The Crystal Altar

The Alpha Guardian

Naomi Stoltzfus

Chapter 1: Enk

Tall bristled vines tangled along the path, creating an endless maze with neither a start nor finish. The realm was silent aside from the creaking vines when they peeled away to make room for the two boys. Grey skies overlooked the leveled dusty grounds, the air stationary and dull. It was calm and undisturbed by inhabitation.

Scribe followed Enk who had been leading them for a couple hours. He flicked the God's floating hair a few times.

"Stop that."

"Are we there yet?" He flicked it again, finding it amusing now that he knew it vexed the man.

"I said stop."

"Then don't tempt me. Turn back into your elven self if you don't want me messing with it. Do you even remember where you put this guy? We've been in this hourglass for days."

"It's only been a few hours and I know exactly where I put him."

"Really? Because everywhere looks the same and we look incredibly lost if you ask me."

"Good thing I didn't ask you."

"You say you lost your emotions, but you just seem pissed off. Isn't that an emotion?"

"Want to see just how emotional I can be?"

"Ye- no. Tell me about Tyme. You've been very vague about him for the past few months. Describe him to me. What's his favorite color?"

"I don't know his favorite color."

"Sheesh, you don't know? How long did you know him?"

"17 years."

"That's sad. Do you know my favorite color?"

"Do I care?"

"That's not the point. You spent a good chunk of your life with this guy and you don't know anything about him."

"Just because I don't know his- you're retarded."

Scribe laughed. "You're so easy to mess with now. I remember when you just glared. Good times."

Enk stopped and put his elbow back for Scribe to walk into.

"Ow!"

"We're here."

"Yeah, but at what cost! I'm sure you just gave me a black eye! And I don't see anyone here but us."

"Look up," Enk commanded and he gazed up to see an unconscious elf suspending high above them with legs and arms tangled gravely in the thorny vines.

The elf had a pale complexion and messy blond hair. He wore a long sleeved black shirt over fishnets, and blue jeans covering his bare feet.

"I thought you said Tyme Raink was a dude."

"He is."

"That's totally a chick."

"It's a guy."

"I don't believe you."

Enk stretched out his arm towards the elf and the world of the hourglass heeded his commands.

The creeping plants around Tyme unwrapped to release him. He dropped down into Enk's arms with a few streams of blood dripping down from where the thorns cut into his skin. He slowly opened his velvet eyes and lifted his head, finally awaking from his many years of slumber. He stared up at Enk holding him, blinking a few times. "Enk, it's like a dream come true," he said weakly with a hint of a joking smile. "My knight in shining armor."

Enk ignored him. "Can you stand?"

"I wake up from 200 years of unending sleep and you want me to stand two seconds afterwards?" He wanted to hold on for longer, but he knew that Enk wasn't as eager to keep him in his arms. "Sure, I'll give it a try."

He let him down and held his shoulders to make sure he was stable.

Tyme kept smiling at him, absolutely thrilled to see him again. He finally realized Scribe after few seconds of awkward silence. "Awe, you're adorable. Who are you?"

"Scribe, Zekk Transcribe," he introduced himself.

"It's so wonderful to finally meet you!" Tyme gave him a hug.

Scribe tried pushing him away, but the guy just hugged tighter. "Dude, get off me."

He let go, his grin unceasing. He then turned to Enk. "Hug?"

"No."

ooo

They departed the hourglass, appearing inside of the palace of Austera where the artifact was placed on a table. Both Zannor and Mecondra were there waiting for their return.

"Zannor!" Tyme embraced the human as soon as he saw him. "I'm so happy!"

Zannor decided to hug him back, seeing that the elf was probably desperate for human contact after so many years. "Hey, Tyme. Good to see you."

Tyme took Zannor's hands in his. "It's so great to finally talk in person! You haven't come to visit me in the last months!"

"I have troubles sleeping," he tried to explain. "Sorry."

"All is forgiven." Tyme saw Mecondra next. "Oh my goodness, you must be Mecondra! You're gorgeous!" He hugged her. "I've heard so many wonderful things about you!"

The dragon girl giggled. "I like this guy already."

"What's his deal? Is he always like this?" Scribe whispered to Enk.

"Yeah."

"It's a beautiful day!" Tyme spun around. "Oh, what's this?" He started wandering around the room in Tig's palace, touching and examining everything his eyes could see. "This place is huge!" He picked up an urn and looked inside of it. He put it back and traipsed over to a plant. "This one's real!" He put his hands on the small tree and it suddenly flourished with more stems, flowers, and greener leaves. He looked outside of a window and his eyes glittered with amazement. "They paved the roads! And look at those buildings! It's so futuristic!"

"It's called modern, not futuristic," Scribe corrected.

"Are you hungry, Tyme?" Enk asked.

"I'm famished! Do we have food?"

"We can go out to eat if you want."

ooo

They barely made it to the restaurant, coaxing Tyme to stay on course as he was sidetracked by the kingdom and how much it had changed since he last saw it. He wanted to greet everyone and see everything, but by the time his food came, all his focus went to his meal.

