SHIELD: THE PAST
Shield swam along with the current. He had done this most of his young life. The current embraced him. If he just let it do what it wanted to, he wouldn’t have to accept responsibility. If everything was predestined, then the Light of Joy was supposed to be damaged, and couldn’t have happened any other way.
He liked to think the same way the acolytes who worshiped the moon did. The idea of a celestial being being responsible for all the problems he had was equally as appealing as destiny. But he had never seen the moon. He believed the teachings, and he could see the results of the moon in the ebb and flow of his world, but to see it for himself…
But if everything was guided by the invisible hand of the moon, what was the purpose of existence? Shield scowled at his predicament. The acolytes could answer his questions, but was he even welcome to return to the city? Would his brethren accept him back into the fold after the destruction he had caused?
His eyes scanned the depths, and he felt, more than saw someone slowly descend through the dark world that matched his thoughts. He twisted and kicked a harsh angle against the current, propelling him toward the sinking figure.
As she came into view, Shield locked his eyes with strange woman. She had black hair, it seemed to be tied at one end, and the rest formed tight tendrils, attempting to escape with the current. She smiled, and tilted her head to one side as she studied him. Her skin wasn’t translucent like the rest of his people, but was a bronze color.
Shield felt the words in his head. Such power was limited to the Acolytes and the Dons. He knew he lacked the fortitude to reply to the stranger, so he tried to convey that thought with his eyes.
The woman kicked her feet to slow her decent. She twisted elegantly, and matched his trajectory. She reached hesitantly for his neck, and the apprehension was clear on her face. Shield nodded, and bowed his head slightly to signal acquiescence.
She held him tenderly by the back of his head, and he couldn’t help but stare at her dark skin. When their foreheads made contact, he was able to talk with her.
“Greetings,” he replied.
“What is your name child?”
“I’m not a child,” he retorted, “I’m a Shield.”
“Apologies, Shield,” she said, “I meant no disrespect. I am Don Vess.”
The name meant nothing to Shield, but the position of a Don had been ingrained into him since he was a child. “Madam Vess,” he replied, conveying the proper deference.
“It’s nice to see a young man with manners,” he felt her smile and a hint of humor.
“Can I assist you in some way, Don Vess?”
The woman broke the connection for a moment and looked into his eyes. He felt her being examine him. If the Dons in my city could do that, he thought, I’d never gotten away with anything.
She smiled, and he heard her words. “Perhaps they do, but chose to ignore the scheming of a child.”
His eyes grew wide before he could mute his reaction. Don Vess nodded, and touched her forehead to his again. “I could use some assistance from a Shield. Will you come with me?”
Shield replied in the affirmative.
“I warn you, this help you offer has a price.”
He squirmed under her grip of his head, and he replied, “What is the price?”
“You must forget we ever met, and what you’ve done today.” She paused, as if she needed to consider her continuing. “I can help you forget.”
The idea of forgetting the day was more appealing than his previous thoughts of free will versus providence. Could this woman use a disgraced Shield?
“It’s not about use, Shield,” she replied to his thought, “but about redemption. I offer redemption in the face of disgrace.”
“Tell me what to do,” he replied.
* * *
Shield opened his eyes, and looked around. He could see the varying shades of greens, blues, and blacks. Time’s missing, he thought as he calculated the passing of time. The moon’s pull was different than it was before… What was before? He thought as he tried to recall the last days since the incident at the temple.
He felt tired, as if he had patrolled the city edge for hours at a quick swim. His arms and legs felt as if…
The thought faded as he opened his mind to his world. The Moon wasn’t where it was supposed to be, but he could still feel it and the tides. Ebb and Flow. He felt the Light of Joy. He felt a burden lift as he felt her warmth, it seemed wrong somehow, but that he felt her at all meant he hadn’t hurt her or his people. There’s something else… He felt …. something. Something dangerous. Something menacing. He felt fear. It wasn’t the first time he felt fear, but this fear saturated his soul.
He held aloft his hands, and saw the abrasions and small cuts. He didn’t remember getting them, and now dread compounded his fear. Even his feet felt dead and useless. He looked back to the city, and realized he was close. Close enough that another Shield would be along shortly on patrol. This close to the city, Joy should’ve been a beacon, drawing him home.
Where are my people? He realized the absence of the denizens of his city was what filled him with dread. Menace permeated from above. He could feel the menace circling the city and the Light of Joy.
The thought that he may be responsible for whatever is happening filled him with shame. What had he done in the missing days? Whatever had happened during his memory lapse was important. Maybe the city has the answers? Even if there were no people there, he had to fulfill his oath to protect the city.
Shield swam toward the city once so full of life, but now all he felt was absence.