The Guild – Chapter 164 – Andrei

    I feel that familiar, strange sense of excitement that normally comes from first arriving in a new time. It’s been ages since I last jumped and the thrill of learning about a new time period grips me once again. And this time, it’s not just any time period, it’s the Renaissance era, the time of King Henry the eighth, and it’s England. I can’t seem to contain my excitement as my eyes drink in the people, the architecture, and the decor.

    The grounds of this Tudor style mansion are filled with people attending to their daily tasks. I’m instantly curious about what the average daily routine is. What could these people do in their free time to possibly entertain themselves? I quickly slip into old habits, observing and mimicking the time locals, bowing politely as I pass.

    Lord Halsey leads us to the large sprawling Manor that is his family’s residence. The large two-story mansion is highly detailed with very expensive looking facia. He leads us inside and I’m equally impressed, if not more so.

    The manor looks straight out of the movies, expensive rugs line the floors, wall-sized paintings adorn every wall there isn’t a window in. The interior is lit by a multitude of hanging chandeliers that must surely need to be lit and put out each day by the household staff. He leads us through the halls and into a large sitting room with an enormous hearth where many low sitting plush chairs are set, waiting for someone to relax on. I look up, taking in every detail of the embossed ceiling, carved wooden doors and dark wood furniture that occupies the wall space.

    If I thought the King was rich, I wouldn’t know where to begin with this Lord. His estates certainly don’t hide their purse size. He motions for us to take a seat by the cold fireplace with a smile. I direct Kat to sit first and take the chair next to her once I see that she is settled and, to some degree, comfortable.

    “So, tell me, what brings you to our home… Oh, where are my manners? You must be tired. I will have refreshments brought in,” The Lord claps his hands, motioning to a man I hadn’t noticed before, hovering in a nearby doorway. The servant dashes away, and the Lord nods. “Alright, go on. Tell me your story,” he looks to me.

    I’m not sure who this man really is and how much he knows. I don’t think lying is a particularly good idea, seeing as this man is very wealthy. He must be a very prominent aristocrat. It would be best to leave out the details of our time, for now, at least until I know more. He already knows about our magic, so that puts a little less pressure on us to hide what we can do, but as to who we really are…

    “Well, you weren’t mistaken when you said we were Guardians. You caught us a little off guard when you mentioned it, to be perfectly honest. It must have looked quite… scandalous to you to find us in your garden, the way you did,” I start, trying to formulate a story as I talk.

    “Scandalous? I wouldn’t go that far. If you had ended up elsewhere, perhaps. Here, we understand these things happen. I am quite curious to know what drove you to travel in such a state, across time, no less,” The Lord smiles, leaning forward in his seat. “Were you fleeing from an enemy? Or simply… caught up in a moment?”

    “Fleeing!” Kat gasps, covering her mouth with her hands. Her face turns as red as a tomato. “We were… Taken off guard.”

    “Yes, that’s right. I am a time mage. So, I guess I can be frank. We had a little… let’s say a disagreement with someone in our time and we had to leave in a hurry. Wasn’t sure where we were going, sort of just found ourselves here. Isn’t that right?” I turn to Kat with a smile. She nods in agreement.

    “Honestly, I’ve never arrived in such a state before. I apologize for that,” I add hurriedly. I would hate for him to think it’s a common occurrence when it’ most certainly is not.

    “I see,” The Lord nods, turning his gaze to Kat. “I sense quite a fantastic power from you. Pray, tell what is your gift?” I look at Kat, giving her a slight nod.

    “I, um… My element is Fire,” she answers sheepishly.

    The Lord’s brows raise. “Extraordinary!” he grins, waving to the fireplace. “Would you show me?”

    I frown at his request, holding up a hand to make Kat wait. “You say mages come here often. Are you also a mage? Or a Guardian, perhaps?” We shouldn’t play all our cards just yet.

    The Lord smiles wistfully. “I am indeed a mage, but I was not blessed with such a gift as Guardian-Hood. My wife, on the other hand, has been.”

    “So that explains why you would know so much about us,” I say confirmationally. “And what is her gift?” I ask before I let Kat show off her craft.

    “She is the Guardian of Space,” he answers easily.

    My eyes grow wide. Space? Here? We’ve never heard or met anyone who could manipulate space, other than myself, to some degree. “Really? Space? That is… intriguing,” I lower my hand and nod to Kat, letting her know it’s ok if she shows Lord Halsey her magic.