He was sandwiched between Scribe and Mecondra at the table as Enk and Zannor sat across from him. "Has food always tasted this good?"

They watched him for a bit as he devoured his plate of food.

"We're going to be leaving in a few days, Tyme," Enk informed.

"What? Why? I just got here! There's so much to see and do!"

"You snooze, you lose," Scribe joked.

"Not funny," he disagreed. "I was barely conscious when I agreed to Enk back then."

"Did you always know that Enk was a God?" Zannor asked.

"What? Enk is a God?"

They paused.

"Just kidding," he giggled. "Yeah, I knew. He's like my dad and I grew up with him, so it's hard not to know."

Mecondra noticed the dozens of old cuts marking up Tyme's arm. "What's with all the scars?" She picked up his hand to get a better look.

"He's got them on the other arm too," Scribe observed.

Tyme looked them over, not knowing himself. "I don't know. Have I always had these?"

"You don't remember?"

He laughed. "I don't remember much of anything anymore. I have this terrible amnesia condition. I just conk out and poof, the day is missing."

The other Guardians stared at him uneasily.

"Have you always had that problem?"

"For as long as I can remember… Hah, see what I did there?" he chuckled at the pun. "Yeah, I've had it since I was little."

"Actually, I remember you talking about that now," Zannor recalled. "Do you still not know your parents' names?"

"Nope."

"Let's talk about something else," Enk was eager to get off the topic. "Let's discuss Morose and Viscus Silva."

Zannor saw Tyme eyeing his food and slid the plate over to him.

The elf gleefully started eating again.

"The Elders are immortal except to the Transcribes, right?" Zannor tried to recollect. "And you said Tyme is the only one who can beat Morose?"

"Yes."

"And who is in charge of taking Bleidd on?" He was curious.

"Athile."

"Love Athile," Tyme admired. "When can we see him again?"

"Don't know. Can't find him."

"Is he capable of fighting Bleidd?"

"Most likely. He's all over the place though. Hopefully we'll run into him at some point. Anyway, there's a branch off of the Viscus Silva called the Somnium realm. It's considered an extension of the Viscus Silva, but it's still in a different plane. It's really complicated to put into words, but basically Somnium is spilling into the Viscus Silva. This is Morose's doing. It's killing off portions of the realms and allowing a large number of demons to enter. It's also messing up the time stream consistency. Some of the other worlds have been completely cut off from the Viscus Silva because of it. It also makes it very unsafe for those who travel the realms such as myself. Mecondra, you probably know as well."

"Only went through it once for two minutes. I didn't see much of it," she confessed.

"Because the path from Draynon is very close to Ariela. If we can take care of Morose, I can help restore the realm."

"What do we do after that's done?"

"We'll ask around and figure out if Deagon left to another realm. We'll follow after him then."

"Simple enough."

"If you don't somehow screw up, it will definitely be simple."

"But can pixie here actually kill Morose?" Scribe already had a nickname for the Guardian. "He looks frail."

"Sure I can," he said with confidence, completely unoffended by the boy's doubt and insult.

"Have you ever killed anyone before?"

"Uh… Enk, have I ever killed anyone before?" He wasn't sure.

"No, you have not."

"Psh, we'll be fine though." Tyme blew it off as no big deal. "Enk, you've changed so much since we've last hung out."

"Hmm?"

"Normally when I'd ask you a question or talk to you, you never answer back or you just stare off somewhere else and ignore me. It's so much fun finally talking to you!"

"If Enk raised you, how did you grow up to be like this?" Scribe asked.

"Like what?"

"This. Bubbly. Happy. Complete opposite of apathy over there."

"I can't find a reason not to be happy! The world is a wonderful place! It's beautiful and full of life! There are so many people and creatures! And great big blue sky! And so many colors! And the earth is glorious!" Tyme started listing off more things that he thought were great about the realm.

"Kinda wish I had his outlook…" Scribe muttered as Tyme kept rambling.

"Yeah, me too," Enk agreed.

ooo

"We're leaving in a few hours to the Viscus Silva. You're still welcome to come with us if you're up for it, Tig," Zannor said to his friend. He and the others had their bags packed and ready to go.

"Nah, I think I've had enough adventure for my lifetime," Tig answered. "Besides, I kind of like it here. Though Deagon is gone and the seal is back to normal, I still need to stick around."

"Alright, find a wife, make lots of babies, and then come and join us!"

Tig laughed nervously. "You're funny, Zannor."

"No, I'm serious. Take care, man."

"Yeah, rule your kingdom with awesomeness!" Mecondra hugged the elf.

"And don't do anything stupid," Scribe warned when the dragon girl finally let go of him.

Enk tossed a small black stone to Tig who almost didn't catch it. "If you sense trouble, you know how to use that to get in contact with me. It's only good for one use, so make sure it's an emergency before using it. We'll probably come visit here anyway in the new few years."

"Thanks for everything. I hope things go alright for you guys."

"We've got pixie. Nothing will hurt us now," Scribe said sarcastically about Tyme.

Tig looked over at the Guardian who was gawking up at the ceiling, enthralled by the chandeliers. "Is he okay?"

"He's great."