“So, you all wish to become Gatekeepers.” The professor looked around the auditorium, his weathered old gaze sweeping the hopeful faces. His face was old and wrinkled; his eyes devoid of emotion and kindness.
His face looked fake and I could not stop myself from speaking my mind, “Take the mask off and show yourself, old man.” I did not realize my voice carried up to his ears.
“As you wish then.” He reached down the front of his black sport coat and blood red shirt. He grabbed onto the edge of the mask and ripped it off his head. Empty eye sockets, pure white bone and hollowed nose revealed his true skeleton nature. He took a step from behind the podium, and gasps filled the air. His black pant legs ended, revealing a pair of skeleton feet where the flesh, tendons and muscle had been ripped from his feet. The white bone was bleached in the flickering light of the billions of candles that illuminated the auditorium. He stood a good seven feet tall and the stark white bones glinted in the lights. “Better?”
I heard a few girls shrieking and I noticed someone had fainted, but I answered him, “Hella. Thank you.”
I saw people glare at me from the corners of their eyes, as the professor spoke again. “I am Dr. Athde and I wish to welcome you to the Academy of Anima. A long hard road awaits you on this journey to becoming Gatekeepers.” His eye sockets swept the audience, another time. “I will have to warn all of you, out of all six-hundred and sixty-six of you, only a few will survive long enough to fulfill this dream. If there are any of you who has changed their mind, you are free to leave the auditorium and the Academy will move you to another area of study that might suit you.”
I looked around to see about three-fourths of the people get up and leave. They were not willing to sacrifice everything to become a Gatekeeper. When I saw the doors shut, I turned back to Dr. Athde.
He took a quick count and spoke clearly, “Only One-hundred and fifty people left… Please scoot closer together.”
Looking around, I figured he meant me mostly. I was in the back and farthest away from another person. I moved closer to someone, an elfin male, who was not Dei, but I still had a space between him and I. He looked at me as if I was the dirge of the earth and I was not privileged enough to sit next to him. “Fine then. See how it is.” I mumbled to myself, as the professor continued.
“Becoming a Gatekeeper takes time, commitment, intellect and creativity. All of you have been chosen from all of the races and classes based upon your abilities. Any of you could have easily become the highest within your classes if you had chosen to go into the other studies and become scholars, mages, wizards, knights, paladins or priests. But you all took the most dangerous and the most needed discipline of all.” He smiled, his bleached white teeth gleaming in the light. “You will learn everything the other disciplines will learn, but you will also be taught of your specific discipline during the times when you do not have other classes.”
I looked at the sullen faces of the people around me. They all seemed not to be worried about what he was telling us. Then again, these were the best and brightest; they knew pressure better than the rest of the Academy.
“So,” He smiled to what was left of the discipline. “It is time for your journeys in the Academy to start.” He lifted his hands into the air, lifting us out of our seats. “Your journey starts now!”
I watched as everyone around me vanished, teleported to somewhere else. I looked up at the professor. “Am I still supposed to be here?”
He looked down at me before walking off the stage and on the air. He walked over to me, “State your name.”
“Valiente.” I stood up, though he was still above me.
“So, you are going to be my aide this year?”
He smiled sweetly, “Splendid! You can start by following me to my office, where I can get you orientated.”
“Wasn’t this the orientation?” My mouth spoke before my mind could stop it.
“Oh no, this was the Gatekeeper orientation. You, my dear, still have to get through the aide orientation.”
I sighed audibly. “Joy.”
He dropped to the ground, but he landed perfectly on his feet. “You were the one who saw through my mask.” It was not a question.
“Yup. Your face just looked kinda hella fake and I had to say something.”
He shook his head, smile still grinning from ear to ear, “There is one every millennia.” He looked up at me, “I will warn you, though. Normally, I would dissuade you from becoming an aide, just to the sheer amount of the workload you will have to do as a Gatekeeper-”
“Sir, all due respect, I have to do it. I have no other way of paying to be able to go here. Mum really wants me to do this and I would not be able to handle it if I made her pay for it.”
