parents, and anxious conversations fluttered through the mob. Solana still stood there, crushing my wrist with her hand, staring out into the distance. Keith crossed his arms and observed everyone carefully. The two of them were getting tired of waiting.

The forest was absolutely silent. I at least expected a squirrel or chipmunk to appear from the foliage, but the place was devoid of any wildlife. Surely the cacophony of human voices spooked them. I couldn’t blame them; the Order could probably be heard from very far away with how much noise we were making.

I chose to succumb to my boredom and stare off into the distance with Solana. I stood there and watched the steadfast grove with weary eyes. Exhaustion began to catch up to me after waking up so early. I yawned loudly to counter the tiring thoughts, but I could still feel myself being lulled to sleep.

Then, a figure appeared from between the trees. Then another, and another.  They continued to emerge from the woods, one by one, encroaching the Castle. There had to be hundreds of them, maybe even more. My eyes lit up in awe as all of my fatigue flushed from my system.

I was seeing the Order of the Guardians in its wholesome glory.

The End

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