Author's Note: From now on, to preserve my sanity, I am going to be switching viewpoints a great deal more often, though not without warning. And I will switch sections, with little starry things, before I do so. I won't suddenly change perspective in the middle of a paragraph. You'll see. But there are going to be more than Kelsey, Leia, or Galad talking; we'll also have some Falcon, Jade, and Amethyst. Nope, none from the enemy; his mind's too twisted to think about. Besides, it'd give away the plot of the story. ^_^ I might, however, change perspectives a couple of times without telling you – this is either intentional or a mistake; if it's a mistake you'll probably know within the first couple of paragraphs. So forgive me, because I post this stuff before it's properly edited!

Episode VIII – Guardian from the 'Moon'

Galad

Shaken, I heard my voice say quietly, "I know who it is."

Both Kelsey and Leia looked at me with expressions of fear badly masked by expectation on their faces. The former of the two asked, breathless, sounding as though she were in a movie and something terribly important were about to be revealed, "Well?"

I stayed silent for a little bit, trying to steady my nerves. The use of my powers had disoriented me, and I was getting my bearings.

"It's Da-" My voice was cut off suddenly, against my will, and I touched my throat to be sure it was unmarked.

"Who is it?" Kelsey asked again, a note of impatience seeping into her tone.

"Dac-" Again, I couldn't finish the name. Odd.

"She means Dacien," Leia murmured, gazing steadily at the weapon resting in my hands.

Kelsey didn't look surprised, and neither did Leia. I wasn't either, for that matter. It unnerved me that one of our classmates had killed at least two people and attempted to slay myself and my two best friends.

Hitokiri, indeed, I thought to myself, alluding to the name of an assassin in an anime I watched. The translation from Japanese to English of the term "hitokiri" left "man-slayer," a term I thought adequate for the situation.

"Why didn't you just say so?" Kelsey asked after a moment.

"I couldn't. I just physically…couldn't," I explained self-consciously, feeling as though I had failed in some way.

"Probably a spell of some sort," Kelsey surmised.

"Wouldn't put it past him," Leia muttered disgustedly, looking at the wall as though her eyes couldn't stand to look at the odious sight of the unclean glaive. Pretty much anything that Dacien touched was tainted, in our opinion.

And for good reason, I thought acidly. Maybe it is.

Leia took the glaive out of my hands and slid it back under her bed once more, leaving the three of us free to sit down in the comfy chairs placed in the center of her large room.

* * *

More Galad

Leia's room was very large; it was the entire attic of her house, but it was surprisingly comfy for being the second-largest room in her house, save the basement. It took up the entire "fourth" floor, and when they moved in, her parents had to install a stairway up to the attic so that she didn't have to climb up a ladder. However, the room was designed to be used as an extra room, not just for storage, so it was insulated.

There was a heptagonal window facing the backyard, placed right above the side of her bed, which was pressed up against the wall on one side, secreted away into a semi-cubby. The head of the bed was visible, and it, too, was up against a panel of wood. The foot was hidden by a sliding panel that could be made to hide the entire cubby, making it a closet. Leia had deigned to use that panel to hide her feet as she slept.

The stairway came up in the middle of the room, and there was a banister extending all the way around the hole it made in the floor, except for where you stood to begin descending lower into the house. The carpet was a dark blue, and matched both the shade of the wooden walls and her bedspread. The four Star Wars chairs matched the décor as well, sitting in the center of the room, between the stairway and the wall twenty-five feet straight ahead of it..

On the wall opposite her bed was Leia's dresser, standing about chest-high, with twelve drawers in it, each painted a different shade of blue or green. It was a charming little thing, something her mother had been given and then had passed on to Leia. To the right of the dresser was a small closet, where she kept all her dresses and fancy shirts. On the dresser's other side was a bathroom, complete with shower. Leia's hair accessories were strewn all over the counter, though there was a small pool of cleanliness amongst the sea of chaos – a pot containing a domestic-size cactus, just blooming.

The furniture in the bedroom mostly ended at the stairway's beginning, almost like the banister had drawn an invisible barrier that nothing could pass. The rest of the spacious room was merely carpeted, with a couple of circular windows open to admit light, and a floor-length wall mirror on the far side, perpendicular to the wall where Leia's bed was. I assumed it was where Leia practiced her tai kwon do, karate, and judo. She took at least three martial arts classes a week; I'd forgotten which days and if there were any others. I was relatively sure there were and I had just failed to remember.

Leia's computer was secreted away in a little niche to the right of her bed, complete with modem for Internet access. There was also a convenient printer/scanner/copier. Her CD player was sitting on a window seat that was actually a window bench that hugged the wall across from the stairway's exit, a case holding all her CD's lying open next to it. She walked over to the player now, proceeding to choose a CD at random and start to play it.

