Grave Walker

To the untrained eye, Victoria Beauregard is a normal sixteen year old girl. That is until she's whisked away to the Verexium, an ancient school created to train Verum, a coalition of people with magic coursing through their veins. Outbreaks of war with the Evelore, the Verum's sworn enemy, threatens their way of life and their very existence, and their fate rests in the hands of a girl raised outside of the society.

Victoria is their Sentinel, their Protector, maybe even the one destined to destroy the Evelore's bloodthirsty leaders, Evelyn LaReizo and the mysterious Grave Walker, once and for all. But no road to victory comes tragedy and deceit. It's up to Victoria to save the Verum from their eminent demise or to lead them down a path from which even they cannot return.

**Credit for cover @ beginning of Ch. 1**

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2. II -- X of Iron Keys

Sebastian, I assumed. "Come in!" I called, but the girl who walked in was most definitely not him, but she looked as though she could've been his sister with her long, straight platinum blonde hair and her light baby blue eyes. Miss America would've dropped dead with envy!

"Hi!" she said, "My name's Roxie Richards, Receiver. Sebastian sent me to make sure you were alright."

"Oh, I'm fine, but I'm just a bit confused I guess. Everyone that I've met has introduced themselves with their name and some type of job . . . thing. I don't have a clue what any of these are!"

"Ah," Roxie laughed, "First let's get walking to the Grand Hall." She started out, and I followed alongside her. "Now, let's see, I'll start with my job. If another Verum sends a mental message, as Receiver, it comes straight to me. I'm sort of like a psychic. For example, Sebastian just told me to hurry up. He's so impatient, isn't he? Anyhow, Silva is the Gatekeeper. She protects the school's boundaries and keeps tabs on Collector assignments. Most of the students here end up as Collectors. They retrieve Verum from the human world when the Incognita, our most honored and ancient text, selects the worthy Verum to come train at the school. The book tells specific Collectors to find and bring specific students here. You should come see the book one day. It's really fascinating!"

Roxie came to a halt outside a room bustling with teens, "Here we go. This is the Grand Hall!" The hall was magnificent. Long tables lay in rows with large, red velvet chairs, and crystal chandeliers. As soon as we walked inside, Roxie stormed over to Sebastian and barked, "The language in your last message was rude, unnecessary, and very much unappreciated!" He ignored her scolding and laughed, but he must have said something awful for Roxie to be that infuriated.

"Hi, Tori," Silva chirped, "Are you coming to training today?"

"Oh, I'm not sure . . . "

"Are you kidding? She's absolutely clueless," Sebastian rolled his eyes, "and you expect her to go straight into training?" I said earlier that I was clueless, but coming from Sebastian, it stung. He didn't even know me! What gave him the right to say that?

"I suppose I won't be . . . " I tried to stay calm, but failed as my temper got the better of me, "I'll just wander around clueless as ever!"

"Doesn't he make you want to hit him?" Roxie poked angrily at the table with her pen.

"Sure does!" I directed my full frustration at Sebastian.

He just shrugged, "Whatever." That pushed me over the edge. I stomped out into the hallway and slammed the door closed with a thud, so that I was sure Sebastian got the message. All I could do was storm off elsewhere in the school. There was no way could I get past any of the gates without Silva stopping me, her being the Gatekeeper. Without that option, I found an empty corridor and ran, trying to fade away from reality. The harder I ran, the less I focused on my reality. Panting and upset, I collapsed against the wall. Time continued, and my throat burned. This wasn't the escape I had hoped for, if it could be called an escape at all.

"I hate this!" I screamed and punched the wall beside me. My eyes welled up with tears, and I tried helplessly to blink them away. I felt warm stickiness drip from my knuckles down to my fingertips. "Damn it . . . that was stupid." I walked across the hall and ran my hand under the spray of a drinking fountain. My hand burnt like hell, but I washed the blood away. I sighed, "What kind of hell is this?"

"Only the best kind," a tall boy with floppy chestnut hair answered, coming out of a nearby room, "Are you alright?" I was pretty embarrassed, my first day here and I was already acting loopy, but I wasn't going to snap at him or lie. He's just trying to help me.

"Not really. I did a number on my hand."

"Let me see it," the boy placed my hand in his and said, "Sana." I watched in amazement as skin covered my exposed knuckles.

