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Keepers and Guardians
Jasper placed one quiet foot in front of the other, stepping softly down the rain saturated street. The colors of the day were gloomy, the usually bright flowers hung lifelessly. The air was quiet except for the soft rushing of the rain, and the dull thudding sounds of Jasper’s shoes meeting the pavement. The birds kept silent, the rain discouraging them from singing, and the strange aura radiating out of him frightened them.
Reaching a bench on the side of the road, Jasper sat down, looking across the street into a brightly lit shop. Glass and crystal trinkets hung from the ceiling, and stared out from cabinets, glimmering and shining in the artificial light.
Jasper watched as a woman, no more than 21 or 22 years old, walked into the shop.
Naomi Winters, Jasper automatically thought. Age: 21, Female. Works at roadside shop. Cause of death: Glass shard falling in eye. Date of death: September 16, 2012. Today.
The girl walked around the counter inside the store, placing a dripping coat on a hook. Jasper sighed. Why me? he thought to himself. Why does this have to be my job?
“Snap out of it, Jasper,” a voice said from behind him. Jasper didn’t flinch as the smell of blood and gunpowder washed over him. The man sat down next to him, clothes filled with holes.
“Why are you here, Chase? You have a job to do, too,” Jasper said irritably. He didn’t need Chase right now. He would only make things more complicated for him.
“So what if I do? I can get my job done, unlike you. Now, who’s the victim this time?” Chase followed Jasper’s gaze into the shop window. “Ah. When’s she supposed to die?”
“In a few minutes,” Jasper said quietly, looking ahead, and not turning to face Chase. Chase looked into the shop for another moment.
“You got the guts to do it this time? Boss is gonna be mad if ya don’t,”
“I know he will be. He was mad the last time, wasn’t he?” Jasper asked cynically. Chase shrugged at the question.
“The war is dying down. Not enough souls have been entering lately. He needs you more than ever. After all, you are the only one who can... ya know...,” Jasper nodded, almost relieved that Chase had left it at that. “Anyways, I gotta get back. Do us all a favor and do your job right, otherwise we’re all gonna get punished,” Chase said, before lowering his voice. “None of us really like our jobs... well, maybe Rhett does, but the rest of us...,” he trailed off. Jasper nodded, still unwilling to speak. Chase stared a hard stare at him for a moment, before walking away. Jasper felt the slight breeze sweep past him as Chase returned to the only place he could be called normal.
Jasper looked down at his hands, throat tight with anxiety. He hated this. Hated it so much. But he had to do it. Looking down the wet, gray street, he saw no one. He expected this, partly because of the rain, partly because of experience. He looked up again, and saw a crystal hanging from a string in the ceiling of the shop. It was shaking, moving back and forth. Jasper watched as the girl walked underneath the crystal. The now familiar, mourning feeling filled his chest as he nodded silently. As the girl looked up, the crystal fell, and Jasper watched in quiet agony as her lips parted in a wordless scream.
“So, how’d it go?” Chase asked, coming up behind Jasper.
“What is it with you and sneaking up behind people, Chase? Don’t you know that makes others upset? It’s even killed people before!” Jasper said, not as much to make Chase feel bad as to get them on another subject before Chase could even start with the first.
“Only you would know that, Jasper,” Chase said, acting mildly bored. Then he paused for a minute. “You chickened out, didn’t you. You couldn’t do it!”
“Of course I did it, Chase. You think I want another punishment? Just because I hate killing people who shouldn’t have died doesn’t mean I won’t,” Jasper said, getting irritated quickly. He always acted like this, cynical and bitter. It had been in his nature ever since he had received his job.
Chase didn’t respond right away, and so Jasper looked at the dark forest around him. The inky blackness was silent, but every now and then a twig would snap, or a pair of glittering eyes would meet his before rushing off. The sky above them was black, the trees of the forest blotting out any speck of light, but somehow, the path was still dimly illuminated.
“Jasper...,” Chase said, sounding distressed.
“Chase, you’re acting really weird today. You never get this upset,” Jasper looked over at Chase, frowning. Chase looked down, his eyes looking thoughtful.
“I guess you’re right! Ah, well, I’ll be normal now. No more worrying about Jasper. But...,” he said. “Please just try to pretend you like your job. It’ll make life easier for everyone if you don’t go around glaring at everything,” Jasper frowned at his last comment. He glared at everything? Finally admitting defeat, Jasper sighed.
“Fine...,” Jasper said, sounding like the teenager he was. Chase smiled almost gloatingly.
