CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

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"It grows dark, my Lord." Lucinde entered the inner cave where El'Athan waited. He did not make a move to acknowledge her, so she studied him while he sat crossed legged on the ground with his eyes closed. He was most likely delving for  his or her initiate. She assumed he was still unaware that Lucinde had also once been Primordial. It never occurred to her to tell him, he didn't need to know.

He was still as ice, as earth. He held his head high, breathing in deeply and gutturally. Wherever he was, he did not hear her words. It did not matter, she could wait.

Ever since she had arrived at the Scourge and been touched by the Great Dark, there was little she could not come to terms with. It was as if she felt no empathy whatsoever for the people she hurt, only a deep seeded loyalty to keep El'Athan safe and a constant need to consume. She wondered if she had any emotions left at all, for she fed off the emotions of those around her and the essence of all living things. Even food or drink was unnecessary to keep her human body sustained. The two men under her control whom she had brought back with her had their adrenal glands slowly drained to keep them in a constant state of fear. She had become a predator, but also a slave to the Great Dark's will.

She lowered her gaze as El'Athan opened his eyes and pushed himself up onto his two feet. He studied the two men for a few seconds and then addressed Lucinde.

"Meet me in the catacombs, we have work to do."

"Yes, Lord El'Athan." She did not hesitate. She turned and walked straight towards the cave entrance that lead to the inner tombs. She chose a spot near one of his unearthed Bringers and waited.

El'Athan took a hold of the shorter, stockier man that Lucinde had brought him. He placed a hand on his head and said "see me." The listless gaze that had been on the man's face disappeared and he looked around and saw his surroundings for the first time.

"Where am I? How did I get here?" Confused, the man didn't try to get away. Then he looked El'Athan in the eyes. There was something wicked in them that caught the man off guard. El'Athan smirked as he noticed him begin to realize that the situation he found himself in was not only peculiar, but dangerous as well.

He started to back away but El'Athan grabbed a hold of his right arm.

"Now, now. You just got here. What's the hurry?"

"What? I...." Before he could speak, El'Athan delved deep into his mind. He knew just where to look to find his deepest, darkest fears. El'Athan saw that he had children and he would do anything to see them stay safe.

"There is nothing for you to go back to now," El'Athan told him as he began sending him images of his children dead, mauled to death by an animal or worse, some deranged killer.

"What?! No!" The man wailed, he began to struggle against El'Athan's hold on him. "What have you done? No!" He shook and shook trying to break free, but El'Athan just laughed.

He pulled the man closer to him and quickly grabbed hold of his head. He closed his eyes and began emptying the essence of the man into his own. The man's eyes grew large and he began to choke. His face turned red, his lips blue and slowly the life began to leave his body. His limbs grew flaccid, his legs no longer able to hold his weight.

El'Athan picked the man up off his feet and once the last bit of Light had been drained, he threw him towards the direction of the catacombs. He landed with a thump and a crack and then laid there still as El'Athan moved towards the other unlucky visitor.

Lucinde saw the body of the first victim land outside of the entrance  to the tomb where she waited. She quietly walked towards it, grabbed hold of its ankles and pulled it into the tomb. She could hear El'Athan conversing with the second man now. He was laughing, the man was screaming. Lucinde felt nothing. She waited until El'Athan himself carried the taller, skinnier dead body into the tomb and laid it down next to the first.

"We have work to do. We will raise some now, and I want them in Bolster by nightfall."

"Bolster? But, my Lord, even with a spelled horse it would take five days to reach Bolster, by night fall would be imposs..." Smack! El'Athan's hand landed right on Lucinde's cheek and knocked her down to the ground. Anger welled up inside of her but something pushed it back down into her gut. She swallowed a wicked word or two and spat blood on the floor to her left. Her cheek bone swelled until tiny speckles of black myst seeped through her skin and she was instantaneously healed.

"Do not question me, Usurper." He barked as he stood over her. "Do you think I would not know another way?" He then showed her telepathically what he had in mind.

The ancient portal stones, yes of course, thought Lucinde. They were stones long since forgotten by the current generation of humans living on Valterra. Stones placed and spelled by the Elves when they lived above ground.

It was only legend, but supposedly a Primordial could activate a portal stone with the correct enchantment. Lucinde only remembered them now because of a passage she had read in Valterra; The Shattering and Beyond. They were long ago deemed legend because no one had been able to locate them since The Shattering. The history itself was vague and reports of several search parties that took up the quest to find the stones had all coming up with nothing. She recited to herself a passage she recalled from her time as Keeper:

         Stones to flee

         By the well and the garden,

         Stones to wage

         In the cinder and above

         Stones that guide

         The beast to Night

         Stones that know no place

         But eternal

It surprised Lucinde that El'Athan knew the location of the stones. Though somewhere deep inside her a sinister excitement grew. If they had access to the portal stones, they could take their enemies by surprise.

It was then she realized she had feelings after all, and a certain hope of complete annihilation to all who held the Light in their hearts.

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