Episode 7: The Soul Hunt – Pt. 2

         Fynn shifted uncomfortably in his armor as the power of the dark magics pressed in around him and his allies. Not far away, Daliluin looked like she might pass out. The adventurers had escaped the cave and it didn’t take long to spot the floating ship overhead, spreading poison through the air.

         “How do we get to it?” Iliera asked.

         “They usually have an anchor portal,” Aebaloth replied flatly. “It’s around here somewhere.”

         “Spread out,” Aethelwolfe called. “We’ve got to find it.”

         The team scattered and Fynn stuck close to Iliera’s side as she marched forward, confidently taking each step through the burnt ashes on the ground. They scrambled up a nearby hill and when the Musfurin paladin paused, Fynn nearly ran into her.

         “What is it?” he asked, looking over her shoulder.

         Not far from them, the glowing portal that Abeloth had described was swirling in the air. Iliera turned past Fynn and made a flash of light that clearly signaled to the others without a sound. They all made their way over, and when the last of them had climbed up, she turned to look at the portal once more.

         “Together,” she said. “We go.”

         With that, she charged forward. Fynn fell in line right behind her, pulling up his mace and catching one of the smaller enemies that guarded the portal. Iliera didn’t even stop to finish the fight. She threw her weight forward and slipped through the gateway.

         The others came charging after her. Aethelwolfe slammed into Fynn and they stumbled forward, falling right through the portal and onto the floor of the floating vessel. As Fynn tried to stand up, however, he quickly realized he was stuck.

         “Can’t…move,” he said through a grimace.

         “Me either,” Aethelwolfe echoed.

         With a pop and fizzle, Daliluin and Aebaloth arrived, landing on the ground next to them and suddenly becoming very still.

         “What is this?” Aebaloth asked. “I’m stuck!”

         “Entrapment spell of some kind,” Daliluin managed to spit out. “I’m in a very uncomfortable position here.”

         Fynn laughed. His face was pressed against the floor how he had landed. “Tell me about it.”

         “A powerful holy shock should break the bond,” Aethelwolfe said.

         “Wait!” Iliera shouted, attempting to stop him. Unfortunately, the older paladin had already called upon the power of luminary magic. The shock ripped across the floor, momentarily highlighting a magical rune, but instead of breaking the bond, the spell simply channeled back to the adventurers. Fynn’s body felt like it had been set on fire.

         “Yarrrrgh!” Aebaloth cried.

         Iliera’s armor glowed with a powerful energy, but she did not cry out. She had diverted the spell away from her body entirely. Fynn was always impressed with her mastery.

         “Let’s not do that again,” Daliluin spoke up.

         “Wait,” Aebaloth started. “I think I saw something when his spell hit the rune…”

         The Yunai hunter went silent for a moment and a glowing energy appeared around him. He looked around the room, and when his eyes landed on Fynn, it felt like the hunter was staring right through his soul.

         “There,” Aebaloth said at last. “The rune is partially scratched to Iliera’s left. Looks like Fynn’s weapon might have hit it when it slid away from him. If we target that spot with some kind of physical damage we can break the bond.”

         “Fynn, how are you?” Iliera asked.

         “I’m alive,” he replied.

         “I’m going to do what Aethelwolfe did, but I’m going to call it down on the weakened spot. That’s right next to you. Do you think you can take another dose of magic?”

         Fynn frowned. “Do I have a choice?”

         “Not really,” she replied, a slight sadness in her voice.

         “Don’t worry about me,” he replied. “I have a plan.”

         “Okay everyone,” she said to the others. “Get ready for another sting.”

         Fynn waited for the shock to burn him alive, but instead, he felt the floor beginning to vibrate. Iliera’s armor was glowing bright white, as if she was channeling all of her power the same way that she had absorbed the earlier spell. He couldn’t clearly see her face, but she was concentrating, that much he saw.

         Then, with a painful growl, she moved.

         Her mace came down right next to Fynn’s head and the room exploded in radiant energy. The entire group was blasted back by the force of impact and the rune dissolved in a white flash.

         “Whoa!” Aethelwolfe shouted. “Iliera, that was… amazing!”

         Iliera ignored the compliment, rushing to Fynn and looking him over. “You okay?”

         “I’m fine,” he replied. “How are the others?”

         “Surprisingly,” Daliluin replied,” I feel great. It’s like she channeled raw energy into that blast and it passed through me. I feel recharged!”

         Iliera smiled. “An old trick I learned.”

         Fynn stood and stepped over to retrieve his mace. “So now what?” he asked.

         “Uh, over here,” Aebaloth said, gesturing for them. “I hear whispers.”

         The stairs leading deeper into the ship felt slimy to Fynn, but he followed the others. At the bottom the hallway opened into a large room where they immediately saw several Yunai standing next to what looked like another being.

         “I don’t see any souls,” Aebaloth said.

         “Me either,” Iliera admitted. “So we’ll just have to ask him about it.”

