I can’t remember the last time the bed was this warm. I like it so I won’t complain because it means only one thing – Kaitlyn is here. I heave a sigh of relief, feeling the weight of her head as it rests on my shoulder. Her long red hair is loose, splayed out over my arm and the pillow. It tickles as I try to shift it.
I smile to myself as I gently stroke her hair with my free arm. It’s soft from the bath. It feels good to finally be clean. It took us… ‘cough’- longer than expected because there was just so much catching up to do, like shaving, among other things. I silently snicker to myself at the thought.
I did shave, however, or rather, I got Kaitlyn to hold the razor. It was quite the experience. I may have a few nicks here and there, but it was worth it. It feels good to lose the beard and all the bad memories with it.
I lean my chin down and snuggle into her mane of flaming hair, happier than I have been in a long time. As I breathe in her campfire scent she begins to stir, shifting in her sleep. I feel her arm – draped over my chest, squeeze me, pulling me closer to her. I hum into her hair, kissing her head.
I resist the urge to wake up and stretch. I don’t want this moment to end, I want it to continue forever. I’m tempted to cast a time spell to slow down our moment, to make it last as long as possible, but I resist. I doze here, thinking about it as my mind slips through time, half asleep, half awake.
When I awake again, it’s because I’ve become too hot to stay still. I sidle a little lower so that I can kiss her forehead. At this, she looks up at me, bright orange eyes glistening in the morning sun that filters in through the window. They look like mini suns, to be perfectly honest. I can’t resist a smile.
“Mmmorning,” I say slowly.
“Good morning,” she nuzzles the tip of her nose against my own.
I kiss her softly and ask, “how’d you sleep?”
She hesitates for a split second. “Like a rock.”
“I’m glad. I did too. Let’s never wake up,” I jest, kissing her again. “How are you so warm?” I question, feeling the need to throw off the sheets.
Kat frowns, confused, “What do you mean? I’m always warm. What with being fire and all.”
“I know, it’s just, I love it, but I’m not used to it,” I frown because that means this snuggling will have to end, and I don’t want it to. I can only take so much heat.
She props herself up on her elbow, lifting herself off of my chest. The cool air rushes between us providing me with a sense of relief. “Sorry, is that better?” I nod.
“So, did you have any dreams?” I ask, reaching a hand up to caress her cheek.
Her eyes dart away, smile faltering. “Uh, nope. I guess I was too tired.”
I narrow my eyes at her; she answered that far too quickly. “Are you sure? You know, if you have any dreams, you can tell me. I’ll listen, no matter how strange they may be. It might help, to talk about it,” I assure her, hoping she’ll be convinced.
She stares at the wall unblinking, a darkness falling over her face. I feel her hand resting on my chest begin to tremble. She doesn’t answer.
I cup her cheek with my hand. “Please?” I ask, giving her my best sad face.
Without looking at me, she whispers. “I was back home. I saw them… I watched them burn. My mother…” she trails off.
It’s painful to watch, so I reach up and wrap my arms around her, pulling her back onto me. “It’s ok. I’m sorry if I reminded you of it. You don’t have to say anymore, I understand,” I console her, squeezing her gently in my arms.
I’m reminded of what Selene told us before we left. She mentioned that the Master had trapped her in that dream realm. He could have used that space in any number of ways to torment her. I don’t really know how that realm works, but I know it can play tricks on your mind. I make a mental note to ask the Time Master.
I stroke her hair with my hand, comfortingly. “Perhaps it was only an illusion of what happened, not the truth. I’m not saying it was sunshine and daisies, but… perhaps it was different than a dream. Let’s not worry about it, for now. Ok?” I ask.
She nods, her head under my chin. I feel something wet on my chest and I tilt my head to see her face. “Are you… Oh Kat, please don’t cry.”
She sits up, wiping her cheeks. “Sorry…” She mumbles. My heart aches to see her cry and I want to see her smile again. I rack my mind to think of something to say when I notice her looking up, unblinking.
“Kat? What is it?” I ask, trying to angle my head so I can see what she’s looking at. I wonder for a moment if Rhoan’s come back.
“Ahem,” someone coughs in a deep voice. I freeze; I recognize that pitch. I twist around to see two tall figures in somewhat medieval clothing, though it’s really a blend of styles from different eras. One is taller than the other, who has bright orange hair. My eyes grow wide with recognition and then terror.
