Short Story – The Guardian

Story prompt:  The story’s protagonist is female and a guardian. A light plays a significant part in the story. The story is set at a crossroads in ancient times. The story is about illness..

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The wait seemed interminable. She had been charged with her burden for centuries. In that time, nothing much had changed, or so it seemed to her. She watched the people come and go. They could not see her, and if they could, they did not see her. A woman was still an invisible thing. A possession at best. A burden most of the time. She was chosen for her inconspicuous nature.

And her innate talents. Invisibility was the most notable of her skills. The rest were less called upon. She could bedazzle and confuse. She could divert and distract. And she could eliminate a threat if needed without calling attention to herself or to the object she guarded.

Day after day, Year after year. Century after century. She waited. She was charged with protection and must remain at her post until she was discharged and replaced by another like herself or it became no longer necessary to protect it. She wondered which would come first. She had been chosen and sent to discharge the previous guardian by taking her place. She did not know what happened to her predecessor. When she appeared at the appointed place, the other acknowledged her presence, saluted and disappeared.

It was a good thing she was patient. And immortal. The object she protected gave off light which provided sustenance to the guardian. She did not age as humans do. She had no need for food. She used the light to create shadows. The object itself could not be moved. It had been placed there so long ago that no one remembered who had made it much less how it came to be there. The crossroad in front of her was much newer although she had diverted it from being square in order to protect her charge. And she regularly had to push away inebriated men who wandered too close. They never knew what happened. They would be stumbling in one direction and next they knew they were stumbling in another. She used the shadows to make the place inhospitable, so no one in their right mind approached it. She could cause shivering and invoke ghost bumps in anyone who even looked in her direction, so most would hurry on after a single glance.

Until today. He was persistent, this one. And he was not under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Which meant it was a little more difficult to push him off. She tried her usual tactics. She lobbed flashes of light in the opposite direction. She resisted him when he attempted to walk straight. Although he did not seem to see her, he seemed to be determined to walk toward the object.

She blew cold wind and made him shiver. He shivered and came forward. She attempted to induce fear. He felt it only for a moment and pushed on.

She put up a wall. He pushed against it. Felt its height. Tried to ascertain its width. Stood back to reassess and pushed again. He was very strong. She could feel his resolution. The force behind him. He wanted to come in and he was aiming for the object she guarded! I

n the millennia she had been there, no one had attempted deliberate entry. This was uncalled for… She did not want to eliminate him. He was young and strong. It would be a waste to take his life force. She did not like waste. And she did not want to use her powers now.

She walked through the wall and appeared beside him as an old woman.

“Young man, will you take a moment to assist your old mother?” She tugged on his sleeve.

He glanced at her, “Not now old woman!” and shook her off.

She morphed into a beautiful young woman in the attire of the harem and tried again.

“Master, please assist me” she pleaded coyly as she stroked his back.

For a moment, he hesitated. “Please return to your master. I do not have time to dally with you.” And he turned back to the wall.

Her resources depleted, she disapparated and returned through the wall. As passersby started to notice him, she thoughtfully disguised him by placing another wall behind him. This was going to take some time.

She reappeared in front of him in her current form. She was taller than him and in the garb of the guardian she was an imposing figure. He stopped probing the wall when he saw her. “Please let me in!”

“No one enters.”

“I must enter.”

“Why do you wish entry?”

“I must enter.”

“That is not sufficient validation to support your request.”

Realizing she would not bend, he dropped to his knees. “I am begging you, please let me in.”

“Again, you have not provided justification for me to disregard my duty. No one enters.”

“But you can let me in…”

“I cannot. To do so would violate my oath and the trust placed in me.”

“He never told me there would be a guardian.”

“That is not my concern.”

“There must be a password or a code” he muttered to himself. Then to her, “There must be some circumstance under which entry is allowed. Surely, you have gone through the portal?”

“That is not part of my duty. I am here to prevent entry until my replacement arrives.”

“That’s it! I could be your replacement. So you need to let me in.”

“Unlikely. All the guardians are emissaries of the Goddess.”

“That’s it! I am here on behalf of the High Priestess of She-lor.”

“State your business.”

“My grandmother has sent me. The Temple has been desecrated. The priestesses are dying. Someone must go through the portal to obtain the wisdom to heal them and return the Temple to the Goddess.”

“And why would they send you? You are not an emissary of the Goddess.”

“Because I am the only one strong enough to go through the portal and return. My grandmother, Hel-es-ia, consulted the ancient texts. The Armageddon is upon us. She told me to find the portal and gave me this location. I have instructions to enter the portal and go to the Pleiades, to Maia. There I will locate the Temple and ask for the wisdom as foretold in the ancient texts.”

“And yet, they did not give you the information necessary to pass by me.”

“My grandmother did not mention any obstacle to entering the portal.”

“She did not read carefully then. Surely she must know that no one enters?”

“She gave me this medallion to exchange when I arrived at my destination.” And from a pouch around his neck he pulled an ancient coin.

At the site of the gold piece, she dropped to her knees and bowed her head. “Holy Mother! I am at your service.”

“You will let me enter?”

“Yes. Come quickly. I must cover your entrance.”

She let down the wall between them, still keeping the wall behind him in place.

“Wait! I must create a diversion.”

“Why?”

“The portal is very loud and bright when it is opened, so I must create a ruse of light and sound to distract any passersby from learning of its existence.”

She raised her arms to the heavens and called forth a thunderstorm from a cloudless sky. The people near the crossroads heard the distant rumble of thunder and hurried to reach their destinations. When the storm was in full effect, she gestured to him to go behind her. As he passed her he saw a bright light and heard the roar of swirling space and time. With a small gesture of thanks, he stepped into the abyss. The portal closed behind him. The storm gradually abated.

The guardian resumed her post.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

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