CHAPTER TWELVE

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Avos rode silently behind Marcus, still trying to wrap his mind around a few new details he had learned about his uncle. Last night while camped out by the fire, Marcus had confessed his involvement in the Great War. Charged with keeping the Earth Builder safe as an orphaned infant, Marcus had taken measures to conceal his identity.

Unaware of how the child initiate had become tainted, Marcus assumed the Great Dark had learned his identity. Yet the only person Marcus had confided in had been his lifelong friend Lucinde. At the time, she had access to a homestead where she believed he would be safe. Where he had seemed safe, for many years.

Marcus accounted that according to his parents, nothing was ever amiss, and he grew up as any normal boy would. They named him Ivar, and although he was small framed, he was smart and strong.

Though it was the mind of the child which had been attacked. Ever so slowly, Darkness ate away at the purity of the Ivar's thoughts, gaining control inch by inch over his subconscious. It had warped his mind while no one noticed. On his resurrection day, it was Marcus and Lucinde who had brought him the Earth Scroll. It wasn't until he was Primordial that his true colours and wicked intent were revealed.

He became blood thirsty. He wanted to prevent all other initiates from being resurrected. He built an army of what he called Bringers, men and women manipulated by greed and power to do his bidding. With promises of immortality, he recruited hundreds of every day people. Brainwashed or held  under his dark sorcery, they all obeyed his every command.

          As their leader, he became known as the Bringer of Dust. Their army desiccated towns all over Valterra, searching for initiates. Little did his minions know, that if they were to die, his plan was to summon them as the Soulless, the mindless draugs who's sole purpose was to kill any living being it came in contact with.

Marcus gave him a history lesson he'd never forget. The Soulless were the dead raised. Draugs; cursed to feed off dirt and remains but also spelled with magical abilities and superhuman strength. Marcus warned him that they could sense where a Primordial initiate was, give or take a few hundred feet.

Some stronger ones could morph into mist or fog and they could even change their size depending on their need. They could spread disease. Some could even shape shift while others could enter the dreams of the living and torment them to the point of insanity.

If someone was killed by a Soulless, that person would rise again the next night as a Soulless. They were extremely hard to kill. Their powers were determined solely by the strength of the one who raised them.

Though iron blades could wound them and slow them down, the only way to kill a Soulless was to behead them, burn them and then bury them in that which they had came.

Avos shuddered at the thought of confronting a Soulless. From what Marcus told him, the Earth Builder was killed before he had a chance to summon any of his Bringers back to life. But Marcus had been having dreams about them coming back. He said it would happen sometime before the Spring Equinox, which meant within the next few days. His hope had been to have Avos resurrected in time to find out the resting place of all the Bringers that had survived, yet died since the Great War. Then to dispose of their bodies before they could be summoned, it was the safest place to start.

Easy enough right? Avos laughed in dismay. Was this really happening? Was he about to become some Higher Being able to ward off undead draugs and put an end to the end of the world?

He and Marcus arrived at Bolster City. They rode up to the gates and in a few moments they would meet with Lucinde, the Keeper of the Chronicles. Apparently, all Avos had to do was get a water scroll from her, read it during a special ceremony of some sort, and then the rest they say, is history. Or would be.

Bolster itself was breathtaking. Marcus quickly gave Avos the run-down of formalities. He explained that Elder Valmont was at the top of the hierarchy here, though he followed all of the Council's policy on lawful matters. There was also a Prince in residence, though it was mainly for show. Prince Telor held estates and sat on the council and he had very little say in what actually went on in Bolster. Besides the Elder, the Council of any city was made up mainly of Landholders; Lords and Ladies who held the most estates and/or monies. It was they who collected taxes and paid the Defenders and the Watch to guard the city. They employed the Lawmakers, as well as the Court Authority, who sentenced those who broke the law.

In the centre of the city lay the Citadel. This is where the council met, where the Authority and Lawmakers worked and where the Grand Library was housed. It also contained apartments for some Council members, including Elder Valmont and his personal staff. Lucinde had an apartment there, as well as a visitors chambers where Marcus would stay when on service in Bolster.

           He pointed out the Citadel to Avos as they rounded a street corner. It's pinnacle loomed out from behind the common houses like a mountain of silver and gold. Avos had never seen anything like it in his short life. What other wonders were there in this world that had been kept hidden from him? He reflected on what else Marcus, Chancellor, revealed to him on their journey; that he had been alive for almost 500 years and that he too had once been an initiate.

"Why tell me you're my uncle? You made me almost believe it." Avos recalled asking him the day after Marcus had showed him his Elemental mark. He said it was almost true, that the blood in their veins was indeed related. All initiates shared ties with their subsequent ancestors. But also, he said because in a way, he did feel like Avos' uncle. He had watched over him all his life from his dreams. Avos' father had also kept him up to speed every year on his travellings North. Marcus said it felt as though he had watched him grow up. Knowing Avos was safe kept Marcus' pain and suffering at bay, for he had lost many and much.

The Shattering, he said, was a wretched business. Not many had survived it in all of Valterra. Ivar's successor had been killed by the Great Dark with a black mist that consumed his body and ripped it apart right infront of his eyes. It grew with the strength of all its Primordial prey, and seeped it's way across all the lands. It was a time Marcus did not like to dwell upon, but warned they both must be prepared for what may come.

When they reached the citadel there was a small audience waiting for them; Elder Valmont, the Prince and two other Council members. "Welcome Chancellor," announced the Elder. "Be at peace, these walls protect you."

"And I you." Marcus bowed and motioned for Avos to follow suit. "Lucinde must be busy, buried in her texts again, my Lords?" asked Marcus. The audience frowned and looked at one another in question.

"The Keeper is not with you, Chancellor Thane?"

"No, I sent word to her that I would meet her here soon." Marcus explained, but the men just looked from one to another again.

Elder Valmont looked the most troubled. He shuffled a few steps closer to Marcus who met him half way. "Chancellor," he lowered his head towards Marcus' ear, "the Keeper came to me almost half a fortnight ago. She did say she had received a message from you but that you needed her urgently. She took leave at once. I had to put Squire Dalaigh in charge of the Grand Library since her... sudden departure."

Marcus' face dropped. The Elder's tone said it all, she had taken off and quick. His message perhaps frightened her somehow? Marcus furrowed his brow and began mouthing silent words, his mind frantically searched for answers.  Avos waited in eery silence. Marcus froze. His eyes suddenly widened.

"The scrolls!"

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