CHAPTER TWENTY

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                   Marcus marched down the hallway of the care house and overheard Chloe tending to a patient in the next room. He turned quickly to look behind him and caught a glimpse of Avos following Elise, walking in the other direction. Good. Let them become accustomed to one another. Marcus knew that Avos would need all the help he could get. Having a witch on their side would benefit them greatly.

     A witch was a curious creature, half human, half elf or fae; though the latter was extremely rare. Marcus really had no idea how strong she was just yet, but a strong witch could be a very dangerous weapon against the Great Dark and his minions. Not to mention what it could mean for Avos if they failed to retrieve the scrolls. It gave him hope. 

     But right now, Marcus needed to find Chloe. Something was off with her tonight. She had a secret. Though she and Marcus had only met once before, he knew the signs of secrecy. She had lowered her eyes, changed the subject repeatedly and gave no indication she was surprised that they were interested in Elise. What was she holding back? She practically gave him an invitation to speak candidly with her when she made her leave. He searched the halls to question her. Who knows what information she may carry that could influence Avos' resurrection.

He found her talking quietly to a female patient and her new baby. She was gently showing the new mother a more comfortable nursing position and demonstrating how to keep the child's head supported with one arm while compressing her breast with the other. She looked up and acknowledged Marcus with a small nod. Marcus stepped back and waited out in the hall. She gave a few last instructions to the young woman and then made her way out to join him.

"Not here," she said as she came out of her patient's room. "Follow me." She led him the rest of the way down the hall and then through a back door leading outside to a lush garden. It was a place for the patients to get some fresh air and relax within the soothing sounds of nature. It was actually a very well landscaped garden in the middle of the city, and large enough to allow other citizens its use. There were a few patients out for a stroll and a small family picnicking on a blanket near the outer entrance, so they made their way to a bench situated in the middle of the yard. Best to keep out of earshot to any one lingering about.

"Can you read my thoughts, Marcus?"

Surprised at the question Marcus replied, "of course not. Not now anyhow."

"Then how did you know I wanted to speak privately with you?"

He chuckled. "When you've been among people for as long as I have, you tend to pick up on body language and things left unsaid."

Chloe stared at him as if measuring him up. "Fair enough.... Look," she pointed at him, "you need to know something about Elise. Can I trust you with this, that it doesn't leave this garden."

"Of course Chloe, what it is?"

         "Well, I have no proof of it, but I believe she's.. a witch." Chloe whispered the last part to make sure no one overheard. Marcus held her gaze seriously for as long as he could and then he broke out in a short laugh.

         "Yes, yes, we both know this, this is one of the reasons we are asking for her help." Marcus assured her.

         Chloe looked a bit relieved and added "ok, I thought perhaps that was why you sought her out but..." She stopped herself, seemingly trying to decide if she should go on.

         "But...?" Marcus urged.

         "There is something else, something that I can't make heads or tales out of, something you may not even believe yourself." Marcus was intrigued to say the least. Chloe seemed like she was having a difficult time trying to spit out what it was she wanted to tell him. She kept fiddling with her hands and looking down at them like she was embarrassed to say it.

         "She came to me just this afternoon with the most peculiar news; she claimed she had been in contact with an elf." She stopped there and looked up at Marcus to gauge his reaction. Marcus of course was like an emotional stone, not really giving her any type of reaction to consider.

         "An elf, did you say?"

         "Yes, an elf. An elf! Don't just stand there like we're discussin' the weather!"

       This surprised Marcus. He wouldn't let on of course. "That is interesting," was all he said. "What is an elf doing in Bolster...? Unless..." He raised his eyebrow then and engaged Chloe's stare with his own.

         "Yes, she claims he was the Warden of Humankind, that he came and sought her out, just like you, but for her help with some unimaginable wound. Why her? And what does this have to do with my nephew?" She was almost poking him now in the chest. "Getting involved with the elves has never been good for anyone! We've all heard the stories, we know they dislike humans, Light knows what they would do to anyone, to Valterra itself if..." Marcus laid his hands on Chloe's arms to stop her, she was getting carried away in her anxiety over the current situation she suddenly found herself in. He did not blame her or expect any less.

         If this was true about the Warden, he wasn't sure what it could mean. The elves had never really been friendly with the humans. In fact, the Wardens were seen more so as spies than any kind of protectors. Faeron Runeteil was the current Warden if he remembered correctly. Marcus had met him once, over seventy-five years ago. He was never really sure why Faeron had made a point to seek him out, at the time he was newly appointed and Marcus was known to the elves as one of the last remaining Primordials, he thought it had been more of a formality. Perhaps not. Faeron, the Warden of Humankind, what are you up to?

         "Did she say anything else about him, anything at all?"

         Chloe shook her head, her brow creased as she thought of the conversation she had had earlier with Elise. After a moment she replied, "He told her that she was supposed to help Avos, she said she wasn't sure how or why but that she was supposed to help him save the world!"

         "Well I can't argue with that. It was Elder Valmont who led us to her. We need her magic now to locate something very important. She has already begun." Marcus took Chloe's hands. "Thank you for trusting me with this. If anything, it only strengthens my faith that we are on the path to victory."

         "Please, Marcus. Do not confront her with this, she was very unsure if she should even tell me. I feel like I am betraying her confidence now, though I know how important your work is. She will tell you when it is needed."

         "Yes, I do believe you are right. For now, I will say nothing of this. So keep dinner warm for us, we will be back in time to eat. Though I'm not sure how much longer we can stay in Bolster. Time will tell."

         "Stay the night at least, please," she urged. "I want to spend some time alone with my nephew before everything changes."

         "Very well. I'll be back with both of them shortly; we have a bit of business to attend to."

         "Aye, get to it then, My Lord. May the Light shine its grace upon all of you."


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