|The Souls of Heroes|
|Series||His True Destiny by Azaelia Silmarwen|
|Previous||His True Destiny: Chapter Seven|
|Next||His True Destiny: Chapter Nine|
|← His True Destiny: Chapter Seven||Chapter Chronology||His True Destiny: Chapter Nine →|
Chapter Eight: The Souls of HeroesEdit
When Rowan arrived back at the Archon’s Shrine, he saw Briar Rose still looking fascinated by one of the altars.
‘Is the altar really that fascinating?’ Rowan asked, stopping before her.
‘No, but these inscriptions are,’ she replied, smiling up at him. ‘I glad to see you’re still with us. We heard everything the Oracle said.’
‘I’m still wishing I hadn’t,’ Rowan sighed, sitting down on the altar. ‘I mean, how many times will I have to kill him?’
‘Twice, apparently,’ Briar replied gently. ‘Everything indicates that Jack’s new form will emerge from behind the Bronze Gate, and this structure is the key to opening it.’
‘And how to we open it?’ Rowan inquired. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer to that question.
‘It looks like it will take the souls of three Heroes to activate the mechanism. These things are never simple, are they?’
‘No, because that would be too helpful,’ Rowan groaned. ‘I’m guessing that it won’t just take the souls of any old Hero either, will it?’
‘Good guess. The first instruction calls for “The King of the Arena” no less.’
‘So what, am I supposed to chop off my own head?’
‘You could, but then there’d be no one for me to order around, would there?’ Briar teased.
Rowan burst out laughing at her witty comment and she soon started laughing too.
‘Well, we know that I won’t be lopping off my own head, so what do you think we should do?’ Rowan asked a minute later.
‘Why don’t you pay Thunder a visit?’ Briar suggested, wiping away a tear of laughter.
‘I’m not lopping off his head!’ Rowan said at once. ‘I’d end up with him cutting off my head!’
Briar snorted at his comment.
‘I wasn’t suggesting that you kill him, Rowan. He knows the Arena inside and out. You should go and talk to him. I’ve checked with the Guildmaster and he says he’s in Knothole Glade.’
‘If I have to,’ Rowan said uneasily. He still was uneasy around Thunder, which was sort of a joke seeing as he had defeated Jack of Blades.
‘You’ve still got Jack’s mask, haven’t you?’
‘Yeah, I packed it before I left.’
‘Good. You’ll need it to trap the souls. Anyway, I better start researching the second inscription.’
Rowan watched as Briar went over to the nearby teleporter and used it to return to the Guild. He was about to head over to it, to use it to get to Knothole Glade, when a cold, ghostly voice froze him in his tracks.
Yes, little Rowan, I’m back, it said. Rowan recognised the voice instantly. It was Jack of Blades speaking to him. And our business is not quite finished. You destroyed my sword, remember? Do you have any idea how many centuries I spent looking for it?
‘I lot, I guess,’ Rowan muttered as he nervously looked around.
Its work is done, Jack continued. Soon I will have power beyond your imagination and you will be the first to die!
Rowan shivered slightly, before hurrying to Knothole Glade. When he got there, he saw the Chief and Thunder talking outside the opened village gates. He hurried over to the older Hero.
‘Now look,’ the Chief said impatiently, ‘I won’t tell you again, we don’t need a Hero. For the first time in years we aren’t being attacked, sieged or kidnapped by anything. Now leave us alone!’
‘He’s a braver man than I to speak to you like that,’ Rowan muttered, stopping next to Thunder as the Chief stormed off.
Thunder looked slightly amused at how nervous Rowan was around him. He knew that he intimidated the boy.
‘Briar Rose said you would come,’ Thunder commented. ‘I will tell you what I know, if it will get you out of my sight.’
‘Deal,’ Rowan said at once.
‘We were both once called “Kings of the Arena”, but there have been many Heroes in the past who have claimed that name,’ Thunder explained. ‘You should search in the bloody dust of the Arena itself. They say the souls of the past Champions haunt it, resting in the place of their greatest achievement.’
‘Thank you, Thunder,’ Rowan said, with a grateful nod of his head.
