It was early next morning. Arthur found himself walking with Sara through the halls of the Citadel, “We lost track of the Vesuvian you fought in the chapel,” he said.
“I’m not even sure he was Vesuvian,” Sara replied.
“What makes you say that?”
“For one, he was completely covered from head-to-toe, so I didn’t get that good a look at him. Second, it seemed as if he was there for the other Vesuvian, the one I killed.”
Arthur scratched his beard, “Hmm… I don’t know what to tell you.”
“Why would two Vesuvians be running around the city trying to kill each other?” Sara wondered out loud.
“Could he have been a Hegiran or a Khothu?” Arthur asked.
“No,” Sara answered. “He dressed like a Vesuvian and moved like one. Hegirans and Khothu are too slow to dodge like that.”
“He must have been a Vesuvian then,” Arthur said, “If he were a Fenrir, you’d know it. Besides that, only a Vesuvian or Fenrir could have made that leap through the window.”
Sara shook her head, “I don’t know.”
“Maybe there’s a lot of infighting between the Vesuvians,” Arthur said, “Don’t forget about their thirst for blood. If your fellow Guardians hadn’t shown up when they did, the one that got away might have made a meal out of you.”
“Good point,” Sara said with a look of concern.
After a moment, Arthur noticed that Sara was dwelling on the thought a little too much, “What’s wrong?”
“You don’t understand what this is like for me,” Sara responded, “I couldn’t get any sleep last night. Everyone keeps asking all these questions. You said no one had seen a Rhean within the city for years…”
“Which is true, or was true.” Arthur acknowledged.
“And I have a fight with two Vesuvians, inside the chapel of all places, on my first day on the job.” Sara said
Arthur chuckled, “Weren’t you the one who was so excited about being a Guardian?”
Sara ran her hands through her hair, “You’re right,” she said, “I should just be glad I’m alive.”
A Guardian suddenly appeared from around the corner, “Sir Arthur, the Consular is having a meeting with the Marshal, Elites, and Preceptors. They’re gathering right now in the Great Hall.”
Arthur looked to Sara, “We don’t have too many meetings like this. It must be important.”
“I’m going to get some sleep,” Sara said, then yawning out loud.
“Make sure you get enough rest and don’t forget about the ball tonight.” Arthur reminded.
“That’s tonight? Oh no! I forgot!” Sara said.
“Don’t worry,” Arthur said, “I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”
Sara slumped, “I’m only going `cause my friends are making me,” she said before turning to go find her room.
Arthur followed the Guardian. Entering the room, he got the feeling that he was the last one to show up. Dozens of Guardians sat or stood around the table, but there was one unoccupied chair next to Henry and Philip, the Consular.
“Arthur, please have a seat,” Philip said, waving his hand. He was an older man, to the point where keeping his shape as robust as it had once been was easier said than done.
Arthur kindly took the seat.
“Is that everyone?” Philip asked.
“I believe so,” Henry replied.
“Let’s begin,” Philp said, “Last night one of our Rangers had a run-in two Vesuvians. Only hours have passed and already citizens are talking about it. As some of you know, for many years there have been sightings of Rheans within the city walls, but no one has ever been able to prove it. This time, we have multiple witnesses and a pile of ash. Questions are going to be asked and we have to be sure of what we’re going to say to avoid any panic. Any suggestions?”
Arthur raised his hand, “Sir, I don’t think we should tell the whole truth.”
Everyone in the room looked at Arthur.
“Explain,” Philip calmly demanded.
“We know that two Vesuvians were involved, but one escaped,” Arthur began, “We should tell the people that one Vesuvian was killed, and the other was chased out of the city. If they think there’s a Vesuvian running loose, there may be widespread panic. In the meantime, we should increase patrols and make sure the survivor isn’t hiding.”
There were murmurs of support from the other Guardians, “Good idea.”, “I agree.”
“A wise decision,” said Philip, “You trained Sara, correct?”
“Yes, sir.” Arthur replied.
“Congratulations,” Philip said, “I look forward to seeing more Guardians under your tutelage.”
Elsewhere in the Citadel, Sara walked tiredly through the corridor. Her eyes felt like lead and she couldn’t even stand straight anymore. Leaning against the dining hall door, she stared down the corridor, which seemed to stretch on forever. There was, however, a shortcut through the very door she was leaning on. She opened it slightly and saw that breakfast was still being served. At least several hundred Guardians were eating and chatting at the numerous tables in the room. She stepped in and tried to walk through hoping nobody would notice. Her walk was somewhat casual, but she held her head down. After only a few steps in she could hear the chatting slowly die down and feel all eyes fall upon her.
Richard, a tall, handsome young man with blue eyes and brown hair, cut his conversation short when he spotted Sara passing by, “Excuse me,” he said, getting up from his chair and hurriedly navigating his way around the tables to catch up with Sara.
The closer Sara got to the exit the faster she walked. When she finally reached the door, she wasted no time to push it open and get out.
As the door closed, Richard came plowing through it, “Sara, wait.”
Almost startled, Sara stopped and turned, “Richard, what’s up?”
“I heard about what happened. How are you holding up?” Richard asked.
“I’m just tired.” Sara said.
“Can I walk you to your room?” Richard asked.
“Sure.” Sara replied.
As they walked, Sara kept an eye out for her door while Richard spoke.
“I’ve been a Guardian for a little over a year,” Richard began, “I’ve seen a Vesuvian here and there, but I never got into it with two by myself. Three of us once ran into a Fenrir, and it took an entire night to kill that thing.”
“Oh yeah, you told me about that one. Good thing our weapons are lined with silver,” Sara said, then seeming to lose herself in thought.
After a moment, Richard began to feel like a fifth wheel.
“I’m sorry,” Sara said, “This all still feels surreal. To be honest, I always dreamed of doing what I did. I just never thought it would actually happen. Now that I have all this attention, I feel funny.”
“Just so you know,” Richard said, “What you did makes a lot of us feel better, and for some of us who haven’t seen too much action lately, it’s a reminder of why we’re here.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sara asked.
“If it weren’t for the Rheans, the Guardians wouldn’t even exist,” Richard said. “So, you have to ask yourself--what would you be doing if you couldn’t be a Guardian?”
“I’m not sure,” Sara said, “I’ve never really thought about it.”
“Maybe it’s just me,” Richard said as they rounded a corner, “Or maybe you don’t know it, but I think you joined because you wanted to do something that not everyone can do. It’s not just for the fun and excitement--you want to make a difference.”
Sara stopped and smiled at Richard, “You know that would be the most honest answer I could give, but then people would probably think I’m crazier than I already am.”
Moments later they arrived at her room, “I just hope everyone gets over this soon,” Sara said.
“Oh, I think you have a long wait ahead of you,” Richard laughed.
Sara opened the door and stepped in before turning to Richard, “Thanks for walking me to my room.”
“Anytime,” Richard said, “Hold on, you’re going to the ball tonight, right?”
“Yeah, I’m going with Juli and Marian,” Sara replied, “After I get some rest.”
“Great! I’ll see you there.” Richard said.
Closing the door behind her, Sara tilted her head back and gave a big sigh of relief, “Home sweet home,” she whispered right before falling face first into bed.