I might finnish it someday Its just a rough draft so.... ( The main Character is where I took my handle from ) THE MARK. Prologue. It was a cold rainy night as the two coweled figures approached the palisade their hooded robes flaping in the gusting wind. Xaltar and his superior had been on the road from the Holy city for two days now and were travelstained and exhausted, their horses were staggering from fatigue as they passed under the arch that led to the causeway. Xaltar was a tall man in his early thirties with broad shoulders, his grey eyes were sharp and had the glitter of intellegance in them, his well trimmed black beard was cropped short and gave him a meanacing appearence. He was a Droddar priest and carried all the authority the title held. The man with him was hunched with age and his wrinkled face showed no sign of the wisdom that usualy comes with advanced years. His eyes were shifty and cold, Xaltar did not feel he could trust him even though he was the arch-priest of his order. His "Eminance" was a mean vindictive man who had no scruples about killing and was so puffed up with himself that he insisted everyone reffer to him by the formal title of his possition. Xaltar did not know his name even though he had been placed under his tutilage over ten years earlier. Their business here was urgent, the fate of the Holy city rested firmly in their hands. They entered the large administrative building and were swiftly escorted into the main conference room on the third floor. A short gaunt faced man in his middle years greeted them once they entered. His face was marked by the tell tale signs of exessive worry and lack of sleep. "Welcome your Exelancies, I am Roggar Duke of Henath, please, be seated so we might discuss the busines at hand" "Well met Roggar, I am Xaltar priest of Droddar and may I have the honour of presenting his Eminance The Arch-Priest of Mordan." They took seats arround the conference table and began the discussion that would determine the fate of Mordan the Holy city and quite possibly the entire world. CHAPTER 1 The Mark In a village high in the Sharan mountains life was peacefull and the townsfolk were going about their daily tasks. Shamdar was the village blacksmith, he had spent the past seven years apprenticed to Garmore, an aged smithy who had now decided he was ready to retire and hand over his bussiness to his promising young apprentice. For Shamdar life was good, he was a ruggedly hansome man with a large torso and bluging muscles, a tell-tale sign of his chosen trade. Recently married to a beautiful Sharan woman with blue eyes and deep auburn hair, his life seemed to be perfect, all he needed now was a son to elevate him to manhood in the eyes of the village. It was two years later that Shae his wife announced that she was with child. The happieness he felt was indesribable, he almost ran to the village tavern to announce his joyous news. "well don laddy" Senak the tavernkeeper said as he slapped him on the shoulder "tis trolly gret neuz, oi evybodde our lad Shamdar ere's gonna bees a pappy" cheers rang out from the tavern crowd and everyone lined up to buy the expecting father ale. Quite obviously he was decidedly unwell the next day, but thankfully it was the sabbath and he could go home to bed after he had attended the sabbath sermon. He had his suspissions that his wife had timed her announcement so that he would not have to labour with the customary hangover. She always looked out for him in ways he never expected, Shae was exceedingly considerate, it was one of her many qualities that made him love her so much. Six monthts later Shamdar was in a panic, his wifes water had broken and he was impatiently walking up and down in his smithy awaiting the birth of his child. The local priest had been summoned to cut the ambillical cord, which symbolised the connection to worldly things, then bless the child to form new ties to their God Mora. After sixteen hours he was sitting outside the bedchamber when the midwife came out of the bedroom holding a child in her arms, his heart leaped as she told him it was a boy, but her face was troubled and she had tears in her eyes. A sudden fear knotted in his stomach as he asked what the tears where for. "The labour twas long and hard Shamdar, n teh child were facing the wrong wey. We hads te sev the child or mouther n child both woudda died, I'm sorre Shamdar, Shae is a goin te die, teh birth were mor an she cud bare". Shamdar let out a cry of anguish, burst into the bedchamber and rushed to the side of his dieing wife, there was blood everywhere and her belly had been cut open to remove the child. Her face was pale and covered in sweat, her eyes were tired and her breathing was rappid and shallow. He burried his face into her sweaty breasts and sobbed uncontrolably "SAVE HER!!" he wailed at the priest "Tell Mora to save my wife!". His wife placed a trembaling hand on his head and whispered "Call our son Xaltar" then she let out a shuddering breath and her hand went limp and fell from his hair. He cradled her limp, lifeless body in his arms wailed in sorrow. "Why didn't you help her!!" he shouted at the priest. "I did all I could my son but God chose to take her from us, I eased her pain as best I could, were it not for that