The two of them walked alongside each other down the straight path, talking quietly. After a while, they arrived at a black gate, tall and ornamental, spikes on top, with spinning, swirling designs filling the inside of the frame. The gate was made of cold, hard iron, not a touch of rust on it.
“Εμείς, οι φύλακες της μιζέριας, να ζητήσει την πρόσβαση στο σκοτεινό πεδιάδες,” said Jasper, speaking in Greek. They spoke in Greek to ensure that what was behind the gates stayed safe. We, the keepers of misery, request access to the Dark Plains, Jasper thought, the words still burning in his mouth. Every time he had to speak them, even if it was in another language, he grew agitated and uncomfortable. Keeper of misery. Keeper of misery. Why? Why did he pick me to be a keeper of misery?
The black gate in front of them rattled, but did not open.
“Φύλακας της μιζέριας, μιλούν όνομα του θανάτου,” came the voice, seemingly coming from the gate. The voice was soft, but not necessarily gentle. More demanding, than anything. Keeper of misery, speak the name of death.
“Jasper Skye Conley,” Jasper said, quietly. It felt strange to speak his full name. Usually, it asked him for the name of war, since Chase was closest to him.
“Εισάγετε, ο θάνατος και ο πόλεμος,” the voice said. Enter, Death and War.
Jasper and Chase hurried through the gates. Despite the fact that this was their home, the gates always set Jasper on edge. Once they were well away from the gate, Chase opened his mouth.
“That gate is the creepiest thing ever, isn’t it? Someday, I just know I’m gonna forget the words, or mispronounce someones name, and the gate is gonna mash me into mush, ya know?” Chase chattered, oblivious to the strange look Jasper was giving him.
“‘Mash me into mush’? Chase, you are officially the strangest person I know,” Jasper said playfully, making fun of Chase’s mistake. Chase frowned.
“You know what I mean,” Chase said seriously, then started laughing with Jasper.
Still, the gate was...different. It always stood there, cold and threatening, as if waiting for something or someone to slip up. Jasper could see Chase’s concern with the gate, and since Jasper couldn’t see how the other keepers would die, he couldn’t be positive Chase would be safe from the gate.
They continued walking, but the landscape in front of them had dramatically changed. Instead of a dark forest, they now walked through a massive garden, with hedges and fountains everywhere. The paths circled around each other, now rarely going straight. Each brick in the path was square, but never perfect, and usually chipped or cracked.
Everything was black, white, and gray. No color emanated from the bushes, or the ground, or the sky. The fountains were empty, dead leaves rested in them, unmoving. No wind blew, not even the slightest breeze spun it’s way through the air like a spiderweb, catching on anything it passed and entangling it in it’s chill. Jasper found the quiet especially unnerving. It made him wish to go back to the rain covered world, where at least the colors existed, and hot and cold were actually possible.
Chase narrowed his eyes at the garden as well, looking uncomfortable. “I can’t believe anyone would want to live here, let alone create it...,” Chase said, murmuring. Jasper nodded silently. The two took off, setting a pace far faster than they had gone before.
After several minutes, Jasper and Chase arrived at a building that could only be described as a palace. Similar to the garden, the palace was big and grand, its architecture rivaled anything they’d ever seen. It lacked nearly nothing. But also similar to the garden was it’s lack of color, and how nothing was perfected. The ground and walls were cracked, columns were broken and laying on the ground.
They walked inside, and navigated their way through the empty halls. The place was well cleaned, though, again, it wasn’t perfect. As they neared a set of double doors, Chase whispered quietly.
“If it’s possible, then yes,” Jasper replied thoughtfully. Chase grinned.
“Let’s go, then,” Chase said. Jasper opened the wide doors, and walked into a room set up like every other throne room he had seen in his life. A carpet moved in straight line directly to a big, jewel encrusted seat near the back of the room. And upon that throne sat a man who always had something black draped over his head. Today, it was a black skeleton jacket. The king of the Dark Plains. Chase had always said that the king reminded him of the Emperor from Star Wars, what with his obsession with color black and clothes with hoods. Once, he had even worn a black cape. Jasper had much entertainment simply watching Chase’s eyes bug out from trying not to laugh.
“Your highness, the mission was a success,” Jasper said, kneeling down on one knee and staring at the ground, eyes wide open, a look of contempt on his face.
“Is that so?” replied a smooth, low, childlike voice. “Don’t kneel, Jasper. It’s annoying,” Jasper looked up and into the green eyes of the king. Our forever 19 year old king, Jasper thought. Too bad he hasn’t learned much in the time he’s been that age.
