Grace's Summons       This is the first chapter from TED:UIH, as you can see. Here, the mysterious Guardian has sent an official messenger to the Sicca residence for Grace. Only she and her mother, Juta, are at home to receive the news and the mood is definately fearful as the Guardian has "stolen" away both Juta's husband, Lazro, and her son, Sigro, in similar messages. This letter sets the ball rolling...
The afternoon was scorching, but sweet as Grace opened her front door. She entered the main room with a slight limp, the effect of a particularly rough practice session. Her mother, Juta, was staring in stunned silence at the forbidding figure standing the corner of the room, next to the door. Clad in shiny white trousers and am iridescent yellow jacket, he was very tall and wore a vented white mask. Grace frowned, he was obviously amongst the highest ranking Messengers, indicated by his colors. Only to announce the death of a serviceman of the Guardian had Grace ever seen such a high Royal Messenger in public in uniform.
"Grace Sicca?" He asked, his voice thin and tinny through the mask.
She set her bag in the chair and nodded,"I am Grace."
The Royal Messenger withdrew a creamy white envelope and held it out to her. She reached for it cautiously, as if it might burn her fingers on contact. His arm moved mechanically back to his side.
"The information you will need is enclosed,"he bowed briskly,"Goodday." Slowly he departed, heavy yellow boots clanking heavily on their stone pathway.
"Juta, could it be...news of Lazro?" She clasped the letter to her chest.
Her mother shook her head. "No daughter. Reports on your father would come directly to my name. Sigro's goes to Linta."
"Then what is it? Do I open it, or no?"
Juta ran her fingers through her hair,"Is there a date on the back of that envelope, daughter?" Grace turned the letter over and read the tiny, embossed gold letters. The 23 Day of Senala. ***(note...that makes it October 10th)***
Sighing, Juta nodded,"You must open it Grace, you have no choice. Aye, but I fear that Witch, the Guardian, holds only ill tidings for you. O how I shudder to contemplate the horrors she had indeed dreamt for you." Juta flung her arms across her forehead,"First she stole my husband away and into her dreadful army, then my sweet son. Now she takes my daughter! What is left? She will take my very liberty as well!"
Her mother's dramatics did little to settle her nerves. She sat on the nearest chair and ran her fingers across the seal. So delicate, beautiful. Grace thought that it belied the danger that might come of whatever news was within the pages of this letter. She remembered the day Sigro had been called to duty. It was not hard to imagine a similar fate for herself. Her father, Lazro, had been recruited just after Grace's birth, but the duties were well suited to him, and though he was rarely able to return to his family, when he did he was the kindest, most doting father Grace could imagine. Her brother, Sigro, had been snatched away recently, just a few months after his marriage to Linta. He was absent at the birth of his daughter, Jatuce; but he'd had no choice. Both Linta and Juta blamed and hated the Guardian for taking their men away. Yet both Sigro and Lazro had been successful in their endeavors. Lazro was famed for bringing much vital information to the Guardian's troops from distant colonies. Sigro had taken an extensive education, via the generosity of the Guardian. He had possessed a strong mind from infancy and now led the field in Preservation. Grace, however, was not blessed with the brilliant genius of her brother, nor with the talent for espionage of her father. Her only skill was worthless to a being as powerful as the Guardian.
Though a petite young woman, Grace was mighty. Her mother's lineage had provided her with not only the genetic capacity, but with a proficiency in sorcery. She carried with her an heirloom locket that had been inscribed with the initials of every woman in her mother's line since the First Generation. Along with the locket she'd, inherited a small silver wand with a dove-shaped stone on the tip. The wand was rumored to magnify the spells already at Grace's command. She was more apt to simply tucking the wand into her bag and performing the craft without aid.
Inside the envelope was a Tri-folded piece of paper. She opened it, her eyes squeezed shut, hoping the news was not bad. The letter lay open in her hands. Slowly she drew a deep breath and opened her eyes. She glanced at the writing, it looked harmless enough. Her mother nodded at her from across the room, keeping her distance from the cursed scrawl of the Guardian.
"Aloud, my dear. I will learn of your fate as you do. Pray, be strong. The Guardian thrives on weakness."
"Grace Sicca. Thank you for receiving this correspondence. The Guardian has granted you an audience, on the 10th Day of May. Please be prompt and properly attired. Do not fail to appear as the punishment for such an insult is death. Should you not receive this letter a full seven days prior to your meeting, you will not be executed. Again, She thanks you."
"Signed by whom?" Juta demanded, rising from her seat.
"But- There is no mention of-"
"The signature! Whose is it!"
"It is signed, Sincerely, the Chief Royal Scribe of Her Majesty, The Guardian."
Falling back into her chair, Juta moaned,"And not by her own hand? She did not even sign your life away with her own hand? You are doomed, my poor poor child." Juta's eyes scanned the back of the paper as Grace reread the vague words. "And that? There! That scribble, what of that?"
Grace flipped the paper over,"I-its a note to me. From...Gaea."
"What does it say?" Juta scrambled across the floor and clung to her daughter's arm.
"Grace. Hello. I've heard a lot about you. I am quite relieved to have located you so easily. I look forward to meeting you. I only regret that we cannot meet sooner. Damned protocol, damned security. Until then...Gaea."
"Who is this Gaea?" Juta grabbed the letter and squinted at it, her poor eyesight growing continually worse.
Smiling with relief, Grace looked at her mother,"I believe that Gaea is the Guardian."
Juta's stern face broke into a tearful grin,"O my daughter, my Grace. Perhaps you are not doomed after all. Gaea, in all her wisdom has chosen you for a special duty. Her unfathomable greatness had decided that you are worth of...something. It will be-" She stopped. Her eyes grew wide and her mouth dropped open.
"What? What is it?"
Her mother snatched her handbag from the table. "O Grace, this is terrible, horrible, just,"she shuddered,"bad." Juta dashed about the room gathering her things.
"Juta!" Grace grabbed her frenzied mother,"What is so horrible?"
Juta's panic dissolved into a sly smile,"You have nothing to wear."
Dropping her mother's arm, Grace slunk into the nearest chair. "I won't go."
"Under penalty of death or no, dear Grace, you will go. You will accept her offer and you will have a sound future in Gaea's loving service."
Grace looked at her mother sharply. "I only meant that I won't go shopping with you."
Laughing, Juta pranced about the room like a child. "Then I shall find you a suitable dress. Good-bye my daughter!" She kissed Grace's cheek and danced out the door, giggling and overcome with relief.
Grace frowned, her mother's perspective was as changeable and unpredictable as the Autumn wind. As the Guardian, she was an evil woman set to destroy her own people. But when addressed as Gaea, she was a benevolent Queen of indescribable enlightenment. Grace bit her lower lip, she'd never really considered the Guardian as anything but someone to avoid, or even fear. Now she was to appear before this legendary ruler and await a decision that would decide the rest of her life, and perhaps her death. A single tear trickled slowly from her eye and for once, she neither wiped it away nor tried to hide it.