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By Zacky

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Chapter Two

 

Saturday, June 19th, 20041:30pm

Nate was stretching the truth slightly when he said that he knew where Glenn's Comic Shop was.  In fact, he did not recall ever hearing about it before, which in itself was odd, since he loved comic shops.  He spent the majority of the afternoon riding up and down the streets of Walnut Creek looking for the place.

Around the time that Nate's feet were about to give out, and he was close to giving up hope in finding this place, assuming that the place existed at all, he found himself in one of the more run down sections of town.  This was definitely not a place that a 10 year old boy would want to be riding around in, especially riding around alone.  In fact, with all the riding he and his best friend Kevin did, he didn't think they ever came anywhere near here.

Nate decided that it would be best to turn around, and head home.  He could do some more research there to see if this comic shop existed anywhere.  Just when he stopped his bike to turn around, he found himself right in front of the place he had been looking for all afternoon: Glenn's Comic Shop!

"No wonder I never heard of this place", Nate thought to himself.  The store seemed comparable to a large wooden shack.  Even the large picture window in front was incredibly dirty, and difficult to see through. Regardless of this, with green crystal in hand, he parked and chained his bike, and headed for the entrance.

The inside of the store looked nearly as run down as the outside did.  However, the comics on display seemed to be just as old!  He had not seen so many rare and first run comics in one place ever.  How such a treasure as this could be hidden away in such a run down part of town totally confused him.

In fact, he was completely lost in thought, looking at the different comics when the shopkeeper behind the counter, who happened to be a rather old man to go along with the rest of the store, called to him. "Something I can help you with?" he asked with a slightly shaky voice.

"Erm..", Nate replied, trying to remember why he was there, "I'm looking for Glenn."

"That would be me", replied the old man, "name's on the sign".  With that, the old man pointed with pride toward the door.

"There wouldn't happen to be any other Glenn's here, would there?" Nate asked, "Perhaps one around my age?"  While asking this, Nate also wondered if Zao could have made a mistake.  If Zao WAS really 200 years old, and if he really did know a Glenn, there was no telling how old Glenn would be.

"Ah!" the old man said, with a slight surprise, "You must be talking about my nephew, we have the same name.  He's in the back with his friends playing that magic card game thing they collect."

The old man then pointed toward the back of the shop, and to Nate's surprise and relief, he saw several kids around his age gathered at a table.  As he walked closer to the group, he realized at once that the game they were playing was none other than 'Magic The Gathering', or MTG as most called it.  It was a rather popular collectable card game.

Nate stood a step or two behind some of the other kids standing at the table so that he would not be in the way, but so he could still see what was going on.  There were two kids sitting at the table across from each other.  One was probably a little shorter than Nate was; he had sandy brown hair, and a rather handsome face with freckles.  The other was a bit taller and lankier; he had short bland hair, which was cut in a rather old fashioned style.  The kid seemed to be around 11 or 12, not quite at puberty yet.

There were 5 other kids around the table, making 7 in all.  Most of the kids seemed to be in favor of the blond haired boy, who was just happened to be the one that was winning.  After about 10 minutes, the game was over, and the blond haired boy, who Nate had found out was Glenn, had won.  It was only then that the other boys seemed to notice the outsider standing there.

The level of chatting amongst the boys died down as everyone seemed to now be looking at Nate. "Umm..." Nate started, as he realized everyone must have been waiting for him to say something, "I'm looking for Glenn?"

As expected, the brown hair boy immediately replied, "I'm Glenn!  Have you come to challenge me in magic as well?"

The way that Glenn replied seemed to be strangely familiar to Nate.  Maybe it was not as much of the voice itself, but more of the tone of voice, which for some reason, seemed to demand a larger than normal amount of authority.  "Erm... No", Nate replied, stumbling for words, "Do you know another boy called Zao?"

Apparently Nate had said something that surprised them, since immediately the small amount of chattering that was going on stopped.  "Zao? Why do you ask?" Glenn asked.

"He kinda gave me something, and told me it was important I find you here at Glenn's Comic Shop".

Glenn got up from the table, and looked very seriously toward Nate, all expression of happiness and joy gone, "Could you follow me for a moment, please?" he asked with the same childish yet remarkably authoritative voice.  Nate followed Glenn off to the side, where they were out of ear-shot from the other boys.

"What did Zao give you?" Glenn asked in a whispering voice.

