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And so shortly after she'd promised to give him information if she ever uncovered anything of use to him. After her kind offer, he hadn't had the fortitude to tell her that even if she happened to keep Damian from burning the book and sneak back through the portal, he wouldn't be on the other side for her to deliver her newfound knowledge.
He almost warned both of them about the blink, but his sense of time was so distorted that he wasn't sure if they'd be walking into it or not. Best not to speak of yet another act that made him a heartless bastard in Sid's eyes unless absolutely necessary.
Shock slightly muddied his guilt. Damian wanted to help someone else in trouble, at the cost of his own station in life.
Maybe Bishop had assessed both of these people incorrectly -- he'd made the mistake of lumping all Guardians under the same umbrella. He should have known, a group was made up of a faceted array of individuals, and even if many sides were black and burnt, some could still shine.
"I need one promise from both of you." Damian stared at Bishop and didn't even spare a glance for Sid. "I'm in charge of this... mission. No running off to do your own thing, no matter what."
Well, Bishop hadn't misjudged him fully. Always needed to be in control.
"Of course. You know the House of Portals and habits of the other Guardians best." Sid beamed, but not at Damian. Oh, no. At Bishop.
Both of them knew all too well that he'd be the one more likely to protest. He'd rather not take orders from anybody, especially this uptight Guardian.
He sighed. Maybe not quite as uptight as he used to be -- his red-rimmed eyes indicated he'd been crying, and this little adventure would likely break every one of his precious precepts. "Okay. Agreed. Just don't try to use me like a puppet. And I will object to any stupid ideas."
Damian stared at him for a beat more, likely unsure if he could believe him.
True, Bishop hadn't given the Guardian a reason to trust him. He'd been scheming since the portal in Turss had opened. But he did want to learn all he could, uncover some of the secrets. All while not getting caught.
Plus the man's desire to save Ama gave him a sliver of hope. Hope that one day his own world could be saved as well.
"I swear to you, on the All-Seeing Eye and the Ancients, I won't do anything to intentionally screw up this rescue attempt." It was the best he could do.
Damian nodded, removed his glasses again, and rubbed his eyes. "First, sleep. We all need it. And we'll be useless without it."
Bishop pressed his fingertips to his right temple. A headache brewed behind his eyes. He'd forced that little lie detecting trick of his too hard, and it had repercussions. Attempting to use it on minimal sleep only made it worse. It was control issues like this that plagued so much of the magic in Turss -- large consequences for small magic. If he rested, though, he might be able to hone it more, actually assist. And he had a handful of other tricks up his sleeve, but he hadn't attempted any of them in a couple years, so if he wanted a chance to succeed, he definitely needed sleep.
"Does anyone want dinner first?" Damian opened his wardrobe and rummaged in one of the lower drawers. "Ah, here it is. A trinket that will make sure we wake in time to go investigating while the rest of the House of Portals sleeps."
The object fit in the palm of his hand -- a perfectly square wooden box with a circular dial on one of its faces. Score marks surrounded the dial, equidistant from each other.
"If possible, I have less of an appetite than before." Bishop snatched the alarm from the Guardian. "This is from Turss." Proof. Proof that the Guardians had stolen from his world. True, this was a more primitive version of the ones they currently used. A version that would have been in use when the Guardians visited last.
Damian frowned. "It's not an item widespread on Nect, as it's supposedly difficult to make. My father gifted it to me when I officially became a Guardian."
"Well, it's stolen technology." He handed it back, wondering what other tech from Turss lay hidden in wardrobe drawers.
"I think I'm going to skip dinner as well." The Guardian set the box on the desk and turned the dial. "This should buzz and wake us with plenty of time to search the council building before many others are about. Obsidian, feel free to stop by the dining hall before returning to your room. I'll come wake you when it's time. Hopefully your other roommate won't be overly disturbed."
Sid laughed. "Disturbing her would be a pleasure." She waved and slipped out the door.
Bishop took the proffered pillow and blanket, again situating himself on the floor next to the bed. His eyes lingered on the alarm, though, until Damian turned off the gas lamps. At least they hadn't seemed to steal the electrical technology that powered light bulbs, his refrigerator, and computer, among other things.
But that little wooden box was proof of how despicable the Guardians were, and he wondered if the one laying in bed so close to him had other designs as well. After all, he still kept secrets to himself.
Bishop attempted to stay awake. Unfortunately, his pounding head forced him into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Obsidian's appetite was as non-existent as the men's.
When she finally slipped under her covers, though, she stared at Ama's bed, unable to drift off.
She knew Damian was right -- they needed sleep to have their wits about them. Her brain felt like a foggy, clogged mess. But the stripped mattress right next to her only caused her to think of the horrible things the Guardians might be doing to Ama. Perhaps they tested to see how quickly she'd go crazy from touching a gate. Or if they indeed had lost their magic, they used her to relearn it, as a kind of magical sparring dummy.
Several possibilities swam across her sleep-deprived brain, none of them good. This speculation would only detract from her concentration.
Eventually, her mind so exhausted, she sunk into the darkness, and then into her dreams.
What horrible, wretched, torturous dreams they were.
They started with a perfect image of her gate back home, Sid standing before it, its call wrapping around her like a blanket. It wasn't as harsh and insistent as Turmoil. No, this one felt like when you slept in and woke to the sun streaming through your window, warming you between your sheets. It felt like home, as though it had always been a part of her.
The sense of comfort didn't last in this dream, though. All of a sudden a force yanked Sid back, slowly tearing her away from the portal. And as she was dragged away, she saw both of her brothers appear before it... and touch it. They then attacked each other, a madness seizing both of them. Both drew blood, and neither seemed able to stop, until they lay dying on the ground before the gate. Sacrifices for the Ancients.
Sid sobbed, trying to fight against the force still pulling her away.
Another body appeared next to her brothers. Ama, eye sockets empty, parts of her skin blackened and charred, and a gaping hole in her chest where her heart ought to be.
Still, the gate grew further and further away, until she could no longer see it or the bodies that littered the ground.
The sense of warmth and welcome shifted to a cold embrace.
And then she clung to the chain in Turss. It trembled beneath her, its heartbeat wild and erratic. Near her, a gash marred one of the links. It streamed blood, which dripped down into the canyon below.
Then the chain bucked, sending her flying off it.
Sid fell and fell, into the darkness and fog. She screamed, over and over again until her throat turned raw.
Enid punched her arm, and she started out of sleep.
"What in the Ancients is wrong with you?" The woman's vexed look leaked through Sid's sleep-filled eyes.
She clamped a hand over her mouth. The scream must have been real. "I'm sorry. Bad dream." A bit of an understatement.
"You better be. I need my rest." Enid crawled back into bed in a huff, muttering under her breath. "Why do I get stuck with these fool dedicants?" Then she rolled over and started snoring lightly a couple minutes later.
Sid couldn't go back to sleep, terrified of returning to those morbid dreams.
Though she still couldn't remember the script above her gate, she at least recalled its comforting call. A call that couldn't be ignored.
She'd save Ama, and flee to Turss, but she'd find a way back. There had do be another way. Another portal. One way or another, she'd get back home and heed her gate's call.
No sooner had she solidified her resolution, then Damian knocked at the door.
Time to uncover some Guardian secrets.