“Holy shit! Ceph!” I leap up, knocking my head against Kaitlyn in my rush. I groan in pain as I rip the sheets up to cover us both, butt naked on the bed.
Ceph scratches his beard, looking away. “Well, this is… awkward,” he mumbles in his deep sounding voice.
Eli leans forward, hands on his hips and a stupid grin on his face. “Hey, Sis. Looks like you’re feeling better these days!”
“You guys can’t just jump into someone’s room at 6:47 in the morning! Have you never heard of a door?!!” I shout, heart racing.
“We figured you’d be awake by now,” Eli shrugs. “Sis should’ve been up at least an hour ago.”
“Well, perhaps we were resisting the sun’s rising, as it’s been a stressful few weeks,” I growl, glaring at them.
Eli tilts his head with curiosity. “Yea? Did you have those scars in Camelot, Sis?”
Kaitlyn shakes her head and moves to the edge of the bed. She lets the covers fall away carelessly as she gets up and pulls open one of the dresser drawers.
My eyes widen in shock. “Kat! What are you doing! Wait till they leave!” I shout, pulling the covers tight to my chest.
“Yes, we should, uhh, wait outside, till you’re dressed…” Ceph adds, hiding a smirk with the back of his hand.
Kat glances at me, and the pair of them “Why? They’re gay.” She points out bluntly.
“And I’m a guy. What does it matter what their orientation is! You shouldn’t walk around naked in front of other people!” I say, flustered.
She shrugs, pulling on a pair of jeans. “I guess I’m used to it. I’ve burnt off my clothes enough times, I don’t really care anymore.”
I don’t know how she doesn’t care. Then again, maybe I’m the one being weird… Ceph prods Eli towards the door, leaving with a brief wave of his hand as he shuts it closed. I sigh with relief. Now, where are my clothes…
I lean over the bed, looking around when I’m suddenly hit with a wad of clothes. “Oww,” I grumble, as the button of my jeans hits my face. Kat snickers. “Ohh, there they are,” I mock the shock, hurriedly pulling them on, ignoring the wrinkles. I really need to just move my stuff in here… it makes so much more sense.
I walk up to Kat, smiling at her choice of purple snug fitting long sleeve. The shoulders are exposed, revealing her pale skin. I blush as I think about kissing her neck. “You look… gorgeous.”
She smiles, biting her lower lip.
Ahh, screw it. I glance over my shoulder to make sure they aren’t there and lean down to kiss her. One more time before I have to deal with other people. I relish in the taste of her lips, committing it to memory. When it’s over, I lace my fingers with hers and pull her towards the door. “Let’s go. I’ll make you and the gang french toast,” I grin.
She takes a deep breath. “This will be… interesting.”
“Tell me about it. I wonder what they’re doing here,” I know Ceph said they had never been further than meeting Markus, the founder before he started the Guild. I twist the knob in my hand and open the door. I blink in surprise as the number of people I expect to be waiting has multiplied. In groan inwardly. It’s too early for this…
The conversations halt when the door opens. Ceph and Eli glance back, their backs to the door. Beyond them, I notice Selene, clad in faded jeans and a loose blouse. Beside her stands Nik, in a hoodie. I think a moment, as it looks familiar, but then shake it off. Maybe he’s got a favourite hoodie.
“Ahh, Good morning, again,” Ceph nods, looking over his glasses. I feel a blush creeping up my neck and try not to think about it.
“Good morning,” I greet them grumpily. “Morning Selene, Nik,” I assume Nik took a room in the same hall, if he’s here now, this early in the morning. I’m surprised at how much Nik towers above Ceph… it’s daunting really… How is he so tall? Stop asking yourself questions!
“Morning you two,” Nik grins, looking at Kat. “Bringing in more trouble again?”
Kat laughs. “No, this one is definitely on him,” she nods toward me.
“What? How’d I… Ah… whatever. Selene, Nik, this is Ceph and Eli. We met them when Kat and I jumped to Camelot before we’d met the both of you. Ceph is a time mage from the 5th century, and Eli is a fire mage,” I introduce them. “Selene is… a mind reader and other things I think, and Nik is an Earth mage,” I joke.