"He asked me to bring this to you", Nate replied, pulling the green gem partially out of his pocket.

Glenn stood there for a few seconds before replying.  "I see", he finally said with a short nod.  After that Glenn started to walk back across the room, stopping briefly to look back at Nate, and motion for him to come along.  "Chris, Evan, come on." he said looking toward two of the other boys that were standing around at the table.

Nate followed Glenn and the other two boys behind the counter, and into the back room.  The old man was still there, and he just nodded to them as they walked past him.  The back room was full of clutter; there were some small table and chairs, lots of books lying around, and stacks of comic books.  Glenn asked Nate to sit in one of the chairs while he took the other two boys off to the side, and quietly talked to them about something.

After a few minutes, all the boys came back near Nate and sat down in chairs as well.  Glenn sat backwards in his chair, and used the back of the chair as a hand brace.  "Okay", Glenn began, "Some odd things have happened today, from what you've told me.  I need to ask you a few questions, and then I will give you some answers to the questions, that I'm sure you have.  Okay?"

"Sure", Nate replied.  Nate was slightly surprised at how Glenn's attitude had completely changed.  If it was not for the fact that he looked and sounded like a 10 year old boy, Nate might have mistaken him for an adult.

"How long have you known Zao?" Glenn began.

"Not long," Nate answered, "I saw him at school on Thursday, or at least he saw me, and then we met today during the bike meet." The other two boys seemed to exchange nervous glances, but Glenn kept his attention toward Nate, "How much did Zao get to share with you as to what he was?"

"Humm", Nate thought out loud, "He mentioned something about guardians and asked if I really wanted to help out other kids. Oh, and he mentioned that he was 200 years old, or something like that.  But not much more than that."

Glenn nodded, "I don't suppose he told you what he was doing when you two joined hands?"

"How did you know about that part, I never said that", Nate replied.

Glenn held up one of his hands as if to stop Nate's words, "Answers are coming shortly, but these questions are very important first."

"He didn't say anything, other than that when I found a green crystal to take it here, then we joined hands, he asked me to close my eyes, and before I know it, he must have burned up or something."

Glenn looked toward the other two boys.  They all nodded at each other as if speaking unspoken words, "Chris?" Glenn asked looking toward the taller, apparently more muscularly built boy that was on his left.

"We need to take him to High Point", Chris replied.

"I agree", Glenn answered, "go get us some gear".  At that, Chris got up and headed through a door on the other side of the room, which seemed to lead into another room.  Glenn then turned his attention back toward Nate.

"Answers?" Nate asked.

Glenn nodded with a small smile, "Okay, what Zao told you earlier is indeed true, he was what is known as a Guardian.  In fact, all of us here are Guardians as well.  Guardians are a special group of people who have been selected to help watch over the children of the world, and to protect them from…. Well… from any dangers that might exist."

"Right", Nate said noddingly, "Like Randy?"

Both Glenn and the other boy's eyes lit up at this.  "What of Randy?  Did Zao tell you about him?"

"No, he showed up at school, Randy tried shooting some red energy at Zao, and Zao shot back with some blue stuff, but Zao was losing."

"Of course, he would have been weakened already", Glenn answered.

"So then I kinda had to knock Randy off guard, and then Zao was able to zap him", Nate finished.

"This is very troubling indeed", Glenn answered.  He then looked and nodded toward Eric.  "Nate, we need to know more about what happened, but we need to know it beyond what you can tell us in words".  Glenn paused for a second, noting the confused look on Nate's face.  "I know it will not seem to make sense, but can Eric touch your head?  It will not hurt at all"

Nate nodded.  With that Eric reached over, and also whispered to Nate that this was not going to hurt.  Eric put one of his hands on Nate's forehead for a few moments.  The only thing that Nate felt was a rather warm, soothing feeling, and within moments it was over.

Eric then looked back toward Glenn, "It was RD for sure. Randy assaulted Zao at the school yard.  Zao was weak from an earlier confrontation, and was talking with Nate at the time.  When Randy attacked, Zao was caught off guard, and too weak to resist, Randy had Zao captured and then Nate here shoved Randy down to the ground, and allowed Zao to teleport RD out of the picture."

Glenn nodded.  "Not bad!" he said smiling toward Nate, "It's not every day you get to catch a Viper off guard".

"I still have no clue what all this stuff means," Nate replied hesitantly, "It all sounds cool and all, but Guardians, Vipers?"

