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 Saturday after.
So when Councilwoman Liss posed the question to him, asked him exactly what he thought of her, her heart dropped out of her chest and splattered at her feet. She made sure not to show it, though--no, she wouldn't crumble now. Whatever he said, she'd fight until they dragged her out.
Sid had to learn how to open the gate.
The pause between question and answer stretched on. Too long. Then again seconds were too long for her. Answer the question.
"As you see here, she'll make a perfect Guardian," Damian said.
Sid needed to scoop up her heart from the ground so it could jump into her throat. Perhaps he wasn't as much of a jerk as she thought. But why wouldn't he tell them how she had acted? Could be that his stoic look was a mask of his own. He could be an ally to her in this. And she definitely needed an ally--she wouldn't be able to keep the facade up constantly without cracking. She already felt ready to crack, finally realizing how much more difficult it would be to stay here, in the nest of hornets, than it was to get here in the first place.
But she shouldn't jump to conclusions. Even if she needed someone to aid her, to believe what she believed, she couldn't assume anything. He could have other reasons for keeping her actions to himself. Heck, could be he was too self-absorbed to notice anything. That was probably it.
She'd watch him though, slip the mask off a bit around him, see how he reacted. No matter what the outcome, she had to accept that she might be alone in her endeavor indefinitely.
"Very well." Councilwoman Liss returned her attention to Sid. "You are willing to leave your past behind? Becoming a Guardian means cutting all ties to those you once knew, including your family. Do you accept this?"
Sid's mother had collapsed in a puddle of tears when she told her her desire to become a Guardian. She knew what it meant--losing her only daughter. Forever. But Sid didn't intend for it to be forever. It hurt that she couldn't tell that to her mom. She had cried that night, ashamed at making her mother feel that way. The next six years, her mother made sure to spend as much time with Sid as possible, so much at times that Sid felt smothered. But it was the least she could do, knowing the choice she had made wrenched the heart of the person closest to her.
"I do," Sid said. She forced herself to not have any shudder in her words--even behind the mask, she felt the tears threatening.
Liss nodded. "Please step back by Damian while we discuss."
She did so, hoping beyond hope that she had played her part well enough. If she didn't fool them, then she hadn't practiced enough, hadn't prepared for hiding her true self, for delivering the lies without a hint of doubt.
Sid glanced up at Damian, but he didn't meet her eyes, just watched the council members converse. Too much to hope for a small smile of reassurance even. If she couldn't succeed at anything else, she had to at least teach him to smile.
The minutes ticked by, standing in silence next to the young Guardian. It would be difficult indeed if most of her time would be spent this way. Silence was not her friend. Her father would always laugh and say that she enjoyed to hear herself speak. She'd never admit it to him, but she knew he was right.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, but were clearly only several minutes, the council members broke up their huddle. "Come forward, Obsidian." Liss straightened in her chair and placed a tiny stray hair behind her ear.
All of these Guardians were so proper, so concerned with perfection. The councilwoman's gray hair was pulled back in a severe bun on the top of her head. No other hair except the one she just put back in its place strayed. Straight-lipped as Damian, too. The other four council members, two men and two women, were just as composed.
Sid had to find someone here that knew how to smile and laugh or she'd wither inside.
She took her position in front of the council members.
"In truth, welcome to the House of Portals, Dedicant Obsidian," Liss said.
Sid felt a tension in her shoulders release, then checked herself to make sure the mask wouldn't drop as well. One more step closer.
"Guardian Damian will be your mentor and teacher while you're here. If you have any questions or worries, you'll address them to him alone. You're both free to go."
Sid inclined her head in a brief bow. She considered thanking them, but gushing would have showed too much of the excitement of her true self. Guess she'd have to wait to squeal into her pillow tonight.
She joined Damian, and they left the room in step.
As they passed the watcher at the door, he said, "Don't screw it up, Damian. Still can't believe they made you a mentor."
Damian glared at the man, so briefly that Sid wasn't sure she actually saw the expression on his face, then turned away and took up a quick pace down the hallway.
Sid had to jog to catch up. No love lost between those two. There was a story there. She loved stories.
They exited the building, and Sid inhaled the fresh air--much needed after being in the stuffy council chambers. And when she took a lungful of air in, the magic dancing around the portals came with it. She felt it worm its way through her muscles and bones, clinging to corners she never knew she had.
"Are you hungry?"
Sid jolted. She almost forgot Damian was standing next to her. "No." She knew she should be, as it was close to dinner time, but food was the last thing she wanted after the scrutiny she had underwent. And she wanted to make sure her book was safe. She'd need to find a hiding place for it here--the bottom of her chest was too obvious.
"Then I'll show you to your dorm. You can unpack and rest." He took off for the main building before she could reply.
She was going to be doing a lot of running to catch up with this one. Like a puppy at his heels. She groaned, and checked to make sure he didn't hear her, but he didn't react.
They entered the main building after brushing by the magic of the gates in a winding path, then took the stairs up to the third level. Of course, her room was halfway around the circle. It would have been nice if there was a set of stairs on this side as well, but the Guardians must want peak physical health with all the walking that's required of them.
Damian opened the door and motioned her in. At least the room was on the inner wall, so it had a window looking over the courtyard. The outer wall was windowless, which would have drove her to jump off the roof after spending so long cooped up in such a box.
"Your bed is the one at the end. Dresser is on the other side of the room. You may also keep your chest at the end of the bed, if you wish. Dedicant robes are already in the dresser for you. There are two other female dedicants in this room, and unless they plan to study in the library, they'll likely come in after dinner. Latrine and baths are right across the hall."
And there sat her chest, waiting for her to make sure her treasure still remained.
"I'll pick you up in the morning, shortly after dawn, for breakfast and to begin your studies."
Sid looked up at Damian and risked taking his hand. "Thank you." She hoped he could hear the inflection in her words, that she was thanking him for more than just showing her to her room. If it weren't for him, she wouldn't even be here right now, but staring at the ornate door with the word that probably did mean doom at the top of it.
He nodded and pulled his hand from her light grasp. "Rest well, Obsidian." Then he was gone.
Sid closed the door and leaned against it. Alone at last, for the time being. She headed for her bed, made of plain, dark wood, simple but sturdy, same as the dresser. Closest bed to the window. She suppressed the urge to peer down at the portals and sat on the edge of the bed instead, next to the pile of neatly folded sheets--she'd make it in a moment.
Right now, she had something more important to do. So she tugged the trunk to her and fiddled with the latch. She wished it would have had the same mechanism as the small box buried under her clothes--harder to get into that way, if you didn't know how it worked.
Everything still seemed in place, untouched by nosy Guardians. Like the puppy she had imagined herself as, she dug through her things, all the way to the bottom, and fished out a small, rusted metal box wrapped up in a piece of flower-patterned cloth.
Sid wrestled with the mechanism until she heard the proper clicks. There it was, safe and sound. She plucked the book out of its compartment. Its magic tickled her fingers, just like every time she had looked at it and paged through it, since she found it.
But now, she felt some of its magic stretching toward the window, reaching for the gates below. It called to them, like a lost child, desperate to return home, to be where it belonged.
Just wait. A little bit longer. Then your words will be unleashed.