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The Soul Snatcher

Updated: Oct 19

After the four brothers attempt to conquer the Verni World, they are defeated and arrested by the two embodiments of Creator Vernakula namely Olrin and Archen; fighting alongside are Olrin’s pupils called Hunters. Post victory, Olrin goes missing and Archen is suspected to be corrupted as he doesn’t serve his destined purpose anymore. Without the support of the embodiments, the world order established by Olrin crumbles and kingdoms declare their independence while enacting their own laws. Hoping to restore stability, the Hunters who were trained by Olrin himself choose Aelius, King of Verni, as the interim successor and take up the quest to bring back their master. “The Soul Snatcher” by R. S. Chintalapati is a novelette narrating the fall of Vernakula’s embodiments and the journey of the Hunters to save their world.

Illustrated by Nisha Yadav


Free Access

  1. Prologue

  2. Chain of Three Jewels

  3. Battle of Golden Tower

  4. Noble Soul

Exclusive Access

  1. Soul Cages

  2. Archen’s Ploy

  3. The Quest

  4. Snatching Life

  5. The Truth

  6. Lost City

  7. Halls of Duality

  8. Epilogue



This contribution is edited by Sreekar Ayyagari & illustrated by Nisha Yadav



This novelette is available in paperback & ebook.



This novelette is a part of a series.



In the second age when mortals could no longer witness their Creators, the four brothers namely Dream, Shadow, Dreary & Halo killed almost all of the Bloomers in the Irun World on the order of their master Alwerik. Though the brothers didn’t intend to harm the Bloomers, they were bound to complete their mission or lose their mortal forms for eternity. This wouldn’t even be the first time they have lost their mortal forms and the last time they did, they lost their mother and were locked up in a cage that killed every possible hope to even exist.

By killing the Bloomers, Alwerik planned to weaken their Creator Irunkula and as expected, the four brothers fulfilled their undertaking. Bloomers were special creations and in an attempt to create a superior creation, Creator Irunkula in the past placed two souls in each of his special creations. When they were born, Bloomers were to return the soul that craved for their material needs thereby freeing their desire while returning their creator his power. Since two souls weren’t in the natural design of any creation, Irunkula had to use some of his energy to create Bloomers and planned to regain it when his creations resubmitted their souls. However, this design didn’t work due to the intervention of the brothers and with every dead Bloomer, Creator Irunkula lost a little of his power.

After almost all the Bloomers were killed, the brothers set out to enslave the Verni World without being aware that it was being protected by Creator Vernakula’s two embodiments namely Olrin and Archen. So when they offered the velators who were the creations living in the Verni World to either surrender or die, most velators who were like humans trembled in fear but a few velators who possessed magical abilities like controlling the five elements and superhuman strength fought back. The brothers had to also face the wrath of the embodiments and their minions called the Hunters.

For years, the brothers were attacked by the embodiments and Hunters but they were never defeated until the second embodiment of Creator Vernakula named Archen blackmailed the brothers to kill their only child if they didn’t surrender. Not willing to risk the life of their offspring, the brothers surrendered.

After the embodiments and the Hunters won against the brothers, most Velators embraced Olrin as their God and saviour in mortal form for his valour and courage while a few others chose Archen for unbeatable desire to win.

While Olrin the first embodiment was considered as a representation of the virtuous, Archen was considered as a representation of the immoral. Velators perceived them as such for their deeds in the past and the few velators who were born with special abilities to acquire knowledge also known as the ‘Blessed’ believed that the brothers might have corrupted many velators before they were defeated. So, they requested Olrin to lead the sane into glory while they requested Archen to instill faith in these lost souls by guiding them towards the light.

Without Archen, the Blessed predicted that the corrupted velators would seek to make their own forms of worship that could lead to unpredictable practices and traditions. This wasn’t acceptable for the Blessed. So for decades, virtuous velators held Olrin as their icon and proclaimed him to be the guardian of law and order while Archen was proclaimed as the master of life and death.

In the beginning, many velators defied the laws of the ‘Blessed’ and sought paths that they believed could offer them unlimited power, invincibility and immortality. They created their idols, named their Gods and conducted heinous acts of sacrifice to please them. They corrupted everyone around them and created an imbalance that spread all across but before long, either Olrin or his Hunters punished them.

Harsh punishments were enacted every time and fear to pursue such a path was instilled. All during this time, the good and bad were balanced. Even when many velators were lured by evil ways, there was always at least one virtuous velator to an immoral one. However, for the first time since Creator Vernakula’s embodiments have been given authority, the virtuous are being outnumbered by the immoral.

This change troubled the Blessed and they sought to find out what changed.


Chapter I

Chain of Three Jewels

Five decades after Olrin was last seen, the Vernakulan World was ruled by a ferocious Conqueror named Aelius. After waging wars for nearly four decades, Emperor Aelius united the entire known world under his rule except for a few tribals.

Blessed with wealth, health and power, Aelius never hoped to even expand his kingdom. However due to the circumstances, the Hunters chose him and helped him in uniting the world under one rule. Without any desire for it, he did become the second world emperor after Olrin himself but in the journey of doing so, he spilled a lot of blood, burying young men, and wiped off a few communities entirely.

Even after many war crimes, a few scholars proclaimed Emperor Aelius to be Olrin’s reincarnation and the symbol of wisdom and justice. Their reasoning was based on their belief that no one can succeed in uniting the Vernakulan world except for embodiments themselves. They declared that Olrin left his form to be born as Aelius himself as most velators preferred to be ruled by one of their own rather than an embodiment of Creator Vernakula.

However, Aelius didn’t share any powers held by Olrin and he even denied being a reincarnation of the embodiment. Over the years, without the virtuous embodiment, the dark forces in the world grew and the Emperor Aelius couldn’t control them even after many attempts. Plagues, hunger, evil manifestations, & human sacrifices prevailed. Though the Emperor punished the criminals as harshly as he could, the forces of evil didn’t stop. Fear didn’t work against them as it worked against common criminals.

Before situations went beyond his control, Aelius summoned the Blessed, a name for those velators who were born knowledgeable and commanded them to instill faith in the corrupted societies. The Blessed, born with magical abilities, suspected that the immoral embodiment Archen himself could have been corrupted by the four brothers before they were captured.

When they mentioned their suspicion to the Emperor, Aelius asked them to use every resource at their disposal to confirm it. He even offered his support to find the truth and the Blessed continued their effort with more resources now at their disposal.

However, even with their combined power, the Blessed couldn’t trace Archen and when they sought their mother, Creator Vernakula, they could never hear from her. Left with no other option, the Blessed decided to follow a Noble Soul immediately after its death to meet Archen himself. This was because Archen received every soul after it’s mortal form died to send it either to his mother or offer a rebirth.

Though the Blessed didn’t know anyone who possessed a Noble Soul except for their Prince, they didn’t want to ask the Emperor to sacrifice his only son who was conceived after years of prayers, sacrifices and rituals.

Their Prince, called Saviour, was elegant and an exceptional warrior. When the Prince was fifteen years old, he fell ill and with every passing day, his health worsened and eventually, he was bedridden. Neither the healers nor the Blessed could cure his illness and the Emperor tried everything in his power to save his son. He had already lost his wife to an unknown sickness and couldn’t afford to lose his son too.

However, after failing to find one other Noble soul, the Blessed mentioned to the Emperor that the Prince was their only option and after a lot of thought, the Emperor consulted his son before deciding on the matter.

Accepting the Blessed’s request, Aelius couldn’t forgive himself. Though his son was glad that he was being helpful, the Emperor wasn’t. That night while he was resting in his private chamber, a guard entered to inform about the arrival of his minister Glinda.

Just a moment later, Glinda, a lean old woman entered the chamber before bowing.

Leaning back in his chair, Aelius asked, “What is it, Glinda?”

As the guard left, she replied, “It is about our prince, Emperor.”

Observing the Emperor being silent, Glinda continued, “The Chain of Three Jewels which will help the Blessed to seek our Prince after his demise has been found. According to our scouts, the Knights of Merk are holding it.”

Confused, Aelius said, “Then command the Knights of Merk to submit the chain.”

Hesitating for a moment, the minister replied, “They have defied your command, Emperor. The Blessed warned us that they might serve Archen.”

Not bothering about it, Aelius closed his eyes before asking, “What do we do when someone in our ranks defies our command, Glinda?”

With a smile, Glinda replied, “I sent three battalions to the Merk Emperor. I think we will soon have the chain at our disposal.”

Disappointed, Aelius asked again, “Is that what we do to the ones who defy us, Glinda?”

Realising what is expected of her, Glinda replied, “I will ensure that the captured Knights are burnt to death before our people and be made an example of.”

Now Aelius turned to her before nodding his acceptance and Glinda bowed before leaving.


