"Christina told me you're a guardian."

Eric came to a halt at the staff room door as Annabeth Qarku was getting ready to leave. She stood there motionless for a second before his words finally reached her.

"I'm sorry you had to find out this way. We aren't supposed to reveal ourselves, but everything is getting out of control, you all needed to know the truth." Annabeth sounded sincere and her empathetic eyes fell upon Eric's. He could see himself in her eyes and never realised just how tired he looked. The pain of the events from last week were etched onto his skin.

"It makes sense, I suppose," Eric went on to say, becoming a little distant as if he was travelling away from the conversation in his mind. "I just don't understand what happened last week, the night my father was murdered, when everything turned to shit. Where were you and the others?"

"Fighting for our lives. In fact, your father was a guardian too."

Eric was met with clashing emotion. Annabeth's latest exposé hit him harder than he expected. "My dad? He was a guardian too?" Trying to understand it, his thoughts turned to the job itself. "What does a guardian have to do? Just protect us?"

"I feel like a campfire and some marshmallows are needed right now," Annabeth remarked, taking a seat at the table. She motioned to Eric to join her. "So, after you and your friends were attacked as children... you read about that right?" Annabeth was unsure who she's told what to, and who knows how much. The web of mystery in Lakefield View concerning the lives of the five friends was complicated.

Eric nodded. "Yeah, we came across a newspaper article about it last week."

"Well, a great man called Gralamin Gellantara assembled five people to protect you, Christina, Tiffany, Carmen and Justin. He knew the worst yet to come."

Eric seemed to doubt her story very quickly. "Wouldn't you have been the same age as us when that happened? This Gralamin tasked you with that kind of job when you weren't even old enough to cross the street by yourself?"

"I wasn't an original guardian. The others were adults, and that includes your father. Christina's mother was also an original, and Carmen's father. There were two other people protecting Justin and Tiffany, but I'm afraid I didn't get to know who they were. Anyway, Cassandra Mayer vanished, as did Carmen's father, and I heard that Justin's and Tiffany's guardians were killed in a tragic railway accident."

"So once a guardian dies or disappears, there's a new one that takes over. That's all fine but how did my dad become one? What did Gralamin do to him?"

Annabeth knew Eric was becoming emotional as she discussed a part of his father he never knew. "First of all, Frank was such a strong, inspiring man. He helped me when I first became a guardian. He treated me like a daughter he never had and, believe me when I say this Eric, I loved him like a father too. Frank jumped at the opportunity presented to him because Gralamin knew he was strong enough for it, that he would protect you with his life."

Eric had to close his eyes for a few seconds to keep everything inside. The dam behind his eyes was breaking.

Annabeth continued after some hesitation. "What Gralamin did to the guardians was to bestow us with the ability to see approaching danger for the marked five. I am Tiffany's guardian, and Frank was yours of course. We all had our methods of protection. Katherine was Christina's, so she became a waitress here years ago and became good friends with her. I went a different route with Tiffany and I just watched from afar. Frank was your father and he protected you more than you know."

"The way he died..." Eric could see it happen in his mind all over again. His face was like a projector, replaying the scene, his emotions clear for all to see. He saw it every single time he closed his eyes to sleep. "I was locked in the cupboard. I couldn't get out to help him."

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