         Fynn couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like to be the Yunai in that moment. They were having a conversation of some kind, and were of course evil beings, but they were relaxed and no doubt felt relatively safe in their vessel. Then, without warning, five mighty heroes were on them.

         Luminary magic, aethereal magic, and their own powers turned against them. The fight was over before it even began, and then the heroes stood over the wounded one that had clearly been in charge.

         “Who are you?” Iliera demanded.

         “You’re too late, heroes,” the Yunai barked. “The ceremony was moved after I felt your presence in the cave of living words.”

         “Where?” Aethelwolfe asked, his voice booming. “Where was it moved?”

         “You cannot stop us. We shall bind the souls of the fallen to our own creations. Your loved ones will be slaves to the Legion when it arrives.”

         “Where is the ceremony!?” Iliera asked, her voice rising.

         “In the western cave,” Tivos mumbled. “That is where you will… die.”

         The Yunai went limp and Iliera growled in response. “What does that even mean?”

         “The ceremony must be in the caves along the western cliffs of Faranaar.”

         “I can search for signs of activity,” Daliluin said. “I just need to get in the air.”

         “Well there’s no point staying here,” Aebaloth added. “Let’s get off this thing.”

         The group made their way back to the portal that had brought them to the vessel. When they stepped through, a small gathering of enemy forces stood between them and the cliffs. Daliluin took to the skies while the other adventurers cleared a path forward.

         Fortunately, the search didn’t take long. Daliluin quickly spotted a large cave entrance that had several guards standing in defensive positions. She circled around, helped the others finish off the last few attackers and then landed to share the news.

         “We ride for the cave at once,” Aethelwolfe said. “We must put an end to this.”

         “The bad guy said we will die in the cave,” Aebaloth warned. “Maybe we should think of a better plan before we just charge in there?”

         “There’s no time,” Iliera countered. “I wish we could plan, but Sionis’ soul is on the line.”

         “Alright,” the Yunai hunter said with a shrug. “Lead on.”

         Daliluin guided the group to the cave and they quickly dispatched the enemy that guarded the entrance. As the last one fell, Fynn started to feel a little uncomfortable about the whole situation. These guards were no match for the might of the adventurers. Tivos had died without a real fight. Was it truly this easy, or was there something more at work here?

         Inside the cave, the group discovered a rough and narrow passage. As they scooted along, it felt to Fynn like they were climbing down the throat of some kind of animal. The walls were sparsely lit with strange green flames and the pathway twisted and turned as it continued ever onward.

         Soon, the flames darkened and the passageway become cold and void of light. There was a terrible chill in the air, and whispering voices slipped through the air, lost souls begging for something out of reach.

         The stone beneath Fynn’s feet started to feel soft as he walked and the power of his luminary magic began to ebb and flow, as though it was being cut off by the darkness around them.

         “I’m not sure—”

         His voice was suddenly silenced.

         The light completely faded. Darkness. Silence. It surrounded him.

         “Anyone?” he asked, unable to hear himself speak.

         In the distance he heard a struggle. He stepped through the darkness, uncertain of where he was walking, and then he saw a small figure ahead. His heroic instinct kicked in and he rushed toward them. He could see they were fighting, but what?

         He got close enough to see that it was Iliera, but she looked like she was flinging her weapon into empty darkness. He thought about how he could help her, but he was drawing a blank. He couldn’t attack something he couldn’t see, and without the ability to coordinate with her, he may well smack her across the back with his weapon.

         So, he took a deep breath, and closed his eyes.

         He reached out with his mind, calling upon his magic.

         There was only silence. This darkness was powerful, but he wasn’t ready to give up.

         “Luminary One,” he said aloud. “I call upon you! Hear me!”

         Still nothing.

         Iliera stumbled. He heard her grunt in pain.

         “Luminary One! PROTECT HER!” he shouted. This time he did not call upon the power. He ordered it.

         Suddenly, a protective bubble shielded Iliera and a blinding light split the darkness, revealing the massive creature that was trying to kill the paladin.

         Feeling empowered, Fynn picked up his mace and rushed forward, slamming the creature across the knee before the monster had another chance to strike Iliera. The enemy howled in pain and then took a swing at Fynn, but his blade was blocked by Aebaloth’s weapon.

         “Hey,” he said casually. “Glad you could join us.”

         “You too,” Fynn replied.

         A hammer made of pure light smashed into the demon’s head, knocking it back from Aebaloth. Aethelwolfe stepped into view and gave the Yunai hunter a pat on the back. “Excellent work, heroes. Now, let’s finish this!”

         Iliera came to the lead and Fynn fell in place beside her. The four of them split into two groups and flanked the monster. As it turned to chase Iliera, the Yunai hunter and older paladin assaulted the beast. It turned to challenge them, and Iliera took her chance, slamming the beast across the back of the head with her mighty mace.

         The beast toppled.

         The darkness that felt like it was still trying to crush the adventurers suddenly vanished.

         “Yessssss,” Fynn shouted. “Nice shot!”

         “Hey, wait,” Iliera said, looking around. “Where is Daliluin?”