He turned to leave when Jack spoke to him again.
Why go all the way to the Arena? he asked innocently. You have a perfectly good soul right in front of you.
‘Piss off,’ Rowan growl at Jack.
‘Excuse me!’ Thunder growled. Rowan now knew why he was called Thunder. His voice was like actual thunder.
‘I wasn’t talking to you,’ Rowan said quickly. ‘Somehow, Jack of Blades is able to talk to me.’
‘I would try to ignore everything he says,’ Thunder surprisingly warned. ‘He may use you if you listen to him.
‘I will,’ replied Rowan, before heading for the Arena.
When he arrived at the Arena entrance, he saw dead bodies everywhere. Rowan immediately drew Avo’s Tear and entered the Hall of Heroes, which was also covered in dead bodies. He then jumped violently as several guards ran past him screaming. One of them stopped to speak to him. It was the guard who had given him the tour of the Hall of Heroes.
‘I’d get out of here, Rowan,’ he warned.
‘What happened here?’ Rowan asked seriously.
‘These… things appeared in the cells and started killing everyone,’ he explained, glancing behind him nervously.
‘What do they look like?’
As the guard described them, Rowan caught him breath.
‘Summoners,’ Rowan gasped. ‘Get to safety now!’ he added, before running down the hall.
At the end of the Hall he found two Summoners, each fighting a guard each. Unfortunately, Rowan wasn’t able to save the guards, but he was able to save himself from them.
With the Summoners dead, Rowan entered the Arena Anteroom, also known as the preparation room, where he expected to be attack to be attacked again in there, but he wasn’t. All he found were more dead bodies. Rowan made his way into the actual Arena. When he entered, the gate was closed and locked, trapping him inside with a very angry rock troll.
Ladies and gentlemen! Jack cried, sounding very amused. This is truly a special occasion. Watch now as a Hero is ripped to pieces by trolls! And Jack’s very own minions!
Rowan gripped his sword nervously as Wardogs and Dreadwings appeared. It didn’t help when he noticed a small troll appear at the opposite end of the arena. As the trolls and Jack’s minions surrounded him, Rowan called upon Divine Fury, an attack he knew could take on multiple enemies. The spell defeated the minions without any dramas - though it did show Rowan how powerful he had become, seeing as last time he wasn’t able to defeat them with the spell alone – however, he wasn’t as effectual on the trolls. He finished them off with Avo’s Tear. He then had to repeat the process a second time as he had to fight another wave.
Jack’s lovely minions are back, Jack announced as the last troll fell, and they’ve brought some puppies for our young Hero to play with!
The “puppies” Jack spoke of, turned out to be balverines. Rowan was able to defeat them with his bow and arrows, while the minions he defeated with his Will again. There were two waves again.
Now what’s he going to send at me? Rowan wondered, pulling Avo’s Tear out of a Dreadwing’s chest. He didn’t have to wait long.
Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from sunny Snowspire, I give you … Summoners!
Groaning, Rowan took care of two waves of them too. The moment he had finished, he took out Jack’s Soul Mask and held it above his head. To his surprise, a soul appeared and went into the mask where it was then trapped.
So, you found your first soul, did you? Jack didn’t sound too happy. But the Shrine is ever so greedy, it will want more before it’s had its fill. I wonder who the next one will belong to.
Jack’s insane laughter followed Rowan out of the arena, as he pocketed the mask, and it was the last thing he heard as he teleported back to the Archon’s Shrine where he had to wait for Briar to return from the Guild.
He didn’t have to wait for her long. A minute later she appeared and tripped over him, for he was sitting on the edge of the teleporter drinking a health potion.
‘Sorry,’ Rowan apologised as she gave him a look.
‘What happened to you?’ she asked, taking in some of his nasty cuts he was trying to heal.
‘Jack sent some Summoners to the Arena,’ Rowan replied as he opened a mana potion. ‘He also had fun playing with me in his Arena, by sending his minions after me as well as trolls, balverines and even more Summoners. He’s determined to kill me.’
‘How do you know that he’s playing with you?’ Briar asked suddenly.
