Guards were blocking the doors, which were shut tightly. This was something she had never before seen. The guards themselves were wearing far heavier armor than they normally had any cause to. Their shoulders dipped from the weight of thick breastplates. Their collars were lined with additional armor that was heavily spiked, a helpful ward against a rogue blade. She could see them grasp their swords tightly as she neared.
Glaciem spoke clearly, trying to keep the defiant edge at bay as she neared the guards. “I have come to see the Tenth. I have not visited him today and this will be my only chance to do so. Let me pass.”
“Forgive us, my lady, but we have been instructed to forbid anyone from entering or leaving the House of Meeting until the morrow.” The guard to her right said, clearly uncomfortable with denying her demands.
Glaciem’s stomach clenched uncomfortably and the uneasiness from her vision returned in full force. “I don’t care what your instructions are. You will let me pass.” A hint of frost rose from her mouth, agitation muddling her nerves.
The guards glanced at one another before moving closer together, barring her way with both their bodies and weapons.
“Please understand this is not our choice. I beg you not to be angry with us for our orders. I may not let you see the Tenth Hominem.” The same guard replied, his voice apologetic and pleading.
She might soon become a guardian of the Village and therefore their ally, but in this moment she was angry and possessed far greater skill than the two guards put together and he knew it.
“And who has given you this authority?”
“Your father.” The second guard, the one to her left, spoke. He was less sorry for his orders and less convinced of her abilities.
Glaciem bristled at the guard’s words. “The First Hominem, though he has been gracious and attentive to my needs, is not my father.” She said coldly as she turned to him, her grey eyes iced over.
She knew it was unnecessary to point out her lack of blood connection to the Elders, but she was suddenly defensive about the matter and felt she needed to say it, even if only for her own sake.
She continued. “You will let me pass, or I shall make you let me pass. I will speak to the Tenth and there is no person in this Village who can prevent me from doing that, Least of all you.”
“I do not fear you, Ward of the Village.” The guard said, spitting out the words, sizing her up with his eyes as he spoke. “You can fling your snowballs at me all you want. I like the cold.” He lifted his chin in a defiant challenge.
“Do you?” She whispered as her eyes darkened, a wicked grin spreading across her lips.
She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, holding her hands out in front of her. She splayed her fingers wide and coaxed a crude icicle from her mouth, continuing to exhale until it had reached several feet in length and was thick enough to serve as a spear, its jagged edge glinting in the sun.
The men’s eyes widened as they watched her. The first guard’s dedication to his post failed him and he moved away from the door, stumbling as he went. He ran off as fast as his heavy armor would allow, his feet leading him towards the center of the Village.
Glaciem did not care. Her quarrel was not with men who were wise enough to not challenge her. It was with men like the one in front of her. Men who insulted her and refused to let her see the one person she needed to see.
Glaciem pointed the end of her ice spear towards the guard. “Do you still like the cold?” She asked the guard sweetly.
She was bursting with apprehension and would do anything to ease the panic slowly and persistently rising in her gut. If that meant putting one of the Elder’s men in the infirmary then so be it, damn the Laws of the Village.
The guard pointed his broadsword towards her. “I find I like it about as much as I like you. Not at all.”
He sprang towards her and she tensed to meet him mid strike, but before she could engage him, a figure rushed past her and rammed against the guard. The guard gasped in surprise as the weight of his armor brought him to the ground with a hard thud. He moaned, clutching his side as he looked for his sword which had been knocked several feet away from him, shock evident on his face.
Bick stood above him, his stance wide and fists clenched. His green eyes flashed first towards the guard and then towards Glaciem. Behind him stood the first guard who had been fortunate enough to find the First Elder’s son in his desperate search for someone to stop the carnage he knew would ensue if Glaciem had been left to her own devices.
“You would dare raise your hand against a member of the First Elder’s family and who was once the charge of the Tenth?” Bick growled through clenched teeth.
The guard on the ground grunted something and rolled onto his knees. He pulled off the helmet and held his head in one hand while the other ripped the striped of spiked metal from around his neck so he could move more freely.
“Answer me!” Bick barked.
“She provoked me, sir!” The guard snapped at Bick. He stood up and glared at Glaciem. “She threatened to use force if we did not permit her to see the Tenth. I stood my ground and she attacked me!”
“What makes you think you had any right to defy her?” Bick walked up to the guard, forcing him to move back against the doors behind him.
“The First Elder has given us strict orders to refuse entrance to everyone. Including her.” The guard jutted his chin towards Glaciem, fire blazing in his eyes.
Though not implicitly stated, it was impossible to miss the unspoken meaning behind the guard’s words. The Elders had not suggested that the order to bar anyone from the Tenth Hominem’s quarters should include Glaciem, but were rather meant to apply specifically to her alone.