“It’s great that it worked out, then. We didn’t have the same mishap as last time?” the king asked cockily, and Jasper growled under his breath.
“No, sir,” he said, teeth gritted.
“And now, Jasper, did you see all the fates that changed the moment you killed that girl. Because of one simple death, it will lead to more than 100 extra deaths, just in the next week! Isn’t it great?” The king pronounced, voice airy and light with excitement.
“Yes, sir,” Jasper said, forcing himself to calm down and look happier about being there. He didn’t want trouble for Chase, Veronica, and, well, Rhett he could care less about.
“It makes us even closer to the final step of the plan. You can go now, and enjoy yourself,” he said, “Oh, and Chase?” He looked over at Chase, who had been standing near the exit door on the side of the room. “Great job at that war meeting today. The war should last much longer now, thanks to you,” Chase nodded and smiled mischievously, but Jasper saw through a flash of his eyes that he wasn’t at all pleased with the attention. They exited the room and walked down a hallway. Finally, there was color. The rug on the ground was red, and the hall was brightly lit. Jasper could have screamed in happiness.
Down the hallway was the room that Jasper and Chase shared. Looking at the door, he realized that he was tired beyond measure. Chase looked over and noticed his wanting gaze. His mouth turned up at the corners in a small smile, and opened the door for Jasper. Jasper looked up at Chase and smiled back, before walking into the room. That was the great thing about Chase. Most of the times he was a friend, but sometimes he was the dad Jasper had never had.
Jasper laid down on his drooping bed and closed his eyes, hoping to fall sleep quickly, and he did.
Jasper awoke covered in sweat, his body shaking. He had the dream yet again. The one of when he was ripped out of his old life.
It always started a few weeks after he turned two. His mom had taken him to the park to play, and Jasper had run straight over to the sand. A huge grin lit up his face and made his blue eyes shine as he threw sand everywhere, landing in his floppy, chocolate brown hair. He laughed loudly, and the sound of his laugh made him laugh even harder. Jasper’s mom sat on a park bench, smiling tiredly but happily at him.
Then the clouds came in. They were dark and foreboding, bringing a fierce wind that tugged at his mom’s hair. Sand started blowing everywhere and got in Jasper’s eyes. He shrieked in pain, his eyes stinging, and not knowing how to get rid of it.
“Jasper!” his mother shouted, running over to him through a cloud of dust and sand. Trees were shaking in the wind, some of the small ones had even started to be ripped up by the roots. “Jasper!” his mother screamed again, before reaching him.
Jasper was no longer in the sand. He was in the arms of a black haired teenager, with shining green eyes that glared evilly over at his mother. The teenager smiled, and held Jasper protectively away from his mother. Jasper whimpered and cried in his arms.
“Camden, give me Jasper,” Jasper’s mother said quietly, as if she were trying to approach a frightened animal.
“Hm... let me think... no. I need him more than you do,” Camden said, stepping back a step as Jasper’s mom approached.
“Camden, they wronged you, I know they did. That’s why I’m here. Because I disagreed with their decision. You don’t need to take Jasper to prove anything. We’re here to help,” Jasper’s mother tried to reason with Camden, shouting over the wind. Camden narrowed his eyes.
“No! You know he could help. He could help me overthrow them, and you know it. They’re wicked and corrupted. They may be the Guardians of Peace, but they aren’t caring and peaceful themselves. You won’t let him help me!” Camden shouted. His voice sounded deranged and maniacal, like a cartoon character who’s gone insane. “So now, I’ll be taking him. He can be someone in my world. He will help me build a new world, one free from the Guardians.”
“No!” Jasper’s mother screamed. “NO!” And as his mother grew farther and farther away, the world went black, and Jasper always woke up.
Jasper laid in his bed silently. The dream had left him shaken up inside and panicked. He wasn’t sure if the dream was real, but he knew that was his mother. He could see the resemblances in them, and knew he was remembering her. Her auburn hair, redder than his, and her blue eyes, the same soft shade of light blue as his.
The king, Camden, didn’t know that Jasper remembered any of this, that is, if it was true. He had always told Jasper that his mother had abandoned him, and he had rescued him. That is father was a drinker, and had left before he was born. As a child Jasper grew up believing him, that was, until he met Chase.
Chase was 7 years older than Jasper. They had met when Jasper was 8, and starting his fourth year of school, which was held in the palace. Chase befriended Jasper, and they soon became good friends, pulling pranks on Rhett and playing games. After a while, Jasper told Chase about his dream, the one he had several times before. Jasper, just being a little kid, paled when he saw Chase’s scared expression.