‘I think he is speaking to me through his Soul Mask or something. It’s getting highly annoying. He tried to convince me to steal Thunder’s soul instead of going to the Arena.’
‘Why would he try to do that?’ Briar looked stricken.
‘You’re guess is as good as mine.’ Rowan sighed as he got to his feet. ‘So, what do I do now?’
‘You need to release the soul from the Mask.’
Rowan looked at her blankly.
‘How am I supposed to do that?’
‘I have no idea,’ Briar admitted.
Clicking his tongue, Rowan cautiously approached the altar and held the Mask out in front of him. A blue glow surrounded it, and the Heroes watched in amazement as the soul was transferred to a large stone ring on the altar.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ Briar commented. ‘It’s like it’s using the soul to power itself.’
‘I think it is,’ Rowan muttered, thinking back to what Jack said about its hunger.
‘Anyway, we’ve figured out the second inscription,’ Briar informed her friend. ‘It says; “The Heroine”. To be honest, I can’t think of anyone who fits the description better than your mother,’ she added hesitantly.
‘Or I could always use you?’ Rowan said innocently.
‘Don’t even think about it, pal.’
‘Relax; I’d miss you too much. Besides, if I did kill you, knowing my luck you’d come back and haunt me.’
‘You know I probably would.’
Rowan chuckled before teleporting to his home town. He hated to ask this of his mother, but what other choice did he have. Jack, apparently, could feel that Rowan wasn’t too keen on asking his mother for this favour, as he began to play with the teenager’s feelings as he headed for her grave.
Ah, poor, Scarlet, he said with fake sympathy. Hasn’t she suffered enough? Would you really do that to your own mother? Take Briar, she’s of no use to anyone.
‘Shut up!’ Rowan hissed. ‘Stop trying to turn me on my friends and allies! Why do you care anyway?’
I don’t, but something tells me there is going to be a lot of screaming!
‘Screaming?’ Rowan was confused by what Jack said. He couldn’t hear any screaming. All he could hear was Jack laughing at his own joke.
Shaking his head, Rowan continued to the Memorial Gardens, where his parents’ graves were. As he entered he heard the sound of Screamers. He now understood Jack’s joke, not that he found it funny.
Growling, Rowan knotted his bow with his new silver tipped arrows, they were more powerful than his old ones, especially against Screamers and balverines, before getting ready to shoot at a moment’s notice. He jumped when the spirit of his mother appeared before him. He nearly ended up shooting it.
‘Mum,’ he whispered.
She smiled gently at him.
‘I know what you seek, my son,’ she said, ‘but Jack has sent a legion of Screamers to torment my soul. They won’t allow me to leave, and now they will try to take you too.’
‘Don’t worry, they won’t,’ Rowan said confidently. He had faced Screamers before. He knew how to handle them.
In order to defeat the Screamer legion, Rowan used his silver arrows, but by the end, he had only a couple of arrows left. With the Screamers gone, Rowan turned to face his mother.
‘Well done, Rowan,’ she praised. ‘You should know that Jack’s spirit is strong, and his new form is almost ready.’
‘New form? You mean he might not be human now?’
‘Yes, but I sense how he fears you. Take my soul, and avenge our family once and for all. And make him pay!’
‘I will!’ Rowan vowed.
‘Your father and I are so proud of you,’ Scarlet said before she disappeared into the Soul Mask.
Smiling, Rowan returned to Briar. She didn’t notice his return as she was too busy looking at the third altar’s stone ring. Seeing this, Rowan mutely went over to the second stone ring on the second altar and transferred his mother’s soul to it. He then joined Briar.
‘Have you cracked the inscription?’ he asked.
‘Yes, this one requires “The Oldest Soul”,’ she replied. ‘Unfortunately, we still haven’t figured out who that might mean.’
Oh, come on, Jack said, making Briar jump.
‘You can hear him too?’ Rowan asked her.
‘Oh yes,’ she said nervously.
We both know who it is, dear Briar, Jack continued. You can’t protect the old fool any longer.
‘What does he mean by that?’ Rowan asked Briar.
It’s the Guildmaster the Shrine wants, Rowan, Jack answered as though he was talking to an idiot.