“I understand that Ms. Valiente, which is why if you ever need help with your duties, and you have a friend who wishes to help, I will make allowances for you.”
“Yay!” I jumped, excitedly.
He flicked his wrist and when I hit the ground from jumping, we were in a dark, dank musty old room. Candles adorned the walls, but did nothing to light it up. “Well, this is my office, and I will have to warn you, I do have another aide who you will be working with. In my absence, his orders are to be followed, unless your judgment tells you not to.” He looked at me as I gulped. “But not to worry, my dear. I have a system set up that I can watch anything that happens and hear everything. If you tell him no, I will know the order and hand out punishments as needed.” He looked away, “I know you are here; come out and meet your assistant.”
I felt a small breeze on the back of my neck, as I felt a breath under my hair. I felt someone touch the side of my neck, moving my hair out of the way. I grabbed the hand and flipped around, using my momentum to twist the arm attached to the hand. I found myself looking into a pair of red eyes hidden slightly behind a swatch of midnight black hair. I let go of the hand and I watched as the person rubbed it’s arm and shoulder. I was not sure if this was a male or female, considering the features were delicate but the glare made me think of a male.
The person spoke, confirming my belief it was a male, “Are you sure she can handle it? Her aura gives off that she is to become a Gatekeeper if she can pass, and we all know that this could be disastrous.”
“Pish-posh, my boy. She will do fine, and I have faith in her, as should you, Thanos Keres Riqis.” He spoke the person’s full name, showing he had power over the person.
I turned to the black haired male, taking in his appearance. Besides the fact that his hair went to his waist and his facial features were more delicate than mine were, he was not too bad looking. He was taller than me by about a foot, and his whole paper white body was clothed in red and black. He wore a blood red button up shirt and a pair of black slacks. His red eyes were lighter than his shirt, but they still looked at me with contempt, behind a veil of black bangs. I noticed the rest of his hair was tied back in a braid to keep it tamed. I take that back, if I could see a smile on his face, he was downright sexy.
I bowed low to him, trying to not show any disrespect by grabbing his hand, “I apologize if I offended you in any way. I’m just not used to being snuck up on and I really don’t appreciate it.” I stood back up, “I am Myst Valiente,” I took care to leave part of my name out of my introduction. “Tis a pleasure to meet you…” I did not know what to call him, except by his full name.
He understood my predicament and I saw that he was a little more at ease around me, “You may call me Keres.” His answer was curt, maybe to see what I would do next.
“Tis a pleasure, Keres. I hope to learn a lot from you, and if I offend you in any way, please let me know, so I may rectify myself.” I smiled up at him, but I do not think it was the best of ideas.
“You offend me, human.” He growled, “Now, get out of my sight until you are needed.”
Dr. Athde just smiled to me as he grabbed me to lead me to the door, “Do not worry, dear, he will become a more pleasurable person when you get to know him.”
“May I ask of what he is?” I was curious, never seeing a person such as him before.
“He is a vampyre; have you heard of them?”
“Only in books…” I mumbled, “Are all of the rumors about them true?”
He looked down at me, his skull becoming more sullen, “All of them.”
I looked back to see Keres setting something up. He looked up at me and I saw a fang glint out of a mischievous smile. I gulped down, feeling my heart rate rise. “Joy.”
“Oh, do not worry, dear. You know his name, in case something happens. If he goes into a blood lust, you just have to invoke the power from his name to stop him.” The walking skeleton opened a huge ornate door from the darkness and pushed me through it. “Good luck with you classes. I want to see you back here tonight after dinner, and we will start your work.”
“Ok.” I turned back to see the door already closed behind me. I shrugged at looked back to the hallway, “I’m gonna be so lost…” I started down the hallway, hoping to find a way to class.
I found the classroom with relative ease, after learning the doors were door-portals that took you to where you need to be. I even arrived with time to spare. I sat in the very back of the room, next to a goblin and an elf. I looked at the wooden desk in front of me, staring at the patterns. I saw the world fall from around me, as Deilucus entered the room. He spotted me and called, So, you were allowed to become a Gatekeeper?