“Don’t you ever tell anyone but me that, okay? It might not end up well for you,” Chase had said, quietly, under his breath. Jasper nodded, his eyes wide in fright.
Curling up into a ball, Jasper hugged his knees tightly, trying to stop his body from shaking. Hot tears snaked their way down his face, silently letting out all of the pain from the day and the fear the nightmare had inexplicably given him. I killed another person today. Killed her. She probably had a family who loved her, a best friend. Now I’ve ruined all their lives. He sat there for a moment, and then looked up. Chase was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching Jasper quietly.
He walked over to Jasper, and hugged him tightly, pulling him close just as someone would with a child. Jasper let the tears flow. You’re 15 years old Jasper. Stop crying. Stop crying. But Jasper could not, and for the longest time, Jasper sat while Chase held on to him, comforting him like Jasper imagined his father might have, if he still had one.
Kairee paced back and forth, scowling.
“Now Kairee, don’t be like that. Guardians don’t frown at the ground, or anything else, for that matter,” the Elder Guardian chided her, his old eyes following her movement.
“What else I’m I supposed to do?” She growled out her words, before composing herself. “Mason was supposed to be back by now. He wouldn’t have taken this long unless something happened to him--,”
“As long as you think like that, you’ll only worry yourself further,” the old Guardian looking down at her, his expression calm, completely opposite of Kairee’s frustrated glare. “You trust him to be as fast as he can, right?”
“Yes, Master,” She sighed, slowing her pacing slightly. She worked to keep her emotions under control, focusing solely on that. Calm down, calm down. Everything is perfectly fine. As hard as she tried, she was having a hard time believing it. She broke back into a frown.
“Sir,” A man rushed into the room, panting heavily. His clothes were windblown and wrinkled, and his hair was pushed back, sticking up at odd angles. “Mason requests your audience.”
“Well send him in! You knew the Elder was expecting him!” Kairee snapped, and began to take a breath to start yelling, but froze as the Elder Guardian gave her a deep glare.
“Send him in,” he nodded, sitting himself up straighter in his chair. Kairee stopped pacing, and looked up at the Elder Guardian.
“Wait, you just told me not to frown, and yet you’re allowed to glare at me?” Kairee raised one eyebrow, which the Elder Guardian glared at once more. She looked away, scowling once more.
“Excuse me, Master,” Mason strode into the room, a bag hanging from his should. His copper hair waved down his head, and his brown eyes were focused on the Elder Guardian. “We were caught up in finishing the data. It took a few more hours than we thought. I apologize for our lateness.”
“What did you find out?” Kairee interrupted him and immediately began asking questions, but was silenced by another glare. Mason gave her an annoyed look, and Kairee drew back momentarily, hurt.
“Do I need to send you out or not, Kairee?” The Elder Guardian narrowed his eyes at her, and Kairee looked down at the ground.
“No, Master….” She murmured, her eyes focusing on the marble designs beneath her feet.
“Very well, then. Mason, do tell me what you and Riley found during your searches.” The Elder Guardian turned his attention away from Kairee and placed it onto Mason.
“Master, when Riley and I were out, we discovered something rather… unusual. We passed places where Riley should have made the atmosphere happier, less tense, however, our presence there only seemed to increase the unease there. We stayed for a while, trying to figure out the source of it all, but we were unsuccessful.
“The data, I’m afraid, on why we’ve completely stopped aging, also was unsuccessful,” Mason cleared his throat a little, obviously worried about what the Elder Guardian was going to say about this. “We were able to conclude that we haven’t aged at all for about 4 years, 9 months, and 2 or 3 weeks, but other than that…”
“You WHAT?” Kairee shrieked, unable to hold herself back anymore. “Mason, you’re the Guardian of INTELLIGENCE! You’re saying you have NO IDEA AT ALL what’s happening to us?!—“
“Kairee! That’s quite enough!” The Elder Guardian’s voice thundered through the room, shaking the ceiling and causing both Mason and Kairee to tremble. “Now leave Kairee. You’ve caused much trouble here today, saying and acting ways you know much better than to act,”
“But—“ Kairee’s voice wavered, small and weak.
“NOW!” Kairee yelped as the sound of the Elder Guardian’s voice hit her directly. She darted out of the room, hearing Mason as she fled the room. “It was really alright, Master, we all know she can’t do any harm...”