Zakar got up from the pentagon and walked towards me in all his glory. His leathery wings unfurled, horns pointed he stared at me, his dark eyes like a bottomless pit. He put his index finger under my chin to raise my face and meet his gaze, the nails sharp on his finger cut into my skin. “The Dark Lord would’ve loved to have you!”
I smiled and pushed his hand away. “Agmonou? Yeah, I am sure he’d love to serve me. He’d have to wait his turn though,” I smirked at his feeble attempt. “Zakar, intimidation is the oldest trick in the book. Thanatos here will be happy to tutor you if needed.” I saw Zakar’s body turn flaming red before his horns burst into flames at his fury. I stroked his face and stood behind him. I placed my silver blade near his abdomen and said, “Enough with the games, Zakar. I want to know why you’ve been collecting these souls. And don’t tell me it’s for Agmonou. Remember Than’s scythe can send you into eternal obscurity.”
“What makes you think it’s not for Agmonou?”
I shook my head and looked at Thanatos. “Just use your scythe, Than. He’s not cooperating, and I don’t have the patience for this!”
“No, no, don’t do that. I did not say I won’t cooperate!” Zakar shouted. His horror at the mention of eternal obscurity was evident.
“Alright, spill it!” I wanted to be over with this charade and return to help Kara.
“The mortal souls you seek are caged in crystal gemstones. They are at the pentagon,” he pointed to the crystals. I collected the stones, all of them and looked for the one that housed Kara’s soul. I was astonished by the sheer number of crystals that lay on the pentagon. I looked at Than; he understood my concern without me having to tell him.
“It’s not Kara’s time yet, don’t worry, I won’t need to take her soul back to the underworld. Once freed from the crystal, it will return to her body. But there are some here that belong to the underworld, I need to free them from these crystals and take them back to Lord Hades along with Zakar,” he explained. I nodded, feeling better, but at the back of my mind, I was still trying to figure out what Zakar needed the souls in the first place.
“Why?” I asked, looking at Zakar. “Why have you been collecting them, and what were you doing with the souls in the pentagon?”
“Souls are the source of one of the strongest forms of energy, the energy of an eternal spirit. The more we collect, the more energy we have for our master. She has plans for the underworld and Lord Hades!”
“Plans for Lord Hades? What plans?” I shouted as I pushed my blade into his ribs. He screamed out in agony as my sword burned through his body.
“I don’t know! I swear I don’t know anything about her plans!”
“Who is she? If it’s not Agmonou, then who?”
“I only know her as the sorceress. I don’t know where she is or what her plans are. My job is to only send her the spirit energy through a portal she created using this pentagon.”
He was speaking the truth this time; there was no point in wasting further time here. We needed to get the demon back to the underworld and inform Uncle Hades about the sorceress. Orion collected the crystals into a sack. I cast a spell that reduced Zakar into one-fourth of his original size. Than and Orion restrained him using the magical vines, and we teleported out of the cave back to the woods near my temple. I planned to release the souls that belonged in the mortal plane and restore Kara’s soul back in her body. Thanatos agreed to take Zakar and the souls from the underworld to Uncle Hades. Neither of us knew if Uncle Hades was aware of the sorceress and her plans. If he wasn’t, then it was imperative we take this news to him at the earliest.
“Are these Dinlas’ wolves?” Orion asked, “Is something the matter?” I looked at Orion and then Than, not knowing what to say. I promised Dinlas that I’d gladly go to war for him, and that was a promise I intended to keep.
Just as I was beginning my ascent to the temple, I heard a familiar howl coming from the woods. It was familiar, yet this time, the howl was one of anguish, one that cried out for help. I recognized the howl instantly. It was coming from Hate and Jealousy, Dinlas’ wolves. I descended the temple steps to meet them. I read their minds to identify the cause of their anguish. It was Dinlas; he was in danger. I was torn, on one side, Kara needed me, and on the other, Dinlas. I hunched down to rub Hate and Jealousy’s ears to comfort them, and they tugged at my arm, pulling me.
“Do you need to go, Arty?” Than asked, understanding my distress.
“Yes, it’s Dinlas! He needs my help, and I must go, but I want to help Kara as well,” I said.
“I can go to him while you and Thanatos take care of Kara,” Orion offered. I was grateful for the offer, but I declined; I needed Orion here to handle Zakar.
“Orion, I thank you with all my heart for the offer, but I need you here. Besides, I owe this to Dinlas,” I explained.
“You should go, Arty. I have the means and the power to restore Kara’s soul. I will take care of her. Orion can make arrangements with Charon for the passage to the underworld. If you can make it back in time, you can join Orion to meet Mr. Hades. If not, I am sure Orion can explain everything to him and hand over Zakar.”
I mulled over his words. It seemed like the only plan that would work, given we were short on time. Thanatos is the God of Death; who better than him to restore Kara’s soul and release the others that belonged on the mortal plane? I wasn’t sure how long I needed to be away, but I asked Orion to wait for me until dawn and to carry on without me if I didn’t make it by then. We bid each other goodbye and went our separate ways.
After an eventful night with the Witch Estrella at Dinlas’ warehouse, which resulted in her death, I rushed to catch up with Orion. I made it to them just as the first rays of sunshine came upon the horizon. Than bid us goodbye as we journeyed on Charon’s ferry to the underworld.
We found Uncle Hades at the entrance of the Tartarus prison, looking rather disheveled than his usual dapper self. Orion decided to wait for me at the entrance so that I could speak with my uncle privately. I took the sack from him and walked ahead. Charon, of course, followed me.
“Uncle Hades…” I started to say when he interrupted me, “Arty, you’re here! Charon informed me that you’ve captured the demon Zakar. Did you bring him along with the other lost souls?”
Uncle Hades, always to the point. He had no time to waste on pleasantries. I smiled.
“Yes, Uncle. We have him and the other souls.” I looked at him and realized that he has been through some sort of an ordeal himself. He noticed my gaze and asked, “You’re wondering how much I know about Zakar?”
“Just wondering if you also know what he was up to?” I asked, taken aback by his question.
“Of course, I know Arty. While you were busy hunting the nightgoyles and Zakar, I was on a quest myself. I know that he was working for the sorceress. She will soon be a guest here at Tartarus prison,” he smirked.
“I am glad to hear it. I think my job here is done, I shall leave you to these,” I said, handing over the sack to Charon, who stood behind Uncle Hades. I turned to leave, glad to have been of service to my Uncle.
“Arty,” I heard him call out, “you did well.”
I smiled and waved before joining Orion at the ferry to make our way back to my temple.
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