“You are far more alert this time,” an unfamiliar voice spoke quietly into my ear. I turned around but found no other presence in the inky abyss. “You grow stronger by the minute,” the woman continued, still a near whisper. She spoke slowly. “But you are in my domain. King or guardian, you cannot expel me from my territory.”
“Anna is not your territory!” I retorted. My voice sounded odd, echoing like I was in an empty auditorium instead of underwater.
“Oh, but she is,” the voice retorted. Something swam around me in the shadows; I couldn’t see, but I could feel the water rippling from the motion. “Do you know how long I stayed by Jaesing’s side?”
“What are you talking about? You possessed someone else’s body,” I stated firmly.
“That was just a husk, created for my enjoyment,” Nachtine replied, letting a slight chuckle escape dangerously close to my ear. I swatted an arm out but hit nothing. “A soul inhabiting an empty body becomes a real body. Did you not know that?”
That was incredibly condescending.
“Anna and Astrid are daughters of a god and a demon queen,” Nachtine stated. “As such, they are extensions of my will.” A feline face briefly formed in the water a few feet from me, reminding me of a mirage I’d seen in the clouds while leaving Arlgog’s realm. Her face was different, though.
“Family is not property,” I retorted angrily. An eerie chuckle sounded close to my ear again. “Are you going to hide forever, or face me?” I asked.
“This is my realm, Victor, you do not make the rules,” the nightmare demon casually stated. “Simply keeping you here is enough to destroy you. Of course, that would be such a waste of power. How about we make a deal?”
“Not interested,” I replied firmly.
She continued anyway, “This body isn’t immortal, so I will need a replacement once it grows old. You are powerful. If we ruled as the new King and Queen, you could help me produce a new replacement…”
What a great way to start my day. Today was the day I decided to finally start getting into shape. Not long into my jog, however, I tried to be a hero—but ended up taking a knife to the gut. So, there I was, bleeding out on the sidewalk. That punk trying to drag a young woman into their van disappeared after knifing me in broad daylight. Thankfully, the girl ran off, unharmed.
What was that even about? It doesn’t matter now, does it? Everything is going cold; I can’t move. I can’t even shiver. Is this what dying feels like?
A variety of feet, in all shapes and sizes, gathered around me; a voice frantically called for an ambulance in the background. I couldn’t find a reason to care, though, as my blood poured out in alarming amounts. The world dimmed slowly until a single pinprick of light remained. I expected it to disappear, but it didn’t.
Instead, it suddenly expanded until all that remained was pure white light. Despite the sudden intensity of brightness, it didn’t hurt my eyes. It seemed to fill me with warmth, like stepping into a heated home from a blizzard. Without thinking, I began to walk forward, not really feeling the ground beneath me, but also not fearing falling either.
A desk of luminous gold shone in the distance, drawing me in like a moth to a flame. Without any control, my body moved toward the object of my fascination. A gentle, humming sound slowly grew into a continuous chant around me. It made me think of a choir, but of immense size—and everyone was singing different songs at the same time.
Sitting behind the desk, was a young man—or woman? It was hard to tell to be honest. This dark-skinned ‘person’ had long black hair tied neatly behind their head. The pure, clean white of their robe nearly blended into the background. Their long fingers knitted together in front of them, resting on top of the desk they sat at. Deep pools of vacuum sucking blackhole eyes gazed into me so intensely, I had to turn away, lest I go insane.
“Victor Brandon Wilhelm,” an authoritative voice shook my attention back to dark eyes. Even though I refer to the sound as a voice, it felt more like thunder going off inside my brain. Not quite painful, but impossible to ignore.
“Take a seat,” they continued, gesturing to a simple wooden stool on my side of the desk. Sitting without hesitation, I couldn’t help but notice the complete lack of physical sensation that granted.
“Where am I?” I asked, continuing to avert my eyes from theirs.
A slight grin exposed their bright white teeth ever so briefly before they spoke, “Between worlds. You are dead after all.”
“Right…” I said, bouncing my gaze from the desk to the pair of thin eyebrows framing the terrifying eyes.
“However, I have some good news for you,” they continued, leaning back in their chair and dropping their hands into their lap. “You died a hero. So, I’m feeling generous. I will allow you to continue your life in another world of your choosing.”
“Another world?” I asked.
