The Knowledge Seeker-c-EB.jpg


CHAPTER 1 The Coming of Dust


My heart sinks as I watch the enemy approach. In the distance, thousands of marching boots raise thick clouds of dust, obscuring the afternoon sun which scorches the desert plains.

A sharp pain shoots from my left hand up my arm. I stifle a wince and rub the place where, six years ago, the Roarim cut off my finger. The ghostly jab is like a warning of the suffering to come: the invaders will be upon us by late afternoon, sowing death and destruction in their path.

The faint sound of creaking leather makes me glance sideways. Uncle Denesius’s hand is clenched so hard around his leather scabbard that his knuckles have turned white. His tall frame towers beside me—stoic and commanding—and his gaze is set on the horizon. A gust of hot wind lifts his burgundy cape, the edge of it brushing against the back of my throbbing hand. The woolen fabric feels rough and used against my skin.

Poor Uncle Denesius! Did he really think the Roarim would lie low after he defeated the head of their army six years ago? Did he not foresee that a new head would take its place? Unless the rumors are true…

I hesitate, but need to know. “Uncle?” I say in a low voice, so the soldiers positioned along the rampart before us do not overhear. “Do you think the Wraith King is out there?”

A vein in Uncle Denesius’s temple throbs and I instinctively know I should not have asked that question.

“There are no such things as wraiths, Termite!” he snaps, turning hard eyes at me. “I already told you that!” He rubs his thick, trimmed beard and straightens again.

End of discussion.

My cheeks burn. His harsh words bother me, because I suspect his anger is hiding fear. It is not good for a leader to go into battle like this. But the Grand Protector of the Atheneum fears nothing, or does he?

There are no such things as wraiths…

A troop of Knowledge Seekers rush to join their companions on the ramparts. Their burgundy capes flow and their swords gleam in the sharp sunlight. I take comfort at the sight of them. These men will fight to the death to protect the Atheneum and what lies within.

I do not have such a cape, so I close my right hand over the pommel of my dagger. It is all I have to offer. “We will defeat them again, Uncle,” I venture, deciding to ignore his anger. “You led us to victory before, and you will do so again.”

Uncle Denesius does not answer right away, but when he does, his words chill me to the bone. “No, boy,” he says, his voice cold. “Not this time.”

One of the Seekers turns to glance at us, his eyes wide. I know he is only two years younger than me because he was Anointed yesterday, when he turned fourteen. He received his official name—Odwin Atheneumson—, his own Talisman and a brand new Seeker cape, which hangs down his stiff back. Its burgundy color is rich and full.

The teen glances at Uncle Denesius, perhaps waiting for a comforting gesture or a reassuring word. When he receives none, he pulls the cape closer around his shoulders and turns to face the barren land again.

A torrid wind picks up, bringing with it the sounds of thumping feet, grinding carts and sharp metal.

My hand throbs and I rub it unconsciously. Is this it, then? Will the Knowledge contained in the Atheneum fall into Roarim hands tonight? Silently, I calculate the date according to the calendar of the Enlightened People: today is June 7th, 2613. Will this be a day of triumph or disaster?

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