"I know it does", Glenn answered soothingly, "and I am sorry about how fast things are moving, but all will be answered in time". 

Nate did not seem to be too satisfied with the answer, and was close to replying when Chris re-entered the room carrying several heavy jackets and pairs of snow pants.

"Ah!" Glenn stated at the site of Chris, "Now it's time to go and get some of those answers.  Chris handed everyone a winter jacket, boots and snow pants.

"Why do we need all this stuff?" Nate asked while he put on his jacket. "If we are going on a trip, I'm going to need to get permission from my parents."  At that, the other boys chuckled slightly.

"You will need these where we are going", Glenn replied, "but don't worry, we will not be gone long, definitely not long enough for your family to be worried about you."

When everyone was dressed, they headed into the back room.  Already Nate felt rather warm, the jackets were lined with fur and heavily padded.  The pants were a bit tight, and Nate had to struggle a little to get them on.

Once all four boys were in the room, Glenn looked toward Nate.  "Okay, lesson number one in becoming a Guardian," he replied with a smile, "learning to recognize portals.  Look at the other side of the room, and tell me what you see?"

Nate glanced over for a few moments.  The room appeared to be a storage room of some sort.  There were lots of boxes, small cabinets and drawers lining its sides.  At the far end, he saw a mop pail, and what appeared to be some other cleaning supplies that were hanging up on the wall.  "Huumm… it looks to me like you have a bunch of cleaning supplies hanging up on the wall".

Glenn smile became wider, "That's exactly what normal people are supposed to see!  But look a little closer; especially look at the edges of the second shelf holding those tools."

Nate looked again, and started to try to follow the edges to see if anything was… wait a minute… it looked to Nate like one of the edges was separated somehow, actually it appeared to be more like a distortion.  There was another on the other side of the shelf, and another a little further down.  "Whoa", Nate said taking a step further, and trying to adjust his vision, "It looks like…. I'm not sure what it looks like, almost like something is warping the wood, or not just the wood, but everything around it."

"Perfect!" Glenn replied, "Now you're seeing the portal!  That's exactly what a portal is, a distortion in space and time.  To someone who is not trained to look for it, it is completely invisible.  But if you know what you're looking for, you can typically spot them rather easily.

"Cool!" Nate replied.

"That's what we are going to walk through", Glenn replied as he nodded toward Chris and Eric.  In sequence, both boys walked toward the back wall, and other than a small amount of blue light that was emitted from the portal as each boy disturbed its surface, the boys seemed to vanish into thin air.

"There's nothing to be afraid of," Glenn called over to Nate, "Just walk through it as if it were any other door"

Not having a clue what to expect, Nate stepped up and walked through the portal. As he passed through, the entire room seemed to be engulfed in a massive array of bright blue light, and sound and feeling faded.  It was a unique feeling for Nate and it was later hard to fully describe in words.

                                            *                    *                    *

Despite the rather bright light, Nate continued to walk forward, fearing what would happen if he should stop.  A few moments later the light around him faded and he discovered that he was standing in a small cavern with several lit torches on the walls.  Chris and Eric were both there too.

"Wow, I think that's a new record", replied Chris, "Normally it takes us several minutes to get newbie's to walk threw their first portal."  Eric seemed to find that statement rather humorous as he gave up a few giggles, while Nate simply blushed slightly.  A few seconds later, Glenn emerged from the portal, also accompanied by a small amount of blue light as the portal opened and closed again.

"I guess it's safe to say we are not in your comic shop anymore?" Nate asked.

"Nope!" Glenn answered, "Welcome to High Point." Glenn started to walk out of the small cave they were in, followed by everyone else.

Even with the rather warm jacket and snow pants he was wearing, Nate felt very cold. He quickly realized that this was the first time he had ever seen real snow!  Sure, he had seen it on TV, and in the movies, but being in it was a completely different thing.  In a way it was actually pretty cool! If it were not so cold that was.

"First time in snow?"  Glenn called out from behind Nate, obviously seeing how Nate was looking at all the snow around them.

"Yeah", Nate replied, "It's awesome!"

"You guys can have the snow; I'll take the hot cocoa!"  Eric added in, which forced a few more giggles to be given up by everyone.

