Guardian darkness rising, p.1
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       Guardian: Darkness Rising, p.1

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Guardian: Darkness Rising

  Guardian: Darkness Rising

  Melanie Houtman

  Titles available in the Guardian trilogy

  (in reading order):

  Guardian: Protectors of Light

  Guardian: Darkness Rising

  Guardian: Darkness Rising

  Be careful with your secrets...

  Copyright © 2016 Melanie Houtman

  All rights reserved.

  Once upon a time, not so long ago, the magical world of Lunaria was freed from corruption by the Bond of Light. The Master, who ruled over Lunaria with an iron fist, was defeated, and the Guardians returned home safely after restoring the balance between the Light and Dark.

  These Guardians returned to their lives, and lived them to their fullest. There was only one rule that had followed them all the way home, one which they had to strictly follow: they could never touch the book that had brought them to Lunaria in the first place again. If the book was to be destroyed or its story to be read, it would possibly release its magic into the world, with unknown consequences.

  The five Guardians successfully obeyed this rule for years, by finding new hiding places to hide the book from sight every once in a while, and moving it from attic to attic and from basement to basement as their lives went on. The book remained carefully and successfully hidden for twenty-five years, hardly ever touched and unread.

  But, of course, the Guardians got children. And those children got older. And with age comes curiosity; the desire to investigate anything seemingly intriguing and mysterious. Of course we all know how that old and rather popular saying goes...

  Curiosity killed the cat.

  But, before we find out what happened to Lucas Riverdale, the boy who would be the one to discover the dangerous and yet mystical book, there is another story that needs to be told. The story you should hear first.

  Because stories should be written in chronological order – and this particular story takes place four years before the book was rediscovered. Both stories will connect seamlessly at some point – don’t worry. You will get to know everything about both; you won’t miss a thing.

  Now we, the Spirits of Light, invite you to join us and listen to this story. To watch as it enfolds in your mind – or, if you’re imaginative enough, right before your eyes. It won’t take too long, we promise.

  Prepare yourself for another ride through Lunaria. And... we’d advise you to buckle up, because if you know what happened the previous time, you should know what’s up next. This new road’s going to be a tad bumpier than the one we went before, so be wary.

  But be wary of one thing: once you’ve joined us, there’s no going back...





  Sunset on a late summer afternoon. Aside from the sounds of happy chatting and the clinking of glasses and cutlery coming from a few of the neighbourhood’s backyards, everything was silent and peaceful. The residents of New York were preparing themselves for the coming night.

  And nobody would’ve expected something bad to happen that night after the sun had gone down.

  Marilyn, Mari for short, was fourteen and full of life. Her brown hair was cut short; Mari was a bit of a rebel, both in appearance and personality.

  There was, however, only one thing Mari liked about herself: her eyes. Her left eye was blue, and her right one green, the colour of her father’s eyes. A rare occurrence in human genetics she’d inherited from her grandmother. But to her parents, it didn’t make her look any less pretty.

  Now there might be several noticeable things about Mari, her family, and the reason why she was running away. Her parents had always had issues, fighting over the most useless things – but Mari had more or less put herself over that.

  Her parents weren’t the reason Mari planned on running away. The main reason she ran away was one of the main reasons teenagers often decide to run away: in hopes of finding their own happiness. Mari felt as if no one truly understood her, and she wanted to prove a point to her parents.

  Of course, running away just because no one understands you might come off as a stupid idea. And... in most cases, it is.

  But it wasn’t Mari’s fault. Well... it wasn’t entirely.

  When Mari was young – too young to remember, even – her father broke an important rule.

  He’d snuck the book from one of his friends’ houses to his own, to read the story to his daughter. Perhaps he felt pride, since the story was connected to the greatest adventure Mari’s father had ever experienced, and wanted to pass it on to his legacy.

  If only he hadn’t done that, maybe Mari never would’ve left.

  Because that night, the same night Mari’s father read the story to her, something found the little girl. And it was not planning on ever letting go.

  Inside her room, Marilyn was rummaging through her stuff, sorting out everything she’d need to survive while she was gone. Mari made sure not to bring along too much - she wouldn’t be gone for long, after all, just long enough to prove to herself and her parents that there indeed was someone out there, someone who understood.

  Mari waited for her parents to go to sleep before leaving.

  Luckily, Mari’s father was at work and her mother never went to bed all that late when she was alone. It wasn’t long before Mari indeed heard her mother’s footsteps coming up the stairs, entering the bathroom, and shortly afterwards entering her bedroom to finally go to sleep.

  Mari waited a little more; just long enough to make sure her mother would be far enough asleep not to be able to hear her daughter’s creaky bedroom window opening.

  “I’ll be back soon, I promise,” Mari whispered, as she set foot on the roof – she felt the heat radiating from the tiles through the soles of her shoes.

  Mari carefully slid down the drainpipe, which had been conveniently (or at least for this particular moment) installed right beside her bedroom window, and hopped off into the backyard.

  There was one last person she needed to see before leaving town. And that person was Lucas Riverdale.

