Stupid Guardians, Elena thought, hurrying away from the gym. If they want something from me, why can't they just tell me? She and Meredith had been sparring before Meredith's morning class and now she was in a rush to get back home. Being alone on campus made her nervous, and she wasn't sure if it was paranoia, but something felt close to Elena. Too close.
The Guardians were game players; that was all there was to it. Not straightforward, not honest. Nothing like me, she told herself fiercely. Not anymore, not for a long time. Andres certainly wasn't like them, anyway, which was a reassuring fact.
She caught a glimpse of a figure out of the corner of her eye, just the barest impression of movement. All across campus she'd had the creeping sensation of being watched. Someone was following her.
Elena whipped around, but where she had been sure she'd seen another person, there was no one.
The back of her neck prickled, and she hunched her shoulders unhappily. Was Klaus out there? She tried to sense him, but felt nothing. She couldn't see an aura anywhere.
She pulled out her phone and tried to call Stefan. She didn't want to take her chances, and she would feel much safer if she weren't alone. Where was everyone? It was the middle of the morning - although the campus had gotten emptier and emptier as the students got more nervous and classes were canceled, there should have been someone else somewhere around.
Stefan didn't pick up. Shoving the phone back into her bag, she walked faster.
Just as she reached her dorm, a cool, commanding voice spoke behind her. "Elena Gilbert."
Elena froze and then, slowly, turned around. "Yes?" she said.
The tall woman standing behind her was serious and businesslike, her blond hair pulled back in a neat bun, dressed in a simple navy suit. Golden-flecked blue eyes gazed solemnly at Elena. This woman was not Ryannen, the Guardian of the Celestial Court who had once tried to recruit Elena to their ranks, but she was similar enough that Elena had to look carefully to be sure. The likeness bothered Elena: Ryannen had not been kind, not at all.
Quickly, she tried to read the woman's aura, but saw nothing but white light.
After a swift all-encompassing glance at Elena the woman said levelly, "I am Mylea, one of the Principal Guardians, and I have come to administer your oath of Guardianship and assign you your first task."
Elena immediately stiffened. This was what she had been waiting for, true. But was she completely ready? "Wait a minute," she said. "I'd like to know more before I swear any oaths. Were you one of the Guardians that killed my parents?"
The Guardian frowned, a line appearing between her perfectly arched eyebrows. "I'm not here to discuss the past, Elena. You have done your best to awaken your Powers even before my approach. You have brought another human Guardian here to guide and teach you. It's clear from your actions that you are eager for the responsibilities and abilities only Guardians have. You will be given the information that you need after you take your oath."
Flustered, Elena bit her lip. Everything Mylea said was true. Elena had already accepted that she was going to be a Guardian. No matter how tragic her parents' death was, nothing Mylea said now would bring them back. Elena had to think of all the people she could save with her Guardian Powers in full effect.
Mylea shrugged and continued. "Your life was always fated thus," she said calmly. "I could not stop it any more than I could stop the leaves from changing in the autumn." A glimpse of humor flashed suddenly across her face, making it infinitely more human. "Which means, perhaps I could stop it, but it would be difficult and in the end would cause great harm to both you and your world. What will be will be." Then the touch of humor faded, and she stared at Elena, businesslike once more. "Time is short," she said. "Answer yes or no: Are you prepared to give your oath and receive your task?"
"Yes," Elena said, and shivered. Her agreement was irrevocable. There was no changing her mind now, she knew. But she was about to be given the Power she needed to fight Klaus.
"Come, then," Mylea said. She led Elena around the corner of the dorm and into a walled alcove where an oak tree grew. Closing her eyes for a second, she nodded, and then opened them again. "No one will bother us here. Kneel and hold out your hand."
Hesitantly, Elena got to her knees on the cold grass beneath the tree and held her right hand out before her. Mylea firmly turned Elena's hand over so that it was extended palm up, and pulled a small silver, blue-jeweled dagger from her pocket. Before Elena could react, Mylea had quickly drawn the dagger across Elena's palm in a curved pattern, blood springing up in its wake. Elena hissed at the pain and automatically tried to pull back her hand, but Mylea's grip was strong.
"Repeat after me," she said. "I, Elena Gilbert, pledge to use my Powers for the betterment of the human race. I will gladly accept the tasks given me and see them to completion. I will shelter the weak and guide the strong. I acknowledge that my tasks are for the greater good and, should I fail to fulfill them, I may be subject to losing my Powers and being reassigned to the Celestial Court." Elena hesitated - reassigned to the Celestial Court? - but Mylea's eyes were steady and she could feel the pull of Power all around her. Blood ran down her wrist as she repeated Mylea's words, Mylea prompting her when she hesitated. The blood dripped from her hand onto the roots of the oak tree and soaked into the earth. As Elena spoke the last words, the cut across her hand healed, leaving a pale figure eight of scar tissue across her palm.
"The symbol of infinity and of the Celestial Court," Mylea said, giving Elena a small smile. She helped Elena to her feet and kissed her ceremoniously on both cheeks. "Welcome, sister," she said.
"What does it mean by 'lose my place on Earth and be reassigned to the Celestial Court'?" Elena asked. "I'm a human - I belong here."
Mylea frowned, tilting her head to one side to study Elena. "You are no longer a human," she said. "That is the price we have to pay."
Elena gaped at her, horrified, and Mylea waved a hand dismissively and went on. "But you will remain on Earth as long as you perform your duties properly. And now for your first task. An old vampire has come to your campus, one who has caused much damage across the world. He is strong and clever, but you have confronted him before and escaped unscathed. The history you share will give you the ability to defeat him now that your Power is blossoming. At one time, he was no longer a threat."
Elena nodded, thinking of the year Klaus had been dead. "But now he has begun to kill and brought himself to our attention once again. His fate is sealed," Mylea continued. "You must kill the vampire Damon Salvatore."
Elena gasped. No, she thought dazedly. Klaus, she's supposed to say Klaus.
In the split second in which Elena was reeling, Mylea turned neatly away, pulling an elaborate golden key from her pocket, and twisted the key in midair.
"No!" Elena said, finding her voice. But she was too late. The empty air rippled, and Mylea was gone.