Silently, without question, I had followed orders for the Council, for many years. And yet, within hours, I questioned everything. It was an odd feeling. Sure, over the years I had been defiant, but I had never not followed orders.
As I left the Council Hall, I could not help but be filled with questions. I was in such disbelief; I did not know what to do. I walked through the ever changing market, a somewhat normal path on my way home. It was a much longer stretch of market than normal. Daemon stands lined the streets. Clothing, odd fruits and vegetables, labor supplies, and many other types of things were being sold.
Customers flooded my path, bags in arms and the occasional basket on the head. I looked around and remembered how much I loved it all. The Daemon world was so much different than that of Man. The calm atmosphere, the simplicity, and the propriety of it all filled me with such joy.
A gentle breeze picked up every now and then, indicating that a storm would surely happen within the next twelve hours. The air smelled crisp and clean as the breeze ran across my face. I wondered what part of the world the Eternal City was currently floating over.
As I had finally passed through the last bit of the market, I walked down a cobblestoned road that was much less populated. I slowed my pace a bit so as not to twist my ankle in heels. I had gotten so used to being a Guardian, I hated when I was within the city walls. Floating, flying, hovering—it was all forbidden within the Eternal City. I suppose that choice was made to level the playing field between those not privilege to such power. The quieter avenue suited my reserve better. I saw my front door and was elated that I would finally be home.
I opened the large wooden door and walked into my dimly lit flat. I hung my crimson cloak on an ornate set of hooks vertically placed on the wall behind the door. As I shut the door, the light breeze, now having turned into a slightly stronger wind, helped pull it shut. A small chill ran down my spine, and I realized how loud the silence was; it seemed almost deafening. I walked across the circular room past two plush, black couches. A set of frosted, glass doors hid behind sheer curtains. I pulled them open, the wind pushing its way in. I stood there and took a deep breath to soak in the pre-storm air.
I walked out onto a large balcony and stood in the center of the semi-circle structure for a moment and took another deep breath in. The smell of a storm filled my lungs. I looked over towards a dark, antique chaise lounge chair and slowly managed to walk over to it. I sat down, with my legs stretched out and pulled the end of my dress up to cover my legs fully. I slowly laid my head back and began to relax for the first time all day.
My head felt like it was spinning out of control. I had no idea what was going on or what anything meant. There was only one way to solve such trivial matters. Such an act was considered treason against the Council and the Empire. I needed to call a Shadow. But did I really need a Shadow so desperately that I would compromise myself as a Guardian?
I weighed the consequences and rewards from choosing such an action. The situation called for drastic measures, but was the option I weighed worth the risk? I began to think I was letting my curiosity get the best of me, and in doing so, compromising my position as a Guardian. Shadows were forbidden. Anyone caught using such a source had to face the ultimate punishment: eternal imprisonment. Though the thought did not seem too terrifying, it was more terrifying than anyone could care to admit.
The sound of stormy air began to truly pick up. I closed my eyes and listened to it whistle as it hit certain parts of the balcony. The air seemed to be warming, ever-so-slightly. I hoped that it would last for a long time. It almost seemed as if it had been ages since the last storm. A flash of light was seen, even with my eyes close. A sudden crack of thunder pierced the whistling into silence. I smiled and was content for the moment. I welcomed the relaxation from the day that had preceded it.
“You called, my lady?” a chilling, male voice spoke from behind me.
I jumped up and stumbled to not lose my balance from my heels. Another crack of thunder roared through the sky. I cringed at this. I turned to face that which sent chills down my spine. Dark, messy, unctuous hair adorned his head and face. His eyes were red and pierced into mine. A smirk painted his face, one that terrified me. My eyes locked with his, and it was then that I realized, it was he who feared me. Black robes hung on his frame; by their appearance alone, I could tell he would find out the information I needed, but I did not summon him. How had he come to be here?
My mind wandered with questions as to whom and what he was. Though I already knew the answer, I did not dare speak it aloud without verification. I could not help but think my mind was playing tricks on me. Had all that I learned in the last few hours sent my mind flying out of normality? I could not think clearly.
“Who are you? Why are you here?” I tried not to let my fear resonate through my voice. I clenched my jaw tight and stood as firmly as I could.
“My name is Peridis, my lady,” he responded with a respect I did not anticipate. I could feel my eyes widen a bit. His name was well known in the Shadow world. He was also one of the most wanted Shadow’s by the Council. “As to why I am here, you would have to tell me that.”
“You knew what I meant!” I raised my voice without realization of doing so. My eyes narrowed and my lips pursed a bit. There was no possible way that I had summoned him. I did not even know how to perform such a task. What had I done?