Chapter II

Battle of Golden Tower

As the Sun rose, Elrin the commander of Knights at Merk ordered his men to form lines while facing the Emperor’s battalions. He knew they would be slaughtered but he couldn’t defy the promise he made to Archen. He couldn’t give up the sacred chain.

Ever since Archen asked them to secure the Golden Tower, the Knights have been killing everyone who approached their camps built around the tower. Not intending to change his position while glancing at the forces before him, General Elrin took a deep breath before shouting, “We have pledged to defend this tower to our death! Let us keep our promise!”

Pulling out his sword, he shouted, “To honour and glory!” and his men shouted, “To honour and glory!” before following their general’s lead.

As General Elrin raced forward gallantly, all his Knights followed him. Predicting that arrows would be shot, most Knights held their shields. The Emperor’s generals did notice the shields but that didn’t stop them from commanding their archers to shoot every arrow at their own will. This truly unleashed chaos and the long arrows killed many Knights before they struck the first blow.

When the Knights were almost approaching them, the Emperor’s cavalry charged and blood spilt like rain. Following the cavalry, the infantry advanced and the last few Knights were arrested. Though they knew that their defeat was inevitable, they did send a lot of soldiers to their graves before being captured.

Following their capture, the Emperor’s Generals rode towards the tower. As they approached it, they noticed that the coal-black tower was like one of their prisons. Getting down from his horse and walking towards the tower, General Hector pulled out his shiny, lustrous key embedded with ruby and placed it in the keyhole of the seven-foot-tall black metal door.

When it opened, Hector thanked the Blessed for the key and when the doors completely opened, they could notice that the black tower slowly started to turn golden. As it shone in the sunlight, all generals pulled out their swords before entering the fort.

They could see the statue of Archen and no one else. As Hector moved forward along with the others, twelve Archen’s minions appeared out of nowhere. They were cloaked and didn’t look anything like their master, the embodiment of the immoral.

Before the generals even took one more step, one of the minions warned, “One step forward and all of you shall have to embrace death.”

With a smile on his face, Hector stepped forward and attacked the minion. Following him, the other generals attacked and soon enough all of them were fighting. Though the minions looked lean, their force in striking their enemy was intensive.

Within a short while, the generals took down two of the minions and this made the other minions panic. For the first time, one of the minions teleported and sliced a general’s head. This use of magic changed the rules. Now every general’s sword turned red.

With these red swords, even if the general touched the minions, they would burn to their death. However, neither the generals nor the Blessed who gave the generals these swords knew the sword’s powers exactly except for the fact that these swords possessed magical power. So two more generals were killed due to the lack of knowledge before all of the minions were taken down.

The last three generals walked towards the tall black statue of Archen and around the neck of the statue was the precious and pristine chain.

Studded with a ruby, an emerald and a sapphire, this chain called the Chain of Three Jewels was believed to be forged by the Bloomers. Removing it from the statue, Hector put it carefully in his stash before starting their return journey to the capital.


Chapter III

Noble Soul

Though Glinda knew that the battalions wouldn’t reach Merk yet, she was awake all night reevaluating her decision in the number of battalions sent. Predicting that the battalions would reach Merk the next morning, Glinda sat in her chamber awake all night wondering if she should have sent more battalions. By the next morning, her belief about being victorious faded. That evening when she almost made up her mind to send a few more battalions, a scout returned from Merk to inform her about the victory.

That night again, even the cold autumn breeze, the full moon and the news about their victory couldn’t make her sleep. She awaited to obtain the chain and as the Sun was almost waking up, she heard the city guards playing the drum. Getting off her chair, Glinda immediately rushed to the ministers’ hall in the southern part of the palace to meet the generals.

She stood facing the door and heard the army entering the castle. She heard the footsteps and just a moment later, General Hector entered the ministers’ hall to notice her.

Walking towards the old woman he hated, General Hector kneeled before saying, “With God Olrin’s blessings, we have acquired the chain. However, it did cost us a lot of lives. I hope their families are taken care of properly.”

Signalling the general to raise, Glinda replied, “We will always take care of those who deserve it, General Hector. If these families have contributed their children to the army, I’m sure we would stand by them at any cost.”

Controlling his anger, General Hector mentioned, “They were brave men who gave up their lives to obtain this piece of jewellery. A few of them didn’t even know what they were dying for but they did. They believed in us and I know how we work. That’s exactly why I’m asking you to reconsider my request.”

Silence prevailed for a moment before Glinda replied, “I will try my best and that’s the end of this discussion. Now I would like to take the chain.”

Obeying her, the middle-aged general passed the golden chain with his hands stained in blood. Without noticing the blood, Glinda just took the chain and glanced at it.

Noticing her for a moment, General Hector bowed before leaving. He knew that neither he nor Glinda could bring any change to the system that their Emperor had established. A system based on fear. But Hector firmly believed that such a system would sooner or later fail.

Holding the chain, Glinda commanded, “General Hector! On the command of our Emperor, we would want the captured knights to be burnt to death before our people.”

Turning to look at the minister for one last time, General Hector nodded his head in agreement before continuing to leave. Noticing him for a moment, Glinda felt the general was getting tired and would soon need to retire and spend more time training young soldiers.

She waited until the doors closed before leaving for the prince’s chambers. As she expected, the Emperor was spending time with his son just like every morning.

Noticing Glinda, the Emperor remarked, “So we have finally obtained the instrument that would part me and my son forever.”

With a smile, the young prince lying in his bed said, “Maybe this is my purpose, father.”

The very next moment, the Emperor remarked, “Your purpose is to serve after me and ensure this world wouldn’t fall back into chaos.”

Continuing to smile, Saviour replied, “I have been bedridden for two years, father. I’m impatiently awaiting my end with no belief that I would be able to serve you anymore. This way, at least I’m helping you find Olrin. With the embodiment, wouldn’t the world be at peace?”

With eyes filled with tears, Aelius didn’t say a word. Glinda on the other hand mentioned, “My prince, this chain has been forged by the Bloomers and even the Blessed don’t know how long a mortal can withstand its power. Maybe it would be wise to take time and wear it when you are truly ready.”

Extending his hand to his father, Saviour replied, “I’m one of the few mortals who are getting to choose my death… for me existing in this pain is more terrible than embracing my death. So let me sleep beside my father tonight, and tomorrow, I will be ready.”

Aelius held his son’s hand as he begged, “Forgive me, son. Forgive me.”

Pulling his father’s hand towards him, Saviour kissed it. With a smile, Saviour replied, “There is nothing to forgive father. I’m going to meet my mother soon.”

Listening to his son, Aelius broke down in tears and Glinda commanded the guards to leave before leaving the chamber herself.

How is it so far?

  • Loved it

  • Liked it

  • Forget it

  • Hated it


Chapter IV

Soul Cages

The next morning, the Blessed and Glinda arrived at the Prince’s chamber after he bid farewell to everyone he wanted to. Noticing them, the Emperor kissed his son one last time on his forehead and exited the chamber.

When the Emperor left, the Prince nodded his head as Glinda approached him, he started chanting prayers and concluded by saying, “Forgive me, God, for my sins and I plead you to welcome me to your home.”

When the Prince turned silent, Glinda hesitantly adorned him with the chain and for a moment, the Prince felt nothing. However, just a moment later, he breathed for one last time and the Blessed could see their Prince’s soul floating above his body.

Closing their eyes, the three Blessed followed the soul through their astral form and could notice that the soul had been pulled towards a cage. One of them opened their eyes in horror realising what he just witnessed.

Noticing him, Glinda curiously questioned, “Did you find out anything about Olrin?”

Taking a deep breath, one of the Blessed replied, “I saw the soul being dragged into a cage and being locked in it. This is unbelievable.”

Observing Glinda being confused, he continued, “You must visit your son and inform him about soul cages. The Hunters have more information on these cages. In the meantime, we would continue to know the extent of Archen’s corruption.”

Before Glinda spoke a word, the Blessed closed his eyes to join his brothers and not intending to waste any time, Glinda exited the chamber before commanding one of the two guards, “Instruct the royal guards to preserve the body of our prince and fetch me a horse!”

Obeying her, the guard left for the stables and Glinda walked to the Emperor’s chamber. Rushing without the permission of the guards, Glinda announced, “I’m sorry, Emperor. We have lost our prince.”

Covering his face in his hands, the Emperor repented his actions to let the Blessed even experiment with his son. However before he expressed his anger, Glinda continued, “The Blessed on the other hand had found out that his soul had been forcefully locked in a cage. They say Archen has been corrupted and are currently trying to understand the extent and the reason behind the corruption.”

In silence, the exasperated Emperor signalled Glinda to leave and he leaned back in his chair weeping. As she left, she headed straight to the stables to pick the horse the guard had fetched for her and left.

Followed by two of her personal guards, Glinda rode North to the City of Bloomers and by nightfall, they could only reach the City of Fists. Even in that clumsy and unplanned city only known for the two rivers passing through it, Glinda and her guards could find accommodation for one night.

