By my father's name, I was accepted into the life of guardship. It was only slightly better than life as a mercenary, but I counted myself lucky in the world to find work.
Though, that wasn't always the case.
There was a time when I found my work degrading and beneath the boots I wore. It was not my duty to protect nobility, nor was I contracted to offer protection to caravans traveling in and out of city gates. I was taken on as a guard to our city's largest holding facility. It was formally known as "The Salt Barrel" for its proximity to waters that crashed at our city's back. It was my duty to sit and watch after prisoners. I watched them, fed them, and at times dealt punishments. At least I came to be responsible for such duties after a while.
When I began my service, I had first to learn and grow fit for the tasks necessary.
Cleaning disheveled and unsanitary cells; that's how my training started. Prisoners were given chamber pots, but at times they weren't deep enough to hold waste for all those who might have shared confinement. Piss, shit, and blood. So much of it made scrubbing wood floors or stone walls seem fruitless. It was no wonder most of The Salt Barrel reeked from summer to winter. There was never a lack of filth needing sponges. There was never a lack of work to do.
At least sanitation didn't remain my duty. It wasn't my only duty forever. Eventually, after what felt like a long age, I worked in the barrel's kitchen, learning to prepare bowls of slop we fed prisoners. Guards, while on duty, ate the same as those we watched, so food had enough taste to stomach at least. Especially in our city, it was more than spice and water.
I wasn't allowed near an actual prisoner on my own till months later. Even then, I was merely moving bodies from cell to cell.
After a year, I was given my first Block. A block was a small section of The Salt Barrel, typically made up of 10 cells. Each cell could hold five prisoners comfortably, or ten at most if necessary. My block was at the bottom of the spiraling tower that made up The Salt Barrel. Prisoners at the top were most foul and would never see daylight beyond stone walls, less a hangman called. Prisoners at the bottom of the spiral were harmless or deemed less threatening. My block was comprised of men and women likely to be released in a few days, if not short hours. They weren't murderous. But they were criminal. They were delinquent. They were troublesome. That's what my superiors warned me. They told me to limit my conversation, and stay vigilant. I had to prove myself capable of handling the fleas before I'd ever find myself watching over spiders at the spiral's peak.
I was naive. After months of doing lesser work, I couldn't imagine sitting and watching cells could be any more complex than cleaning shit off of wood floors. I couldn't have cared less about proving myself, but at the time, I believed I was worth more.
Regardless, my reluctance to see guardship as a worthy occupation never diminished my work ethic. Stuck watching those who threw their lives away, I worked to at least have the respect of those who taught me. It wasn't until I came face to face with "him" that I began to find worth in my role. I attributed my evolution to a single boy who brought perspective to my naive tale.
That was his name. A boy who couldn't afford a shirt to cover his back had been a constant guest in my cells for many weeks. It was easy to avoid conversation or fixation with other prisoners, but Quill was like me. He was my age at least. His hair was brown, while mine was black. And though our eyes were both green, his were a darker shade than mine. Regardless, when I looked across the room and found him lying behind rusted bars, I saw myself. I saw what could have been myself and wondered a most foolish question. How?
How could anyone let themselves come to be a prisoner in that place? And then I remembered, regardless of who held the keys, I was perhaps trapped there as well. What crime had I committed to face confinement in a hole far from fantasy? How had my ambitions crumbled so immensely?
The Gods had trapped us in their territories. Ships could only travel so far before hitting what we came to know as an ocean's divide. They were large gaps between territories, between oceans, with the sole purpose of keeping mortals dependent and loyal to their Gods. If a ship tried to cross the gap, it simply fell off the water's edge into a black void of seemingly nothing. No one knew what existed in the void, and no one ever returned from its abyss.