“Hello?” a girl called out cautiously as she approached an ancient Greek temple. The dilapidated pillars were overgrown with dried moss and dead plants. Yet, the forlorn place was not wholly abandoned; between the stone monoliths a feathery blue wing was visible. “Hello, anyone there?”
The wing moved, and startled, the girl halted. A metallic rattling echoed through the air before a voice answered, “Who goes there?”
The girl tugged at a strand of auburn hair, hesitating for a moment, before she stepped closer. “My name is Aislinn. Who are you? What is this place?”
She moved along the pillars, trying to catch a glimpse of whom the blue wing belonged to. There was more rattling, but the owner of the blue wing remained out of sight.
“Why did you come here?” the voice asked with a slight tremble.
“I-I don’t know. I just did. Please, can you stop moving? I mean you no harm.”
The rattling ceased. Aislinn took a few more steps towards the source and spotted a hint of blue behind one of the monoliths. She rounded it and froze, gawking. Before her stood a man with azure skin and cobalt wings. A metal collar was locked around his neck, and his wrists and ankles were shackled. The long chains attached to his bindings extended into the dark temple behind him, the void obscuring where they went or what they were attached to.
Still staring, she asked, “Are you… Are you an angel?”
He avoided her gaze and sat down on the marble floor; his every movement accompanied with a rattle of his bonds.
Aislinn approached him. His magnificent wings were unkempt, his short blue hair messy and dirty, and his only item of clothing—grey, baggy pants—wasn’t in any better a state. “How long have you been here?”
After a short silence, he stated, “Too long.”
She moved in front of him, squatted, and tried to make eye contact. When his sapphire eyes finally locked with her hazel ones, her breath hitched. His expression was a mixture of utmost sorrow and hope.
“What happened?” Aislinn whispered. “Why are you chained up?”
“I … fell from grace and was … cast out.”
Aislinn tugged at a lock of hair again, winding it around her finger in the process, as she waited for him to continue. When he didn’t, she asked, “Why?”
He averted his gaze. “I fell in love with someone, but his parents didn’t approve of us.”
Aislinn inhaled sharply. “Why not?” She balled her fists, anger flaring in her eyes. “Because you’re both guys?”
He shook his head. “It was because we belonged to two rivalling nations.”
Embarrassed, Aislinn’s rosy cheeks turned a bright red. “Oh…” She collected herself. “Still, that’s no reason to have you here, all alone, chained up! People should be allowed to love one another no matter what.”
A small smile tugged at his full lips. “You’re a fiery one, aren’t you?”
The girl’s cheeks heated up even more. “Well, I… I just don’t like bullies.”
He chuckled and placed a hand on her head. “I like you.”
“Th-thanks,” she stammered. “But, please, can’t I help? Oh! You didn’t tell me your name yet.” She looked at him with pleading eyes.
“I can’t tell you my name.”
Without missing a beat, she replied, “Then I will call you Blue. Is that okay?”
He smiled. “Yeah, that’s fine.”
Aislinn’s eyes shimmered with delight. “Then, Blue, please tell me how I can help.”
Blue raised his hand and pointed at a small temple across the one they were in front of. The misty whiteness of the land they were in almost consumed the ivory construction, hiding it from immediate view. “The key to my chains is located in there.” The girl rose immediately, but Blue grabbed her wrist. “It’s guarded.”
Aislinn shrugged. “I’ll be careful. I’m just going to have a look; I promise I won’t do anything stupid.”
With slight reluctance, Blue released her. “Be careful.”
Grinning, Aislinn ran off into the mist towards the other temple. She slowed down when she neared it and listened for anything that might betray the presence of guards. There was only silence, so she continued. The temple was in no better shape than the one where she had found Blue. Pieces of crumbled pillar lay scattered across the marble floor. Behind one of the columns she spotted something on the ground. When she came closer, she stifled a scream.
A skeletal arm holding a spear lay across the dusty floor. As she moved around, she spotted the rest of the remains. Whoever had guarded Blue’s key had apparently died a long time ago. She turned to the temple—the entrance a gaping, black void. There was a sinking feeling in her stomach, and she had the sudden urge to turn around and run. She faced away from the dark and was about to bolt away when something caught her eye. On top of the skeleton’s decaying leather armour shimmered a golden key, a silver chain binding it to the grisly bones.
Aislinn tugged at a strand of hair. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something was hidden inside the void behind her, lurking, waiting to strike. The dead guard wasn’t any better though—she could all to clearly imagine it rise and attack if she were to reach for the key.
But I told Blue I was going to help him…
She took a deep breath, tugged her hair a final time before releasing it, and stepped over to the remains. She expected a foul stench of rot but there was none. Despite the lacking smell of decay, the strips and pieces of dried flesh still made her stomach turn.
She leaned forward, heart pounding in her chest, afraid a ghastly arm would grab hers at any moment. Whimpering, she took hold of the silver chain. Her fingers worked fast to find the lock as she didn’t dare try to yank it free. She kept her face as far away as possible from the skull, images of it springing to life and attempting to bite her flashing through her mind.
When she finally found the lock, she fumbled the mechanism a few times before the chain came loose. A small yelp of combined fear and excitement escaped her lips and she jumped back, releasing the silver.
The skeleton remained unmoving.
Quickly, she grabbed the golden key. The chain caught on something, and the key slipped free while the entire length of silver slid and fell straight into a cavity between the armour and neck. Horrified, Aislinn stared at the devouring darkness.
