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.
Sid had made it this far, showing that she was willing to give her life to become a Guardian herself. The tests had been passed, her and her family scrutinized, and now she wrested her chest off the back of the coach in front of the House of Portals, a dedicant, eager to learn.
To learn how to read the book she had found six years ago.
The chest thudded on the ground, and Sid sat on it, muscles in her legs and arms throbbing.
"There you go, miss," the coach driver said. "Shall I knock for you?" He pointed to the ornate double doors in front of them, the decor of its frame similar to the arch of the gate she had found on her family's land. It even had the ancient script at the top.
Sid wondered if it was the word for house. Or perhaps Guardian. Oh, or portal. She hoped it didn't mean doom. "No. Just going to catch my breath, then I'll knock straight away. Thank you kindly for the smooth journey."
It had been smooth, but sleepless. She couldn't believe she'd finally attained her goal. For the most part. It was only a matter of time before she knew every word of that ancient language. Then she could open her gate.
The driver stared at her for a moment, perhaps unsure what to make of her, then shook his head and pulled himself up behind the horses. Soon his existence was nothing but dust kicked up by the horses and the wheels.
Sid not only wanted to catch her breath, but revel in her accomplishment, to take in the beauty of the House of Portals. And enjoy her last bit of freedom, since she didn't know when she'd be allowed to step on this side of the threshold again.
Perhaps the word meant prison.
Best not to think such dark thoughts, especially when she was about to pass through those doors. Now wasn't the time to doubt, to question her goal. She'd had six years to change her mind, and she'd been unwavering. Then why did she feel like she'd swallowed an egg? One that hatched inside of her, releasing a chick to scratch around her insides. Ugh.
Knock, Sid. Just knock on the stupid door.
She stood, fist poised over the engraved wood. Such beautiful carvings, ones that if she looked hard enough gave the hint of telling a story. The story of all the Guardians who gave their lives over to protect the portals.
The doors swung open. Magic, it had to be. They knew she was here, hesitant to enter, and whatever magic soaked the gates had seeped into the walls of this place and sensed her presence. The magic wanted to suck her in, sure as the gate on her family's land had all those years ago.
A figure stepped out of the shadows and under the arch.
Sid released a shuddering breath. No magic. Just a Guardian. Well, she thought he was a Guardian. He couldn't be more than a few years her senior, though. Slim and willowy, he stood about half a foot taller than her. His light brown hair brushed his eyelashes and thin, metal-rimmed glasses perched on his nose.
She wished she could see his eyes better, but the reflection from his lenses half hid them. His full lips needed a smile--it would truly light up his face and make him rather handsome, but he only offered her a stern, straight-lipped look.
Yup, had to be a Guardian. Guardians were too damned serious.
"Obsidian?" he asked.
"That's me. But you can call me Sid."
He raised an eyebrow, so precise and effortless that Sid thought he may have practiced the maneuver in front of a mirror. "Sid? That sounds like a boy's name."
Rude. "Well, it's my name. No one else has ever had a problem with it." If all of the Guardians were like this one, she'd have to summon all of her restraint not to go off on them. It would be worth it, though. She needed the knowledge. Right?
"No matter." He motioned forward with his hand and two more people came out of the shadows. "These two dedicants will take your trunk to your room. Please follow me, Obsidian." He turned and disappeared back into the shadows.
Sid hesitated. She didn't want her belongings out of her sight. Would they go through her trunk to make sure she didn't bring anything with her she shouldn't have? She hoped not.
The Guardian peeked his head back out. "I assure you, nothing will happen to your things. Please, come."
She glanced at her trunk, imagining the book wrapped up in a cloth all the way at the bottom. If only she knew magic so she could hide it, so no one could find it even if they sifted through her items. But she didn't, and she couldn't. She'd made it this far, and she wouldn't let her fear of discovery stop her now.
"Coming." Sid stepped over the threshold--a wave of power swept over her, and she swayed. She looked back at the door, wondering if she'd actually stepped through a true portal, into another world. No, that was silly.
The two dedicants walked through carrying her trunk on either end, nearly slamming into her.
