Aldrest limped his way with Shizuma's help toward the skirts of the mountain, the mountain where the Elders had originally been bestowed with the power of channelizing their energy into a weapon. The survivors of the challenge were assembled there surrounding Candravar who was speaking in a low and cold voice.
"What is going on?" asked Shizuma, whilst making her way toward the centre to listen to what was going on. Students from the Academy and others hunters were already there with multiple scratches and wounds of their own.
"...just want to congratulate all of you for your diligence and participation in this heartless game," Candravar's voice was solemn, then his voice lower to a stealthy whisper, "but I'm afraid to tell you this game isn't what it seems. Salazar has tricked us all into believing the champion will possess the scroll but it's nothing like that."
"What do you mean?" one burly hunter asked, he had a nasty patch of dried blood in the side of his head. "Is this your way of scaring us out of the competition?"
"No," answered Candravar. "Have you wondered what happened to the other hunters who were disqualified or failed the previous challenges?"
Silence answered him, followed by realization, enlightenment, and fear from the older hunters.
"Nobody knows their whereabouts," continued Candravar, "I failed to notice it until after the second battle, when Neil, a student of mine, started attacking some of his own companions in the Academy. This is not a common and innocent hunting game, this is a real hunting of hunters and it's not for leisure activity. It’s a hunt to kill." He paused, scanning everybody's gaped expressions. "This game has filled itself with bloodshed and I regret the late knowledge of it. We know Salazar's reputation as a hunter, vile and dangerous. Somebody we cannot trust."
"What are you saying?" Albert's voice rang after a painful silence, "we are pawns in his game and he has been wiping a few of us out after each challenge?"
"The water above the fjord was poisoned, all the ones who fell never emerged from the tempestuous waters; instead they were washed over at the bay. The second challenge, sentinels were positioned around the forest to kill anyone who didn't have a kerchief, and during the third challenge we were drugged and suffered delusions. Due to these delusions some of us committed murder believing we were killing our fears," his eyes shifted to Joanne with compassion. Koemi wrapped her arm around Joanne's shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
"They died?" Aldrest asked lividly.
"And more deaths are to come in this fatal battle that awaits us," Candravar said, "I am offering you a way out, step out of this dangerous game when you can. Salazar is waiting for us in the top of this mountain, waiting to consume our lives."
There was a truth that weighed down his words into everybody's hearts. The faces of the hunters were over-brimming with fear and understanding. "The scroll of the Elders," said Candravar, " and the being disappeared long ago, just after granting us this power. The scroll was supposed to die with it but I suppose an evil force was able to take control of it. I have kept this secret for too long with me, fearing it might cause destruction if it was revealed, but I fear no more for we must me united. If hunters die the world would be reign by terror and havoc..."
"What now, Candravar?" a slender female asked. "We cannot let Salazar live after this!" Several voices roused and joined into the uprising anger and rage.
"I will fight Salazar." Candravar's statement surprised everybody. He then looked up to the darkening sky. "I allowed him to continue his doings for much too long now, and I wouldn't dare have another hunter or student dead."
"Candravar you are much too old for it!" Axel exclaimed, clenching his fist. He was supporting his tired weight on Maelstrom. "I will come with you." His declaration was received with nods and positive clamours, for everybody wanted to join.
"I know all of you have brave hearts," he said, lowering his eyes, "but I must do this alone. I have to meet my fate and duty as the last standing Elder, and get the scroll back before it falls into wrong hands..." With that, he turned around abruptly and made his way toward the base of the mountain. "If someone wants to stop me then I am afraid I will have to incapacitate you, the same goes if somebody wants to follow me."
The few hunters were rooted in their spot, watching Candravar's diligent approach toward the mountain and started walking the trail that lead to the top. Some of the hunters shook their head and started walking back toward the village, enraged at being used as puppets whilst Salazar was slowly killing the hunting community.
Shadows surrounded them, the shadows of deadly convicts who worked for Salazar.
"This is a trap; Salazar wants none of us alive after this!" shouted Aldrest. The convicts rounded the group of remaining hunters and fight ensued between the two bands.
"Aldrest, we have to help Candravar," pleaded Shizuma, pulling him toward the mountain trail. Candravar was halfway through it.
Aldrest deflected a sword before taking Shizuma's hand and running toward the trail. "Take care of it, we won't be long. We are going to help Candravar defeat that maniac."
The female hunter nodded, "good luck, kill the bastard! We will handle everything down here."
Aldrest nodded back and started the ascent. They were followed shortly by the ones loyal to Candravar: Albert, Kyre, Koemi, Joanne, and Axel. This was the last battle, to perish or to survive.