Chapter I: Questionable Assignment

The world of man is in chaos, as it has been for some time now.  Mankind has been consumed with greed and violence; these fatal flaws have taken their toll on their world.  For years, the Guardians attempted to take great strides in helping alleviate some of the greed and violence that surrounded them.  However, the last five hundred years has become increasingly complicated.  With each new assignment we get, the task of saving our charge has become more difficult.  The world is not what it used to be.

The Teriosec Empire sits above the world of man, floating in the clouds.  The ever changing cities have always allowed for great diversity.  I suppose, it has always been one reason we do not bore easily.  Deep within the empire, is the Council chamber.  Only those under the direct command of the Council, ever enter such a room, let alone see the Council once a member takes office.

It had been many years since I was last summoned by the Council.  I had hoped that it would be many more before I would be forced to stand in front of them again.  I sat, waiting to be called, like I had many times before.  The waiting room of sorts had not changed since the first time I entered this room, if you could call it a room.

The waiting area was a very large, elongated room.  The arched ceiling was still decorated with its spectacular crystal lights.  The upper floor consisted of many smaller rooms that housed the offices of all government sects.  A decently sized fountain sat on the bottom floor indicating the center of the building.  At its top, nine statues stood in a circle facing outward, depicting the nine Council members.  The walls were lined with oddly shaped seating, but some of the most comfortable in the entire empire.  The black marble flooring gave a sense of fear somehow.  It was a feeling I could never seem to fully explain.

I sat in the seating closest to the large chamber doors.  The symbol of the Council was etched into them.  Directly across from me was where the Council ‘receptionist’ sat.  This time, it seemed to be a female.

“The Council will see you now.”  The woman stood ten feet back from the doors and ushered for me to follow her.  I pulled myself up and walked over towards her.  Once beside her, the doors opened to a dark room.

The Council chamber had always been a dark room, but there was never any apparent reason as to why.  A semicircle table with nine thrones behind it, stood centered with the double doors.  Upon each throne sat a Council member in their white robes.  Seating is always placed before them depending upon the size of their audience.  The amount of seating and its arrangements has always accounted for the change.  Each seat, both Council and audience, had a light that shined down upon it—just enough to see who was in the seat, but never enough to light the room.  I always assumed it was a method of intimidation.

“Supreme Chancellors of the Council, now entering Lady Vahliana Risovel, Guardian under the direct orders of your excellencies.”  The woman bowed and slowly backed out of the room.

Every time I had come to this place a new servant would announce me.  Though I had been in and out of this room over a thousand years, after the first two hundred, I stopped trying to keep track of how many servants came through or what their names were.

A walkway of light led me to where the Council wished for me to stand.  Like many times before, I obeyed without question and walked forward, stopping where a small circle of light stood.

“Good evening, Lady Vahliana.  Always a pleasure to see you,” the center male member spoke.  His tone, as always, was condescending.  I ignored it.  He lifted his hand, ushering for me to take a seat in the chair that had somehow appeared behind me.  I sat, as told.

“Last I saw, it was morning.”  I responded with my characteristic lack of forethought.  Though in truth, I had been waiting all day to come before them, I knew better than to let my mouth run away.

“You watch your tongue, woman,” the member on the far right lashed out.  All members wore robes with hoods that did not allow anyone to see their eyes.  I was normally thankful for the fact that I could not see whatever demeaning look was being shot at me.  I could still see his lips, however; they were pursed in anger at my statement.

“Forgive me, my lord.”  I bowed my head slightly in an apologetic manner.  “I had no place to input my humor.”  My apology was cold and I did not care for his forgiveness.  I had grown so used to their impatience; my apology was all just a natural response now.

“You would do well to think before you speak, Lady Vahliana.  I do not wish to once again lecture you on your tongue and place,” the center member stated in much less anger than the other.

“I will do better, my lord.”  I did not wish for the boring lecture.  I had heard it more than my share of times, and my current edgy mood would make it risky for me to sit through it yet again.  Clearly, it was not a speech that moved me to change, and never would be.

