Guardians

The sun shone down brightly through a break in the heavy spring clouds. A pair of broken spectacles in the dirt helped bring the light to a pinpoint, lighting an ant on fire as it walked past the enhanced beam. The few trees scattered in the area gave little reprieve of the new found sunshine. The heat continued to grow as what little liquid was left was pulled from the ground into the air. A slight wind pushed a lone daffodil aside revealing an abandoned and boarded up structure in the distance.

A large boot stepped on the already broken spectacles, crushing the burning ant and cracking the glass. Sound seemed foreign as the broken glass reverberated. The boot belonged to an impressive man. The world seemed to bend around him. His sharp green eyes seemed to catch all movement. His stature was only dwarfed by his overwhelming physique. There was an air of experience that his bare chest demonstrated with scar after scar. A slash across the left side of his neck seemed to laugh at death. Nothing would ever want to be the focus of his attention.

His sights were set on the structure ahead.

As the man moved forward the earth seemed to reach out for his steps. A bubble of clarity surrounded the man bringing life to his immediate area. As he moved away from the daffodil it quivered and died.

He stopped and breathed in deeply, voiding the already barren area of life. He had an understanding of the world that few other men would ever have. He raised his arms to shoulder height, palms up. His eyes shone brightly as he breathed out. A wave of energy began to flow in front of him, stopping a few feet away and building up. A white mist began outlining the energy. The energy seemed to reach out towards the structure ahead as if it were aware of something and leading the man. Lowering his arms, the man began following as the energy moved forward.

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A small boy stirred in the arms of his mother. She felt colder since he woke up. He felt compelled to leave her side. It was obvious that he was weakened as he struggled to stand and walk.

His clothes were worn and ragged and his blond hair dark with dirt. His blue eyes surrounded by sunken sockets echoed the struggles of his movement. The wooden floor creaked as he moved out of his mother’s bedroom.

The boarded up windows meant the walk was done in darkness. Candles were a luxury that was abandoned long ago. The wasteland surrounding the child’s house was once rich farmland for his parents.

His father had been gone for almost two years. Since then the crops stopped growing. With no crops, the horses had no food. The choice to use their meat was a hard one that his mother waited as long as she could to make. With no game in the area and no horses to travel on it was only a matter of time. She only hoped that her husband would return before then.

As his mother lay lifeless the child stumbled towards their front door. He only recently learned the trick to the doors lock. As he fumbled with the lock he felt a surge of strength and heard a click as he turned the deadbolt.

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The man knew this would be his last stop. His body was blessed by the Ancients and it would never fail. His long life through the ages was too much, however, for his fragile mind to bear. As a child, his ancestors would tell him of the day that he would need to lay himself down. It would be a necessary precaution to prevent the devastation of his surroundings. That day had long come and gone.

His age is not tracked and thought of as irrelevant. His wisdom is shown by the earth’s reaction to his presence. If he’d only been able to harness that wisdom before his breaking. His focus dangles by a thread as he moves forward. The earth trembles as he pulls what little energy is left from her in this area. He begs her to assist him in the final leg of his journey. If only he had the courage to beg for assistance before his breaking.

His hands begin to shake. He looks down at them and realizes he is covered in blood. He looks up and finds himself in the center of a battle. He realizes he’s being hunted and his body begins to flow into defensive stances. As he moves from one position to the next, guarding the different possible attack points, he checks for the danger. Finding none that he would need to defend against, he lowers his defenses and channels his energy to begin his offensive. His voice begins without his permission, “No one hunts me. No one hunts my kind. We are the Guardians. You will fail.”

As his Caitan grows he begins to feel alive again. He remembers that his worth is understood and appreciated by his family. His wife’s beautiful dark hair would flow like a river in the wind of his homeland. They were devastated when they were unable to conceive. He remembers his father proudly giving him the burden of his staff as he took the last walk. His father was wise and brave and would be ashamed of the depth of his son’s Break.

