All current and previous chapters for Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession can also be found on Wattpad. And for an easy to access list of all chapters that have been posted to Born to Write, please visit the Table of Contents.
A new chapter is planned to be posted to Wattpad every Friday, and that chapter will then be posted on Born to Write on the Wednesday after.
Still, it was more books than she'd ever seen until now. Endless was relative.
The dedicants sitting at the desks didn't look up when they entered, nor did the Guardians, likely mentors, who were paging through texts on the other two levels. And she thought the robe was suffocating. The quiet in here was even more so. She was used to two rambunctious younger brothers--never a moment of silence with them around.
She followed Damian into one of the private rooms. It contained a wooden rectangular table, two chairs, one on each of the longer sides, and two gas lamps attached to the walls, opposite each other. No window. Yuck.
"It'll be easier for you to start out in here, so as not to have any distractions."
No distractions, but she felt like a wild horse shoved into a pen.
"I'll be back in a moment with your first text." He closed the door behind him, making the effect of being caged stronger.
Sid wondered what was first on the list for her studies. Something boring, probably. Languages were boring, so it could be exactly what she'd been seeking for the last six years. Somehow she didn't think she'd get that lucky.
Damian returned and dropped a black-covered tome on the table with the same symbol on the cover that was over the entrance to the House of Portals. "Every precept is in that book."
She lifted it--nope, it was not lighter than it looked. "There are this many precepts?"
"Well, there's some room in the back for any future rules. We do need to adapt to the times."
Sid didn't think the Guardians knew the meaning of the word adapt.
"You'll memorize every precept in that book. It will likely take you a good amount of time."
"Memorize?" She felt an eye twitch coming on. This book was thicker than the one she had found, thicker than she had ever come across before. And he expected her to memorize it? Guardians and their wretched rules.
Damian wasn't fazed by her incredulity. He didn't miss a step. "It's a bit daunting, but to become a good Guardian, you need to know the precepts inside and out. They are important, above all else."
Not to her. "When do I get to start learning the script? The one that's on all the gates and the front door."
He raised an eyebrow. How did he do that so precisely, so perfectly? "Not until after you memorize the precepts. I'll quiz you on them every morning and every evening. When I feel you've mastered them, we'll move on to the portal language, but not before then."
"That's going to take months." Unless it was the image and etchings of the gate on her land, Sid didn't have the best memory. This was going to be miserable.
"Probably. Would you prefer being alone to study, or would you rather have me in here?"
Alone with her own mind driving her crazy, or with a person who had as much personality as a piece of paper? She never minded clutter in her room back home. And perhaps she could study him a bit while she read these stupid precepts. "I'd like you to stay."
"All right." No indication that he cared for her decision either way. It probably upset him, though--he seemed used to spending time alone. "Just let me grab a book, and I'll be back."
Sid pulled up a chair and cracked open the tome. Not only would reading and memorizing this be pure torture, but the Guardians could use some lessons in picking comfortable furniture. Months of this, and she'd have a whole lot of cricks in her muscles and bones. Not to mention her impatience would spill over and she'd drown in it.
There had to be a way to speed things along, to convince Damian to allow her to learn the script sooner.
Damian peeked over the text he was reading to look at Obsidian. She quickly shifted her eyes back to the page--he had felt her gaze upon him even before he looked up. If she kept studying him more than the text in front of her, he'd have to leave her alone in this room. No distractions, and he was clearly a distraction.
But he didn't want to leave. He wanted to turn her pages and find out what was written in them, not the book in his hands that he'd read several times already.
It bothered him that he couldn't take his mind off of her. And that he divulged his habits of walking in the courtyard at night. He shouldn't have mentioned his studies of the patterns shifting--not even the Council knew he'd done that, as far as he knew. It broke no precept, but it could be another precept waiting to be added to the back of the book.
Damian had stopped himself just in time from confessing to experiencing the portals shifting frequently. Not every night, but at least once per week, he'd try to wake those two hours before dawn, sneak down to the courtyard, and witness the magic before his eyes.