The sound that began to emerge from the speakers wasn't anything I recognized, nor was it even vaguely like music, but Leia seemed to like it. She had disturbingly modern tastes in music.

She sprawled out in one of the four Star Wars chairs, then gave me a look that said, "Now what?"

"Well, what have we been learning?" Kelsey asked reasonably, sitting down herself.

"Mostly how to make things levitate," Leia responded instantly, while I replied with, "Shielding my mind."

"So we're at the beginning," Kelsey inferred unnecessarily. "Is there any way we could learn faster?"

"You're acting as though I know," Leia told her. "I don't."

"Yeah, yeah, but I can still hope."

* * *

Someone you don't know…

I must have overslept, I thought groggily, sitting up in bed and gazing at the clock in horror. Eight in the morning? There was no way I was going to be able to make that!

Oh wait, I remembered. No school. We moved. Right. Summer break. I was still dead tired, so I lay back down and promptly fell asleep. Why I was tired was unknown to me, but I had been asleep for nearly ten hours. That I was still tired would have worried my parents, had they known. But then, they didn't – and neither did they know why. It wasn't exactly a bad thing.

* * *

Kelsey

Sound drifted on the air, sweet and musical in my dream. I was standing in a clearing, the ground around me covered only by a light layer of moss. About twenty feet out from the center, the trees began once more, and the clearing was circular. πr², I thought with a slight amount of humor. I had no idea where I was or what was going on, and I was thinking about math equations?

Turning around, I saw a boy sitting on a rock that rested on the edge of the clearing, playing what looked to be a flute, but I knew wasn't. Nor was it a piccolo; it looked as though a recorder player had suddenly gone flute-crazy, and thrown in a couple of elements from the saxophone for good measure. For example, there was a reed, but the "neck" that was on the saxophone had been twisted to go around to the side, where it became flutelike. However, it was too short in length to be a flute.

The sound, on the other hand, paradoxically reminded me of wind chimes, sweet and clear, weaving a melody that I couldn't follow or predict, yet loved.

After a few moments, he stopped playing, putting the instrument down somewhere, and stood up. I hardly noticed that once he was standing, whatever the object was that had been creating the music, it had vanished.

"Hi," he said quietly to me, not moving now.

I said nothing, unsure of what I was supposed to do, and waited.

"You're Iron Mage, right?" he asked.

I didn't answer; I didn't even know if he would be on our side or not.

He held up his hand, palm facing me, and I saw that there was a glowing sign inscribed on it, a symbol that I recognized. But he put his hand down, and I forgot what it looked like. All I remembered of it was that it denoted the fact that he was a Mage, though which one, I did not know.

"Happy?" he asked facetiously.

"Yes," I answered cautiously, still wary of his allegiances. He may have been a Mage, but then, so was Dacien, and it was obvious that he wasn't good.

"Don't be so leery," the boy said quietly. "Mercury doesn't deserve his name any longer."

That didn't assuage my worries. He could have been lying, trying to wrest information from me by pretending to be on my side.

For a moment, he reached out his hand, the one where the sign had once been. The glowing mark was gone now, as though it had never been.

"Let me show you where my allegiances lie," he said softly, and waited, unmoving.

I reached out towards him as well, until our palms were touching, and opened my mind the way Jade had shown me not to, and felt him doing the same. And then there were thoughts swirling through my mind, superimposed upon my own, but obviously his.

*This is Iron Mage / she's so powerful / Jade was right to train her the way she is / there doesn't seem to be a link in her mind anywhere / she's fighting Mercury because he attacked her / she has virtually no knowledge of magecraft / is she related to an ancient Mage / is that the potential for a soulbonding I see / even if she does have the potential it doesn't mean it'll go through / thank goodness, she doesn't have the potential to become like Mercury and an outcast Mage...*

The boy took his hand away from mine, breaking the mental connection, and said softly, "I learned what I needed to know, and so have you."

I thought about that mental "flavor" his thoughts had possessed, a rich red that seemed almost too old.

And I remembered some of the text, remembering a certain contemporary of Jade's.

"You're Ruby," I stated carefully.

"Yes," he replied, smiling. "Very good."

"But you were older than that. Jade doesn't look as young as you do."

He shrugged. "It all depends on when your abilities awoke. Mages live a very long time, as you've guessed – Mercury is still alive, after all. Though his powers fledged when he was fifteen, he was able to change his appearance to make himself look younger. It's one of the tricks he learned between when he left Lithium's school and came back to kill Kitalpha and Lithium.