    She raises her hand, waving it once, and the fireplace springs to life. The Lord gasps, clapping his hands. “Amazing. You must be quite handy to have around in the winter, my lady. I cannot wait for you to meet my wife. She will be so thrilled to meet another Guardian.”

    “Thank you,” Kaitlyn smiles nervously. I smile at his comment, he isn’t wrong there.

    Lord Halsey turns back to me. “You are quite a lucky man. I can speak from experience, being wed to a Guardian is incredible.”

    “Well, I supposed I may be biased. Since we’re both Guardians,” I emphasise. “It does make it much easier to relate to each other,” I reply kindly. “Lord Halsey, how about yourself? What magic are you most gifted in? Or do you not have a preference?” I ask, curious to his own abilities.

    “I dabble with various elements,” he shrugs. “I have to admit, I find Fire to be quite exciting, though I have never been able to use it.”

    “Oh, really? And why might you suppose that is?” I ask.

    The Lord scratches his stubbly chin. “I’ve always believed it was due to the unpredictability of the element, and the energy required. Few mages I’ve met have been able to harness Fire to any degree.”

    “One would think that its unpredictability makes it an element to be unfavoured, no? It can cause a lot of hardship to some,” I say cautiously, knowing from experience how formidable Kaitlyn was when she didn’t have complete control.

    “On the contrary,” The Lord laughs. “It is a challenge, for certain. Weaker men fear the power and flee. Fire is an element for the strongest among us. Would you not agree?”

    ”Yes, I’d have to say I agree with you there,” I chuckle, sparing Kaitlyn an affectionate look. “She most certainly is the strongest among us,” she looks back at me with a coy smile. It’s almost too cute to bear. “You do know the saying though? Don’t play with fire? I find it to be very fitting, at times,” I add, more as a warning. I’m still bitter about the circumstances that led to us being here.

    “I would not dream of it,” The Lord waves. “A Guardian of fire, and a dragon tamer no less? I am honoured simply to be your humble host.”

    “Please,” I chuckle. “It is we who should be honored. We’re pleased to meet such mages who would gladly welcome us into your home. It’s been a while since we’ve seen people such as yourself so open and welcome to the presence of magic,” referring mostly to the times of witch burnings and what not to come.

    “Our family has been greatly blessed with mages and even several Guardians in our line. However, I must warn you, the outside world is as dangerous to our kind as ever. I fear you would not have been so well received by any other household,” the Lord’s expression darkens.

    “We are truly lucky then to have arrived on your own estates. We thank you again,” I nod respectfully.

    “A curious thing. I wonder if it was the presence of our magic that brought you here? Or some other reason,” Lord Halsey scratches his cheek again. “Would it be correct to assume you have not heard of us? We do try to keep a low profile.”

    I share a look with Kat before I answer. “No, we hadn’t heard of your family and it’s abilities before. I can’t always determine where we’ll appear when I jump, but, I do find it takes us where we need to be,” I reply. We certainly didn’t know that much about them. Kat only mentioned they were wealthy, and, well, from England. As far as we knew, only Markus held magic and his brother.

    “It is strange,” Kat agrees, leaning closer to me and lowering her voice. “Can I ask?”

    “Ask what?” I whisper quietly so the Lord cannot hear.

    “If it’s possible…” she glances at the Lord.

    I hesitate. It seems likely but… something nags me to hold back. “Let’s wait ’till we meet his wife. We don’t know that much about them yet,” I say softly. She pouts.

    The Lord shifts in his seat. “Excuse me, I will inquire about those refreshments. My wife should be returning at any moment.”

    “Most certainly. Please, take your time,” I smile. The Lord nods as he stands up, walking to the other room.

    Kat reaches out her hand for mine. “Would it be so terrible to ask? What’s the worst that could happen?”

    “I’m just being cautious. Besides, don’t you think it would sound weird to just come out and ask, ‘are we related?’ How would they even know?” I shrug. “Also, I just… I feel like feeling out the situation a bit more. Learn about them, find out what their role in society is, stuff like that. Strategic things,” I try to reason. How do I explain it’s just a gut feeling I have?

    She sighs. “Okay, you’re the expert,” her gaze falls, a look of guilt on her face. “I’ll do whatever you say.”

