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The Keeper

by  natasha

Posted: Tuesday, October 7, 2003
Word Count: 1602
Summary: This children's fantasy is the first part of a trilogy aimed at children 12+. It's quite long (120,000 words) and this is the first chapter. I'm about to send it out to agents so any comments and feedback are welcome.


The brawny boy’s boot found the edge of the bucket, spilling its contents in a messy clutter. She had tried to move it out of the way as the roguish group of cackling boys approached menacingly, but she wasn’t swift enough.
Velma swallowed her rage and pressed her lips tight as the boys bolted off, laughing wickedly.
If only she could use her power, she would have done them a turn. But she thought it wiser not to let emotion interfere with her business. The fact that the boys had so easily thought her as no more than a cleaning lady mopping the floor, was actually encouraging, it fit right in with her plans.
Her strong body and lean, well-defined muscles were convincingly concealed under the colorless rags she had layered over her real clothes. Her mane of blonde hair was hidden under the soiled head wrap which conveniently covered the better part of her face. But she still had to walk in a stoop for fear of disclosing too much of her youthful features and beaming blue eyes, something that was frankly giving her a bad back.
In the guise of a cleaning lady, Velma was easily able to move about inside the hotel, seeking out the boy. She had been at it for nearly two hours and she was growing weary and impatient. But more importantly, she was starting to get a very bad feeling in the pit of her stomach, an unmisteakable sign which had not failed her once in her hundred and thirty four years of life, a dark foreboding of something amiss that sent chills up and down her tired spine. She could almost smell the vile presence of something ghastly which only reminded her that she had to quickly finish what she had come here for and get out as soon as she could.
She sighed in exasperation as she encountered yet another row of rooms. None of them was the right one. Things would be much easier if she could use her power to find the boy’s room. But using her power in this world would be like a beacon. She would draw the other side to her as a moth is drawn to a flame. They would instantly know where she was, but more importantly, they would know where to find the unsuspecting boy upon whom so much depended. So instead she tried to prod at each room with the tips of her instinct, using her naturally developed sense of intuition.
Abruptly, Velma stopped dead in her tracks. This was it. The room in front of her was the one she was looking for.
Tentatively, she nudged the door open. She could sense that the boy wasn’t here right now. She sailed through the doorway, glancing around apprehensively and let the door slide closed in its frame. As she had expected, there were two beds, one on each side of the room, but there was no question as to which was the boy’s- the pictures on the wall above were a clear mark of the interests of that age- so she headed directly for it. She only needed a second and she would take no more. She was running out of time and the dark foreboding was closing in agonizingly fast. Her temples were throbbing with the anguish of it and her concentration on the task was waning.
In her confusion, she knocked over a stool and toppled to the parquet floor along with it, scolding herself for being so foolishly clumsy. Taking a moment to compose herself, she dabbed at her face with her sleeve and shot determinedly to her feet. With calculated grace and swiftness, she chucked the medallion and the note on the boy’s pillow and wrenching the door open, she bolted out of the room. She could stay no longer. Her chest constricted painfully as she felt a pang of impending danger. Her eyes watered with the intensity of it. Right then she knew without doubt. They were here.
But this is impossible, her mind reeled frenziedly. The location of the boy was probably the very best kept secret in existence and only two people besides herself knew about it.The only way the other side could know....... Velma shut her eyes in sickened disbelief. Treason!, the thought slammed uninvited into her head. Corrupt, despicable treason!
All her thoughts shut down in panic and the numbness of realisation descended upon her mind. She lunged away from the room and into the adjoining dimly-lit corridor. She raced across the carpeted floor only to get as far from the room as possible. She didn’t care about herself. She knew she was probably done for. She should at least try and lead them away from the boy.
Sprinting through an empty hall, she darted into a door on the other side, swerving right to head for the staircase. The head wrap flew off her head and her fount of shiny hair gushed out in a golden flow but she had no time to stop and pick it up. When it was a question of life and death, things like appearances didn’t matter anymore. Reaching the edge of the stairs, she glanced around to see if she was being pursued but the narrow gallery behind her was empty. For the fraction of an instant she felt a glimmer of relief, but almost instantly a violent jolt of terror shook her to her very core and she shot forward with renewed verve.
She flew down steps, falling more than running. Steps, railing, pictures on the walls- everything flashed by her in a smear of light and dark. At the end of the staircase Velma glanced up just as a cloak of darkness lifted and a pool of amber light silhouetted him.
Fear gripped her wayworn heart and she stumbled backwards.
Though the cloaked figure stood directly in front of her, she could not see his face in the gloom. Backlit by a wall-light, standing tall and motionless, the figure made a queer, low growl, almost like a cold sneer. Its slitted eyes, fixed on her, shone in the darkness, like those of an animal revealed in headlight beams. She could have known those cold, yellow eyes anywhere.
Velma backtracked until her back collided with the wall behind her. Even attempting to use her power now was useless- she was sure he had already binded it and trying to access it would cause her great harm.
“Have you found what you came looking for?” he leered, his voice sounding warningly final, as he lunged for her with deadly intent.
Velma sidestepped, avoiding the trap of his arms, hoping that he was using his whole power to keep her power binded, that he couldn’t use it to do other things.
His frustration at her narrow escape proved that it was so. At least now, they were going to fight on equal terms, without the aid of the One Source.
She swung around before he had time to catch his breath, delivering a heavy blow to the side of his head. He staggered back a little but then came at her with renewed force. Even though he was much bigger and heavier than her, her training had taught her that she could defeat an opponent 10 times stronger, using methodically calculated moves and moving with the cold grace of a mind that was allowed to rest in the void of stillness. She held on to that stillness, knowing that any slight surrender to emotion would mean her instant death. Still, it was hard to remain in that state of mind when she had to worry about the boy. She knew her opponent well, and now that he was here he would not leave before he had him.
Velma tried to curve to get the dark figure from the side, but he surged at her, taking a swing with his fist that hit her square on the bridge of the nose. Her vision prickled with dark dots and she staggered unsteadily which gave him the chance to sweep her up and heave her with impossible strength through the air. Her back found forcefully the rough stone wall and a protuberance sliced through her shoulder, sending warm blood soaking down her sleeve. Her vision grew blurry and her head swam but she shook it off and sprang with firm resolution to her feet, fury erupting through her.
The cloaked figure suddenly stepped back and raised his hands to seek the One Source. Velma’s heart throbbed with fear. Her mind raced in an agony of uncontrolled emotions. Even as she realised that it was a bluff, Velma saw the figure pounce with deadly speed at her. She had no chance, not the slightest twinkle.
In what seemed like the tenth of a heartbeat, in the calm spark of an instant, the cloaked nightmare seized her by the throat, raising her resolutely from the ground.
Velma stared into his eyes proudly. Now she knew there was no salvation for her, her fear had abandoned her. She was going to protect the information she carried with her life. It was well worth it. She pressed her lips together and spat defiantly in his face.
She couldn’t breathe, but she never flinched an inch. She kept staring back at him with the unwavering gaze of the warrior that she was.
The cords in his arm strained. Velma’s eyes widened as his grip tightened. She struggled to get air, but everything around her was getting darker.
Her last thought was a blessing for the boy.