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.
It was finally morning, and he hadn't gotten a wink of sleep. A mix of regret and puzzlement kept him awake all night. He should have been forthright with the Council, told them of how Obsidian acted, like an eager child who had broken into the candy store. He could always backpedal, go to them now and confess, or claim he didn't notice anything until he dropped her off at her room last night.
He rubbed his hand, but that didn't take the tingling away. It was as if he had gotten too close to a gate, brushed it accidentally. Now that he thought about it, his lie of omission about Obsidian wasn't his first.
Damian had touched a portal once, and not by accident. He'd been too curious, his parents' and mentor's eyes off of him for a short time. Eager fingers had traced the patterns in one of the gates that preferred to hide itself, one that grew out of hill that disguised it well. And he'd never told anyone.
If the Council had known of his thwarting of the first rule, he never would have become a Guardian. It was the only time he'd ever broken a rule, until now, and he had convinced himself long ago that it didn't count since he had only been nine. Too young to know better.
But Damian had known better. It had been drilled into him since he could understand words.
Here he was again, convincing himself that learning the truth about Obsidian wasn't quite breaking the rules, that it didn't count. And again, he felt the same thrill he had experienced when touching the gate when she grabbed his hand.
It wasn't psychological, though. No. It was magic. It had to be.
The numb, tingly sensation had lingered long after he had touched the portal, and now the same had happened with Obsidian. How had no one ever noticed?
Stupid question. Everyone reacted to the portals, to the magic, differently. He'd always been more attuned to them, more sensitive to their vibrations. Perhaps that was the case with her--her magic was so subtle that not just anyone could sense it.
No one of Nect, though, had ever been known to have their own magic. Some claimed the people who created the portals in the first place had their own magic, but those were only guesses, the ancient histories having been buried, mostly by the Guardians.
Yet Obsidian existed, and she clearly had something different about her. Damian knew it.
He forced himself out of bed, rubbing his hand again on his hip, still unable to shake the prickles cascading through it. It was his responsibility to uncover the truth now, even if he did dread seeing her again, being in the same room with her. She reminded him of his guilt.
But as much as Damian didn't want to face her, he felt drawn, just like he was to the portals scattered in the courtyard.
Obsidian had fallen asleep before the other two dedicants returned to the room last night. After she had hid her prize, of course--she had managed to rig something so the container stuck to the bottom of the dresser in the back. It was a good thing she had brought some glue with her, as well as the turpentine for when she really needed to remove the book. Not until she knew how to read it.
When she woke in the morning, one of the other dedicants ignored her completely, going about her business quickly and fleeing the room without a word, or a smile. No big surprise there.
But once the uptight blonde left, the other dedicant scooted over to Obsidian, who was looking at the robe and thinking how hot she'd be wearing such a thing all day. The things she'd do to be able to read that script.
"Don't mind Enid. She snubs everyone. Thinks she's too good to associate with dedicants and that no one but her has what it takes to become a Guardian. I'm Ama, by the way."
Sid shrugged the plain white robe over her head and froze when she finally caught sight of Ama's face, framed by bobbed auburn hair. She was smiling. True, it was a composed smile, but a smile nonetheless. Thank goodness. Not all of the people here subscribed to the complete lack of emotion she had feared. "Obsidian, but I prefer Sid."
"Welcome to the House of Portals, Sid." Her eyes sparkled in the dim light filtering into the window.
"Thank you." Perhaps things wouldn't be so bad here if there were more friendly people like Ama around. Sid pulled at the neck of her robe.
Ama waved her hand. "I know these things can be a bit suffocating, but you'll eventually get used to it. Here." She rooted around in her top drawer and pulled out some hair pins, then spun her finger to make Sid turn around. In no time, her black hair was neatly piled on the top of her head. "That should help a bit. It's why I keep my hair short." She grabbed Sid's shoulders and turned her back around. "You look lovely. I must be off now--my mentor keeps a strict timetable. I'll be seeing you." She dashed out of the room.
The door didn't close all the way. Damian nudged it open, his straight-faced outline filling the doorway. "Time for breakfast."
Sid wished she had someone like Ama as her mentor, instead of this unemotional automaton. "I'm ready."
They wound their way down to the cafeteria, and Sid experienced the quietest meal in her entire life. She'd think with so many people, there'd be a lot of conversation, but there were only low whispers.
Another dedicant served them, and Damian told her she'd have a job of her own soon enough, but not until her initial studies were complete. And then he said nothing else the entire meal. She wondered if she cracked him open she'd find a bunch of gears underneath his skin, like her mother's clock on the mantle.
Perhaps she had hoped too much when he agreed she'd make a good Guardian. He was just a dimwit. What else could she expect from someone who was raised by Guardians?
After breakfast, Damian led her to the courtyard doors. If she had to face the Council again, she might have to find a way to quickly open a gate and disappear into it. She didn't want to endure Liss's scrutiny, not this soon.
But when they stepped out into the courtyard, all fears of Liss's gaze crumbled in Sid's mind.
The gates had moved.
At first, she thought it might be a trick of the eye, but the Council building was clearly much further away than it had been yesterday. She couldn't be sure if the courtyard had simply expanded, or if the portals had also shifted to different spots. Perhaps they played a game of leapfrog in the middle of the night while those in the House of Portals slept.
"How?" The word escaped before she could rein herself in. Liss had said she could ask Damian questions, though. This was definitely one she'd like answered.
"Sadly, I can't answer how or why."
"However, I have my speculations. It could be due to the concentration of portals, the magic playing off of each other. So much magic in one place could destabilize things." Damian stepped up to the nearest gate, close but not touching. "I do know that the courtyard shifts every night, about two hours before dawn. There are also eighteen different permutations. Exactly."
Well, then. Guess he wasn't a dimwit. "You counted?"
"When your entire world is contained to a few buildings and this courtyard, you find things to entertain you. And the shifting is fascinating. So I studied it." He looked back at Sid, and she thought she saw some emotion seeping into his face. Not quite a smile, but not as serious as his normal expression. A little bit of pride, perhaps. "And walking around the gates when the stars are out is an experience all its own."
A statement like that wouldn't come from a machine. "You'll have to show me some time."
Damian nodded. "For now, we'll head to the main library, near the west end. Time to begin your studies." And back to serious.
It gave Sid new hope, though. There was an actual human being in there somewhere, and she might be able to coax it out. She was here to discover how to read her book, to learn how to open her gate, but there was no harm in adding another goal to that list.
She'd crack Damian's shell.