The next morning they left at dawn and reached the Fort of Hunters. This huge fort built in the outskirts of the city was built with black stone and has been Glinda’s son Jasper’s home for quite a while.

Covered by green grass all around, this fort was the training school for the Hunters. Trained to serve Olrin and help him in establishing law and order in Vernakulan World, the Hunters were considered as the holy servants.

However, ever since Olrin was nowhere to be found, the Hunters invested all of their resources in finding the embodiment while helping Emperor Aelius to unite the world under his rule. Through the Emperor, they were determined to establish order in the absence of Olrin.

As Glinda rode towards the fort, she noticed the clean lake with beautiful fish before the fort and beside it was Kingston, the chief of all Hunters teaching young children how to fight with a sword. Bowing her head, Glinda and her guards reached the gate. When she informed the guards that she wanted to meet her son Jasper, she was permitted to enter and her horse was taken to the stables.

As she entered the main hall, Glinda heard Wiler, greeting her. Greeting Jasper’s best friend as he continued writing, Glinda looked around if she could spot Jasper. With a smile, he informed, “Your son is in his chamber. Maybe with your daughter-in-law...”

With a smile, Glinda rushed to Jasper’s room and when she entered the chamber without knocking, she could see him reading a book. Noticing his mother, Jasper stood up to rush to her in happiness and Glinda hugged him.

After a moment of casual talk, Glinda asked, “The Blessed wanted me to inform you that our prince’s soul has been locked into a cage. What does it mean?”

Thinking about it for a moment, Jasper smiled. For a moment, he was glad that the truth had finally been revealed. Asking his mother to walk with him, Jasper said, “With the cages, everything makes sense!”


Chapter V

Archen's Ploy

As Jasper and Glinda approached the lawn behind the fort, they could feel the scent of different flowers before they even reached the lawn. Looking at his mother, Jasper said, “We have been studying these cages for a while now. However, until this point, their existence was an assumption. Now that the Blessed have confirmed their existence, we are in a terrible position.”

Entering the lawn as the sun shone on them, Jasper continued, “After Goddess Vernakula’s embodiments Olrin and Archen have defeated the four brothers, the Goddess has offered velators the choice to choose one of her embodiments to follow and we did as we were told.”

Touching the shrubs as his mother glanced at him, Jasper said, “Though all of us wanted to be happy, only a few of us who intended to obey the laws of nature followed Olrin while most others who sought immortality and power followed Archen.”

Confused, Glinda asked, “But that’s not how it is told. They teach everyone that ever since Olrin and Archen existed, they have been followed in equal numbers.”

With a smirk, Jasper replied, “It is a lie mother. A lie propagated without any scope for questioning. In the beginning, Olrin didn’t even manage to earn at least half the number of people that Archen had. But things started to change... You see, Archen could never give even to his most loyal followers immortality because velators were never meant to be immortal and even those who served him to their best succumbed to death. This made many question the journey they were going through and some of them even questioned if it was the right choice.”

Nodding her head, Glinda said, “This must have helped Olrin secure many new followers as nothing is more beautiful and satisfying for a mortal than being eternally happy.”

As they stood facing each other, Jasper replied, “Absolutely. But this change in our choice surprisingly made Archen furious. He felt that even though he offered his followers rebirth and extended a few of their lifetimes while providing them with many materialistic comforts, he was being disregarded.”

Controlling her smile, Glinda replied, “Could you blame him? Anyone would be furious if they weren’t earning anything after offering so much in return.”

Surprised, Jasper mentioned, “But the embodiments aren’t supposed to pit against each other. Archen was supposed to change those who sought materialistic comforts and correct those who were committing this mistake. The way Archen acted in fact suggested that he was corrupted by the four brothers before they were defeated by him and Olrin.”

As Glinda speculated what might have happened, Jasper continued, “For a few years Archen was nowhere to be seen. Many Hunters presumed it to be the period in which he had completely lost his sanity. Such a presumption is only based on the fact that when he returned, Archen seemed determined to end Olrin once and for all and turn all of us towards him. He would let this entire world sink into darkness for his greed.”

Comprehending Archen’s motivation, Glinda asked, “If that was his mission, we should have failed by this point. It has been decades since Olrin was last seen. If Archen did succeed in ending his brother. Then why aren’t we all consumed by darkness?”

With a certain pride, Jasper replied, “Because Archen took velators for granted. He underestimated us and when Olrin was nowhere to be found, the Hunters took charge and established the world order. As you know, my predecessors saved this world instead of letting everything fail. We insisted that even a small deviation from the established protocol shouldn’t go unpunished and fear must be instilled in every human to prevent the thought of even committing a crime.”

Glinda did remember the day King Aelius pledged his support to the Hunters. For a moment, she relived the times when Aelius was quite different from how he is as an Emperor. After he established the world order, Aelius often mentioned to her that if he was given a choice, he would have chosen a different path. Interrupting her thoughts, Jasper stated, “Unable to lure velators as he anticipated nor being able to face the Emperor’s army or corrupt the Emperor himself, Archen cursed Saviour before we last saw the prince.”

Realising how an innocent child paid the price, Glinda immediately questioned, “Why didn’t the Hunters summon Goddess Vernakula and tell her about the failure of her embodiments?”

Starting to walk again, Jasper replied, “We did but Goddess Vernakula never heard us. Ever since Olrin was nowhere to be found, so was Creator Vernakula. Even though we kept trying, she never heard us.”

Following her son, Glinda asked, “So what is with these cages? What do they do?”

Thinking about it for a moment, Jasper hesitantly replied, “Ever since we last saw Archen, there has been a significant drop in the number of births compared to the number of deaths. This wouldn’t happen unless the Creator herself dictates for our creation to end. However, since we see no reason for such a decision on the Creator’s part, we considered the possibility of Archen restricting these souls from being reborn. With the cages, it is now a fact that Archen is doing it.”

Trying to comprehend as to what the cages did, Glinda asked, “So you mean Archen is not letting many souls be reborn?”

Jasper nodded in agreement as he said, “Yes. Archen is locking up souls that should in fact be reborn or be united with the ultimate master after their judgement.”

Glancing at the beautiful city of Bloomers, Glinda asked, “Let us say Archen gathered a lot of souls. What will he do with them? A soul is no weapon.”

With a smile, Jasper replied, “I wouldn’t be certain about souls not being a weapon, mother. There is so much that we aren’t aware of souls even though they are our fundamental element. For all that we know, Archen could even eliminate all of us before we even realise using these souls.”

Turning to her son, Glinda asked, “If that’s the case, what’s stopping Archen? It seems we have already failed to realise the problem before it’s too late.”

Holding his mother’s hand, Jasper replied, “A soul might not be like a sword to cut through flesh but it can certainly take another body given the power. Now, Archen possesses many souls that carry desires from its previous existence. If he offers them the chance to take another body, most of them would take the opportunity. So by using them, every virtuous being who is dying out of their mortality can be replaced by immoral souls.”

Looking at the blue skies, Glinda concluded, “If Goddess Vernakula doesn’t interfere, we will be exterminated.”

Taking a deep breath, Jasper said, “However, as you might know, if a soul should be given a new body, then its memories must be wiped out and its karma should be accounted for before it is granted the power to exist in another body.”

While Glinda nodded in agreement, Jasper continued, “This cannot help Archen because a soul without a memory doesn’t possess the power to carry desires. Without desires, it cannot be bound to him anymore. So Archen cannot immediately replace a dead virtuous being with one of his souls. If that was the case, we would have known it by this point.”

Feeling a little hopeful, Glinda asked, “Then what is that he must achieve to succeed in his mission?”

Without a moment of thought, Jasper replied, “Now that we know he has built cages and is imprisoning souls, he must be waiting for the creation of the Eternal Pool.”

Connecting the dots, Glinda asked, “But wouldn’t this pool be only created at the end of an age? Isn’t this the same pool that the Gods use to decide which beings should survive their apocalypse with their memories intact to live in the next age?”

Nodding his head in agreement again, Jasper mentioned, “Though the judgement of the Gods wouldn’t happen until the end of this age, the pool would be created a few centuries before it is even used. This pool is often used by the Soul Tamers until the end of the age and according to our predictions, we are just a few decades away from the pool being created in the Kingdom of Lorian.”

Resting on the grass, Glinda asked, “A few decades? Should we just accept our defeat and be overtaken by Archen?”

Sitting beside his mother, Jasper replied, “I’m not sure if Goddess Vernakula predicted we might suffer this fate but she did create a few more powerful beings alongside these embodiments like the Soul Tamers and Soul Snatchers. While the Soul Tamers control a soul to use them for their needs, the Soul Snatchers are gifted to suck souls at the cost of killing others.”

