Things Best Remembered: Part Five
The sword was ready in a week. Janice went to pick it up, and she had to admit, she was impressed.
The sword was made of a mixture of Emberatia – "Good for channeling or blocking magic," Tristan told her with a wink – jades, and emeralds. It caught the sunlight beautifully, staining Janice's face and hands with beams of brilliant green, almost rivaling her spirit glow. The sword was long, too, nearly four feet in length from its tip to its hilt, both of which were coated in silver. It practically hummed with deadly beauty.
And, best of all, it was the right weight!
"Wow," Janice whispered. "Amazing." She hoped that she could live up to her sword. It was magnificent. She wondered how in Calladamos Tristan had managed to create it in a week, and how he had managed to get the perfect weight.
"One of my best works," Tristan said proudly, admiring it from beside her. "It has a sort of dignity, don't you think? One could almost name it." He thought for a moment, then said, "Perhaps you should. I mean, the Eternal Gardener wielding a sword. Sure, a scary image. But the Eternal Gardener wielding a named sword? I can already imagine the Guardians quaking in whatever-they-wear-on-their-feet! That is, if they have feet." He was sure to add that the magic-holding properties of Emberatia were, at the moment, blocking all magical signals, including hers. "To allow your magic – or anyone else's within a mile – to work again, just tell it – the sword, I mean – to awaken. In Calladamien, of course."
Janice nodded absently, still gazing at the sword. "Thanks, Tristan. It's gorgeous."
Tristan beamed. "No problem. Just tell everyone where you got the sword. Free advertising, you know." Tristan paused, then added, "Well, let's try it out!"
Janice was startled. "Right now? With you? Can you even sword fight?" Somehow the idea of Tristan wielding a sword was strange to her.
"Of course I can," Tristan said, offended. "I'm not as good as Gareth, but I'm pretty sure that I'm more than a match for you."
"We'll see about that," Janice grinned. "En guarde!" She tried out the disarming technique Gareth had taught her earlier that day.
A few seconds later, Tristan had her pinned against the wall with his sword in one hand and Janice's in the other.
"Told you I'd be able to beat you easily," he said with a smirk, handing her back the sword.
"You got lucky that time. Besides, I'm still getting used to it." She thought back to her swift defeat. "How did you do that? I used a disarming technique before you even struck, and somehow you ended up with my sword."
"Well, you're learning swordplay from Gareth, right?" Tristan asked. "Janice, you've got to remember that he's a knight. He'll use moves that take more finesse, more experience; in such a style, you're using muscles that you normally never use. Besides," he added thoughtfully, "you're fast, but not exactly renowned for your strength. Knightly sword fighting depends mostly on strategy and power."
"Strategy, I can do," Janice said, wondering how he knew so much about knighthood. "Speed? Sure. But power? Not so much."
"That's fine; just use your strengths to your advantage."
Janice smiled. "Well, two swordplay teachers are better than one. You could help me."
Tristan looked down suddenly, and his electric blue spirit glow flew around him as though it were blowing in the wind. Of course, that wasn't possible; spirit glows shared many of the behaviors of fire but were impervious to the outside world.
When Tristan finally spoke, his words were subdued and completely off-topic: "The Empress is sending out a team to find the Guardians today."
Well. She knew that. Ria had told made an announcement earlier in the week. Janice wondered what this had to do with getting more sword-handling help.
As if he had read her mind, Tristan looked up again. "Janice," he said, wearily, "both Gareth and I are on the team."
It took a few seconds for this to register in Janice's brain, and another few to realize, horribly, that there was a possibility – a huge possibility – that soon, she would not remember Gareth or Tristan or anyone else going on this terrible expedition. There was a very big chance of the whole lot of them being Forsaken.
She took a sharp intake of breath. "Gareth never said anything about it."
"That doesn't mean it isn't true."
"Well, yes, but..." Janice couldn't think of anything to say that would dissuade him, so she sighed instead, "Be careful." Wishing him luck would be useless. Luck had nothing to do with fighting Guardians.
Tristan smiled, though the effort was strained. "Me? Careful? No way. Carefulness is for wimps."
She glared at him. This was no time to joke, and he knew it. "I'm serious, Tristan."
The smile grew. "You know, you owe me about five million neopoints for the sword."