I looked up at him, Yup. And I apologize for my rudeness when we first met. I am Valiente and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to come.
The world slammed back to normal as he came over and sat in front of me. He pulled all of his supplies out of his bag before turning to look at me, “Money?”
I scowled, “How’d you guess?”
“Simple, you look like a peasant, therefore you must not have the money. How were you able to pay?”
“The Dean is allowing me to come to school, as long as I work as an aide to Dr. Athde.”
I watched the blood drain from his face, “Dr. Athde?”
“Yeah, is there a problem with him?”
“Besides the fact that he is the Gatekeeper to the Gates of Hell. There is a story going around that he made a deal with Lucifer to gain the power over the Gate. He is a walking skeleton who took in a vampyre for an assistant.”
“You mean Keres? He doesn’t seem too bad. Just a little uptight, blood thirsty and… slightly demented and scary.”
“You met him?” He did not believe me.
“Well, yeah. After you all vanished, I was left there. Dr. Athde teleported us to his office. I met Keres after I about threw him down.”
“Wow, I hav-” He was cut off by a bolt of lightning hitting the ground, breaking us from the darkness.
“Welcome class.” A figure in the lightning’s smoke said, before hopping from the smoke. “I am Professor Riolo and welcome to the Academy of Anima. This will be the first class and the last class of the day. All students will be taking these classes at the exact same time as you do, though the second one will advance, as you will. These two classes are Ritual and Meditation and the other is the Basics of Magic.”
I looked around the class, looking at all of the different kinds of people that filled the room. I saw orcs, goblins, elves, dwarves, humans, a centaur, sirens, demons, angels, and a nymph. Wow. Never seen some many various peoples in a single place.
Stay here long enough and you will see more. I heard Deilucus reply.
I glared at him as I saw a smile blossom on his face. I looked up to the teacher who was passing out something. I guess she had explained something while Deilucus and I were talking.
When I did not get whatever it was, I figured he was holding onto it. I kicked his chair, hard, creating a loud thunk sound that seemed to echo in the silent room. He threw it in the air and luckily, I caught it. It was a small vile of pure light, hanging by a string of black cord. As it touched my hands, I watched it begin to darken to a shade of gray, the prefect balance of light and dark. Light? I thought to myself, not sure of what to do with the vile.
Riolo spoke quietly, but she was clear, “This light will act as a focus, but more than that, it is a protection. As you begin your time at the Academy, you will learn that this light will protect you from the forces of both light and dark. The Creatures of the Dark will need help against the Light and the Beings of Light will need protection from the Darkness. But the Neutral ones will have the worst of it all, as both sides will try to sway you to their side.”
Deilucus raised his hand and she called on him, “How can light be used to defeat light?”
She smiled, “You’re holding a white light, aren’t you?”
“Look to your left and behind.”
I followed Deilucus’s gaze to the left. The goblin lifted up a pure black light, emitting darkness.
Deilucus asked, “But they all started out white.”
Riolo nodded, “Yes, class, any ideas?”
An orcling answered, “The light is based upon our souls. When she spoke of the Creatures of Darkness and the Beings of Light, it’s an allegory to the souls of those who bear the different lights, not the races.” His skin was the color of coffee beans, and his light green eyes were lit behind a pair of glasses. He wore a simple white shirt and black pants, giving him the look of a geek. I realized that he was the same one I met in the office for admissions.
Riolo nodded, “Perfectly said, Cittrite.” She continued as I looked at the vile in my hand. “Under no circumstances are you to give your light to anyone. Someone else could taint or corrupt it. Doing so could damn your soul to Oblivion.” Her voice rang through the air, as she spoke again, “Nor are you allowed to give your full name to anyone. Names have power and you do not want someone to have that kind of power over you. Even Lucifer does not have your name, unless you give it to him.” She looked about the class, “Well, that will be all for toady. We shall begin meditations tomorrow. Have a nice day and I’ll see you all later today for Basics of Magic.” She vanished, allowing everyone to leave.