Disappointed, Glinda replied, “I think the Blessed would succeed in finding another Noble Soul than finding a Soul Snatcher. Don’t you know that we haven’t even seen one Snatcher since the beginning of this age?”

Feeling the cold winds, Jasper replied, “The forces of good and evil have always been and will always be balanced, mother. If the Creator let Archen have so much power, then she would bless us with a Soul Snatcher too if we are truly in need.”

Glinda didn’t say a word even though she was sceptical about what her son just said.


Chapter VI

The Quest

Feeling the cold winds at midday while resting under the Sun, Glinda and Jasper were silent after their long conversation. While Jasper thought about the next course of action, he heard Jasmine rushing toward Glinda to hug her.

Embracing each other, Jasmine asked, “It has been a while since you have paid us a visit, mother. I hear you bring grave news.”

Noticing Glinda nodding her head, Jasmine turned to Jasper before saying, “Our master sent a message that he wants to meet us.”

Assuming it might be about finding the right descendent to Emperor Aelius now that his only heir is no longer alive, Jasper replied, “I think my mother should join us. She has information our master might want to hear.”

Jasmine looked at Glinda for a moment before mentioning, “I’m sorry mother but there is no time to rest. We would be leaving just a little while later. Is that okay?”

Without a moment of hesitation, Glinda nodded in agreement and as soon as they finished their lunch, the four Hunters, Kingston, Jasper, Jasmine and Wiler along with Glinda and her two guards rode to the city of Fortune.

Master Ilian whom they were about to meet was one of the few who lived since the last age without death as his Creator presented him with a purpose. In this new age, he trained the first set of Hunters and helped Olrin to rule. Following him, Ilian even worked with Emperor Aelius to establish the world order.

Though he was extremely powerful, his age did affect his physical strength and over time, he couldn’t fight anymore but he could offer good counsel. Now he taught pupils about elemental magic at the University of Juriv.

Located in the outskirts of the city of Fortune, the University of Juriv wasn’t too far from the Fort of Hunters and so all of them reached the university before the Sun even bid farewell for the day.

While a few students took their horses to the stables, Glinda’s guards were taken by two more students to make accommodations to stay for the night. Meanwhile, another student-guided them to the library where Master Ilian awaited. Entering the hall filled with thousands of handwritten books, all the Hunters could notice Ilian sitting at a round table.

Within no time, the Hunters sat around the table after bowing to their master. When all of them settled, llian said, “I must thank you, Glinda, for helping the Blessed to the best of your ability.”

Settling down facing him, Glinda replied, “We better solve this crisis, Ilian. We have sacrificed our Prince for a theory. Our Emperor will skin all of you alive if such a sacrifice doesn’t reward us Olrin.”

Taking a deep breath, Ilian replied, “I have just received a note from the capital that the Blessed have indeed confirmed the existence of Soul Cages.”

Frustrated at the pace at which information was being communicated, Glinda asked, “Why did the Blessed take so much time to confirm the existence of the cages? Shouldn’t it be evident the first time they witnessed it? I presumed they would have informed everyone who should be informed.”

With a smile, Ilian replied, “Certainly. However, the Blessed didn’t give up as soon as our Prince was confined to a cage. They have used their power to break this cage and continued breaking all the successive cages that locked our Prince’s soul until they couldn’t do it anymore.”

While a few Hunters curiously leaned forward, Ilian continued, “The Blessed have noticed that our Prince’s soul reached the Soul Snatchers Arena.”

Guessing the conclusion, Kingston asked, “Considering their power, I’m sure they cannot break the cage located there.”

Before Glinda even questioned about the arena, Jasper asked, “If that is the case, I think it is safe to assume Archen was expecting the Blessed to sooner or later find out about the main cage.”

Confused, Glinda enquired, “There isn’t a Snatcher’s Arena in the known world. Where is this place you are talking about, Ilian?”

Thinking about what Jasper suggested, Ilian hesitantly replied, “We don’t know it because an elemental angel has sunk it into her on the command of our Creator.”

Everyone around stopped discussing as Ilian continued, “At the end of last age, Creator Vernakula no longer wanted the snatchers to exist. She believed that the snatchers could be a great threat to velators if they were corrupted. So, she commanded their island to be sunk and their souls were not granted the permission to be reborn.”

Before Glinda inquired about the reason, Kingston said, “The snatchers served the embodiment of the death minister. Until the last age, there were some beings along with the velators who used their powers to trick death and live forever. That is why the snatchers had to be appointed in the first place. It was the job of the snatchers to capture the souls of these tricksters also called Bloomers. However, at the end of the last age, none of these Bloomers was granted access to the next age and without them, the snatchers were no longer needed.”

Observing everyone around him, Ilian mentioned, “Even though the Blessed have inspected the Snatchers Arena in the past, they have failed to notice the cage until now. Maybe because they have never tracked a soul before as they have done now.”

Disappointed, Glinda stated, “Even now, we know about this cage because Archen intends to show us our doom. He could have killed General Hector and his battalions in order to protect the Chain of Three Jewels or he could have ended the Blessed in their astral forms before they even reached this arena. He is toying with us.”

Thinking about it for a moment, everyone around the table could feel what seemed to be the inevitable end. Observing them, Ilian smiled. The mortal who has witnessed many such situations in the past assured, “I’m certain this isn’t our end.”

While everyone looked at him in silence, he continued, “I know none of us here can see beyond the problem that is before us but if we don’t, we fail.”

Taking a deep breath, Ilian continued, “Firstly, I need us to obtain the Arrow of Unleashment as it might be the only weapon that could break this cage. So let’s fetch this arrow from the heart of the sea.”

Pondering on his question for a moment, Jasper hesitantly asked, “But master, don’t we need Soul Tamers to fetch this arrow?”

Lost in her thoughts, Jasmine replied, “Not only Soul Tamers, Jasper. We need at least one Soul Snatcher.”

As soon as Kingston heard Jasmine, he turned to his master, noticing him hesitating to say the words. Holding his left hand, Kingston warned, “By not doing this, we are certainly doomed.”

Turning towards his best pupil, Ilian replied, “I should be thrown in the darkest halls and be punished cruelly for believing my actions are justifiable.”

Pitying his master for his self-hatred even when he is left with no choice, Kingston replied, “If you don’t do this, the chances of us even fighting Archen are nullified.”

Regretting that it has even come to this, Ilian introduced, “Firstly, let me show the two Soul Tamers who would be accompanying all of us in your mission.”

Finishing his sentence, Ilian pointed his hand towards the two ordinary velators who sat at a nearby table noticing them since the beginning. Glancing at them, most Hunters were disappointed that the Soul Tamers were just mere velators. Meanwhile, Ilian continued, “Now, as Jasmine mentioned, we would need a Soul Snatcher and these Soul Tamers would help us with this problem.”

Glancing at Ilian as he struggled to continue, Kingston announced, “Though Creator Vernakula ended every Soul Snatcher at the end of the last age, there was only one man she agreed to send to the next age.”

Though many around the table nearly guessed it, Glinda was the one who teased, “She sent a mortal without a change. Didn’t she?”

Noticing Kingston nodding in agreement, Wiler for the first time broke his silence to question, “Please don’t tell me that these Soul Tamers would take our master’s soul and imbibe it into another just so that he can once again fight?”

Neither Kingston nor Ilian replied and all the others understood how their Soul Snatcher was to be created.


Chapter VII

Snatching Life

Breaking the silence, Wiler banged his fist on the table as he exclaimed, “You cannot kill an innocent boy to live forever.”

Though Glinda shared his point of view, she realised there was more at stake. Noticing Ilian’s silence, she pleasantly asked, “I understand your argument Wiler but we cannot let this world be consumed by a corrupted power.”

Following her statement, Kingston even mentioned, “There are many who have sacrificed their lives for this cause. Let us not forget our Prince himself.”

Disagreeing, Wiler replied, “The Prince was destined to die at a young age and he volunteered. Here we would sacrifice a strong young boy to ensure our master could fight with us in his new form.”

Neither Jasper nor Jasmine spoke a word. They couldn’t disagree with either side of the argument and Ilian chose to remain silent as he knew the inevitable conclusion anyway. Trying to convince him, Glinda asked, “Would you consent to this if we find a volunteer? Someone who would give away his life for the greater good?”

Noticing his master’s silence, Wiler hesitantly agreed. However, he demanded, “I want the last Soul Snatcher to leave his form as soon as he fulfilled his purpose. I would want him to not return even if Creator Vernakula offered him the choice.”

Unable to even listen to such an audacious demand, Kingston replied, “It would be foolish to accept such a condition, Wiler.”

His master’s silence and the response for his demand made Wiler make up his mind. Standing up, he requested, “If that condition cannot be accepted, I wouldn’t like to be part of this mission, master. I would like your permission to leave.”

Noticing the humble young Hunter, Ilian still remained silent and Kingston spoke again, “Sit down, Wiler. This isn’t time for a moral stance.”