As the memory of his Break emerges, he snaps back into the present time. In his lack of focus, he has built enough energy to destroy a small army. He will not be able to hold it much longer. Somehow he has reached the structure that was in the distance. There is a small child in front of him. He knows that face. It’s haunted him for several seasons. It’s very young and sickly but he can see the traits a father passes to a son. He killed this boy’s father. Tears begin to stream down the mans face. He’s elated that he reached the boy in time. He is thankful that the earth brought him here. As he falls to his knees, he realizes that he is about to kill this boy. He can not hold the energy and there is no place to release it. His last task, to save this boy, will have failed.

He closes his eyes and searches his mind for an outlet. Anything to help him succeed. Without a success he will continue to live. Without a success he will continue to devastate. He feels a slight touch on his hand. The boy has reached through the energy and grabbed the man’s hand. The man snaps open his eyes in time to see the energy begin to escape. The explosion will be powerful enough to destroy the structure in front of him. The trees will be ridden of their branches.

As the energy excites in a sphere around the man, it also seems to be creating a sphere around the boy. The explosion was abrupt and expected.

The man is relieved to be lucid. He looks down to see the boy crying. There is no sound, but the boy is surely crying. He is alive. He is standing and still holding the man’s hand. The boy looks up and asks the man an inaudible question. The man instinctively takes dried meat from the pouch around his waist and gives it to the boy. As the child ate, the man dug into his draw pack to find a suitable Guardian. The boy is too young to understand the quest so he will need to discover it on his own as he ages. When the aging stops he will be pulled into searching for answers.

“I am the last of my kind, boy. In my pride, I have killed the rest.” The mans face is stern as he speaks. The man points to his chest,
“These scars were made by the army of Guardians, my own kind, that attacked me. ” The sorrow is painted by the mist around them.
“You will grow and learn your own path. There will be nothing that can harm you as long as you wear your armor. Do not be prideful. Lay yourself to rest when the time is right.”

The man takes a deep breath and begins to focus his energy.

“I don’t have much time, child, so listen carefully. There is a secret to the earth. She knows you. You can speak to her like your father could.” The mans eyes begin to brighten.

“Because of this, I have chosen your blood line to be the next Guardians.” The man beams with pride as he speaks.

“Your abilities will be unique and different than mine. I will simply awaken them. Traditionally, you must pass the quest of understanding before you are allowed your awakening.” The child begins to speak but the man continues his actions. The man hands the boy a dark chunk of roots.

The man channels the focused energy into the roots being held by the boy. The roots seem to thirst as it soaks in the energy. As the glow of energy vanishes, the man instructs the boy to eat the roots.

Hesitantly, the boy does as he’s told. The boy looks around at the devastation that the man just caused. His house is gone and his favorite tree in the distance is knocked over. The boy doesn’t understand how he’s still alive or what just happened.

——————-

James awakens from his long night of sleep in a cold sweat. He seems to have that dream every now and again. He hates remembering the death of his mother in that way. He takes a moment to sit and speak with the earth. He focuses his energy and hardens his shirt around his body. He continues to focus and forces it to grow around his head and arms, down to his hands. The hardening is fully flexible and has not been damaged by anything that he’s tried. He’s been able to draw the focus of a crowd’s anger towards him and come out unscathed. He’s very thankful for that man’s gift.

He’s 23 years old today. It’s been 20 years since he’s been awakened. His ability to focus his energy is getting better and better every day. He’s been able to sense his surroundings in unusual ways recently. That sense has given him new ideas of what to do with his energy.

James still has the draw pack the man gave him before he wandered off. He has never looked inside but he doesn’t need to. He knows it contains the needed material to pass along what needs to be passed along. One day, he will need to ask the earth for help in finding someone she knows. One day, he will need awaken a suitable Guardian to eventually take his place.

Until that day, James has a different task…

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