IGRAINE THE BRAVE
By Cornelia Funke
They had tried to destroy the Will, but that proved to be beyond their power. So they broke it, in two ways. It was broken physically, torn apart, with the fragments of heavy parchment scattered across both space and time. It was broken in spirit because not one clause of it had been fulfilled.
If the treacherous Trustees had their way, no clause of the Will would ever be executed. To make sure of this, all seven fragments of the Will had been hidden with great care.
The first and least of the fragments was fused inside a single clear crystal, harder than diamond. Then the crystal was encased in a box of unbreakable glass. The box was locked inside a cage of silver and malachite, and the cage was fixed in place on the surface of a dead sun at the very end of Time.
Around the cage, twelve metal Sentinels stood guard, each taking post upon one of the numbers of a clock face that had been carved with permanent light in the dark matter of the defunct star.
The Sentinels had been specially created as guardians of the fragment. They were vaguely human in appearance, though twice as tall, and their skins were luminous steel. Quick and flexible as cats, they had no hands, but single blades sprang from each wrist. Each Sentinel was responsible for the space between its own hour and the next, and their leader ruled them from the position between twelve and one.
The metal Sentinels were overseen by a carefully chosen corps of Inspectors, lesser beings who would not dare question the breakers of the Will. Once every hundred years one of these Inspectors would appear to make sure that all was well and that the fragment was safely locked away.
In recent aeons, the Inspectors had become lax, rarely doing more than appear, squint at the cage, box, and crystal, salute the Sentinels, and disappear again. The Sentinels, who had spent ten thousand years in faithful service marching between the chapters of the clock, did not approve of this slipshod attention to duty. But it was not in their nature to complain, nor was there any means to do so. They could raise the alarm if necessary, but no more than that.