The Polyglot’s Rune—Chapter 11: The Sealing of the Eighth Soul
As Vaughn spoke to me, his eyes met mine, and their violet color swirled within my mind. I felt my body become light and unimpeded by the world. His voice reached my ears, but he sounded unlike himself. It seemed too otherworldly.
Within his pupils, something flickered like a star.
Once upon a time, an elderly man stood in the middle of a plain. His dark, wrinkled skin contrasted greatly with his flowing silver hair. A regal, black scarf was wrapped around his eyes, and he allowed the ends of the cloth to drape against his back in the manner of a cape. It violently flapped behind him in the blistering wind, but the man’s blood-soaked robe stood still as if time did not flow.
Around him, the plain stretched out for ten thousand kilometers like a soft green sea. The ground was abound with life, and vast quantities of magical essence seeped into the air. It gave life and energy to all creatures living within the plain.
Near the man, the grass bowed low, the insects did not chirp, and no cloud dared to cast a shadow. In their silence, they revered the old man.
The sun hung brightly in the sky, but the man held a burning lantern. The black flame flickered, and a face appeared. The soul was in agony, crying to be free from its confines.
It let out a horrid yell and a foul stench, but the man could sense neither.
He tapped the rusty lantern, and a thin string of darkness funneled from the soul, like sand slipping through one’s fingers.
The grass withered, turning and twisting into black weeds. The magical essence died away, and the dark energy sank slowly into the dirt. With a heave, it desperately rose and reached out to the flame.
The man pushed the tip of his cane, a thin silver sword with orange runes, into the ground. It let out a soft whirl of wind and made the bulging darkness lay flat.
The black flame wailed louder and pushed against its prison. The darkness stirred, but the sword held it still. No matter how rampant the flame became, it could not prevent itself from being sealed within the earth.
The man’s lips parted, but there was no voice. A rune, imbued with a holy power, materialized from his breath. It emanated a domineering aura that could smolder any curse.
The flame went silent, not daring to move. It trembled as the symbol slowly approached the rusty lantern. Soon it was upon it, ready to shackle the dark soul for an eternity.
A black dagger sliced through the rune, dispersing it as though it was nothing. The man slowly turned his head to the west.
“Guardian of Garic, let my husband go!” a voice yelled.
A woman, gowned in a black flowing dress, floated in the sky. Black tattoos covered her snowy white skin and framed her gray eyes. Unsuitable for her delicate beauty, she wore a ferocious frown and strained her jaw as she clenched her teeth. Her hair whipped savagely behind her.
A few meters to the left was a man-shaped demon. It had pale-blue skin, pointy ears, and a long sharp tail. With a single swipe, it could pierce through steel. Garbed in a fancy black robe accentuated with blue silk, the demon waited for the woman’s orders. In respect for its master, it held its hands behind its back.
The elderly man released some spiritual energy into the air. It coiled around his body, forming a message through the use of faint, non-magical runes.
The woman’s face turned unsightly as anger welled inside her.
“You dare to say that you’ll imprison us both! How audacious! We were chosen to free the rightful ruler of this world! He has been sealed for countless years, but soon he will bathe this world in flame and purify the land. You who go against his will shall have your soul obliterated!”
The woman extended her hand towards the demon. Her red nails itched for the elderly man’s blood.
The demon swiftly held out its arms as it bowed. A long, black blade appeared above its upturned hands.
The woman grabbed the sword, her slender fingers wrapping around its hilt. A multitude of orange enchantment runes burst from its blade. They emitted a deathly aura, unlike the holy essence released by the man.
The woman’s power exploded forth, rippling the land far beneath her. She cried out, “You can’t see, hear, smell, touch, or taste anything of this world! Let’s see how you sense your death!”
The woman flew forward, and the demon followed behind her as a gray shadow. She swung her sword at the man’s chest, but he swiftly moved his blade to block it.
The demon appeared behind him. It extended its claws to strike at the man.
The scarf, which covered his eyes, snapped alive and wrapped around the demon’s wrist. Its underside was covered in a purple rune that began to glow. It leeched at the attacker’s soul, devouring half of it in an instant.
Without hesitation the demon severed its own arm and pulled away from the scarf. There was deep fear within its eyes.
The woman’s sword clashed with the man’s. Using the momentum of the blow, the woman circled her blade beneath the silver sword to strike at the man’s stomach.
He opened his mouth and formed a rune from his breath. It expanded like lighting, blocking the sword strike. It then slammed into the woman and pushed her five meters back.
The demon, who was crouching to avoid the man’s scarf, soon found itself being blown away by the rune. Its right leg, which had been throwing a kick, took the brunt of the force and broke. As the demon soared backwards, it curled its body and rolled across the ground to soften its landing.
After thirty meters, the demon stood upright on its left leg. It let out a shrill shriek, and its arm regrew while the broken bone snapped into place. Not a scratch was left on the demon.
