The drizzle had stopped, a mist hung over the forest like a bleak curtain shading us from the sun emerging through the broken clouds. The tents recently assembled were being taken down and the hunters that were sent in to look for Neil had come back after a futile search. Salazar was not happy with the outcome of his game; he had already lost too much time. Candravar shifted his view to Axel and Kyre, who were leaning against a tree, both talking. Axel had a concern face and attitude toward Kyre, Candravar smiled at the changes Axel had gone through ever since the hunting game started. Some positive changes. His students had grown stronger and he was proud of it.
"What is it, headmaster?" Albert's voice woke him up from his thoughts.
"Albert White," Candravar sighed and placed a hand on his shoulder, "I have had enough battles to determine the outcome and I feel the outcome for this game is not good." He dared not voice his thoughts about the missing hunters and students to Albert. One was out of repulsion and the other was out of guilt.
"How can you be so sure?" Albert asked, "Candravar, what is that scroll he is talking about?"
"All in due time, Albert," Candravar said, "If I told you my motives to get the scroll you might not like the answer. All I am asking from you is that whatever happens to me, make sure the scroll is destroyed."
Albert returned him a puzzled look. "Sir? What do you mean with 'whatever happens to me?' Everything will be alright; it’s just a game, right?"
Candravar shook his head, "I wish it was so simple, the moment the scroll was mentioned as being the prize, I knew my moment had come to an end. I've live long enough Albert and I am ready..." His voice drifted away with the wind that swept by.
"I understand," Albert nodded, "have you ask this to anyone else?"
"Yes," Candravar said, "to Aldrest."
"Aldrest, sir?" there was an incredulous look on his face.
"Yes," Candravar answered, "if need be, tell the others of this."
Albert nodded once more and watched Candravar moving around the hunters and inquiring about Axel and Kyre's well being.
Salazar cursed in an undertone, out of everyone's hearing range. His fingers were curling and uncurling in a tight fist, his spiritual energy was desperately trying to find a leak from his well maintained composure. No, he could not let his energy show, not right now when he was so close to accomplishing his goal.
Five minutes ago, he had talk to Candravar about Neil and his safety. Candravar said it was better to tame Neil, what a fool! Neil didn't need to be tamed; he needs to be punished severely. They decided that a group of hunters should be sent to look for Neil but after a quarter of an hour they came back empty handed. Neil would serve his purpose during the next challenge; he was going to make sure he did.
This was lost time, the sun was making it’s descend on the sky already, marking it some hours past noon. Salazar adjusted his stressed complexion, everything will go according to the plan for now on, he repeated to himself. It was time to announce the third challenge.
"We are ready to continue," Salazar announced, "Please make the necessary arrangements before we leave to the third site."
There were some twenty or so hunters in total left, all of them the strongest and most prepared. Salazar was struck with the fact that many of Candravar's students had survived this far, they would make interesting spiritual energy feeding.
They walked for a mile before reaching a city in ruins. Some of the hunters recognized this place; Candravar knew this place only too well. The city was tattered and dilapidated, crumbling to the ground under the effects of the weather and time. Behind the city, a mountain could be seen being outlined against the pallid sky. The summit of the mountain was flat encircled with hazy mist; it was definitely a cold place to be.
"Welcome to the State of Cirdetre," Salazar extended his arms toward what once had been a great city, "where the epic battle between the unholy and the Elders was fought. Among us is the last Elder, you know this city from end to end, right Candravar?"
"Memory is unreliable," Candravar replied with a serene tone.
"All should know the history of the black soul hunters for, who can call themselves that title without knowing what was behind it?" Salazar paced between the hunters and the city. "The third challenge will take place in this maze-like city and the finish line will be skirts of the mountain. Alright, this challenge qualifies Evaluation skills and Logic. For hunters to be great, they must be able to judge situations and people correctly and not act out of instinct. Each hunter or student will be interviewed by a “soul reader”, after the interview they will head inside the city and reach the mountain in no less than one hour. When the sun starts turning orange, which will signal the end of the challenge. I must warn you though; there are dangers inside this abandoned city. Just remember one thing, fear is not only in your head they can also come to reality.” He grinned before waving his hand, and then several men cloaked in black appeared with candle in their hand.
“Soul readers” were shamans specialized in healing the soul in order to boost up spiritual energy. In this challenge, soul readers were brought in to reached inside each competitor’s soul and brings their fear to their mouth.
Salazar stepped aside as he let the hunters and students approached a shaman. He sensed Candravar’s eyes on him, but he shrugged the unsettling feeling his eyes made on him.
This will be over soon.