It was a thrill. It reinvigorated him. Almost like the time he had touched a gate as a child, but it didn't linger. When the shift happened, the magic coursed through him, touching every part of his body, filling him with joy. It pulled his breath from his lungs, and when it was done, the first time he inhaled after, felt like he had been reborn.
He knew it was a risk, to be out in the courtyard for a shift. A young dedicant had lost her life once, according to his parents. The gates had shifted, and she stood in a spot where one of them moved to--she had been split in two.
It was actually that story that had tempted him out there, drawn him to study the movements. He'd noted down all of the shifts, all of the patterns, paced through each one in the dark for months.
Damian knew the mazes better than any other Guardian, he was sure. No gate would cut him in half.
"Do I have something on my face?" Obsidian's voice punctuated his reminiscing.
Part of him still wandered among the portals in his mind. "Hm?"
"You're staring at me."
"My apologies, Obsidian." He returned his attention to the book in his hands, raising it up to block the view of his face. He hadn't intended to stare.
"It's Sid." She got up and came around the table, pulling his book down. "Please call me Sid."
Damian closed his book. Determined girl--such an odd nickname. "As I mentioned before, it sounds like a boy's name."
She placed her fists on her hips. He'd seen this very stance from his mother many times when he had stepped out of line as a child. And a Guardian's child didn't have any leeway to steer off course. "I don't care what you think of it. It's what I prefer."
Perhaps they could make a compromise. "What about if I called you Sidi? It suits you better."
Obsidian shook her head so forcefully her hair tumbled out of its bindings. "Only my mother calls me Sidi. No one else."
Stubborn. He was witnessing the girl he had met on the doorstep of the House of Portals yesterday. A girl with more spirit than her slim form should be able to contain.
"Sidi is a pretty name. Why can't anyone else call you that?"
Her eyes narrowed to slits. "I already told you."
She missed her mother. It had to be hard to accept it, to end all ties with her family. He still saw his parents now and then, when they weren't off guarding other gates throughout Nect. Being born here made it so he didn't have to leave them behind. They'd never been the most affectionate, but they still watched out for him, and he knew they loved him even if they didn't say it.
"How would you feel about me calling you Dami?" She leaned forward.
"Oh, please no." Memories from his childhood came unbidden. Even Guardian children were cruel when the adults weren't looking, and Dami-Wami was a popular taunt he had to face. That's what he got for being a complete loner, mostly at his parents' insistence--his studies were more important than nurturing friendships.
"Dami, Dami, Dami," she said in a sing-song voice.
He stood, the book tumbling from his hands. "Stop!"
She took a step back, and dropped her arms to her sides. Shock danced on her face, then she gathered herself and offered a sly smile. "I'll stop on one condition."
Damian felt like he'd just walked into a trap. She was a dedicant, and he the mentor--she shouldn't be the one pulling the strings. "What?"
"Allow me to start studying the portal language." She glanced at her book on the table. "In between memorizing the precepts, of course. I understand their importance, but I'm more likely to remember them if I have something else to break up the monotony."
He crossed his arms. "The precepts are the first thing you're supposed to study."
"Is that a precept itself?"
"No." By the worlds, she was cornering him, he knew it in every fiber of his being.
"Then why do I need to learn them first?"
Damian took a step toward her. "Because I said so." He'd never heard such anger in his own voice before. This girl was derailing everything about him.
She giggled. She had the nerve to giggle. "You sound like my father."
Damian pitied her father for having to raise such a willful daughter.
"Precepts first then, as you say." She paused, for effect. "Dami."
He bent over and picked up the text on the floor, trying to stop himself from doing something detrimental. He'd never hit anyone before, but he didn't want to devolve into shouting or sputtering. Once he straightened, he met her gaze with just as much stubbornness as her own. "I'll think about it. Just stop calling me that wretched name."
Obsidian sighed. "All right."
Thankfully a maybe was enough for her. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself. "It's time for lunch. You may leave your book here, as we'll return after we eat." He placed his book, a little worse for wear, on the table. "After you, Sid."
She opened the door, turned to him, and beamed. "Thank you."
Anything so Damian wouldn't have to hear that stupid name ever again. Even though, he still thought Sidi was a pretty name and suited her far better.