‘I see you’re right about him still being up to his old mind-games,’ Briar muttered bitterly. ‘I hope the Guild acolytes can come up with a better idea. You should go back to the Guild and speak with them.’
‘No arguments here,’ Rowan groaned before teleporting away.
When he arrived in the map room, he quickly jumped out of the way as someone came running past carrying a stack of books. Unfortunately, he ended up landing on a Guild guard’s foot.
‘Sorry,’ Rowan apologised.
‘That’s alright, sir,’ the guard replied, ‘and welcome back. This place’s been a mess since you left. People running around with bits of old paper, books flying everywhere…’
‘Glad I haven’t been around,’ said Rowan. He looked around, frowning. The Guildmaster was nowhere in sight. Normally he would come and welcome Rowan back or ask how everything was going. ‘Where’s the Guildmaster?’
‘Oh, he’s only gone and holed himself up in the Guild Woods,’ said the guard. ‘We’re not supposed to let anyone near him.’
Rowan wondered if the Guildmaster had done that because he was scared that Rowan would try to take his soul. If that was true, Rowan felt a little hurt knowing that his mentor and father-like-figure was scared of him.
‘We found it!’
Rowan and the guard both turned and looked at a Guild acolyte as he came running towards them.
‘We found it, sir,’ he informed Rowan. ‘The soul mentioned in the inscription is Nostro! Our texts suggest it should be in the Graveyard Circle, you know, where you found the tunnel to Bargate Prison.’
‘Well, this sounds like this is going to be a barrel of laughs,’ said Rowan. ‘Thanks for your help,’ he added, before teleporting to Lychfield Graveyard, where he then took the familiar path to the required destination.
On the way, he wasn’t surprised to find the undead and Summoners, but he was surprised to see that they were fighting each other. He was able to slip by them without any dramas.
When he arrived at the Circle of the Dead, he saw it was deserted. That was until an undead warrior appeared wearing very familiar armour.
‘Nostro,’ Rowan greeted warily.
‘Guildsman, we meet once more,’ Nostro said, standing before him. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I need your soul,’ replied Rowan. ‘I need to open the Bronze Gate at the Archon’s Shrine is the Northern Wastes to vanquish an enemy. I cannot open it without your soul.’
‘You reclaimed my weapons and armour, and brought me peace,’ said Nostro, ‘so now I offer my soul in return.’
‘Do not thank me yet,’ Nostro warned. ‘My soul is a warrior’s soul. You must take it in battle, so that I may stand proud among my comrades in the afterlife. My men have sworn an oath to protect me even in death. Only when they fall can I be harmed.’
‘You have got to be kidding me,’ Rowan groaned. Again, why couldn’t these things ever be easy?
‘Now claim my soul with honour!’ Nostro said as his men began to appear.
Sighing, Rowan drew Avo’s Tear and met them in hand-to-hand combat. This didn’t mean that he didn’t use his Will abilities during the fighting.
After thirty minutes of fighting, Nostro’s soul was Rowan’s. He quickly made his way back to the Shrine and disposed of the last soul. With all three stone rings now containing appropriate souls, a beam of bright blue light emitted from the centre of the stone rings and met in the middle on the Shrine, high in the air.
‘It’s working!’ Briar exclaimed, looking out of the Shrine at the large Bronze Gate not too far away. ‘Come on!’
Rowan followed her towards the Bronze Door. They ended up stopping just before it.
‘The inscription says only one Hero will be allowed to pass through the gate,’ Briar said once the door was fully opened.
‘And this time, I will make sure Jack stays dead,’ Rowan said firmly. He knew that he was the one going through the gate. He was the strongest and he was the one who had defeated Jack of Blades in the past.
‘I don’t know what form Jack’s going to take, but I don’t think it’s going to be small and furry, do you?’
‘That would be wishful thinking,’ said Rowan.
Briar smiled a small smile and turned to face Rowan.
‘Good luck,’ she whispered, reaching forward and lightly kissing his cheek, ‘for all our sakes.’
Rowan watched as she walked back to the Shrine, before taking a deep breath and facing the gates of doom.
Written: 20 February 2013