I gasped and stared at my hand in wonder, "Thank you . . . um . . . dude."

"Alexander," he smiled, "My name is Alexander Ross, Incognadorio."

"Then thank you, Alexander!"

"Victoria!" Roxie ran up behind me, her unexpected voice startling me, "There you are! I've been looking all over for you!"

"And now you've found me . . . " I meet a cute, nice boy, and that's the exact moment that Roxie chooses to run up and find me - just my luck!

Roxie glanced uncomfortably at Alex, "Alexander . . . "

"Hello, Roxie," he replied, "So this is our new Protector?" They were both tense, but Roxie looked as though her skin was going to crawl off her body.

"Yes, and now if you don't mind, I must steal her away. We have . . . things to tend to." Roxie grabbed my hand and dragged me back down the hall.

"Goodbye ladies!" Alexander called.

"What was all that about?" I growled, "He seemed nice."

"It's complicated. Let's just say he doesn't seem the same," Roxie replied. Because that totally wasn't a million shades of vague! I wanted answers.

"So?" I shrugged, "Maybe he changed."

"No, not Alexander," Roxie hung her head and wiped her eyes, "He was my best friend, but then he left to do research on the Evelore for a report he was doing on our history. He was missing for three weeks! Everyone was worried sick, and then one day out of nowhere, he's back and 'can't remember a thing' about all the time he was gone. It seems suspicious to me . . ."

"And now you just hate him?" I interrupted.

"It's not like that . . . "

"No. It is. You hate him for leaving and getting himself in that mess, but not because he's not the Alex you knew. That's just a reason you're using to protect your feelings."

"I- I guess you're right," she looked me up and down before she added, "You look like you could use a little alone time. I'll go and tell the others I found you. Go ahead and look around. It's a pretty big school, and you'll need to know where you're going." Roxie smiled cheerily and wandered off.

"Hey!" Sebastian's voice called from behind me. I glanced back and stomped down the hall. "Look, please don't rush off! I'm sorry. I was rude!" He was at my side and panting, and it was obvious he'd run a long way. "Forgive me?"

"Why should I?" I gave him a look of disapproval. A half-assed apology wasn't going to make everything just peachy.

He gave me an evil smile and waved a paper in my face, "Because I have your class schedule."

I whipped around, unable to control my excitement, "Gimme!" I reached up to grab the paper, but he pulled it away.

"Not until you accept my apology."

"This is called blackmail not a sincere apology," I muttered.

He shrugged and started to walk away, "Well if you don't want it . . . "

"Fine, I accept your apology!" I ripped the paper from his hands and ran off to my room. I tore the letter open unable to resist my anticipation. I was aching to find out what school here would be like! Hopefully better than it'd been so far!

Dear Miss Beauregard,

It is an honor to have you attend the Verexium! Listed below is the schedule of your classes. You will begin tomorrow. Have a great first year!

Masonry with Professor Bloake

Combat Training I with Commandant Rummy

Conjuration with Mademoiselle Harlot

Spell Casting I with Madame Pirelli

Basic Verum History with Professor Harris

Potion Making with Professor Velbert

Congratulations,

Madame Koehler, Registrar

I read the list over three times. I was going to start tomorrow! I didn't have any supplies, but I knew Sebastian would help me get everything. I mean, it was literally his job to watch over me. "Knock, knock," his voice called, "Come on. We don't have all day!" I ran to the door quickly and followed him to a little store just outside campus called Magellan's Marks.

A young man greeted us as we entered, "Salutations! Welcome, I am Hugo Magellan, Markmaker. Here to get your specialized Verum casting mark?" Hugo asked, eyeing me curiously. I looked over to Sebastian. I didn't know why I was here. He nodded.

"Yes I am."

"Then sit on down! I'll get Fuchsia."

"Who's Fuchsia?" I whispered to Sebastian.

"She's our resident Seer and Hugo's great grandmother. She looks into your future and past, not that she'd tell you what she sees, and then shows Magellan a symbol based off of important times in your life." Magellan reappeared with and elderly woman with slightly pinkish purple eyes and wispy silver hair.