“I am sure you will,” the member on the far right said with sarcastic disbelief.  He knew me better than that.

“Please, inform me as to why I have been summoned,” I implored.  I was trying to change the subject as quickly as I could.  I knew why I was here, but I did not need the blatant disapproved mood to last any longer than it had to.  Though I could not see the glares of disappointment that I had yet to learn my place, I could feel them practically burning holes into my skin.

“Of course,” a member to the far left spoke.  The entire Council nodded.

The center member folded his hands and leaned forward.  “The time has come, once again, for the Council to call upon your services as a Guardian.”  I was not surprised by this.  I knew, when Darien became Guardian to the last new Navis, I was next in line.

“It is my honor to serve the Council in their time of need.”  The robotic nature in which I preformed, and said certain things when in the presence of the Council, never ceased to amaze me.  From an outside view, I looked like any loyal servant.  In my mind, I was going through the motions, hoping it would end soon and I could leave.

“The time of blessing has come, Lady Vahliana.  A new, unborn child has been blessed.”  The same lines were spoken as I had heard many times before.

The man stopped speaking and the Council began to whisper amongst themselves.  It was unheard of for them to do so.  I tried to listen carefully and hoped I would pick up something.  Their whispers sounded almost terrifying.  They dragged out and made my hairs stand on end.  I could feel myself squinting my eyes and leaning forward with my head tilted a bit.  I felt as if I was straining too hard, and then—I heard something!

“The Fortuna!”  It erupted out of my mouth faster than I could think about what I was saying, or even stop myself.  As low toned as the whispering was, I could hear it abruptly stop.  Every eye was on me, and most certainly in the worst of ways.

“Lady Vahliana,” I actually cringed at the punishing voice.  I dared not to look up and see who spoke to me, though I was almost certain it was the member who disapproved of me most.  I hung my head in shame.  “How dare you listen in on matters that are none of your concern.”

Speaking out of turn was one thing in the Council’s eyes.  Listening in on matters of State when clearly the information was being held from me—well that was another matter entirely.  I still could not wrap my mind at the fact I had so rudely spat out what I heard.  I tried to think quickly; I had to remedy the situation.

“Your Excellencies,” I started cautiously, “perhaps I was too bold in my intentions of pure innocence.”  I could feel their glaring stares soften just a bit.  “However, if you had not intended to speak of such matters to me, why bring them up in my presence?”  My question was firm but I knew I needed to walk on glass at this moment.  Part of me was hoping I had heard wrong, but if I had, I would surely face punishment for mentioning the Fortuna in the presence of the Council.

“Lady Vahliana!” the center member stood up, slamming his hands down in front of him.  “The discussion at hand was whether or not to concern you with a minor detail or two.  Your constant ability for irritating us never ceases to amaze me.  How long have we been at this child?”

“A few years.”  I could not help but add sarcasm in my voice.

“Yes, a few years,” he repeated with a sigh of disappointment.  “Lady Vahliana, you must realize how infuriating you are sometimes.”

I understood, but did not care.  My infuriating behavior seemed to work out for me in the past.  I saw no reason to change it.  I did know that I needed to be more careful though.

“I suppose your little eavesdropping has left us no choice.”  The center member glanced to his left and then to his right.  Both sides nodded and he then turned back towards me.  “The Fortuna have blessed your charge.”

My eyes practically fell out of my head at the utterance of this.  The Fortuna had not been spoken of or heard from since just before I became a Guardian.  And the Council…well, the Council prefers never to speak of the Fortuna.  I could feel my mouth wide open in astonishment; how could this be?

“E—excuse me?  Why?” I could not help but ask.  I was barely able to ask in light of the involvement of the Fortuna.

“I am afraid, we are not clear as to the reasoning behind their involvement.  We were of course lucky to discover their actions before we blessed a child with Sight.”

