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CHAPTER 2

Lucian's body lay in formal repose in his tomb.

When they had put him in here, he had been garbed in his richest robes, his feet shod in matching slippers. Upon his breast lay a golden amulet, and his head was adorned with a silver circlet.

His long red hair framed his thin, beardless face. His slender hands, laden with precious rings, were clasped together on his breast. His nearly translucent skin was as smooth and inert as marble; the brand on his forehead seemed carved into stone.

He no longer saw. He no longer heard. He no longer felt. Yet within his cold, unmoving body, his heart beat slowly, steadily, and blood flowed ponderously through his veins. He could not open his eyes. He could not clench his fists. He could not bend his mouth into a smile. So, he thought.

He thought. Only that.

He thought of one thing. Only one.

The Chosen.

He thought, and his thoughts pulsed and crackled and sizzled and leaped: like lightning, they flashed, and sometimes they sparked and sometimes they burned and always, for mere seconds, they lit the dark place in which he dwelled. But only for seconds. Seconds of light in a thousand years of darkness.

He thought, and his thoughts flew out and ranged over the world: like an eagle, they soared, and sometimes they saw and sometimes they dived and always, for mere minutes, they would feast. But only for minutes. Minutes of sustenance in a thousand years of hunger.

Only one thing could illuminate the darkness. Only one thing could satisfy his hunger. The Chosen. One mind, a Chosen mind, the mind that could free him.

So, he thought. He had only to be patient; he had only to find the one. His thoughts had touched thousands of minds, men and women and children, beggars and nobles and whores, but never the one. His thoughts had touched the Chosen, too, but never the one.

Only the Chosen could free him, but those whose minds he had touched could not answer. They would fall to their knees and pray to their gods; they would not answer. Their minds had been shielded, corrupted by the Church.

For centuries he had wallowed in his hatred of the Church, of those who had branded him, of those who had buried him alive, of those who had condemned him to this living death. His hatred had fed him, had nearly consumed him.

They had branded him. He, Lucian, had been defaced, disgraced in the public square. The brand had smoked when it touched his flesh; they pressed, and it seared and cooked and hurt so.

They had buried him. He, Lucian, had been interred in an abandoned mine. He who should have been laid to rest in the magnificent mausoleum where generations of his noble family had been entombed, where his parents, lost to him for a thousand years, were now dust.

They had condemned him to a living death. He, Lucian, so vibrant, so alive, had been left to lie in the darkness for a thousand years. Of course, they hadn't known that. They had thought he would die.

There had been so many of them, too many. And all, with the exception of the High Patriarch, had been Chosen. With his hands bound, his mouth gagged, they had led him stumbling down the dark maze of tunnels, where even their incense could not mask the heavy odor of a place where nothing healthy lived. The flickering light of their single torch had cast weird shadows on the cold, damp walls, where loathsome creatures that had never seen the sun raced for the comfort of dark crevices.

He could still see their faces, grim and pious; he could still hear their voices, solemn and unwavering ; he could still smell their incense, foul and cloying; he could still feel their touch, hard and unyielding, as they laid him in the tomb.

The voice of the High Patriarch, strangely gentle, was as clear to him now as it had been the day they entombed him. "For your sins, Lucian, the gods have judged that you are to be buried alive." The High Patriarch, his jeweled fingers flashing in the torchlight, his mouth almost kind, his hand shaking as he made the sign of the gods, standing over him: Lucian's last sight before the blackness had descended.

The gag had been removed when they had laid him in the sepulcher. Yet he could not cry out. Only his eyes had screamed, burning with an unquenchable, green fire. Until the stone lid had blocked out all light, all life. Until the fire was quenched in the deluge of his tears.

At first, he had struggled. Gasping frantically for breath, he had clawed with his bound hands at the immoveable stone. Then he had screamed, screamed until he was hoarse, until his voice trailed off to a pitiful sob. His tears had burned his eyes; they had soaked his hair, had run down his face and tickled his ears and clogged his nose. His head was pillowed in a pool of them.

Shutting his eyes tightly against the terrible blackness, his body shaking so badly his teeth chattered, wishing, so desperately, that he could curl himself up into the comfort of his own embrace, Lucian had lain flat on his back on the cold stone and wept.

Then he had cried his last tear.

For a thought had occurred to him. Was he not the most gifted of the Chosen? He drank in an extravagant gulp of the last of the breathable air, then relaxed his rigid limbs, his taut muscles, his frayed nerves. A small smile played on his lips in the darkness of his tomb.

In his studies he had read about creatures in nature who could, simply by instinct, slow their metabolism, almost to the point of death. But not quite. They would awaken, perhaps when the sun shone once again upon them, perhaps when life-giving water would rush over them, perhaps when an increase in temperature of a mere degree would warm them. Meticulously, laboriously, he had slowed his body's processes, shut down all unnecessary functions one by one.

For hundreds of years, he had focused his formidable mind, every thought, toward that one goal, maintaining life. For hundreds more, he had hated.

Now, he searched.

He must find the one, the Chosen, who would hear his thoughts. The one, the Chosen, who would free him.

He had only to be patient.