  Mari dashed through the streets, careful not to stand out from the people that were out late partying, just arriving or leaving their friends’ houses or just simply having fun.

  As she neared Lucas’s backyard, Mari decided to skip the backyard gate; she just simply hopped over the low fence and ran over to the oak tree that stood near the house.

  Dropping her backpack at the roots, Mari started to climb the thick trunk, all the way up to the one branch that hung in front of Lucas’s bedroom window, the branch she’d sat on so many times before.

  But this time, it’d be different. This could possibly be the last time she’d ever sit on that branch. Because if she liked her new life enough...

  ...Mari wouldn’t be coming back.

  She knelt down on the branch, leaning forward just far enough to be able to knock on Lucas’s closed window.

  Hopefully, he was still reading a book or playing videogames. Or anything similar that kept him up at night. Lucas was a true night owl, and his parents often had to ‘threaten’ him with taking away the things that kept him up to get him to sleep.

  And luckily for Mari, Lucas was indeed still awake. After a few more knocks, the curtains moved aside, and Lucas’s face appeared behind the glass. His red, slightly curly hair was a mess, but that wasn’t anything new to Mari; his hair was always a mess.

  He looked confused at first, but grinned as soon as he saw Mari’s smile, and quickly opened the window.

  “Hey, little bat,” he said. “Out for a night fly again?”

  “Oh, I wouldn’t know, Luke,” Mari grinned. She was tempted to use his nickname, ‘Skywalker’, which was an ob
vious reference to Luke’s favourite movie series, but she decided to leave it.

  “So... what are you up to at this hour?” Luke said. The thirteen-year-old smirked at her; a mischievous glimmer shone in his eyes, as if a dozen tiny stars were floating around in his irises.

  “Well...” Mari said slowly. She thought she’d prepared this well, thought out exactly how this conversation would go. But now that it came to it, she had a hard time thinking of what to say. “I just stopped by to say goodbye to you,” she said; the confusion on Lucas’s face was instantly visible.

  “You’re... leaving?” he said. “But – why? And where will you go?”

  Mari shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “Wherever my luck takes me, I guess.

  “...You could come with me, if you want.”

  Luke bit his lip. “I...” He sighed. “I just don’t understand why you’d even want to run away in the first place. I mean – you’ve got everything you could possibly want, right?”

  Mari shrugged. “I know it seems selfish to just run off like this,” she said, “but staying here just doesn’t... feel right. There’s this voice inside my heart and head telling me there is more to life than this.

  “I can achieve more than this, Luke.”

  “Mari, you’re fourteen! You’ve got plenty of time to achieve more than you have now!” Luke exclaimed, quickly lowering the volume of his voice out of fear of his parents hearing him. “Don’t you get it? We’re kids, and we’re not supposed to be on our own yet!” He let out a sigh.

  “Please, don’t leave. Go home, Mari. And stay there until you know what you want. You know, when you’re sixteen, or maybe even eighteen, you’ll be much more prepared for the outside world.

  “Maybe then you’ll be able to run away and make it on your own.

  “But not now, not like this.”

  Mari’s eyes were confident, and that reflected in the way she spoke. “What makes you think you’ve got the right to judge? You’re thirteen.”

  Of course, Lucas disagreed. “Mari, you’re spouting nonsense.”

  “No, I’m not.” Marilyn was still showing off that kind of confidence Luke loved about her – it was just her insufferable stubbornness that often managed to set him off.

  “Yes, Mari,” he said decisively, “you are. As much as I respect your love for adventure – I must say that I envy it, even – this is ridiculous. You’ve got to draw a line somewhere.”

  Mari rolled her eyes. “Really, Luke?” she said. “You’re saying I’m reaching over my limits?”

  “Should I remind you about your age?” Lucas said. Deep down, Mari knew he was right. But she just wanted to make sure Luke got her point, and that’s why she decided to keep arguing.

  “I know I’m young, and therefore, I actually shouldn’t be doing this,” Mari said. “You don’t have to remind me. But I have to do this. For myself.” She patted her chest confidently as she spoke.

  “If you really want to go, then I won’t hold you back,” Lucas said. “But remember, there are people who care about you Mari, who will be hurt when they find out you’re gone.

  No matter how careful you announce you’ll be gone. They won’t care if you explain the exact route you’ll be taking. You’ll be gone, Mari. And they’ll miss you.

  I’ll miss you.”

  Mari offered Luke a smile. “Hey, don’t worry about it,” she said. “I won’t be gone for long; you’ll see me again soon. I promise.”

  She quickly hugged him before climbing down the trunk. She’d made a promise; she’d be back soon.

  But Mari didn’t keep that promise. She never came back.

  Luke, however, didn’t care. He waited for Mari to come back for four years, and even tried to go after her multiple times. But he always came back home, because after all, he was only a boy with nowhere to go, and didn’t know where to look to find his friend.

  Where had Mari gone? Was she still in town, hiding somewhere, or had she left? Weeks became months, and months became years. And it took those years for Luke to finally accept that Mari was not coming home.

