Even though on the outside I knew I looked calm and collected, inside I was nervous. This was not my first time being in the presence of the Arch Magos Zamfir Grader. He had always been like a father figure to me. I respected him greatly. When my own dad passed away, he was there to support and aid my mother in her grief. There were even a few that suspected him of having an affair with her. However, these were only rumours. You get used to ignoring rumours in my business. My mother loved Zamfir of course, but he was sworn and forever devoted to his wife, Karryasa. He didn’t sleep around, nor did my mother.

So why was I nervous? Well you see, my mother was retiring. Previously she had been one of Zamfir Grader’s elite personal guards. Now, with her injuries and age hindering her, she felt that it was time to step down and retire. This is where I naturally come in, you see. I was to be my mother’s successor.

This job, no, this honour, did not just randomly fall into my lap. I’m a Vidallyn. The Vidallyns have long since served and worked alongside the Graders. Our families go back together a long ways. The Vidallyns are protectors. It’s my duty to protect those around me.

It was this that Zamfir was talking to me about as we walked casually together in the gardens. He was sad that my mother was leaving his side, but at the same time he seemed almost rejuvenated by the prospect of having me. Fresh blood.

“You’ll have to make some tough decisions, Vythe,” he said to me as we walked along. “Sometimes they will go against your very instincts.” In the distance I could hear the laughter of some little girls. “I trust you though, just as I trust your mother, Synachi’ba.”

“Thank you, Arch Magos, sir,” I replied, keeping my tone low.

“That’s the first thing we’ll remedy. You may refer to me as Arch Magos or Zamfir’ba in public, but in private, you may call me whatever you wish.”

I stared at him for a moment before I realized that I was staring. It was hard for me to swallow. You see, you don’t exactly call a world leader by their first name. It seemed wrong. It took me a moment to realize it, but Zamfir was offering me more than just a job. He was offering companionship; he was offering to be my friend.

“Thank you. I’ll try, sir. Though I believe it’ll take some getting used to,” I said with a smile. For the time being my nervousness had disappeared. I felt confident again. Is it possible to be empowered simply by someone’s presence? It must be. It was almost as if I were feeding off of Zamfir’s energies and his strength was somehow flowing into me. We continued to walk through the garden, making small talk now. My mother had never spoken much of her job – she had been sworn to secrecy. Now I was to be sworn as well.

Zamfir had company over at the moment. The Grader manor was always full of new characters it seemed. Right then his eldest daughter, Koani, and her family were visiting. I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Koani. This was something that even Zamfir was aware of. Unfortunately, her and I just didn’t seem meant to be. Besides, what sort of wretched scoundrel would I be if I tried to infringe on her life now? She was married after all, had a husband, and had three beautiful looking children. I guess old flames just take a long time to die out.

It was her two girls that I could hear, playing and laughing as they raced around in the garden. I knew that Koani would be holding her youngest, Cayson, a boy, and a very clingy and moody one at that. Having finished our talk, Zamfir and I headed back to the veranda where everyone else was conversing. Sitting at a table and looking mildly distracted as she gazed off into space was Zamfir’s wife, Karryasa. Looking back at this now, I really should have asked her what was on her mind. Sitting beside Karryasa was Koani, and as expected, her little boy was curled up in her lap with his fists gripping her skirt tightly. Saber, Koani’s husband, sat beside the two of them, and as Zamfir and I approached, he stood up to greet us. It was a pretty well known fact that Zamfir wasn’t entirely fond of Saber, and so, it seemed as if Saber was constantly trying to please the old Grader.

“Oh, Vythe. It’s good to see you around. I heard it’s your first day,” Saber said to me with a smile. I’ve never been a really violent guy, but for some reason I wanted to hit him. He was a nobody after all. His family, the Lapices, only had a small strain of nobility in them. Not only that, but most of them were simply scholars or busy bodies who didn’t realize the full potential of Fronima. They were simply content to sit on their asses and spin theories until they got long in the tooth. However, my real dislike for Saber stemmed from jealousy. It wasn’t hard for me to figure that one out.

“Yeah, it is my first day. It’s good to see you too, Saber.” It was a lie. I knew it was a lie. Saber knew it was a lie. In fact, everyone around me knew it was a lie. Still, whatever tension that had been in the air previously seemed to have let up a little. Zamfir and I sat down with the rest of them. We started talking. I can’t remember exactly what was said. Small talk is the sort of stuff that only stays in your brain for a short amount of time. What I do remember is Koani suddenly interrupting the conversation.

“Mom?” she asked, looking with fearful eyes at Karryasa. It was apparent from Koani’s voice and her demeanour that something wasn’t quite right. Karryasa either didn’t hear Koani, or had heard her and had chosen to ignore her. I looked at Zamfir in order to try and see what he made of it. Zamfir’s facial expression was stoic though. I could gain no insight from him. Instead I turned to Koani.