Disobeying the command, Wiler awaited for a response from his master. Presuming that a response couldn’t be expected, Wiler queried, “A moral stance? When you obtain this arrow, do you even know that it needs the soul of the most powerful individual to be imbibed in it before being used?”

Realising that it was the Emperor’s soul that was being asked, Glinda declared, “That cannot happen!”

Surprised, Wiler turned to the mean spirited minister to ask, “And you think that’s their concern? For the greater good, this team seems to agree that even half of this world can be slaughtered if needed.”

Gawking at Ilian, Glinda demanded, “Is it true?”

Taking a deep breath, Ilian stood up and instructed Wiler with his left hand to sit down. As he obeyed, Ilian replied, “Yes. It is true but before any of you says another word, let me tell you this. We are under attack and we have two options. The first is to fight and the second is to do nothing and accept our fate.”

Tired, Ilian sat back in his chair again before continuing, “Now neither do I want to take another body nor would I prefer to kill our Emperor. But those are the only options we have if we want to fight. If we don’t want to fight, let us have supper and rest in peace.”

When Ilian concluded, none of them spoke a word. Silence prevailed until Kingston asked, “So... how many of you would want us to fight and how many would prefer not to fight?”

Though Jasper and Jasmine agreed to fight, Wiler and Glinda didn’t. Noticing Ilian’s disappointment, Glinda reasoned, “I apologise for my choice but I cannot just agree to kill our Emperor. That poor man has lost so much that asking any more of him would be a crime.”

Following the minister, Wiler confessed, “I disagree to fight since this plan could fail even if we succeed in breaking the strongest cage. For all that we know, it might not even have Olrin in it and we are intending to kill the world’s most powerful man.”

None of them around the table could disagree with the general or Wiler but they believed their choice was their only way. Giving up on Wiler, Kingston tried to reason with Glinda, “I might know our Emperor as much as Master Ilian and you, but he wouldn’t hold on to his power if the world is at stake. That man would certainly help us.”

As much as Ilian didn’t want any of this, Ilian agreed. He even pointed out, “Even if we fail to find Olrin in that cage, we can still win with the help of the four brothers, Wiler. But that should be our last resort.”

Though most of the Hunters didn’t want to deal with the brothers considering their last encounter, they knew they were the only ones who could help.

Noticing his pupil not budging, Ilian declared, “Wiler can stay at the Hunters Fort with the students as he doesn’t intend to take part in this mission and I hope everyone else would work with our plan.”

Though Glinda didn’t oppose it now, Ilian knew she wasn’t agreeing with the plan. So he promised, “The Emperor wouldn’t be forced or be overruled. Nothing shall happen without his consent.”

This offered Glinda a little assurance and she nodded in acceptance. With a smile, Ilian now signalled for the Soul Tamers to come to their table.

Approaching them, the middle-aged couple named Xerin and Yarin bowed before Yarin mentioned, “It’s an honour to meet all of you here. We wanted to inform you that the arrow that we will be recovering would need to be imbibed with a soul within a short time after we capture the soul.”

Following his wife, Xerin mentioned, “So we would first need the soul to be obtained.”

As everyone around the table nodded, Xerin continued, “I hope all of you are successful in your quest and I hope my wife will do her best to serve you to the best of her abilities.”

Observing everyone around him being either confused or curious, Ilian clarified, “When Soul Tamers imbibe a soul into a being who just died a few moments ago, the price they have to pay is to lose their powers or at times even lose their lives too.”

While everyone around the table sat in stunned silence, Kingston admired, “You are an honourable man. May Olrin bless you and your family for eternity.”

As the couple smiled and bowed, Ilian stood up and so did everyone else. Looking at all of them for one last time, he said, “Wait until sunrise and we will ride tomorrow to the Capital.”

Following his statement, a few students guided the hunters to their chambers and Ilian along with the Soul Tamers walked into a nearby chamber before Yarin sealed the door.

As soon as he entered the chamber, Ilian could notice a young boy on his knees with his hands tied to his back and a cloth tied around his mouth. Noticing him for a moment, Ilian walked towards him and untied the cloth around his mouth as he asked, “What crime did you commit in-order to be offered to me to die?”

Noticing his silence, Ilian advised, “Confess your sin son and I shall try to kill you without much pain.”

As he looked at him being terrified, Ilian asked, “What is your name, son?”

Still terrified looking at the old man, the young boy stammered, “El...rik.”

With a smile, Ilian wished, “May the Creator have mercy on you and forgive you for the sinful crime you have committed.”

Noticing the boy for one last time, Ilian signalled to the Soul Tamers and Xerin created his golden hammer as Yarin approached Elrik and slit his throat without a second thought.

As the young boy lay on the floor bleeding, Yarin started chanting a hex and an energy enchantment formed all around them. Meanwhile, Ilian prayed for one last time and tried sucking his soul out of him using his almost dead right lean right hand.

The hand was horrifyingly lean and blue indicating the number of souls Ilian snatched during his course of existence. For a moment, Xerin thought Ilian might not succeed. The old man cannot take the pain and as anticipated, the attempt itself made the old man feel an excruciating amount of pain but without giving up, Ilian continued until he succeeded to die by snatching his soul. The moment his soul left his body, Xerin commanded a hex and it instantly caught onto his hammer.

Awaiting until the boy took his last breath, Yarin held the enchantment around them. When they noticed that he was no longer alive, she cleared the enchantment for the boy’s soul to reach its rightful destination.

Approaching Elrik’s dead boy, Xerin placed his hammer on the boy’s body before he heard the uncountable number of souls around him shouting, “Don’t! Don’t!”

Trying to help her husband, Yarin created the enchantment again and now the voices were faintly audible. Trying to imbibe the soul, Xerin repeatedly pleaded the Soul Master to accept his plea and after trying repeatedly, he, at last, heard the Soul Master’s voice asking him, “Shall you give me your soul in return for the one you intend to protect?”

Looking at his beautiful wife for one last time as she held the enchantment, Xerin agreed and his hammer was shattered as he fell on the floor dead. Hearing the hammer turn to fine fragments, Yarin rushed to her husband, giving up on her enchantment.

Holding Xerin’s body tightly, Yarin wept uncontrollably. Even though she knew it was bound to happen, she couldn’t believe the pain she felt. The man she spent all her life with was no longer with her. She regretted not noticing him in his last moment and that infuriated her even more.

As she wept and wept, Elrik breathed again.


Chapter VIII

The Truth

Listening to the Hunters banging on the door, Ilian felt rejuvenated in his new form. Though he could feel the pain of the cut around his throat, the bleeding stopped and in time, he knew the wound would heal too.

Walking past Yarin as she wept, Ilian opened the door to see all of his Hunters shocked. Most of them could see his old body & Xerin lying on the floor and Glinda of all seemed terrified looking at the wound.

Approaching her master, Jasmine offered to treat his wound while the others made arrangements for the cremation.

Collecting all of the pieces of the broken hammer in a cloth bag, Jasper buried the bag along with Xerin’s body. As all of the Hunters chanted prayers, Ilian apologised by saying, “I’m sorry that this was the price that we had to pay.”

Staring at Ilian’s new form Yarin didn’t say a word. Observing his eyes filled with tears, she said, “I hope his sacrifice wouldn’t go in vain.”

Holding her hand, Ilian assured, “It won’t. I promise.”

As the Hunters almost finished their prayers, the Sun’s rays of early morning touched the headstones. For a moment, Glinda felt Creator Vernakula was watching them.

Noticing the blue skies for a moment, Glinda wished, “May this brave man be blessed with eternal happiness in your abode, mother.”

When they finished their rituals, all of them returned to the university to eat before getting started to the capital. While they ate, Kingston who sat beside Ilian asked, “Tell me, master. What happens if we don’t find Olrin in this cage? What if Olrin was killed?”

Tasting the freshly picked cherries, Ilian answered, “As much as Archen wants to kill Olrin, he cannot. They are even in their power and cannot destroy one another. That’s why we have never considered Olrin dead even though we haven’t seen him for decades.”

Thinking about it for a moment, Kingston asked, “If that is the truth, how could Olrin be even imprisoned in this cage? To begin with, Archen cannot even defeat him in order to imprison him. Shouldn’t all their conflicts always end in a stalemate?”

That statement made Ilian wonder all through his journey to the Capital. Thinking about it in every possible way, Ilian couldn’t understand what might have happened. When they reached the Capital, through Glinda’s help, all of them could find an audience with the Emperor.

Before much time could be wasted, Ilian and the Hunters stood before Aelius as soon as Aelius’s generals left after their meeting. Only General Hector stayed on the command of the Emperor. Noticing Ilian’s new form, Aelius teased with a smile, “You are immortal as the Bloomers have always claimed, Ilian.”