“Other things?” Selene scoffs. “It’s not a secret, Andrei. I am the Guardian of the Spirit element, or so they tell me,” she smiles at Ceph. “You’ve come a long way.”
I go to make a snarky reply but Ceph’s already talking.
“Yes, I’ve never jumped this far into the future before. My head hurts… a bit…” his eye twitches as he speaks and I think I know what he is referring too. He rests a hand on Eli’s shoulder for support.
Just then, Caroline’s door opens and Kaede steps out, followed by Caroline in a blue knitted sweater and beige tights. Kaede has his Warhammer shirt on.
“Woah! Party much?” he grins, looking around. “Who’re the old blokes?”
Selene rolls her eyes at Kaede’s comment and takes a step forward. She reaches a delicate-looking hand up toward Ceph’s face. “May I?” He nods in response. She places her palm against his cheek. Faintly glowing energy passes through her arm and into his head.
Ceph’s face relaxes and his eyes light up. “That’s… interesting. I’ve not met a mage who could do this before. This is new to me. I’m sorry to be a bother. It’s a side effect of jumping forward, and with a partner, rather than backward,” he explains.
“Yes,” she nods as she steps back, her eyes fall on me. “I’ve seen it before.”
“I understand,” he smiles.
“Soo…” I say. “Everyone up for french toast?”
I heave a sigh as I finish laying out all of the utensils and ingredients I need. Everyone else is seated at one of the larger tables chatting, except Kat, who stands beside me. I pick up an egg and crack it into the bowl.
“Um…” She shifts awkwardly. “That’s a lot of stuff… Can I help?”
I turn to her, hand hovering over the bowl. “Are you sure?” I ask. The thought of cooking with her is, I admit, kind of exciting.
“Just tell me what to do,” she blushes. “I’ll try not to burn anything.”
I laugh at her unplanned pun. “Ok,” I move the bowl of eggs in front of her and hand her an egg. “Can you break these into here?” I slide the carton of eggs to her. “We’ll need all 12.”
She smiles, pushing her sleeves up. She picks up an egg, and taps it against the edge of the bowl carefully, watching intently as the crack slowly grows. I nod with approval and move to heat up the pan with butter.
“Once all the eggs are cracked, we’ll need maybe a cup and a half of the milk and a bit of cinnamon and vanilla. Then we can whisk it together,” I pour the milk into the measuring cup and set it beside her on the counter.
Before long I’m passing her the slices bread to dip in the batter and I add them to the pan. With Nik, Ceph, and Eli, all who I assume to be big eaters, I decide that making twenty slices is in my best interest. It takes maybe half an hour before they’re all done.
“So, I personally like sweet french toast, but some people like berries, or jam or even ketchup. Wanna help me bring the condiments over?” I ask, taking the stack of cooked french toast in my hands.
“I can do that,” Kat chirps.
“Just curious, but is this the first meal you’ve cooked?” I look at her from the corner of my eye as I walk out of the kitchen and towards the gang.
She pauses to think. “I guess. I’ve tried before but it always came out totally black.” So she was being serious when she said she’d try not to burn anything.
I snicker, trying to be quiet. “Were you using your fire?” I wink.
“Not on purpose!” she hisses, blushing. She’s so cute when she blushes. God!
“I’m just kidding. I know,” we arrive at the table and I set the plate down. “Alright! Bon Appetit everyone!”
“Wow! Look at that!” Eli gasps, nudging Ceph.
“I can see it, you don’t need to poke me,” he mumbles.
“Thank you,” Selene smiles at us.
“This is quite impressive,” Nik nods.
“Kat did most of the work. I just supervised!” I smile, winking at Kat.
Kat waves her hands, flustered. “What? No I… You’re the chef, I just helped…”
“Nonsense,” I say.
Kaede narrows his eyes at me. “Sure, sure. Doesn’t matter! It looks great! Got any ketchup?” he asks.
“Here,” Kat hands him the bottle. Caroline reaches for the jam as I take a seat.
“So, what brings you to our time?” I ask Ceph and Eli, grabbing a french toast and drenching it in Maple syrup.
Ceph inspects a bite of french toast on his fork. “We came to visit you, of course,” he says. “What is this food? It smells… wonderful!” he sniffs the toast curiously.
