The old man could feel the years in his bones, a dull ache that spread throughout his body. It was getting harder and harder to get up each morning, took longer to get dressed and make breakfast. This did not mean that he could afford to get going later in the day, it meant that he had to get up earlier, making the days longer. It seems as if all colour has been washed out of the world. And fun.
He made his way outside, looked at the grey overcast skies and desolate, drab hills. He sighed, and lit his pipe, sitting down on the stone bench. He shifted around a bit to get into his usual spot. This was the same routine he’s been following for the last forty years. The stone bench has been lightly worn into the shape of his body. A sigh of contentment escaped from the old man’s lips. This was his favourite time of day, a perfect comfortable moment.
Having finished his pipe, he walked around to the storeroom and collected some food for the day ahead, dried beef and fish. He couldn't remember the last time he tasted something that wasn't salty. On his way out of the room he grabbed a bottle of wine.
He went through his daily routine, each action done hundreds of times before. Most would call his life boring, but he knew what would happen if he stopped.
There was a knock at the door. The old man froze. No one has dared to knock in the last ten years. The knock came again. So it wasn't his imagination. He lumbered down the stairs and opened up the door.
There was a young man there around twenty years old, white as a sheet and shivering in fear. “Yes?” The old man growled. “Are you Benthor the Keeper?” The young man asked, his voice shaky. “What of it? And who are you to disturb me boy?” Benthor asked. “ I'm called Mat, and I was chosen.” He replied.
“Chosen?” Benthor said. “It cannot be that time already can it?” Mat looked at the old man in front of him, taking in the ragged clothes an unkempt beard and hair. He really looked like a hermit out of a storybook. “You have been on duty alone for forty years sir. I'm here to train as your apprentice as per the accords.” Benthor snorted. “You’re the first person I've seen in five years and you come to take my job.” “No sir, I’m here to learn. Here to serve.” Mat said.
Benthor sighed and opened the door wide. “Well, boy. Welcome to the Black Lighthouse. I know not who you pissed off to be sent here, but let’s make the best of our situation.”
Mat looked up at the building before entering. Reaching just over one hundred meters into the sky, the lighthouse was constructed out of black stone, joined in a way that barely a crack showed. So the stories are true, Mat thought. Magic was definitely used in construction of the Lighthouse. The lighthouse first window was three quarters of the way up.
“Here is an empty room for you, stash your gear so that we can get started. Meet me at the top.” Benthor commanded. Mat put away his clothes and surveyed his new room. Small, dark, dingy. About the same as his previous room.
Mat emerged from the trap door and took in the sight. In the centre of the room there was a concave mirror, with a radius of at least five meters. It was nestled in a contraption that made it possible o swivel the mirror three hundred and sixty degrees. “Arlen’s Lens” Mat breathed. “I still can’t believe I’m seeing Arlen’s lens.” Benthor smiled, enjoying the look of wonder on Mat’s face. “Aye boy, Arlen’s Lens. It’s the strongest focusing mirror ever created. This is what keeps the Lands safe. Never forget that.”
Mat tore his gaze away from the artefact that is now part of his life and took in the view from the top of the tallest building in the Land. The hills behind them were mostly barren, only a few ugly grasses was tough enough to survive the desolate landscape. The beach below the cliff was covered in dark driftwood and shipwrecks, in stark contrast with the bone white sand. Beyond that, the Chaos Sea. The whole reason for their presence here.
“I assume you have studied the Lens and the dangers inherent in the use of it?” Benthor said. Mat smiled and said “Yes sir, I'm fully versed in the usage of the lens.” Benthor laughed and replied “Boy, the books and classes do not begin to prepare you for the strain. I’ll do my shift today, you observe. There may be questions later.”
Mat made himself comfortable and looked on with interest as Benthor sat down in the seat of the Lens. He saw Benthor invoke his power, saw his burning eyes reflected in the Lens. Suddenly, the Lens flared bright and a beam of dark light burst through the waves. The sea boiled as the brute power raced across the waves. Mat used his Farsight to ride the beam over the horizon.
He sat transfixed at what he saw. Ships. Millions of ships. They were crewed by the dead, built out of bones and leftover wood. The dark beam slammed into the flotilla, ships exploding under the power of the beam.
This continued for three hours.
“Will it ever end?” Mat asked over lunch. “Will we ever win?” Benthor took his time in answering. “What is time to the dead? What is losses? They’ll keep coming, we’ll keep on protecting the Land. I've done this for forty years. Now it’s almost your turn. Never miss a shift. Never! Each meter they gain is lost to us.”
“I swear on the Land” Mat replied. “To always be vigilant. To be the first and last defence against the Legions. To offer my years so that the people can live free,”
“Welcome to the Keepers, Mat. May your service be steadfast and the years kind. You can take the afternoon shift. I'm taking a nap that’s been forty years in the making.”