    “That’s not what I meant, Kat. I’m just… you know, being a cautious time mage. That’s all. We’ve arrived at a new time and we don’t know how things stand politically and magically. It’s safer to get your bearings about a time before you start telling everyone everything about yourself,” I try to explain kindly. It felt different in Camelot, meeting Merlin and two other Guardians right off the bat. But we still have to maintain airs in the court. I felt like we blundered a bit then, being inexperienced as we were, and in desperate need.

    “I understand,” she mumbles.

    “Let’s see how things go, get a little comfortable, and then we can ask. I promise,” I tap my hand on hers to show her I mean it out of love and not that I’m trying to be bossy.

    She catches my hand, squeezing slightly. “I guess I’m just… stuck on before. I’m sorry.”

    “Stuck?” I ask, looking up to see if anyone’s around. When I’m certain we’re still alone I look back at her. “How so?”

    “Coming here, it feels so surreal,” she admits, looking up. “I don’t know how you’re so calm and I wonder what we might return to.”

    “I see what you’re saying. That’s what I love about jumping. God, Kat, it’s been so long. I don’t know how I’ve held it back this long. I guess I’m calm out of habit. It’s become an instinct to observe my surroundings during a jump and try to blend in while getting the information I need to fit in and learn about the truths of that time.” I can’t hide my excited grin, nearly bouncing in my seat as I continue. “And to think we landed in a place that knows about magic, like Camelot, and respects it, and could… possibly be related to you, is all the more thrilling! I really hope things are as they seem, but patience seems to pay off in situations like this,” I finally stop. I watch her eagerly for a reaction.

    She smiles, seeming to relax a bit. “I am glad that we found a place that seems to be safe… for us.” Her eyes lower, settling on my neck as she lets go of my hand, gently touching the edge of my collar. “Even if we hadn’t, I would never let anything happen to you.”

    I feel an unexpected flash of fear as she subtly brings up the scar on my neck, but just as quick as the feeling comes, it leaves with the comfort her words bring me. I have a warm feeling in my chest that what she’s saying is true. I know she wouldn’t let me come to harm, not without doing everything in her power to prevent it. I smile lovingly at her. I need to tell her.

    “I know, I believe you,” I say, taking her hand in mine. “I hope we can find some answers for you and enjoy our time here. Maybe we’ll finally get some peace and quiet to think about how to deal with the mess back home.”

    “Okay,” she laces her fingers in mine. “I’ll try not to think about it, until later.”

    “I hope you two are hungry!” The Lord sings as he returns, flanked by two servants. They place two platters on the small table in front of us. Fine silver platters covered with various fruits, bread, cheese, and a pitcher of wine with several silver goblets.

    The Lord sits on the chair on the other side of Kat, taking a goblet and pouring wine into it. He holds it out for her with a smile. She stares at it and blinks, hesitating. Her eyes dart to me with an unspoken question.

    “Oh, Kaitlyn isn’t fond of wine,” I try to dismiss. “Not to be rude or anything. Would it be alright if she drank some tea instead?”

    “Of course,” Lord Halsey snaps to his servants. “I must insist you at least try it. I promise they do not have such fine wine where you are from. Perhaps you’ll change your mind?” he looks hopeful.

    “Don’t listen to him, dear,” a woman scoffs. “My husband is always trying to convince people that his winery is the best in the world.” I look up to see a woman walk into the room, not in an elaborate dress, but rather leather pants, tall boots, and a frilled shirt. She pulls off a pair of riding gloves as she strides across the hardwood floor, dark curly brown hair bouncing as she moves.

    “My love!” the Lord jumps to his feet, putting down the wine. “How was your ride?”

    “Fine, fine,” the woman waves at him as he gives her a kiss on the cheek. “Who are these young people? I don’t recall any plans to have guests.” I detect a trace of an accent, though I can’t quite place it as I motion to Kat to stand up so Lord Hasley can introduce us.

    “This is Andrei and Kaitlyn Hanganu, they arrived in quite spectacular fashion in the gardens, not an hour ago,” Lord Halsey grins, making us blush simultaneously. “They are Guardians, from the future. Isn’t that exciting?”

    The woman’s eyes trace over us, a piercing blue in contrast to her wild, curly brown hair. Her eyes remind me oddly of Markus’. “I am positively thrilled,” she says, though it sounds monotone. “What are your gifts, Guardians?” I open my mouth to respond but the Lord steals the words from under me.

