The boy kept his eyes downcast as he followed the hooded man through the streets of The City. He didn't know where they were going, but if it meant he wouldn't have to starve to death, Garrett had to follow. This was his last chance. The youth kicked a pebble nervously as they walked. He glowered at the coin purse still fastened around the hooded man's waist.
It was so odd. He'd never had trouble before-not like this. The closest he'd come to being caught was several weeks prior. A young woman with bright blonde hair had been parading through the market with her suitor. Whilst the two were lost within each other, Garrett had taken a grab at her purse.
Being larger than the usual coin purses he was used to, the boy hadn't compensated for the extra weight. As such, she had felt it leave her person. She cried out and shrieked for the nearest guard, hollering that she'd been pickpocketed and sobbing while her beau searched the surrounding alleyways.
But the quick and agile street urchin had already fled into the darkness.
That had been close. But still, Garrett had never been caught. Until today.
He looked up at the man again when he stopped and turned around.
"We've arrived." He spoke in a deep, wisdom-filled voice.
Garrett squinted his eyes and blinked as he observed the large rounded building before them. The place was enormous! That's when the boy noticed that the building was lacking a most staple feature.
"Excuse me sir? This can't be right!" The youth protested.
Without responding, the hooded man began to trace the sides of the large stone wall. Garrett gasped in shock as thin blue lines began to corporealize against the dark grey bricks. He could hardly believe what he was seeing, and gawked up at the strange man once more.
Of course I couldn't pickpocket you! You're a taffing mage!
His astonishment was only multiplied tenfold when a rectangular portion of the wall gave way to reveal a deep, almost beckoning passage. The hooded man turned around and faced the gaping, hungry expression of the boy he had just rescued.
"Follow me, young Garrett. Your new life, is about to begin..."
Raised by Keepers
The inside of the 'wall' was dark, the scent of smoke and trepidation cutting through its blackness like a scythe. Garrett remained huddled behind the robed man, unsure and ill at ease.
"Well now. About time you returned to the fold, Artemus." A scolding, bitter voice sounded from amidst the shadows. "What kept you THIS time?" First Keeper Xaiver sneered down from his podium like a ravenous hawk.
The boy was now riddled with droplets of sweat, his face contorted in fear. He wanted to run, but his legs had betrayed him. They were now as frozen as the horror locked within his eyes, the hooded man just mere feet from his frail form. Garrett now felt extremely foolish for having followed a complete stranger into this unknown place.
Garrett had heard of such men before; those who wore long dark robes, and thick hoods to conceal their face from the ever watchful eyes of The City's bluecoats. Before he'd wound up on the streets, his late father had cautioned him about such people. The boy could still remember the hot, unwavering sincerity within his old man's grey irises-intermingled with the cautionary intimidation that only a concerned parent could ever exhibit.
These ebony-clad hunters, would lure anyone who they could find into a state of irreversible , and unending tribulation. The horrid state of being dead, yet never finding the only reward that was associated with ones final breath. Peace.
The urchin was in short, terrified. He had no choice but to stand in that dark room, with the two hooded men; and hope that whatever they intended was good. Hands quivering, the lads hazel eyes scanned the seemingly exitless room, hoping, that perhaps there was some place to flee to, should their intentions be anything otherwise.
That's when his questionable escort spoke.
"I was met with the unexpected." Artemus then stepped aside, exposing Garrett to the First Keeper.
"Oh gods no..." Xaiver's eyes narrowed in disgust at the sight of the boy.
"He shows promise. Have I ever been the sort to waste your time?" Artemus persuaded.
"This isn't a question of your reliability, Artemus! You cannot bring home a child to us like he's a lost puppy! What will his parents think?!" The man's voice rose, betraying a very real aggravation. "This is not what we're here for."
"The boy is an orphan."
The moment those words had been uttered, there was nothing but silence. The air in the vicinity grew thick with uncertainty, and the boys heart began to pound ever faster within his chest.
At long last, First Keeper Xaiver began to speak again, his decision reached.
"Very well. As a Keeper, you do have the right to take on a novice. If you truly wish to take responsibility for this waif, so be it. But he is to be your charge, Artemus. If he steps out of line, it will be on your head!" The imposing man threatened.
Artemus, bowed his head, accepting the First Keeper's decision.
"So let it be."
He then turned to Garrett, and smiled. By this point, the boy was spastic, petrified. Seriously pondering whether or not he'd merely traded one bad situation for another. But that sudden smile upon Artemus's worn face, perplexed him. It wasn't creepy, nor malicious. It was a genuine, very kind, smile.
"You shall begin his training immediately. If the lad wants to eat, wants the comfort of a warm bed, he must prove this 'promise' that you speak so surely of." Keeper Xaiver instructed, his tone level and cold. "We are not a charity, Artemus. We are Keepers. And as such, we cannot allow ourselves to be swayed by such mindless pity."
"Yes, I understand." Artemus bowed his head in acceptance.
Garrett found he could no longer tear his gaze from the intimidating First Keeper. There was something almost empty about him. As if his mind had given over to a higher power of some sort. There wasn't a hint of sympathy emanating from his intense glare.
It was then that Garrett realized; even if he had been taken in by these strange people, his new life wasn't about to be an easy one.