"Tristan," she said, her voice going from annoyed to pleading, "please, please be careful. Promise me." She handed him forty-five thousand neopoints so he would shut up about the price of the sword and be serious.
He took the money and held out his hand for shaking. She shook his hand, and as she did, he said, "It was nice doing business with you, Protector." Then he was gone.
As Janice flew back towards the palace to confront Gareth on the matter, she could not help thinking – no matter how hard she tried –that what Tristan really had meant was, 'It was nice knowing you, Protector.'
"...And then he said that both he and you are on the team. Why didn't you tell me?"
Gareth returned Janice's gaze calmly, like always. They were sitting at a table in the library.
"I did not tell you," he said cautiously, "because you did not need to know. It was not any of your business."
She started to get angry. "Of course I needed to know. I'm not only the Protector, but I am also your friend; I have every right to know. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I have already given you a reason, Janice. You didn't need to know."
"Fine, then," Janice said, resisting the urge to turn Gareth into a flower. "Why didn't I need to know?"
Gareth shrugged. "No reason in particular."
"Janice." He sighed out her name, as though just saying it made him tired. "Do you remember what that Guardian told Atlanta that day, when they wanted a truce?"
She thought. "Something about.... something about me being a traitor, right?"
His eyes met hers, and suddenly Janice realized what Gareth was saying.
She stood up, furious. "Are you saying that I'm a traitor? That I'm working with the Guardians?" So this was what all those suspicious looks had been about.
Gareth shrugged, annoyingly calm, as if it were a normal thing for friends to accuse each other of trying to destroy their city. He stood up as well, looking down at her.
"I never said that, Protector," he said.
"Then what are you saying, exactly? Tell me!"
He continued to meet Janice's eyes, though he flinched when she shouted the last two words. It was a few minutes before he answered her, and his reply was acidic:
"Do I need to spell it out for you? I no longer trust you, Janice."
Janice flew into the air so she could look down at him instead of up. She decided that she despised the fact that Gareth was taller than her.
"So, then," she snarled, "you're valuing a Guardian's word over mine?" Her voice dropped. "But... Gareth, friends trust each other."
She cringed at how corny that sounded. All she needed to do now was to tell him to believe in himself, or some other ridiculous cliché.
Gareth nodded. "I have a solution to that."
Janice breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps his sense had returned to him and he'd let off of this unreasonable accusation. She smiled and said, "And that is...?"
"Well, if we were not friends, I would be under no obligations to trust you." He walked to the door, and without looking back, he said, "So we cannot be friends any longer."
When Atlanta went to the library, she was met with a strange sight: Janice, with her head in her hands. Crying.
It reminded Atlanta of how she'd first met the Shoyru: Janice had rudely interrupted her solo on her piano by bursting through the door in tears over something irrelevant. Honestly, the Protector could be such a drama queen at times.
Nonetheless, she flew over to the distraught Janice – one of the oh-so-few perks of being a Shoyru, she had discovered, was being able to fly – and sat down quietly in the seat across from her. Janice either didn't hear her or didn't care, for she didn't acknowledge her approach. Her spirit glow was dim.
"We have got to stop meeting like this," Atlanta said teasingly.
Janice sniffed and didn't raise her head. "Go away."
"Why would I do that?"
"As the Protector, I can order you to leave. I don't care if you're a princess. Go away."
Atlanta scoffed. "No, thanks. I'd rather stay here and watch you cry. 'Cause, you know, it's terribly interesting."
Janice finally raised her head, tear-filled eyes blazing with anger – and sadness. "Shut up," she snarled.
"There," Atlanta said smugly. "Now that you've stopped feeling sorry for yourself, you can tell me what happened."
Janice glared at the used-to-be-Peophin with her arms crossed and revealed nothing. Atlanta waited impatiently.
Eventually, the Protector sighed – "You are really annoying, you know," – and started from where she got the sword from Tristan. It took her a while to finish, because she started tearing up again at certain parts. But finish she did. Eventually.
"Is that all?" Atlanta asked.
"Yes," said Janice shortly.
"Oh, good," Atlanta said, "because now that you're done your story, we can go intercept the team. Or at least follow them to make sure that they'll be alright."
Janice stared at her. "What?"
Atlanta rolled her eyes. "Sometimes I wonder why I even try talking to you," she said. "We're going to help out this little expedition. So open those oversized wings of yours and let's get flying!"
To be continued...