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Keeper of the Eastern Shrine (Gathering of Guardians Saga 1)


A short search and rescue mission reveals the way to a mysterious labyrinth. Inside, Lynus senses an equally enigmatic anomaly. This discovery leads to the leaders of the five guilds to work together to solve this mystery. What could be hiding in this beautiful, but dangerous shrine?

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Chapter 1

The hallway along what had been come to known as the Medical Wing of the Sanctuary was quiet that mid-afternoon. Lynus and Isiah, the two medics who had the most experience running a clinic and were considered the primary healers, walked together along the deserted stretch of corridor. Lynus gazed idly through the windows and into the courtyard where numerous other explorers gathered and simply mingled, while next to him Isiah had his attention focused on a clipboard in his hand.

“With as many people we have in one place, it’s still surprising that we have empty, unused rooms,” Isiah commented.

Lynus nodded his head and turned his attention toward his companion. “Yes, I was thinking the same. Lucky for us, though. We’ll need to turn at least one of them into a library of sorts. And I was mulling over the idea of turning another into a…laboratory, I supposed.”

“Ah,” Isiah made a noise of understanding. “To make our own medicine?”

“And research,” Lynus added with a slight shake of his head. “I have a couple of sick patients under my care, after all.”

Isiah slipped the clipboard under his arm and shoved his hand into the pocket of the coat. “Until then, we’ll either have to use the one at the hospital. Or the kitchen here.”

That brought a smile to Lynus’ lips. “We’re going to have to fight Flavio for space in the kitchen.”

“Understandable; we’ve got a lot of mouths to feed,” Isiah said as they turned to head to the dining hall. “Let’s go speak with him anyway.”

As they stepped into the spacious dining hall, however, they were surprised to find a gathering of explorers around one of the tables. With none other than Flavio at the head, seemingly leading and managing a discussion amongst them. The gathering was curious as those involved were considered the caretakers of their guilds.

“Hm?” Isiah made a noise of interest as he and Lynus made their way over to the gathering. “Having a chefs’ meeting, are we?”

From the left side of the table, Mahalah smiled placidly at them. “We’re discussing what roles we should undertake. We’re going to have to use every square inch of the kitchen.”

That was fair. Honestly, everyone had lost count how many people resided in the Sanctuary now.

“Speaking of which; Flavio-”

“No no, you’re not allowed in the kitchen,” Flavio abruptly interrupted Lynus, even going as far as to wag his finger at him. “You’ve got a clinic to run.”

“That wasn’t what I was about to say,” Lynus returned. Though, he had to concede that Flavio’s interjection had some merit. “At least, not yet.”

That slight admission, of course, allowed Flavio to have a short moment of smugness, prompting Lynus to quickly turn the conversation back to the task at hand.

“In any case, we were wondering if we should turn one of the empty storerooms into a make-shift laboratory, in case we’ll need to brew up our own medicine and tonics. Until then, we might have to borrow a corner of the kitchen.”

Flavio folded his left arm across his chest and tapped his cheek with his other hand. “Hmm. I can’t deny that, but creating your own laboratory would be better.” He dropped his arm to his side and gave Lynus a pointed look. “I know you; you can’t help but help.”

“…I can’t rightly deny that,” Lynus sighed in defeat.

The corner of Isiah’s twitched into a half smirk. Thankfully, he chose not to continue that line of conversation. “Looks like we’re going to be working on the laboratory first. Shouldn’t take too long, if we get the other healers involved.”

Lynus idly toyed the button of his coat. “You’re right. Since its early days of the expedition, there shouldn’t be too many injured patients to deal with.”

He hoped he didn’t just jinx everyone.

They may also need to borrow a few pieces of equipment from the hospital. Derek would appreciate the help. Though, before they could create any medicine, they need materials to work with.

“In any case, do you know where Ryker is?” Lynus asked, rather abruptly probably. “I wish to speak to him about gathering materials.”

“Oh, he’s out completing a quick request with Joren and Jeroden,” Mahalah explained. “Something about helping the guards to find farming fields and watching over a herd of goats.”

“Ah, I see. Zeryn didn’t go with them? He’s been restless for days.”

If not, he must have wandered off somewhere else. It was a little too quiet around the Sanctuary. Lynus sincerely hoped he wasn’t picking fights with other guilds and explorers to pass the time.

“He’s out on another request,” Flavio thankfully answered. “Something about fishing?”

“Yup!” Tokala cheerfully piped up. “A monster was seen near the shore, apparently. Salim gone, too. He’s been restless, too. I hope it’s a good spot to fish. Can never have too much fish.”