“Yes,” the mystery person explained. “Many worlds exist. Humans are native to most of them. So you have plenty to choose from. But I have the feeling you will enjoy the one I have in mind. It has many of the same languages, animals and plant life you are familiar with, but also enough additions to make your new life…interesting.” The brief pause before ‘interesting’ was accompanied by another grin. They leaned forward on elbows, clasping both hands together.
“What kind of additions?” I questioned hesitantly. This person made me feel uncomfortable for some reason. Maybe it was the eyes. Definitely the eyes. Adding to the freaky eyes was the sense of imminent danger that my instincts were screaming about. It was like I was sitting across from a predator, with sheathed claws, one that kept sniffing me to see if I was edible.
“Magic,” they stated simply, “But don’t worry, hero, I won’t let you die so quickly this time around. I like your mindset, and I want you to put that to good use. So, I will be granting you enough power to survive.”
I nodded in acceptance. So, I was going to live in a world with real magic. That’s been a dream of mine since I was a child, reading my first comic book. This all seemed to be so…crazy. Maybe my brain shutting down is causing this insane delusion before I die.
“Don’t worry, Victor, this is quite real,” spoke the mystery person, as though reading my thoughts. Wait, if I’m dead, and they are sending me to a new world, does that mean they are— “Yes, I am the this ‘God,’ the Creator, Yahweh, or however you prefer to call me,” they answered my thoughts again.
So, I was speaking casually with God. What an exciting way to start the day.
“Um,” I started to say, a question on my tongue.
“They are fine. The young woman you saved lived a long, fulfilling life because of your intervention,” they stated, almost softly.
“Good,” I said, nodding, still staring at the desk. “Lived?” I looked up to meet God’s eyes. For some reason, knowing who I was looking at, made the endlessness more bearable.
“Time is a mortal concept. I see all.”
“So, you knew I would die?”
“So…you probably prepared for it?” God smiled knowingly. I knew I didn’t need to say it, but I did anyway. “How highly do you regard heroes?”
“There is a reason why the term, guardian angel, became so popular among your kind. Guarding the innocent is important to me. So, as long as you continue to protect those who cannot protect themselves, you will be a representative of mine.”
Did God just imply I was becoming a guardian angel?
A small smile spread across God’s face. Then, with a wink from the most powerful being in existence, all the lights went out.
Waking up in a new body is weird. Even with my eyes closed, everything felt so clear and bright. From the millions of scents assaulting my nose to the hundreds of different animal noises I was picking up, I felt like a newborn experiencing the world for the first time. I could probably count the water droplets on the long grass, touching me, if I wanted to.
Opening my eyes, the bright light of the sun temporarily blinded me. Carefully blinking out spots from looking directly into a fucking star, I took in my surroundings. Besides the blue sky above me, all I could see was long grass around where I lie.
Saying the sky was blue didn’t do it justice. It had so many more shades when you could see every cloud in detail. Sitting up, my height raised me just enough to peek over the swaying green shafts bordering me. Talk about ultra-high definition. The graphics in this world are incredible. Standing granted me an unobstructed view of my resting place.
The field acting as my bed stretched over a low, circular hill, about the width of a high school football arena. It was framed by a spattering of evergreen trees, with distant mountains as a backdrop. Just out of arms reach were the inner lines of a five-point star, made from flattened grass. A thin ring wrapped this star, encompassing up the entire hill.
“I’m in a magic circle,” I mumbled to myself, “Interesting.”
Stretching to the sky with a yawn, mostly just out of habit, I considered which direction to head in on my new adventure. The wind washed over every inch of my naked body, but for some reason that didn’t bother me. Finding clothes would have to be a priority.
As my arms dropped down, the distant sound of screaming jerked me into full wakefulness. Locking onto the sound, I was somehow able to track it precisely. Without further thought, my feet carried me down the low hill and into the surrounding woodland. Another scream pumped up my speed, blurring the surroundings as branches snapped and swayed with my passing. My feet carried me over twigs and sharp rocks without discomfort, like my skin was made of hardened rubber or something.
The screams were joined by the rustle of branches coming from up ahead. Bolting from the thick tree cover ahead, was a tiny blonde in a ripped red dress; the moment she saw me, she yelled, “Run!”
Smashing its way into view behind the woman, was an eight-foot-tall troll. The brown-furred creature lumbered forward on hands and feet, like a gorilla, while locking eyes onto the tiny woman running passed me. Time to test how durable God made me!
Without slowing, I placed myself between the woman and the troll, preparing myself for a jump. Just as the creature closed on me, my legs launched me into the air, right at its face. Pulling back for a punch, I prayed my strength would be enough. Beady eyes tracked the motion, just as quickly as one of its massive hands.
