“When did it start?” A stately voice asked in a tone indicating it would have the answer one way or another.
“I-I don’t know. I’ve been seeing things for a while now, but I just passed them off as hallucinations.” Christopher, a young man not older than sixteen spoke nervously.
“When. Did. It. Start.” This time, a very audible tone of irritation crept into his otherwise perfectly controlled voice.
“I already told you!” Christopher sounded more desperate this time.
“You have already made me repeat myself once. I will not do it again.”
Christopher sat across from the austere Huntsman in a small tavern at the edge of a cliff. He contemplated fleeing, but he knew it would be only a matter of days before he would be captured again. The old man cast a scrutinizing gaze at the young boy as if trying to decipher truth out of an entanglement of riddles and lies.
“Look, all I know is that three weeks ago, OverTime, I began seeing bits and pieces. Slowly these coalesced until I witnessed a grave accident. Many men died. Then, somehow, I don’t know how, but I felt a sort of urge. That would have been two weeks after it started. Anyways, I found the portal, and now I am here. Here in this place.”
“And when did this happen. This accident that enabled you to gain access?” The voice of the weathered man relaxed slightly, recognizing that Christopher had no intent of deception about him.
“It was, I reckon a few months back, UnderTime, at least. It was October 1st, in the year of our Lord 2016 that the event happened. I have been traveling ever since, trying to find my way back.
“Ah, that would have been two and a half months back UnderTime, only, OverTime puts it at just a week ago,” the old man fished an old watch from his pocket, “It appears to be October 17th, in the year of our Lord 2016,” he spoke, scrutinizing the watch.
“But—” Christopher attempted to speak.
“Yes, yes, I know. This must be coming as quite a shock. Well, anyways, if the rumors are correct, and as they seem to perfectly corroborate your story, you are a Custos Portæ.”
“A Custos Portæ”
“Don’t worry, Custos Portæ,” The old man smiled, showing for the first time the ability to do so. “Now, you do know what this means, correct?” Christopher continued to stare, perplexed.
“Right, roughly translated, in English, it means Keeper of the Gate. This means you have the ability to create portals back and forth between UnderWorld and OverWorld.” He paused, as if about to tell something very nasty, “It also means you are now the legal property of the Dowfanger of Sol Regnum. As I am obligated by law to report the discovery of a Custos Portæ and bring him in if possible, we shall be leaving at first light.” He laid a few coin on the table, “This should cover the cost of your room. I have some business to attend to so you won’t see me until tomorrow morning. If you want a chance to eat, you had best be up no later than six o’clock.” He stood up, fishing a small metallic loop out of his pocket.
“You’re just going to leave me here?”
“Oh heavens no!” he quickly grabbed his wrist and clicked the loop, it opened and then shut around his hand, forming a uniform cuff.”
Christopher looked puzzled, “You expect this to keep me from running the moment you walk out that door?
“Yes. Yes, I do. And should be so foolish as to try,” he pulled his watch out again, flicking it open and pressing a button, Christopher felt a painful shock that subsided the moment his capturer let go of the button. “I have set it to guard mode. It will shock you should you move beyond a thirty meter radius of this tavern.”
“Now, you have made me late for my meeting. Try and get some rest, will you? We have a long journey ahead of us.” Christopher nodded, dazed. He reveled at how quickly he had landed in his current position.
“Wait,” Christopher looked up at him intently. “What I am, you have a name to call me by, Cust—“
“Right. That means I’m not the first. How-how many others are there like me?”
“The last registered Custos Portæ died three hundred and sixteen years ago, Christopher,” The old man stopped with a tone almost reaching compassion.
“You are worth more than your own weight in gold a hundred times over.”
He quickly left, slinging a thick coat over his shoulders. Christopher sat in that chair a long time, emotionless, reeling from the past days. What had started out as a wild adventure had turned into a very short life expectancy. Why hadn’t I listened to Samuel? He warned me of the danger! Now I won’t even get a chance to say goodbye to my family. Christopher was no idiot; he knew the moment the Dowfanger had him he would never be free. His mind filled with a million different silent curses that he dished out at the DowFanger and Hunstman, one at a time. Relishing the hope that he might inflict pain upon them for what they had done was all that held him to his sanity. Oh yes, they would suffer. They would suffer indeed.
The evening faded quickly, and Christopher found himself dismally overcome with exhaustion but unable to sleep. Sometime in the early morning, not before one o’clock, the old man returned, slumping into bed and quickly passing out. The loud snores made sleep even harder to achieve, and eventually Christopher gave up, resigning his fate. At about five, or close to it, as he reckoned, the door to their room dramatically burst open as several burly men burst through. Two men charged the old man who was already on his feet, sword drawn. Another ripped Christopher off of his bed, slinging him over his shoulder as easily he might a bundle of blankets. Christopher refused to hope that his plight had been changed for the better, but as the man burst through the door of the tavern to brisk, early morning, he couldn’t help but feel his plight had been changed for the better. That is, until he passed beyond thirty meters of the tavern. Screams burst forth from his mouth until the pain rendered him unconscious.
https://pixabay.com/en/coast-shore-cliffs-rocks-beach-918959/ -photo creds