“Koani… what is it? What’s wrong?” I asked her as I leaned forward on the table. Things were starting to happen a little too quickly for my liking. Saber placed his hand on Koani’s shoulder, trying to console her. He was every bit as confused as I was.

“Mr. Vidallyn. Vythe, I… I can feel it. Something horrible, something is… Mom!” This time Koani shouted. Cayson, who had been sleeping quietly in her lap, awoke and was now starting to cry. Karryasa finally appeared to snap back into reality. She had been in a far away place it seemed. Still, she offered no words. She only looked at Koani with that same vacant expression before frowning.

It was then that we heard a gun shot followed by a high pitched scream. Immediately I knew what had happened. My mind cried out in alarm: the girls in the garden!

“Vythe,” Zamfir said levelly to me. I needed no further spurring. I leapt to my feet, knocking the chair down in the process, and dashed in the direction of the garden. Behind me I could hear Koani give a strangled gasp and then break into sobs.

I was half way there when I noticed that I was being followed. It was Saber. The idiot fool. If he was smart he’d stay out of the way. It wasn’t too long before we came upon the scene of the crime. One of Koani’s girls, her eldest, had taken a head shot. Right between the eyes. The other daughter was clinging to the body, alive and apparently uninjured. Tears were flowing down her cheeks. Behind me I could almost feel Saber’s heart stop as he saw what I had just seen. I felt really sorry for him then. I’d be a jerk, heartless scum, if I didn’t. His daughter was dead. This was my first day of Head of Security. Was this… was this my fault then? I was supposed to be the protector. I wasn’t allowed to let things like this happen. I had failed.

I left Saber to tend to his surviving girl. I had a mission now and this mission’s name was vengeance. It was pretty easy to see where the killer had shot from. I sprinted off in the general direction. I’m not sure if I was moving unnaturally fast, if they killer was being slow on purpose, or if they simply thought that no one would follow them… whatever the case, I caught up with the gunman quickly. When he heard my approach, he whirled around and fired several shots at me using a small hand gun. I deflected these easily, much to his surprise, with a small shield seemingly made from the air. The bullets bounced off and fell uselessly to the ground. I pulled out one of my own guns and caught him in his left leg. The man stumbled, but continued to move. I fired another. This time I slowed him significantly to a shambling pace. It was then that I caught up and tackled the monster to the ground. I kept him pinned as I relieved him of his guns. Then, when I was certain that I had him completely in my power, I leaned close to his face.

“Who sent you?” I hissed, amazed by just how menacing my words sounded.

“I can’t tell you… Vythe,” the man said to me, with not a single drop of fear in his voice. The fact that he somehow knew my name almost threw me into a complete rage. Yet I held tightly onto my temper, as well as the culprit.

“You’re going to die you know,” I replied, not bothering to mask the anger in my voice.

“I know,” he replied smoothly. “I’m prepared for death. It is my destiny. Fronima awaits me. If you do not kill me, he will.” By “he” I knew that the killer meant Zamfir. Yes, there was no doubt in my mind that Zamfir would tear this atrocity limb from limb.

“Tell me. Who,” I demanded, my words punctuated by snarls.

“I won’t. Any attempts to get it out of me will be futile and in vain. So kill me now, Vythe. Kill me or let Zamfir do the dirty work. You or him, it doesn’t matter.” The attackers words were so calm and collected that I could feel the fury in me reaching a new height. I shot him again. This time in the chest, though it wasn’t exactly a kill shot. He sputtered and I could see a bloody film begin to line his lips.

“You gonna… play with me now? Huh? Dirty… fucker.” His words now had a bit of a rasp to them and he had lost a little of his cockiness. I was pleasantly pleased by this.

“Talk,” I demanded again. “Tell me who.”

“It’s no use,” he said, coughing as he choked on his own blood. I could have drawn it out more. I could have interrogated him. Tortured him. I could have tried to make him talk. Yet something inside of me was agreeing with the bastard – it was no use. I wasn’t going to get any useful information out of this guy. With an infuriated sigh of resignation, I lined my gun up with his forehead and fired.

The next thing I did was search his body. I wasn’t expecting to find anything, and I didn’t. Even his gun was unmarked and not traceable. Everything about him was a dead end. I left the body where it was and took my time as I walked back toward the veranda. The girl’s body was no longer in the garden. Someone had picked it up, although blood still littered the ground. How long had I been gone for?

As I approached the veranda, it was empty… save for one lone figure. Zamfir was waiting for my return. There was something about his gaze that made my mind go for a bit of a trip just then. Had this been my initiation? Was it possible that he himself had hired the hit on his granddaughter? Was he cruel? Would he really do something like that to his own family? I never did find out. Nor did I ever accuse Zamfir of it. He trusted me. He trusted me with his life and with his secrets. I wouldn’t fail him. Not again.