“It’s called french toast. It’s simply bread soaked in an egg and milk mixture, some cinnamon and vanilla to flavour and fried in a pan,” I tell him.
“It’sh delishush,” he says through a stuffed mouth. Kaede laughs.
“Andrei is a mean chef in the kitchen. He can practically make anything,” he boasts.
I shrug. “Not anything, and I’m ok, I guess,” I say humbly. “But seriously, just to visit? How’d you even find us? That was some… pretty accurate jumping,” I remind him.
He swallows before he answers. “Yes, well, my teacher visited me and said that you were in need of some assistance. So, with things going slow in Camelot, I convinced Elias that we should go.”
Eli coughs, forcing himself to swallow his mouthful. “Convinced me? I was all for it! Any chance to visit my lil’ Sis!”
“Yes, well. Maybe convinced is the wrong word,” Ceph rolls his eyes.
“Your teacher? You’ve mentioned a teacher before. How would your teacher know about me?” I ask.
“Well, you’ve apparently met, on a few occasions, I hear. It’s risky, but I guess that means you’ve grown stronger,” Ceph glances around the table. “Last time we met, you both said there were no more Guardians in your time, yet I see five here, other than Eli and myself. I can see you’ve been busy,” he raises an eyebrow in surprise.
“Yes, well. Caroline took the trials in the cave shortly after we got back. We found Selene as soon as we returned to our time, and just this week we met Nik and I myself upgraded,” I tell him.
“I see. That is… impressive. The trials? Not many take this test and make it back alive. I’d say congratulations are in order,” he smiles, holding out a hand to Caroline. She takes it with a smile.
“Thank you. I’d like to thank Kat and Selene, though. They really convinced me I should do it. It was actually quite terrifying and I almost wish I hadn’t done it that way at all.”
“Understandable. They are designed to test your heart, I am told. Anyway. Our teacher, I guess I should call her that, she warned me that you were running out of time and you were having trouble finding the artifacts of the main elements,” he explains.
I rub my head with my hand with embarrassment. “Yea… researching has gotten slow, what with the events of the last three weeks.”
Caroline points her fork like a finger. “Actually, he asked Nik and I to talk with our elements about it. I don’t know what Nik’s been able to glean from his element, but mine just keeps talking in riddles. It’s quite frustrating,” she grumbles.
Attention turns to Nik, and he frowns at Caroline. “That is strange. I received a fairly simple answer; ‘The power of lightning, turned to stone.’”
“Well, water doesn’t like to give me straight answers. I wish it would,” she thumbs her chin, thinking over what Nik has said.
“I’ve seen this happen before,” Ceph speaks up. “On the shore of the ocean, when a storm is approaching, the lightning has struck the sand, turning it into an amazing structure. It’s quite surreal.”
“Ah!” Caroline gasps. “I know what that’s called!” She blushes from speaking so loudly but continues. “I read about it in University. It’s a Fulgurite! Just the name for when lightning changes the composition of the sand when it strikes, practically turning it into glass.”
“Sounds mystical,” Kaede girns. “Reminds me of a video game I played once where-” Caroline elbows him and he shuts his mouth. I snicker, nearly choking on my next bite.
I turn to Kat, wondering how her french toast is going. She’s watching the group as she chews. “We won’t have any storms until the summer, at least on the island… Unless we make one,” she muses.
“Make one?” I repeat. Caroline mimics me silently.
“It’s not impossible. You have a Guardian of Water. It would be easier with Wind as well, but you could summon a storm,” Ceph says, reaching for another french toast.
Kat nods. “I could heat up the area, so it’s warm like summer. Caroline can bring in the water and make storm clouds.”
Everyone nods around the table, except Caroline, who’s lost in thought.
“Is that really possible? Can we make a storm? That takes a lot of humidity and pressure. It would definitely be easier with a Wind mage,” she says thoughtfully.
“Kaitlyn is right. With enough heat, and as you say, humidity in the air, you’ll be able to create the storm clouds you need to activate a lightning storm. Besides, an artifact can be something you have personally endowed with magical powers. It doesn’t have to be ancient. You don’t have a lot of time, so why don’t we do this today, and then we can help you sort out your water riddle,” Ceph suggests.
“How many people can say they’re going to make a thunderstorm today?” Nik laughs excitedly. “That’s pretty incredible.”
By Kayla West