“Such an event of two blessed children, at once, would be catastrophic, yes?”  The question seemed to be obvious.  In the entire history of the Navis only one blessed child was born at a time.

“Technically speaking, yes.”

“I am sorry, your Excellency, but could you please explain what you mean?”  His answer had confused me.  Honestly, what could he possibly mean by ‘technically’?

“Well,” the member just to the left of the main speaker began, “more than one Navis has existed at the same time.  However, we have never had two born at the same time.  The obvious reasoning for that is if in fact the day comes when all Guardians properly protect their charge, then at any one time all Guardians should be protecting a charge.”

His statement almost sounded as if he was blaming us for the lack of protection given to our charges.  It was moments like these that always made me wonder if they knew how difficult it was to protect a Navis.

“The reason behind having so many Guardians employed at one time,” he started up again, “is in the hopes that one day dark daemons can be sealed away and your charges can live much longer lives.  Now your female charge i—“

Female?” I interrupted with obvious astonishment and curiosity.

I had never been given a female charge before.  In fact, this would make only the fifth female Navis during our entire existence on Earth.  To say that it was a rarity would be the understatement of my millennium in service of the Council.

“Yes, Lady Vahliana, a girl.  We were just as amazed as you seem to be now.  It seems they specifically targeted a female child.”  His tone was cold and harsh.

The Teriosec were not known for their toleration of women.  I spent my entire life trying to figure out the reason to their absurd demeaning antics; I had yet to discover the reasoning behind it.

“May I speak freely?” I decided to somewhat think before I acted this time.  My curiosity was building more and more inside of me.  I had to know why the Fortuna, after nearly a millennium, acted now.

“You have our permission.” The main speaker replied with a tilted nod.

It seemed as if the others could read his thoughts and express what they were thinking.  Like always, I did not question it.  I stood up and moved a few steps closer to the Council.  The light shining down on me seemed to follow so that I was still in its center.

“Correct me if I am wrong, my Lords, but I thought we were no longer allied with the Fortuna?”  I needed to know the answer to this question; I needed to know why now.  I had to know why this child; a female child.  I needed to know why the Council was willing to help protect a child blessed by a group of Teriosec they considered traitors.

“You are quite correct in your statement,” the member to the right of the center spoke.  “The Fortuna have long since left the Empire.  Why do you ask though?”  He tilted his head slightly, clearly intrigued by my curiosity.

“Well, I ask, my Lords, because…” I paused for a moment, “if the Fortuna do not agree with our way of life, why are we helping them?  I mean, I know it is my job as a Guardian to protect the Navis, and in no way am I questioning that duty.  But I thought...well, I thought that the Fortuna were considered enemies of the state.”  I felt my face scrunch up in anticipation of a potential lash out from the Council members.  They said I could speak freely, but that was not always as open an invitation as they made it sound.

“The only reason we are doing this, is because it is not right for a Navis to have to suffer without a Guardian.  We most assuredly do not agree with what the Fortuna have done, let alone even know why they have done it.  Our decision is final though; the child will be under your care!”  His voice was filled with anger, as if questioning my duty.  And while he spoke calmly, I could tell that his quivering voice held back all the anger he wanted to release.  I could not blame him.  If I were in his position, I would probably feel the same.

“Forgive me.”  I gave a slight robotic bow.  I was not sorry for my question.  Had I been trying to allow the child to suffer, I would have been much bolder in my statements and questions.  The Council saw my questions as a sign of disrespect.  Once again their permission to speak freely was quickly proven to mean as long as what is being spoken suits their liking.

“I believe we are done here then.”  The center member stood up and gave a hand gesture ushering me to the door.

“I will leave at once.  Thank you for my new assignment.”  I bowed in my robotic nature once more, my right fist to my chest.  I turned, the chair now gone, and began to exit the room.

“Oh, and Lady Vahliana?”  I was surprised to hear my name called after being dismissed.  I quickly turned back around to face the Council and waited for what they would say.

“Due to the Fortuna’s interaction, we’ve discovered the general location of your charge.  You’ll find her on the northern continent of America.”