she would have died far sooner and you most likely would have lost the child" the priest replied "I only wish I could have done more, Shae was loved by all and her loss will sadden the village greatly, but be glad, for you have a son and thus is your wife not truly lost for a part of her doth reside in the child and, she shall ever remain in our hearts." There were tears in the priests eyes and Shamdar suddenly felt regret for the way he had spoken to him. "I am sorry your Reverance, I didn't mean to accuse you but why did God take away my wife, why,why Shae! Curse him, why!" "Speak not of thy God in such a way my son for we cannot know his ways and it is not our place to judge his actions." "But he took my wife from me, how can you say he loves me if he woud take away my life?" and he began sobbing once more. After he had let out his sorrow and anger for a few hours and was unable to cry any longer he went and took his child from the midwife and for the first time looked upon the face of his son. His grief lessened as he gazed upon his childs tiny form in his arms and despite his pain he mannaged a smile. "My Xaltar" he said in a choaked voice. It was obvious very early on that there was something particularly unique about Xaltar, he had a strange birthmark that covered his back, not the usual skin discolouration, it seemed to be an intricate design and it was black. It bore a striking resemblance to an ornate gate of some kind. Aside from his strange mark there were other things that set this young boy apart, by the time he was nine months old he was already talking. At two his father frequently found his child playing, now that in itself was not strange but the fact that the childs toys seemed to move of their own volition was somewhat astounding. When Shamdar found his six year old son floating in mid air above his palet one night he began to panic. It was not uncomon for his race to exibit certain gifts and those gifted children were sent to the church to become Priests but this was altogether different. Shamdar decided that it was time to talk to thier local priest. Alkan, the local priest was an elderly man with a flowing silver beard, his eyes were kind and wise. His brow was creased as he absently stroked his beard in thought. Shamdar had come to see him and had told him some very disturbing things about young Xaltar. It seemed the boy was exibiting more "talent" than anyone had ever exibited in the entire history of the church. He was even more troubled by the fact that when he blessed this child at birth he had almost colapsed when he touched him. The boy had a presance so great that sometimes being in the same room with him was almost unbearable. He knew that he should report his findings to the church but he did not have the heart, if the church found out about Xaltars gifts they would certainly take the child for examination and study. He could not and would not do that to Shamdar, or Xaltar. So he made up his mind to train Xaltar to use his gifts himself. And so it was that Xaltar was initiated into the church at the delicate age of six. It was unheard of for a child to display any talent at all before puberty but Xaltar at six was doing things he could never dream of achieving. Xaltar had a busy shedule, in the mornings he would help his father at the smithy and his afternoons were devoted to his studies at the church with Drodda Alcan. Time sped swiftly by and before he knew it he was in his ninth year. One day when he was exploring his house he came across a small plain chest, its only decoration was an indented handprint on its lid. Without thinking he absently placed his hand in the recess, there was an audible click as the lid poped open. The chest was lined with fine silk and its only content was an ornate copper amulet. He ran outside to the smithy and called his father to show him his strange discovery, he had explored the house regularly since he learned to walk but he had never come across that chest before. "Pap, come quick, I found something neat" "ho, slow down there boy, whats got you so excited?" "I found a chest in the storeroom and it opened all by itself when I touched it" "Alright lad, lets go have a look at your discovery." Shamdar said putting an affectionate hand on his sons shoulder. They entered the dusty store room and Xaltar led his father to the far corner where he had found the chest. "Here it is Pap" "Oh my, that was your mum's, I never figured out how to open it. Well? Go on lad, open it, lets see whats inside." He opened the lid again by pressing his hand into the indent and gently lifted out the amulet. He saw tears in his fathers eyes and instantly regreted calling him, his curiosity however was to great to put aside. "Whats wrong father? Why are you crying?" "That amulet belonged to yer mum, she never took it off. When she died she wasn't wearing it, I woundered what she did with it." His eyes were red now from surpressing his tears and Xaltar threw his arms arround him and tried as best he could to soothe him. Shamdar broke down and sobbed, Xaltar had heard him cry before when he was young but this was the first time he had seen him do it. He felt useless and vulnerable, his big strong father was crying and it was his fault! Overcome with his fathers grief