As much as the Emperor expected Ilian would at least smile, he could see him just remaining silent. Surprised, Aelius asked, “Old friend. What is it that’s bothering you?”

Even after his question, silence prevailed. Turning to Glinda who stood behind Ilian, Aelius demanded, “Minister, please tell me what has happened that bothers my friend so much?”

Realising Ilian might not speak a word, Glinda hesitantly revealed, “As you might have already been informed about the mighty cage that could be the prison to Olrin, Emperor. We have a plan to break it using an arrow that is yet to be forged. However...”

Turning to look at Glinda for a moment, Ilian turned to his friend as he said, “We would need your soul to forge this arrow.”

Though Aelius just smiled, General Hector exclaimed, “Have you vowed to end everyone in the Emperor’s family?”

Raising his hand to defend his friend, Aelius leaned in his chair to remind everyone in the room, “When I accepted your request to establish the world order, I lost my wife to an unknown sickness. I didn’t even see her for one last time as I was busy fighting battles I never wanted to be a part of and I lost my son because of Archen’s curse and now I should even give myself up?”

Taking a deep breath, Ilian replied, “We never predicted any of this, Emperor. Whatever happened or is happening is an unforeseen consequence.”

Standing up, Aelius approached Ilian as he asked, “Alright. If I agree to give up myself for your cause, can you assure me that we would win against Archen?”

Looking into his eyes, Ilian hesitantly replied, “I cannot make any such promise, Emperor but this sacrifice might give us a chance to win.”

Following the response, Hector reminded, “Only if Olrin is indeed in that cage as you expect. Let me be clear, Ilian. If we don’t obtain Olrin, you and your Hunters don’t stand a chance against Archen.”

Controlling his anger, Ilian just glanced at the general. Meanwhile, Glinda stepped forward to remind, “They are here to help us stop Archen from enslaving all of us. Even after fighting the minions of Archen, do you believe that we could win?”

Nodding his head in agreement, Aelius stated, “Even after unleashing Olrin, we might not be victorious. This is a war we cannot win unless…”

Realising the Emperor’s intentions, Ilian replied, “Unleashing them will set hell loose. Archen seems to be the lesser of two evils.”

Surprised, Aelius asked, “Then shall I conclude that we plan to give in to Archen?”

Ilian didn’t answer. Approaching him, Aelius whispered, “I’m afraid we have been played by Archen, my friend. I would give my life as you ask and I would be content if we would win but I’m afraid we cannot.”

Looking into his eyes, Ilian asked, “The four brothers cannot be held by me alone. They are uncontrollable and toying with them is dangerous.”

Nodding his head in agreement, Aelius remained calm for a few moments. Turning towards his general the next moment, Aelius commanded, “Assemble my ministers and generals, Hector. My reign has come to an end.”

As much as he disliked his Emperor, Hector couldn’t agree to this madness. Noticing his Emperor, Hector asked, “I would plead you to please reconsider your decision, Emperor. Without you, all of it will fall apart.”

With a smile, Aelius assured, “I promise it would be stable if my council shall obey my command.”

That statement made Glinda realise Aelius was planning to set up a republic in his place. She realised that was why he didn’t hesitate about his empire when his son’s life was to be sacrificed.

For about four days, Aelius held meetings everyday designing the outline of the republic and the places from where the candidates should be represented. At the end of the third day, he informed Ilian to come and meet him.

Finishing his evening prayer, Ilian visited the royal gardens to notice the Emperor relishing his drink. Enjoying the cold breeze, scent of the flowers and the crescent moon faintly visible in the sky, Ilian sat in the chair beside him.

Passing him a filled cup, Aelius mentioned, “You will have to take my soul tomorrow. I think my responsibilities are completed.”

Taking his cup, Ilian just nodded his head. A moment later, Aelius continued, “I have one more command for you.”

Sipping the drink after a while, Ilian awaited in silence as Aelius commanded, “I want you to unleash the four brothers…”

Before Aelius even completed his sentence, Ilian started shaking his head in disagreement. Noticing his friend, Aelius said, “Listen to me, Ilian. I know you are terrified of the brothers and we should be indeed terrified. They are much more powerful than we ever could be but I’m not sure if we would be able to defeat Archen without them.”

Placing his cup on the table before him, Ilian replied, “We are in this situation because of the brothers, Emperor. I wouldn’t think they would come to our aid. I believe they would take advantage of the moment.”

Noticing the dark sky, Aelius replied, “Remind me as to what the brothers did to the Bloomers?”

Taking a deep breath, Ilian replied, “They killed every last one of them.”

Staring at Ilian, Aelius asked, “Now tell me what did the brothers do when they came to our world?”

Thinking about it for a moment, Ilian replied, “They proclaimed themselves as Gods.”

Finishing his drink, Aelius smiled. Leaning in his chair, he exclaimed, “Bloomers are ten times stronger than us and they were killed in their world by these brothers. Do you think we would stand a chance if they wanted to kill us?”

Baffled, Ilian replied, “We fought because we didn’t want them to enslave us.”

Nodding his head in agreement to Ilian’s previous statement, Aelius mentioned, “Better be enslaved than be slaughtered. Archen will kill every last one of us and the brothers might at least give us a chance.”

Even now, Ilian couldn’t agree to it. For a moment, silence prevailed as the Emperor observed the crescent moon for a while before saying, “I think, Creator Vernakula might be dead.”

As Ilian thought about such a possibility, Aelius stood up to say, “Consider this as my last command, Ilian. Release the brothers even if you are successful in releasing Olrin.”

With a smile on his face, Aelius left for his chambers.


Chapter IX

Lost City

The next morning the throne room was filled with every selected member to form the first republic. It was Aelius’s decision to elect the first republic that shall last for four years and within the first four years, the arrangement shall be made for people to elect their next republic.

After all of the elected members swore they would serve their people to their best, Aelius turned to Ilian. Surrounded by his followers all around him, Aelius remarked, “I’m ready to meet my family.”

With eyes filled with tears, Ilian pointed his blue crystal hand towards the Emperor as he heard the Emperor say, “Goodbye, my friend.”

With tears flooding his eyes, Ilian sucked the Emperor’s soul and the Emperor fell on his knees feeling the pain before collapsing once and for all.

Everyone in the room stood stunned noticing the snatcher’s power. General Hector who stood beside Glinda whispered, “I’ve not been a strong advocate to the Emperor’s ways but at least he redeemed himself. You on the other hand have done nothing but accumulate sins, minister. As our first elected leader, serve to your best or you shall be burnt in Archen’s inferno eternally.”

Noticing the Emperor, Glinda thought about it for a moment before witnessing Yarin creating her hammer. No one could see the soul except for Ilian and when he left the soul, it got attached to Yarin’s hammer and was ready to be put to use.

Ensuring that Yarin and the Hunters left the room, Ilian signalled to Hector and four generals came forth to pick up their Emperor’s body. As they did, Glinda approached Ilian to command, “I know you disagree with this idea but the council would want you to respect the Emperor’s last wish and release the four brothers.”

Turning towards her, Ilian mentioned, “Let us forge this arrow and try to unleash Olrin. If we don’t find Olrin, then we would work with that plan.”

With a smirk, Glinda insisted, “The council is determined that you should unleash the brothers before the arrow is even forged. We think you are trying your best to work without releasing them.”

While everyone in the hall followed the body of the Emperor, Ilian stood still before saying, “You have no idea what these brothers are capable of doing. The Emperor’s wish could only be respected if there is no other way.”

Noticing the almost empty chamber, Glinda warned, “You have got everything you asked for and it is time you repay with what is expected of you. If you don’t unleash the brothers right now, I will pass the law to hunt you and your Hunters including my son.”

Staring at each other for a moment, Ilian just walked away. He knew an argument any further would be a futile exercise considering how the decisions were being made on an emotional level.

Approaching the Hunters who waited for him near the stables, Ilian commanded, “I want all of you to head to the lost island and forge the arrow.”

While most of them obeyed, Kingston enquired, “Would you be taking Wiler with you?”

Nodding his head, Ilian paced towards his horse. Enjoying the cold breeze after the drizzle, Ilian and the other Hunters parted ways. The Hunters travelled for about a couple of days to reach the coast of Hervik Sea which was also called the Sea of the Lost Island.

From here, each Hunter chanted a few hexes and formed an aura of energy around their head while the Soul Tamer created her energy shield using her hammer. Leaving their horses behind, all of them started walking into the sea.

Before long, they couldn’t feel the surface beneath their feet and under the magnificent blue waters, they could see the beautiful life while hearing voices asking them, “Where is the Soul Snatcher?”

When Yarin could see the broken fort, she was relieved and Kingston could hear the voices around them growing loud as they approached the fort. The broken fort’s roof lay on the sea bed and not all huge chambers had walls.

After crossing a couple of chambers, Yarin entered the abandoned courtroom. It was nothing like what they describe in the books. Except for the blacksmith’s forge in the center, there was nothing left glorious about the Chamber of Tamers.