“My lord?”  I was stunned.  Never had the location of a Navis been revealed or even narrowed down for a Guardian.

“As to her exact location, I am afraid we do not know.  We wish you the best of luck Lady Vahliana.  You are now dismissed.”

“Thank you my lords.”  I bowed once more and exited the room.  I heard the loud creaking of the doors as they shut behind me.  My mind was racing.

How could it be that the Fortuna got away with this?  Though I suppose they did not fully get away with it since I was now to be Guardian to their secret Navis.  How was it the Council narrowed down the location of my charge for me anyway?  How—how could this all be happening?

“Planning on standing there all day?”  My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a familiar voice.  I looked up and saw the other four Guardians standing before me.  I wondered how long they’d been there watching me in my thoughts.

“Perhaps she is not happy to see us, eh Darien?” a man named Loki spoke.

“Oh stop!” I said as I could feel myself blushing.  “You must forgive my ignoring you; I was lost in quite a bit of thought.”

“You, lost in thoughts?  You feel okay Vahli?” a rude Xandar jested.

“I see you have yet to learn any manners Xandar.”  My face was scrunched in irritation to their play.

“And we see that you have yet to lighten up and change a bit with the times.” Malachi spoke more seriously than jokingly.

“What is that supposed to mean?”  My hands were now on my hips.

“It means that you speak so properly.  Which wouldn’t be a problem like, you know, a thousand years ago.  Times have changed, Vahli.  Learn to lighten up a bit girlie,” Darien said so nonchalantly as he placed his arm behind my head and over my shoulder.

“First of all, do not call me girlie, or Vahli.  Second of all, I enjoy the sophistication I have compared to the four of you.  Third of all, why are the four of you here?”

It was clear that my curiosity level was being tested today.  Everything that had happened, including the guys being here when I left the Council chambers, had left me beyond my normal level of curiosity.

“What?  We can’t come visit our favorite lady?” Malachi spoke while squishing my cheeks together.  I raised my hands and lightly swatted his away from me.

“Perhaps any other day I would settle for such an answer, but considering how this one has gone so far, I think you may have an ulterior motive.”  Now I was the one being rude.

“Well if you really must know—“ Loki started.

“I must,” I interrupted quickly.  I made it known that today was not the day to lie to me or tease me as to their visitation.

“Look,” Loki came in close and lowered his voice, “there is talk going around the main city that the next Navis is a girl.”  My head tilted, wondering how such a rumor could have escaped the confines of the Council chambers already.

“And if such rumors are true?”  My eyes were squinted slightly.  Where did such rumors come from?  Obviously I knew they were true, but the Council would never allow such rumors to leech out into society—at least not this early.

“Well apparently, it’s a big deal because everyone is freaking out!” Xandar practically shouted.  Loki and Darion launched themselves at Xandar and placed their hands over his mouth.  It was evident that they wanted the conversation not to be heard.  After all, we technically should not have been discussing such a matter, let alone in front of the Council chambers.  I glanced around, making sure we had not be heard.

“Will you watch it?” Malachi snapped quickly.  I could tell there was something they were withholding from me.

“Why is the idea of a female charge making everyone talk?” I asked quietly.  “It is just a girl.  Just another Navis.  Just a charge.”  The guys sighed and made faces at my statements.  “Alright, what is it you are not telling me?  Spit it out!”  They looked at each other, signaling not to say anything.  I folded my arms and gave a look of irritation.  “Seriously?  Look, you tell me what you know, and I will tell you what you wish to know.”

Loki sighed and then nodded that it was okay to speak.

“The last time a female charge was born,” Darion began very seriously, “a war broke out.”  I closed my eyes for a second trying to remember the last time a female Navis had been born.

“Hold on, are you talking about the Fortuna war?”