  He’d tried to assist the police and Mari’s parents in their searches, but how do you find someone who doesn’t want to be found? Despite being young, Mari was clever. She knew how to blend in with a crowd without drawing too much attention to herself. It was possible that she’d skipped town completely, even.

  New York was a big city, one you could easily get lost in.

  She never returned to school, or any other public place where it was possible for people to recognize her. It was almost as if she’d vanished from the Earth’s surface.

  But what neither Luke nor anyone else – not even Mari herself – could’ve possibly known or guessed, was that Mari would return in the fall, four years later.

  Four Years Later

  It was the beginning of autumn break, four years after Mari had left.

  Now, four years later, Luke was in his senior year of high school, but he didn’t care much about school or his grades. It isn’t uncommon for seniors to stop caring about their grades – at least until the final exams come around the corner –, but Luke had stopped caring four years ago.

  He hadn’t heard from Mari ever since she’d left, and part of him couldn’t help but blame her for it. All of his messages and calls had been left unanswered, and she’d never even made any kind of attempt to contact him herself.

  Luke figured that maybe Mari truly had found what she’d been looking for, and forgot about him. He didn’t really care anymore, anyway. Luke just hoped Mari had found happiness, whatever that meant to her.

  Her parents had been fighting more often since she’d disappeared, trying to find out what had caused her to run away. Their discussions regarding what had been the cause had always ended in fights; eventually, they decided to divorce, and Mari’s father left the neighbourhood to search for his daughter.

  Mari really hadn’t considered how she’d be affecting everyone’s lives – but at least she was happy, or at least so everyone hoped.

  Luke had decided to check on the attic to see if there was anything from his childhood related to Mari. He’d done so plenty times before, but his father always caught him just when he was about to find something. For some reason, James didn’t like his son snooping around on the attic.

  And the reason for that, of course, was the book that lay hidden there. And James wanted to prevent his children from finding it at all costs.

  Luke climbed up the attic stairs, holding a flashlight in his right hand. The attic did have a regular light; Luke just needed the flashlight in order to be able to find it. He flipped the switch, and the light went on.

  Over the years, a lot of stuff had been packed away on the attic. Mostly old toys or other things that belonged to young children. Luke had three siblings; he was the first-born of triplets, and his sister Emma was five years younger than him and his brothers.

  Lucas was very close with his siblings. Through the years, they’d always been together in everything – except for high school, as they sister was in junior high by the time her brothers left high school.

  There were plenty of things from their childhood that instantly recalled old memories of his siblings, but Luke hadn’t come for those. He didn’t even know if he had anything left that had belonged to Mari, but there had to be something, considering Luke and Mari had always been best friends.

  Luke remembered the old vest Mari had once given him; it’d been her favourite, but she’d grown out of it over the years and simply refused to throw it away, so she and Luke had hidden it on the attic.

  They had hidden it inside the old wardrobe – inside the sock drawer, so no one would find it. They truly believed that their parents would find it and throw it away back at the time.

  Lucas knelt down, opening the wardrobe’s sock drawer, and quickly found the vest. It was a deep purple colour; Mari’s favourite colour.

  But it wasn’t just a vest Luke pulled from the wardrobe; as he
tugged on one of the vest’s sleeves, something rolled over the floor as the vest that had been wrapped around it came loose.

  It was a book; it’d fallen open on the last page, catching Luke’s eyes instantly. “What do we have here?” he mumbled.

  “Believe?” Luke said, reading the word on the last page. “What’s this?”

  He closed the book and turned it around to look at its title. “Guardians of Light. I’ve never heard of it...”

  Intrigued by both its title and the cryptic placing of the word ‘Believe’ on the last page, Luke wrapped the book inside the vest and took it downstairs...

  ...Only to run right into his father, who was just coming up the steps. And he didn’t look happy.

  “What were you doing on the attic, Luke?” James said. “I believe your mother and I have told you many times before that-”

  Luke, irritated, cut his father off. “If we want something from the attic, we ask for it, blah blah blah,” he grunted. “I know, Dad. I’m seventeen.” A crooked grin crept onto his lips. “I just went up to get this old vest of Mari’s. Nothing else.”

  James raised his eyebrows as Lucas showed him the vest. Had he recognized it?

  “Can I see that?” he said, not revealing anything about his awareness of the obvious, poorly hidden object inside the vest. Luke reacted slightly surprised, but tried to play it cool by agreeing to show his Dad the vest – by folding it out in front of his chest, carefully hiding the book behind the purple fabric.

  Luke instantly knew that his hiding tactics weren’t working, but he remained hopeful.

  But James had known Luke for longer than today; he knew his son was hiding something, and gently tapped his son on the chest, right on the book.

  “Can I see that, too?” he said, grinning crookedly. “I know you’re using that vest to hide something, Lucas.”

  Luke grunted loudly at the fact that he’d been caught. “Fine,” he said, sounding very unwilling. He reluctantly took the book from underneath the vest and handed it to his father, whose eyes widened.

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