Guardians

The last Guardian has been killed.
The forest is dying.
The Tree of Life will prosper no longer.
This is the beginning of the end of the world.

Or so they thought...

**This is my entry for the Unexpected Adventure competition! Hope you like it!**

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6. Chapter Five

"I'm a ghost," I say, looking down at Cassidy from where I'm floating five feet above the ground.

"But then how come he knows you?"

For once in her life, Cassidy is confused. I've never seen her confused before, and if she was confused, she does a good job of hiding it.

"Gaia and I knew each other before she...died," Ari says. "That's the way things work in the forest. If you know they exist, then you can see them."

"Wait, but..." Cassidy pauses. "You were here before?"

Her question is cryptic, but I know what she means. "Yes, I was a citizen of the forest."

"How long have you.." Cassidy does not want to ask the question; she is afraid I'll be embarrassed or angry.

"Three years," I reply. I look at her carefully, watching for any sign of recognition. "I died on February twelfth."

A spark lights up her eyes. "My dad left on the thirteenth."

"And he met my ghost, and asked me to watch over you." I smile slightly. "I met you on the fourteenth."

Ari clears his throat.

"Oh!" I remember. "This is Ari."

"But I thought Messengers didn't have names."

"I used to be a lead Messenger, like Theros," Ari explained. "But I got demoted," he continues with some dignity.

"Right," I say. "I would send him on trips all the time."

"A-hem." Theros glares at Ari and Cassidy impatiently. "Are you recovered?" His strange accent is thick. Cassidy nods.

Theros still does not see me. I sigh and reveal myself to him. I appear at the edge of his vision, on the other side of his eye. He turns swiftly, preparing to fight a predator.

"Who are you?" He growls, one hand on his club.

"My name is Gaia, past Guardian and present Keeper of Cassidy."

Ari interjects. "Long story."

"Then we don't have time for it. The light grows dimmer with every passing hour. We must continue."

We set off again, walking until sundown, where it grows darker than it previously was. It is pitch-black, but I can see, a positive of being a ghost. Night vision.

For once, we are not disturbed during the night, but I still stay awake, enforcing my role as Keeper, and guard us through the night. I do not notice when it is morning, as the death of the Tree has propelled this far, but Theros wakes.

"Not long to go," he murmurs to me. I startle, having not realized that he could still see me. I glance at him, and he meets my gaze.

"Does Cassidy know what she's doing?"

Theros' eyes glint. "That is why you are lucky. You can show her."

I did not want to pain him by telling him that I cannot, that it is different for every Guardian, so I just nod instead.

 

By the time the others awaken, it has lightened enough so that I can see a change, and we set off again.

There is a very steep hill we have to climb. While I can easily float and not get tired, the climb takes a toll on the others. The second Messenger is silent as always, but I can tell that he is suffering.

Halfway up, we stop and take a break. Theros, surprisingly, doles out food to everyone. Usually, he is stingy about food and rations it all.

In fact, Theros seems almost jovial. "Almost there, almost there, almost there," he mutters over and over jubilantly.

After a brief break, we start back up again, with renewed excitement at being so close to our destination. Finally, we reach the top.

"It's just down from here," Ari tells us.

I float on the edge, looking down. It is almost like I remember. Same dimly lit lamps, but flickering slightly in the cold. Same few huts, the huts of the Guardians and so on.

My gaze travels up from the ground, up the gnarled trunk, and finally to the branches of the Tree, where it should be blossoming, yet does not.

The sight is still breathtaking. It is beautiful, though not golden anymore. It is still ornately carved with swirls and patterns done by the very first Guardian.

I step back, letting the others take in the sight. It is a magical effect, seeing the Tree for the first time, and almost just as magical every other time.

"Behold," I breathe to Cassidy. "The Tree of Life."

 

 

 

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