he began to cry. Then he noticed his father had stopped crying and was trying to comfort him, that made him feel even worse somehow. His father lovingly lifted the amulate from its resting place and fastened it arround Xaltars neck. "There now lad, I'm sure your mum woulda wanted you te have it." Xaltar wore the amulet from that day onwards. It seemed to contain some of his mothers escance making him feel more complete and less alone. He learned every mark, every scratch and every pattern on that amulet. One day in autumn when the leaves had all turned golden and the chill of winter was in the morning breeze his father crested the hill in the distance, he had been away for several days. He had gone to Shrathna to sell some of his finer pieces of jewelry and ironwork so they could expand the smithy. When he reached the gate of their little house Xaltar ran out to meet him. He was very excited, today was his twelfth naming day and his birthday (because his mother named him on the day he was born) and that as always meant he would get loads of gifts. Shamdar looked wary and had a destressed look on his rough careworn face but his eyes brightened instantly when he saw his son. "Pap! How was your trip? Did you make enough gold? What was Shrathna like?...." "Whoa, slow down there, one question at a time boy. Come ere an give your dad a hug." Xaltar ran up to his father and threw his arms around him laughing with delight. Shamdar put his son down and led him to the back of the cart. "Go on lad, lift the cover." Xaltar eased the knots loose on the canvas and eagerly lifted it off, under it lay a fullsize glass mirror! Even better was the fact that its image was true and it only had a few bubbles in it. "Pap! This must have cost a fortune! Will you have enough gold to fix up the smithy still?" "Don't you worry none about that laddy, I got a good price for that necklace I made an that paid for your gift here." "Pap its amazing, I've never seen a miror so perfect! I don't think even the King has one this good." and he threw his arms around his fathers hulking neck again. He had been needing a miror to practice his gestures in for his spells but this was even better than the one Drodda Alcan prized so highly and would not let him borrow. "Thanks dad!!" After his father had helped him to move the mirror into his his bed chamber Xaltar went out to the bathhouse and cleaned up. When he got back to his room he took off his towel and stood in front of his new mirror and began practicing his gestures. It was by chance that he caught a gimpse of his birthmark, he had never actualy seen the whole thing before so he turned his back to the mirror and craned his neck to look at it. He had never really realised how big it was, it covered his entire back and the pattern was somehow familiar, he could not quite place it but he knew he should know what it was. Suddenly it hit him, he grasped his amulet in his fist tightly and when he opened his hand a sudden awe came over him. The symbol at the centere of the amulet was identical to his birthmark! Something clicked into place in his mind as though a question he did not know was there had been brought to the surface. Now he knew the question, all he needed was an answer. He shouted out of the window to his father "Dad, come to my room, there is something I want you to see." His father set down the harness he had just taken off the mule entered the house. A few moments later he entered Xaltars room. "Look at this pap." he said as he handed his father the amulet. "What is it you want me to look at?" Shamdar replied with a puzzeled expression on his face. "The symbol in the center father." Shamdar did as Xaltar asked. "What does it mean?" He asked his father. "I don't know son, ask Droddar Alcan, he might know, he is over one hundred and twenty years old you know so he might know what this old symbol means." Alcan was in his study when Xaltar came to see him. The young man's expression was that of a deer startled by wolf as he entered the study. "Drodda Alcan, can you tell me what this symbol means?" The boy asked as he handed him the copper amulet he always wore. Alcan took the amulet and examined the symbol at its center. It was ancient and had archaic text printed under it, he went over to the bookshelf and took down a large leather bound book. He set it on the table and blew off the dust. He opened it and took out a worn old book from the hidden compartment in it. He had hidden it there because it was the religios book of the old church and he was not allowed to have a copy of the now "heretic" text. He quickly opened the desheveled book and leafed through its brittle pages till he came across the symbol on the amulet. "This book is from when the church acknowledged all the gods, not just Mora" he explained to the boy "the symbol on your amulet is that of the goddess Xarlen, it is her followers most holy symbol and only her high priests were allowed to bare it. By church law I should report you for owning such a symbol, you cannot let anyone see this boy, my advice to you is to get your father to melt it down and destroy it. These amulets were all thougth to be destroyed but it seems our beloved church may have missed a few." "Now look at this Drodda" Xaltar said taking off his