“With this many people, we’ll need parties made up of hunters and gatherers,” Ashton added idly.

“Cooking with monster meat shall be an experience,” Ramus commented from next to Ashton.

Flavio took on the stereotypical musing stance once more. “Hm. We’ll start off small with the experimentations, I think.”

Before anyone else could comment on their current situation, the doors leading from the courtyard and to the dining hall slammed open dramatically. There, stood none other than Zeryn. As tall as the blond-haired highlander was, it was the very large fish-like scaly creature that he carried far too easily over his shoulder that had everyone’s undivided attention.

Where did he get that thing from?

“Flavie, got yer a right treat here!” Zeryn announced proudly.

“…What?” Flavio spluttered after a short moment of silence.

“Wow!” Tokala said as he placed his hands atop of the table and abruptly shot to his feet. “That looks delicious!”

From behind the highlander and the massively sized…ah, fish appeared Salim and Clester. The pugilist and fortress looking as proud as Zeryn.

“We feasting tonight!”

“Monster meeeeeeeeeeat!”

Zeryn laughed wholeheartedly at the others’ enthusiasm. “Aye, put up a fight. Only fitting that we eat the spoils.”

It took Flavio a few more seconds to snap out of his shock and he abruptly bristled as he threw an accusatory finger in their direction. “That thing had better be good and dead!”

Lynus looked at the giant fish monster creature and was inwardly grateful that he wasn’t going to be in the kitchen when they attempted to…prepare the thing for human consumption.

“Um, good luck, Flavio!” he said as he turned, grabbed an amused Isiah by the sleeve of his coat and tugged him in a random direction. Just to get away from the impending chaos.

While Lynus was glad he wasn’t to be involved, he still felt sorry for those that were. Especially for young Ramus. Though, it was highly likely Flavio wouldn’t allow him to be involved. It would be a little too much for a first timer, and while Flavio liked to tease Lynus for his maternal instincts, he was quite protective himself.

“There’s no need to hide, you know?”

Drayce’s voice, holding comfort and reassurance, immediately caught Lynus’ attention. He instinctively turned in the direction the voice originated from and he felt the emotions of unease and worry.

Of course, after sensing such emotions the instinct to help ease the worry propelled him forward. To where Drayce stood with Caelem and Faelen.

“Is something wrong?” Lynus found himself asking as he approached the three, Isiah tagging along behind him.

“Oh, hey,” Drayce instinctively replied, momentarily surprised before he smiled. “Good timing. I’ve been meaning to talk to you. So, I’ll get to the point. You see, as you can see that therians have animal features. That extends to having tails. Something they’ve been conditioned to hide.”

Lynus blinked, surprised, while Isiah regarded the two therians with a curious gaze. “Hm? Why hide?”

“They tend to get in the way of battle,” Caelem replied simply, while Faelen seemed to shift uncomfortably next to him.

“A-and, well, you see, there’s a few…um, individuals who value therian furs,” he stuttered out.

Lynus’ breath hitched in his throat at the insinuation.

“Fur traders?” Isiah practically spat out his question.

His lips pressed together tightly, barely reigning in his protectiveness, Drayce nodded. “Yeah.”

Lynus was instantly horrified at the revelation and Isiah bristled protectively next to him.

He felt terrified for them, wondering if they had encounters with such beings as their fears was palpable. He could empathise with them, however. He had been, well, hunted for his skills himself. Hunted was truly the best word to describe that feeling of someone using whatever they had in their arsenal to get their hands on him.

He also knew immediately that when Axel found out, he was going to keep a closer eye on their new Therian teammates. Just like he did whenever Lynus felt worried or uneasy around someone. Not to mention Tobyn and Jhon, too. And Zeryn. And…well, let’s face it; everyone was going to be keeping a mindful eye on possible threats.

“Heh,” Drayce unexpectedly chuckled. “Your protective expressions are telling.”

“There’s no need to hide within the Sanctuary,” Lynus immediately stated in a reassuring tone toward Caelem and Faelen. “Your comfort is paramount.”

“If you’re worried about fur traders; don’t be,” Isiah added. “It’s them that should be worried.”

That made Lynus utter a small laugh. “Exactly. I know firsthand how protective my guildmates are. They’re protective of everyone. Even before you tell them about possible fur traders.”

“See?” Drayce smiled as he reached forward with his hand and ruffled Faelen’s hair lightly, earning a cutely happy little grin to appear on his lips. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Kay,” Faelen returned to his cheerful self. “I’ll go tell Tokala and Koyla.”

