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.
Thankfully she remained entranced long enough for him to stabilize his own emotions. It wouldn't do for her to see how he truly felt about her instant latching onto the script. It took years for most dedicants to finally see the puzzle in all the strokes, if ever. He had learned exceptionally quickly, in a year's time.
Damian was sure Obsidian would have it mastered in a matter of days.
Days. How was that possible? It was as if she'd been exposed to the script before she ever saw it over the entrance to the House of Portals.
It made him consider the metamorphosis he saw her undergo the first day more closely. This girl, no woman, had secrets, and now that he'd allowed things to go this far, he was intent on discovering those secrets.
"I thought you were starving," Sid said.
He had been pushing his salad around the plate, not eating much. It was her fault--had him all lost in his thoughts. But he also hated talking about opening gates. It always depressed him. "I was."
She opened her mouth, then clamped it shut, and returned back to her own food.
Smart. He really didn't want to chat.
Obsidian had looked as deflated as he had felt when he was first told about all of the texts outlining how to open the gates had been destroyed. Along with many of the histories written by the Ancients.
Not that he wanted to break the precepts and pass through a portal to see what was on the other side. Never that. But to know all of that knowledge was forever lost dug at him. Though he knew it shouldn't be done, knowing that the possibility no longer existed made him feel empty. It shattered the dreams he had as a child. His imagination had taken him to lands that were wild and beautiful because he thought there was a chance they existed.
Now that he knew they couldn't, those colorful dreams turned gray. Yes, the worlds were still there on the other sides of the portals, but there was no chance that one would ever be seen.
Unless Obsidian was right.
The Guardians insisted that a gate couldn't be opened from the other side. Their word was supported by the fact that, well, no one had opened one from the other side. At least not in the last two centuries, as far back as the histories went.
Damian wished he could read further back, see what the Ancients wrote about the portals. All that knowledge lost. To protect Nect.
Do not seek answers in the past. His least favorite precept.
"Are you going to eat that, or should I go back to the library on my own?" Her plate was empty, not a crumb left.
He seriously needed to get a handle on his wandering thoughts. "You may head back without me and continue to study the precepts. I'll join you shortly." He picked some greens up with his fork and shoved them in his mouth. His hunger still hadn't returned, but he had to eat something. The lettuce tasted like ash.
Obsidian smiled. "See you soon."
Damian watched her take care of her dishes and head out of the diningroom, the bun in her dark hair bobbing back and forth, threatening to come undone. Her hair looked better down anyhow.
He shoved more salad in his mouth and forced himself to chew.
Now, to give her some space, to make her think that he was allowing her to have some freedom. That's one of the reasons why he allowed her to stow the Portal language book in her room in the first place.
Let her think he trusted her.
Damian wanted to see how quickly she'd learn the language, though. And he'd watch her. Keep an eye on her. Especially if she wandered the courtyard at night. Then maybe he'd uncover her secrets.
Sid's eyes felt melted after the afternoon of reading precepts. There were too many. No sane person should be expected to abide by so many rules.
Even though she was exhausted, she sped through dinner and hurried to her room. She wanted as much time with the Portal language as possible. Before she passed out in a heap.
So, she stripped off the horrid robe and made herself comfortable propped up in bed. It was hard with such a thin mattress, but she managed. Better than the torturous chairs in the library--she didn't go there because if she fell asleep while studying, she'd rather be in her own bed. Perhaps that was why the chairs were so uncomfortable. Got to keep dedicants awake somehow.
Sid cracked open her book, and Ama entered the room. She had expected the place to herself for most of the night, since the other girls tended to be away late. "Not studying tonight?"
Ama sat on the edge of her middle bed, facing Sid. "Nope. I need a break." She gasped and pointed to the Portal language book. "Is that...have you finished memorizing the precepts already?"
Perhaps Sid should have been more careful--though Damian could be an emotionless jerk at times, she didn't want to get him in trouble. After all, he had given her some leeway. Too late now. "No. Damian is allowing me to study it while I work on the precepts." No need to mention that she blackmailed him.
Ama sighed and flopped down on her bed. "That book. It's a thorn in my paw." She turned her head to Sid. "I've been studying it for almost three years, and I still can't comprehend it. The only words over the portals or in any of the other books in the library I know written in that script are the ones that I've been told."
Three years. Sid couldn't imagine spending that long figuring it all out. Damian had mentioned that not everyone could unravel it. She hated to think Ama might be one of those people. If Ama failed to become a Guardian, Sid could only imagine what they would do to her. She knew too much--they surely wouldn't allow her to leave and pursue a life outside these walls.
Ama's face scrunched up, and a tear traced down her cheek. "I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to understand it."
It hurt to see such a sweet woman cry. "It'll come to you. Probably when you least expect it."
She focused on the ceiling. "I only have another month to try. It better happen soon." As quickly as she had crumbled, she sat up with a smile on her face. "You know I heard Damian was the one who learned it the quickest of all the Guardians. It only took him a year. My mentor likes to brag about him, since she mentored him before me."
Sid studied the cover of the book. A year. Could she be that patient? She had to be. No failing allowed.
"Good luck with it," Ama said, while changing her clothes. "I think I'll crash early. My eyes need a rest." She crawled back into bed and rolled over.
Sid squeezed the book. "You too." Ama had to do it. She would.
The shadows in the room dimmed and Sid lit the oil lantern on her dresser, bringing it close, so she could study the strokes. Page after page, she swept her eyes across each slash and curl, at times tracing them with her fingers.
At one point, Enid entered the room, but Sid barely registered her movements, so intent on the book before her. If it was going to take her at least a year to crack this, she'd have to concentrate on it as much as possible. Maybe she'd even have it figured out before she finished memorizing the precepts.
The night wore on, and her lids started to droop. She pressed on, one page and then the next. Soon she hit the state between wake and sleep, that haze where if she took one more step she'd be softly snoring face down in the book.
The rune above the gate popped in her mind, floating around among her blurred vision. Even the strokes of the ancient word seemed to reflect its definition. Sharp slashes, a swirl that you couldn't tell where the end or beginning of it was, ending in a horizontal slash, an X marked through, fluid but harsh at the same time.
Staring at the word in her mind's eye, behind the fog of near sleep, she felt what she had earlier. The sense of the answer being just out of reach. One more push, one more connection, and she'd have it.
Sid imagined her hand stretching out, tracing the final X of the script. Not slow, no. Fast. How it was written--force, speed, intent--was just as important as the specific strokes.
A snap echoed through her mind, the puzzle pieced together in the palm of her hand.
She sat up straight, having hunched over the book, thankful she had placed the lamp on the floor earlier. The haze of sleep vanished--now she was wide awake.
And she knew, she had unraveled it. The answers to this ancient puzzle laid themselves bare in her mind. She closed the book and traced the words and phrases on the cover. Magic. Power. Learn. Knowledge. She saw them all, understood every single one.
So much for a year. Try a day.
Her heart pounded and her hands trembled.
Sid looked at the sleeping Ama, feeling guilty over her discovery, even if it had been the one thing she had desperately sought to learn for the last six years.
Perhaps she wouldn't tell Damian yet. Another thing best to keep to herself.
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