The palm placed between me and the troll’s face offered little resistance as I drove my fist forward. A loud clap echoed through the forest as the troll’s hand slammed into its own face. The impact was hard enough to throw the troll backwards into a tree. The thin tree proved to be insufficient support for the heavily-framed monster, so it snapped, sending the bipedal beast to the ground on its back. It stayed there.
Meanwhile, I’d already landed surprisingly softly on my feet. Once it was clear the creature wasn’t stirring, I turned to search for the fleeing woman, to find that she’d stopped, to gawk at me, mouth open and everything. It was at this point that my nudity made me self conscious, so I ever-so-casually moved my hands to cover my privates.
Surprisingly, the woman rushed over and wrapped her arms around me in a tight hug, pressing her face to my chest. Super awkward. She didn’t seem to notice or care about the fact that I was naked.
“Thank you so much, Guardian!” She said, still holding me.
“Guardian?” I asked slowly.
Immediately pulling away from our embrace, she looked up to me with stunning blue eyes and pointed to my upper chest. Following the well-manicured finger led to a reflective silver tattoo. I’d never gotten a tattoo before, so this was new. The symbol was a winged shield, superimposed over an open palm with a burning sword and bow in it. Each finger had a circle on the fingertips and a swirling black cloud wrapped around the whole thing. Weird.
“You’ve seen this symbol before?” I questioned.
She nodded, then replied, “Yes, I’ve read many books on guardians. They all have similarly depicted drawings of the guardian symbol. But we haven’t had one in hundreds of years. So, I’m very eager to tell my father about your arrival!” Before I could ask any more questions, a small group of heavily armoured soldiers swarmed the area.
“Holy shit! The troll is dead! Come look at this, it’s dead!” Yelled one of the soldiers nearest the downed creature.
“Forget that! Secure the princess!” Said another, commanding voice. I traced it to one of the armoured men, sporting a short purple cape. He must be the one in charge. The man stared daggers at me, then turned to the princess, before drawing his sword. “Do you know what you’ve done, stranger?” He asked me as his men formed a circle around us.
Sneaking a peek down at the blonde in front of me, who still stood very close, revealed that her face was very flushed, probably from the running. Wait, I’m standing naked, next to this young woman, whose dress is all torn up. This probably looks bad.
“Wait,” I said, raising my hands in surrender. “It’s not what you think!” The blonde flushed a deeper shade of red.
“Princess, slowly walk away from him, we have you now,” said the commander, motioning for her to come to him. Meanwhile, the other soldiers slowly stepped toward me, eyeing my raised hands.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” I quietly asked the still, unmoving woman.
“Oh!” She said suddenly, as though waking from a daydream. Spinning to face the commander, she said, “Stand down!” This order stopped all movement. “This guardian just saved my life. You are not to harm him!” She said, then whispered under her breath, “Not that you could.”
She stepped back to me, still facing the troops, and whispered over her shoulder, “Please put your hands down, it’s very distracting.” For a moment, I wondered how my hands could distract anyone. Then, noting her still, bright red cheeks, realized, I was no longer covering my junk. Oops. That was corrected quickly.
“Is there any way I could get some clothes?” I requested. She looked back at me with a smile.
“Of course,” she replied, “As soon as we get back to my carriage.”
“Thanks,” I said, casually looking back to the troll. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any stranger, a menu, like in a video game, appeared before me, telling me all the useful parts I could salvage from the corpse. Wait, I can loot this thing? That’s awesome!
“We should head out, princess,” said the commander, “With that troll gone, other predators might take advantage.”
“I’m ready,” she replied, then looked to me.
“Just a minute,” I said, strutting over to the large body, and placing a hand on it. The creature flashed with an orange light for a moment as I mentally selected all the items I could take from it. An inventory screen popped up, displaying an image of myself in the corner with empty slots to add clothing, armour and weapons. I dwelled on the idea of transferring everything over into my inventory, and it moved, instantly.
This screen was translucent, so I was able to watch the troll degrade into almost nothing the moment I transferred everything over. Several of the soldiers jumped back in shock at the sudden change. Turning back to the princess, her open-mouthed awe had returned.
“What?” I asked, “Have you never seen a guardian strip something of all its resources before?”
“I’ve never read anything about that before,” she replied, bouncing her eyes between the remains and me.