"My own abilities matured when I was thirteen, which is why I look the way I do. I eventually did age, but..." he looked down at himself ruefully. "my spirit-form has always looked like a thirteen-year-old boy, and there's nothing I can really do about it. It caused no end of amusement for Garnet, I'll say that."

I asked carefully, "Garnet was your teacher, correct?"

He nodded slowly. "Yes." He seemed to be about to say something more, but apparently decided against it, and instead told me, "I've learned all I needed to know. You and your friends should be getting some help soon."

"Help?" I asked. "Are there other Mages?"

Ruby shrugged. "That is for Fate to know, not the dead. We can only see the Now. You could potentially get help from other Mages, but at the moment, we have others in line to give you advice and guidance." He looked at me carefully. "And perhaps lend a hand in fights."

Nodding, I said, "Thank you." I meant it. I doubted that we would have been able to do anything, even with Jade's, Amethyst's, and Falcon's training. Assistance – notably trained assistance, would be welcomed with open arms.

He smiled at me and replied, "Welcome," even as his form faded, along with the clearing, and I was left to true dreams.

* * *

Kelsey

I woke up a little bit later, and got online. I then found that Asgardian21 was on as well, so we got to talking.

FerrumWizard: Heya!

Asgardian21: Nihao, Iron Mage.

FerrumWizard: WHAT??????

FerrumWizard: WHY'RE YOU CALLING ME THAT????

I was overreacting, that was for sure, but I was definitely worried. Was Asgardian21 the mysterious helper Ruby had told me about?

Asgardian21: Calm down. Sheesh......

Asgardian21: That's your name isn't it? Ferrum from the Latin for iron and a mage is a type of wizard.

My breathing went back to normal. For a moment there, I had been panicking.

FerrumWizard: Sorry. I was overreacting; thought something had happened.

FerrumWizard: Weird dreams.

Asgardian21: Hm. What sort?

FerrumWizard: There was this kid in my dream, playing a weird instrument that sounded like wind chimes, and told me about magic. Odd, huh?

Asgardian21: Oh, you mean Ruby?

Asgardian21: I know him.

FerrumWizard: WHAT????? *much yelling*

Asgardian21: Ruby. You've got to know about him; it's the only way he could possibly talk to you. It's probably his one weakness. Well, that, and Garnet, but... Garnet's supposed to be off the record.

FerrumWizard: Huh?

FerrumWizard: You've lost me here.

Asgardian21: Garnet. Ruby's teacher. Garnet is one of his weaknesses, though you're not supposed to be aware of that. *mischievous wink and nudge* You don't know it, right? *wink*

FerrumWizard: Now I am sorely confused.

Asgardian21: *sigh* You're still a bit young, but I thought you'd at least be able to figure that one out.

I suddenly had a hunch of understanding over what on Earth Asgardian21 was talking about.

FerrumWizard: I get it!

Asgardian21: I knew you would.

FerrumWizard: at any rate... how'd you know about Ruby?

Asgardian21: The mages and I have a…history you might say. Ruby's one of the few that I've met. It's hard to forget an experience like that.

FerrumWizard: Seriously.

Asgardian21: I didn't meet any of them for long. They keep to themselves and only interact with others when it's absolutely necessary.

FerrumWizard: I never thought that I'd be given advice from someone miles and miles away – and over IM, no less!

Asgardian21: You make it sound like I live on the moon! I'm just a few states away. ^_^

FerrumWizard: Are you a stalker or something? j/k =D

Asgardian21: I'd be pretty bad at it if you were able to figure it out. For now you can think of me as your guardian.

FerrumWizard: that's where the "gardian" is from?

Asgardian21: Nope. Asgard, Norse home of the gods. "ian" means someone from there. "21" is my age.

FerrumWizard: I was just kidding. =D

FerrumWizard: That's really what I hate about a lot of novels; how the lives the people around the main character are NOTHING, and that they exist only to help the main character. It's so unrealistic.

Asgardian21: That's why its called fiction. ;-)

The conversation digressed from there, and I almost completely forgot about Asgardian21's admission: that he knew Ruby. But it bothered me, because that admission had been so open. It was almost too easy to find whomever it was who was supposed to be giving me help, which worried me no little bit. Even in the crackpot fantasy novels, nothing was ever this easy.

I dreamt that I was talking to Jade that night, and I asked her about it. She looked upset when I elaborated, and cut the lesson off early. I think something happened, though, because when I woke up, I vaguely remembered having a dream in which Ruby and Jade had gotten into a yelling match over something. I wish I could remember what, but my memory wasn't good enough to have held onto the few fragments I had picked up.

* * *