linen shirt and turning arround to show his birthmark. Alcans heart leapt to his throat and his breath caught. The symbol was the same as the boys birthmark! How could this be possible, how could this child bear the mark of a forbidden god! He had long been interested in the old faith as the "true" faith left a lot to be desired and it had been geting steadily worse over the last hundred years. He had sought an alternative to this tired excuse of a beleif for in truth Mora did not exist, he was a fictional god made up by the church to give them absolute power over the people. If the church were to worship a real god that god would have had the power and not the church, gods place restrictions on there followers and that was too much for the church to have to worry about, hence, Mora. He was not sure why the boy had this mark but he was certain the boy would play a vital part in the future of the church and may well be the one to restore the church so that its followers may once again believe in true gods. "Boy, you have been marked by the goddess Xarlen. I am not certain but I think your birth forfills an ancient prophecy. I will speak to your father, he needs to know how important you are. In the mean time speak of this to no one, no one boy! If anyone from the church were to find out about your mark they would surely kill you." "But how could my father help? To be honest I would prefer if he didn't know, its bad enough that I have talent but to tell him I'm some prophesied hero of some kind would be horrible. Besides what could he do to protect me anyway, the church would send priests, powerfull ones, to kill me, how would a smithys hammer or forge help against that?" "There is a LOT more to your father than meets the eye boy. He is what the church term an "abomination", which means both his parents posessed the talent. Do you know what that does boy?" "Sort of. Doesn't it mean that because he had both the male and female talents passed on to him from his parents he can't use either properly or something?" "Close but too simple. When someone has both powers and both are active they can only controll one properely but the second still tries to "assist". The female powers are elemental, male powers are more direct. For example, if a man wanted to make fire with his power he would draw the heat from the everything arround him to make it. A woman however just uses the element of fire and makes it, thats why women can do elemental tasks much faster than men. Men with both can't ordinarily control the female tallent, their minds don't work in the right way to do that. Does that all make sense boy?" "So you're saying that if a man with both powers tried to make fire both powers would try to do it and blow him up or something?" "Exactly boy, well done, you just picked up in five minutes what the church took two hundred years to understand." "So how does that help? If my dads got both then its worse than having nothing at all." "Not quite true in your fathers case, you see when your fathers talents started to show his mother sent him to me. I saw imediately what he was, I went into my library for three weeks looking for a way to stop him from destroying himself with it. He was very fortuneate that his powers were not too great when he came to me. I taught him how to surpress one of the powers so if he needed to use his male power he could, but with limited proficientcy. His mother instructed him too and he also gained a marginal control on the female side when he surpressed the male half. When he unleashes both he is emensly powerfull but he only has very limited control, but if he needed to kill someone he wouldn't need much control." "So my dads even stronger than me then?" Xaltar asked smiling broadly. "No lad, you are more powerfull than anyone I have ever seen or read about, by a great margin. Thats why I taught you to surpress your power. If the church were to discover how powerful you really are you would have even more problems." "I don't want to be important!! I just want to be normal. Why do I have to be the one with the mark?" CHAPTER 2 Dark days Shamdar was in Shrathna, he had decided it was time to extend his smithy to accomodate the tools he needed for making jewelry and the finer pieces of metalwork. Garmore had left him a functional well maintained smithy, which was all a man of his advanced years could manage, Shamdar however was far more skilled. It would be Xaltars birthday in a few days and he was at a loss as to what he should get him. Shrathna was much bigger than Shannara, it was the main trading center in the region. Its streets were broad an most of its buildings were of stone construction with slate roofs. Shamdar did not like the feel of Shrathna, its streets were filled with the bussle of traders peddeling their wares and where there were traders there were cutpurses and murderers. He moved his cart down the mud-brick paved streets till he came to the Black Fig Inn, the stable boy took his mule to the ricketty wooden stall and Shamdar flipped him a copper. The inn was on the outskirts of the village and was in fact an old farm-house that had been converted by adding a second floor. Its roof was thatched and in need of some repair but it was cheap and the rains were still a long way off.