The boys walked for several minutes through a pass between two large mountains.  Then, after turning a small corner, they saw a magnificently large stone castle which was carved out of the mountain ahead of them.  There was a large flight of stone steps that led up to two equally large wooden doors.  On each side of the stone steps, there was a statue of a boy standing guard, holding a large spear.  The stone boys looked slightly out of place for the environment, since they were both topless and wearing only loin cloths, in the middle of winter!

Other than seeming to be built out of part of the rock cliff itself, the architecture of the building looked liked it had come out of one of Nate's history books.  He could easily make out three distinct levels judging by the window slits alone.  If you counted the four large towers that were at each of the points, there would be six from top to bottom.  The towers each ended in a cone shape, and also had statue figures of some sort on them, but they were too small, and far away for Nate to be able to see exactly what they were.

As they approached closer to the steps the boys were suddenly surrounded by four well dressed boys each carrying shiny bow staves. They had seemed to materialize out of thin air.  The boy guards all appeared to be Oriental in decent.  Were they in China or Japan perhaps?

Glenn talked to one of the guards for a few moments, but it was difficult for Nate to catch what was being said.  Soon, however, the boy guards stepped aside to allow Glenn, Nate, and the other boys to continue up the stone steps, past the large boy statues, and into the castle. As they were walking up the steps, Nate glanced back, and noticed that all 4 boys were gone, only the footprints where they were standing were left.

Once they were inside the castle, they were immediately met by another boy.  This one was not Oriental, and he had nicely tanned skin and sandy brown hair.  "Glenn!" he said cheerfully has he approached them.

"Derick!" Glenn answered in reply, "I am greatly sorry for the short notice."

"You and your group are always welcome here, whenever you would like", Derick answered.  He then turned his attention toward Nate, "Zao?" he asked.

At this, Nate felt slightly uneasy.  By this new boy's tone, and by the way he looked at Nate, It was almost had mistaken Nate to be Zao.  However, Nate also knew that this could not have been likely since he and Zao did not look anything alike.

"Derick, this is Nathan Price… Nate, this is Derick, the grounds keeper and lead protector of High Point".  Both Nate and Derick nodded toward each other.

"It's a pleasure to meet you", Derick said, as he held out his hand toward Nate.  Derick's tone had also changed.  It was no longer a tone of expectation, but more of a tone of uncertainty.

"Thank you", Nate replied, accepting Derick's hand in friendship.

"Zao pre-bounded with Nate earlier this morning", Eric continued.

"I see", Derick replied, much more solemnly, "Tia will want to see him at once, I'm sure."

"Do you know where he is?"

"He was in a strategy meeting with some of the Southern Guardian Leads in the planning room, but that should be over by now.  You can take Nate there."

"Thank you." Glenn replied.  And with that, the group was off again, heading down one of the side passages from the main greeting hall.  Glenn seemed to know his way around the castle pretty well, or at least knew the path to get to wherever it was that they were going to.  It did not take long for them to reach another large wooden door.  Standing outside the door on both sides were two more Oriental boy guards.  This time however, instead of being dressed in snowsuits, they were dressed in tank tops and shorts.  Their soft, bare feet stood rock solidly still on the stone floor.  Nate could almost have mistaken them for statues if one had not moved to meet Glenn when we approached the door.

Glenn mentioned that he was here to see Tia.  The guard took Glenn into the room while leaving the rest of the group outside the room with the second guard.  Clearly, these guards must be Guardians as well, as Nate did not know of any kids that were as disciplined as these guards appeared to be.

                                            *                    *                    *

Kevin was in his room, resting on his bed watching T.V. when his mother opened up the door.  "Feeling better?"  She asked.

Kevin nodded.

"That's good."  She replied, with a slight motherly smile.  "Oh, Mrs. Price just called.  You wouldn't happen to know where Nathan is at, do you?"

"He stopped by earlier this morning on his way to the bike meet at school", Kevin replied with a slightly worried tone, "But that should have been over hours again, and he should be back home by now.

"They have searched all around the school, and have not found any trace of him or his bike.  A few kids said they thought they saw him in a fight earlier in the morning."

"What?"  Kevin replied with even m ore concern.

"That's all that Margaret told me when she called earlier.  I hope nothing has happened to him, he seems to be such a nice boy."

"Yeah"

With that, mother closed the door, and left Kevin to think to himself for awhile.  "Where in the world would Nate be?"

