CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

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The Black Shuck gazed across the field's expanse at the newly risen draug army; its appointed Soulless army, quickly advancing toward Bolster. Liquid lava dripped from the beast's underbelly. Its army snarled and screamed as each draug stepped out of the gateway created by the Shuck's portal stone. The Shuck stood to the side of the wavering enigma and could feel the presence of the boy and the immortal it sought. It knew they were close, they had spawned only a few leagues from the city's outer gates.  Still, the Rain Maker initiate felt stronger somehow and it confused the Shuck. It growled gutturally before taking a gaiety breath to push out a barrelling howl. He drove it directly for the boy's ears.

Let him know I wait.

It hadn't been hard for El'Athan to convince the Black Shuck to lead the Soulless in search of the boy. Nonetheless, the Shuck knew the undead Earth Builder should have waited longer for his strength to return before attempting a mass resurrection. These draugs were not as strong as they could have been, they were stuck in their physical form. 

El'Athan was rotten to the core and too ambitious. He was no threat to the Shuck. His mind games did not work on the beast, and any Primordial magic El'Athan still carried would only be enough to cause a small earthquake or dust storm. His power now came mainly from the Great Dark, and the Black Shuck had been a warrior for the Dark since before the Shattering. It was not an undead creature pasted back together with dark magic, it was pure demon. 

The boy was a different story. If he or any of his sort were initiated fully it could mean the end of the Shuck's days on Valterra. The Primordials tapped right into the Light and its power. To the Shuck, that could mean an end to its freedom. It would be given a dark and dismal fate, trapped in the Netherworld, with no place to hunt, no place to run, no place but to sit and burn and watch the endless existence of the universe pass it by with every breath.

So a bargain was made. The Shuck's portal stone traded for leadership in this first battle, along with the chance to kill the Rain Maker initiate before he was resurrected. And it wanted to rip his throat out. It wanted to feast on his entrails and feel his bones crush between its teeth. Let El'Athan have the other to toy with, that Chancellor. He was dirt, kicked up stones. But the Rain Maker, he could part the skies. The Shuck had already been witness to it. Surely it had been nothing compared to his true magical potential, but there was no doubt that it was the boy who made the lightening during their first encounter. The Shuck would crush him. What is lightening to a demon, but fuel? It regretted not ending him that first night in the Pass. It only had but to try and it could have run them down in an instant. It was the Great Dark who swayed him. Probably because of El'Athan's plan to keep the immortal alive. If he had killed them both, another initiate would surface and they wouldn't have a clue as to where.

The Shuck was ready to begin. It telepathically sent out the images of the two targets, the Chancellor and the Rain Maker initiate, to the Soulless army. They were to locate and capture them, then bring them back unharmed. The Shuck itself felt it should stay behind. It did not want to be seen inside the city limits, it would keep its presence on Valterra somewhat protected. As far as most people were concerned, Primordials and Elders alike, the Black Shuck was a legend. If they believed it existed at all, it was as the ghostly hell hound of Shuck's Pass. Keeping things that way worked to its advantage. Besides, no one should recognize its howl but the the boy, he was the only human alive who had ever seen the beast in the flesh and held its red gaze. 

The Black Shuck watched the draugs as they easily ripped through the first line of City Defender's who'd come to meet them outside the city's gates. The Shuck was surprised because these draugs were a weaker lot. Though each one had a skeggox in hand, a charmed bearded axe encrypted with runes to bestow it with magical properties.  In combat, the skeggox would seek and target its opponents most weakest point, allowing the draug a rampage of quick and easy kills, chopping off limbs or heads with ease. The draug simply had to raise an arm as they ran and the axe found its mark.

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