The guard glanced back at Bick, but quickly lowered his gaze. It was a queer thing to see the man struggling to show both respect for Bick and disdain for Glaciem.
Bick stared at the guard for a moment before moving away abruptly. He turned and grabbed Glaciem’s icicle, throwing it to the ground. It shattered and instantly melted into the grass beneath her.
“You will come with me.” He ordered, grabbing her roughly by the shoulder and walking her back through the gates and back into the busyness of the Village.
“Let go of me.” Glaciem snapped, trying to shake his hand off, knowing it was useless to struggle against him.
As if in response to what she already knew, Bick’s grip tightened as she fought him.
“Do you realize how fortunate you are that those walls are blocking the sight of all who might have seen you deliberately disobeying the orders of the First Hominem?” He hissed as they maneuvered through the still crowded streets.
“I don’t care.”
“Do you not?” Bick pushed her down a quiet alley. He towered over her. “And what do you suppose would have happened had someone seen you? Do you not understand everything happening tonight depends on the Village accepting you as one of its own? Do you realize what will happen should you fail to meet their standards? If you had hurt that guard, which you know you could and would have, it would have been enough to have you exiled, or worse. You know the Laws of the Village as well as I do. Did you stop to consider what the Forest would have done to the Village if that had happened? It was near providential I happened to be close by and was able to stop you before anything began.”
The dread that had been building up within Glaciem now became near unbearable. She needed to speak with Narratus about her vision and being prevented from doing so only further worsened the knotting in her stomach.
“Listen to me, Bick!” She said desperately, but he interrupted her, unwilling to hear anything she had to say.
“No.” He said, continuing to reprimand her. “My father and mother have done everything they can to keep you safe in this Village and Narratus has done everything he could to make sure you were capable of controlling your own powers. I have stayed by your side to protect you and see to it that you were looked after. Now, finally, when we all have a chance to see these efforts come to fruition, you try to attack one of my father’s guards? What were you thinking? How could you risk ten years worth of hard work so easily?”
She looked at him, clenching her jaw in defiant silence, her stomach still churning. He was right. She had no right to try and threaten her way to Narratus. He would never have approved. Engaging the guard in a duel she would have very easily won was idiotic, regardless of the desperation she felt from the vision. Glaciem took a deep breath, and let her shoulders sag as she exhaled. Though the unease she felt was only slightly less, she willed the fight in her to fade.
“I don’t know what came over me.” She murmured, quietly deciding to herself that she wouldn’t explain the vision to Bick, at least not until she could make sense of it herself or speak to Narratus about it. “I have no excuse for my behavior. Forgive me.”
Bick sighed and let go of her shoulder. He had been squeezing it until now. “I’m not the one you need forgiveness from.”
“I know. I shall go back to the guard.”
“No. You won’t.” Bick walked back out of the alley, gesturing for her to follow. “There’s no time. I’m taking you home. Now.”
They passed through the ever crowded streets of the Village. As they passed, men and women bowed upon seeing Bick. He stayed close by Glaciem’s side, his hand on her arm, as if afraid she might try to run. They turned and maneuvered their way through crowds until finally, they saw the tall stone walls of their home. It was a castle in comparison to the other dwellings, for the First and Second Elders were the greatest. Their home was at the very center of the Village and was always heavily guarded in case foreign travelers should attempt to force their way in and usurp the Elders’ authority.
“There.” Bick said as they passed by the guards and into the main hall, breaking their silence. He dropped her arm. “You have arrived and you shall go to your chambers and prepare for tonight. I don’t understand how I even managed to lose you in the first place. Were you not following me from the Border Tree?” He asked, puzzled.
Glaciem looked down at the floor, avoiding his eyes. “I was following you, but I lost sight of you after you passed through the gates.” She spoke slowly, tiptoeing her way through her words, choosing them carefully. “I had intended to come home and prepare, but I wanted to see Narratus first. I couldn’t help it.”
Bick pursed his lips as he studied her, clearly not convinced. “I have never seen someone so dedicated. You will see him soon enough. Go get ready. I have other business to attend to. I’ll join you after.”
He turned and walked back through the doorways, deigning to not reveal what he was really thinking. Glaciem watched him leave, most likely on an errand entrusted to him by his father.
She thought about the First. It would only be a matter of time before he found out about what happened at the House of Meeting and she prayed Narratus would not be the one to suffer for it.
Glaciem signed as she ruefully admitted to herself that her actions had been utterly foolish. Her only hope now was to avoid the inevitable punishment until after she spoke with her beloved Tenth. Ideally, she wanted to avoid it until after the ceremony. Once she was committed to the Village, the First Elder would be obliged to see her in a far more benevolent light, though she knew ultimately there was no telling what the punishment would be until it happened.
As she continued to watch Bick through the crowds, he turned, having felt her eyes on his back. He met her stare and gazed at her thoughtfully before turning around again to continue walking, disappearing from view as he did.