“Yes,” Loki responded quicker than I thought he would.  “Twenty years before the war, the charge was born.  When the girl was fifteen, they say she started having these haunting dreams.  Apparently these dreams lead to a Fortuna realization.  Shortly after the girl’s twentieth birthday, the Fortuna accused the Council of foul play and a war broke out.  Obviously since the Records are sealed, the entire story isn’t exactly known.”

It was curious indeed that the Records to such a public event had been sealed away.  But that was the way of the Council.  They hid things from the Empire so as not to make them choose sides.  The rebellion, led by the Fortuna, called it controlling the Empire’s thoughts.

“So, if a female charge is born again, everyone is worried another war may break out?”  I could not seem to wrap my head around the point they were trying to make.

“That’s the rumor, yeah,” Xandar responded.  His use of slang never ceased to amaze me.  It was certainly one of the things that annoyed me most about him.

“Xandar, how do you get away with that sort of when summoned by the Council?” I raised my eyebrow.  It was a valid question for me to ask.

Though the speech and language of the Daemons had evolved as time had, we still maintained a sense of propriety.  The use of slang was prohibited and yet, Xandar used it in his every day talk.

“Well that’s a simple enough question to answer—I just don’t talk,” he laughed in response.  “You see, unlike you, I don’t feel the overwhelming need to say anything in front of them.  I do as I am told, simple as that.  And if I am spoken, I control how I say things.”  Once again Xandar caused my annoyance level to rise.  It never seemed to fail with him.

“What are you saying?  I do not follow orders?” I blurted out the question before I could stop myself.

“It’s not that Vahli,” Darien piped in.

“Then what is it?”  I felt attacked all of a sudden by the very few I considered friends.

“It’s just—you’ve heard what they say about you.  You argue with them.  You question them.  Keep doing that and soon enough, they’ll strip you of your powers.”

Perhaps Darien was right.  I knew I questioned and argued with the Council far more than I should.  I knew I could not accept my place that always seemed to be under high observation.  I wanted to do my job.  I wanted to not argue.  But I could not help who I was.  I could help what I did, I chose not to though.

“So tell us Vahliana,” Loki broke my wandering concentration, “What do you know?”  A small smirk lit my face.  It was rare for any of them to call me by my full name, least of all Loki.  I hovered in thought for a moment.  How much did I want to tell them?

“The new charge, is female.  Not only that,” I leaned in closer, making sure only they could hear me, “the Fortuna have blessed her.”  All four of them gasped in unison.  “Oh yes, and it only gets better.”  Looks of anticipation at what I would say next painted their faces.  I got more enjoyment out of it than I probably should have.  “I was given a basic location of where to look for my charge.”

They stood there, jaws dropped, eyes wide open.  They were just as stunned by the information as I was.

“If the Fortuna are seriously involved, this may not be a good thing.  We could be headed for another war--and this time, it may not end so nicely,” Malachi expressed.

War was never something the Daemons wanted to deal with.  However, we understood the truth that being connected to Man sometimes brought about the unfortunate circumstances which governed their world.  War, was one such circumstance.  The five of us remembered the Fortuna War.  Though it had generally faded a little from our minds, as time had, we still remembered it.

“I agree,” I finally added in.  Everyone else nodded as I said this.

“My lords,” the servant said from behind us, “The Council will see you now.”  We all stopped breathing when we heard her.  How long had she stood there?  Had she heard us?

“You did not tell me you had been summoned!” I said in a bitter tone.

“Sorry, we didn’t have time to tell ya.  We were discussing more important things if you hadn’t noticed,” Xandar stated in reply.  I wanted to agree with him, but part of me knew they could have told me when I first asked them.

“Speaking of more important matters, perhaps we can finish this later Vahli?  Maybe later just past moon rise?” Loki asked gently.

“Of course,” I responded.  “My place is open for such matters.”

“My lords?” the servant called to them again.

“I suppose we should go before getting into trouble,” Darien said looking over his shoulder.

I bowed, less robotic than normal.  The others bowed in return and walked off into the Council chambers.  The doors shut behind them, and I was left alone with my thoughts.  What had I been brought into?

The End

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