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.
Damian slipped through the door, carrying two books. The one on the bottom was clearly the precepts. Too much to hope that he'd spare her the suffering of reading that thing two days in a row. But the one on top was smaller, and the entire cover and spine was filled with the ancient script.
He placed both books on the table.
She reached for the one on top.
"Wait," Damian said.
The book was under her hand, so tempting, so close. But his tone was stern, and she still needed to watch herself. She'd made too many mistakes already since she'd gotten here. Still now, she felt the yearning from the portal in the courtyard.
"What is the first precept?"
Sid swallowed, a nearly impossible feat since the rock seemed to have moved into her throat. He couldn't know--she was sure he hadn't seen her. "No one shall touch the gates without permission." A precept everyone in Nect knew since the time they could speak and understand. He shouldn't have needed to ask it.
She looked up at him, hand still resting on the book, but she couldn't read his face. So even, so expressionless. Damned Guardian face.
After allowing the seconds to stretch, he offered a curt nod and motioned to the book. "By all means. But it's back to precepts this afternoon."
She snatched the book and opened it. That wouldn't be a problem--she'd have this memorized far before then. How hard was it to learn an alphabet?
Damian settled across from her, not even hiding behind a book of his own this time, openly staring at her.
Every part of her wanted to ask him what his problem was, to challenge his gawking, but she couldn't risk having him take this book away from her. No, not now, when she finally had it in her hands.
She looked at the first page, and the stone shifted back down into her abdomen. It wasn't as easy as a letter in the Nectinian language matching up with a letter in the Portal language. Each combination of script represented a different sound, letter, meaning, full word. The complexity of it all astounded her.
So, she poured over the pages, trying to make sense of it all. But for the little bit of understanding she thought she'd gained, she'd flip to another page and that knowledge would be shattered, uprooted by yet another layer.
At this rate, she'd never find what was written above her gate. And even though the exact ruins were etched into her head as surely as they were on the portal, she couldn't ask Damian. Then he'd know about the gate, and not only would she be in trouble, so would her entire family.
Sid looked up at him. Had he even blinked the whole time he sat watching her? "You knew this would happen. That's why you're just staring at me waiting."
Almost, she thought she almost saw the corner of his mouth twitch. "Knew what?"
Jerk. "That I wouldn't be able to understand any of this."
Damian sighed. "It's a rather complicated language. It would be no good if any commoner could decipher it. So, the Portal Creators made sure it would take a lot of knowledge to read it. And to do so, a Guardian who already knows it needs to teach the dedicants. Even then, some dedicants aren't ever able to piece it together, to cohesively see the script and puzzle out what it says."
He had been waiting for her to ask for his help.
Sid hated asking for help. She glared at him.
He crossed his arms and gave her his best statue stare in return. Really. He was really going to make her ask.
She rolled her eyes. "Fine. I'm asking. Can you please help me?" If he thought choking out those words meant she was his puppy, he was wrong.
Damian stood, opened the Book of Precepts, and slipped out some loose, blank papers he had tucked under the cover. Then he pulled out a fountain pen, a rarity Sid had only heard about, from a trouser pocket.
Grabbing one of the sheets, he then wrote a bit of script in the upper left corner and turned it around so she could see it. "Do you recognize that?"
"The word over the entrance." Here it was. Now she was going to find out it really did mean doom. Or House of Statues.
"It may look like one word, but it's actually three. There are no actual spaces in the Portal language." He took the sheet back and wrote under the first line, separating it into three sections. "Each part of the phrase effects the part following it." He turned it back around and pointed to each separate bit. "There has to be a flow, a consistency. It has to do with the magic connected to the language. The power is in the strokes, since this is only a written language and not a spoken one. What do you think this means?" He tapped the first line, the whole phrase.
Sid had already gone over the long list of guesses in her head since she had first sat on her trunk, waiting to pass under that arch. She didn't think Damian would want to hear her myriad of guesses, so she went with the one that made the most sense. "House of Portals."
"Correct." He pushed the paper closer to her. "Now look at the script, look at how I have it separated, then again as it works together. Study it. And one day, if you have what it truly takes to become a Guardian, you'll see how it all fits, how it all flows together, and why this is the way House of Portals must be written."
Sid did just that, stared at the script, at every stroke that made up the phrase. Perhaps what she had felt when she walked through the doors had been real. If the words themselves were written with magic in mind, it made sense that any arch labeled with them would give it some type power.
A loop there, straight slashes there, more loops. Her eyes started to cross from focusing so hard. She knew, like with the precepts, this was something that normally took months or years to make sense of. But she was desperate, she had to learn it soon. The book hidden under her dresser insisted. And so did the gate from last night.
At one point, she thought she almost had it, like the answer was just out of reach, and if she stretched just a little further, she'd have it. Then the sense of knowing shattered, and she had to pull herself away from staring at the script.
Sid blinked, her eyes tired. She looked up to find Damian leaning back in his chair, paging through the Portal language book. When had he moved? She cleared her throat, and he peeked over the book.
"Are you back in the world of spoken words?" His eyebrow shot up again. "Good timing. It's almost lunch, and I seem to be quite hungry. Guess I should have had more for breakfast."
"Almost lunch?" Surely she hadn't been staring at the script for that long. Hours had zoomed by without her realizing.
"You can clearly concentrate when you set your mind to it, Sid. Not many dedicants can focus that long at first. You may unravel the puzzle more quickly than any other has." He closed the book and pushed it across the table to her. "You may keep this in your room and study it on your own time if you wish."
She picked it up, the key to deciphering what was in her own book gripped in her hands.
"One more thing before lunch, though." He added a third line of script to the piece of paper.
Sid gripped the book harder when she saw what it was. The word, or phrase, over the portal from last night. No. He couldn't know. If he did, she'd be at the mercy of the Council.
"This is the word over that gate that almost ended your life last night." He tapped the page. "It means turmoil. Best to keep that in mind."
Turmoil. She thought he meant for the word to scare her, to deter her from going anywhere near the portal. But all it did was evoke great sadness in her. If the people on the other side of the gate were in so much turmoil, someone should help them.
Her sadness was contrasted by the desire to protect herself and her family. But not by keeping that portal closed. No. By opening it to discover just what kind of turmoil was on the other side, to be able to prepare for what might invade Nect.
"Is that why the Guardians refuse to open the portals? Because so many of the words above them are so dismal?" She wondered if even asking this would get her in trouble. Perhaps if she asked another, but Damian had yet to trot her out to the Council for any of her actions.
"Yes. There's no telling what threat lies beyond each gate."
Sid was treading on thin ground. The urge to know, to have some answers, clawed at her, though. "Why would the Guardians do that? To have the knowledge to open the gates and never use it? Wouldn't it be better to open them and see what we'd be up against? Just in case someone opened a portal from the other side."
She had asked herself these questions over and over again through the years. If the gates weren't meant to be opened, why did they even exist? The knowledge to open them existed as well, yet it lay collecting dust, unused and ignored.
Damian pulled his chair up to the table and sat down, heavily. "We no longer know how to open the portals, even if we wanted to. The Guardians who started the precepts burned every copy of how to pass through, so as to remove all temptation. However, that is not something disseminated to the population of Nect." He delivered this response as if he'd heard from some historian, some teacher, one who insisted that he use the same exact words when he needed to answer the same question.
The Guardians didn't know how to open the portals.
Sid was suddenly aware of her blood pumping through her, reaching every corner of her body. Her head throbbed, her chest throbbed, even her eyes throbbed.
They didn't know.
And the book she found might be the last one that existed that told anyone how to do what no Guardian knew.
Worse though, the responsibility of it all rested on her shoulders.