Lynus winced at the thought of young Faelen ambling into the kitchen, completely unaware of a certain…thing that Zeryn had literally dragged in. “A-ah, Tokala is busy in the kitchen at the moment. But do tell Koyla.”

“Ah, ok,” Faelen replied, both curious yet obedient, before he grabbed Caelem by the wrist and dragged him to the halls that would lead them to the outside courtyard.

Drayce watched as the two hurried off before he tilted his head in Isiah’s direction. “What’s going on in the kitchen?”

“Zeryn dragged back a monster fish and expects Flavio to cook with it,” Isiah answered simply, allowing Drayce to use his imagination. “It’s going to be a mess.”

Drayce grimaced. “Ah, I’ll be sure to avoid the kitchen, too.”

Lynus wasn’t entirely sure what was going on in that kitchen at the moment. And it would be best if he was left to wonder. However, dinner was certainly going to be an interesting experience regardless.

“Lynus, good, there you are.”

Hamza’s voice and presence pulled Lynus from his musings and he immediately turned to look to his right. Where said war magus approached them, appearing through a set of doors that led deeper into the Sanctuary. “Hm? Something wrong?”

The moment Hamza reached him, he handed him a plain folder. “It appears that we have a mission.”

Lynus allowed a feeling of dismay to roll over him as he received the folder from Hamza and immediately flipped it open. A single piece of paper held all the information they had. Brief description. The barest of details. Not much to go on at all. Thankfully, there was a folded handkerchief, so with the help of Chi-hung, they should narrow in on the person’s scent.

“What, a mission already?” Drayce lamented. “We’ve been here just a day.”

Hamza gave the red-haired dragoon a wryly smile. “It doesn’t take long. As Lynus knows all too well, hm?”

“Unfortunately,” Lynus said around a sigh and gave the folder back to Hamza. “Alright, I’ll get ready. Have you told Axel yet?”

“On my way now,” Hamza said quickly as he turned on his heel and walked away.

As Hamza moved from view, Lynus tugged out the half ponytail that held some of his hair from his face. Both Isiah and Drayce turned to him as he raked his fingers through his hair, pulling his hair into a high ponytail that he always wore while out in the field.

“So, who’s the dumbass?” Isiah asked.

“A young female medic, apparently. Young and inexperienced.” Lynus sighed as he flipped his hair over his shoulder. “Thirteen years old. The one that let her go on her own needs to take responsibility.”

“It could just be a false alarm,” Isiah mused.

“Hopefully,” Lynus replied. “If nothing else, it’ll be a good practice run. I better go get ready. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”

“Good luck,” Drayce said as he and Isiah waved him off.

Lynus walked briskly through the hallways and reached the Medical Wing. As he entered the infirmary, he instinctively looked over at the bays and was relieved to find them empty for the time being. And only Azure could be seen, ensuring that the bays were well stocked now that they had finally reached their destination.

“Azure, I have a mission,” Lynus explained and stepped into his office, shrugging off his medical coat as he did so. “Can you get my bag?”

“A-already?” Azure asked, making no attempt to hide his surprise and concern.

“A simple one, it seems,” Lynus replied reassuringly, knowing full well that his precious apprentice would be worried. “People are likely just a little bit skittish.”

“W-will you be bringing anyone here?”

“No. If anyone is injured, we’ll take them to the hospital.”

Lynus took a moment to ensure that his medical coat, the one that had been crafted especially for him out in the field, was comfortable upon his shoulders. He idly tightened his ponytail before he turned and retrieved his bag from Azure.

“Now, don’t worry, I’ll be back soon,” he spoke reassuringly again, resting a hand on Azure’s shoulder as he hoisted his bag upon his own. “Be sure to take care of the clinic for me. Oh, and avoid the kitchen for now; Flavio has his hands full thanks to Zeryn. Isiah and Remedy are still here if you need help with anything.”

Azure nodded his head meekly, though said nothing else.

“We’ll be back before dinner,” Lynus said as he moved toward the exit. “See you soon!”

Breaking out into a light jog, Lynus made his way from the Medical Wing and to the courtyard. Where there was already a gathering of people. Axel, Jhon, Tobyn, and Chi-hung, of course, amongst them. Axel with his trusty axe resting upon his back, Jhon in his armour and his shield by his side, while Tobyn crouched on the ground as he sorted through his own knapsack.

“Ready?” Axel asked as Lynus joined them.

“All done.”

Hamza looked them over in a purely parental manner, as Chi-hung sat restlessly by his side.

“Sunset is in a couple of hours. Return before dusk, whether you have found the missing or not. I will not have you venturing through unknown lands at night.”

“Got it,” Axel replied. “We’ll be back soon.”

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