I placed the cord around my neck, letting it hang loosely next to my pipes and other necklaces. It was warm against my breast, giving me a sense of calm and warmth.
Deilucus turned to face me, as the other students left the room. He leaned forward, and I noticed that he smelled sweet, like vanilla cream. “I wish someone would have told me that before. That’s how I can hear you and you can hear me.”
“But I choose not to listen.”
“I can’t shut you out. Maybe it has to with that because most times when someone gives their name to someone else, it’s a subordinate to a king or so. Oh well, stop thinking so loudly.”
“I’ll ask Athde if he knows a way for me to stop you from reading me. So, what’s the rest of your day look like?”
“Lit, Origins of the Gates, weapons, mid-day meal, sorcery, religion, basics then dinner. You?”
“I got weapons, lit, origins, mid-day meal, religion, sorcery, basics, dinner, work with Athde then sleep.”
“Holy Hell, you have a long day ahead.”
“I realize that. See you at mid-day?”
“Yeah, meet by the spiral.”
“Yup, see you later.” He stood up and left, as I took a deep breath.
I looked around the room and found myself alone. I stood up, grabbed my pack and walked to the door-portal. “I hate weapons.” I stepped through the door-portal, transporting me to the fields.
| _-_ |
“So, all ye are ready to learn weapons?” An old Scotsman in a blue kilt asked the group of us standing in the middle of an open field. He wore no shirt, forcing the world to see his huge chest, covered in bright red hair. He had gray hair up top his head and for a beard, making his green eyes seem small and squinty.
I looked at this man and hoped to whatever God watching was that he wore something underneath his kilt. I looked around the class and saw mostly males of the fighter species with me. Mainly, I saw that I was the only female in this class and wondered if that was a fluke or just my luck. I was betting it on being my luck, because, well, I just had that kind of luck. Even then, most of the males were human, from what I could tell. Apparently, most humans were taken in as fighters, warriors, paladins and the brute classes. I noticed that even though it was mostly human, there were orcs and humanoids of all shapes and sizes.
I was not the only one who realized I was the only female in this group. Most of the humans did, as I saw them looking at me from the corner of their eyes. I growled lowly, as one did a slow sweep to each of my feminine parts. “If you want to look at something, it’ll be the laces of my boots before it kicks your ass.”
Apparently, I was loud enough to disrupt what the Scotsman was saying, “Do ye have something to say, young lady?”
“Yes, sir, I do. I would like to say that if people don’t stop feeling me up with their eyes, your field will be dowsed in blood.” I explained to him.
“That is not very lady-like.” The professor seemed to have his head on crooked.
“Then why am I in this class? I am the only female here and by the Gods, if there’s a way out of the class, I’m taking it.”
“Then ye do not know? The Academy rarely accepts human girls. Most of the ladies we do get are elfin and they stay only in the magic classes, even then, they stick to healing. If my memory serves me correctly, ye are the only human lady accepted this year. Not only that, ye are a Gatekeeper apprentice, so there is no way for ye to leave the class.”
“Joy, oh joy. So, I’m stuck here?”
“I’m afraid so, Valiente.” He looked to the rest of the class, “Now, are we ready to begin?” The class nodded. He then moved to the side, revealing a box of weapons. He pulled out various weapons before laying them on the ground. “I want each of ye to choose the weapon that best suits ye in yar knowledge of it and we will go from there.”
I waited until everyone else to gather their weapons of choice and I even heard a few of the males talk about me, “I don’t understand why they would allow someone like her into this class.” I sighed and realized this was going to be a long year.
After the rush of males thinned a little bit, I went to look to see what was left. There were morning stars, flails, long swords, short swords, staves, bows, daggers, knives, axes, spears, halberds, crossbows and bludgeons. I closed my eyes, thinking of what would best suit me. I saw a giant black gavel with lime green writing and random red splatters in my mind’s eye. I heard leaves rustling and reached for it. When I opened my eyes, I was holding a light rosewood mallet that was as long as I am tall.
