Copyright © Isabelle Santiago, 2012

All Rights Reserved.

A Guardian is everything yet nothing, trained to understand humanity yet is apart from it, forced to feel emotions but not express them, living with the powers meant for gods in the flawed bodies of men.

Wind shrilled against the narrow cave opening cutting through the silent night. Najad’s eyes snapped open. Kieran lay sound asleep, his head on her lap. Soft puffs of air cooled the wet fabric of her hava, still drenched from his earlier tears. It was strange to think the garment once symbolized her wealth, marked her beauty. Now, it mirrored her life, tattered and insignificant.

They had run, faster and further than ever before, though they had no place to go. It no longer had to do with hiding his identity. The old man’s words haunted her. The Code had been established for a reason. Bitterness coiled through Najad’s blood like acid. More than once she’d heard those words. She never wanted to hear them again, words that implied that the child she’d carried in her womb, the child she’d nurtured and fed and sung to, was not hers.

They knew nothing of her tearful pleas to the heavens, of her endless nights crying toward the stars. The Beings had given her what she asked for. A gift in the form of a raven haired child. Would They really give her a child only to have him ripped from her arms?

She mindlessly caressed her son’s thick hair, as her mind replayed the horrors of that evening, and the defeated look in her little boy’s eyes when the darkness faded. She glanced down at him, hardly able to believe that the boy on her lap, all pale ivory skin and thick, black hair could be a monster. A force of ancient, infinite power encapsulated in the small body of a child.

Tears blurred her vision. She mourned the loss of her son’s innocence. Cursed her stupidity for not having seen sooner how thoroughly his demons consumed him.

Even in sleep, Kieran was not peaceful. His brows were creased in troubled thought, his eyes pressed tightly shut. Every few minutes he moaned, pained by whatever awful visions haunted his sleep. How had she missed it? How had she not seen that every day the burden imposed on him since birth took another piece of his soul? She couldn’t imagine a life like that.

Over the shriek of the wind she heard distant footsteps, the clatter of harness and weapons, marching closer. Najad gripped Kieran tight, awaiting the inevitable. They came for him. Just as she had known they would. She closed her eyes and prayed one final time for The Beings to show their mercy. She imagined her son’s future, pictured the Temple she’d visited yearly as a child. He would be happy there, safe amidst the large stone pillars and marble walls. He would be well fed, clothed, given luxuries she could never afford. Most importantly, he would find comfort among others like himself. He could hone his power; perhaps have some measure of a normal existence.

Armored soldiers appeared in the entryway, spears pointed in her direction. “Up,” they shouted, “away from the boy!” Kieran stirred in her arms. She kept her fingers in his hair, whispered promises in his ears. They didn’t need Kieran jolted out of sleep only to find himself under attack.

“We said, up!” Two stepped closer, their weapons held tight in their hands. They wore armor as though it would save them from his wrath.

“Quiet,” she hushed, “You must not wake him.”

“You pretend to command us, madam?” the center soldier asked, his eyes narrowed.

“It is not a command, but a request meant to spare us all.” She held up Kieran’s small wrists, banded by the mark of The Beings.

They gasped. One soldier eased back.

“As long as he sleeps, there is no danger.”

“You lie,” the soldier said, fear written on his tight features.

“If you are aggressive, he will wake.” Najad held up her hands palms forward. “I am unarmed. You are free to do with me as you please. Only handle him gently and with care. He must be taken to the Temple at once. The House of Eukleides will decide his fate.” She bent down, gave the boy she carried on her lap a final kiss on the forehead. “Goodbye, my love,” she whispered.

In a flash of motion, two soldiers lifted Kieran from the ground and carried him out of the cave. She watched until she couldn’t see him any longer. Tears fell like waterfalls on her face. She barely heard the soldier’s commands behind her. She moved, numb, in whatever direction he took her. None of it mattered now. Her fate was sealed.


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