I move forward to open the door. It has only now dawned upon me that all the workers in the area are watching intently. It’s unnerving being under such observation. After a quick moment to reassure myself, I grab the door latch and pull the portal open.

A young boy falls out, his hands and legs snapped stiff by the unseen energy. He looks to barely be thirteen or fourteen years of age. His hair is blacker than anything I’ve ever seen. The clothes he wears are not much more than tattered rags. His eyes burn with a violent, violet intensity, all the proof I need that he’s not normal.

“What the hell didja do to me?!”

I kneel down next to him. This was the boy I saw when I first arrived, standing off in the distance. I might not have had a good look at the time, but the energy wafting off him is unmistakable.  

“Your name is ‘Con’ is it not?” I ask.

He’s squirming, trying to escape. It won’t work. The gem and spell could only be used a limited number of times, but it was powerful.

“Yea, ah go by that. What of it?”

I pull him to his feet so he’s standing. He is still bound, but at least I won’t need to kneel to speak with him.

“You are not a human, now are you, boy?” His dark hair and eyes stand in contrast to his rather fair skin. His hands and feet are worn out, the callouses on his body speak of a life far from comfort. Yet his face remains perfect. Protected.

“Look, I’m sorry for whatever it is ya’ll think I did. I jus wanna go home. I’ll even leave the bit of silver in my shirt.

“I am afraid not, Con. You see, I need to understand whether or not you’re involved here, and I cannot just take your word for it. Don’t worry, the procedure is painless.”

I reach for my pocket, trying to decide how to dispel the boy. I can take him to my room and tie him down, but it’d be easiest if he can walk there himself. My little gem can hold even a hundred grown men for hours-

“RAWR!!” Con cries out.

There’s a quick flash of a ring of light around the boy as the spell is broken. I am stunned. That should be impossible. The spell deteriorates over time, but it should not be snapped by a boy mere moments after it had been cast.

I react quickly. The stone I just used would take to long to charge and focus. I stuff it back in my pocket to free my hands. The boy lunges at me, using his hands like a feral cat. I step backwards to avoid his blow. He goes to strike again and I block the attack with my left forearm.

I hate resorting to such physical maneuvers. However, I do not have my cane or bag, so I must rely on a more time-consuming solution. I strike him in the head with my right elbow, followed by a knee to his chest.

My word, what is this boy made of? Each strike feels like I’m hitting solid earth, but it barely slows him down. It might be due to his emotional state, but I somehow doubt it.

He is knocked back from my hits, but quickly regains composure and moves to strike again. This time I sidestep him entirely and put a quick plan into action. I remove my jacket and throw it off in the distance. I reach for my left sleeve and slide it up.

The symbols carved in scar and ink on my arms are visible now, but I don’t have the time to worry about appearing so savage in front of these workers. If I don’t do something quick, this boy might kill me. He is already turning around in the split seconds I had to work. He jumps for a mid-air tackle. I try catching him, but he is deceptively dense. I collapse backwards, the boy on top of me. He gets to his knees and tries to pin me down.

Damn, I was hoping not to resort to this, but…

BLITZ!” I scream.

A small gem embedded in my right arm glows and blinds me and the boy momentarily. Despite the disadvantage, I still continue with my plan. Grabbing my left arm, I start a series of chants. 47 words in a language I barely understand. He’s disoriented from my previous attack, and not even trying to stop me.

I yell the last syllable of the chant and feel my arm coursing with power and pain. If I were not blinded, I would see the black marks on my arm growing, stretching, and spreading outward. In the moment I’m too distracted by the pain from the fight, but in hindsight, I’m glad I blinded everyone in the room. I can explain the tattoos away, but the vision of tentacles extending from my forearm to incapacitate the boy might be too much.

My opponent cries out but stops suddenly and falls over. He was only unconscious, but it should last quite a while. A far more potent option, but one I do not take lightly. I sit up, my vision slowly returning to me. The people all around seem flabbergasted. One of the maids finally returns with help, albeit a few moments too late.

“What happened here?” My sight is still blurry but I recognize the voice.

“A small scuffle, Mr. Abbot. Nothing to worry about. If you could, please take this young man to my room and tie him down to the chair with some rope from the third smallest bag in my room.”

“Uh…” he hesitates.

“Third smallest. Please do not forget that.”

“Of course, Branner.” His blurry figure moves over to the boy. I pull my sore body to its feet and stretch out my aching muscles. Never in a thousand years would I have thought a child could make me resort to the help of an elder god.

I fear what my interrogation will bring.