I had started this ages and ages ago. But wasn’t happy, and had no ending, so I took it down again. But I now have a vague sense of the ending, so maybe this time I’ll get around to finishing it.
Slowly the guardian stirred herself. Hoofbeats drumming across the land had attracted her attention. Although the soldiers did not seem worried she watched as the strangers drew nearer to the keep. Unseen, unfelt, she moved closer to them. In the courtyard they were greeted, laughing with the inhabitants of the keep as they dismounted.
Less wary now that they were being escorted through the building she began to withdraw. Then she paused. There was something familiar about one of the men.
He strode confidently at the head of a small band; the others had been left lounging in the courtyard. It was not his appearance that drew the guardian back, but his voice, it tickled her memory. Humans changed so much over time. Often, the passing of a few short years would make any human unrecognisable. But his voice… the way he spoke.
As she tried to remember, to discover why it was so familiar to her, she was distracted by shouts from the courtyard. Her attention flickered back to them but it was only the soldiers. The serving girls had come out to see the new arrivals, and now each group was trying to impress the other.
The guardian turned back to follow the strangely familiar voice. The group had been shown into a side chamber off the great hall, where the lord of the keep waited for them.
Still unseen, she flowed through the keep, back to the strangers. As she reached them, a scream pierced the air. She halted. Trying to identify the sound, was it fear, pain or merely excitement? After a moment she continued towards the noise. As she entered the small room she felt blood spurt onto her ground. As the drops sank into the ground outside in the courtyard the guardian flinched, unprepared for the shots of pain.
Hesitation struck again, a beat passed before she decided to ignore the blood, to ignore the pain instead answered the fear from inside the keep.
Finally she took on a visible form and calmly surveyed the chamber. The lord of Tiercyl and his lady were on one side of the room, facing the strangers. The familiar one held a blade across the throat of the heir.
The faces paled as the guardian began her advance, all wings and flame, she knew what humans feared. Some cowered before her, but she had barely lifted her now clawed foot when the lord called out, begging her not to move.
She paused, and the beast that had threatened the invaders now became almost human in appearance. Long, straight hair and skin so pale, but her eyes, glowing golden, gave her away.
“Give me the seal.”
Obedient to the man who held his son’s life in his hands Lord Tiercyl ripped the seal in question from around his neck and threw it towards the stranger.
As it was snatched out of the air with a smile the guardian finally recognised the invader.
“You are the lord’s father-brother,” her low voice made the invader smile.
“His uncle, you remember me then my Guardian?” His knuckles turned white as he gripped the seal in his hands. “The one who possesses the Seal, who possesses the Keep. To them alone shall the guardian listen,” he declaimed, then glanced at the child in his arms. “Guardian, kill the child.”
After a second’s pause, head cocked quizzically to one side, the guardian stepped forward. She could feel the fight in the courtyard continuing, every drop of blood that soaked the ground and dirt sent pain flaring through her. Yet her appearance remained serene as she reached the child.
The heir was young, the guardian was unsure of his exact age, but not more than a few years… perhaps 4. His dark eyes were wide and fearful, his face pale. He tried to back away, but arms held him firmly as the guardian reached out towards him. One touch and she could kill. Behind her she heard the lord and lady protest, begging for their son’s life.
She stretched out an arm, as it drew closer to the boy it became claw-like. Her talons touched the boy’s hair. Behind her the mother cried out “Aidan!” The boy whimpered as she brushed the top of his head, almost gently, tears streamed down his face. Then with a sudden savageness she plunged her claws into the skin.
The man screamed in pain as his hands left the boy, attempted to pull her claws out of his flesh. The blood gushed out of his chest, scalding the guardian wherever it touched her but she smiled. The violence was not necessary, she could have killed him with the barest of touches. As the child ran to his mother the other two strangers drew their swords. The guardian seemed to lean towards them slightly and her free hand reached out, almost caressing them. They were both dead before they hit the ground.
Transforming back into the winged beast the guardian lifted the still struggling man into the air,
“You mistranslated.” She growled softly in his ear, then vanished still holding onto the invader.
She reappeared high above the courtyard. For an instant she hovered, watching the soldiers struggling below. One or two caught sight of her. Finally she allowed herself to feel the pain caused by the shedding of so much blood. She screamed. The noise made everyone look up in horror. Then she released her hold on the bloody mess and the body of the intruder fell towards the ground.
It landed with a sickening thud. The men below seemed frozen. The guardian screamed again and flapped her wings to gain even more height, then folded them close to her body, her sudden descent spurred them into action. As they realised their danger the men fled in fear as the guardian plummeted towards them.