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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4. Chapter Three

I drift in and out of a fitful sleep, the Throes and the Messenger's eyes haunting my dreams. Finally, I decide to take a walk.

I probably shouldn't be doing this; I'm only supposed to be telling Cassidy's story, not my own.

But I am anyway. I slip out of our sleeping area, where Theros and the other two Messengers have made a clearing and created beds for us.

I stumble past tree stumps and roots rising from the ground. Normally I am able to see in the dark, but this is unusual terrain and therefore I fall more than once. I don't know how often, but before long, my knees and hands are imprinted with the pattern of the forest floor. 

I finally find a stump to sit on. I wipe it clean of the spiderwebs and dirt and leaves amassed upon it, and sit down, cupping my chin in my hand, resting my elbow on my knee, thinking.

Suddenly, the shock of the night has caught up to me. A strange thing and it's minions have carried Cassidy and I off to a strange land, which Cassidy needs to save.

A cynical smile curls my lips, something that does not happen very often.

Like something out of a fairytale. All we need is a handsome prince.

 

A rustling in the surrounding branches wakens me from my thoughts. The Messenger, the one whose eyes are in my dreams, tumbles through the bramble and underbrush.

He glances around, taking in the darkened tree bark, spiderweb-covered bushes, and finally his gaze rests on me. I say nothing. He doesn't see me. There is probably something behind me he sees.

But his eyes bore into mine, and I shift a little.

He smiles. "Of course I see you," he says. "You think I wouldn't remember?"

I still say nothing, silent terror creeping up my body.

"I guess you wouldn't," he continues, acting just as casual as if we've been friends for over a decade. Perhaps we have. "It's Ari, remember? I was there. I was there, Gaia."

The moment he says my name, a number of things happen.

Another infuriating smile lights upon his lips.

I feel my entire body go numb.

And a scream pierces the dark forest.

"Cassidy," Ari murmurs. Finally the smile slides off his face. "I shouldn't have left them alone."

I try to say something, pose a question as to what the scream was for, but he grabs me by the middle--a surprise, most no one can touch me--and tears off through the forest.

Halfway back, I regain enough sense to run along side him, but it is obvious he is courteously slowing down for me.

"Go," I murmur, and he hears me and nods.

Minutes after he has gone ahead, I cross the threshold into our clearing.

A creature with bloodshot eyes, long, gnarled fingers, and a mess of hair greets me. It opens its mouth in a sick smile, revealing vampiric fangs and a forked tongue.

I cringe, waiting to be eaten, but the thing flies right past me.

I am still mostly unnoticeable.

Theros is holding his own against a creature, Ari is fighting three at once, and the other Messenger is battling one. I look around for Cassidy, and see her almost overpowered by a creature. I run over to her, just in time to see the creature push her to the ground, knocking her out, and biting her.

Almost like I am someone else, I grab the thing from behind, squeezing its neck. I grab a stick that was lying on the ground, and stab it in the head, throwing it aside as if it weighs nothing.

Theros and the two Messengers come up behind me, having discouraged the rest of the creatures.

"Aswangs," Ari breathes. "Venomous. There's no way she'll survive."

Theros hisses angrily. "The last Guardian. Gone."

I ignore them all, and kneel down next to Cassidy. The gash in her shoulder is bleeding, and even her Guardian blood has no defense against poison.

I place my hand on her shoulder, wanting to say goodbye.

But even as my hand leaves a bloody handprint on the ground, she is not dead yet.

I tenderly touch Cassidy's neck, tracing the Frankenstein-esque scar she got when she was six. She was trying to get a boy to share with her, and he threw the truck at her.

Without thinking, my hand rests on her heart. It is not beating.

I squeeze my eyes shut, gathering all the will that I have, and thrust my hand into her chest, jump-starting her heart. Color floods her cheeks again, and she coughs, raising her head. I slowly drift to the sidelines, grateful that she cannot see me, therefore cannot ask questions.

 

While Theros is marveling about how it's a miracle that she came back to life, Ari silently slips away and comes to me. It is almost dawn, though you wouldn't know it by looking at the dark-as-ever sky.

"What'd you do?" Ari murmurs, touching my hand. I keep my gaze on where the sun should be. "How'd you fix her?" he continues, trying to meet my eyes.

"Nothing," I say, answering his first question. Ari senses that I don't want to speak about it, and instead focuses on something else.

"You saved her life," he says softly, running his hand over the cracks in my palm. "You're a hero."

I didn't do it to be a hero. It's not my place to be a hero.

But what's a storyteller without a story to tell?
 

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