    “He is Time, and she is Fire!” Lord Halsey explains excitedly. I give him a wide look. Give it all away why don’t you. This is precisely why you have to be careful how much you share and to whom.

    “I did not ask you, dear,” The woman smiles, her lips taut. “Let me guess, he told you about me already?” she raises an eyebrow. “Ah! Not you,” she holds up a finger toward her husband, shushing him.

    “Yes, he did,” I finally manage to speak. “He told us you are a Guardian of Space. We’ve not met anyone of that ability in our time. It’s intriguing,” I tell her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lady Halsey,” I give her a bow.

    “The pleasure is mine,” she hums. “Edward, dear? Would you mind going to get this young lady some tea?” he nods, walking quickly out of the room. Kat and I remain standing while we wait for Lady Hasley to motion for us to sit. In this moment I make a mental note of how she practically commands the household. I don’t believe this is a mere Guardian to mage status. I sincerely believe she is the head of the house. At least, things would seem this way.

    She sits in the chair where the Lord had been just a few moments ago, taking the cup of wine and gulping it down. She takes a deep breath and moves to fill the glass again, pausing to glance between us.

    “Don’t be shy. We may be wealthy, but in our home, we do not worry so much about pomp and ceremony,” she scoffs. “You should eat. If, as my husband says, you came from the future, you will need to restore your energy, no?”

    I slowly lower myself back into the chair, Kat doing the same as I respond. “Yes, that’s right,” I feel a little unsettled by her lack of etiquette. I’m not accustomed to such a casual demeanor in a time such as this. I hesitantly reach for the food on the tray, glancing at Kat to do the same.

    The Lady leans back in the chair, crossing one leg over the other as she holds a piece of bread in one hand and wine in the other. “You are confused. Andrei, is it?” she hums. “You must forgive my manners. I was not raised in a place such as this. I come from a place far away, and in my home, we are not noble.”

    “You’re not?” Kaitlyn raises her eyebrows, nibbling on a bit of cheese. “I thought you had to be noble to marry nobles,” she looks at me, confused. Generally speaking, at this time that is true.

    “Yes, for many, this is the case,” The Lady nods. “My husband would hear none of it. From the moment we met, he insisted he would take no other wife. He is a painfully romantic man, I am sure you can see. The King could not refuse.”

    “The King, Henry the eighth?” I confirm. I know my monarchy fairly well, being a history sleuth.

    “Yes,” she nods. “He had only recently been crowned when my Edward went to him, seeking his blessing. The King is no fool. He granted it and even came to our wedding. It was quite the occasion.”

    “Wow, that would have been. I can’t imagine the King attending a wedding in our own time. Not that there are many Kings anymore,” I add, a little hesitantly.

    The Lady purses her lips, taking another sip of wine. “No Kings? How enviable. Kings and Queens are a poison upon our great nation. The chaos this one has brought is evidence enough. Not three years ago we had to put down the rebellion after he cut ties with the Pope. What an idiot.”

    “I imagine it will only get worse,” I say quietly. I know all too well how the divorce of his first wife affected him, and how the coming death of his current wife will start more conflict in the coming years.

    The Lady shrugs. “We will observe. If the King becomes a problem, we will take care of it.”

    I try to nod convincingly. “Right.”

    “I have returned, my darling!” The Lord sings as he sweeps into the room. A servant carries a tray with a small teapot and a cup. “Many apologies for keeping you waiting,” he bows to us before taking the seat next to his wife.

    The servant places the tray of tea on a small side table between Kat and the Lady. “Thank you,” Kat nods to the servant, and smiles at the Lord.

    “You are very welcome. Please, tell me if it is to your liking?” he beams happily. “Charlotte, my dove, what do you think of them? Are they not terribly precious?”

    “Delicious, my dear,” The Lady smiles back at him. “You have already made preparations for them to stay with us, yes?”

    “Of course,” Lord Halsey scoffs. “I would not have them stay anywhere else. Please, you must stay here. There is so much to show you and so much to learn from each other.”

    I smile to Kat, the excitement returning with the return of Edward Halsey. “Of course, we’d love to. We’d be fascinated to learn about you and your time and in turn share a bit about us,” I find it much easier to play off of the formal speech than Charlotte Halsey’s causality.

By Kayla West

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