         “Here,” the woman called. “Quick, come here.”

         The four rushed toward her voice, with Fynn lighting the way. They reached Daliluin’s side and immediately spotted another young woman lying on the ground. She was a Yunai hunter.

         It was Vellia Doomslicer.

         “Is she alive?” Iliera asked.

         “Yes,” Daliluin replied. “Barely. I was tending to her wounds while you fought.”

         “Are you Iliera?” Doomslicer asked, looking up at the group.

         “I am,” Iliera replied.

         “Xer’Thraxis has the souls. He’s working on his own agenda. This cave was designed to lure you in and then trap you. They didn’t expect you to overcome the darkness within this place.”

         “Do you know where Xer’Thraxis has gone?” Iliera pressed. “Where is he taking the souls?”

         “There is a soul machine here. The Yunai has seized control of it and plans to use it to bind the souls to his own creations. It will be eternal torment for everyone, your Flamecaller included.”

         “We can get to the soul machine and stop him,” Aethelwolfe said proudly. “If we get the other Yunai hunters to—”

         “No,” Vellia cut him off. “The others are gone. You saw a farce at the perch. The Yunai control this region. You are on your own.”

         “What do we do?” Fynn asked.

         “We fight,” Iliera replied firmly. “Always.”

         The trip back out of the cave went by quickly enough, and a short run across the land brought them to the edge of the soul machine. Iliera stepped off her mount and looked up at the large balcony where she saw a familiar individual.

         “Wait, is that Tormash?” Fynn asked.

         “It is,” Iliera replied. “At least, that’s what we’re to believe.”

         “Clever!” Tormash yelled, his voice growing darker. “I wondered how long it would take you to find me out.”

         Standing there, his skin began to burn green and shed like a thin covering. Giant wings erupted from his back and rippling purple flesh appeared. A writhing mess that transformed into the shape of a demonis Yunai. “This futile hunt is at its end,” Xer’Thraxis announced. “Lay down your weapons and I will grant you a quick death and eternal life within my creations.”

         “Never,” Aethelwolfe shouted.

         “Come, human, let me teach you to see with new eyes.”

         “This is where it ends,” Fynn replied. “You’re time is up, Yunai!”

         The adventurers charged forward with their weapons raised. They crashed their weapons, infused with luminary magic, against the edge of the soul machine and the wall blocking their way shattered before them. Several enemy soldiers inside turned to investigate the chaos and they were quickly taken down by the rolling assault.

         “He’s upstairs,” Fÿnn shouted as he spotted a pathway up the soul machine.

         The group moved as one unit and quickly fought their way up to the second level.

         When they arrived, it was clear that Xer’Thraxis was not expecting to come up against such formidable foes. He had already started to summon a portal and looked at them with a surprising amount of fear in his eyes. “This isn’t the end,” he growled as the portal stabilized. “Your world will never be safe.”

         “We will defeat you,” Iliera challenged him. “The Legion will fall.”

         Without another word, the Yunai slipped through the portal and it snapped shut.

         “Convenient,” Aebaloth said, pulling Iliera’s attention away from where the enemy had been standing before. She glanced back his way and saw the Yunai hunter standing next to a massive green crystal. Inside of it, she saw the life energies swirling endlessly.

         “A soul prison,” she said.

         “Lots of them,” Daliluin said, gesturing across the room where at least a dozen of crystals were positioned. “So many lost.”

         “Sionis’ soul is in one of these,” Iliera replied. “We have to find him.”

         “How?” Aethelwolf asked. “Thousands of souls and you want us to pick Sionis?”

         “Use the soul shard,” Fynn suggested. “It should glow the closer it gets to the soul.”

         “How do you know that?” Iliera asked, lifting the shard from her pack.

         “I know things,” Fynn replied.

         Iliera frowned, but then held the shard against the crystal.


         She moved to the next prison, and still no glow.

         Then, as she moved to the third one, the small shard began to glow, just as Fynn predicted. “Now what?” she asked.

         “I’ve got it from here,” Aebeloth replied.

         The Yunai hunter stepped forward and placed his left hand on the soul prison. Then, he extended his right hand toward Iliera. She placed the shard in his grip and he stood silently for a moment. Then, the soul prison erupted with a purple light and the shard in his hand began to vibrate wildly.

         The entire soul machine shook for a moment and then it went still once more.

         Aebeloth took a deep breath and then pulled his left hand free. “We got it.”

         “What do we do about the others?” Daliluin asked. “We can’t leave them trapped like this.”

         “We can overload the soul machine conduits. It’ll overload the prisons and they’ll crack. We can’t save these people, but we can give them rest.”

         There was a moment of silence among the adventurers, then Iliera gave a nod. “Do it.”

         As Aebeloth and Daliluin went to work on overloading the soul machine, Iliera found herself staring at the glowing soul shard in her hands. For months now, Sionis had been lost to her, but now the key to getting him back rested in her hands.

         She was so close. Now she just needed to find his body.

To be continued…

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