Did I just wake it up? A shiver ran up her spine, a new jolt of adrenaline flooding her system. Let’s not wait to find out! With the key held tight, she turned and hurried back towards Blue.
The vast expanse of white seemed to stretch as she made her way back to the other temple ruins. She kept running, feet trotting through the low hanging mist above the ground, not daring to look back lest she see the decaying guard chasing after her.
Panting, she arrived back at the forlorn place. “I got it,” she exclaimed as she rushed towards Blue, waving the golden key. She came to a halt and immediately hid behind him. She handed him the key whilst peering at the other temple in the distance—it was barely visible. She swallowed, her heart pounding from the exertion and anxiety. She expected to see a dark silhouette emerge from the fog, but there came no movement.
The sudden rattle of chains hitting the ground caused her to jump. She giggled nervously and stepped back to watch Blue remove the final ones.
When he was fully free, he turned towards her and knelt. He took her hand in his own and stated, “I am forever in your debt. Please allow me to be your guardian.”
Aislinn blushed and smiled. “Th-thanks. I’d be honoured, Blue.”
“Then let me start right away.” He released her hand after a slight squeeze and looked down.
Aislinn couldn’t help but glance at the temple in the distance once more, though the fog had completely consumed it—it was no longer visible. Is that guard coming? She shuddered and gave a squeal when Blue tapped against her leg.
“Please pay attention.” His voice was calm yet firm. “This is important.”
She nodded and knelt beside him, yet her gaze still went towards the white expanse.
Blue noticed and smiled. “You don’t need to worry about that.” His wings folded around them, blocking her view. “You’re safe with me.”
Aislinn swallowed and blushed as the soft and warm wing rested against her back, the feathers caressing her bare arms. Feeling a bit more at ease, she looked at Blue and returned his smile.
He tapped the grime-coated marble floor, gaining her attention. “I need you to memorise these runes.”
Aislinn twirled and tugged at a strand of auburn hair as she watched Blue’s finger move through the dirt. She tilted her head as she looked at the first symbol, brows furrowed. It was no letter or number that she knew, but her mind tried to compare it to anything she did know—if only so she could memorise it better.
“A capital letter T… But with the horizontal line looking like the wavy bit of the pi symbol and with dots on the curves—like those of a yin yang symbol! And the vertical line is like the footprint of a little bird.” She tugged at her hair. “And none of the lines touch.” She grinned, proud of her description of the strange rune.
Blue smiled. “That’s one way to view it. Memorise it, please. There are two more.” He started to draw the others.
Aislinn observed the forming lines whilst rocking back and forth, concentrating, her fingers still playing with her hair. “A circle with another small circle in it… And four disconnected straight lines below it like an incomplete sun.” She was enjoying herself and watched as Blue finished the last one. “That’s all? That one is easy: it’s a mere X with four dots in between!”
With a broad smile, Blue ruffled Aislinn’s hair. “Do you think you can remember them? Well enough to draw them yourself?”
She nodded but stared at the three runes nevertheless. Weird T, incomplete sun, dotted X. She averted her gaze and, without peeking at the originals, drew the runes herself. Once done, she compared them and squealed excitedly when they matched. She almost clapped but caught herself just before her hands touched. Flustered, she got onto her knees and bent over the runes, drawing them several more times.
“Yes, those are perfect,” Blue said. “Now listen carefully.” He waited for Aislinn to sit back straight and face him. “When you wake up, I need you to draw those runes so you won’t forget them. Then, take some sheets of paper and draw these three runes on it. It doesn’t matter how you place them, just make sure they have their own space and don’t overlap.”
Aislinn nodded, though she wanted to ask him why she needed to do it—but she was unsure when she could voice her question.
“You do that seven times and you bury those sheets of paper around your house. Spread them evenly, so they form a protective circle. Do you understand?”
She nodded again but frowned. “Why?”
“It’ll help keep you safe. You will need to bury them every year to help keep the protective spell active, but I’ll remind you when I return next year.”
Her eyes widened. “What? But… You’re not going to stay around?” She pouted.
Blue smiled and gently stroked her hair. “I’ll be back. I promise. But, I will need to lay low for a while. You just make sure you draw those runes and bury seven copies around the house. Okay?”
A bit sad, she nodded once more. Her finger had found a lock of hair again and was twirling it. Her gaze shifted from Blue to all the runes she had drawn. Weird T, incomplete sun, dotted X.
“I’ll be back next year.” He rose. “In time for your birthday. That’s a promise.” He bowed, his majestic wings folded behind his back.
Aislinn opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. My birthday. But my birthday was yesterday. She tugged at her hair. “I turned thirteen,” she blurted.
Still bowing, Blue looked up at her. “A very special age where I’m from.” He smiled. “Don’t forget the runes. I’ll be back. Promised.” He rose and turned, but before he could fly off, the fog seemed to roll in, heavy and thick.
The world turned white and Aislinn could no longer see Blue nor the temple. The marble underneath her turned soft and her vision darkened. She opened her eyes and stared at her ceiling, the blankets barely covering her as she had kicked them off at some point during her sleep.
Weird T, incomplete sun, dotted X. Bury seven of them.
She turned on her light, blinked against the sudden brightness, and went to look for pen and paper.
Weird T, incomplete sun, dotted X. Weird T, incomplete sun, dotted X.
Wiggling her foot like an excited dog might wag their tail, she drew the runes before the memory got a chance to fade. She added a note below them: “Bury 7x around house. Guardian Angel Blue will return on bday.”
She smiled, content. I have a guardian angel! She laid back down in bed to contemplate the dream. I can’t wait to tell Dyna.