"Place your hand in mine," she commanded, and I did so. She closed her hand around mine, shut her eyes tight, and scrunched her eyebrows. When she flashed her eyes open, she etched on a piece of paper two identical iron keys laid in an 'X' pattern. Magellan grabbed a small dagger and slid it lightly across my forearm. I pulled away instinctively from the stinging pain, but he latched on to my arm. He rolled a glowing silver stone, which looked suspiciously like the gold one I'd found at my house, in the blood oozing from my arm and drew on my wrist, with every minute detail, the two keys. After he made the last mark, the drawing soaked into my skin and left a light shadow of the mark, and the cut on my arm disappeared a few seconds later. Magellan seemed satisfied.

"How- why- it's...?" I blubbered.

"Shh," Sebastian led me out of the shop and back to my dorm, where I found my books resting neatly on my desk. "Roxie," he confirmed. There were clothes in the closet too. "Your mother sent those . . . " he added.

He turned to leave, but I stopped him, "Hey, wait . . . that stone, what was it? I've seen one like it before..."

Sebastian turned around quickly, but still with more grace than any other boy I'd known, "What?"

"The day you showed up in my house, I found one of those in my room. It was the same size, but it shone gold instead of silver . . . "

Sebastian raised his hand for me to stop, "It wasn't the same as the silver stone."

"But what then?"

"It's an enchanted stone. We call them Cantatum. They one you saw today is a marking stone, and based off of what you've told me, I think the other was a hypno stone."

"Hypno... like hypnotizing?" Sebastian nodded. "But what good would that do anyone?" I asked.

"I don't know... How did it make you feel?"

I shivered as I recalled the dark emotions, "Useless, helpless, like a waste of life."

Sebastian's face darkened as he murmured, "That's not good . . . I'll let you know if I find out anything more about the Cantatum used on you, but I should really get going . . . "

"Sure. Thanks for everything . . . " After Sebastian left, I went back to examining the mark on my wrist. I rubbed it gently to find that it was incredibly sore. Completely exhausted, I flopped on to my bed, curled up, and rested my head on my knees. The stars outside my window twinkled like little candles set ablaze in the darkness. The whole school was amazing and beautiful when it wasn't driving me crazy. Everything about it pushed the limits of my imagination. I closed my eyes, thought of all the great things tomorrow held, and slept.

~*~*~*~*~*~

"Come out now! I command you! I will find you, if it's the last thing I do," a woman's voice hissed, "You can never escape me." She stood in a clearing in the forest. A huge army stood behind her, some men and women and others part wolf. The woman snarled and transformed to become a snow-white wolf with gleaming ice blue eyes. "Find them!" she growled, and wolves ran out amongst the trees. My view flashed to the Master and Masteress, sprinting, a brown wolf close behind.

"Kyson, hurry! Just a bit longer!" the Masteress shouted, but the Master slowed and stopped.

"You go! Save yourself, Loylit! Run, now, run!" The Masteress looked at him in panic, but lowered her head and ran the opposite direction of the wolf and her brother.

"We will find her," the brown wolf snickered and transformed into- into-

I jumped up out of bed. Vladimir, the same Vladimir who wanted to send me away to that awful beast, was working with the Evelore? At least I thought they were the Evelore. The woman in command had to be Evelyn LaReizo. My dreams were starting to get out of control. There was something more to this dream than I could deduce by myself. Maybe someone here could help me understand. I slipped on a coat and went to find Roxie. I just had this feeling that she'd be my best bet at figuring this out.

"Would I?" Roxie asked, as she appeared, leaning on my doorframe.

"How did you . . . never mind. Yes, I need your help."

"I know you were coming to find me in a panic. What's wrong?" I took a deep breath and started from the beginning.

"I've been dreaming of the Master and Masteress and a seemingly important run-in with Miss Evelyn LaReizo and a young Vladimir Scott."

"That's what was bothering you? We rescued Vlad from the pack a long time ago!"

"Roxie . . . when he, my mom, and Sebastian's sister, Alice, were talking, Vlad wanted to give me up to the monster that controls the Evelore, but Alice wouldn't let him. After that, Sebastian came, and I left to come here."

"Once you're controlled, it's very hard to fight off the beast's curse. Vlad has off days, but don't be paranoid. He's as good a person as you or me." Roxie told me to get back to sleep, saying that the first day of training is always the roughest. For the rest of the night, I slept a dreamless and peaceful sleep and forgot all about the feeling of a bigger picture behind my nightmares.

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