That made sense, if they haven’t had a guardian for hundreds of years, video games would never have had an influencer on their abilities before. That’s also assuming previous guardians all came from Earth, but God had implied other worlds existed as well.
“Guess that means I’m unique,” I stated simply. “I’m ready to go now, by the way.”
Walking beside the princess, being careful to keep one hand over my shame, we headed to the carriage, which waited on a dirt road not far from where we met. The soldiers surrounded us the entire way.
Once we found our ride—tethered to four very agitated horses—I asked the question I had on my mind the entire short journey, “If you were so close to your carriage, why were you running through the woods? Wouldn’t it have been smarter to ride away in your carriage?”
The princess blushed and dropped her gaze to the ground. “Well…” she said, briefly pausing. “We stopped because I needed to, uh, relieve myself. The troll appeared and I…ran the wrong way.”
That’s embarrassing. What I said was, “Oh, that could have happened to anyone,” in my best sympathetic voice.
“We failed to make a proper perimeter,” stated the commander, interrupting our conversation. “We will never make that mistake again.”
One of the soldiers opened the door to the carriage and stepped aside, offering a balancing hand while the princess stepped in and sat down.
“Erick, fetch the guardian a spare uniform from the back,” she commanded. The soldier that held the door nodded, then disappeared behind the carriage for a moment. He reappeared with a pair of black pants and a purple shirt draped over an arm.
As I was slipping those on, a pair of black boots were placed in front of me. By the time I finished dressing, the soldiers had mounted their horses and formed a blockade around the carriage. The princess beckoned me by tapping on the seat opposite to her. So, I obliged, climbing in to sit. The door closed behind us, and before long, we were on our way.
Oh, she changed into a different dress. It was still red, but not ripped. However, it showed a lot more cleavage. I tried my best not to stare.
“So, what shall I call you, Guardian?” The princess asked, from across the luxurious red-carpeted and cushioned cab. She sat, cross-legged, leaning back in a pose that screamed royalty. I hadn’t gotten that vibe from her until now. Maybe it was all the running and screaming that threw me off the scent.
“You can call me Victor,” I replied, finally taking a moment to look over myself. It was like looking at a different body altogether. I certainly wasn’t this athletically built before coming here. My hair still fell to my shoulders like it had before, however, now it was whiter than snow. My height was a mystery because I hadn’t run into any recognizable references yet. I wonder, what form of measurements do they use here?
“Victor. That’s a strong name,” she replied, “I am Lady Astrid Klausen, second daughter of King Asmund Klausen.”
“Astrid, that sounds pretty,” I said, looking up from peeking into my own shirt. She looked away from me briefly. She sure turns red a lot. Maybe that’s a side effect of having such fair skin.
“Thank you,” she replied with a smile, managing to look everywhere but in my eyes. Did I make her uncomfortable?
“So, what can you tell me about guardians?” I asked pointedly. If I was going to live in this world, I would need to know what all a guardian could do. Somehow, I doubted everything would be the same as me, but at least I could gather an idea to work with.
Astrid’s face lit up. “I can tell you everything we have written about the guardians of old: their abilities, species, and of course, their class.” The words spilled out her so fast it startled me.
“There are different classes of guardians?” I queried.
“Of course. We’ve had Warriors, Elementalists, Summoners, Shadows, Flyers, Priests and Archers.”
“I can probably guess abilities based on those names, but feel free to explain them anyway, in case I got them wrong.”
She leaned forward with a joyful grin and began:
“Ok, so warriors are physically enhanced fighters that have an innate understanding of weapons and martial arts. They also have the most hardened skin of all the guardians because they like to get in close to their enemies. Those are the most commonly occurring ones.”
She took a breath, then continued:
“Elementalists are a type of magic user that specialize in manipulating the four main elements: earth, air, water, and fire. Although they occasionally have been seen using light and shadow magic, it’s not a common occurrence. Summoners can enslave beings from other realms and pull them here to fight for them, or to bind to the guardian for physical enhancement.”
The way she was just powering through the explanations really showed how much she enjoyed the topic. Her passion was contagious.
“One guardian,” she said, “Could allow their summons to bond with others as well. He created an army of enhanced soldiers to help defend a city when they were outnumbered.”
“That sounds useful,” I noted.
She nodded in agreement, then moved on to the next description:
“Shadows, like Elementalists, use elemental magic. However, they use the less common elements of light and shadow. The class gets their name from how they use it, though: for stealth. They can disappear without a trace in broad daylight because they can manipulate the light and shadows around them. This also means they can concentrate them into weapons and armour if needed.”