                                            *                    *                    *

After a few more minutes, the first guard returned out of the room.  He beckoned to Nate, and informed him that Tia would like to talk with him.  They then walked into the room to find a large circular stone table in the center of the room, and many chairs surrounding it.  There were also several chairs off on the sides of the room for even more people to sit.  Nearly all the chairs seemed to be child sized except for a few on the far side of the stone table.

Nate saw Glenn sitting at the table, next to a rather small boy, perhaps the youngest looking boy that he had seen so far.  The guard and Nate walked up to where Glenn and the small child were.  "Sir, Nathan Price", the boy guard proclaimed, and then gestured toward Nate, "Master Chief Guardian Tia."

This was perhaps the biggest surprise of all.  Nate had tried to form a mental picture of what the leader of the Guardians would be like. He figured it would be a large, strong boy, perhaps in his late teens.  He did not expect the leader to be this small child that stood before him.  The boy could not have appeared to be more than six or seven. He had golden blond hair and fair skin.  Perhaps his most noticeable feature was his very blue eyes.  Tia was also dressed differently than the others; he wore what appeared to be a white wool bathrobe, which was held in place by a black wool belt.  There appeared to be some type of symbol at the ends of the belt that Nate could not recognize.  The robe parted slightly at his neck exposing a 'V' portion of his chest.

"Welcome", the small boy said with a slight nod toward Nate, as the guard turned and walked away, "Glenn has told me much about you, and I am sure you have many… questions that I will try to answer."  Tia's voice was clearly that of a young child's, but it was also obvious that he was trying to make it sound older than he actually looked, and to a degree it worked very well.  His voice seemed to carry a sense of authority almost like Glenn's had first done back on the comic shop

"Questions?" Nate answered with a grin, "Let's see, I got up today only to be in the middle of a wizard's magic fight, I ended up having a kid burn up and die on me, I got sent who knows how many thousands of miles away in an invisible portal!  No I don't have any questions at all."

Glenn and Tia exchanged glances at each other, almost to the point that they started to laugh, but both held back the urge.  Finally Tia looked back toward Nate.  "Zao is not dead Nathan." he replied.

"He's not?" Nate asked puzzled, "but he burned up while I was trying to help him!"

"I can see we have much to discuss", Tia replied with a smile.  "To start with, you did not do anything wrong, and Zao did not die. He transferred his life energy inside of you, and the rest of what makes up Zao is in that green gem that is in your pocket."

Nate suddenly became aware again of the whole reason for coming here in the first place: the crystal that was given to him by Zao to take to Glenn.  He pulled it out of his pocket to take a closer look at it as Tia continued.  "So… Zoa is inside of me?" Nate asked.

"Just part of him, the part he could do on his own, when a Guardian leaves and a new Guardian takes his place, the old Guardian becomes the Seah-Tock, or something like a spirit guide, but with a bit more physical form.  The two become one."

"I don't understand", Nate replied.

"It's a bit confusing", Tia admitted, "but we have some important decisions to make, or more appropriately, you have some important decisions to make, and unfortunately there is not much time to make them."

"Decisions?  What kind of decisions?" Nate asked.

"You will need to decide whether or not you wish to complete the journey that you have started, and become a Guardian", Tia answered.

"You mean to live forever and become like you guys and Zao?" Nate replied, perhaps with a bit more interest than he wanted to show.

"Yes", replied Tia, "But this is not a decision to take lightly.  As a Guardian, you would be assuming a lot more responsibility.  It may seem like fun at first but it can also be a lot of work, not to mention dangerous.  Also, it would mean leaving all the friends that you have now behind, as they would continue to age and you would not."

"Wow", Nate said with considerably less excitement, "I didn't think of that."

"Don't worry; there is still a small amount of time to think things over.  Not much mind you, but some.  This is normally a process that occurs over a series of months. As we review the potential candidate, and as the candidate is introduced to guardian concepts.  As events have unfolded however, this time things will have to work out slightly differently."

"My parents always said that I would go places fast in life!" Nate answered with a smile, which quickly disappeared as he realized what he was saying, "… My parents, which I would have to leave behind as well?"

"Unfortunately yes", Tia answered, "But for now I think you have had a pretty eventful day, and that the best thing for you would be to get some sleep, and then we can pick this back up later when you have a clear head."

"Are you kidding?" Nate asked, "I doubt I could sleep now if I tried!"

Tia and Glenn both smiled.  "Oh, I think you will", Tia replied. 

The last thing that Nate remembered before everything around him started to go dark was Tia reaching out, and touching Nate's forehead.

 


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