Chapter 0:

Prologue: Graduation

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

In the sun streamed into the halls of the Central Academy for Gifted Natures. Everyone was excited for graduation day, but two students in particular were discussing the future.Bookmark here

“The Ballon Union.”Bookmark here

“Pass.”Bookmark here

“The Goethan Commune!”Bookmark here

“Do I look like a farmer to you?”Bookmark here

“Okay, fine! The Dragon Corps.”Bookmark here

Definitely not.”Bookmark here

“Hey, come on now Matti!” Jermaine laughed, slapping Matt on the shoulder. “You’ve got connections! You really telling me that you have a shot at a guild like that, and you’d turn it down?”Bookmark here

Matt laughed and shook his head, brushing his brown locks back. “I don’t want to work with my brother. That’s a nightmare I could live without.”Bookmark here

“And I say if my big bro was a guild master, shit, I’d be going over hat in hand!” Jermaine flashed Matt a toothy grin.Bookmark here

At eighteen years of age, the two boys made quite a pair. Jermaine was tall and lanky, and the deep umber of his skin made him look like a tree trunk, with a grin that could light up a room. Matt on the other hand was more stoutly built, with a more reserved smile, and a shaggy mop of brown hair to contrast Jermaine’s shaved head.Bookmark here

But their differences aside they were close as could be.Bookmark here

“Matti!” Bookmark here

The two boys turned to see a big bundle of energy running down the hall. The short redhead threw her arms around Matt, hugging him tightly.Bookmark here

Jermaine whistled. “Wooo boy, someone’s happy to see you! Save it for after graduation, Cynthia!”Bookmark here

Cynthia flashed a smirk at Jermaine, “jealous?” She teased, sticking her tongue out.Bookmark here

“Feeling lucky’s more like it,” Jermaine laughed. “Matti’s the one stuck with trouble.”Bookmark here

“Hey now, that’s my girl you’re talking about,” Matt warned him.Bookmark here

“…Well, he’s not entirely wrong,” Cynthia laughed, elbowing Jermaine in the stomach. Bookmark here

The trio shared a laugh. Bookmark here

“So, what were you guys talking about?”Bookmark here

“Matti here, he’s planning his future!” Jermaine said, clapping him on the shoulder. “Apparently, all the big places are too good for our boy! Meanwhile I’m writing letters to every guild from here to the Shadow Tower!”Bookmark here

“That’s my guy, always looking for something better,” Cynthia said, beaming up at Matt.Bookmark here

“It’s not like that you two, it’s not like I’m… looking down on anything, it’s just…” Matt sighed and scratched his head. “None of those other places feel right, you know?”Bookmark here

“Well, you better hope you get accepted somewhere,” Jermaine warned. “Don’t want to end up getting stuck with Central Services.”Bookmark here

The smile slid off Cynthia’s face and she crossed her arms. “Excuse me, stuck with?” She asked, raising her eyebrow.Bookmark here

“Hey, come on, I didn’t mean it like that!” Jermaine said, raising his hands in surrender. “Look, I was just saying…”Bookmark here

“Just because Gifteds who aren’t accepted at a guild have to join Central Services, that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a commission!” Cynthia scowled. “Getting to serve the community, helping out in the name of his majesty, monitoring Emergents and maintaining defenses, it’s so much better than some cruddy guild!”Bookmark here

“Oh, so they’re ‘cruddy guilds’ now, huh?” Jermaine grinned.Bookmark here

Cynthia’s grin returned and she rolled her eyes. “Okay, you know what I mean.”Bookmark here

“Central Services doesn’t sound so bad,” Matt admitted, wrapping his arm around Cynthia’s shoulder. “Getting to work side by side with my best girl? Maybe guild life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”Bookmark here

“No, come on, Central Services is great, but you’d hate it,” Cynthia laughed. "No hunting Emergents, after all."Bookmark here

Matt nodded. Any guild he joined, he would want to hunt down the creatures. Ever since the monsters had appeared in the wake of the Cataclysm, the guilds had been organizing hunting parties to thin their numbers and help keep civilians safe. Setting out into the Wildlands was a heroic job that allowed people to go about their lives as normal behind the walls of their cities.Bookmark here

Cynthia continued to heap praise. "Jermaine’s right, you need the excitement of a guild. With your talent? You could get in anywhere, heck, even the Guardians!”Bookmark here

Matt stifled a laugh. “Come on now Cynthia, the Guardians? They only have, like, ten members. They accept, what? One commission a year?”Bookmark here

“Less,” Jermaine said, shaking his head. “Gotta say, your girl definitely believes in you.”Bookmark here

“Well, I say he can,” Cynthia pouted. “On a lighter note, you boys on for the party tonight, after the ceremony?”Bookmark here

“Aaah, I can’t,” Jermaine said, shaking his head. “Gotta go over my applications again.”Bookmark here

“I’m in,” Matt said. “ Meet at 7?”Bookmark here

Cynthia beamed up at him. Before she could agree, her phone beeped. She checked it and her face brightened. “Oh, it’s my parents!”Bookmark here

She looked up at Matt. “Sorry Matti, my dad wants to see me before the ceremony, is it okay if I…?”Bookmark here