Invisible and always able to make a weapon? That’s a deadly combination.
“Flyers, as the name suggests, can fly. This is not always through the same method, though. Some have wings, some alter their own weight, or have a particular air elemental capacity that gets them airborne. Regardless of how they do it, this ability to fly means they can travel faster than any other class. However, because they get this flight ability for a variety of different reasons, they rarely fight the same ways, making them the most unique of all the guardians.”
“It would be neat to be able to fly,” I said.
“I know,” she answered. “It’s a dream of mine to fly like a bird, but I don’t have any magic talents I could pursue that with. No mage in the kingdom is allowed to help me either because it’s ‘too dangerous,’” she grumbled.
I looked down into my shirt again, analyzing my tattoo. It has wings, so I wonder if that meant…
“Not to interrupt your explanations,” I said, “but the guardian mark you recognized: are the symbols in it usually relevant?”
She nodded. “Yes,” she replied, “It symbolized your class. I’ll explain the symbols once I have all the classes explained. Is that fine?”
“Sure, “I said, then motioned for her to continue.
“Where was I?” She said. “Oh yes, next was the Priest. A Priest doesn’t necessarily have to follow the direction of a god, but they are granted a divine blessing to heal themselves and others. Now, this healing ability ranges in speed and style. Some Priests can speed up the normal healing process, like standard healing magic, but with much higher potency and little-to-no magic fatigue.
“Some Guardian Priests could completely revert their patient to the way they were before they got hurt. Others could simply sew flesh back together like a piece of cloth, and it stayed.”
“You mentioned magic fatigue,” I said, “Does that apply to all the magic-based guardians?”
“Yes,” she answered cheerfully. “All guardians have near-limitless, uh, stamina in their classes.” She blushed for some reason.
Near-limitless stamina, eh. That could really help in a fight. But how much is ‘near-limitless?’
“The last class is the Archer. Now, this type of guardian isn’t just limited to a bow. They have incredible senses, so any ranged attacks come easy to them. They were the best sharpshooters, spear tossers and slingers this world has ever seen.”
“Ok, so that’s all the classes, so what about the symbols?” I asked.
“The symbols aren’t always identical but have the same general theme per class, which is why we have that many classes. No other symbols have shown up. So, first is the warrior: which is symbolized by a shield, a sword, or some different kind of close-quarters weapon. Some just had a closed fist.
“Elementalists usually have some representation of the elements. Sometimes only one aspect, like fire or water, is shown, but that doesn’t mean they are limited to that element. Summoners are typically just a simple ring. The strongest of the Summoner guardians had a metallic ring that shone with power.”
I looked into my shirt again to see if any of her descriptions fit me yet. My eyes widened, but I dropped the cloth and continued listening.
“Shadows are a bit odd. They sometimes just look like a bruise or a black stain. Flyers have some form of wing or two. The symbol for the Priest depends partly on the species and partly on if they represent a specific god.
“They could have a symbol of their faith, or merely an open palm to mean a healing touch. Of course, the palm would be the same as their own race. Lastly, the Archer could have any form of ranged weapon; a bow, a spear, or merely an arrow.”
“Have any ever had more than one symbol?” I asked as calmly as I could.
“Not that I’ve heard about,” she replied, “Why?”
I pulled open my shirt, granting an easy view of my guardian symbol. “Look at mine,” I said. She leaned in close. A gasp escaped her, followed by a mumbling of numbers.
Is she counting?
“You have ALL of them?!” She exclaimed, looking up while still leaning toward me.
“I take it that’s odd?” I said, not really expecting her to contradict me.
“That’s more than just odd,” she replied, “That’s incredible. You have the abilities of seven classes. I don’t even know what to call your class; you’re completely unique.”
“Well,” I said hesitantly. “The god that gave me this status used the term, ‘Guardian Angel.’ Maybe that would work?” I suggested.
She gawked at me again.
“You spoke with a god?” She said slowly.
“Yes, had a nice chat; gave me my power and sent me here to be a guardian. Is that not the same as other guardians?”
“No…,” she said, pausing to think. “Guardians rarely ever talked about how they got their power. At least, it was never recorded.”
“So, are you fine with referring to me as an Angel class guardian?” I pressed.
“How about using your god’s suggestion: Guardian Angel?” She countered.
“That works for me,” I said, buttoning my shirt back up and leaning back in my seat. I’m a Guardian Angel.Don’t forget to subscribe for future updates!