I walked back over to the lines, thankfully, not bothered by the rest of the class. I held my mallet with two hands, it feeling light in my hands, despite its size. The professor walked down the line to assess the choices of the class. Since I was at the end of the line, I had a while to think. I set the mallet’s head on the ground and leaned against the handle. I looked out to the hills and mountains in the distance. Why me…? I had not gotten far in my thinking when the professor’s chest was at my eye level.
“What do ye think ye are doing, Valiente?”
“Trying to figure the answers to life.” I straightened up and held onto the mallet.
“I meant with yar weapon. I would have believed ye would have chosen a more feminine weapon, like a rapier, not a war hammer.”
“Do you think I chose wrong?” I looked down the line and saw that all of the males were looking at me. Most held swords, a couple had long bows and others had war axes. I had the only bludgeoning weapon and it was the biggest out of the class’s chosen weapon.
“I believe ye chose from yar heart, but I do not believe ye have the strength or the power to handle this particular war hammer.”
“What do you mean?”
“There were over a hundred war hammers ye could have chosen, it just strikes me as awkward that ye would have chosen this particular one.”
I looked down at the mallet and held it up, “Is there something wrong with it?”
The goblin standing next to me growled, “How can you not know what that war hammer is?”
I turned to him, “Do I look like I know anything about weapons? I closed my eyes and picked one out. It called to me, not the other way around.”
The goblin grinned wildly, “Let us hope you fare better than His last owner.”
I turned to the professor, “Do I need to put it back and get a new one?”
“That would not be wise.” He placed one hand above me and the other next to the mallet’s head. “‘e already claimed ye as ‘is wielder. Ye say that ye closed yar eyes and chose ‘im?”
“In yar mind’s eye, what did ‘e look like?”
I closed my eyes again, recalling the memory quickly, “It was a simple wooden gavel, black with lime green symbols etched into the head and handle. The green words looked like thorns. There were also red splotches at the tips of the thorns, like blood splatters on the handle and head. It reminded me of lilies before they bloom. It spoke softly, the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, as it called to me. It called itself Cruorem Liliaceae Mortalitas.” I heard a gasp as I opened my eyes and the mallet looked like what I saw in my mind’s eye.
I looked up to the professor, as he took a few steps back. “Valiente, I do not want ye using the Mortalitas in class.” I looked to the others in my class and watched them back away from me. Apparently, I was the only one who had no idea what was going on.
I heard a male voice in my mind, I chose you because you have the power to wield me.
I looked down at the Mortalitas, What are you?
I was once a demon of Hell. I was the High General of Lucifer’s army, but I was killed in battle and imprisoned in this hammer by an Angel during the Great War. I have searched for eons looking for the one who I would be willing to serve. I have found you at last.
I felt a caress on my mind then a feeling of satisfaction when I did not waver nor shirk the touch. Why me?
You are powerful, and I am not the only one who can see it. Your mother and your father passed down the power of their ancestors until it became time to fight again. There is a war coming. None of them knows it, but Athde and Keres know what is coming. They will be your greatest allies, as will an elf and an orcling. Find them and protect them, I will protect you.
I looked around to the class before letting the Mortalitas’s words sank in. What do you wish of me?
I hear a chuckle before an answer, When the time comes, I want you to set me free and another thing that will come after I am freed. You are the only one who can do it. I will protect you, if I have your word that you will do it.
I spoke aloud, “I swear upon my name, my soul and my honor, Mortalitas, I will set you free when the time comes and give you what you wish.”
The professor growled, “Valiente, I will need to see ye in Dr. Athde’s office, now!” He stomped away and went through the gate. The class looked at the gate and most ran for it as it was time to go.
I looked down to the Mortalitas, “Haven’t even known you for an hour and already you get me into trouble.” I felt a sling appear on my back and I slid Mortalitas into it, the head next to mine.
The other students stayed away from me as I walked towards the teleportation gate. “Already in trouble and it’s not even time for half meal.” I walked through the portal and dreaded what would happen on the other side.