“As I said before, my lady, I am here because you have summoned me. Though I must admit, I am surprised that a Guardian has called upon me.” It was easy to tell that he chose his words wisely. It was not only a risk for me to associate with a Shadow, but just as dangerous, if not more, if I were to set him up. His eyes shifted occasionally as if preparing his escape route in case he needed one.
“I did no such thing as to summon a Shadow,” my response was strong but even in my mind I questioned if I had done what he said. I knew, deep down, I wanted such an action to occur.
“A Shadow’s senses are much higher than even that of a Guardian. We sense when we are called—when we are wanted. Though you may not have realized you called me, you did.”
I stood there for a moment, thinking of what to say next. Once again the consequences and rewards flooded my mind. I needed information; information I knew I could not obtain on my own. The risk, at this moment, seemed worth taking. Please do not let the others find out about this was all I could think to myself as I plunged into the depths of what I knew might lead to disaster.
“My name is Lady Vahliana,” I said with a bow. I did not take my eyes off of him as I did so. I was still wary in my choice to go through with this. The slightest slip up, and I knew it would be the end for me. “I require information pertaining to matters that I am not to ask questions of.”
“Lady Vahliana, it is not that I mind extending my services, but something of great import must have occurred for a Guardian to take such a risk in a Shadow. You are said to be the most loyal servants of the Council, I suppose I am still in some shock over this. It is fairly common knowledge that you have quite the temper where the Council is concerned, but you are also known for your law-abiding tendencies. Never, under normal circumstances, would you take such a risk to call upon a Shadow, let alone the likes of me.”
His assessment was accurate. My loyalty, no matter how irritated I became with the Council, laid with them. The circumstances for the request were so unique—I did not know where to turn. Desperation continued to call out to me and pull me onto this path.
“Do you wish your curiosity to cost you such an opportunity, Peridis?” anger and contempt laced my words. Perhaps I should not have been so curt, but I did not enjoy being questioned, especially by the likes of a Shadow. I knew I needed him and in such a case did not want to insult him. But I also knew that I had to show that I was firm in my decision. Though fear still stood strong within me, I used it to fuel my act of stern behavior.
“Forgive me, my lady. My curiosity seems to have gotten the better of me for a moment. What is it, specifically, that you request?” I could sense his submission to me as he said this. It was a good sign that I was making the proper appearance.
“I want you to find out everything you can about the connection between the Fortuna, and the Council.”
“My lady?” His tone was confused. He tilted his head to the side a bit so that his look matched his tone. I sat down once again, perfectly straight with my hands in my lap. I was trying my best to exercise my patience. For I knew the curiosity he felt was the same burning inside of me.
“I want to know every bit of information you can get about the ties between the Fortuna and the Council. I want to know why the Council would associate with the Fortuna after their exile. Something is going on! And as someone who is serving under their direct order, I want to know exactly what is being withheld from me. Have I made your task clear?”
It took all of my will-power to maintain some sense of civility with Peridis. The fact was that I needed him right now. He was not to blame for the frustration and confusion that filled me, but he was the one left to deal with it. I could feel the anger surging through me the more I spoke and thought about what I did not know.
“Y—yes, my lady.” His eyes lingered, betraying the presence of the question that had entered his mind.
“What is it?” My hands were now on my hips and my patience was growing dangerously thin. Taking longer than necessary in such a compromising situation was not in my best interests.
“The Fortuna and the Council have not worked together since the Civil War. Obviously you already know such information. Do you have any reason to believe that the two groups are attempting to reconcile?”
A long drawn out wave of thunder rolled through. I took a deep breath and allowed the storm to calm me some more. I wanted to tell Peridis of what I knew, but limiting his information was best for him at this moment. The less he knew, the easier it would perhaps be for him to find out proper information.
I walked a few steps towards him. My eyes never lost his glance. “That is what you are going to find out for me Peridis. I need to know everything and anything, even if the information seems trivial. You may have to go back in the Records as far as their original alliance. But I want to know anything that stands out at you.”
Peridis’ eyes widened. “The Records?” he hesitated a bit. “I will try my best, but you know such information is not allowed to be looked at.”
“Is it the way of a Shadow to make excuses before the task is even attempted?” I spoke with distaste for his questioning—though in truth, it was all an act. I knew it would get a rise out of him for me to in turn question his ability.
“No no, please!” he pleaded. “I will do as you ask, Lady Vahliana. Consider the task done.” He bowed to me, and I in return. A swirling black mist came up from the floor and with that, Peridis was gone. The mist took a moment for it to dissipate. It was odd that with the storm, it seemed as if the wind had no effect on the movement of it.