The woman spat out a mouthful of blood, but so did the old man who had cast the rune.
Her eyes narrowed. “You bled? You are at the end of your life. I’m far weaker than my husband, but I’m more than enough to handle you.”
She raised her blade in front of her chest.
More faint runes formed around the man to create a message. He lightly tapped the lantern, causing the dark energy to increase the speed in which it funneled to the earth.
The energy entered the land with greater intensity, disintegrating what was left of the grass and turning the area completely barren. The black dirt hardened and cracked, its fertility completely gone.
“You say I can’t?!” The woman scowled. She grabbed the bracelet around her wrist and pulled it until it snapped.
Five beads slid off the broken chain. They grew larger and swirled around the woman’s body. The stones lit up, resonating with her spiritual energy. The tattoo on her body writhed and glowed with a red color. Her strength, speed, agility, toughness, and energy increased.
A portion of the tattoo peeled off her hand and touched the hilt of her black sword. Its legendary runes activated, glimmering in a bright orange color that was soon shrouded by a murky, poisonous mist.
The woman readied herself.
The elderly man pointed his sword at the black ground and released his grip. The thin blade fell so majestically like a single raindrop falling slowly to the earth. The orange legendary runes lit up, and the sword disappeared into the ground. Within the blink of an eye, it sank more than seventeen kilometers.
The woman launched herself at the unarmed man. Again she slashed at his chest.
He met the sword with the lantern in his hand. A clang sounded, and the soul screeched. A large ball of darkness shot from the black flame to the base of the lantern. It sunk quickly into the dirt.
The woman frowned, and she distanced herself from the man. Her attack had just sped up the sealing process.
“Damn you,” she said through clenched teeth.
The poisonous mist around her sword swelled. Again, she charged. Before she swung, she threw her sword. The demon immediately appeared above the man’s head.
Its claw-like fingers wrapped around the sword’s hilt. With empty hands, the woman grabbed at the swinging lantern. The demon slashed downwards.
The man swiftly pulled the black flame close to his body and, at the last moment, shifted his head to the right. The blade dug into his shoulder, and the rune’s poison forced its way into his wound. His blood splashed towards the ground.
The woman stepped closer to throw a punch. She aimed for the man’s head.
He let it connect, and her knuckles crushed his nose. His head whipped back.
The scarf grabbed the sword in the demon’s hand, but the demon reacted quickly. It released the blade, nimbly kicked off its hilt, and launched itself into the air when the scarf was a hair’s breadth from grabbing its leg.
Soaring through the air, the demon looked down, and its eyes widened. The man faintly smiled.
His splattered blood touched the ground.
His lips parted, and a deep, reverberating sound blasted through the area. The ground quaked violently like ocean waves during a storm.
The two attackers gripped their heads in an effort to remain conscious. They felt their chests clench and beat to the rhythm of the reverberations while their bodies trembled. Their souls shook, viciously threatening to collapse and separate from their soul runes.
As the woman fell to her knees, she made one last frantic grab at the lantern, unaware of what was occurring beneath her feet.
Spurred by the man’s blood and controlled by his buried sword, the dark energy within the ground twisted and coiled like a dying snake. It formed elaborate patterns of curls, twists, and slashes; some of it lashed into the air.
The resulting rune, if not for the dark energy from the black flame, would have been orange. Instead, it was as pitch-black as an endless void, waiting to cover the lands in a scripture of forgotten words.
As it activated, the rune absorbed the surrounding light and color. The land turned endlessly black, and so did the sky. Within the lantern, the last of the soul funneled to the ground and began its descent to the sword that was now deep within the earth.
The woman’s fingers touched the lantern’s glass, but it was already empty.
The container clasped onto her tattoo and tugged at her soul. It tore it, along with its soul rune, from her body. She yelled in pain as the severing ripped her apart. The thousands of years she had used to strengthen and fuse the three together—body, soul, and rune—were undone within a fraction of a second.
Her hair turned white, her lush lips withered, and her skin shriveled. Within moments her body became dust and blew away in the wind.
A new flame flickered within the lantern. It ruthlessly struggled to escape, thrashing against its rusty container.
“Curse you! All…of…you……..will…………..die……………….” The wailing soul’s voice faded, falling into a forceful slumber.
Beneath the earth, the sword absorbed the previous soul that was in the lantern. Its orange enchantment runes released the spiritual energy that was used to forge its metal. The energy controlled and fueled the black rune, causing the rune to expand across the whole plains.
The last of the magical essence that once boundlessly covered the plains completely vanished like a flickering flame snuffed out by a single breath.
A barrier, invisible yet domineering, encircled the plains. It suppressed everything within the area, preventing anything from being powerful enough to break the seal.