Ascending the steps to reach the forge, Yarin asked, “Could the Hunters gather me the other parts of the arrow?”

Exploring the chambers around them, the Hunters found many chests filled with jewels when they started searching each one of them. Within a short time, Jasmine found three golden arrows with ruby, sapphire and emerald gemstone heads in one of the chests. Picking them up, Jasmine showed them to Kingston.

Picking the sapphire arrow, Kingston chanted a spell before returning to the courtroom and placing it on the anvil. While Yarin struck the arrow with her hammer, the Emperor’s soul slowly moved towards the arrow. When it touched the arrow, Yarin could see her hammer turning back into a gold colour and noticing the change, she chanted a spell to ensure the soul is imbibed into the arrow.

As she chanted the spell, again and again, the souls around her shouted, “Don’t! Don’t!”

They knew bounding a soul into a weapon is to enslave the soul to the material world forever until the weapon is broken. Not paying attention to the souls’ warnings, Yarin continued to strike the arrow until it turned Maya blue in colour.

She knew the soul had been imbibed and the weapons they wanted to forge were now set to be used. Once the weapon was ready, none of them heard the souls’ warnings anymore. Rejoicing the silence, the Hunters were now all determined to unleash Olrin.

Without any delay, they left the broken castle and returned to the coast. Before all of them cleared the energy around their face, most of them could notice Archen’s minions standing on their dead horses.

Taking a deep breath, Kingston pulled out his sword and struck the first minion and following him Jasper shot an arrow and Jasmine pulled out her daggers to pounce on to another.

While they fought against them, Yarin killed the first minion by just touching it with her hammer. The moment the first minion fell, a black ball of energy fell from the sky to land a few steps away from her and when the dust and energy shield cleared, all of them could see a young boy holding his sword.

Noticing the minions just walking away and realising who the boy was, Kingston asked, “What brings you here, Archen?”

Flipping his sword, Archen replied, “Kingston, my old friend. Give me the arrow that you have kindly just forged and I shall leave you at peace.”

Glancing at the boy who hasn’t aged a day since they last met, Jasper asked, “Why did you betray us?”

Surprised, Archen asked, “Why do you ask me the questions to which you already know answers? I know you want to stall me until your master unleashes the brothers.”

Though none of the Hunters was planning about it, they seem to understand that Archen knew about Ilian’s plan. Disappointed, Archen continued, “I don’t want bloodshed, friends. I need that arrow to end your master.”

Realising why he needed the arrow, Kingston replied, “We would pay our lives for it.”

With a smile, Archen replied, “I know. So will Ilian. The old fool agreed to forge the only weapon that could kill him to unleash a dead embodiment? Imagine my disappointment!”

As the Hunters realised that Olrin was dead, Archen for the last time asked, “Can I have the arrow, please? I don’t want to hurt any of you.”

With tears flooded in her eyes, Jasmine exclaimed, “You shall not have it kin-slayer.”

Her words for the first time wiped off the smile on Archen’s face. Clenching his teeth, he raised his hand to blast Jasmine into shreds just like Creator Vernakula. With her blood spilt everywhere and pieces of her body scattered, Jasper couldn’t even react before Archen moved quickly towards him to chop off his head.

Turning towards Yarin who was just beside Jasper, Archen cut her vertically into two pieces by sliding his sword through her body cutting it like silk. As he relished the moment a bit too long, Archen felt Kingston piercing his sword into his waist.

Resisting the pain, Archen instantly punched his sword into Kingston’s throat three times to slay the general of Hunters once and for all. When all of them were down, Archen picked up the arrow in Yarin’s hand before noticing that he was bleeding.

Realising he cannot travel while being injured, Archen signalled to his minions and they turned into their energy forms leaving their mortal forms before they started merging into him. With every minion joining him, Archen healed a little and when all of them merged into him, his bleeding stopped.


Chapter X

Halls of Duality

Reaching the Fort of Hunters within a couple of days, Ilian asked about Wiler to every pupil he could find but none of them answered as they didn’t identify who Ilian was in his young form.

Searching for Wiler in the meeting hall and his chamber, Ilian finally found him in the backyard teaching a couple of students. Approaching him while being opposed by many students, Ilian commanded, “I need to talk to Wiler.”

Noticing his master, Wiler requested his students to leave and when they were alone, Ilian instructed, “We need to release the four brothers.”

For the next few moments, Ilian told his pupil about the change in plans and when he heard it all, Wiler asked, “What if Archen is waiting for us?”

Resting on a bench beside Wiler, Ilian assured, “I can handle Archen for a while. However, with you, I can manage to unlock the halls and once the brothers are released, they will take care.”

Cherishing the warm sunny afternoon, Wiler asked, “Master, are you certain about this plan?”

Observing Ilian being silent, Wiler mentioned, “Without you, the brothers are invincible. As we know, only a Soul Snatcher can control them and Archen will not let you live for long considering your intention to unlock the brothers’ cage.”

Noticing the blue sky, Ilian replied, “Archen cannot kill me, Wiler. Why do you think he has not struck me down until now? He needs a weapon with the most powerful soul imbibed in it to kill me.”

Noticing his master, Wiler realised that he commissioned the only weapon that could necessarily end him just to release Olrin. Realising his mistake in questioning his intentions, Wiler promised, “I will do my best to support you, master. I hope we succeed.”

The next morning, Wiler and Ilian visited one of the city’s prisons and met with criminals to decide whose soul they could use. Making them stand in a line, the city’s Chief explained each of their crimes. While a few of them killed their wives, a few others murdered for money, raped women and so on but one amongst them killed a one-year-old child. The moment Ilian heard about him, he sucked his soul in the slowest way possible ensuring he got a painful death.

The others in the chamber including the Chief were terrified noticing Ilian’s power. Standing up, Wiler instructed, “That man doesn’t deserve a burial. Let his body rot.”

Controlling his pain on obtaining a new soul, Ilian left the chamber and Wiler followed. That afternoon, Ilian and Wiler spoke to the pupils in Hunters’ Fort before informing them about their journey. Though most pupils didn’t recognise Ilian’s authority in his new form, their master’s acceptance made them obey.

That night after their feast, Ilian awaited until Wiler bid his students goodbye and when he was ready, both of them left to Wiler’s chamber and then left their mortal form to turn into their astral forms to travel to the Halls of Duality.

Following his master, Wiler felt a lot lighter as he was no longer carrying his mortal form and this was his first time existing in this form. As they floated and travelled in the skies without even trying, Wiler asked, “How many times have you existed in this form, master?”

Continuing to search his path, Ilian answered, “Only once, Wiler. If you remember, when we arrested the brothers, I travelled with the embodiments.”

Noticing the uncountable number of stars, Wiler could faintly see the hall after a while of their travel. As they approached the hall, Wiler could notice a young boy waiting for them.

Realising it to be Archen, Ilian commanded, “Wiler, deflect him!”

Obeying his master, Wiler travelled as fast as he could towards Archen and Ilian just aimed to shoot the soul towards the door behind Archen. Noticing his old friends, Archen enquired, “Are you certain about releasing the brothers, Ilian? You over anyone else should know the difficulty we would have in managing them.”

His question didn’t stop Wiler. Noticing him pacing towards him with his sword created out of energy, Archen just smiled before raising his hand and blasting Wiler’s energy form.

Now facing his best friend, Archen asked, “Tell me, Ilian. What do you plan to do with the astral forms of these brothers? They cannot defeat me.”

Glancing at Archen, Ilian replied, “I will decide as to what I can do after I release them.”

Staring at the young boy, Archen replied, “Before you even give them a material form, I would slay you through the arrow that you have commissioned and then lock the brothers back in their cage before they gather their mortal forms.”

Relishing his unearned victory, Archen couldn’t hide his happiness. Advancing two steps, he continued, “Surrender to me and I shall spare your life. I would even make you my commander and together we could rule this world forever.”

Disappointed, Ilian replied, “You were supposed to be the saviour to those who have lost their way, Archen. It is a pity that you have become prey to the very thing you set out to eliminate.”

Noticing how Archen didn’t even care, Ilian asked, “Do you even have remorse about arresting your kin as your slave?”

Observing Archen’s silence, Ilian just shot the soul towards the door as quickly as possible and before Archen could even notice, the soul passed through the keyhole and the doors that were sealed for decades had finally opened.

Not wanting to meet the brothers, Archen immediately fled and before long, the four boys with faces changing every minute walked out of the chamber. Noticing Ilian, the eldest of them, Brother Dream exclaimed, “At last, you needed us as we predicted.”

Regretting his actions, Ilian hesitantly replied, “I know one of you cursed Archen and now he has almost enslaved all of us. You have doomed us even when we tried our best to stop it.”