Matt winced for a second, but his smile returned and he nodded his head. “Yeah, say hi to your folks for me!”Bookmark here

Cynthia nodded her head and skipped backwards, waving bye to Jermaine seconds before taking down the hall in flash of red.Bookmark here

“…She knows we’re not allowed to use our Naturia in school, right?” Jermaine asked.Bookmark here

“She’s not one for keeping still,” Matt dryly replied.Bookmark here

“Yeah, but she’s got a good head on her shoulders, you gotta admit. She was onto something when she said you could be a Guardian.”Bookmark here

Matt laughed. Cynthia was sweet, but he just couldn’t see it.Bookmark here

Jermaine checked his watch as they reached the quad. “Hey Matti, gotta head out to hook up with my sis. See you at the ceremony.” His smile was sheepish, like he felt guilty, and the moment passed unspoken as Matt nodded back to him.Bookmark here

“Yeah, see you,” he said. Jermaine clapped him on the shoulder, and left Matt alone with his thoughts.Bookmark here

Matt couldn’t bring himself to watch Jermaine’s departing figure. He hopped down the steps and headed the other direction.Bookmark here

Cynthia was going to see her folks, and Jermaine had plans with his family, too. But Matt didn’t have any parents to come see his ceremony. Even his brother was more concerned with his guild duties than with Matt’s graduation.Bookmark here

“Look out!”Bookmark here

Matt’s head shot up just in time to see a wave of black tumble down on top of him. Something heavy knocked him to the ground.Bookmark here

“Oww… get off…” Matt groaned. Whoever had landed on him obliged, and he picked himself up out of the grass.Bookmark here

When he saw who it was he’d crashed into, his jaw dropped.Bookmark here

She was the most beautiful woman he’d met. Her skin seemed to glow against her dark outfit, tight leather wrapped around a voluptuous figure. Her top was sleeveless but long gloves rolled up her arms, the same dusk of the hair that framed the fine features of her gorgeous face. Her eyes were like a swirling nebula of stars, shining brightly at him as she extended her hand.Bookmark here

“Sarah Dawn!” She greeted him like it was possible he didn’t know who she was. “Sorry for landing on you like that! I was trying to find my way to the field for the graduation ceremony!”Bookmark here

Sarah Dawn. Sarah Dawn was standing in front of him.Bookmark here

There wasn’t a person in Autoria who didn’t know the name Sarah Dawn. She was an orphan like him, a child of the Cataclysm, but Matt couldn’t even begin to compare himself to her. She was only a teenager when she founded the Guardians, and in a flash she had risen to become one of the most prominent guild masters of the nation.Bookmark here

And she was standing right in front of him.Bookmark here

“You-You’re… h-how…?” Matt didn’t know what to say.Bookmark here

“You okay? I didn’t land on you that hard, did I?!” Sarah frantically asked. Matt shakily shook his head.Bookmark here

“No, I just… I’m… I’m honored, meeting you!” Matt gushed, taking her hand and shaking it. “I’m Mathew Hearthome, Ms. Dawn, it’s… it’s an honor!”Bookmark here

Matt knew he was babbling, but he couldn’t help himself.Bookmark here

“Hearthome… Hearthome?” Sarah touched her chin in contemplation. “You wouldn’t happen to know Kanone Hearthome, would you?”Bookmark here

Matt gaped. “Y-You… know my brother?”Bookmark here

Sarah’s face lit up like a starburst. “I knew it! It is you! Little Matti! I haven’t seen you since you were a baby! Look at how big you’ve gotten!” She hugged him tightly, and Matt just stared into the distance in shock. The hug lasted only a few seconds, but it had him completely flummoxed.Bookmark here

Sarah stepped back, reaching into her pocket and passing him a card. “Here! This is my contact info, if you’re still looking for a commission! Just let me know, I’m expecting great things from you!”Bookmark here

“Uh…” Matt’s mouth wasn’t working right. Before he could form a proper response, he lost the opportunity.Bookmark here

“Well! I need to get going! Ceremony’s gonna start any minute!” Sarah grinned. “Look for me up onstage! Catch ya later!” She snapped her fingers, and the air behind her twisted and bent, breaking apart into a swirling vortex of space.Bookmark here

With a wink and a wave, she stepped through the portal and disappeared.Bookmark here

Matt stood alone in the quad in shock, Sarah’s card was hot in his fingers. The Guild Master of the Guardians had just given him her card personally? She’d told him to call her for a commission? The Guardians were one of the most exclusive guilds in the kingdom, and she was letting him in just like that?Bookmark here

He should have been overjoyed. But he only tasted ash in his mouth. The only reason she would give him her card was because he was Kanone Hearthome’s little brother.Bookmark here

He shoved it into his pocket and headed for the field, trying to forget about it and focus on the upcoming ceremony. Bookmark here

But it burned a hole in his pants. When he took his seat, he could still feel it. It called out to him as the headmaster began his speech, and even when Sarah Dawn stepped onstage to address his graduating class.Bookmark here

He couldn’t get it out of his mind.Bookmark here

Abraham B. A.
You can resume reading from this paragraph.