I trusted this task to a Shadow. Had I lost my mind? Why could I now not get the Fortuna off of my mind? For my entire existence, the Fortuna had never entered my mind. I cared not for their mistakes or their Civil War. And now, they were all I could think about. Had I never thought about them because they were not important? Was it part of the job…to not question the details, simply to do the task and not wonder how it came to be? Things were clearly different now. What exactly did I know about them? I ran through the little information that was common knowledge.
The Fortuna are a group of Teriosec who have a gift. They were born with a special bond shared between them and humans, thought to have been given to them by the Council. It was more than the simple reliance the rest of the Teriosec had on humans. Everyone knew without the humans, we ceased to have purpose, and without purpose, we ceased to be. Not to mention that without Man, the Daemons ceased to exist. But the Fortuna’s gift allowed them to bestow upon humans the ability to see the daemon world: Sight. The Fortuna had always been the only ones who could bestow this gift upon the humans because the Council had made it so. This was considered the most important of all Teriosec purposes, and the Council always showed their utmost appreciation for the role the Fortuna played in the grand scheme. The result of this connection was that the Fortuna used to be the most loyal of all the Teriosec, even more loyal than the Guardians.
The motives of the Teriosec have always been rooted in selflessness and selfishness, both at the same time. The relationship between them and the humans is like that of a parasite and its host – without humans, the Teriosec would die. The logic behind giving some select children Sight was to show a select few that the world was not what it seemed, that there was more out there than just what lay in front of everyone else. It would help those people connect with the rest of humanity differently, perhaps helping them relate to a world others could not see and show the rest of humanity that there is more out there worth living for, that it is not just about them anymore.
Then there was the problem of the dark daemon. The dark daemon was an unfortunate byproduct of Sight, an unfortunate byproduct that we never fully understood. As a Guardian, I was not allowed to question such things either. Having Sight made the Navis privy to the secrets of the real world around them, but to do so meant they had to prove their worth to the very same people who gave them their gift. The unfortunate result of the presence of this dark daemon was that the Navis hardly lived past about the age of twenty. By then, the evil of their daemons would have overtaken their own will to live, and the most dishonorable of deaths would follow – suicide. But the Council always said that their twenty years were spent in the service of both races, for the sake of achieving harmony in the world, and that those twenty years served a greater purpose than the longest living person’s life ever did.
Just before I came to serve the Council in the capacity of a Guardian, there was a Civil War. It was always clear to us who remained in power after the war, because none of the books talked about the Fortuna after the war. In fact, while their existence has always been acknowledged after the war, their acceptance in our society has not. They were shunned completely by us, for reasons we knew not. My position as a Guardian was bestowed upon me as the Fortuna were removed from our thoughts, minds, and daily life. In fact, now that I thought back on it, all five Guardian positions were filled after the war concluded. I had always thought that to be the way, but now something inside of me told me that was significant. Why would they have needed to replace all five Guardians at the same time, and so coincidentally timed with the Civil War?
My mind raced with more questions. I wanted to know why the Fortuna and the reason behind their war had been kept such a secret. My only hope now lay with a Shadow. I prayed that I was doing the right thing. Something inside of me still worried about such measures. I could not rely on anything else it seemed.
I stood on the balcony, torpid, once again alone, and I could not help but wonder if I had dreamt all that just occurred. Something about this charge was different, and I knew that before even meeting her. But was different a good thing? I was having the worst time deciding. I walked towards the edge of the balcony and gazed down up the stormy clouds below. It was a gorgeous sight.
Lightning spidered across the dark, gray clouds. Thunder quickly followed and rolled out slowly. Though the rain fell below the clouds, I could hear the drops beginning to fall. I imagined myself standing below, down on the surfaces of wherever we were floating over. I wanted to be standing there, soaking in the soft, cold rain. I once again took a deep breath in and then turned back towards the doors. It was time to go inside, though I would undoubtedly leave the doors open to hear and smell the storm.
The sun was beginning to set across the western sky. It was interesting that through the layers of clouds, I could still see the gorgeous colors of the sunset. The wind blew in through the open doors, whistling the softest whistle. I could sense something coming, but I could not quite figure out what is was. The power of premonition was one I wished the Guardians had—things would be so much simpler that way. As I moved inside, I could feel the air becoming unnaturally cool.
The sheer curtains seemed to fly from the ground towards the ceiling. I waved my hands towards them as I passed by, ropes pulled them to where they belonged and tied them out of the way of the wind. I glanced towards one of the couches. I was suddenly exhausted. I curled myself on the couch closest to me and let my heavy eyelids close.