“Will it open today?” you ask, sitting curiously before The Guardian of The Tower. Grass is prickling at your skin through your dress, but it is ticklish not scratchy.
The Guardian and The Tower have been here long before you were born, long before your parents or grandparents were born, too, which is practically an eternity ago.
The Guardian has never spoken as far as your memory stretches, but you are only six years old.
In a creak of metal, it shakes its head, left then right, never moving from its place.
That’s okay, you enjoy its company anyway.
You are nine years old now and not much has changed.
Your grandmother died last year, making your father king now, but your life is much the same.
The Guardian never speaks, never moves except to shake its head, but you think it enjoys your company just as much.
There is a festival today and you’ve bought it a beautiful, vibrant scarf. More decoration than warmth, true, but you think it will appreciate the gift.
You tie the scarf to its arm, bright and colorful against its metal.
Now, whenever you ask it questions, it will also nod its head.
You are twelve, much more mature, and terribly scared.
Your kingdom is at war.
Your mother is out leading the armies and so all you see is your father’s increasingly stressed and haggard face on the rare occasions when he can join you for meals.
The Guardian and the base of The Tower have always been your haven, but never have you felt so much a refugee in your own home.
The metal is far from comfortable, but it is cool against your cheek and the newest scarf flaps gently in the breeze.
You don’t ask The Guardian if everything will be okay.
You are fifteen.
Your mother has died on the front lines and your father is close enough to it. Your kingdom has been ravaged and over the years has become a shell of itself.
There are talks of marriage–you, reduced to a trophy for the winner. You feel sick.
Desperately, you run to The Tower. It is night now, but you know the pathway in your sleep.
There are no more new scarves for The Guardian, the old ones faded and threadbare from weather and sunshine. It almost makes you forget the war.
“Today?” you ask, grass prickling against your bare feet, “Will it open today?”
The Guardian does not shake its head, does not nod either, and for a heavy, awful moment you think that it has left you, too.
Instead, it moves, metal creaking and screeching and frightening and unfamiliar; it steps aside revealing a doorway.
“Enter,” it says, voice reverberating in your chest.
You step into The Tower, ascending the steps, looking back only once.
Before the doorway closes once more, you see The Guardian resume its place.
You will be safe.