CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

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     Elise's quarters were much smaller than what Avos was expecting. He wasn't sure if he was nervous because he was standing in such a confined space with a woman alone, or if it was because of what they were about to do. He decided it was a little of both. It was obviously a week of firsts for him. He had never met such a beautiful woman, had never even spoken to one and now he was conversing and holding his own. When he sought out her help, he was bewildered that she was willing to cooperate and work along side him. Now they stood together in close quarters where he was able to peek into the life she had lived here in Bolster.

     At first glance, it seemed like she was quite tidy. Her room was actually spotless. Yet with another look around he realized that her room was practically empty. It held only the essentials. A worn wooden table and two matching chairs stood next to her tiny kitchen. In the middle of the table, a piece of green silk supported a large white candle. To the left, a small book shelf was stationed with only a few texts. Beside that, a desk, which stood barren, begging for use. Avos felt this room was the complete opposite of what it should be. Elise was much more than this cold, empty space. And why was a small cot pushed up against her far wall, oddly out of place?

     "Yes, it's not much, is it?" Elise picked up on his feelings right away. Maybe she was a strong witch?She began opening her kitchen cupboards cupboards and pulling things out. "I'll only need a few minutes to gather everything I need."

     She hadn't pocketed anything yet, she was looking for something, taking out vials and pouches, inspecting them and then tossing them aside. "It's here somewhere," she added as she looked up quickly at Avos and seemed to fake a small laugh.

     He could tell she was uncomfortable. Was he making her feel that way? It must be because of the spell, she must not enjoy letting people in on her secret. He knew she had nothing to fear. Elder Valmont had said that even though there had been no official proclamation from the council, there was no longer any persecution of magic wielders, as long as they were not hurting anyone. Even his uncle Marcus told him she may be wary of her gifts and who she performed them for. 

     "So what are you looking for?" He thought maybe getting her talking would help.

     "What? Oh... uh... my jasmine. And maybe a bit of monkswood... some willow. Primrose, for sure, it wouldn't work without that." She kept looking. "Yes, primrose! Here we go." She tucked a small pouch into her smock's pocket. Then continued searching.

     Avos suddenly had an idea. "You know, maybe you should bring all your magical.... things.... "

     "Ingredients."

     "Yes, of course, ingredients. Uh, you never know what Marcus may ask for next. You may as well start carrying them all with you." Avos suddenly realized what he meant by asking her to bring everything. He had awkwardly implied that she would now be accompanying them permanently. How prude to believe that she would join them on their quest for his resurrection! He didn't know if she even knew about the Primordials or what it meant to become one. Not that it mattered much now. How could knowing her even be a possibility when he was going to change into someone else? Something else.

     Still, he trusted her. Perhaps it was ok to have hope that after all was said and done, he could actually get to know her on a more intimate level. Light! He had never even kissed a girl, let alone a gorgeous woman. So what if she was a witch. Maybe I am a wizard?

     "Don't be daft, Avos. I can always come back and get everything before we go." There was a short uncomfortable silence as they both stood staring at all her herbs and potions. "Besides, Marcus told us to hurry."

     Avos' instincts took over. He could not let this moment pass him by, it was now or never. He took his hand and placed it on her shoulder and gently urged her to turn around and face him. "Do you think you could do that? I mean, leave Bolster and come with us?"

     Elise looked him straight in the eyes. There was a fierceness there he had not yet seen from her. She suddenly seemed confrontational, as if she felt she was being tested and needed to show him that she was not afraid of him or what they needed to do. "Of course I will, do you know any other witches in Bolster? In all of Valterra? For all you know, I could be the last one."

     "Are you?"

     "Of course not, I can feel other witches who still live. At least, I feel which direction they're in. But I'd rather not speak of it. Not everyone is as open minded as you and your uncle. It wasn't that long ago when fear trumped empathy, Avos. There are still people who would kill me where I stood if they knew what I could do."

     "I wouldn't let that happen. Neither would Mar, er, my uncle. But your work here, you would leave it all behind? I haven't even told you what we are going to do, what kind of danger we could be facing." Elise wave her hands and scoffed like it wasn't a big deal. Instinctively, Avos took her hands in his and held them up to his heart. "I don't know if it will be safe for you."

     "Some things are worth fighting for, Avos." Her lips closed and she held his gaze again, both of their hearts began beating faster. A cool current ran up through Avos' body, but it was Elise who shuddered. She felt it too.

     Naively, Avos assumed it was just his lust for her growing. Their eyes locked again and he was certain that his feeling were reciprocated by her. They way she looked at him it felt as though she saw right into his soul, like her own soul was pouring out of her and intertwining with his own. Their breath became winded, and Avos suddenly felt stronger and more alive than he had ever felt in his entire life. Elise watched him as he closed his eyes and lost himself in this new sensation. Time was standing still.

     Then someone coughing rather abruptly snapped them out of it. It was Marcus, he stood at the doorway and continued to clear his throat rather forcefully.

     "I hope I'm not interrupting anything too important?" Marcus raised his brow at Avos and then turned to look at Elise. "You have everything you need?"

     "Yes! Yes, we have it. Let's go." Elise practically bolted out the door.

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     Marcus continued on as if he did not just walk in on the two young ones soul delving. He recognized instantly what was happening and it renewed his faith in having a witch on their side. Elise only added to Avos' untapped strength. And he to hers, if she let him. When he was fully resurrected they would become an immeasurable force of Light to stand against the Earth Builder and his undead.

     Marcus made a point in his mind that he would have to have a serious discussion about this with Avos. The boy looked absolutely love struck and soul delving could be deceiving. Elise had looked a bit flushed too. Attraction did help the delve, so he could not be too unhappy about that. He also didn't want Avos getting his hopes up about any sort of relationship with his witch. He needed to stay focused. The last thing he needed was a distraction and this witch was also connected somehow to the elves, which may or may not become a problem.

     Marcus saw Elise for what she was; a tool. Witches were like a conduit for all the elements, something Avos could use now as human to control his element's essence in certain ways before his actual resurrection. They did need her, now more than ever. There was no telling if they would ever find the scrolls in time.

     Marcus followed as the two youngsters scurried out of the care-house and towards the Citadel. Though something made Avos slow down to a walk, then a snail's pace. He then stopped altogether and stood perfectly still, listening. Up front, Elise hadn't noticed him stop. She was still making her way up the steps to the Citadel. But Marcus stopped too, waiting for Avos to make another move. 

     He did.

     Slowly, he turned around and looked up at the sky. There were dark clouds gathering and blowing in from the South. Avos watched as they quickly made their way up and over Bolster.

     "Rain," he uttered.

     And it began to pour.



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