The man coughed up another mouthful of blood. Before the woman appeared, he had fought long and hard to seal her eight companions into different lanterns. The other Guardians of Garic had already imprisoned the other seven souls within the earth. The woman’s husband would be the last.
The cost for sealing a soul into the ground was the caster’s life and soul rune.
The elderly man lifted the lantern towards the demon struggling to restore its internal organs. The reverberating rune had wrecked its body.
It was surprising that the demon was still alive, but the elderly man, with his sixth and only sense, knew that the actual demon was already long dead. It was only a powerful corpse that a malevolent spirit possessed through the help of the woman’s soul rune. Its body could be diced into a million pieces, but the corpse’s soul rune, under the control of the spirit, could restore it.
It was a tenacious creature with a nearly indestructible body. One needed to directly slay its soul, that was why it had feared the man’s scarf. If it had a will of its own, it would have fled as soon as it had touched the scarf for the first time.
The woman could exert complete control over the demon, and the moment that the man sensed the woman, he sensed the power of her soul rune. It could seal spirits into soulless objects and allow them to control one rune within it. It could have been a stone rune, an enchantment rune, or even a magic rune, but because it was a corpse, mostly likely newly dead, the spirit had stolen the soul rune.
It was forbidden. Nothing was more sacred than the soul rune. It was the very name and existence that Nature gave its many children.
Using the bond between the woman and the spirit, the lantern yanked at the soul.
The demon gripped its head, and an image of a spirit overlapped with its face. Howling, it twisted in pain and revealed a pair of yellow eyes. They were filled with endless killing intent.
The spirit charged from its body.
Slamming into the man, its savage aura made him stumble a footstep.
The last of his longevity was stolen, but the man did not care. He was about to sacrifice his life to keep the world safe. He had to prevent the most dangerous being from resurrecting, and these eight souls, not including the woman and spirit, were the key to its resurrection.
Coughing up blood, the dying man raised the lantern above his head. It exerted more force over the spirit, pulling it towards the cage.
The spirit let out a shrill cry as it tried to get away. It pushed against the suction and created ripples within the air, but its struggle only increased the lantern’s strength.
Soon, the soul was swallowed, forming a second, small flame. The demon’s corpse disintegrated into a heap of pale-blue dust.
The man collapsed to his knees, dropping the lantern with a clank. He gasped for air as he retched out blood.
Beneath the earth’s surface, the black rune slowly twisted around the silver sword. It formed an enchantment rune as it became a black sphere of tightly weaved strands. It separated the weapon from the earth, completely sealing the soul absorbed by the sword.
The seal would last for hundreds of thousands of years.
The man’s lips parted in a dying smile. His mouth was an eternal gate, and his soul rune slowly floated through his throat and spilled over his lips. The strands sank gently into the ground, returning some life and fertility to the dead lands.
As the fusion of his body, soul, and rune unraveled, his soul rune stretched towards the sealed sphere. It was filled with hope, and when it touched the sphere, the golden threads fused with it. The black rune began to transform into a golden one. Soon the seal would be completed.
The man’s life began to fade, but because he had lost his soul rune, he no longer had an identity. Many people began to forget him as though he had never been born. Maybe a few would remember his presence, but he himself would be erased from their memories.
The man smiled.
As they forgot, he remembered.
The faces of the seven other Guardians returned to him. He recalled their names, the laughter they had shared, the promises, the sorrow, the hope…
Nothing could separate them, but then they had forgotten each other, one by one as they lost their soul runes.
He suddenly remembered an eighth person. That person was a true hero, who had brought them together. He had never shirked in the face of danger nor abandoned his comrades. Like a brilliant star, he vanquished his foes, but he was wholly human.
He made mistakes, laughed the loudest, caused the most trouble, and was the epitome of childishness.
Together the nine had made the world how it was, and together they had made a promise:
“When the world no longer needs us, or when we longer need the world, we will cast aside our soul runes and return to Nature!”
“It’s a promise,” the dying man mouthed to himself.
A coal-black bird pierced through the skies. Smoke wisped into the air as the bird struggled to maintain its power.
The barrier surrounding the plains exerted more pressure to suppress the bird’s strength. Its feathers shook and quivered, but its eyes stayed firm. With red irises that glowed brightly, the crow released a burst of deathly aura and shook the lands with another cry.
It flapped its wings. The bird whistled through the air, aiming for the dying man’s throat.
The man willed his soul rune to fuse faster with the seal. If the bird killed him before it was completed, the seal would weaken and allow outside forces to forcefully break it open. As long as it was completed, nothing should be able to destroy it for hundreds of thousands of years.
The gap was quickly bridged; the bird was almost upon him. It spread out its sharp talons. They glinted in the light, ready to take the man’s life.
The crow cried, but it changed its aim, no longer willing to take his life.
It filled the elderly man, a hero who had faced death a countless number of times, with a deep, profound fear. His sixth sense told him it would cause the end of Garic.