She side-stepped to get out of their way. "Sorry." She then turned to catch up to the Guardian, yet her surroundings made her pause again. Two sets of spiral stairs led upwards, the dedicants with her trunk maneuvering up the one on the right. From what she could tell, there were at least two levels leading up. In between the staircases was a door, larger, but just as ornate as the one she had stepped through. And another ancient word etched at the pinnacle.
The entrance she stood in was open, the ceiling high and ending in a dome. Someone had painted a beautiful mural on the dome, one that she could spend days studying and still not be tired of the view. A round world, likely Nect, shone in the middle, blues and greens made with a reflective paint to draw the eye. Surrounding the world were six gates. And a chain connected each gate to the world in the center. Flora laced the gates, different for each one.
"Are you coming, Obsidian?"
Sid pulled her gaze from the dome, wanting to lay on her back and study it more, but this Guardian had no patience. "Yes, yes." She jogged to catch up.
"Well, then," he said when she finally caught up. "This way first." He turned right, down one of two hallways that branched off of the entrance.
She practically had to run to keep up with his long strides and quick pace.
"Even though it's called the House of Portals, it's a bit more complicated than that. We're in the main building, which is a circle that wraps around, so it duals as a wall. Out the large door you saw is the central area of the compound, which we'll look at later. The first floor you'll find the kitchens, laundry, workers' quarters--."
"Do you have a name?" Not that what he was saying wasn't fascinating--actually, it wasn't, not unless he was telling her where the gates were--but she'd rather not just call him the Guardian. He knew her name, after all.
He stopped abruptly, and Sid ran into him. Like running into a wall.
"Oh. My apologies. I'm Damian." He looked down at her, head cocked, but didn't offer his hand in greeting. "I've been assigned as your mentor while you pursue your studies."
Him? This might be harder than she thought, especially if she had to spend most of her time with this unsmiling, rude man. "Aren't you a little young to be a Guardian mentoring others?"
Damian didn't answer right away, brows knit together. He pressed his pointer finger to the bottom of his chin briefly. "That's a matter of perspective. I was born and raised here. All of my pursuits have been to learn the ways of the Guardians, so I was a dedicant for most of my childhood. Young perhaps to you, who just stepped through the doors and know nothing. You'll probably never know as much as I do."
Condescending jerk. "Have you ever been outside of the House of Portals?"
"No." He clasped his hands behind his back. "Now, enough questions. It's time to continue the tour." His pace seemed quicker this time.
They continued around the circular building, Damian rattling off where everything was. Dorms, libraries, study rooms, classrooms. Sid tried to remember everything he mentioned, but she was more focused on him. No wonder he didn't have any manners or didn't know how to smile. What was it like to never see the outside, to spend your entire life shut away among a bunch of people who had sticks up their butts and lived for the rules they set down? Sounded miserable.
"And finally", Damian said, "we'll go out to the courtyard."
They'd made a circuit all the way around the first floor and were now standing in the entrance again, in front of the large door across from where she came in. She hoped he'd show her her room soon because he'd worn her out already with the long loop.
Damian opened the large double doors and ushered her through.
She obliged and felt that rush of power again when passing under the arch.
He stepped through behind her as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Perhaps he was just used to it.
Sid blinked, the sunlight in her eyes a shock after being in the dim indoors of the main building.
"Here we have a few other buildings, including the council chambers right in the center."
Once Sid got used to the light, she froze, the sight ahead of her unbelievable. Sure enough, she saw the top of a large building further away, actually further than she'd expected if it was in the center, as the circumference of the building didn't feel that big.
That's not what she cared about, though. The entire courtyard was littered with portals. Not one or two, no, but dozens. And all in pristine condition. She couldn't discern any type of pattern for their placement. They were where they needed to be, some even tilted at off angles embedded in small hills.
Sid wanted to walk up to the nearest one, only feet from her, and touch it, feeling the engravings and the word at its pinnacle, like she had many times with her gate back home. She knew she couldn't, not with Damian standing right behind her. No one shall touch the gates without permission. Rule one.
Well, they couldn't watch her all the time.