I’ve decided to start up a series of blog posts that tell the tale of “Guarded”, a story that I started writing a little while ago. As ever, I will try to illustrate the story with my own pictures; thanks for reading and enjoy!
Fireflies danced through the half-light, their wings an endless rush of colour and sound. They lit up the lake, making it dance and shimmer, as if it, too, was trembling in anticipation. The first firework rocketed upwards, and the fireflies darted into the bushes all around, fleeing as far greater colours and sounds cascaded around them. The night was instantly awash with cheers from the surrounding villagers, laughing whilst their children gasped in awe at the beauty of the celebrations.
Amata turned to her brother, a grin stretched across her face. When he didn’t look at her, she reached for his hand, childish desperation fuelling her plight. When Jesse shook her hand away, however, Amata stepped back in defeat, head low, despite the excitement all around her. Her brother still did not speak, but when, at last, she let out a small sob under her breath, he withdrew his dark eyes from the skyline to gaze at her, instead.
“It’s not your fault,” he whispered, and gave her hand a quick squeeze, before he turned his head back to the sky, once more. Amata sniffed slightly, glancing towards the masked Guardian who stood behind them. His featureless face was not looking up at the sky, as all as the villagers’ were; it was gazing straight back at her, head tilted slightly to the side.
Amata whipped back around and forced her head upwards, but her eyes were closed. She could still here the gasps and cheers of amazement all around her, but they suddenly sounded hollow. Her eyes remained firmly shut for the rest of the show, only one question filling her mind: how long had He been watching?
When at last there were no more fireworks to let loose, the villagers’ necks drooped slowly back to the dusty earth at their feet, waiting for The Verdict that they knew was to come.
The Guardians, surrounding the villagers on every side, drew slowly in, brushing past adult and child alike as they crossed the old bridge to the centre of the lake. There they gazed out at their captives, masks shielding their greedy expressions.
There was silence for a few seconds, and then a great orb of light shot out from the midst of the Guardians’ cloaks. It rose up, much like the fireworks had only minutes before, and split into five smaller orbs of fire. As they began to drift slowly towards the villagers, not a single head was lowered.
Amata wanted to reach for Jesse’s hand again, but she knew better. If they escaped with no reprimand tonight, then she knew that she could not make a mistake like that again. It was not only her own life that she was putting on her line; it was Jesse’s too, and she would do anything, rather than having to see him hurt.
Her eyes were fixed on the nearest orb of light, as it drifted lazily over its spectators. Over on the far side of the lake, one of the orbs had already found its destination: the resultant screams piercing into the night were enough to tell her that.
The orb was directly above her head now, its head burning her skin even as she gazed up at it. She’d never been as close as this to an orb before, and she hadn’t realised how strangely mesmerising they were. She felt the strangest urge to touch it rise up inside of her, but then another scream from across the lake jerked her back to reality. The orbs were dangerous.
Jesse was watching the orb, too, his thick brows furrowed as he watched it hover directly above them. Amata had just processed the horrific thought that the orb might have stopped moving, when Jesse grabbed it from mid-air.
Amata’s world froze. She watched as if she was a stranger to the boy who had just plucked the fiery mass from the air. It wrapped its snake-like tendrils about his wrists and ankles, binding him even as it burned him, and then whisked him away, dragging him to the circle of Guardians who stood, waiting.
She needed to scream, but she knew that she couldn’t. She only watched helplessly as her brother floated eerily in the air, his beautiful face alight with the pain he supressed. He and his four fellow captives, all floating beside each other, looked like every other captive of every other Verdict that there ever had been since the Guardians had first arrived at the village, yet this was so wrong. It wasn’t a stranger that Amata was watching suffer: it was her brother. It was Jesse.