The second of the four brothers who is called Shadow after his ability to control anyone’s shadow replied, “We warned you, Ilian. We told you it was inevitable that we must lead you but you defied. You and your companions thought you could win.”

Following his brother’s line, the third brother and the master of emotions asked, “If your Creator didn’t stand a chance against us. How did you think you would stand a chance?”

Not bothering their remarks, Ilian turned to the fourth brother whose face changed more rapidly than the rest to ask, “Could you tell me what could have happened to Olrin?”

Before the fourth brother answered, Dream replied, “When you stopped us through your means, our Creator was already fighting Creator Vernakula and Irunkula. Since Irunkula’s creations were almost wiped out, it would have been easier for our Creator Alwerik to end Irunkula but since we didn’t enslave this world, defeating Creator Vernakula would not have been easy.”

Turning towards his brother, Dreary remarked, “It, however, isn’t impossible but most of you would have known if Creator Vernakula was dead.”

While Dreary spoke, Shadow and Dream turned to their youngest brother Halo to see if he was trying to see Vernakula’s fate. After a few moments, Halo confirmed, “She is alive but weak. Very weak.”

Nodding his head in agreement, Dream mentioned, “So that’s why Olrin left. An embodiment as you know Ilian is created out of the energy of its Creator. When Olrin realised that his true self is dying, why would he hold back?”

With a sense of regret, Shadow admitted, “Since Archen has been corrupted by us, even though he knew his main form was in danger, he chose to seek his own benefit. This might be the reason why Creator Vernakula couldn’t recover. As you know, she isn’t strong enough to even rise from her sleep.”

Listening to his brothers patiently, Halo admitted, “She would need Archen to join her if she intends to rise again. Even with two of her embodiments within her again, she might not relive. As of now, without even one of them, she is lying there half alive and half dead.”

Noticing Ilian pondering to ask help, Dreary mentioned, “I can correct Archen’s nature by manipulating his desire but I ask you to give us our soul stones in-return.”

Surprised, Ilian asked, “Why would I do that? With the stones, you could destroy more worlds and I cannot let that happen.”

Realising Ilian’s position, Dream assured, “Master Ilian, our previous actions were based on our Creator’s command and now we don’t have him anymore. Set us free and we wouldn’t harm anyone.”

Following his brother, Halo asked, “You don’t honestly believe we killed Bloomers out of our own will, do you?”

Counting on his options, Ilian instructed, “Follow me” before returning to his world and the brothers followed him.



Reliving in his mortal form, Ilian noticed that Wiler was just standing before him. Noticing his master waking up, Wiler felt relieved. For a moment he thought they failed and Ilian corrected him by mentioning, “The brothers are just behind you. We shall have to give them their mortal forms.”

Observing Wiler’s hesitation, Ilian mentioned, “Let’s complete what we started.”

Finishing his line, Ilian realised that Wiler lost his astral form. Before he even stood up, he warned, “Losing an astral form will have its consequences, Wiler. You might not face it right now but in-time, you shall have to live with it.”

As Wiler tried to understand his master’s statement, Ilian walked out of the chamber and approached to exit the fort. Being followed by Wiler, Ilian continued, “I will be leaving for the capital and there I will hand over the brothers their soul-stones. After obtaining their forms, they assured me that they would help solve our problem with Archen.”

Though Wiler wanted to question the consequences and even about the value of the promise the brothers made, he knew they were listening and didn’t utter a word. Getting on his horse, Ilian mentioned, “Our pupils are the future. Promise me you won’t let go of your responsibility.”

That statement made Wiler realise it might be the last time he might see his master and considering it to his last request, he bowed. Staring at his pupil for a moment, Ilian just rode off and the brothers followed him in their astral form.

For the next couple of days, Ilian managed to travel as quickly as he could and the night before he reached the capital, Brother Halo informed his other brothers, “Ilian’s pupils would soon face Archen’s minions.”

While Ilian was asleep and the brothers floated in the skies staring at the stars waiting for the dawn. Resting on the clouds, Halo asked, “What if Archen kills Ilian’s pupils?”

Noticing the different patterns in the stars, Dream answered, “Then he will have the arrow.”

Turning towards Dream, Dreary questioned, “That arrow could kill Ilian. Without him, we wouldn’t be able to get our forms.”

Nodding in acceptance, Shadow mentioned, “But even if one of us obtains our form, Archen can be stopped.”

Not pondering about their future, Dream just relished his freedom. The next morning, the brothers followed Ilian as he rode to the capital as soon as the way was visible again.

When Ilian got down at the stables, Halo informed his brothers, “Ilian’s pupils are dead.”

Since they didn’t have the power to communicate with Ilian, the four brothers stayed silent. Approaching Glinda after entering the castle, Ilian mentioned, “The brothers are with me and I need your permission to access the soul-stones.”

Feeling glad that Ilian has almost fulfilled his promise, Glinda nodded, giving her consent. Noticing her for a moment in regret, Ilian walked past a few chambers to notice General Hector.

Staring at each other for a moment, Hector ordered a few of his soldiers to follow Ilian. Wondering if Hector really knew he would need them, Ilian smiled before he continued on his journey being followed by four soldiers.

After Ilian left, Hector approached Glinda to ask, “Soon the brothers will return. Are you certain that we have enough strength to control them?”

Faintly listening to the sound of a stone falling from the sky, Glinda hesitantly replied, “They will obey as long as Ilian is alive.”

When she completed her sentence, Glinda could see a black ball falling from the sky. Noticing it, Hector instructed, “Leave to your chambers, now!”

As Glinda hesitantly started walking, she could see Archen walking out of the energy shield after it crashed on the land making a huge dent before the castle.

Noticing General Hector, soldiers pulling out their swords and loading up their arrows, Archen asked, “I’ve come for Ilian. I would leave if you could offer him to me.”

Noticing the general’s silence, Archen raised his hand and blasted him into shreds. Following that, he recreated his energy shield but before the shield reappeared, many archers around him shot. Though the energy shield turned many arrows to find sand, three arrows passed before the shield and pierced into Archen.

Though he felt immense pain, he pulled out the arrows while his blood gushed out. Neither the pain nor the bleeding stopped Archen and he didn’t waste a moment to rush to the cellars. Throughout his way, he cut every soldier in his path to shreds.

Noticing their fellow brothers being chopped into slices, many soldiers feared to attack Archen using their swords and arrows as they were of no use.

Meanwhile, Ilian reached the chamber where the stones were sealed. As they approached the chamber door, Ilian could listen to soldiers shouting. Turning to one of the guards, Ilian apologised before he sucked his soul before offering it to the keyhole to unlock. Though the other soldiers hated Ilian’s action, they could notice Archen approaching them and they prepared to defend.

Opening the chest in which the four stones were sealed, Ilian could now hear Archen blasting everyone in his way. Taking one of the stones out, Ilian commanded, “Brother Dream, take your form!”

Noticing the stone floating on its own for a moment, Ilian left the stone to see a naked boy standing before him in his mortal form as his face still kept changing. Breathing the pungent scent of the chamber, Dream said, “Your service will never be forgotten, Ilian.”

As Ilian felt he had committed a grave mistake, Dream turned to notice Archen chopping the last three soldiers at the chamber’s entrance slowly due to his injuries. With a smile on his face, Dream snapped his fingers as Archen approached to strike him. Instantly, Archen halted in his position while trying to strike Dream.

Noticing his eyes turning white and him turning into a statue, Ilian stood behind Dream, stunned. He couldn’t comprehend how powerful Dream was. This thought soon led him to think of ending him but before he acted, Dream warned, “Do not consider taking my form again Ilian because I wouldn’t hesitate to release Archen before you could complete your task.”

Noticing the dead bodies all around, Dream took a deep breath before commanding, “Give my brothers their form, Ilian!”

Giving up, Ilian obeyed and Dream looked into Archen’s thoughts. He could see the embodiment craving for power to rule over all velators. Realising Dreary just transferred one of Creator Alwerik’s desires to conquer worlds to Archen, Dream couldn’t help but wonder what they should do next.

A few moments later, when the four brothers had their mortal forms, Dreary released Archen of his curse and when Dream snapped his fingers again, Archen noticed the four brothers and Ilian just for a moment before realising his mother needed him.

Without a moment of hesitation, Archen left his form and united with his mother again ensuring she was raised at last. With Archen gone, the four brothers turned to Ilian. After they all bowed to him, Shadow asked, “Do you wish to guide us to our next path?”

Noticing them, Ilian instructed, “Explore the worlds before bowing to your true master, brothers. Fulfil your purpose by serving the Royican you were destined to serve.”

Marking his words, the four brothers started their journey. At last, the Soul Snatcher bid farewell to almost all of his Hunters by offering them a proper burial and then returned to the Hunter’s Fort to teach the next generation alongside Wiler.



Sreekar Ayyagari was awarded the Best Editor of 2022 for this contribution.

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