The Colony Chronicles-Pt.5-Alasdair
by, July 13th, 2010 at 09:08 PM (1153 Views)
Alasdair made his way down the long flight of stairs that led to the secret underground chamber. Few knew of its location, and even fewer dared to enter. But Jessa had arranged to meet him here, and defying her was not in his best interest at the moment. The lower he descended, the cooler the air got, and the darker it became. Reaching the last step, he mumbled a few words, and the lights came on. He took in the scene before him and shuddered. No matter how many times he saw the Sentinels, they disturbed him in a way he couldn’t explain.
13 upright clear caskets surrounded a central column that rose to meet the high domed, intricately painted ceiling. Alasdair knew the column continued downward into the ground, possibly into the very heart of Tellus. It was the power source that kept the Sentinels bodies preserved. 13 bodies that housed the spirits of beings so old, not even they could remember their race’s name. They were simply the Sentinels, no matter who you asked. No one but the oldest of the native Tellusians could remember when they arrived. Now they slumbered, their needs meet by the Masks, who were in turn served by the Seneschals, which was what Alasdair was. He served Jessa, Mask for Ten. Sentinels had no names, only numbers. It was said that to utter their true name was to invite disaster. Alasdair had no idea if Jessa even knew Ten’s true name, and he wasn’t about to ask.
Years of training kept him from spinning around in surprise. He had not heard anyone enter the chamber. Slowly, he turned and went down on one knee, head bowed.
“Greetings, my Lady.”
“Arise and attend me.”
The woman was not Jessa, but Alasdair was quick to obey. Sareela was the Mask of Two, and much more powerful than his mistress. He regained his feet, and went to her side, offering his arm. She placed her slim elegant hand on his forearm, and they began to walk. He was glad now that he had changed into finer clothing. He had almost stayed in the worn rags he had visited Quentin in, just to vex Jessa. As they approached the Sentinels, Sareela removed her hand from his arm and placed her palm on the outside of Two’s glass sarcophagus. With respect to her privacy, Alasdair stepped back. He had seen Jessa commune with Ten in the same way. But her hand lingered only a moment, as she turned back to give Alasdair an appraising look.
“You hide your emotions well, Seneschal. Do you not wonder at my presence here, instead of your mistress?” Her voice was delicate and melodic, and he heard just a touch of Power threaded through it .He was lucky he had learned to shield himself at all times or he might have fallen victim to its influence.
“It is not my place to question your presence, Lady. Especially in this sacred place.” He hoped his voice carried the right amount of reverence. Offending one such as Lady Sareela was political, if not physical, suicide. Jessa would not be able to protect him, even if she wanted to, which he had serious doubts about.
“Relax, Alasdair. I am no threat to you. If I wanted to Compel you, your shields would not stop me. I have come here to make you an offer.”
Alasdair was not sure what to say. The shock was evident on his face he knew, and he saw the Lady smile. What could he possibly offer a Mask? He knew her Seneschal, and was unaware of any conflict between him and his Lady. It wasn’t unheard of to be replaced but he had never known a Mask to recruit another’s Seneschal. He himself had been in service to another Mask before he came to Lady Jessa, but he didn’t want to think about that now. He glanced at the corridor that led to Jessa’s personal quarters. It was past time for their meeting, and the Lady Jessa was a very jealous person. If she caught him talking to another Mask without her permission, there would be hell to pay, no matter what the reason.
“Jessa is occupied elsewhere; you need not worry about her interrupting us. Tell me, how did your meeting with Quentin go?” Lady Sareela asked.
Two things warned Alasdair to consider his answer very carefully. First, she did not call Jessa by her honorific “Lady”. This was unheard of among the Masks, and a grave insult. Alasdair dared to leave it off in his private thoughts, and then only when he was sure his shields were sufficient to protect him. Secondly, Lady Sareela knew he had traveled to Gaia. Not only was this a crime, it was a crime punishable by death. Only he and Lady Jessa had known his plans. He had deliberately let the portals presence be felt on Gaia, to give a heads up to Quentin he was coming, but on the Tellus side he had been extremely careful. When he didn’t answer right away, Lady Sareela laughed.
“Jessa has much to learn. She is an undisciplined child, and therefore an open book to me. She has no secrets; neither do you. But you need not fear me, Alasdair. You are important to me, and to others. That is, if you choose to accept my offer.” No longer laughing, the Lady waited.
“And what would that offer be, Lady?” Alasdair decided be blunt. He had nothing to lose.
“The Sentinels are the last of an ancient, powerful race, but here are others that came before, and it is to them I owe allegiance first. This ‘game’ that Jessa is attempting to put in place is the opportunity we have been waiting for. But we need to make sure that Quentin returns to Tellus, and brings his granddaughter with him. They are key players in the plan to resurrect the Caretaker. And we need you to convince Quentin to return. If you do this favor for us, I can guarantee your freedom from service to Jessa.” She looked at Alasdair as if she expected him to completely understand.
His head was reeling with confusion. Who was the ‘we’ she referred to? An ancient race, older than the Sentinels? And the Caretaker? He had thought that to be nothing more than a legend. And as far as him convincing Quentin to return, he had known that was a lost cause when Jessa ordered him to go Gaia, but agreed just for the chance to see his friend again. Now he had two Masks expecting him to do the impossible. How exactly had he managed to get himself into this predicament?
“I can offer you something to entice Quentin with, something that will insure his return.”
Sareela said as if she had read his thoughts. He was sure she hadn’t, he would have felt her touch, but it was disconcerting all the same.
“And what would that be?” he asked warily.
“The antidote to the poison that killed his wife and daughter.”
Hope surged through Alasdair, and then died quickly. Jessa had told him to promise the same thing, even though he had known she did not possess such. But she had stipulations attached that Quentin would never agree to, even if she did have the antidote. He did not doubt that Sareela would have the same. But Alasdair decided to hear her out.
“And what must he do to obtain this antidote?”
“Nothing more than retrieve it.”
Alasdair waited. It could not be that simple, and he was right.
“From the resting place of the Caretaker."